Editor’s Blog No more office car parks in Bangkok. Very sensibly, many cities around the world no longer issue building permits for new office blocks that include private parking in their designs. This is to discourage even more vehicles from entering cities whose streets are already heavily congested with traffic. Many would argue this should also be the case in central Bangkok, now in the throes of another office building boom. The already high number of office workers commuting daily by car to their place of work should not be allowed to increase, especially in view of the rapidly expanding mass transport network. It might be prudent, though deeply unpopular, to levy a tax on existing car parks. This would discourage parking at the office, while encouraging workers to use the Skytrain and MRT. Defining “central Bangkok” for such purposes is extremely difficult and even unfair, of course, as any restrictions on new offices with parking would have a negative effect on land and property values. But if offices continue to be constructed with enormous car parks as an attraction, central Bangkok is in real danger of grinding to a halt more frequently than is already the case – and who wants that? Security guards to blame for traffic woes? Some of Bangkok’s traffic jams are most certainly exacerbated by private security guards who hold up the flow of vehicles to allow cars to exit office blocks. This happens daily on Narathiwas Road, where guards stationed outside Empire Tower – the city’s biggest building in terms of office space – intermittently obstruct up to two lanes of traffic during the afternoon rush hours. Some people question this practice, saying it is not fair. Others accept the delays. What do you think? Fishy stories from the Gulf. The former executive of a major fish-canning company had members of local Rotary club in thrall recently when he gave a talk about Thailand’s fishing industry. In the club’s newsletter, he said that years of bureaucratic neglect have allowed one of the world’s largest fleets of small fishing boats to scrape almost clean the shallow waters of the Gulf of Thailand. The neglect, he said, has now reached the point where average catches per trawl of 250 kgs in the 1970s are now down to 16 kgs per trawl on average – a drop of 94%. ‘Scraping,’ a form of fishing that is banned in most of the world, means that for every kilo of good fish caught in the Gulf, there are 15 kgs of juvenile fish and rubbish. This obviously inhibits the growth of new fish stock, which helps to explain why Thailand has dropped from the world’s leading exporter of fish to its current third position. Unless there’s a radical change of policy, Thailand’s fishing industry is facing a bleak future. Thailand’s population change and challenges. Not long ago, Thailand was agonizing over a population boom. Contraceptives and vasectomies were very much in vogue to somehow counter the one million additional babies being born here every year. Today, amazingly, the situation has been completely reversed, with a falling birthrate that is causing even more concern than the boom years from 1963 to 1983. The explanation for this turn-around is complex. Fifty years ago the average Thai woman had five children. Today the fertility rate is just 1.5. This is due to new economic and social factors such as changing lifestyles, higher divorce rates and more women in the workforce. Interestingly, demographic experts say that some women just prefer to remain single, free and independent – a trend that is more apparent among women with higher status. Meanwhile, the death rate will surpass the birth rate in less than 15 years. The major consequences, and challenges, arising from this population realignment include a smaller workforce, which can be supplemented by immigrant labor, the need for fewer upcountry schools (many of which are now being closed or merged with other institutions), and financial responsibility for an ageing >> 6
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 Emma Carstens, Erin Arnold, Gaia Seguso, Juli Lin, Sherina Purnomo
No part of this magazine may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior written permission from The BigChilli Co., Ltd. The opinions and views of the writers are not necessarily the views of the publishers. All details are deemed correct at the time of print, the publisher, the editor, employees and contributors can not be held responsible for any errors, inaccuracies or omissions that may occur. The editor reserves the right to accept, reject or amend any submitted artwork, photographs, illustrations and manuscripts. The BigChilli welcomes unsolicited contributions but assumes no responsibility for the safe-keeping or return of such materials damaged or lost in transit.
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Editor’s Blog population, which is a much bigger problem. Managing Thailand’s population is of vital importance for this country’s future. For more information about Thailand’s changing population, read our story in this issue of The BigChilli (page 70). We talk to three demographics experts from Mahidol University’s Institute for Population and Social Research. South African wine deserves better. Fruit wine remains a contentious issue in Thailand, with as many objectors as supporters. Composed of roughly 70% grape juice and 30% fruit juice, usually mulberries, plus other additives, fruit wine attracts a significantly lower excise duty compared to genuine wine (made entirely from grape juice), which results in it often being sold as an inexpensive and therefore popular ‘house wine’ in pubs, restaurants and clubs in Thailand. One of the major sources of the grape juice used in fruit wine is South Africa because of its generally low production costs. Not surprisingly, this use of South African wine upsets importers from that country who say, quite rightly, that it deserves much greater recognition for its excellent overall quality. Happily, the government is said to be reviewing its tax policies on fruit wine and is likely to raise the revenue to the same level as all-grape wine, which will probably result in a lot more inexpensive but high quality South African wine in the Thai market. Cheers. All over for Soi 11’s popular venues. Persistent rumours about the future of the popular alley of pubs and restaurants a little way down Sukhumvit Soi 11 have proved accurate. Among those apparently going soon to make way for a condominium are Cheap Charlie’s, Charley Brown’s Mexicana, Tapas, Snapper and Chez Papé. Meanwhile, Lemongrass, one of Bangkok’s oldest Thai restaurants, is also due to close because of redevelopment on Sukhumvit Soi 24. The former Dubliner pub, sandwiched between the Robin Hood and Royal Oak pubs on Sukhumvit 35, will be relaunched soon as Herrity’s Irish Bar & Herrity’s Suites. The owners of Oskar, the phenomenally successful bar and restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 11, will open a new branch on Silom Road in the premises previously known variously as the Black Market, 661 Silom and Niu’s. Hooray for rain. Finally, the rainy season has arrived – and nobody could be happier than the citizens of Bangkok who this year suffered one of the longest and hottest dry spells on record. Temperatures have dropped noticeably and a touch of green has been added to the city’s trees and gardens. Although there has been some flooding, no one is complaining. So far. 8
This issue in
In Thailand, only three in 1,000 people will have A- or O- blood. Dr Michael Moreton explains why. Page 82.
The number of badminton courts available at The Racquet Club in Bangkok. Page 40.
The Rembrandt Hotel Bangkok, the city’s ‘homeliest’ four-star hotel, celebrates 23 years of service this month. Page 22.
Chris Craker, owner of Karma Sound Studios in Bang Saray, has over 30 years’ experience in the music industry. Page 16.
Like puzzles? Visit Escape Break and attempt to solve a mystery in under 60 minutes. Page 77.
The number of Ukraine nationals living in Thailand. We speak to the country’s ambassador on page 105.
& 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.
NomineeS Thailand International Business Awards
Entrepreneur: Florian Preuss, Managing Director, The Soda Company Ltd.
High-flier who gave up a career to focus on wines
FTER an 18-year career in the airline industry, working variously for British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad and VietJet Air, German-born Florian Preuss felt he had reached a point in his life where he needed new horizons and, perhaps more importantly, control over his future. The upshot is a small enterprise called The Soda Company Limited. And what it does could hardly be more different from the business of flying. Since December 2014, Florian has been importing wine into Thailand, his home for the past 10 years. What’s more, the wines he has introduced to this market are all quality products from South Africa. It’s a country he knows well, having spent much of his teens in Cape Town, and home to some family members. Born in 1974, Florian grew up in Germany and attended Hamburg’s International School. He then went on to read law in the UK and began working in the airline industry, first with British Airways, then Virgin Atlantic and later Etihad. Florian moved to Hong Kong almost 13 years ago, and then on to Thailand three years later, working in both aviation and hospitality until he made the decision to leave corporate life. “At that time, I was working for a low-cost airline. It’s not a sector I liked, and besides, I wanted to go independent and set up my own business. Hence, The Soda Company.” Although he was personally passionate about the quality of South African wines, Florian felt that they were not always properly represented in Thailand. “I had always identified with wine, so getting involved in selling was a natural extension,” he said. With some solid advice from an uncle who works in the export business, Florian then went about setting up his own company. To learn more about wine, he attended courses conducted by winemakers at two vineyards in South Africa. That, perhaps, was the easy part, for his first shipment of wine to Thailand took three months, much longer than he had anticipated. “You learn as you go along,” explained Florian. He is upbeat about his prospects in the Thai wine market.
“The country still has a long way to go compared to other markets. Wine is still regarded as a luxury product by Thais. The French, for example, spend a much higher percentage on wine than on food when compared to Thai people. Here, it is the other way round.” The Soda Company currently focuses on showcasing boutique wines from the Western Cape. The one exception in its portfolio is a German Riesling. Its centrally located warehouse has temperature controlled wine storage facilities and a wine studio. Florian’s main customers are five-star hotels and independent fine dining restaurants in Bangkok, with prices per bottle in the 550-1,200 baht range. He also sells to individual buyers via his website, and to wedding planners. The company will review and expand its range of wines in the last quarter of 2016, with a view to include boutique wines from Australia and Europe.
NomineeS Thailand International Business Awards
Chris Craker’s Karma Sound Studios Award-winning musician who built a world class music studio in Bang Saray
HE sleepy fishing village of Bang Saray, just south of Pattaya’s bright lights, is grabbing international attention after becoming the unlikely Mecca for some of the biggest names in the world’s music industry and a growing list of talented young musicians. It’s all down to a remarkable residential recording studio opened here two years ago that is following in the footsteps of such legendary music venues as Abbey Road, Mountain View Studios, Montserrat’s Air Studios and even Motown’s Hitsville. Called Karma Sound Studios, this multi-million baht complex is the brainchild of top British music industry executive Chris Craker, a major figure in the international music industry for more than 30 years who has made Thailand his second home. Disenchanted with the way the music business was heading, Chris, an award-winning music producer and musician, decided to move away from the mainstream and invest in an alternative
creative venue in Thailand where artists and bands could develop their talents in an inspiring environment. Karma has proved a perfect fit. Located on two rais of quiet woodland a short walk from Bang Saray beach, the studios offers cutting edge facilities that are now in such demand, they operate consistently at 90% capacity. At the heart of the complex is the main studio. Impressive in size and scope, this is divided between a live studio for actual performances and a control room bristling with high-tech equipment, all imported from the UK. Karma has two additional studios, and plans are well underway for a fourth – a dedicated Video/TV studio from where TV shows and music videos can be shot all under one roof. Visitors to the studios have included Placebo, Jamiroquai, Enter Shikari, Bullet For My Valentine, guitar legend Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, pop icon Jessie J and Young Guns. Bands from Australia, Russia, Denmark, Norway, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and many from the UK have also recorded at the studio. So too has the cream of the Asian music industry, including Body Slam, Big Ass, Tata Young, Palmy, Chin Chinawut and Myra (Winner of Thailand’s Got Talent 2011) and Slot Machine alongside Number One Korean selling icon Cho Yong Pil (who outsold Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ with his single recorded at Karma). Chris is particularly proud of the success of his work with local talent, advising and helping them to develop their careers, setting up music camps, master classes, courses and workshops, several of which have been broadcast on True Vision national TV. Ironically, this initiative has brought new challenges. “To an extent we are the victims of our own success here – running an international operation with a small but amazing
team often presents challenges when we suddenly hit gold like has been happening quite recently,” said Chris. “The very first artist that we started developing and promoting, Dagny, has now notched up over 16 million streams of her hit song Backbeat.” The lead singers from one of Thailand’s rock bands, Da Endorphine, has been recording and writing new songs at the studios, as well as hosting a Karma Music Camp where she encouraged young talents in their first steps towards a career in the music industry. Meanwhile, Karma’s first International Song Writers Camp, hosted last March, featured 12 writers from nine countries, including Jay Montonn and Sumate Posayanukul from BECTero, Bangkok.
Aside from the studio facilities, Karma features luxurious accommodation for long-staying musicians and their teams, comfortable dining and living rooms, gymnasium, basement bar, swimming pool and extensive tropical gardens. Chris, a multi-Grammy nominated producer, has long links with Thailand and among his many achievements was producing ten recordings and various albums for His Majesty the King, one of which was recorded in Bangkok and featured arrangements
by Privy Councilor ML Usni Pramoj with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra. He recently produced the soundtrack for Director Christopher Nolan’s movie ‘Interstellar’ with the Oscarnominated score composed by Hans Zimmer, as well as producing the score for ‘The Little Prince’ for Paramount, directed by Mark Osborne of Kung Fu Panda fame. He co-produced Ben Wallfisch’s score for a new thriller from cult director Gore Verbinski (‘Pirates of the Caribbean’). And he is about to produce a new Hans Zimmer score for the horror movie ‘A Cure for Wellness,’ directed by Verbinski as well as producing the David Foster’s protégé, Fernando Verela, who is being hailed as the new Pavarotti. Up until April 2008, Chris was the General Manager and Senior Vice President of the International Division of Sony BMG Masterworks. He has worked with many of the world’s finest orchestras and soloists, and has acted as a concept provider for various music products marketed by PolyGram/Universal, Sony, Decca, EMI, Classic FM/BMG and Virgin Classics. In Thailand, he co-produced the Chris de Burgh ‘Live in Bangkok’ album for which he was also Musical Director and conductor for the live shows. Karma is expanding its business commercially with the opening of a new publishing company entitled ‘Karma Songs,’ and Karma Sound Tracks, which brings together some of the world’s most eminent Grammy Award and Oscar AwardWinning composers, arrangers engineers and technical service providers. This month, Chris’s latest venture, Karma TV, goes live. karmasoundstudios.com TheBigChilli
JONATHAN NUTT, THE FOUNDER OF THE FULL METAL DOJO FMD, THAILAND’S LARGEST MIXED MARTIAL ARTS PROMOTION, ON WORK, LIFE AND PAMELA ANDERSON’S ASSETS
AGE: 36 WHERE BORN: SALEM MASSACHUSETTS, USA NICKNAMES: JONNY SHOWTIME, THE J SHOW, THE NUT, NUTTER, NUTTER BUTTER, BUSTA NUTT, AND SOME PEOPLE CALL ME OMNIPRESENT. WORK: CEO OF KINGDOM CO. LTD, FOUNDER OF THE FULL METAL DOJO, MC/ HOST WITH THE MOST, PROFESSIONAL CROQUET PLAYER AT THE BEVERLY HILLS CROQUET CLUB, AND PART TIME BOUNTY HUNTER. PERSONALITY: IF THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD HAD A LOVE CHILD WITH BILL MURRAY, THAT’S THE TYPE OF PERSONALITY I HAVE. ONLY DUMBER, FATTER, AND MORE TRANSPARENT. BUT WHAT IS PERSONALITY REALLY? FAMILY: MY IMMEDIATE FAMILY IS AS DEEP AS THE OCEAN. MY BROTHER LIVES IN BOSTON AND IS A GEM AMONGST ROCKS. MY FATHER IS A COWBOY IN MONTANA AND SHOOTS THINGS. AND MY MOTHER IS BETTER THAN YOURS. YEARS IN THAILAND: 11, WHICH IS ALSO THE NUMBER OF FMD SHOWS THUS FAR. MILE-POSTS: BEING THE FIRST EVER COMBAT SPORTS ORGANIZATION IN THAILAND TO BLOOD TEST THEIR FIGHTERS. GETTING FULL METAL DOJO ON TRUE VISIONS. GETTING THAILAND RECOGNIZED BY IMMAF. SOLIDIFYING FMD AS THAILAND’S MOST AWESOME MMA ORGANIZATION. AND ABOVE ALL ELSE, I’VE HAD NOT ONE, BUT TWO CHEESEBURGERS NAMED AFTER ME. AND I’M GOING FOR A THIRD. LOW POINT: 1.) WHEN I FOUND OUT THAT SANTA CLAUSE WASN’T REAL. 2.) WHEN I FOUND OUT THAT WWE WRESTLING WASN’T REAL. 3.) WHEN I FOUND OUT PAMELA ANDERSON’S BREASTS WEREN’T REAL. AND LASTLY...WHEN THEY RE-MADE THE KARATE KID WITH FRESH PRINCE’S SPAWN. BEST ADVICE EVER RECEIVED: I MET MIKE D. FROM THE BEASTIE BOYS ONCE, AND HE TOLD ME: “BE TRUE TO YOURSELF AND YOU WILL NEVER FALL,” WHICH IS GREAT ADVICE THAT I TRY TO FOLLOW DAILY. BUT THE “BEST” ADVICE I’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN COMES FROM MY MENTOR TRACY JORDAN, WHO SAID: “LIVE EVERY WEEK... LIKE IT’S SHARK WEEK”. AND THAT’S WHAT I DO.
FOR MORE DETAILS ABOUT FULL METAL DOJO AND ITS UPCOMING EVENTS VISIT FULLMETALDOJO.COM
Rembrandt Hotel Bangkok has hospitality down to a fine art Iconic Sukhumvit landmark celebrates 23 years of service this month
INCE opening its doors to the public on July 5, 1993, the Rembrandt Hotel Bangkok has perfected the art of the hospitality experience. Not only has it scooped numerous awards for the quality of its rooms, green initiatives, and superb restaurants, but it’s also won the hearts and minds of travellers from throughout Asia, Europe and the States who return year-upon-year to enjoy the property’s unmistakable, personal touch – it’s probably one of the ‘homeliest’ fourstar hotels operating in Bangkok today. And it’s hard not to fall in love with it. Comprising 407 rooms and
stewarded for the past eight years by the affable and ever-present GM Eric Hallin, a Swedish hotelier with over 40 years’ experience in the trade, the hotel enjoys an enviable location in a safe and secluded sanctuary on Sukhumvit Soi 18, just seven minutes from the Skytrain and underground MRT train stations. And it proves just as big a draw to leisure and business travellers as it does to locals and expats. Drawing in the latter are the hotel’s five high-end affordable restaurants including, among them, the renowned authentic Mexican restaurant Mexicano (read our full review online
at bit.ly/28KYIqK), Rang Mahal, one of Bangkok’s best Indian restaurants (which serves exquisite authentic regional and traditional dishes), and Da Vinci, which specialises in Italian cuisine made using fine imported produce as well as seasonal ingredients. Thanks to the hotel’s spacious, wellappointed accommodation, and long list of on-site facilities – including a large swimming pool, fully-equipped fitness centre, fabulous spa, and neat touches like the wonderful Lobby Bar with two happy hours and a pianist in the evenings – the Rembrandt is also a great choice for an inner-city staycation.
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Show us at The BigChilli Cook-Off!
FUN day out for the whole family is guaranteed at the annual American Independence Day Picnic. Held this year at NIST International School on Saturday July 2, the event will feature a wide range of games and activities such as tug of war, egg toss, and pie eating contests, as well as live music, and a hungerbusting range of American food and drinks. A highlight of the event for foodies is The BigChilli Cook Off – a competition to find Bangkok’s best American-style chilli. Now in its ninth year, the event is organized by the I-Day committee which, having judged and cooked in Chili Appreciation Society international events, certainly knows its stuff. The event is open to anyone who believes they cook the best chilli in Bangkok. What makes the event so fun is the People’s Choice Awards going to the chili receiving the most votes from the public. Think you have the recipe and cooking skills to take part? Contact Dana Edward Caron “Head Chilli Head” at 081 837 6855 or email: dana@ roadhousebarbecue.com. You can also check out Dana's award-winning chilli recipe on page 50 of this issue. Best of luck!
Saturday July 2 at NIST International School For more info about the American Independence Day Picnic visit: amchamthailand.com
True Fitness THREE branches of True Fitness can be found in Bangkok – Exchange Tower, CentralWorld, and Esplanade NgamwongwanKaerai. All feature a full range of fitness equipment, aerobics and yoga classes, and personal trainers. Head to the Exchange Tower Branch, and you’ll also find a spa and café. At time of writing the rate was B1,600 per month inclusive of Yoga classes at Exchange Tower. truefitness.co.th
Clark Hatch Fitness Center CLARK Hatch at Thaniya Plaza (Silom Rd., next to Sala Daeng BTS station) features top-quality gym equipment, a salt-water swimming pool, boxing and kickboxing classes, Yoga, Pilates, and more facilities aimed at getting you in tip-top condition. Monthly membership starts at B3,350. Visit the gym’s website and you can even register for a free one-day pass. clarkhatchthaniya.com
The Aspire Club OPERATED by Fitcorp Asia, a leading personal fitness and lifestyle coaching company based in Bangkok, and located within walking distance of Asok BTS station, The Aspire Club offers a choice of personal training programs, boot camp packages, golf fitness, youth fitness, altitude training, CrossFit workouts (conducted on the club’s 2,500 sq ft Rooftop Outdoor Gym), and more programs designed to get you in shape – and fast. Membership packages vary in price and allow you to pay only for what you use – whether that’s gym only, CrossFit only, personal training only, or a combination package or unlimited full access. The Aspire Building, 348/2 Sukhumvit Rd (Asoke BTS station). theaspireclub.com
Scrapbook Last month’s foodie functions in focus
FTA Summer Charity Dinner Reception THE Ninth Annual Fred Tibbitts & Associates “A Summer Evening in Bangkok with Very Special Friends,” at the W Bangkok Hotel, proved to be another memorable event for the 40 guests, who included chief executive officers, vice presidents, senior hotel executives, area general managers, general managers, industry VIPs, the press and dinner sponsors. The reception was tradeshow style, showcasing the products and services of several of the dinner sponsors, including Stöelzle, FIJI Water, and Gerard Bertrand Wines. Read our interview with Fred Tibbitts himself, online at bit. ly/239wQ0S.
Scrapbook Last month’s foodie functions in focus
Bangkok Chefs Charity Gala Dinner announced in style THE eighth annual Bangkok Chefs Charity Gala Dinner – which will be held on July 18 at the Royal Ballroom, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok – was announced in grand fashion with a sneak preview event held at the hotel. Arranged by premium food importer and supplier Gourmet One, the event will once again bring together 21 Executive Chefs from of h il nd s ost presti ious five st r ho tels and Thai Airways International to cook up course ine dinner in the id of ch rit The event will be presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and part of the proceeds will be donated to Border Patrol Police Schools under the Pa tronage of Her Royal Highness. The remaining funds will go towards improving the livelihood and education of underprivileged children in the remote Omkoy district in Chiang Mai. Tickets for the grand feast are priced B12,500 per seat (for tables of 10).
Ken Hom delights at VIU chef en o used fine ritish in redients to cre te his reno ned n si n cuisine in one ni ht stint t VIU Restaurant, The St. Regis Bangkok. After hosting a workshop and lunch during the day for media and VIP guests, Chef Hom too control of s itchen in the evenin to coo three course set dinner featuring Classic steamed Scottish salmon ntonese st le tir fried ritish eef ith or n e nd r mango compote with basil and vanilla ice cream. The event was held as part of the British Embassy Bangkok’s ‘Food is GREAT Britain’ campaign. Sustainable Seafood at Erawan Tea Room IN collaboration with Earth Net Foundation, Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok’s Erawan Tea Room launched its new sustainable seafood menu under the concept ‘Thoughtfully Sourced, Carefully Served.’ During the launch event, which featured a special menu specially created by Chef Kriengkrai Jakkhujuntorn, diners had the opportunity to meet Earth et ound tion te s ell s loc l fishers ho expl ined more about organic seafood. Michelin Star magic at L’Appart SOFITEL Bangkok Sukhum vit s risi n st led rooftop r and restaurant, L’Appart, cel ebrated its fourth anniversary in true gourmet fashion by inviting Chef Hervé Rodriguez, owner of the one Michelin Starred MaSa restaurant in the Boulogne Billancourt district of Paris, France, to showcase his cuisine for three nights at the restaurant. Chef Hervé’s truly exceptional menu of modern French cuisine, paired with a selection of exclusive wines, featured highlights such as Egg, pata negra and frita s uce od fish ith nori, spin ach and pistachio; and Wagyu beef rib sous vide with black sesame, red shiso and prunes – all artfully plated and full of in vours TheBigChilli
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Restaurant’s new weekend feast features some of the finest seafood in Bangkok
OFITEL Bangkok Sukhumvit’s popular allday-dining restaurant, Voilà!, has long been one of our favourite spots for a veritable all-you-can-eat feast. Featuring a sumptuous buffet spread, several live cooking stations, and an a la carte menu offering home-style French recipes, the range and quality of dishes on offer never fails to impress. Visit on a Friday and Saturday night and the selection is now even better, thanks to the restaurant’s brand new ‘Seafood Night Market Buffet’ – a fabulous banquet highlighting premium crustaceans, salmon canapés, crab bisque soup, organic salads, a la minute sushi and sashimi, and a vast array of seafood on ice. The maritime bounty ranges from
Mediterranean sea urchins and freshly shucked oysters (including Fine de Claire Marennes d’Oléron, Belon and Mediterranean Bouzigues) to succulent Alaskan king crabs, langoustines, crayfish, river prawns, Hokkaido scallops and more. Each table receives a half Phuket lobster and a half Canadian lobster roasted perfectly in garlic butter, and there are many other dishes you can order, too, such as Sautéed scallops and prawns Provençal; Fried seabass with yellow capsicum sauce; as well as salmon, red grouper, sea bass, red snapper, barracuda, squid, and tiger prawns – all boiled, fried, grilled or 189 Sukhumvit Road Soi 13-15 (between Nana and Asok BTS station). 02 126 9999 ext. Voilà! www.sofitel-bangkok-sukhumvit.com
roasted to your preference. Alongside all the seafood you can expect to enjoy some wonderful artisan cheeses and premium charcuterie from ‘La Fromagerie,’ a temperature controlled room which also boasts over 250 international wines. And there are some great desserts on offer, including delectable French pastries, homemade sorbets and gelatos, and a too-good-to-miss chocolate fountain. The Seafood Night Market Buffet is great value at just B1,950 per person (half price for children aged 6 – 12). Beverage packages are available starting at B250 per person inclusive of free flow soft drinks, juices and coffee and tea. Advance booking is recommended.
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Serving thin-crust pizzas and other Italian favourites at K Village Shopping Mall, Sukhumvit 26
NSPIR ED by the laid-back, contemporary eateries typical to Capri, a small island in Italy’s G ulf of Naples, Capri R istorante embodies its moniker by serving up the kind of simple, rustic dishes for which the island is famed. Think pizza, pasta, salad, and generous servings of meat and seafood – all made using good quality ingredients and served in a setting that strikes the perfect balance between homely and modern. To ensure authenticity, the restaurant’s owners imported a woodfired pi a oven fro taly, and the pies cooked within are ade with fine flours also sourced from the boot-shaped land. The thin-crust offerings range from Margherita and Napoli to Serrano
H am and Mushroom, and they arrive at the table piping hot and generously loaded with premium toppings. The same care is taken with the a la carte menu, which kicks off with items perfect for sharing, such as the Mixed Appetizer Platter (featuring calamari, Italian sausage, Serrano ham on melon, and gratinated New Z ealand mussels. B490+ + ), and then traverses land and sea with highlights like Grilled Australian ribeye steak (B750+ + ), Crab Caesar salad (B320+ + ), and Pan seared snow fish topped with salmon roe (B650+ + ). Soups, salads, pastas, and risottos round out the savoury C ap r i, K Villag e, Sukhumvit Soi 26. 02 665 6227 . f ac ebook.c om/ c ap r ikvillag e
offerings, and there are some tasty desserts too – our favourite being the signature Chocolate lava cake, whose crispy exterior gives way to a viscous, war dark chocolate fillin te pered by a serving of vanilla ice cream (B190+ + ). As you’d expect from any Italian restaurant worth its salt, Capri offers a decent selection of international wines, classic cocktails, and Italian coffees. A buy-one-get-one-free deal is offered daily on local and imported beers. Visit during lunchtime and you can take advantage of one of the tempting lunch sets, including a twocourse menu (including an appetizer and main course) starting at just B199+ + , or three-courses starting at B249+ + .
Guest review by Designed by Priya Lodha
Bangkok Beefsteak & Burgundy
A delicious taste of Switzerland on Sukhumvit Soi 20
ARRYING on a tradition of finding each lunch better than the last, we gathered at Chesa for the 13th time since our Chapter of Beefsteak & Burgundy was founded. As ever, with 20 members in attendance the bar area was full to overflowing leaving little space for regular lunch-time diners. Proceedings got off to a great start with plates of tasty canapés (mostly on Pumpernickel, a typically heavy, slightly sweet rye bread traditionally made with coarsely ground rye) and glasses of Charles Steiner NV (Broken Hills, S Australia), a refreshing sparkling wine that has graced our table several times before.
The first dish was a first for several of us – Ostrich carpaccio with micro greens and Porcini mousse – and proved to be popular. Food spokesman, Oliver Schnatz, pointed out that, all too often, the carpaccio is sliced when frozen; Chef Rene Kuhn had successfully avoided the impairment this causes to the meat. With this came Pra Soave Classico Statforte 2012 (Soave Classico zone of Verona, Italy) which attracted only limited praise from our wine
spokesman, Andrew MacDowell, who normally rather fancies his whites. Compensating handsomely for Andrew’s relative disappointment with the Soave, we opened Domaine de Begude Étoile Chardonnay 2013 (Limoux, South of France), an un-wooded wine which matched well with the following soup – Pumpkin and ginger soup with crab meat. Chesa always serves excellent soups and this new dish was right out of the top drawer; not too creamy with a delicate hint of ginger, enhanced with chilli and coconut cream foam. Following this would normally prove to be a challenge, but Chefs Thomas and Rene were equal to it, treating us to an exceptional Halibut fillet with white asparagus on Noilly Prat sauce. This was accompanied by Terlano Vorberg Pinot Bianco 2012 (TrentinoAlto Adige, Italy) and an ABV of 14.0%. Andrew waxed about the wine, its match to the asparagus, and the very good taste. Then came the main course: Deer sirloin on cranberr y sauce, ser ved with Brussel sprouts, glazed chestnut, cherr y tomato infused with pesto and roasted potato pearls. Oliver, who's visited many of the world's best hotels, confirmed our overall impression of a beautifully presented dish of truly excellent
components, each perfectly cooked, and for which Rene and his team earned considerable praise. This was served with Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2012 (Waipara, S Island, NZ), a great wine harvested just a few kilometres away from Andrew’s birthplace. Soft on the palate and with an excellent nose, it proved an excellent match to the food. The lunch continued with Iced mango parfait on fried basil leaves accompanied by Scottish shortbread crumbs and strawberries, which was composed by Guest Chef Eric, a Pastry Chef with over 40 years’ experience. It was very good, and I loved the tartness of the fresh strawberries. Our last wine of the day was Sicilia Saia Nero d’Avola 2012 (from near the town of Noto) with an ABV of 14.5%. Kiwi Andrew thought this was a good wine with which to finish, but of course he did not find it quite as good as the NZ Pinot. Finally, there were slabs of tasty cheese (Italian Gorgonzola and Provolone, French Brie, and Swiss Appenzeller) to complete an excellent lunch, plus an unexpected bonus – glasses of Querciancita Visicole (an Italian dessert wine featuring wild cherries) generously donated to the diners by guest Grahame Fox. Thanks and compliments followed; as always the Chesa team had done a great job, and Oliver was asked to deliver the final votes of thanks to Rene, Eric, K. Nuut and her assistants, and the team in the kitchen led by K. Ton. 5 Sukhumvit Soi 20. 02 261 6650. chesa-swiss.com
Strip AD_Blend Bistro_July16.pdf
Striking the perfect work-life balance: Rose Marie Wanchupela The founder of a school and a textile business in Thailand, this savvy American expat has always found pleasure in serving others By Ruth Gerson
ANY expat women arriving in Thailand like to take advantage of life’s comforts offered here. Not so Rose Marie Wanchupela, who has dedicated her life to serving society. As the founder of the Rose Marie Academy, a private, internationallyoriented Pre K-12 school situated in Nichada Thani Estate in Pakkret, Nonthaburi, this talented American teacher, who has over 30 years’ experience teaching in Thai and international schools, has made it her life’s mission to help others – not only through education, but also through textiles. She arrived in Thailand in January 1962 with the United States’ Peace Corps program, established by then President John F. Kennedy as a means of taking American culture around the world (while also giving those serving the chance to learn about the cultures of their host countries), and this two-year service laid the foundations for her future. During this time not only did she perfect her Thai language skills living among Thais in Songkla and Korat (skills still
flawless to this day), but she also met her husband, Prinya, who hails from Kalasin province in Isaan (the northeast of Thailand). While Rose Marie’s university work and time in the Peace Corps provided the perfect outlet for her to further her knowledge and skills in education, she had another passion she also wanted to pursue, one instilled in her by her mother and grandmother who treasured all forms of textiles – weaving. Adding further inspiration was her talented mother-in-law, Sommai, who was a master weaver. And so Rose Marie found herself embracing parallel roles – as teacher and weaver. Post Peace Corps, and now a married woman, Rose Marie taught at the newly established Bangkok College (which is now Bangkok University) – Rose Marie fondly recalls how she and her colleagues used to write the English curriculum while sipping tea in the iconic Erawan Tea Room (not to be confused with today’s Thai food restaurant). Next was a stint in the US, where she continued to teach while her husband studied and earned an MBA degree from Syracuse University in New York. Back in Thailand, Rose Marie taught inclusive classes (special education) from 1971 to 1975 at the intermediate and secondary levels at the International School of Bangkok (ISB), which was then situated along what is now the Vibhavadi Rangsit Highway (presently the site of the Thai Airways International office). In 1976 H.R.H. Queen Sirikit established the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupation and Related Techniques (SUPPORT), with the aim of preserving and reviving dying Thai crafts. This was a boon for weavers throughout the country, many of whom participated in Her Majesty’s project.
Sommai was one such weaver impressed by the project, and she encouraged Rose Marie to follow her passion and put her in touch with weavers in Isaan. So, in 1982, Rose Marie took time out of teaching to try her hand at textiles. During this year she learned much about the craft – the process of dyeing, threading the loom, weaving, as well as the lives and culture of the Isaan weavers. And as her mother-in-law was skilled not only in weaving, but also in in creating dyes and mudmee (ikat) – very special textiles that are woven of pre-dyed threads that are matched to create a design during the process of weaving (an extremely difficult task, and much treasured today) – Rose Marie had the best teacher she could hope for. During this period Rose Marie also had the opportunity to re-evaluate her life. She had become committed to helping the weavers in the northeast villages, enriching their lives as well as her own. Consequently, she was invited by companies and villages to advise them, while at the same time she learned additional skills from them. She would later use these skills to establish her own textile business – Easarn Fabrique. “That was a future building year,” she says. “It was a twoway communication – I took new ideas to the village weavers who happily adopted them, and they taught me new skills too.” In 1984 Rose Marie set up her first textile shop in the Sukhumvit area with the help of textile designers. Several other locations followed, ultimately leading to her current shop at Nichada Plaza, in the Pakkret area of Bangkok. Despite her success in textiles, however, education was never far from Rose Marie’s heart. And she seized the opportunity when new Thai laws, established under the leadership of Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, permitted international schools to open and allow Thai children to attend. In 1992 Rose Marie and her husband Prinya opened the International Education Institute, a precursor to Rose Marie
Academy, which in 1995 came into existence close to ISB offering services to the community of that fine institute. Today the school is located on two-and-a-half rai of land rented from Nichada, and accommodates 100 students with the capacity of up to 100 more. It is evident that Rose Marie Wanchupela is a much accomplished woman, who determinedly struck roots in her adopted country to make it truly her own. Rose Marie Academy, 39/932-933 Soi Nichada Thani, Samakee Rd. 02 960 3663. rose-marie.ac.th Easarn Fabrique, 39/999 Nichada Plaza Floor 2, Unit 2, Pakkret, Nonthaburi. 092 279 0800. easarn.net
School Report Bangkok Prep students all set for top universities
BANGKOK Prep students recently celebrated their Secondary School graduation among families and friends and were presented their diplomas by guest speaker, and Former Secretary General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan. Dr Surin, who has held various positions in the Thai government, spoke to the students about globalisation and the challenges that the students will face in this ever competitive and changing world. He reminded the students to be dedicated, hardworking and ready for a borderless world that is increasingly populated. This is Bangkok Prep’s fifth graduating class and students have been offered places at leading universities in the US, UK, Canada and other countries including University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada; Seoul National University (SNU); Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST); London School of Economics (LSE), UK; and Imperial College London, UK; amongst others.
KIS students secure impressive scholarships
THERE were big celebrations at KIS International School last month when it was revealed that this year’s class of graduating students (32 in total) received 140 offers from 96 universities around the world – and more than 1.3 Million US Dollars’ worth of university scholarships. Many of the school’s graduates have been at KIS for 10 years or more, and now stand to go to top ranked universities such as Imperial College London, Durham University, University of Warwick, University of Michigan, University of Chicago, and New York University, amongst others. More information about KIS can be found at www.kis.ac.th
Summer art camps for kids
PARON School of Art (located between Ekkamai sois 11 and 13) is hosting a series of five-day summer camps for 7-10 and 11-14 year olds. The choice of two courses, each priced B7,900, includes ‘Draw, Craft and Construction Week’ (July 11-15 for 7-10 year olds; and Aug 1-5 for 11-14 year olds), and ‘Paint, Design and Sculpture Week’ (Aug 8-12 for 7-10 year olds, and Aug 15-19 for 11-14 year olds). The courses offer kids the chance to engage with artmaking in a way they might not at school or home. For more info Tel: 089 795 8765 or visit facebook.com/ ParonSchoolofArt
Musical Theatre for Kids presents Lilo & Stitch
YOUNGSTERS interested in theatre can hone their skills and have a great time too at Musical Theatre for Kids’ latest workshop/production, based on Disney’s Lilo & Stitch. Open for kids aged 6-10, and held from July 1115 (10am-2pm) at The Hop in Silom, the program will give the children the opportunity to sing, dance, act and design. The sign-up fee of B6,000 includes all materials and costumes. The workshop ends on the Friday with a performance at 1pm. musicaltheatreforkids.com
O-negative blood is known as the Universal Donor – you can give this blood to any patient. In an emergency situation where there is not enough time to check the blood type, O- is given and Blood Banks just love O- people (they beg them to give blood regularly to be sure that there is a ready supply). In the west approximately 75 out of a 1,000 will have this type of blood, but in Thailand only one in 1,000. So when you see appeals for blood donations, it’s most likely they will be seeking Rh- blood. Once blood is donated it must be used within about three weeks, otherwise it will deteriorate. As such, Blood Banks cannot take donations
Dr Michael Moreton explains why there are regular appeals for foreigners to donate blood in Thailand TRANSFUSING blood to patients who have lost their own blood due to accidents or during surgery is a truly lifesaving procedure. In Thailand and other Asian countries there are frequent appeals to the foreign community for blood donations for injured or sick western patients. All countries, including Thailand, have well developed Blood Banks and it may be of some surprise that they are caught without available blood for these patients. Each time there is a need for blood the patient must have their blood type identified, for if they are given incompatible blood there will be a reaction between the two bloods with terrible consequences. The reason for shortages is that the distribution of the various types of blood is different in different ethnic groups. There are two factors that differentiate one person’s blood from another. The first is the A,B,O system; the other is the Rhesus (Rh) system. A, B, AB, O: This system was discovered by an Austrian doctor over 100 years ago. In Europe and countries
like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – 48% have type A, 40% type O, 9% type B, and 3% type AB. In Thailand, the numbers are 40%, 18%, 36% and 5%, respectively. These numbers, although a little different, do not cause any problem as they are close enough so that donors are available in each category. Patients with A blood can accept A or O; B can accept B or O; AB any of the four types; and type O can only accept type O blood. RHESUS: The Rh system is quite independent of the ABO system. Patients are either Rhesus positive (Rh+) or Rhesus negative (Rh-) and here there is a huge difference in numbers. In western countries approximately 15-20% of patients have Rh- blood, in Thailand only about 1%. You can give Rh- blood to Rh+ patients, but you cannot give Rh+ blood to Rh- patients. Put the two sets of stats together and you will see the problem. If we take 1,000 foreigners, 80 of them will have A- blood, but among the Thai population only three in 1,000 will have the A- or O- blood that the patient can accept.
of rare blood types and keep them at hand for long periods. When I was working in China, we kept a record of all the foreigners with Rh- blood and asked them if they would be part of our “walking blood bank” – ready to come to the hospital if we called them. When a patient needs to receive blood, family and friends often volunteer, but unfortunately they may not have the correct blood type, meaning the patient is dependent on people that they have never met to provide blood for them. There are some restrictions on who can give blood. You must not be anemic and the presence of some other diseases will disqualify you. If you are on certain medications that will also disqualify you. When you go to the Red Cross to donate, they will screen you for these factors. If you do go to donate, do not drink alcohol for 24 hours before you do, and if you take medications in the morning, delay taking them until after donating. In the past each hospital took donations but now it is done through the Red Cross. It is good to know your blood type. If you do not know it, make sure to ask for it the next time you have a medical checkup. Dr Mike (A+) email@example.com
Cucumbers Cucumbers, which double as quenchthirsting foods, offer sunburn relief on par with store-bought sunburn-relief products, without the added chemical preservatives and harmful fragrances. If you’re already burned, mash a cucumber and apply it to your skin. As a preventive measure, grab an organic cucumber from the garden or farmers’ market, peel and chop, and then squeeze the juice. Mix it with glycerine and rosewater for protection from the sun while sunbathing.
tablespoons of lycopene-rich tomato paste daily for three months enjoyed 25% more natural protection against sunburn.
Aloe Aloe is popular in many health drinks, but the succulent plant shows promise in sunburn relief, making it one of the natural remedies that’ll save your summer. Break off a leaf and apply the juice to your sunburned skin. Test a small spot first to make sure you’re not allergic. If you don’t have an aloe plant in the house, buy a bottle of pure aloe vera gel at a pharmacy, chill it in the fridge, and apply.
Lettuce Lettuce, one of the best leafy greens out there, contains natural pain-killing properties and can help wipe away sunburn pain. Boil lettuce leaves in water, strain, then let the liquid cool for several hours in the refrigerator. Once chilled, dip cotton balls into the lettuce water and gently wipe over irritated skin.
Milk Guavas An antioxidant and vitamin C-rich diet could help prep your skin for more potent sun protection before you even step a foot outside. One guava, a top summer super food, contains about five times the amount of vitamin C as a medium-sized orange.
Milk creates a protein film on your skin that will help ease the discomfort of a fresh sunburn. Apply cool, not cold, milk to your skin using a clean cloth or gauze. Apply compresses for 15 to 20 minutes, and repeat every two to four hours.
Dark Chocolate Let’s save the best for last! High-cocoa chocolate and its many benefits actually doubles the “minimal erethema dose,” the amount of UV required to get sunburn. The mechanism has to do with its catechins (the same ones in green tea). Cocoa consumption can protect the skin, by increasing the microcirculation supply of nutrients and oxygen to the skin. A very cool bonus effect is that cocoa can increase skin density and hydration. Opt for a minimum of 70 % cacao and eat 40 grams a day, divided into eight 5-gram servings. Enjoy a skin-healthy sunny summer time.
White vinegar White vinegar’s acetic acid acts like a topical nonsterioidal anti-inflammatory drug, like aspirin and ibuprofen, and sun safety is just one of the many uses for vinegar. If you’re red but not blistered, dab a bit of distilled white vinegar onto your sunburn. It will kill the pain for about 20 minutes.
Tomatoes As if you need another reason to indulge in organic tomatoes from your farmers’ market or garden. Turns out tomatoes are not only a great post-workout recovery food, but the red gems help protect your skin from sun damage. In one study, volunteers who ate five
Judith Coulson is a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist and Nutrition Professional working with individuals, executive teams, schools and companies based in Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore. http://lifestylefoodclinic.com/ http://corporate-wellness.asia
A D V I C E Expat life getting you down? Professional counselors Anette and Johanna are here to help.
Q A • Anette Pollner Adv. Dipl. Couns., is one of seven international counsellors at NCS Counseling Center in Saphan Kwai. She trained in London and the US and worked as a staff counsellor at Bart’s Hospital in London.
Stuck in a rut and looking for a way out I am struggling with my job. And I don’t really know why. I’ve done this job for a long time, and it has taken me all over the world. I’ve also worked with the same company throughout my career, so I know the company culture, and at the same time it’s a big company so there is plenty of variety and new challenges. I was never terribly excited about my chosen field but it is interesting enough, and my colleagues are the usual mixture of people – nothing extreme here. My boss is ok. The money is good. But lately I have started to struggle with being on time in the mornings, and when I get there, I find it difficult to focus. I find myself looking at pictures of faraway countries, and recently I even Googled a ‘digital nomad’ website. I fantasize about living a completely different life without an office. I even question the meaning of life! What is it all about? But I need to work! I need to make money, and to save up for my pension. I am divorced and my wife is working, but I still need to help out my kids at university. What can I do to function again like I did all these years? Sean, 47, from Ireland Dear Sean, What you describe is the classical ‘mid-life crisis.’ You have lived your life according to more or less conventional patterns, choosing a job that you were not ‘excited’ about but that offered you a conventional life, no questions asked. But as life goes on, you get to the point where you realize that this it. There is no other life somewhere in a suitcase. This life that you live now is the only life you have. But because you never really explored what you wanted to do and who you wanted to become, you don’t know how to address these questions. Because everything went smoothly for you, you were not confronted with existential questions like ‘the meaning of life.’ Until now. From the way you write about yourself, it looks as if you have managed to remain unaware of many things that go on inside yourself. This is why you are surprised by what you are doing – almost as if someone else was doing it and you are just a bystander. And it seems almost as if you are worried you might not be in charge of your own decisions! Which is quite possible, in a way. Parts of you have remained unexplored for so long that they are now trying to express themselves no matter how. I think the most important mission here is to get to know yourself better. Only then can you decide what you want to do. And only when you find out what you really want do you need to worry about your pension and your income. But it seems that finding out what you want to do with the rest of your life is really quite urgent. If you don’t make a structured attempt, such as working with a counselor or life coach, joining a group of people with similar issues, or working with a book or course, you may be at risk of taking unplanned actions from a sudden impulse – some people report that ‘one day I just had enough.’ But in fact, this need for change had been building up for a long time, they just tried to ignore it. While this may well lead to a change of your life path in the direction that you ultimately want to go in, it is much better to give yourself a chance to plan and plot that new path so that you retain some control over your life. In the meantime, why don’t you try out some things that you always wanted to try ‘if you had the time,’ and if possible why not take a vacation that can be like a ‘mini nomad’ experiment? That way, you can find something you really want to do instead of just breaking away from a life that is no longer working for you. I wish you all the best.
Q A • MS is the Clinical Director of NCS Counseling Center. She trained in the Netherlands and Australia.
Teenage daughter on verge of burnout I am concerned about my teenage daughter. Her schedule is amazing. All her evenings are planned out with activities like music, sports, hobbies, socializing, and she also has a tremendous amount of homework. She is busy all the time. I never see her just relaxing or enjoying the moment. When she’s not busy with homework or doing something/going somewhere, she catches up with her emails and all social media. Bedtime is irregular and sometimes I hear her connecting with friends elsewhere around the globe at 2am. She looks tired, is quick to cr y and easily irritated. She comes across as stressed and close to burnout! I know part of this is caused by school pressure, but I think it is her whole lifestyle. How can I help her? Daniela, 38, from Austria Dear Daniela, Welcome to the modern world of our teens. They are busy and they are under pressure. What you observe is correct. About 75% of teenagers are struggling with burnout symptoms. Nowadays we raise our children to be self-aware and conscious of the world around them. They are also urged to take responsibility for their lives. They feel the pressure to make the correct choices and not to fail. But they also want to be a part of everything that is going on. There is even a name for this new condition: FOMO – the fear of missing out. This is now the reality of life for many young people. Through social media they know what happens elsewhere, and there are so many exciting things to do! They see that and think: I would like to have that experience too. What can you do? First: how well do you know your child – is she perhaps a bit of a perfectionist? Or would she be able to tell herself “I’ve had enough for one day, I’m done”? Talk with her about how “relaxing” life within the family can be and show her how to de-stress. Does she have some ideas herself on how to do that? Can she show them to you? Suggestions: Every Sunday look into your weekly schedules together. Even fun things take energy so decide what you’re all going to do and what you may have to decline. Mondays: After dinner do something crazy together as a family, like a dance in the living room, and end it with a big hug. Tuesdays: After 9pm all computers are switched off and make time for each other through a game, sharing memories, looking at family pictures etc. Wednesdays: Create laughter through watching a silly movie or a clip from YouTube. Thursdays: Schedule a fun family activity like creating something together, for example baking or crafts. Fridays & Saturdays: Plan one thing as a fun activity for yourself and tell each other that you will do this. You, as the parent, keep these suggestions on a list, then you initiate the activities and see what is possible. Most important is that you discuss your observations and your concerns with each other. Include your daughter in the planning and make sure she takes full advantage of the ‘down time’ with the family. Together you will make each other’s lives more relaxed and happy. Good luck.
Contact details: ncs-counseling.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 02 279 8503, or send your problems to: email@example.com
Social Last monthâ€™s best events in pictures
AMWET PRE-ULTRA POOL PARTY
REVELERS warmed up for the Road to Ultra music festival (see page 90) with a pre-event pool party held at Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok’s trendy rooftop hangout, amBar. An open bar and tunes from DJs Dennis Frost, Groove, Zidov and Natasha Freake got everybody in the mood for a long night of partying. For details of upcoming events see facebook.com/AmBarBangkok.
ANOTHER STORY BEGINS NEW CHAPTER
POPULAR lifestyle concept store Another Story at The EmQuartier celebrated its first anniversary with a party held under the theme “Ich Bin Ein Bangkokian” (I am a Bangkokian). The event introduced special collections from Thai and international designers and also featured a delicious selection of Thai delicacies, such as som tam, laab, and colourful ice lollies, all served from streetside-style push carts.
Social|Last Month’s Best Events
ITALIAN WEEK AT CENTRALWORLD
LUXURY products from Italy attracted a huge crowd of shoppers, designers and celebs when they were showcased as part of CentralWorld’s Italian Week. The event, held under the concept of ‘Live the Life of Luxury,’ was opened by H.E. Mr. Francesco Severio Nisio, Ambassador of Italy to Thailand, at a special ceremony featuring servings of Italian cuisine, product demonstrations, and a mini opera and classical piano performance by famous artists Paola Cacciatori, Allan Rizzetti and Stefania Ganeri.
OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE RETURNS
AFTER a one year hiatus, Outback Steakhouse reopened its doors in Bangkok with a brand new look and an expanded food and beverage menu. One of the largest steak restaurant chains in the world, the restaurant prides itself on avourful food, friendly, attentive service, and a laid-back atmosphere. The new venue is located in the recently reopened Siam Discovery shopping mall.
GTCC ENJOYS A NIGHT OUT ON MAINAU
MEMBERS of the German-Thai Chamber of Commerce (GTCC) together with their spouses, friends and business partners, participated in GTCC’s Gala Night 2016 under the theme “A Night Out on Mainau,” at Shangri-La Hotel Bangkok. Donations were raised for Yaowawit School, home to over 120 children from underprivileged families, in Phang-nga Province.
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DIPLOMATS Meet the people uniting nations
H.E. Mr Andrii Beshta The Ambassador of Ukraine talks about his second assignment in Thailand
Diplomat: His Excellency Mr Andrii Beshta
Fighting for Ukraine on the diplomatic front
Words MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
IS Excellency Mr Andrii Beshta began his second assignment in Thailand on February 4, this time as Ambassador of Ukraine. He served here previously as Counsellor during 2007-2011 and is therefore already very familiar with the country and the region. He has high expectations of bolstering bilateral relations between Ukraine and the Kingdom during his four-year term. His return was welcomed by many Thais and foreigners who got to know him the last time around. “I was born in Volyn region in the western part of Ukraine in December 1976, when we were still a part of the Soviet Union,” said Ambassador Beshta. “In my school years I witnessed the collapse of the old regime and the first steps of an independent Ukraine. I believed that diplomacy would be an extremely interesting profession and hoped to make a humble contribution towards developing Ukraine into a democratic and prosperous nation. “I graduated from Lviv State University's Faculty of International Relations in 1998 and the same year I started my diplomatic career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Ukraine. “My first visit to Thailand – in fact to Southeast Asia – was in 2007 when I was posted here as the Counselor. That was the second posting abroad in my career. Frankly speaking, at that time I was slightly confused with the new destination as I had never dealt directly with this region and my knowledge of Thailand was limited to a few well-known items, like it was one of the ‘Asian Tigers’ and a beautiful tourist destination. “After spending a very short time here back in 2007 my family and I literally fell in love with this country, its kind and friendly people, rich historical and cultural heritage and traditions as well as natural beauty, not to mention the tasty and diverse Thai cuisine. Thus we used every opportunity to explore the country. We travelled east and west, north and south, combining trips to islands and beaches to relax with adventures in natural parks and historical and cultural sightseeing. “For the first time in my life I experienced how much people could love their monarch, having witnessed thousands
of Thais enjoying and crying with love at the same time in the presence of His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I am happy that I can experience life in a society predominantly guided by Buddhism. From my perspective this definitely reflects on the way of life and behaviour of most Thais. “Therefore when I had the chance to express my preferences about the country of my posting as ambassador, I had only one place in mind – Thailand. I believed that my previous experience here will be helpful in discharging my responsibilities, and I am glad that this was supported by the Minister and the President of Ukraine. The President made my appointment official on November 24, 2015 and it took me about two months to wrap things up in Kiev and prepare for my new job. I arrived in Thailand in late January 2016. “This is my first posting as ambassador and I am very happy that it is in the Kingdom of Thailand. Within our family we say that we are back to our second home – as we’ve spent more time here than in any other country outside of Ukraine. Usually postings abroad are for four years. I will devote all my skills and energy to achieving progress and results in furthering relations between Ukraine and Thailand.”
Seasoned diplomat “I feel lucky that throughout my almost 18-year diplomatic career I had the opportunity to work both in areas of multilateral and bilateral diplomacy. That is a great asset to any diplomat. My first posting abroad was in the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations, and all of my time in the MFA I have been involved with the UN and other international organizations. “Before coming to Thailand for almost two years I was in charge of our Directorate General for International Organizations. These include the UN system, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe (CoE). This period coincided with one of the most dramatic times in the history of Ukraine – when in early 2014 the Russian Federation first occupied the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol and then continued with the armed aggression in the southeast Ukrainian region of Donbas. “While our soldiers have bravely defended Ukraine against the aggressor on the military front, we diplomats fought on the diplomatic front to consolidate international support and solidarity with our country. And activities within
the international organizations were an important element of our diplomatic efforts to resist Russian aggression. I am proud that I had the chance to work during this challenging period as part of a team of professional and dedicated diplomats, both in the MFA in Kiev and in our permanent missions in UN, OSCE and the CoE. These organizations have adopted numerous resolutions in response to Russia’s blatant violation of norms and principles of international law and its commitments and responsibilities according to the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of the Council of Europe.” “Let me just mention the historic UN General Assembly resolution ‘Territorial integrity of Ukraine,’ adopted on March 27, 2014, by 100 UN member states. Only ten countries supported the Russian Federation, among those North Korea, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. And we do highly appreciate that the Kingdom of Thailand was among those 100 states that stood on the right side of the history, defending the fundamental norms and principles of international law.” “Unfortunately, the Russian Federation has shown a total disregard for all those resolutions, and the international organizations lack mechanisms to enforce them, especially when the aggressor is a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC). The Russian Federation has already used its right of veto twice to block the UNSC resolutions related to its aggression against Ukraine.” “At the end of my assignment in Kiev – namely in October 2015 – Ukraine was elected as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for the period of 2016-2017. This was a clear sign of international support and solidarity with Ukraine in the given circumstances.”
Relations with Thailand “I am leading a rather small team of four diplomats including myself and one administrative staff from Ukraine. We are supported by one Thai secretary who has been working with us for many years. Our responsibilities are to maintain diplomatic relations and official channels of communication with Thailand; develop cooperation in political, trade, security, cultural and other areas; and provide support and protection to Ukrainian citizens and companies in Thailand. Our embassy is also covering Laos and Myanmar.”
n its work the embassy for many years has been supported and assisted by Mr Preecha Tirakijpong, the Honorary ConsulGeneral of Ukraine since 2002. Last year Ms Bang-on Jansanthia was appointed as Honorary Consul in Chonburi Province. “Diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Thailand were established on May 6, 1992. However, I cannot but proudly mention one page in the history of our relations that was written more than 100 years ago. In 1906, a Ukrainian lady, Kateryna Desnytska – in fact born in the same Volyn region of Ukraine as
myself – married Prince Chakrabongse Bhuvanath of Thailand. In 1910 Kateryna officially became Princess of Siam under the name Na Phitsanulok. In 1911 the couple visited Kiev. “Their son Chula graduated from Cambridge University and became a historian. Prince Chula’s daughter, Narisa, lives in Europe. In 1994, Narisa published a book about her grandparents ‘Katya & the Prince of Siam’ – the true love story of a beautiful Ukrainian girl and a Thai prince. “Next year we will mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations. Our relationship is still ‘young’ when compared with Thailand’s 500-year relationship with Portugal or more than the 180-year diplomatic relationship with the U.S. However, there have been a number of important developments in this rather short time. “We opened our embassy in Bangkok in 2002 and two years later the official visit of the President of Ukraine to Thailand and his meeting with His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej opened an important new chapter in the history of our relations. Since then dozens of high-level visits have taken place. Nearly 20 bilateral agreements and memorandums in different spheres have been signed.” “I can say that my predecessors built a sound foundation for further development of bilateral cooperation. Our relations are friendly, based on mutual trust and understanding and not complicated by any problem issues. We recognize that Thailand plays one of the leading roles in the region of Southeast Asia and serves as the bridge between Europe and ASEAN countries. “With its considerable industrial and scientific potential, human and agricultural resources, Ukraine can become an important partner for Thailand, especially at a time when the Kingdom is taking steps to diversify its relations with global and regional powers. “Therefore, I am looking optimistically to further successful development of Ukrainian-Thai relations in the years to come in many areas for the benefit of both countries and peoples – it’s a ‘win-win’ situation. As ambassador I will spare no efforts to achieve notable progress and results, especially since there is a huge potential in many areas. “In the political area we continue to maintain contacts at different levels. The latest and very important meeting
Simply stunning: the Carpathian Mountains
between ministers of foreign affairs of Ukraine and the Kingdom of Thailand was on the margins of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia in Beijing in April. This meeting gave impetus to cooperation in different areas. We have agreed to hold the second round of political consultations between the MFA of Ukraine and Thailand this year. “The next step will be the first meeting of the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation, where we can discuss issues in more detail with the participation of experts from different ministries and agencies on a broad agenda of practical cooperative projects in many areas. There are indeed a lot of them. “Trade and economic cooperation have been developing dynamically. In 2010, the trade turnover reached more than US$600 million. After a few years of decline in 2015 trade started to show growth again, reaching almost US$500 million. This positive trend continues this year. “Statistics for the first quarter of 2016 show that Thailand
Lviv – one of the most beautiful cities in Ukraine
our high-tech and high-added value products. “Ukraine has around 1,500 scientific institutions and organizations, of which about 450 are in the academic sector while the rest are industrial. About 126,000 Ukrainians are directly engaged in research and engineering activities. This great scientific potential allows us to develop advanced technologies for different sectors, including aircraft and aerospace, automotive, shipbuilding, transportation, biotech and IT. “There have already been a number of positive examples of such cooperation. In 2012 our governments signed the Agreement on cooperation in the area of defense, and since 2008 Ukraine has been supplying BTR-3E1 armoured personnel carriers and main battle tanks OPLOT to the Royal Thai Army. The Minister of Defense of Ukraine visited Bangkok in November 2015 and extended an invitation to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Prawit Wongsuwan to visit Ukraine. “Ukraine is also interested in expanding cooperation in the peaceful exploration of outer space. In 2008 the first Thai satellite, ‘THEOS,’ was launched by Ukraine’s space launch vehicle ‘Dnipro.’ Another promising field of cooperation is the aircraft industry. Ukrainian State Corporation Antonov with nearly 70 years of experience has full-cycle aircrafts’ production, including pre-project scientific researches, tests, certification, serial production and aftersale maintenance. “Throughout these decades it has built more than 22 thousand units of passenger, transport, military and special-purpose aircraft of more than one hundred types and modifications. The cargo giants called AN-124 ‘Ruslan’ and AN-225 ‘Mriya’ are the special pride of our aviation designers.
Kamianets – Podilskyi Castle
has become the second fastest growing market for Ukrainian products, after the EU as a block. In previous years Ukraine exports were predominantly steel and metal products; currently it is agricultural and food products. “Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe, with the world’s largest areas of fertile black soil. Last year Ukraine exported to Thailand about 1.5 million tons of wheat, far more than any other country. Ukraine also imports from the kingdom various agricultural products and foodstuff. Thai seafood, fresh and canned fruits, and, of course, the world-famous Thai ‘jasmine’ rice, are all very popular in Ukraine. “However, given Ukraine’s significant industrial, scientific potential as well as educated and skilled human resources, I see one of my tasks as ambassador to explore the Thai market for
Saint Sophia's Cathedral, Kiev
The AN-225 ‘Mriya’ is the biggest airplane in the world and can be used for the delivery of very large cargo including turbines, railcars and locomotives for infrastructure projects in Thailand. Moreover, we can discuss the joint manufacturing of AN aircraft in Thailand under the framework of the Cluster-based Special Economic Development Zones Policy (this is the policy of Thai Government: bit.ly/24VvndC). “Thailand is aiming to build a rapid and efficient railway network to better connect ASEAN, and transform the kingdom into the regional transportation hub. Ukraine can supply everything from materials for building the railway network to rolling-stock and locomotives. “Just last May I attended the opening ceremony of the Digital Thailand 2016 Conference and listened to a speech by
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha. He placed a high importance on developing the digital technologies to drive the development of Thailand in different sectors. And I can mention in this regard that Ukraine has the largest software development industry in Europe and fourth largest in the world. There are 100,000 certified software professionals in the country and ambitious plans to double this number by 2020. “Ukraine invites Thai investors to allocate their assets into the most profitable and reliable sectors of Ukraine’s national economy, which include not only IT but also the industrial, construction, agricultural and service sectors. Apart from establishing new businesses, Thai investors are also welcome to participate in the upcoming privatization of a large number of state-owned enterprises in Ukraine.”
BTR-3E1 Armored Personnel Carrier
Promoting personal exchanges “I see establishing closer people-to-people contacts as one of the important aspects of my job here. I want to help Thai people to discover Ukraine and in turn to promote new opportunities for Ukrainians in Thailand. “Thailand is already very popular among Ukrainian tourists. In recent years the numbers have been steadily growing. In 2013 about 24,000 Ukrainians visited Thailand; in 2014 there were about 36,000; The Zenit-3SL launch vehicle delivers and in 2015 nearly 45,000 heavy payloads into medium and visitors came here. The number high circular and elliptical orbits of Ukrainian tourists could rise even faster if the Thai side liberalized the visa regime. Now Ukrainian tourists only receive a 15-day visa on arrival. “I also would like to encourage Thais to discover Ukraine – the Carpathian Mountains and many historical and cultural sites, particularly medieval castles and churches. “In 2015 more than 1,500 Ukrainian nationals were in residence in Thailand. They are mostly involved in business projects in the areas of tourism, entertainment and restaurants. Having spent some time here, I can’t say that I feel the Ukrainian community here is truly united. With this interview I want to send the message that I am ready to support efforts to bring Ukrainians in Thailand closer together in any way I can.”
Occupation of Crimea The ambassador then turned to a subject that is never far from his thoughts. “On February 20, 2014 Russia launched an armed aggression against Ukraine by occupying the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. Reports of international organizations and human rights institutions register massive intimidation and persecutions by the Russian occupying authorities of ethnic Ukrainians and indigenous Crimean Tatars – those who opposed the occupation – as well as gross and systematic human rights violations in Crimea, including restrictions of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of assembly and association. “Such behaviour is not acceptable in the 21st century and the international community has strongly reacted to Russian
Fire fighting aircraft
Mriya – the world's largest cargo airplane
aggressive actions. The US, EU and other nations have imposed a number of sanctions against Russia.”
he Ambassador also spoke about the downing of Malaysian MH-17 flight, which led to the tragic loss of 298 innocent lives. “The international community bears responsibility before the victims and their families to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. “There is dual track to the investigation. In October 2015, the Dutch Safety Board, to whom Ukraine delegated the authority to conduct a technical investigation, concluded that Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 was brought down by a warhead installed on a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile system. “Another track is the criminal investigation being conducted by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) headed by the Netherlands and which includes also Ukraine, Australia, Belgium and Malaysia. It is expected that the investigation will be concluded in the fall of this year and it will help to assemble the full puzzle.”
Personal “My wife Natalia and I met at university. We are proud parents of three wonderful children of 11, 12 and 16 years of age. As for my hobbies, number one is music. For me personally no other kind of art can reach and resonate with the deepest part of our soul. Another hobby is discovering nature and the world around us. “When I was a student, every summer with my friends we went on week-long hiking trips around beautiful Carpathian Mountains. Not only enjoying being close to nature and understanding the culture and traditions of people living in the mountains, but also obtaining necessary survival skills. I have very bright memories from that period of my life and want to transfer my experiences to my children. “While in Ukraine every summer our family used to make a two or three week car trip around the Carpathian Mountains, including spending time in the wild in tents. With its rich nature and wildlife and abundant natural parks, Thailand provides endless opportunities for adventure.”
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Monsoon Midnights Special places in Bangkok, as experienced by the Bangkok Women’s Writers Group Dear reader, Welcome to ‘Monsoon Midnights’, a short story by the Bangkok Women’s Writers Group. The storytellers of the BWWG come from all over the world but they all have a special place in this city, somewhere surprising, obscure and unexpected, as yet undiscovered. Follow us to these hidden places right here, month after month. The first volume of Monsoon Midnights (18 stories by 12 authors with beautiful illustrations by the BigChilli graphics team) is available on Amazon: amzn.to/1N5V2YX NIGHTFALL OVER BANGKOK
here are some very high places in Bangkok. Places where you can look out and see the city like an interactive map spread out beneath you. It doesn’t happen very often, but now and then a shape will cross the face of the moon. But if you wait and watch long enough, you will catch the moment. A bird of the night, wings outstretched, suddenly looks like a dragon, carrying the moon in its claws. A small invisible cloud seems to slice the moon in half. And once, only once, I saw an airplane move across the silver circle. The plane looked huge, like a space shuttle for thousands, perhaps carrying aliens on a holiday trip, perhaps briefly broken through from a different dimension, or perhaps just a clever trick with scissors and paper, a tiny shadow image projected onto the moon, magnified out of all proportion. I look around and see a city full of people who want to be elsewhere. This is why many of us came here in the first place. That’s how others ended up here whether we liked it or not. Some of us even remained in the same spot, but the city came and made that place a place of ‘elsewhere’ anyway. Reluctant, ambitious, driven, overwhelmed, forward looking, backward looking, excited, afraid, trying to escape, reaching out to the stars – it doesn’t matter. This city is moving all the time. And taking us with it. Is the place we are going better than the one where we are right now? Sukhumvit ran through rice fields only 50 years ago. Tonight I hear a call far beyond the inner city, built up and constantly torn down to be built upon again, with towers that scrape the sky and roads that seal up the swamp. And even far beyond the suburbs, where change comes in the shape of imitation,
of grasping a lifestyle that will carry us over and out. Tonight’s storyteller, Tracey Martin, knows this city well. She has seen the decades pass over the land like a time shuttle across the moon. She has seen the big planes and the small paper and scissors cut-outs. So it is not surprising that she is waiting for me at Suvarnabhumi Airport, opened only 10 years ago but 40 years in the making, growing a ‘Golden Land’ out of the ‘Cobra Swamp.’ I swerve to avoid a big Airbus and land just ahead of a fast private jet, tumbling over the end of the runway and into the long grass. I have to wait until a door opens so I can slide in next to a group of travellers with heavy luggage. Guards don’t see the likes of me! Tracey Martin is not queuing at check-in or buying last minute mementos. She is not sitting in a business lounge or anxiously awaiting a relative’s arrival. I almost didn’t see her. She is waiting and watching in the unlikeliest place, and yet one of the most important… Join me in listening to her story tonight… The Next Flight............By Tracey Martin Mali still can’t decide what it looks like. Some days, as she rides up to it on her motorbike in the middle of the night, she thinks it is like a fluorescent water lily, big glass petals reaching up to the sky. Other times she thinks it’s like a spaceship, not that she’s ever seen one, except on TV, but it does seem like something that just landed out of nowhere, something that her family could never have guessed would come, speaking languages they had never heard. As she goes round the perimeter fence she can see the runway and the very patch of tarmac where she estimates her father’s fields must once have been. Or perhaps they are still there under all that black stuff, she’s not sure. The rice plants
HE Bangkok Women’s Writers Group, founded in 2001, and led by Anette Pollner (who also writes the recurring ‘moon intro’ stories in this series in her famous neo psychedelic style), is where creative women from all over the world meet to workshop their writing in a supportive and inspiring environment. Many of our members are published and prize winning authors, but we are open to all women who are passionate about writing, including complete beginners. The BWWG’s first publication (before ‘Monsoon Midnights the short story collection,’ available on Amazon right now) was a Thai English language bestseller, ‘Bangkok Blondes,’ and various pamphlets. We regularly give readings around town and have been part of international festivals and cultural exchanges. Please contact email@example.com for more information. This month’s storyteller is Tracey Martin, a poet who also writes short stories, with an M.A. in Creative Writing. Tracey has a decades-long connection with Thailand. She translates the poetry of the wonderful Thai poet, Angkarn Chanthathip, who recently won the coveted SEA Write award, into English. Her stories have been broadcast on the BBC World Service and her poetry has been published in Aesthetica, Muse, and PoetryLife and is read regularly at poetry events in the UK.
though, and the income that came with them, have gone for sure. Despite the loss, which made him prematurely old, her father was childishly pleased when she announced that she’d got a job at the airport. ‘At least some good has come of it,’ he chuckled. As though 5,000 baht a month could make up for fresh rice on your table and fresh air. They’ve got used to the noise, the deep boom of the planes as they take off, the low buzz as they circle in to land. But her father shrivelled when he had to live in a concrete box with views on to other concrete boxes, not even a tree to break the grey. He rarely goes out. ‘What’s the point?’ he says. ‘There’s nothing to see.’ Her mother has adapted to the weekly shop at Big C. She knows the neighbours and spends her days going from flat to flat sipping soft drinks and eating sweets. She’s twice the size she used to be. Neither of them have even seen the airport. It has no meaning or use for them. Mali applied for the job on a whim after she lost her job at the garment factory. Airport sounded somehow more exciting than factory, despite the negative effect it had had on her family. She was surprised when she got the job with no previous experience. The first thing that struck her when she went inside the building was the number and variety of people. Every space was crowded. She couldn’t imagine how they all fit into the planes that came in and out or where they could all be going and why. In her experience, people stayed put. You went out to work, to get the shopping or, occasionally, to have dinner with friends. What business did all these people have that took them to places with barely pronounceable names? The other thing she noticed was the noise. Not just the buzz of conversation or the background roar of the planes but the endless stream of announcements. She got to know many
of them by heart. Some were self-explanatory once she’d got the hang of the place: ‘End of the walkway.’ Others still puzzled her: ‘Please do not leave luggage unattended.’ Who would ever do such a thing? She learnt that ‘boarding’ meant to get on a plane and that a ‘gate’ was not a gate but a space people were sent to before they got on a plane. She learnt that each plane had a number as well as a destination. She’d never been on a plane herself. The only time she travelled was to her mother’s province, Korat, once a year at Songkran, by bus. In fact, after the first day when she was shown around the airport, she didn’t get to see much of the airport. She spent most of her time in the toilets. ‘It’s where all the unskilled staff start,’ explained her supervisor. ‘Do a good job and you might get to clean arrivals, or even the lounges.’ Lek, her new colleague, showed her the ropes: how to clean the bowl, how to replace the paper, how to fill the soap dispensers, how to sign on the sheet to show that everything had been done. It wasn’t exactly glamorous but it wasn’t boring. Mali found it fascinating to watch the women who used the toilets. People of all colours and shapes, burdened with bags of all shapes and sizes. Even how they washed their hands and combed their hair was different. Some wore clothes that looked almost like pyjamas, others wore pencil skirts and high heels and spent half an hour hogging the sink doing their elaborate makeup in the mirror. The most interesting aspect of the work was the things that they left behind. Every day she collected up combs, jackets, mascara, hand cream and a host of other things. Every week someone left a bag or a ring, sometimes gold. The supervisor had impressed on Nat the importance of handing these items to her immediately. Anyone found trying to take things out, however small, would be immediately dismissed. And they would be found out, Nat was sure. Staff were searched almost more thoroughly when they went out than when they went into the departure area. She wondered what happened to all the items. Occasionally, there would be an announcement about a bag or a purse. Sometimes, people came back to the toilets and quizzed Nat and Lek on the whereabouts of their jacket or even their comb. If they had already handed it in, they directed them to the information desk. But there must be hundreds of items that no-one collected, that people didn’t realise were missing until they reached their destination. Nat imagined a room full of shelves piled high with toiletries, brushes, bags and sweaters. At first, she regarded the lost items with interest, trying to imagine the owner. Were they Thai or foreign? Tall or short? But soon the finding and handing in became as routine as all the other aspects of the job so she was able to do them almost on autopilot, lost in dreams of flying across the world to another place where life was sweeter and kinder. She chose the names of the places that sounded most inviting, the syllables soft and TheBigChilli
welcoming: Lisbon, Oslo, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Colombo. So she didn’t pay much attention at first when she picked up the small blue cloth bag she found on the shelf behind one of the toilets. It was only when she picked it up and a passport and a boarding card dropped out that she looked more closely. She knew that passports were important. It was a Thai passport. She turned towards the page with the photograph and what she saw made her lock the door, put the toilet lid down and sit to look at it more closely. It was her. Well, not exactly her but the person could be her sister. The shape of the face, the eyes and the mouth were all hers. But she did not recognise the name. This was not a person she knew. In a flash she realised the possibilities. She could get on the plane to… She checked the boarding card. To Kathmandu. She could escape and start a new life. She put the passport and boarding card down the front of her trousers and staggered out of the toilet. Her knees and hands were shaking. She could barely walk and her face was so pale that when she told her supervisor she wasn’t feeling well and asked if she could go and lie down in the staff room, permission was granted. ‘The time will be docked off your wages though,’ the supervisor grumbled. Mali didn’t care. ‘I won’t be here,’ she thought. ‘I’ll be there.’ She had no idea where Kathmandu was. The name sounded a bit harsher than she would have liked, but it would do. She had a new name too. Nattaya. She could live with that. In the staff room she slipped off her overall and put on her jacket. She wished she’d worn a better one. She wondered what the weather would be like in Kathmandu. She took her bag and checked her purse. She never brought much money with her. There was nothing in the airport she could afford to buy. Two hundred baht. It would have to do. She checked the time on the ticket and caught her breath. Not much time left. She went back into the security area. ‘Feeling better now?’ said the security guard. ‘Where’s your uniform?’ ‘Oh, I’m going home. But I have to tell my supervisor first.’ He examined her pass and let her through. She looked up at the departure board to find the gate number then ran towards the gate, worried that she would be too late. ‘Gates close 20 minutes before departure’ she remembered. Her heart was beating hard. Her palms were damp. She didn’t want to let herself think about her family or the risk she was taking. If she started thinking, she would never do it. She would never get away. 66
s she ran up to the gate, she bumped into a woman who was also making her way towards it. ‘Sorry, sorry’ she gasped. The woman spun round towards her. Mali looked into her face and stood still, unable to speak. The woman looked shocked too. They stared at each other for what seemed like minutes. ‘I…. I…., I found your passport,’ Mali blurted out at last. ‘And your boarding card. You left them in the toilet.’ She dug her hand into her jacket pocket, pulled out the passport with the boarding card safely tucked in it and thrust it towards the woman. The woman seemed reluctant to take them. It was clear that she hadn’t noticed they were missing yet. But eventually she did and turned quickly to the photograph page to check that it was indeed hers. Then she looked at Mali again. ‘But….’ she stammered. ‘You are…..?’ ‘I’m Mali. I’m just the cleaner. I’m no-one. I found the passport and I wanted to give it back to you.’ Mali’s voice seemed to come from somewhere outside of herself. She thought she heard the sound of her dreams shattering, like glass baubles. ‘Well, thank you, Mali,’ said the woman, composing herself. ‘I’m very grateful. Is there anything….?’ ‘No, no,’ said Mali. ‘Please, you need to hurry, you’ll miss the flight.’ The woman checked her watch and with another ‘thank you’ she turned towards the steps down to the gate. Mali watched her go, then turned and stepped back into her own life. Going back to my life? Is that what happens when the future flies away? What would that mean to me, I wonder, as I fly back prematurely to my perch under a moon that still rides high. The city never goes back. It can only fly forward, like a fish. How much can I determine my direction? How much am I rattled around in the box of fate by powers much stronger than me? Some of us can fly while others forever clean the toilet. But even if we fly, how far can we get? And yet, our spirits can soar. Sometimes I wish I could join that imaginary spaceship and lift off to explore the universe I can see in my mind. The moon is still so big and beautiful. I will stay here and keep it company until it sets. And the moon will return, one time, just one more time, when Monsoon Midnights returns next month for its final episode.
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