Bus lanes – Bangkok’s best Plan B LAST month’s technical problems on the BTS Skytrain network, which resulted in long delays and much frustration among travelers, demonstrated very clearly how dependent Bangkok has become on the Skytrain, and what happens when it goes awry. Commuters not surprisingly feel vulnerable. This dependency is so critical that a Plan B is vital. For now, though, there is no alternative to the Skytrain. The roads are already overcrowded and the bus service is lacking. Even the Skytrain network itself is under immense pressure. This is why it is absolutely essential to expand the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. It is the only viable alternative. Not everybody would welcome its expansion because the BRT requires unique access to one lane of existing roads and highways. With less space for them, motorists are the biggest losers, of course. But as we said in the January issue of The BigChilli, it is time to declare war on the car. They are mostly responsible for the congestion in Bangkok, but account for a relatively small number of commuters. This is wrong. Bus lanes (working in conjunction with the MRT and Skytrain) are the only answer if Bangkok wants to really get moving.
Thailand faces too much tourism
FOR years, the authorities have always spoken in favor of increasing the number of tourists to Thailand. Well, they’ve got their way. The kingdom is now one of the most visited countries worldwide with some 25 million people coming here last year, and even more expected this year. While the income from tourism is welcome, despite frequently heard concerns that only a relatively small portion of the total expenditure remains in Thailand, the impact of so many outsiders on this country, its infrastructure and, inevitably, its culture is immense. Once pristine islands like Phuket have changed immeasurably because of mass tourism and can hardly be regarded as “traditional” Thai. In cities like Chiang Mai, the influx of so many visitors has created great wealth for a small number of people while most locals face higher costs of living and burgeoning property prices. By far the biggest source of tourists is China, with at least five million visitors anticipated in 2016. That’s five times more than any other country, except for Malaysia which has a high number of cross-border visitors. Not everyone is happy with this situation. For instance, the presence of so many Chinese tourists and their questionable driving habits is causing serious concerns on northern Thailand’s roads. More Chinese drivers are anticipated. But frankly, that situation on the highways is just the thin end of the wedge. The long-term influence of such a huge group of foreigners on every aspect in every corner of this kingdom cannot be overestimated. Thailand is bound to change. The benefits of tourism must be continuously weighed against the negative impact it often causes. Quality over quantity has never been more important. 6
This issue in
The minimum number of weeks Negroni is aged in oak barrels at The Bamboo Bar. Impressive. See page 68.
The date, in April, that the Esperança Football Camp kicks off in Mae Sot. Volunteers are welcome to join. See page 30.
The number of years it took former Bangkok Post Managing Director David Armstrong and his wife to build a resort. See page 70.
The Magners International Comedy Festival brings nine world class comedians to Bangkok on March 17-19. See page 24.
The number of hours that Mulligans Irish Bar, Khao San Road, opens each day. See page 50.
The number of years author Harlan Wolff has lived in Bangkok. Learn more about him on page 18.
PUBLISHER Colin Hastings firstname.lastname@example.org MANAGING EDITOR Adam Purcell email@example.com EDITOR Nina Hastings firstname.lastname@example.org ASSISTANT EDITOR Chutinanta Boonyamarn email@example.com SALES & MARKETING MANAGER Rojjana Rungrattwatchai firstname.lastname@example.org ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Thana Pongsaskulchoti email@example.com Sakuna Nupinrum firstname.lastname@example.org ACCOUNTING MANAGER Saranya Choeyjanya email@example.com ACCOUNTING ASSISTANT Janjira Silapapairson firstname.lastname@example.org ART & PRODUCTION Arthawit Pundrikapa, Jaran Lakkanawat PHOTOGRAPHY JL & AP CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Anette Pollner, Johanna DeKoning, Judith Coulson, Maxmilian Wechsler
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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Roy Valentine Fordham: PR and advertising Pioneer ■ ROY Fordham, one of Thailand’s longest-serving expatriates, and a pioneer for advertising and public relations in the kingdom, died peacefully at home in Bangkok in January. He was 88 years old. Fordham arrived in Bangkok in 1953 from London on a one-year public relations assignment for the Chao Phraya Dam in Chai Nat Province, 200km north of Bangkok. He fell in love with Thailand and stayed on, moving to Bangkok to help set up Thailand’s first advertising and PR firm, Groake & Company Ltd. As general manager, he created the public relations division, an outdoor site contracting division, and a market research division. All three divisions later grew to become separate companies. He went on to work for Marklin Advertising in 1962, leading to a short stint in Hong Kong as account group director, before returning to Bangkok in 1965 to head up Marklin’s Bangkok Office. In 1968, he struck out on his own to set up Adplan Ltd, which rapidly became one of Thailand’s leading
Watch soccer’s next super stars in bumper schools soccer tournament ■ MORE than 80 teams from eight countries comprising almost 1,000 boys and girls aged 8-18, including 17 international schools in Thailand, will take part in the BSL Bangkok International Youth Football Festival Tournament, March 19-20, at Bangkok Patana School. Drop by to see the next generation of football stars. For more info visit bit.ly/1QphZYi
independent advertising agencies. Adplan (later renamed Mayford) had many prominent clients over the years including Air France, Philippine Airlines, Foodland Supermarkets, Max Factor, Watsons, A&W, Diethelm and Siemens. Many clients stayed with the agency for years appreciating the personal attention and Fordham’s creative and dynamic approach.
One of his ‘jingles’ can still be heard today on Bangkok’s airwaves – “Think of food, think of Foodland.” Bangkok commuters can also thank Fordham for convincing the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority to set up the numerous bus shelters across the city. The rationale was to create high visibility advertising space for his clients as well as shelter for commuters. After thriving for 31 years, the agency finally closed in 1999 after the financial crisis in Asia. Fordham was a keen sportsman, playing rugby and tennis at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club (RBSC) and the British Club from the 1950s to the 1980s. He is also credited with bringing lawn bowls to Thailand, setting up the first bowling green at the RBSC in 1980. Fordham is survived by his wife, Mayurin Fordham, who is the administrative executive at the Blue Elephant Cooking School & Restaurant Bangkok; and his two children, Ann and Kit; and a granddaughter.
As the owner of The Overground Bar & Cafe in Bangkok, and founder of Australian telecoms newsletter CommsDay, Grahame certainly takes the business side of his life seriously. When it comes to Wasabi Bytes though – well, watch one of the band’s music videos on YouTube and it's clear he and the band are having a ball. Take Wasabi Bytes’ most popular single Deep Inside. The last thing you'd expect to accompany the dreamy, laid-back beats and undulating synths is probably a video about two crossdressing lovers heading out on a date in Bangkok, but that’s exactly what you get. And it’s pretty funny, with a good message too – basically don’t be afraid to be yourself. “That track was a real breakthrough for us,” says Grahame. “We got airplay all around the world in places like San Francisco, Rome, Philadelphia, and it was really good for us. DJs in Thailand also started playing that track. It was the first time we’d had any real recognition here.” As for writing the band’s songs, Grahame says he uses his laptop and crummy software that nobody has ever heard of. “I also deliberately use bad headphones,” he says, “because if the music sounds good on those, it’ll sound great on expensive ones!” Inspiration strikes at all times of the day, but what’s most important for Grahame is originality. “I usually take two separate ideas or concepts and mix them together to see what happens,” he says. “For our first single, for example, I sat down and thought what would acid house sound like if it came out of Egypt or India and had tablas and Arabic drums driving the beat. It’s important that our songs have weird ideas behind them; that's how we get the best results.” Wasabi Bytes’ latest album, Art House, was released last month in Bangkok at Sing Sing Theatre. True to experimental form, it features a mix of rap, techno, and house styles. “Unlike our previous albums, which were largely composed and mixed on computers, this was laid down in a real studio,” says Grahame. “The effects desk and the mastering became genuine instruments alongside the guitars, drums and keys. I’ve never felt more uncertain about an album before release; this is truly experimental and out of the comfort zone. But those who listen say it is the best thing we have done.” The band’s earlier work is also set to be given an experimental update on a record provisionally entitled Berlin to Bangkok: The Rage of the Machine Remixes. This will feature several Afrika Islam remixes of Wasabi tracks and should be released in the next few weeks. You can check out the band’s songs and albums on Beatport, Amazon and iTunes. For upcoming gigs, visit facebook.com/WasabiBytes. Strip AD_Destination_July14_M4.indd 1
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Thai Polo & Equestrian Club: Perfect for family outings & horse riding World class polo and exciting equestrian events every month in Pattaya ■ POLO, the sport of kings that anybody can play and enjoy, is witnessing a remarkable resurgence in recent years here in Thailand. Its rise in popularity among players as well as spectators is due in no small measure to the efforts of Mr Harald Link, CEO of B. Grimm Group, and Mrs Nunthinee Tanner, co-owners of Thai Polo & Equestrian Club, who designed all the infrastructure of this stunning facility. This dynamic duo have created a magnificent centre of equestrianism on the outskirts of Pattaya that hosts all kinds of exciting events through the polo season, which runs from November to April. While major polo matches featuring top international players attract the biggest crowds, Thai Polo Club also stages regular events such as derby show jumping, multi-disciplined
competitions encompassing dressage, cross-country and jumping, and the hugely popular endurance tests. Members of the public are welcome as spectators for any of the above events and shows. It’s a great place to relax and picnic in a beautiful setting. And there’s no entrance fee. Thai Polo Club opened in 2003 in response to Harald Link’s vision to revitalize the game by creating a worldclass polo club accessible from both Bangkok and Pattaya. The result is a magnificent facility that has made Thailand an international centre for polo and equestrianism in Southeast Asia. Players from all over the world regularly visit the Club to play in its prestigious tournaments, such as the Princess’s Cup Thai Polo Open every
January and the Queen’s Cup Pink Polo for ladies. In addition to its monthly tournaments, the Club is part of a unique polo league of Thai, Malaysian and Singaporean clubs, with each club taking turns to host a round-robin. Offering a host of fun activities for the whole family, yet serious enough to be internationally recognised and registered with the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the Club is a huge asset for Thailand’s sports and equestrian lovers. With wooded hills as a backdrop, the club’s beautifully landscaped setting covers 800 acres and includes a full range of world-class equestrian facilities. In addition to three full-sized polo fields and two practice fields, the club has a cross country course, endurance
Come and watch. Free admission
Thai Polo & Equestrian Club in focus The venue
course, indoor and outdoor arenas for show jumping, stabling for 250 horses, numerous paddocks, a horse hospital (which will soon take care of all horses on the Eastern Seaboard) and the renowned Rege Ludwig International Polo School, which attracts polo players from all over the world who want to improve their skills. Visitors can relax in the picturesque clubhouse, take a cooling dip in the salt-water swimming pool or enjoy the Chukka Bar, a re-creation of the
famous polo bar at the Langham Hotel in London, complete with original polo photographs, trophies and sporting memorabilia.
Accommodation Accommodation is available in wonderful Thai-style houses, surrounded by paddocks and horses. All offer spectacular views of the hills and rolling countryside of this secluded and unspoiled area of the Eastern Seaboard.
With wooded hills as a backdrop, the club’s beautifully landscaped setting covers 800 acres on the outskirts of Pattaya. Siam Country Club Golf Course, Horseshoe Point Resort, and Bira Circuit are all a short drive away.
Founders Mr Harald Link, CEO of B. Grimm Group, and Mrs Nunthinee Tanner are co-owners of Thai Polo & Equestrian Club. They designed all the infrastructure of this stunning facility.
Facilities Three full-sized polo fields, two practice fields, a cross country course, endurance course, indoor and outdoor arenas for show jumping, stabling for 250 horses, a state-of-the-art horse hospital, and an international polo school operated by world-renowned polo trainer Rege Ludwig.
Events Alongside its regular international events, which are officially recognised by the Fédération Equestre Internationale, the Club also hosts annual charity competitions, including the Princess’s Cup Thai Polo Open, Queen’s Cup Pink Polo, and Beach Polo.
www.thai-polo-club.com TheBigChilli 33
Scrapbook Last monthâ€™s foodie functions in focus
Hilton Worldwide SEA & India F&B Masters HILTON Worldwide held the grand fina s of the i ton or d ide ndia asters at the onrad an o ast onth. tota of fina ists fro across i ton or dideâ€™s outheast sia and ndia ro erties cha en ed one another to e distin uished as the est a on st the est in the five disci ines na e u inar ar arista o e ier and astr . The annua event ce e rates cu inar creativit and ori ina i o o ithin the i ton or d ide ortfo io of ro erties and has een desi ned to identif deve o and distin uish the est ta ent ithin the or ani ation. Detai s a out the inners can e found at facebook.com/conradbangkokhotel.
Scrapbook Last month’s foodie functions in focus
Bordeaux Grand Cru Wine Dinner TABLES Grill at Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok kick-started its new series of wine events by hosting the ‘Bordeaux Grand Cru Wine Dinner.’ The event featured five-courses of modern European cuisine paired with premium wines, each eloquently introduced by special guest Mr Philippe Casteja, President of Borie Manoux, a family-owned winery in the Bordeaux region of France.
Discover World Tour 2016 A LARGE group of foodies enjoyed a delicious culinary journey at Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel’s “Discover World Tour 2016,” which saw each of the hotel’s outlets showcase their various cuisines and also host cooking demonstrations. Highlights of the event included a home-made pasta competition and wine tasting at La Tavola & Wine Bar, a chance to cook up Thai papaya salad at Flavors, and a mixology session at R Bar. Keep up to date with the hotel’s events at facebook.com/RenaissanceBangkok. 42
Mulligans Irish Bar – Khao San Road Words C HUTINANTA BOONYAMA R N
The party never ends at this lively pub in the heart of Bangkok's most famous street oP eN 24 h oURS A DAY , S eV eN days a week for the last seven years, Mulligans Irish Bar on Khao San Road is without doubt one of the street’ s most happening pubs. E very night there’ s something fun going on. Y ou might catch an impromptu performance by a famous Thai singer, say, or a birthday party featuring models strutting their stuff, or a St Patrick’ s D ay Party sponsored by J ameson Irish Whiskey (the latter’ s definitely happening on arch 1 expect all kinds of drink deals). E ven on typical nights, when nothing special is planned, the pub’ s atmosphere is always bouncing thanks to the popular house bands who play international hits into the early hours.
The crowd is always well mixed too think expats, tourists and locals all dancing to the same beat while enjoying a large selection of international eats and some of the coldest beer Khao San has to offer (including draught G uinness at just B26 0+ per pint, and international selections such as Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, and Punk IPA, amongst others). ccupying the second floor of the Buddy Lodge, a popular guesthouse midway down the street, Mulligans manifests its Irish inspiration through a colour scheme of creams and greens, mahogany furniture, and bric-a-brac straight from the E merald Isle. Pool tables, arcade games, 10 big screens showing international sports, and a large bar with over 1 draught beers, meanwhile, establish
that Mulligans is well and truly a pub. That said, food is definitely no afterthought at Mulligans. Lovingly made, tasty, and served in generous portions to boot, the selection runs the gamut from traditional pub grub such as B eef and Guinness P ie (B340+ ), F ish & Chip s (B330+ ) and Irish S tew (B340+ ), to more local fare like P la Goong (spicy shrimp and lemongrass salad with chopped onions, mints and spring onions. 1 0 and S om tam P oo K hai (spicy mango salad with crab. B420+ ). Signature dishes include the tender Lamb S hank (B350+ ), which comes with mashed potatoes, sauté ed veggies and gravy; and the crispy P ork K nuckle (B350+ ), served with mashed potatoes and sauce thoroughly delicious. aily appy ours from pm pm and 2am-4am offer selected draught beers at B99+ per pint, and signature cocktails at per glass. ou ll also find brand specific deals which change daily see website for full details). 2 6 5 K h a o S a n R o a d . L iv e m u s ic e v e r y fr o m 1 0 p m (b a n d s fo llo w e d b y liv e D J s e v e r y T h u r s – F r i), 0 2 6 2 9 4 4 7 7 , m u llig a n s th a ila n d .c o m
Wo rds H A R VEY W EAT H ER I L L P h o t o s JA R A N L AK K A N AWAT
Wine Connection – The Grill
Enjoy some of the best value steaks in town at this new restaurant specialising in top quality beef
UILDING oN the huge success of its nationwide chain of affordable wine shops, delis and bistros, Wine onnection has now opened its very first steakhouse – and it’ s a meaty triumph. ocated on the ground floor of trendy dining hotspot G roove at CentralWorld, Wine Connection The G rill is the brand’ s most upmarket offering yet. Similar to its other ventures around Thailand, though, the focus remains on affordable quality. And this translates here into some of the most reasonably priced high-quality steaks in town. At the heart of the operation is the grill – displayed in all its gleaming glory in a show kitchen flanked by refrigerators stocked with high quality cuts of beef from Australia, U SA and
J apan (all aged on-site for a minimum of one week for maximum flavour . hile an extensive bistro menu informed by Wine Connection’ s other popular ventures is also available, the succulent slabs of meat, carefully seasoned and expertly cooked, are the real highlight here. The Australian tenderloin (240g; grain fed for 150 da ys; B1,190+ *) is wonderfully tender and tasty to boot; the Rib eye bone in (850g; B1,890+ ) for two to share is eye-popping in siz e and simply delicious; and the premium Chateaubriand (500g; B2,390+ ), a center cut fillet and most tender part of the beef, also for two to share, is truly a meaty masterpiece. D on’ t fancy beef? Try the New G r o o v e a t C e n tr a lW o r ld , 9 9 9 /9 R a m a 1 R d . O p e n d a ily 1 1 a m -1 a m . 0 2 6 1 3 1 0 3 6 . fa c e b o o k .c o m /w c th e g r ill
Zealand lamb rack (420g; B7 90+ ), which, testament to the quality of the meat, is lean and tender and rich with flavour. All steaks come with a choice of sauce (BBQ herbs and butter, G reen peppercorn, Red wine, Blue cheese, and homemade Bearnaise) while optional sides, priced just B90+ each, include highlights such as elgian fries served with truffle aioli; Portobello mushroom with feta cheese; and Potato gratin. As you’ d expect from a restaurant under the Wine Connection moniker, The G rill offers an extensive selection of wines to either drink on site or to take home. Wines by the glass start at just B100+ ; bottles at B500+ , so you can expect great value all round.
l l prices al ready incl ude 7% V A T . T he + refers to 10% service char ge.
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Guest review by
Bangkok Beefsteak & Burgundy
The Bangkok Beefsteak & Burgundy dining group enjoys one of its finest lunches yet trimmings. Simon Rindlisbacher and one or two others thought more spice would have improved the dish, but the majority were impressed by Chef Olivier’s very beautiful arrangement of the dish. A further favourite of the Club, Tramin Pinot Grigio Alto Adige DOC 2014 (Italy), was served with this (“nice nose, not bad for a Dago white,” a serious understatement for a very nice wine).
efforts of the members of the 100kg Club, there were still servings of beef remaining at the end. Definitely one of the best lunches the Club has witnessed, earning deserved applause for Chef Olivier and his team. The feast did not finish just with the beef, though: we also enjoyed Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010 (Italy) which I have commented upon favourably in the past. It is still excellent, receiving praise from Tom and definitely it was the right wine to pair with the beef. Next followed the cheese. This and the port had been sponsored by our birthday boys, Mark and David, and came with Clos de los Siete
AST month we returned to Artur, home to arguably the best Côte de Bœuf in town, and to a table almost filled to overflowing with 19 bon vivants. There were several familiar faces to be found in the service team, including owner Artur Kluczewski and Chef Olivier Castella. Starting wines also featured familiar names, Dr Loosen Riesling
Sekt (sparkling) and Markus Schneider Saigner Rosé 2013 (both from Germany), and both of which we again enjoyed. It was refreshing to see that the Rosé attracted serious attention from several members, including wine spokesman Tom Whitcraft (“a cool rosé”). Once the last of the diners had literally been squeezed into place, we were served a signature dish of Artur, Rich organic egg Brouillé flavoured with foie gras, closely followed by Blini with Nor wegian salmon duo smoked, roe and
Next up was Lukewarm Hokkaido scallop ser ved on its shell with red bell pepper. The scallop was exquisite; the presentation, eye-catching; and the accompanying Pegasus Bay Chardonnay 2012 (Waipara Valley, NZ) made this a very special course. This was our first taste of this vintage and, once it had warmed and opened up, Tom and others enjoyed it. The tour de force arrived after all diners had been safely returned to their seats: Côte de Bœuf, spinach and mushroom pithiviers, gratin dauphinois potatoes and broccoli with a huge selection of condiments, (which included fresh horseradish shavings served by our charming Maîtresse d’, K. Suriya). Artur deftly dismembered the beautifully cooked beef with panache, and the meat was about as good as it gets in my opinion (“magnifique” I heard from one quarter). Amazingly, despite the considerable
2009 (Malbec blend from Argentina) which was good (both to taste and for value). And on its heels, a Pistachio espuma then Grand Marnier parfait morello cherr y coulis and chocolate crumbles (very nice, a sharp after-taste, and decorated with a Cape gooseberry) with Osborne port. Finally, we enjoyed a choice of Coffee Richard or Ronnefeldt Tea accompanied by Artur’s Traditional Madeleines. Simon and Tom had done their usual excellent job of sharing their impressions of the food and wine with Artur and Olivier, and just there remained for us the opportunity to thank all the members of the team for their contribution to a great lunch. Artur, Bliston Apartments, Soi Tonson, Phloenchit Rd., 02 658 6288 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The set up: This cost-conscious neighbourhood bar on Silom Road prides itself on serving quality beers, wines, and spirits at reasonable prices, and also offers a decent selection of tasty pub snacks and gastropubstyle food (available midday to midnight every day). Factor in friendly and efficient service, and it’s a great place to enjoy an afternoon or evening. Wines by the glass start at B150, beers at B80, and signature cocktails at B180.
Dini Spec ng ial
Signature dishes: 100% Wagyu burger 250g with duck fries (B450); Classic fish and chips (B600. Incl. a beer, wine or soft drink) and Charcuterie and cheese platters (B500). B a a n S ilo m , 8 8 7 S ilo m R d . O p e n d a ily 1 1 a m -1 a m . 0 2 2 6 6 8 6 6 1 . fa c e b o o k .c o m /b la c k m a r k e tp u b lic h o u s e
HOT NEW RESTAURANTS & BARS IN BANGKOK
Il Fumo Restaurant & Bar
(Including some recently opened gems)
The set up: Founded by a husband-and-wife team of passionate foodies, Choti & Debby Leenutaphong, alongside celebrated chef Luca Appino (owner of the award-winning La Bottega di Luca, and also chefpartner of Vesper cocktail bar on Soi Convent, again in partnership with Choti and Debby), Il Fumo is located in a bright and airy house just off Rama IV Rd. Working closely with top suppliers in Europe, and making good use of wood and charcoal, the kitchen specializes in Italian-style grilled premium meats and seafood, each cooked over a different kind of wood for maximum flavour. There’s also a good selection of vintage craft cocktails. Dress code is smart casual (strictly no flip flops and no short sleeves for men). Signature dishes: Trio of Fassone beef tartare; Wood charcoal grilled octopus ser ved with green beans, taggiasca olives and potatoes cooked under ash; and Wood charcoal grilled Rubia Gallega beef from Galicia, Spain. 1 0 9 8 /2 R a m a IV R d . (in a p r iv a te a lle y o n R a m a IV R o a d r ig h t a fte r A m a n ta C o n d o m in iu m ). O p e n M o n -S u n 6 p m -1 a m (s ta r tin g M a r c h 1 3 ). 0 2 2 8 6 8 8 3 3 . ilfu m o .c o
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The set up: Greek food in Bangkok doesn’t get more authentic than the fare on offer at this new restaurant on Sukhumvit 33. Executive Chef Konstantinos Sarrimavrogenis, a native of Thessaloniki, puts his rich experience working in top five star hotels in Greece to good use by cooking up flavourpacked classics plus a wide range of Greek dishes you’ll only find at Avra. It’s the restaurant in Bangkok that fans of Greek cuisine have been waiting for. And it delivers. Signature dishes: Greek salad with beef tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil; Pork souvlaki with pitta and tzatziki spread; and Mousakas (minced beef with potatoes, eggplant, zucchini and cream sauce with cheese). A threecourse set lunch menu is available Mon-Fri priced B299++. Ground floor of Hotel Lotus Sukhumvit, Sukhumvit 33.Open daily 11am - 2pm and 6pm - 11pm. 02 258 2876. avrabkk.com
The set up: This unique club, lounge and restaurant may be set in the same shell which once held the famed Bed Supperclub, but it makes the structure all its own with a striking design (dubbed ‘Funk Shui’) which blends eclectic Asian style with antique embellishments, dragon motifs, and 3D video projections. Owned by nightclub innovator and pioneer Daryl Scott, Chi is Thailand’s first official Diageo Club, so you can expect lots of exciting cocktails on offer. What’s more, the club also offers a food menu, entitled Mana – Spiritual and Divine Nourishment, designed by the renowned Blue Elephant restaurant group. Signature dishes: Five-spiced duck broth reduction and baby bok choi; Pink seabream pan-fried with orange candy and charred fennel; and Yellow saffron curry paneer with truffled potatoes and popcorn are among the highlights. 32/8 Sukhumvit Soi 13. 02 102 0013. chiultralounge.com
Chu Chocolate Bar & Café Silom
The set up: The casual all-day brunch café famous for its amazing hot chocolates, hearty breakfasts, international favourites and luscious desserts, has branched out from its Asok home and opened a second restaurant inside Trinity Complex, Silom (near Chong Nonsi BTS). Using breads from Maison Jean Philippe and bacon and sausages from Sloane’s, chef and owner Chirayu Na Ranong has got his comfort food down to a fine art. Silom-based workers rejoice. Signature dishes: Eggs Benedict (B250), Barbecue pulled pork burger (B320), Churros (B100), and Hot chocolate (B120). Trinity Complex, Silom. Open Tues-Fri 7.30am-8pm; Sat-Sun 8am-8pm. facebook.com/CHU.BKK
Feature Maruekhathaiyawan Palace (the Hua Hin Summer Palace) built by King Rama VI in 1923. Like the palace, the house is built on stilts.
uilding started late in 2013. We rented a room in a small resort and Nichapa lived there much of the time so she could supervise the project. I still had things to do in Bangkok and spent about half my time in Kamphaeng Phet. The start of building was accompanied by a colourful ceremony to call on the spirits that dwell on the land to protect all who would live on it. The first few months went well. The builders by and large were experienced, competent and helpful and the construction manager knew his job. But after about nine months, he suddenly withdrew – for reasons that remain unclear to me. We also lost a few workers as we thought the former manager was responsible for paying them that month. It was our biggest setback but Nichapa overcame it: she became full-time project manager. She could draw on her training as an accountant and experience as a logistics officer with two international IT companies. She is a very good organiser. From the start she had been in charge of purchasing material such as floor and roof tiles and bathroom fittings and was a familiar figure in homeware stores in Bangkok, Kamphaeng Phet and nearby Nakhon Sawan. Now she bought everything: if the workers wanted a box of nails or a can of paint, she bought it. She hired work teams, discussed the jobs with them and supervised their work. She made sure they were all paid on time. She designed bathrooms and built-ins. She oversaw the paving of the old bush track, complete with street lighting. And she turned a bare clay field into a beautiful garden, with trees in the outdoor dining area draped in, or wrapped with, sparkling coloured lights. My role was to discuss the ideas with Nichapa and then let her implement them. Sometimes I made helpful suggestions, such as “The garden must be beautiful” or “We should have coloured lights in the trees.” There were glitches, of course. One concerned roof tiles. The tiles on the resort building and the house were of a style used 100 years ago and they are difficult for current-day tilers to install. Nichapa solved the problem by tracking down an expert in Kanchanaburi. We discovered the biggest glitch when a company from Bangkok was putting in the restaurant kitchen. The electricity cable that ran across the resort to
the kitchen was of a domestic specification, not commercial. That mistake cost an extra 130,000 baht. And there was one problem I simply did not expect. Maeping Mango is on the edge of a small town halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai and surrounded by farmland, yet we were struck by a plague of streetpecker pigeons. A little like London. They seem to like to roost on the tallest building around. In our neighbourhood, this is our house. They were making quite a mess on the roof. We called in a company that ran an electric wire around the edges of the roofing, to give the birds a slight but not-so-pleasant shock when they landed. Not thinking about the birds was an 80,000 baht oversight. We had originally hoped to open in time for Songkran last year but as we were doing it all ourselves we decided to take everything slowly and carefully. We put off the opening until Loy Krathong – which had the extra benefit of giving the garden a full wet season to settle in and grow. Many people ask if we came in on budget. The answer is: which budget? We had three budgets – the official one according to the quotes; an unofficial one, adjusted for where we thought the quotes were too optimistic; and a third one, where we tried to estimate costs we could not know precisely, mainly those related to outfitting the rooms and the restaurant. We came in close to the third budget. We opened on November 24, the day before Loy Krathong. The initial response to the restaurant was overwhelming, so much so that the kitchen could not keep up with it for the first few days. Now it is running smoothly and the restaurant business is good. The hotel business is slower but we have not been pushing it as all the staff are focused on the restaurant. As we came to realise, the restaurant – the original idea – was destined to be the bigger business. My plan had been to spend half my time at Maeping Mango and half in Bangkok. Since then, I have grown eight years older and communications have become eight years better. So I spend most of my time in Kamphaeng Phet, acting a little like a chairman to Nichapa as chief executive, to use a corporate analogy. I have breakfast on the veranda, watching the river flow by and the sun rise over the tree tops. At night, I sit at a table in a riverside garden restaurant and eat some of the best Thai food available anywhere. The idea that seemed to make sense in 2008 makes even more sense now. For more info visit maepingmangoriverside.com
& proudly announce THE
Thailand International Business Awards 2016 BUILDING on the success of the Expat Entrepreneur Awards 2014, the BigChilli is joining forces with the British Chamber of Commerce Thailand (BCCT) to launch a new initiative aimed at recognising Thailand’s most successful and dynamic businesses and entrepreneurs. The inaugural Thailand International Business Awards will feature a range of categories to reflect the wide diversity of businesses operating in this country. These will include one category specifically designed for small and medium enterprises under the banner ‘Expat Entrepreneurs.’ Nominations will be open to any company registered in Thailand regardless of size or affiliations. A team of independent judges will review the nominations and select the winners in each of the categories. This prestigious event will culminate in an Awards Gala Dinner mid-2016. Raise your company’s profile, build contacts, create new business opportunities and tell the world about your achievements through the Thailand International Business Awards 2016. Featured over the next few pages are just two of the nominees. More will appear in next month’s issue.
Nominee Thailand International Business Awards
Entrepreneur: Ido Berger, Tea & Fruits Co., Ltd.
Giving tea a fruity twist in Thailand
By Maxmilian Wechsler
RYING to pigeonhole Ido Berger is a difficult proposition, but the description ‘entrepreneur with a strong creative flair’ works pretty well as a starting point. As a young man he studied acting and worked as a journalist, and his resume also includes stints as a lecturer at art and design institutes in Korea and his native Israel. Ido also played a major role in making a family-run food and beverage enterprise a success, and when the company sold its business interests for a big profit, he ventured to Asia to look for new challenges. Ido came to Thailand in 2008 and eventually hit on an idea to market mixtures of fruits with selected varieties of tea. Tea & Fruits Co., Ltd. was founded in 2013 with the motto: ‘Tea and dessert – in the same cup.’ The innovative product can be found at branches of several major supermarket chains throughout Thailand and plans are being laid to distribute the brand globally. The company’s full product range is listed on teaandfruits.com. A talent for business “My family together with other families bought a food company in 1986. I became its first salesman and I was fortunate to have an opportunity to take my time and educate myself in the art of salesmanship,” says Ido. “With very limited resources, I gradually managed to achieve a good deal of success. Sales and profits grew, and my father made a smart move in becoming associated with a company from Buffalo, New York Rich Products, one of the world’s leaders in non-dairy toppings and bakery items. “Non-dairy was booming in the US and internationally in the nineties and we in the market of Israel contributed by developing lines of cakes and other desserts, including ice cream under the license of Ben & Jerry’s. “In the year 2000, my marketing ‘baby’ Rich-Israel won first prize in a marketing competition organized by the premier international management institute. We beat out product lines from Nestle and Unilever. Soon after this our mother company, which was owned by several families, decided to cash out the non-dairy cow and sell to a high volume trading company. All in all, it was a great adventure and it allowed me to follow my dream of heading East.”
Coming to Thailand After arriving in the country in 2008, Ido says he was “surprised to find that Thailand is not just a kind and welcoming place to visit, it also has a great business environment. So I decided to join the lucky expats who had already discovered that the Kingdom is a place for business as well as fun.” He spent several years introducing Western high-tech medical companies to partners here and in China, Taiwan, Korea and Vietnam. At the same time he was involved in community and environmental projects. All the while he was looking for an idea to build a creative and stable business in his adopted country. “Like most entrepreneurial initiatives, the idea for Tea & Fruits grew out of bumping into a problem. I didn’t feel well and went to see a Chinese medicine doctor in Chinatown. She gave me wonderful mixes of teas and herbs which were effective in improving my health, but they were horribly brown and bitter.
“I got the idea of developing teas with healing properties that are flavourful and tasty. The problem is that the Food and Drug Administrations in many developed countries won’t allow any healthcare claims, so I had to give up on that idea.” But not long afterward, during a trip to France, Ido was offered a cup of hot water with a mix of dried fruits. This revived his earlier idea and he asked himself: “Why not tea with real fruits inside?” He learned that the concept has a long tradition in parts of the Middle East and Asia. On a stopover in Istanbul he got his first taste of this cheerfully exotic way of serving teas, and his entrepreneurial path became clear. Learning from experience “In 2013 I introduced Tea & Fruits to Central Group,” says Ido. “I had experience with business development, marketing and R&D, but not much experience at other functions of a business organization like finance, operations and production. I saw it as a chance to learn how business works in Thailand. “I produced the first Tea and Fruit line by myself. It was mostly a one-man show, but I was supported by suppliers in all areas. I introduced the experimental line to Tops and Food Hall, and then to most other supermarket chains in the area like Villa Market and Fuji, as well as The Mall, Big C, Makro, Rimping and so on. “Right away people liked the concept and seemed to enjoy the idea of a tea which is put together from two bags. One bag contains a fruit-flavoured tea and the other is filled with a mix of dried fruits. You put the tea bag in hot water and then add the fruit. You drink your tea and eat with a spoon the warm crunchy fruits. Like the motto says, this is tea and dessert in the same cup. “After introducing the first line we took time to follow the product and learn how it should be improved. At the end of 2015 we finished developing the new generation of Tea & Fruits and set the launch for March 2016. The new line is based on a classical English breakfast tea from Sri Lanka and high quality fruit mixes with much less sugar than is normally found in dried fruits. The
packaging is appealing too. It’s a pop art design style by Somchana Kangwarnjit from Prompt Design. He is the most globally awarded product designer in Thailand. “We think Tea & Fruits has big potential in Thailand because most Thais love tea, and that goes for expats and tourists here as well. But the real market is export. This ties in with one of my main motivations for developing and promoting the brand: if it is accepted in international markets, it will give me a ‘ticket to ride’ and visit countries and cities around the word.” Feeling at home “Thailand is a wonderful country to live in and from a business perspective it’s a great home base,” says Ido. “It is wonderful to travel, but every time I leave Thailand I miss it. It is now my home. “The happy Thai Buddhist philosophy is irresistible. I try to respect the culture and the people and I am grateful that Thailand allows foreigners the opportunity to come here and keep our own habits and traditions and at the same time adopt Thai ways as much as we desire. “The Thai way is a wonderful recipe for combining business and social life. Thailand may not be a world leader in stability or employee motivation, but this is part of the charm and attraction. The Thai way lets me do business with fairness and kindness and at the same time have fun.” One reason why Ido came to Thailand was to get involved in community and environmental projects. He says that doing business is not only about taking, but about giving too. “Tea and Fruits is a company based on a healthy product and over time I want us to become more involved in win-win community projects,” he says. “This is also the objective of my very active membership in the Rotary Club of Bangkok. “I am also involved in events such as PechaKucha Nights, which brings designers and artists from many creative fields together in cities around the world, including Bangkok. “I want to resume a certain academic involvement and I may lecture again. These separate activities could converge into a wider project in the future. One initiative I am nurturing already is an eco-friendly resort that is involved in healthcare as well as art and culture, and strongly connected to the local community. The initiative will be aimed at creating jobs and supporting healthcare and sustainability in the community.” For more info about Tea & Fruits visit teaandfruits.com TheBigChilli
Feature Nominee Businessman: Tony Taylor
Importing food and drinks for homesick expats
By Colin Hastings
HEN Tony Taylor started his business in Thailand in 1998, he had just one imported product for sale: a container-load of potato crisps from the UK. To his delight and surprise, this most humble of snacks caught on, especially among homesick Brits, and soon enough Tony couldn’t get enough of these crisps to meet demand. The success of this product made him quickly realise that Brits living here pined for all kinds of other foodstuffs from UK. There was a gaping hole in the local food market and Tony was ready to fill it. Today, 17 years later, this energized Londoner controls T.I.N. Trading, a company that ships in no less than 350 products, making him this country’s leading importer of English and Australian dried food items, condiments and beer. Tony’s remarkable story bears testament to what can be achieved in Thailand by enterprising foreigners. And he’s happy to spread the word about his good fortune. “I tell visitors – go to any other country and do what I do here. You can’t. But in Thailand you can. It’s a place of opportunity.” Born in Stepney, a tough East End borough of London, Tony admits he wasn’t suited to school life and left at an early age. By this time, the family had moved to Hornchurch in Essex, where Tony became a builder, specializing in stone cleaning. “I worked on some really major jobs like Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and the Houses of Parliament,” he says in an accent that’s pure Cockney. The
money was good and Tony was busy, but an accident caused by the collapse of some scaffolding put an end to that career. For the next three years, he worked in a flower business and then “found” Thailand. Initially, Tony spent six months here and the rest of the year back in the UK. It wasn’t too long, however, before he saw his future in Thailand and began looking around for business opportunities. “I thought to myself, what do people always do, whatever is happening around them. They eat and drink – and that’s what they do when they’re happy and also when they’re sad. “I had been in a bar in Pattaya and saw packets of Walkers crisps on the counter. I did some research and discovered that no one was actually importing them here, so I called up the manufacturer in Leicester in England, bluffed it a bit, and told him I had a company and wanted to import his crisps into Thailand. The fellow said ‘that’s impossible. We don’t export our crisps.’ “By coincidence, I happened to know that someone in Spain was importing Walkers crisps. I told the guy, who was a bit surprised but said that if I could be in Leicester within four days I’d get the contract. I made it. “Five weeks later, 820 cases of Walkers crisps arrived by ship from England and I sold the lot in just two days. Using a Toyota pick-up truck, I took them to Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Hua Hin. Every five weeks after that we got another delivery from the UK.” The market for Walkers is not exclusively expats. “Thais like them as well,” says Tony. “I know a Thai lady who got to like Walkers while studying in the UK. She says there’s nothing like them in Thailand.” The success of this import inevitably had Tony asking himself what else did Brits miss while in Thailand. The answer came quickly in the form of a long list of much-talked but generally unobtainable products from the UK such as Marmite,
PG Tips, HP Sauce, Colman’s Mustard, Bisto gravy, Branston distributor of Fashion Vodka, Prosecco and Royal Jamaican Pickle, Fray Bentos Corned Beef, baked beans and even jelly beans. Rum. With all the proper licences in place and Food & Drug The kids’ market has not been overlooked. Tony now Administration (FDA) approval, Tony kept adding to his imports non-alcoholic drinks depicting popular Disney products portfolio. characters and movies like Frozen and Star Wars. Other nonHis big break, however, came six years ago when this alcoholic products include Tizer, Tango, Robinson and Britvic. country’s major supermarkets lessened their At the same time, his food range has dependency on American imported foods continued to expand with the addition of Bird’s and began shopping around for British goods. Eye fish products and all kinds of traditional Tony’s company was perfectly placed to cash in. British cheeses. “Supermarkets like Big C, Makro, Tesco Tony operates out of a 1,200 sq m Tony’s big break, and Tops could go direct to the manufacturers warehouse on Rama 9 road and with business came six years in the UK but they’d have to wait six months booming he’s looking for bigger premises and ago when this for FDA approval, so they’re better off more staff. country’s major working with me.” Many of his workers have been with the supermarkets In 2004, he expanded into the drinks company since he started. “They’re good people business, importing small-size bottles of began shopping and I respect them,” says Tony, who doesn’t wine and alcohol for hotel mini-bars. This around for British mind admitting that some of his Thai male quickly ended when the Thaksin government workers have learned more than basic skills goods. Tony’s changed regulations to allow only the import from him. “I swear a lot, and now many of them company was of full-size bottles. curse in English like I do.” perfectly placed Far from discouraging Tony, the new In the 18 years he’s been in business regulations spurred him on to bigger things, in Thailand, the only problem he faces on a to cash in. and he began importing an-ever growing regular basis concerns changes in local laws. range of canned, bottled and draft beers in kegs and ciders. “It’s a major headache,” he says. “The government changes Aimed mostly at Thailand’s expat pubs and bars, they include laws without telling us, so we either have to work around it or well-known brands like Tetley’s, Fosters, VB, Pure Blond, through it. Peroni, Grolsch and Crown as well as traditional English ales “But I’m not complaining. As I said, Thailand has been such as Old Speckled Hen, Greene King IPA, Abbotts, and very good to me – where else could I have done what I’ve done Ruddles County. here? I think of those expats who move to Cambodia to do More recently, he’s also become the sole importer and business; if they can’t do it here, they can’t do it there either.”
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GLIMPSE of a mosquito circling me or hearing the buzz of its wings as it passes my ear always puts me on edge, especially during the day. I know how debilitating and even deadly the dengue fever virus can be, and I know that the mosquitoes that spread it normally only bite in the daytime. In contrast to mosquitoes that strike after sundown, the bite from these mosquitoes usually goes unnoticed, but it can be infinitely more perilous. Vectors – the organisms that carry a pathogen and are able to pass it on to a new host – for dengue are two species of mosquitoes in the genus Aedes aegypti and, to a lesser extent, female Aedes albopictus. They are responsible for the relentless spread of dengue in Thailand and more than 100 other countries around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the epidemiology of dengue is rapidly evolving as outbreaks occur with increasing frequency and are expanding to previously unaffected geographical areas. Dengue flourishes in impoverished urban and rural areas but also takes a toll in more affluent neighbourhoods in tropical and subtropical countries. Various species of Aedes mosquitoes also carry the viruses that cause diseases such as chikungunya, dog heartworm,
eastern equine encephalitis, yellow fever and West Nile encephalitis. Of all insects on Earth, mosquitoes are the perfect vectors for spreading deadly viruses because of their ability to rapidly place them in the blood of large numbers of people and animals. Aedes aegypti is most active approximately two hours after sunrise and several hours before sunset. This mosquito prefers to bite indoors and usually avoids detection because it
approaches from behind and bites on the ankles and elbows. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are also the prime vectors of the Zika virus that is causing worldwide panic because of the danger it presents to pregnant women and their unborn children. Several cases have been reported in Thailand. Aedes albopictus is an aggressive daytime biter whose peak feeding times are early morning and late afternoon. This mosquito lands and bites quickly and is usually off again before the victim has time to swat it. It bites outdoors or indoors, but is usually found outside. Albopictus is strongly attracted to humans but also feeds on cats, dogs, birds and other animals.
Dengue fever: What you should know
By MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
Some victims ‘lucky’, others lose everything
Having written several stories on dengue fever in Thailand, I am quite familiar with official statistics that reveal an alarming upswing in cases in recent years. But I’m also acquainted with dengue in a more personal way. Three friends of mine contracted dengue fever in 2015. Two live in houses in different parts of Bangkok and the third, a middle-aged lady Miss Bangon, rents an apartment off Sukhumvit Road in Samut Prakan province. She was willing to go on record to describe her experience with dengue.
hospitalisation each year. About 2.5 percent of these patients die. The WHO says it is likely that a great many dengue cases go unreported and misclassified. The dramatic increase in dengue cases in recent decades has created fears of a global pandemic. Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue outbreaks, but the incidence of the virus has increased 30-fold over the last 50 years. Dengue is now endemic in Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. What’s more, the principal vectors of dengue have continued to silently expand their distribution globally and are now present in more than 150 countries. In an unprecedented move, Governor of Hawaii, David Ige, proclaimed on February 12 a state of emergency in a move to fight mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and Zika. The decision was prompted by an outbreak of dengue in which 250 cases had already been reported. As yet there have been no confirmed cases of Zika.
in Thailand’s 67 provinces was 2,380, with most patients between the ages of 15 and 24. No deaths A WHO factsheet released were reported for this time period. The highest levels of dengue in May 2015 cites studies transmission occur during the rainy that estimate there are now Help on the way? season which usually starts in May around 390 million dengue or June. According to the MOPH, infections per year, of which In the midst of dengue fever’s ever dengue ranks second in the list of attack on humankind, there is 96 million can be considered fiercer diseases posing the greatest risk to hope on the horizon. Sanofi Pasteur, Thais, after pneumonia. One doctor serious, and that 3.9 billion the vaccines division of French who asked not to be identified pharmaceutical company Sanofi, people in 128 countries expressed frustration that “even has announced the development of are at risk of infection though medical professionals in Dengvaxia®, which is apparently Thailand have been fighting the effective against all strains of dengue. dengue virus for more than 50 years, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines Thai scientists reportedly took part in and it should be possible to control the were also badly hit, as were countries the development studies. In a series of risk of transmission, we have to accept in different parts of the world, notably statements last December Sanofi Pasteur that infection is still very common and Brazil, India and Mexico. Basically, announced that the vaccine has been presents a growing problem in the dengue is on the rise worldwide. approved in Mexico, the Philippines and country. Brazil. In February, Jarung Muangchana, “Once cured, the patient is protected he WHO says dengue is director of the National Vaccine for life against dengue, but only against now the most common Institute, said the Thai Food and Drugs the particular strain he was stricken with. and most rapidly Administration is considering registration There are four disease-causing strains,” spreading mosquitoof the vaccine. explained the doctor, adding that the borne viral disease According to the pharmaceutical mortality rate for dengue is actually affecting humans, and company, Dengvaxia® is the first vaccine rather low compared to cancer or even it has become a major international licensed for the prevention of dengue in car accidents. He also pointed out that public health concern. A WHO factsheet the world and is the result of two decades there are more than 3,500 known species released in May 2015 cites studies that of research. The vaccine has undergone of mosquitoes and only a small fraction of estimate there are now around 390 25 clinical trials in 15 countries around them are disease vectors. million dengue infections per year, of the world, in which more than 40,000 which 96 million can be considered volunteers participated. About 29,000 of Global threat serious, and that 3.9 billion people in the volunteers received the vaccine. The 128 countries are at risk of infection. An company says that when full production Thailand is not the only country in estimated 500,000 people with severe capacity is realised it will be able to Southeast Asia that was ravaged by hemorrhagic dengue fever, a large produce 100 million doses of the vaccine dengue fever in 2015. Singapore, percentage of them children, require annually.
The basics of good nutrition Bangkok-based Nutrition consultant Judith Coulson answers a few of the most common queries about food and drink ■ IN my work as a Nutritionist and Corporate Nutrition Professional I get asked some questions more than others. Because there are so many resources available in regards to food and nutrition – some more scientific and independentresearch-based than others – I understand the confusion. Here
are some of the most common queries.
Should I go gluten-free? Only if you have celiac disease. This means when gluten (a protein in grains) damages your small intestine.
Experts no longer think gluten causes rashes, stomach aches, or weight gain in people without the disease. But it can’t hurt to skip gluten-rich processed foods like cookies, ready-made sauces and pastries, low fat yogurts, and many more products enhanced with wheat as filler for taste and texture. But don’t ditch whole grains completely unless your doctor says so. They
give you slow glucose energy and are full of healthy nutrients and fibers. But as with almost any food these days, choose organic if you can.
Is a daily glass of wine healthy? Many countries have no official government guidelines. The World Health Organization low risk responsible drinking guidelines are: • Women should not drink more than two drinks a day on average. • Men should not drink more than three drinks a day on average. • Try not to exceed four drinks on any one occasion. • Don’t drink alcohol when driving, if pregnant or in certain work situations, and abstain from drinking at least once a week. • Men or women who consistently drink more than these recommended levels may increase risks to their health. Many experts think small amounts of alcohol can be beneficial to prevent heart disease and lower the odds of a stroke based on the amount of phytochemicals and antioxidants in grapes. Fact is,
there is no evidence to prove it. But what we do know for sure is that a daily consumption of more than four drinks will increase your chances for liver and heart damage and various cancers.
Sugar or high fructose corn syrup? High fructose corn syrup is liquid, containing 24% water, whereas table sugar is dry and granulated. That is why high fructose corn syrup is often used in food manufacturing. Your body processes corn syrup almost the same way it does normal sugar which is made from cane or beets. Your best bet is to go easy on both. High amounts of
misleading for many sugar conscious consumers, who may unwittingly consume a higher number of calories from sugar than they wish to.
Does cholesterol in food count? Obesity, inactivity, a poor diet, and hormone changes are the main reasons for raised blood cholesterol level. While for many years doctors and experts would have told you to avoid eggs, shrimps and other foods high in cholesterol, last year this recommendation got completely overruled. About time, too! The real bad guys are the unhealthy trans- and saturated fats found in meats, dairy and lots of ready-made
Your body processes corn syrup almost the same way it does normal sugar which is made from cane or beets. Your best bet is to go easy on both. High amounts of any added sugar can lead to weight gain and problems like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. any added sugar can lead to weight gain and problems like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However, the tricky part with high fructose corn syrup starts with the food labelling. The FDA defines sugars as: “The sum of all free mono and disaccharides (such as glucose, fructose, lactose, and sucrose).” Corn syrup is mostly longer chain saccharides, with about one sixth free glucose and one sixth maltose (a disaccharide). This means 4/6 of the added high fructose corn syrup in a product does not need to be labelled under sugars on a food package label. This is, of course,
and processed foods. Go for moderate amounts of dairy products, lean meats and foods high in fiber like vegetables and a moderate amount of whole grains. If your numbers are high, your first choice should always be to consult with a nutritionist to optimize your diet. High cholesterol levels are really easy to correct without any drugs. 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. lifestylefoodclinic.com Strip AD_Subscribe_Mar16.indd 91
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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.
Rattled by rocky relationship When I first came to Thailand two years ago, it was only for a holiday. But then I met a wonderful Thai lady and now I live here full time. Daeng fell in love with me although there were many other men she could have chosen (she is ver y pretty, and 20 years younger than me – quite a few foreigners were competing for her attention at the bar). I am a lucky man, I know that. I have a much better life here than back in the US. I understand that Thai women can be a little highly strung, and so I tr y to ignore the little tantrums and frequent demands for presents. I know that this is how Thai people express their love, it’s just different. But what really gets to me is that she is so controlling. Whenever I go out, she wants to know exactly where I am, and then she phones me all the time. If I come home later than I said I would, she accuses me of being unfaithful and not loving her any more. Suddenly, the lovely face is distorted with anger, and I’m always in the wrong. So then I get angr y too, and I have shouted at her a few times. It takes so long to get back to normal as well. She gives me the silent treatment and I go out without telling her, and there we go again. I was going to ask Daeng to marr y me this summer, but now I’m not so sure. I had enough trouble with my wife back home, and frankly this level of jealousy and control is a lot worse. Mel, 55, from the US Dear Mel, You have had some very eventful years in Thailand, it seems. And most of it was good. Meeting your girlfriend (in a bar?) and starting a new relationship was clearly very exciting and, for you, a new beginning after some rocky times back home. It sounds as if you needed and received some healing of old wounds, and congratulations on planning a new marriage and future together. But you are of course absolutely right, old patterns can surface any time, and not just in you, but also in your partner. A cross-cultural relationship like yours is particularly difficult to navigate and needs a lot of patience, and attention. I notice that you dismiss some of your girlfriend’s behaviour as ‘normal for Thai culture.’ I would encourage you to question that a little bit. Culture is not fixed, and within every culture, people behave very differently. Expressing love through money is probably quite universal, if you take into account that people in the West often have joint accounts and share mortgages for the family home. But in your relationship, the money seems very unequally distributed, if your girlfriend is the one asking for it, and you are the one giving it (or not, as the case may be). Have you tried imagining yourself in her position? How would you feel if you always had to wait for hand-outs and never knew when they would come along? Have you thought about giving your girlfriend a monthly or weekly allowance, hers to do with as she likes? Just discussing this could make her feel more secure and less desperate, which could well be one reason behind her frequent demands. And the same desperate feeling could be behind her ‘controlling’ behaviour when you go out. You say your girlfriend had a choice of men when she met you. Have you considered that she might think the same of you? Are you still going to the same bars where you met Daeng? Are you still going out with the same male friends? It is quite possible that Daeng is worried that you might leave her and find someone else. Many Thais think that this is what foreign men are like. Yes, she is trying to keep you, that’s clear. Maybe she feels as lucky as you do. Do you know her family background and what kind of relationships she grew up with? And what can you do to make her feel secure? Economic dependence can make women feel unstable. Think what it would feel like for you. I would suggest that you and Daeng go to a bilingual couples counsellor so that you can each express your concerns, and also your love for each other and understand each other better before you get married. All the best of luck for your life together.
Kids just won’t stop fighting I am happily married and have three children. Their ages are 11, 8 and 6. The oldest and youngest are boys. I really wanted children but raising them has turned out not to be easy. I tr y to be a good mother, but somehow I don’t seem to be able to make it work. My kids just seem to fight all the time, mainly about silly things like who gets the jam first, who sits where at the table, and so on. After a wonderful day out full of activities together, you’d think they would be happy and go to bed satisfied, but instead they start making a fuss about ever y little detail, like the shower, the towel, the pillows, etc. All I do is go after them, correct them, and constantly tr y to sort out their fights. I am so fed up with it and feel so discouraged. Is it normal for siblings to fight like this all the time? Suzanne, 38, from France Dear Suzanne, First of all the feelings you describe as a mother are feelings that lots of other mothers share with you. You are not alone in feeling discouraged.
A • MS is the Clinical Director of NCS Counseling Center. She trained in the Netherlands and Australia.
In answering your letter I want to briefly mention several aspects: 1. When you feel discouraged and fed up, how do you see yourself? Do you maybe judge yourself as a mother? Do you think that the siblings fight with each other because you have “failed” in your job as a good mother? It is important to acknowledger this is not true. Your children have their own reasons for their fights, and their sibling rivalry doesn’t reflect badly on you as a mother. 2. I would like to suggest that you create a chart and note down the times when the kids fight. Also notice the times when your kids are enjoying themselves and the atmosphere is positive. Mention this and give them a compliment. 3. Sometimes siblings fight because they compete for the attention of their parents. Like you mentioned, when you come home after a wonderful day, most likely they all have to get showered, brush their teeth and go to bed. They are all tired and all want your individual attention, but since they feel that it is not available under the circumstances, they go for Plan B – negative attention. It could be an idea to promise them each their five individual minutes with you, so they can be sure they get your attention without having to create a crisis. 4. Children do compare themselves with others, and often they think another sibling gets more love, has to do fewer chores, is treated more favourably. Most of the time this is not real, but it is always a good idea to examine your own behaviour. Small acts of favouritism can creep in and your children will be the first to notice. It is also good to realize that, as parents, we sometimes compare ourselves too. And, probably, we raise our older children differently from the younger ones. 5. You do not always need to resolve the fights of your children. Sometimes they can learn to sort it out themselves and to deal with conflict in the “safety of the home.” Life with children can be a little chaotic, so just remember these most important points: • Don’t take it as your personal ailing when si lings uarrel among each other. • otice when your children get along well with each other and gi e them a compliment • i e each child indi idual attention you can also use this as a opportunity to talk with them about fights you observed, their feelings of “fair or not fair,” about comparing yourself with others and give them little tips about dealing with conflict more productively). • ometimes, ignore the ickering and challenge them to sort it out among themsel es. • Try to see the unny side. Family quarrels may be difficult to manage but they are a normal part of family life. If your children never fought amongst each other, they would miss out on learning great life skills: learning to deal with conflict and expressing their wants/needs in a more effective way.
Contact details: ncs-counseling.com, email@example.com Tel: 02 279 8503, or send your problems to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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ocial|Last Month’s Best Events
THE EM DISTRICT CHINESE CHRONICLE
THE year of the monkey was welcomed in grand fashion at Bangkok’s high-end shopping hub The EM District, where a large crowd of celebrities and VIPs raised a toast to the world’s first 40-meter-long flying dragon, which remained on display until the end of the month.
GRAND LAUNCH FOR THE SHERWOOD LONDON
GLORY ACME Limited (GA) hosted a party at The House on Sathorn to announce the launch of “The Sherwood London,” an eight-storey luxury condominium located in the heart of London, which ranges in price from 66 million baht up to 323 million baht (or about 1.8 million baht per square meter). The condominium is a joint venture between Polaris Capital PCL and Jonathan Lam, the expert real estate developer, Glory ACME Limited (GA), United Kingdom. Find more info at gloryacme.com.
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DIPLOMATS p Meet the people uniting nations
His Excellency Francisco de Assis Morais e Cunha Vaz Patto New Portuguese ambassador builds on historic Thais with Thailand Page 112
Diplomat: His Excellency Francisco de Assis Morais e Cunha Vaz Patto
New Portuguese Ambassador builds on historic ties with Thailand
Words MAXMILIAN WECHSLER
OMING off hectic Charoen Krung Road into the large compound of the Portuguese embassy in Bangkok is like entering a different world. The walled estate on Captain Bush Lane is a serene green space on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. This is the famously beautiful residence of the new Portuguese envoy to the Kingdom of Thailand, His Excellency Francisco de Assis Morais e Cunha Vaz Patto. Barges and other boats sail quietly past the magnificent, two-storey ambassador’s residence, ‘protected’ at the entrance by several authentic ancient bronze cannons. Outside, two wonderful male peacocks look on from a high wall, though they appeared more interested in six female peacocks rummaging for food around a large old Bodhi tree, the type of tree the Buddha was said to be sitting under when he found enlightenment. It seemed appropriate for an embassy compound that could be described as an earthly paradise. Mr Vaz Patto, who came to Bangkok last November on his first ambassadorial assignment, was a wonderful host. During this interview, he clearly demonstrated a determination to preserve and advance a diplomatic relationship that goes back 505 years. “Our two countries have a long history, and relations are very strong already,” he said. “But there’s always space to grow and my objective is to help make relations even better and stronger than before.” Mr Vaz Patto then gave a brief review of Portuguese origins in this part of the world. “We started our big adventure of exploration and discovery in the 15th century, and by 1498 Vasco da Gama’s ships had sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and reached the shores of India. By 1511 Portuguese sailors under the great explorer Afonso de Albuquerque were settled at Malacca. That same year Albuquerque sent
Duarte Fernandes on a diplomatic mission to the Ayutthaya Kingdom in old Siam. Portuguese barges sailed up the Chao Phraya to Ayutthaya and Fernandes was received by King Ramathibodi II. In fact, he and his crew were the first Europeans to come to what is now Thailand. “In 1518 our two countries signed the agreement that we will soon celebrate – the 500th anniversary of the Treaty on Friendship and Commerce. The treaty allowed us to set up a trading post in Ayutthaya and this led to a rather large Portuguese community there. At one point there were several thousand Portuguese living in Ayutthaya. The historic attraction Ban Protuguet is a remnant of that ancient Portuguese neighbourhood. We were permitted to construct three Catholic churches there and signs of these are still in evidence today. “In those days we sold guns, ammunition and cannons to Siam, and Portuguese soldiers always fought on the side of the kings of Siam. Portuguese soldiers were known for their bravery and were the first known bodyguards of King Ramathibodi II. Our settlers stayed in Ayutthaya until it was invaded by the Burmese in 1767. When the capital was moved to Thonburi, King Taksin offered a piece of land to the Portuguese community to build a Catholic church. The community came to be called Santa Cruz after the church. The church is still there and it’s one of the oldest landmarks in the city. “After the capital of Siam moved from Thonburi across the river to Bangkok in 1782, King Rama I gave the Portuguese community more land in the area where we are now. In 1820 the first Portuguese ambassador to Thailand arrived and began construction of a small wooden house that served as the first embassy. Construction of the present embassy and residence was begun in 1860.” Mr Vaz Patto’s American-born partner, Dr Kevin P. Colleary, joined the interview and provided fascinating background details of this magnificent compound. “It is the oldest residence of any ambassador in Thailand. It is a beautiful place that we hold in esteem and try to preserve. It is
H.E. Francisco Vaz Patto in focus Education 1989: Law Degree from Catholic University of Lisbon. 1990: Post-graduate Degree European Studies at Catholic University of Lisbon.
Tower of Belém, Lisbon - Courtesy of the Tourism of Portugal
classified as a monument by the Thai authorities and we try to preserve it in its original condition. The building is protected by laws of both Portugal and Thailand. We (the Portuguese mission) hope to stay here forever.”
Occupation Record 1990: Joined the Foreign Service. 1995: Embassy of Portugal in Bonn. 1997: Delegate of Portugal to NATO in Brussels. 1998: Embassy of Portugal in Berlin. 1999: Embassy of Portugal in Luanda, Angola. 2004: Head of European Institutions Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lisbon. 2005: Advisor to the Secretary of State for National Defense and Sea Affairs at the Ministry of Defense in Lisbon. 2006: Chief of Cabinet of the Secretary of State for European Affairs at the MFA in Lisbon. 2008: Political Coordinator of the Permanent Mission of Portugal at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. 2013: Director-General for Administration at MFA in Lisbon. November 2015: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Portugal to the Kingdom of Thailand. Decorations Grand Cross of the Merit Order (Portugal). Knight Commander of the Honorary Order (Federal Republic of Germany).
r Vaz Patto was born in Mozambique, which was a Portuguese colony until 1975. “My father, who was a doctor, was called in 1966 to join the Portuguese army and serve in Mozambique during the war for independence. My mother went with him and that’s why I was born in Mozambique. My parents went back to Portugal when I was still small and I never returned. Actually I would very much like to return one day.” Before coming to Thailand last year Mr Vaz Patto’s career unfolded mostly in Europe and Africa. He also did a stint at UN headquarters in New York. It was in New York that he and his partner Kevin met. Just before coming here he was posted in Lisbon as General Director for Administration at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a job he described as very demanding. “My first trip to Thailand was 25 years ago, shortly after I graduated from law school. It was a different country then. I was amazed after arriving here for the second time in November. It is very much more developed and it is an amazing place to live. I am very proud and honored that the Kingdom of Thailand is my first ambassadorial posting. I will try to do my best to represent my country and expand relations.” The ambassador said his first few months in Bangkok have been quite hectic, depriving him of the chance to do things that are important to him, like exercising. “I have had to make contact with so many people and make so many official visits. But now I think things are settling down a little and Kevin and I are trying to fit some personal business into the agenda. “I have made many courtesy calls to Thai officials. On January 13, I met with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for the first time and I have also met with ministers in his cabinet. Developing good communications and contacts is a crucial part of my work here and one that I don’t take lightly,” said Mr Vaz Patto. “A typical morning is waking before 7am, having breakfast, doing some exercise and then making the short walk to my office. I may have several meetings in a day and with Bangkok traffic this is sometimes a bit of a problem.”
Cultural connections Mr Vaz Patto said there is a significant connection between Portugal and Thailand in terms of culture, and noted that some Thai words are of Portuguese
Douro - Photo by Rui
origin, such as ‘sala.’ “Some of the desserts here are also based on Portuguese recipes, especially egg desserts like Foi Thong, Thong Yip, or Thong Yot. We have exactly the same desserts in Portugal. You can find cakes in Thonburi bakeries that have a definite Portuguese influence. “Then there are the old traditions and history that connect us. Just last year a memorandum of understanding was signed between the fine arts departments of our two countries to protect our shared cultural heritage. Initiatives are underway to implement it. Cultural exchange visits are ongoing. We are organising various exhibitions and participating in events such as a dance festival at the end of the year that will bring Portuguese dancers to Thailand. “We will also participate in the 15th World Film Festival of Bangkok in November 2016. We have an agreement with the Thai Film Archives to show one Portuguese film a month. We were involved in the Bukruk-Urban Arts Festival held in the embassy neighbourhood in January.” The embassy is also promoting awareness of the Portuguese influence in local architecture and culture. “Shortly after I arrived I visited the Portuguese neighbourhoods in Thonburi and Bangrak, and places like the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the north of Bangkok. We are trying to emphasise this connection in cultural events we are planning for this year, like visits to the areas where Portuguese people settled and where many Thais with Portuguese ancestry live today.”
in Portugal is growing very fast. Last year we had approximately 16 million visitors. That’s a lot of people for a country with a population of 10 million, and they came from all over the world, including Thailand. About 10,000 Thais visited Portugal last year. Around 30,000 Portuguese nationals visited Thailand in 2015. As the numbers show there is plenty of room for growth. “It is good to see Thais investing in tourist areas in Portugal, and this is a smart move. Portugal is a magnificent country, there are so many attractions. You have cultural, historical and natural beauties like beaches and mountains. You have fabulous golf courses and all sorts of festivals. There is so much to do in Portugal. Lisbon is a growing hub for flight connections to and from South America, Africa and other parts of Europe. We hope that soon there will be direct flights from Bangkok to Lisbon as there were in the past. This would be a dream come true in terms of boosting tourism between our countries.” Much of Mr Vaz Patto’s work consists of supporting and representing Portuguese people living in Thailand. “There are about 1,000 Portuguese expats here. It is not such a big community but you can find all kinds of people within it. Some are young Portuguese who have come to work in the tourism industry or corporate world. Others are people who immigrated Courtesy of the Tourism of Portugal
Bilateral relations Mr Vaz Patto said there are numerous commercial and investment collaborations ongoing between Thailand and Portugal. “But it is one of my primary challenges to find ways to develop stronger economic relations. We are working to attract more Portuguese investors. We intend to show them the incredible possibilities that exist in Thailand,” he pointed out. “We also want more Thai investors to look at Portugal. There are some already there, especially in the tourist industry. Tourism
Ribeira, Porto - Photo by João Paulo
Embassy tour “In the compound we have the chancery building and the residence, and at the rear, accommodation for the Thai staff which is now under renovation, said Mr Vaz Patto. “All the teak wood inside the residence is original. When the Portuguese came from Ayutthaya in the late 1700s they brought with them a beautifully decorated door that we now keep here. The door was part of a house in Ban Protuguet and it is exhibited here on the ground floor. It really is a beautiful piece.” The Portuguese mission in Thailand is rather small, with just two Portuguese diplomats, four Portuguese staff and two Thai staff. “We work in an almost open space so we Sete Cidades Lagoon, Azores - Photo by Rui Cunha can see each other. I am very lucky that my personal assistant speaks Cascais Bay - Photo by Jose Manuel perfect Portuguese as well as her many years ago. There’s a big variety in native Thai. the Portuguese community in Thailand, “I will also be accredited as the which is good because it shows the diverPortuguese ambassador to Myansity of Portugal to the Thai people. mar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and “The Thai expat community in Malaysia and I will start making trips Portugal is a little larger, maybe 1,200 to these countries. We will have a or 1,300 people, and it is increasing. very busy time managing this with These respective expat communities such a small staff, but we will do help to strengthen contacts and develop our best. business between our two countries. “Because the embassy com“There are around 250 companies that pound fronts the Chao Phraya River, export goods from Portugal to Thailand – almost on the same level, it is vulnermainly cars, spare parts, software, textiles, able to flooding. So we have a high paper products, wine and cork (Portugal is flood wall to protect the embassy. We the biggest producer of cork in the world). have a complex system to pump waThailand exports to Portugal machinery ter out but it is sometimes difficult to and equipment, plastic, rubber and seakeep the river from encroaching onto food, as well as cars and spare parts, which the property. The flood wall is now are going both ways. We also import rice undergoing repairs and renovation. from Thailand but not so much because we “We also have a Portuguese chef grow our own rice. Portuguese are among here. When we host a reception and the biggest consumers of rice in Europe. invite guests we like to share PortuMaybe this is the Thai influence,” said Mr Marvão - Courtesy of the Tourism of Portugal gal’s culinary traditions. Our chef is Vaz Patto with a smile. also learning to cook Thai food so that we can offer our guests both cuisines. As I have said, the e said his embassy and the Portuguese Portuguese influence in Thai food is quite apparent.” government are also working to develop educational ties with Thailand. “We have Personal agreements and exchange protocols with Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, Kasetsart, MahiMr Vaz Patto speaks Portuguese, English, French, German dol and Ramkhamhaeng universities. We are and Spanish and is now attending a Thai class. “We have trying to establish Thai language programs at Portuguese uniclasses every week. It is not an easy language, but the good versities and we actively encourage and support Thai university thing is that many of the sounds are not so different from students who want to study in Portugal. Our schools are well Portuguese. Otherwise, however, the two languages are very respected in many disciplines, for example economics at Nova far apart. Anyway, I will do my best to be speaking Thai soon. University in Lisbon is very highly ranked internationally. “As for hobbies, I like to exercise and cycle. I love to “We have a lecturer teaching Portuguese language at Chpaint but now I don’t have the time. I am not very good ulalongkorn and Thammasat universities and we hope to bring but I find it an excellent way to distract myself. I like to read another professor to teach at Kasetsart. At Thammasat Universiand we enjoy going to the movies and to explore this ty Portuguese is taught in the ASEAN Studies Department.” amazing city. The ambassador pointed out that Timor-Leste, a Portu“I am almost 50 years old. Normally Portuguese diploguese speaking country, is a candidate for membership in mats retire at around 66, but it’s not fixed. After 70, retireASEAN. One day Portuguese will also be one of the ASEAN ment is compulsory. The term for ambassadors is normally languages. “The current charge d’affaires at the Timor-Leste three or four years, and I am hopeful that I might be here embassy, Francisco Dionisio Fernandes, is my good friend. even longer. The people have given me a lovely welcome. I Membership in ASEAN will be very good for Timor-Leste,” think many Thais have affection for Portugal and its people said Mr Vaz Patto, adding that this was certainly the case for because they are aware of our long shared history.” Portugal with regard to its joining the European Union in 1986.
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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: http://amzn.to/1tj8fJr.
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. Tonight the moon is faint behind wispy banks of clouds. Is it really there? Or has it been photoshopped into the night? Are ghosts taking selfies in the sky? I think of ghosts bound to humans, and to the realm of humans, haunting us close to the ground, the water, the plants and the swamp. But who says that ghosts can’t hang out on Wi-Fi? They can waft through the waves. Ghosts have been here for a long time. But what if people stop believing in them? Do the old ghosts go to sleep, depleted of energy? Can ghosts die? In this city of fortune tellers and shamans, there is no direct answer to this question (or any other). Some say that ghosts need to feed on our life force. Others say that ghosts are there, always, there, whether you see them or not. Philosophical ghosts. But in Thailand, ghosts seem eager to interact with humans. And usually not in the kindliest way. Be afraid! We can lurk in every shadow. Why would ghosts want to harm the living? Some say it’s because they can’t let go of us. Something pulls them back. Something big, bad, unresolved. But what about those local ghosts who’ve been around for centuries? What would it take to resolve their issues? Again, myriads of shattered answers from the city’s professional ghost whisperers. Maybe that’s how those locals started out, fresh ghosts with
a chip on their shoulder. But then they got used to it. Ghosting became a lifestyle. Anything can become a lifestyle, of course. Running, betting, eating ice cream. Haunting. Why not ghosting? But while in many cultures ghosts are scary because they are not quite of this world, or because ‘they have had to be alive once in order to qualify,’ as this month’s storyteller explains it to me, Thai ghosts in particular often seem dangerous, cruel and vindictive. Whatever is left over from their lives, a grievance, an injustice, or, on the other hand, an offence or crime they themselves committed, has morphed into a desire to persecute, harm and kill in gruesome ways. This is how they connect. In the old days, or so it is said, the night time world was full of supernatural beings. Every footpath, every shadow, every tree (Thai ghosts love trees) was filled with an energy that took visible form. Audible, sometimes, too. And yes, touch. Thai ghosts can touch you. They are solid and can interact with the substance of the living world. Well, some of them can. The old Thai ghosts carry with them the life of the villages. Their concerns are the relationships of the traditional rural family, complete with filial duty, jealousy and second wives. They are often tied to a farming landscape, rice fields, canals, favourite plants. But they have also adapted. Thai ghosts have moved into the big
And that was it. My last memory in New York. After city where they occupy street corners, building sites and car crash realizing I was a ghost in Bangkok, I turned to the only place I spots. Some have even found an urban tree. knew that could help me: Facebook. Thankfully, I had Thip, my Upcountry, the ghosts are very active still. As I am wafting best friend in the city. I stalked her for days trying not to startle towards my destination, trying to emulate the professional ghosts, her by inadvertently closing a door, poised for the moments trying to spot them and avoid them at the same time, I see an that she checked Facebook, which was nearly constantly. Would article on a piece of shredded newspaper about notorious Thai anyone post about me? ghost Phi Pob from yesterday, who possessed several unfortunate Turns out I was hit by a taxi that night and taken to villagers and told them to strip naked in the street. They force Bellevue. Things weren’t looking good, my heart stopped. And others to do the same – at knife point. Fortunately, exorcists were I’m assuming that’s when “Ghost Me” was born, on the other at hand, I see in a newsflash on a phone, to drive Phi Pob out side of the world. Hiccup. I guess that’s what happens when you again. Where is he now? have two homes, the world doesn’t know where to chain your Thai ghosts, like Thai culture, are a mix of many traditions, ghost. existing peacefully side by side. There seems to be an almost endless Now, all I have of New York is my human’s weekly blog expansion of supernatural real estate. posts, dissecting her days none the wiser to her severed self. Chinese ghosts have joined us, with their own peculiar Something was different. Besides the dankness of waking rules, like not being able to go around corners, crying outside the up in a sewage filled canal, I was changed and the way the world compound gates with insatiable hunger, reporting back to a highly was around me was different. Rusty water dripped like honey stratified society in the afterlife. off my toes as I pulled myself out of the klong. I dodged my way And of course other cultures have brought their own spirit life from shadow to shadow, miles and miles to my apartment, my with them. home away from home. Ghosts follow people. I hid for a long time that winter. Everything smelled When you step out into the Asian mega-city at night, the different, more sour, like spoiled, warm orange juice. I couldn’t shadows are filled again with whatever ghosts are haunting you. stand it. The one and only exception to this Or hunting you. If they want. was other ghosts. Once I started venturing Tonight’s storyteller, Emily Klukas, is familiar with such ghosts. She is hanging out near out, I was overwhelmed by these beings. HE Bangkok Women’s a quiet canal, blending into the sounds of the city They all had a smell, none of which burned Writers Group, founded in night. As I waft close, she looks up at me, her face my nostrils like the material world. Nang Mai 2001, and led by Anette reflected in the light of her phone. smelled like cut grass that’s sat on the lawn Pollner (who also writes the ‘Let me tell you a story’, she says. And I listen. for a day. Phi Am smelled like a wet rock. Phi recurring ‘moon intro’ stories in Tabo smelled of dust. And Mae Nak smelled this series in her famous neo psyThe Forever Sever By Emily Klukas like dish soap. What was my smell? chedelic style), is where creative When the sun dipped below the buildings women from all over the world The longest, deepest, most fulfilling breath I and the sky lit up pink, I would venture into meet to workshop their writing in ever took was after I died. Warm, grimy water the world to witness and wander. I walked a supportive and inspiring envilapped my fingertips. A gecko call echoed down in an ever-increasing spiral away from my ronment. Many of our members the canal, bouncing off concrete walls and water. apartment. Each night, spiral out and directly are published and prize winning I lay with this profound breath, on a pile of trash back home before dawn. In my first spiral, authors, but we are open to all pushed against the side of the Pra Khanong I would pass the boat noodle soi and the women who are passionate about Canal in Bangkok. My second breath wasn’t as beautiful Nang Mai lounging under her writing, including complete begingreat. tree, “on watch for the wicked,” she said. I ners. The BWWG’s first publicaThat was six very long years ago. It took me never saw her far from this one particularly tion (before ‘Monsoon Midnights two weeks to come to realize that I was a ghost, giant tree, circled in colourful cloth with cut the short story collection,’ availand only three days to discover that my human flowers, two oranges, and red Fanta at her feet. able on Amazon right now) was a body was not technically dead. She was in New Nang Mai was easy to talk to and made Thai English language bestseller, York and had no idea I existed. Ghosts are more me feel not as alone. Each week I would sit ‘Bangkok Blondes,’ and various or less “born” from the death of a creature that under her tree and rehash the blog posts. pamphlets. We regularly give has not completely crossed over. They are the Some of my best friends, James and Tammie, readings around town and have serpents of the afterlife, coiled around the land had a baby. Sondra got diagnosed with breast been part of international festivals of the living, thrust into a ghost existence by cancer, a really bad kind and would probably and cultural exchanges. Please flames of anger, regret or love. In my case, there have a mastectomy soon. My brother got contact email@example.com was a hiccup. promoted and is coming to visit New York. for more information. “Meet me at Happy Feet,” I text my partner, Each week I was farther from myself. I could This month’s storyteller our code name for the cheap massage place physically feel it, like the saltwater taffy being is Emily Klukas. On a recent in Chinatown. Week after week of what seems pulled to the narrow drippy arch before it just dive into her storage unit, she like an endless tunnel of work, it’s our night flops down into two separate pieces. discovered a worn, spiral-bound out. I still haven’t bought good winter boots On my second spiral, down a quiet soi, I notebook filled with “Notes and as I skid across Bowery, dusted in icy snow. I came upon Phi Am tormenting a sleeping tuk Other Things,” including a page have all the right feelings for the holidays. This tuk driver, pressing all her weight on his chest with three options for her future: never happens! Bundled up in the scarf my as he slumbered, half awake but immobilized. Pianist, Poet, Spy. Since then, mom knit for me the months before she died, I was nothing to her, completely taken by her she has written across many I am warm and take in the sparkling reflection malevolent compression of the poor man’s genres for both pleasure and for of streetlights in dark frozen puddles near the chest. I hated Phi Am. I remembered versions livelihood. The rest is confidential. gutter. of her suffocating my brother on occasion, ‘The Forever Sever’ is her first
published short story.
and the terror in his eyes as he finally regained mobility, darting around the room. I had no idea it was Phi Am at the time. Now, looking at her haggard face, absorbed in her suffocation task at hand, I wondered about my purpose – a young echo.
any spirals out, I met Mae Nak. Nak was complicated. Thinking back, I saw her on my first night as a ghost plucking a floating shoe out of the water from a bridge over her canal, arms long and stretchy. Nak was the centre of the ghost world, as far as I could tell, and was the most real to me. Like everyone else, she was tied to a place, the canal, and to even to a person – her husband Mak. But unlike the others, she had more complex dimensions to her personality and could be nurturing, sarcastic, enraged, joyous, and heroic. While Nang Mai would listen to me, her eyes shifting, watching and judging those passing by. Nak would talk to me. At first she spoke at great lengths about her husband before he went off to war. His eyes, his hair, his love for her. A script. When her story ended she took a deep sigh, and waited. I breathed in and asked about his death. This is when we became sisters. The years rolled awkwardly along like a square wheel. I followed Thip around like her shadow, waiting for a new post from my human body. “Who are these people she is friending?” I quietly griped to Nak. Nak turned to look in my direction, slowing taking in what I was saying. “It is worse than purgatory,” Nak said as she played with her wedding ring. Even though Nak had more than a century under her ghost belt, she had only once met another ghost in my situation before and that didn’t end well. There is a thin thread that connects a ghost with her living being, in cases like mine. The problem is that the thread is a oneway highway, from my life force to her. Eventually, my last drop of ghostly being will drip down the thread and give my human a full life again. My soul waned and my light felt dim. I lived as an echo, each moment destroying me over and over. The journey to Nak’s became impossible, arriving a faded version of a faded spirit. “It’s one thing to see those you love continue on with their lives, but to have your human self, thinning your existence for hers? I
wonder what will happen when she dies, that leech,” Nak hissed. The scent of dish soap came into my consciousness. I wondered myself. I caught up with Thip a week later on the train flipping through Facebook and saw a selfie of my human self. In Bangkok. This is amazing. After the accident I never thought I would have the chance to wake up in the morning, slide open my balcony doors, and breathe in the smell of Thailand, that mix of tree flowers, wet dust, sunshine, and a strangely good smelling sewage. I went back to spiralling. With my human so close, every step I took was like pulling my foot out of cement. The closer I was to her, the faster my ghostly being dripped down that invisible thread. Squatting under a tree to regain the little energy I had left, I saw the reaperish Phi Tabo, wandering aimlessly in one poor soul’s estate, empty sockets for eyes. I made up my mind. Slipping through the gates I slowly guided Phi Tabo down a quiet soi that led straight to my apartment. Christmas lights twinkled from the balcony as Phi Tabo’s dusty presence wafted through the sliding doors, disappearing from my sight. I held my breath waiting for a scream. Nothing. Incomplete. I stared into a large jug of water and lily pads, black in the night. Endless. Tiny ripples where minnows desperately touched their sky. I knew the moment she died and felt no guilt for what I did. My ghostly being was filled with all that makes one complete – the warm feeling of a crackling fire, ginger snaps, and Irish Crème – the smell of love that echoes in the vacancy of being. Time to waft home! And I won’t complain about the traffic. Right now, I can’t get enough of solid objects taking up space. I bump into cars and corners. Right! This city still has substance. The moon, still up there, looks like a photograph. I have no way of knowing if it is real. But I choose to believe the experts. And that same moon, real and substantial, will rise again when Monsoon Midnights returns with our next story in just a month’s time… - Anette Pollner, leader of the BWWG
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