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Expat Life

by Dan O’Shea

We’re lucky, really, to have an outlet. Through all our years, we’ve gone through a ‘during’ moment. During the war, during the 80’s, during ‘that fashion phase’, during Trump! We now all share a ‘during Covid’ moment.

Well, what did you do during Covid? What have you taken up? Apart from your jeans size?! 

If the opportunity to redo your last 18 months arose again, your best move would be to join the Bangkok Community Theatre (BCT).

Investing in Zoom, alcohol gel and face masks aside, being a part of a worldwide theatre community has been a brilliant release, a chance to feel part of a growing group of friends and a reawakening of the love of theatre in a brand new stage: Online. 

A dynamic company of talent; offering the chance to star in, direct and write your own plays, Bangkok Community Theatre is as close knit group of actors and producers as you could ever hope to have the pleasure of meeting. They have successfully delivered 3 volumes of ‘Shorts’, a series of 10 minute filmed performances. Combining comedy, horror, romance and a close-to-home feel of those Zoom conference calls with your colleagues and neighbours that we’ve all become accustomed to in a fantastic 34 shows in total, over 3 volumes (5 of which from volume 3 were written by BCT’s own membership).

With BCT, there is the opportunity to work with incredible writers who have allowed us to put their words onto screen for 3 volumes since the world changed, and a collection of actors and directors from around the world who – at some stage in their lives have lived in Bangkok and were active in BCT – have now branched out to the UK, the USA, Dubai, South Africa, The Philippines and Pakistan as well as Bangkok and several other cities around Thailand.

If that’s not enough to whet your conversations about which vaccine you took or why you’re immune now, then joining the public Tuesday night play readings is a must for any lover of drama still going strong, this has been a total of 66 plays since the pandemic began (33 plays in 2020 and 33 in 2021 to date) from 7:30pm every Tuesday. On some occasions we were even given the premiere reading of the play by the playwright! 

BCT also moved monthly club nights online for most of the past two years. Would be thespians could be found holding online quiz nights and theatre games plus workshops on Psycho Physical Acting, Character Development, and Page to Stage Script work, among others 

Can you believe there is more that this group of players produce? Well there is! Auditions for the long awaited short movie ‘Go!’ took place this past spring. The film was created in Bangkok by BCT’s own writers, actors and directors, is currently in editing post production and will be released later this year.

All of the active brilliance that BCT offers is, almost, in its entirety down to Bonnie Zellerbach and the BCT Committee who, week-in-week out rally to gather all the players, writers and directors to show off what we have to offer.

Long may BCT continue to entertain us all during Covid, curfews and crash diets and fingers crossed we can soon return to theatres and rejuvenate a lifeblood that has long been missing in Bangkok! Theatre!

If you are interested in learning more, please see Bangkok Community Theatre’s website, facebook and Instagram page and catch up with all the latest Shorts on Bangkok Community Theatre’s Youtube channel. www.bangkokcommunitytheatre.com

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Moving home?

I have recently moved from a 5 bedroom house on 3 storeys in Bangkok to a much smaller condo on the fourth floor of a condominium in Hua Hin.

Was it worthwhile trying to manouvere the quality king sized mattress down the stairs and then onto the fourth floor of the condominium – I made the judgment not to.

I looked at various alternatives but then stumbled across www.sleephappy.co.th online and I am glad that I did. Reading their website I saw that they delivered your new mattress in a 7’ long x a 18” square box!

The removal company probably could have struggled down from the third storey of my old house but I wasn’t able to move straight into my new apartment as it was being refurbished, so it would have had to have been put in storage for a month. Then moved again when I was able to move in. Sleephappy delivered it via a courier company. The topper that came with it in a 3’ long 18” box.

The mattress I chose is the same one used by JW Marriott – and they know a thing or two about beds. The topper makes it even softer and gives me a good nights sleep.

When we opened it up it was heavily wrapped and compressed in vacuum packed plastic. As it was released from its bond it sprang into action and was finished off beautifully. No scuff marks on it from the dirty floor outside and perfectly clean and ready for use. This is obviously the future for mattresses.

I can heartily recommend www.sleephappy.co.th – it is an evolution of Dreammaster, a company that has been selling beds in Thailand for years.

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I reached out to a friend who is visiting Hua Hin this week thinking he was still staying at the Hyatt Regency, one of my favourite five star hotels in Hua Hin, but after messaging me back he said that he was at the Sundance Beach Club. A destination that I have never been too and will not bother visiting in the future.
He had invited me there for breakfast before but I was waylaid and unable to make it so I felt that i owed him a visit. I Googled it and saw that it was on Soi 19 in Hua Hin and drove past as it is not clearly signposted. I turned round and parked outside. I read the sign stating ALL GUESTS MUST MAKE A RESERVATION IN ADVANCE BEFORE ENTERING but thought that they would welcome my business. There is a pandemic – but no?
It seems that the business is owned by ItalAsia and not seeing the, cleverly hidden entrance, I went to the wine shop upstairs. I drink a great deal of wine – frequently a bottle a day, so had they been more attentive I could have spent a lot of money there. But the three ’staff’ if that is what they were, seemed rather put out that they should be interrupted by a client. I asked “how does one get in to The Sundance Club” whereupon a young girl came round the counter, opened a side glass door telling me to wait.
“Can I not come with you” I asked? “No wait here” was her reply.
Sorry but for years I have been a ‘mystery shopper’ employed by FMCG, hospitality, retail, automotive companies and I never ‘wait here’ to spend my money. I actually had a copy of one of the print magazines I publish with me so I held it up and said “please do not bother… I will go and write about somewhere else”.
 
Othello Benedetti with his range of premium brands would have felt most uncomfortable. Their loss…
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I have owned condos in Hua Hin for 12 years and rented them out occasionally and stayed maybe 3/4 times a year but recently because of Covid, lockdowns in Bangkok, air quality, traffic gridlock and various other reasons I moved full time to the resort city.
I have to date always been a supporter of Market Village shopping mall. Mainly because of Tesco, Boots, Let’s Relax, Minor Group’s Restaurants etc and have been almost a daily visitor. However due to a recent regrettable incident there I will not be frequenting the complex in the foreseeable future – more of that later…
Today I went to Bluport and did my shopping in Gourmet Market. Because of its later build it is better designed from the car park to the escalators and the choice of brand name retailers. It is not as busy as Market Village which for me is a plus. The staff seemed to be more appreciative of my custom and I wandered round the three floors unhindered and or without being hassled. 
I parked my car conveniently near to an entrance/exit, was saluted with respect by the security man who realised that as a consumer I have a choice and spent roughly 10,000B on groceries, a wine rack, electrical goods, wine, etc. I may have had to pay a few Baht more on certain items in Gourmet Market but there was forgive me a better class of consumer there that was more polite and genteel than in Lotus’s (who on earth came up with that name – sorry but it does not make sense)!
Next time I am going to try Tops on Petchaksem Rd., and I already visit Villa Market/Index on a regular basis to get comfort foods that I cannot obtain elsewhere. Sadly their fruit and vegetables are overpriced…
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April ˗ September 2021

After experiencing the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Klong Toey community realised the urgency of protecting themselves. Especially as the second wave had many different effects on them, such as loss of jobs, livelihoods, no income, emotional stress and illnesses, etc.

There are 45 communities in the Klong Toey district with a population of almost 100,000 people. But one day, the third wave of the pandemic arrived and spread rapidly among the people, with even greater numbers of people contracting Covid. The Klong Toey outbreak appeared on the news when a man who lives in the Lock 1-2-3 community caught the virus and quarantined himself in his car because there was no space to do it in his small house. Many media wrote about his story until he was finally accepted by a hospital to treat him.

The pandemic spread from one community to another and became known as the “Klong Toey cluster.” Some infected people died because many hospitals said “all our beds are full” and did not accept new people to treat in the hospitals. 

The Abbot of Wat Sapan Temple, Khru Prateep Ungsongtham Hata from the Duang Prateep Foundation, and the Klong Toey Deejang Group joined together to help the people and wanted to have a place to be a “Community Isolation Centre.” The Abbot was pleased to use a new building within the temple compound for the centre, which opened in May 2021 with 300 beds.

In the five months from April – August 2021, the Duang Prateep Foundation, local organisations and community leaders joined together to help the people who had caught Covid-19 or were affected by the virus in other ways. People both inside and outside Klong Toey were provided help, such as transporting them from their house to the “Community Isolation Center”, providing them with Survival Bags of essential daily items, distributing materials to protect themselves (such as alcohol gel and masks), hiring volunteers to spray disinfectant in houses and around community common areas. We also made regular public announcements by the community leaders providing the people with information on good habits to protect themselves and their families, etc. 

In July, the number of people who contracted the virus further increased (not less than 200 cases per day) and more than 10 people died. So, the “Community Isolation Centre” became full and could not take any more people. The Duang Prateep Foundation then asked the Port Authority of Thailand to make an area of their land to erect a temporary field hospital. 

On 27 August 2021, the Klong Toey Field Hospital with 300 beds was officially opened and began accepting patients, both Thai and foreigners, from Klong Toey and outside Klong Toey. Doctors and nurses from Kasemrat Hospital are on hand to take care of the patients. Finally, this place can provide a shelter for taking care of sick people sick with Covid-19, and no one is left at their house.

Statistical Record as of 16 September 2021

Anti-Covid-19 Help for Children

Produced media for young children and Primary level children

180 children

Teachers distributed lunch boxes and milk to children at children’s centers

590 lunch boxes

Distributed milk to children and elderly people

8,000 cartons

Distributed formula powdered milk for babies (up to 2.5 years) in Klong Toey and rural areas

1,250 babies

Distributed baby diapers

776 packs

Protection Against the Spread of Covid-19

Hired fire-fighters to spray disinfectant around the communities, children’s development centers and markets535 times
Transported Covid-19 patients to Isolation Center or Field Hospital888 people
Provided Oxygen for emergency cases40 people
Distributed alcohol spray/alcohol gel to the people in 60 communities2 times
Provided medical equipment such as oximeters and thermometers to community leaders706 pieces
Provided first-aid medicines such as paracetamol, antidiarrheal drug, etc. to people100 cases
Distributed herbal medicines to people5,190 boxes
Distributed Antigen Test Kits to community leaders1,315 sets
Distributed Homeopathy drinks to people6,026 bottles
Transported the people to check for Covid-19 infection620 people

Help and Relief for the Elderly, the Bed-ridden, and the Disabled Groups

Distributed donated food boxes75,000 food boxes
Delivered cooked food for the elderly, the bed-ridden, and the disabled groups (1,000 food boxes in one month)30,000 food boxes
Distributed Survival Bags to families affected by Covid-19 in 142 communities, both in Klong Toey and outside Klong Toey33,098 bags
Distributed adult diapers to 100 people400 packs

Photos of Help Provided to Counter the Third Wave of Covid-19 

Spraying disinfectant in communitiesTransporting patients to Isolation Center
Providing oxygen to patients at their homesProviding individual Survival bags
Distributing Survival bags to communities through their leadersDistributed food boxes to people in home-quarantine
Provided alcohol spray, alcohol gels and masks to taxi drivers and motorcycle-taxi riders in Bangkok
Distributed formula powdered milk and diapers for babiesHome visiting to patients
Distributed milk to childrenHome visiting to elderly people and providing Survival Bags
Provided food to elderly peopleDistributed adult diapers to elderly and bed-ridden people
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BANGKOK Sept 10, 2021: With the successful completion of Skål International Asia’s 50th Asian Area Annual General Assembly Andrew J Wood was elected President 2021-2023 at the virtual meeting. 

Prior to the election Wood, widely considerable one of the regions most visible Skålleagues, was Skål Asia’s Vice President (Southeast). A Skål member for 29 years he was first elected to the Asia board in 2005. Wood, who was due to complete his second term as President of Thailand’s oldest club – Bangkok, will pass the reins to James Thurlby, Bangkok’s new President-elect. 

Skål Asia has 2529 members in 39 Clubs, 28 grouped in 5 national committees and 11 affiliated clubs, the Skål Asian Area (SAA) is the most diverse Area in the world of Skål. The Asian Area spans from Guam in the Pacific Ocean over more than 10,000 km to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean with clubs in 15 fascinating countries in-between. The Asian Area accounts for almost twenty per cent of all Skål International’s global members. 

“To all my Asia Skalleagues I say that like many Presidents before me I am humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you’ve bestowed. 

“I am forever mindful of the 15 countries that we serve under Skål Asia and the need to work together to build strong bonds of Friendship on solid foundations”, newly elected President Wood said. 

“Skålleagues everywhere have remained faithful to the ideals of our forefathers of Happiness and Friendship. So it has been and so it must be with our new generation of Skålleagues. 

“Building bridges, emphathy and compassion  shall be my priority. After the pandemic, when the time is right, we need to get up, get out and throw open our arms and let the light flood into our lives once more,” said President Wood. 

Wood also encouraged his members to look to the future with renewed optimism, “Our economies may be badly weakened as a consequence of closed borders. No-one can under-estimate the global damage to our industry. It has however given us a rare opportunity to press the reset button, to undo past wrongs and make them right. 

He added, ”A new world of travel and tourism awaits. A new world that is hungry to travel, that is more peaceful, more sustainable and for Skål Asia certainly larger, friendlier and more hopeful.”

With no congresses in the world of Skål since the start of the pandemic 2 years ago, Wood said he is delighted that plans are already well advanced for the Skål Asian Area Congress in June 2022 when Thailand will host the sustainably inspired #RediscoverThailand Asian Area Congress which is expected to attract 300 delegates for the 4 day (3 nights) conference. 

The Skål Asia President concluded by saying, “The challenges we face today for a new world that travels tomorrow, are real. They are serious and they are many. I don’t profess that it will be easy nor met quickly, but they will be met. Tomorrow has arrived.”

Connecting Tourism Globally since 1934

*The first Skål Asian Area AGA took place in Hong Kong in 1972

1 1972 Hong Kong

2 1973 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

3 1974 Manila Philippines

4 1975 Singapore

5 1976 Bangkok Thailand

About Skål International: Skål International is a professional organisation of Tourism leaders around the world, promoting global tourism and friendship. It is the only international group uniting all branches of the travel and tourism industry.

 

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Two furnished three storey 5 bedroom large family homes for rent – 45,000/40,000B a month in quiet secluded private Mooban at the end of Sukhumvit 79 – Sukhumvit Garden City.

7 minutes walk from On Nut BTS, plenty of parking, large Georgian style townhouses owned by the Duang Prateep Foundation. Back gardens leading to communal garden alley. Security on the gate, located on a cul de sac so no through traffic.

On three floors one just completely redecorated inside and out – 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, CCTV – more details on request. [email protected]

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As Bangkok is not the safest, or most pleasant place to reside in lockdown I made the decision 3 months ago to move to my weekend retreat in Hua Hin, two and three quarter hours south, south west and 190kms out of Bangkok.

I had lived and worked in one of the Duang Prateep Foundation’s lovely homes in a private Mooban near On Nut BTS for three years and the house was furnished but it is amazing how much ‘stuff’ you accrue along the way. So I called in the professionals in the form of Asian Tigers/Transpo International to effect the move for me.

They were ultra effective and made an appointment for me to video what I had – ‘oh it’s not that much’ I said confidently and I am moving to a small condo in Hua Hin. Little did I know.

Their surveyor determined what I would need and the date was set. The team would be with me by 9am on the 25th and deliver to Hua Hin on the 26th August. At 8.40am people started to arrive by motorbike. An older man – the supervisor, the packer and then eight young men all in their bright yellow uniform were all on site before 9am – I was impressed!

I walked the supervisor through the three storey house where I had spent the previous day packing clothes, towels, bed linen and whatever else I could into black sacks. Then the boys got to work, suddenly the place was a hive of activity. They worked at a frenetic pace… everything, and I mean everything, (even Tupperware boxes) was individually wrapped and then packed carefully into the hundred plus boxes they had assembled.

By lunchtime the top two floors were nearly empty. What came apart had been disassembled and boxes were being heaved downstairs by young chaps young enough to be my grandchildren… gosh I realised how old I was! The supervisor was detailing each package by which room it came from and what the contents were. The key packer was skilled at his task and everything was wrapped in white paper and then packed with care. These guys knew what they were doing – I did my best to keep up but in the end just tried to keep out of the way! By 5.30pm everything was gone and the house was suddenly empty bar the landlords furniture.


The lorry that they had booked could not get into our Mooban as the electric and telephone wires were assessed to be too low so they bought a smaller vehicle in to shuttle the boxes outside to the main Soi. I left Bangkok frazzled with a SUV full of packages and drove to Hua Hin.

They were supposed to deliver between 9 and 11am but again were there at 8.30am. The lorry was huge and packed to the gunnels. Luckily I had booked a storeroom on the ground floor as by 10.30am they were gone again! I was had a storeroom full of brown boxes with the tiger logo.

I have spent the last week unpacking boxes and so far, so good, no breakages but they even had that covered and advised me to take out insurance to cover any breakages. I did as was advised.

I can’t recommend these guys highly enough. They were ultra efficient, polite, had sufficient numbers plus to make the move easier and certainly took the stress out of moving for me.

Send an email to [email protected]thailand.com and tell him Nick sent you!

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This month, Expat Life sat down with the recently appointed President of the European Association for Business and Commerce (EABC), international business consultant Luca Bernardinetti. In my eyes, this was a very smart appointment. Luca is a sharp, good looking and charismatic businessman, as may be expected of a lawyer-turned-businessman, a third generation Italian lawyer who came to SE Asia twelve years ago, realising that this is where the future was for international business.

He presents himself very well and is a man of measured words as you would expect from a lawyer skilled in international relations. With a background in banking and finance law, Luca has split his time between Singapore and Thailand in the past twelve years. In his most recent venture, he restructured the consulting and law firm Mahanakorn Partners Group (MPG) in 2016, where he currently serves as Chairman and Managing Partner.

(The firm was originally founded in 1999 by Luca’s partner inlife and business, Khun Vilasinee Thephasadin Na Ayuthaya. Last year, she was conferred the CEO Leader award 2019 by H.E. Khun Ittipol Khunpluem, Minister of Culture).

In addition to heading the Banking and Finance practice at MPG, Luca is the only non-Thai member of the ICC Thailand’s Banking Commission, the leading global rule making body for the banking industry. He contributes to various universally accepted rules and guidelines for international banking practice.

Having grown up in a respectable family of Italian lawyers, entering the legal profession was never a question for Luca, even if his departure for SE Asia marked an unexpected turn. The Bernardinetti family’s law firm was formed in 1945 by his grandfather, Senator Marzio Bernardinetti, before the Constitution of Italy was ratified. His grandfather, father and mother were all lawyers, and hoped that Luca would continue the family firm. Naturally, they were opposed to him leaving Italy at first, although his father now agrees, perhaps reluctantly, that it was a good decision. Now as EABC president, Luca is ably assisted by three VPs – Jan Eriksson (past president), Georg M. Wolff and Robert Fox and a board of international business community heavyweights: John G. Sim, Paranee Adulyapichet,

Nicholas Bellamy, Farid Bidgoli, Jerome Kelly, Stefan Molnar, Alberto Strada, Thitiwat Thanapornnithinan and Luca Vianelli. Word on the street is that they had a shaky start, but I think that Luca is a man on a mission, and likely to get the organisation on the right track.

I met Luca in MPG’s offices on Wireless Road. We sat in one of the meeting rooms, all polished dark wood and black furniture, and Luca is the focus and bright light in the room. The atmosphere grows warm as Luca begins to discuss his plans for the EABC. I begin by asking him to define the mission of the EABC, as well as his objectives for the Association during his two year term as President.

The EABC, according to Luca, is predominantly an advocacy association comprised by working groups that promote specific agenda for growth in a set of core activities – for instance, pharmaceuticals, trade, logistics and automotive. However, he clarifies, for all intents and purposes, the EABC serves as the European Chamber of Commerce in Thailand. Indeed, the EABC covers over 30 different countries in Thailand, encompassing not only the EU, but all members of the European Economic Area.

Having said that, Luca plans to extend the EABC’s focus beyond advocacy, developing the organisation’s ability to attract, facilitate, and sustain foreign direct investment between Europe and Thailand. He envisions “a platform for businesspeople in Thailand to promote their companies’ interests, and to inform them of the challenges they may face – not just in Thailand, but as Thailand is taking a central role in SE Asia in the wider geographic Mekong region”. He’s also excited by a growing trend of outbound Thai investment in Europe – for instance, Central Group’s recent high end retail investments in Italy with the Rinascente Group and the Swiss luxury department store chain Globus, along with eight associated real estate properties at top inner city locations from the Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund (MGB) Group and anticipates strengthened European-Thai economic cooperation in the future, such as through the proposed Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Thailand.

Speaking of cooperation, I remark that H. E. Mr. Pirkka Tapiola, the (Finnish) European Ambassador to Thailand, has done an excellent job of championing the combined strengths of the EU’s member countries. Luca explains that sadly Pirkka is likely to move back to Brussels next year, but remains committed to furthering the interests of European business in Thailand by working closely with the EABC.

Luca shares a few of the plans they have discussed, including a reception at the EU Residence for European Ambassadors, Thai and European business leaders, and representatives from the Thai government.

This brings us to the subject of event planning, which Luca says will be integral to the EABC’s new focus on information sharing and networking.

EABC sets itself apart from bilateral Chambers of Commerce in that it does not organise evening networking events set around a bar theme. The events are typically conferences, luncheons and workshops, which Luca has already been working on planning – for instance, a lunch between the Thai Minister of Commerce, the Ambassador of the EU H.E. Mr. Pirkka Tapiola and other business leaders to discuss the aforementioned Free Trade Agreement.

In the past I have attended a number of the “networking opportunities” that the individual Chambers held but always felt that the joint (Tri or Multi Chamber) events were by far the more successful ones. I was pleased to hear that the EABC is not planning any of these evening drinking opportunities and would focus more on the business aspects of union. Working groups, representing the international community and engaging and connecting with our Thai hosts, the government and business communities. Breakfast presentations, working lunches – gone are the old days when business was done over several bottles of expensive wine at the company’s expense.

Luca agrees that partnership with other business associations and Chambers is key. He speaks with respect about the JFCCT and said he hopes to liaise and run joint events with them, the Thai government and the greater business community. This type of cooperation is obviously the future for the Thai Chambers of Commerce. Either this, a union with the JFCCT and or both. I tell him that I feel the 30 odd individual country Chambers are all a bit “jobs for the boys” and too cliquish for my tastes. You are either in favour or not, and me being me, I am far too outspoken to be in the “in group”. Luca emphasises that inclusiveness will be key to the new EABC. He acknowledges that there has been rivalry between the bilateral Chambers of Commerce and the EABC; however, many wish to work together and the EABC will seek further cooperation with other Chambers and business associations.

“We want to appeal to all European
businesspeople in Thailand,” he says,
“whether they are retired or still
working, and we want to appeal to
the Thai business community, as
well as all those that may have an
interest in investment in Thailand.”

I can see the role of the EABC being far clearer and more effective than it has been in the past.

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