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Expat Life

After a career in software engineering, solar power and applied technology he started doing small technical projects to pass the time: Android apps, home automation, circuit boards and embedded software. He has an electric scooter which he constantly upgrades, 3D modelling and printing, cryptocurrencies and the like.

He launched a YouTube channel to document some of the above projects and offer his assistance to other people with their ideas and technology implementation.

His condo apartment is near to the existing single track train line that runs through Hua Hin from Bangkok all the way south to the border with Malaysia. It makes a hell of a noise and seems to be running noisy, smelly diesel engines from the early 70s.

He had read about the the Kunming–Singapore railway, increasingly called the Pan-Asia railway network – a network of railways, being planned or under construction, that would connect China, Singapore and all the countries of mainland SE Asia. The concept originated with British and French imperialists, who sought to link the railways they had built in southwest China, Indochina and Malaya, but international conflicts in the 20th century kept regional railways fragmented. The idea was formally revived in October 2006 when 18 Asian and Eurasian countries signed the Trans-Asian railway Network Agreement, which incorporated the Kunming–Singapore railway into the Trans-Asian railway network.

The proposed network consists of three main routes from Kunming, China to Bangkok, Thailand: the Eastern route via Vietnam and Cambodia; the Central route via Laos, and the Western route via Myanmar. The southern half of the network from Bangkok to Singapore has been operational since 1918. The central route is projected to be operational by the end of 2021, with the opening of the Yuxi–Mohan railway and Boten–Vientiane railway linking with the other operational segments of the route. This will formally connect Kunming and Singapore directly by rail. There have been plans for high speed railway constructions, though only one line (between Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima) has since entered the construction phase. New high speed rail link connecting Thailand to China in the north and Malaysia and Singapore in the south and realised the importance of the project for commerce, tourism and linking SE Asia.

The Thai government have now scaled down the project to a dual track, mid speed system.

It will obviously cut travel time to from Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city where Bang Sue Station, the 21st century new train station that replaced Hua Lamphong in the city in half. Besides that it will have many other benefits. Thailand has a long and tragic history of railway crossing accidents and most of these will be eliminated, at least in and near the major towns.

Mike was curious how the various parts of the construction project were being done: the second track, the bridges, improved safety at level crossings, raised sections, new stations and it became the catalyst to buy one of the new amazing technology DJI drones to fly the train line and see the construction progress progressing.

His first train line flight video was in April 2021, and he has released a new video each month, focusing on different construction aspects and seeing the project unfold.

As he became more proficient with his drone he branched out to make videos of the beautiful scenic locations around Hua Hin and the surrounding areas.

The countless beaches with kite surfers, the many golf courses in Prachaup Khiri Khan, the surrounding mountains with their golden Buddhas, lakes with island temples, early morning paddle boarding and much more.

As he is returning to the US soon to visit his family for the birth of his first granddaughter, and to get vaccinated against Covid-19, he is currently studying for the American FAA Small Unmanned Aircraft System License. As a “Musketeer’ he is a fan of electric cars and technology he plans to purchase a new Tesla Model Y and take a two month road trip around America and Canada and he is sure to find some choice locations to fly his drone over there. 

Follow his progress if you find the attached videos of interest. Subscribe to his channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3r2i56OZosYrAcZX5sAIwQ
and click the bell icon to be notified when each new drone flight is released.

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The last 16 months have been extremely tough on us all with Covid-19, loss of travel and interaction with those that we love, lockdowns lack of normality, economically…

For an old man like me that has a bad back, diabetes, war wounds too many to mention, and recently informed by the surgeon, an arthritic right hip that needs replacing, one of the many pleasures of living in Thailand is the access to quality massage, spas and wellness treatments.

Currently in Hua Hin I decided that I needed a little pampering and where better than Let’s Relax – the only publicly quoted spa massage centre in Thailand. They have two centres in Hua Hin – one at Market Village and the other at Soi 100 so I chose the latter. I have attached the menu and chose the body scrub and aroma therapy. 

The facilities at Let’s Relax are first class. Safety and security uppermost in these difficult times. I was temperature tested and had access to sanitiser as I entered and everywhere inside. The entire building was impeccably clean, the staff wore uniforms and were caring, attentive and gentle. The menu was comprehensive and I chose the two hour body scrub and aroma massage therapy.

The room had been prepared and I was escorted it and left to shower. Clean towels, soft music and an aromatherapy steamer set the scene perfectly. The therapist dressed in a white trouser suit uniform was very pleasant and scrubbed my body with coffee, my choice from the 6 or so options. I was then left to cleanse my body and laid down for the massage. The bed was warmed electrically I guess, which was a lovely touch I thought, and the lady was a professional masseuse and eased my aching body. It was so good that I wished that I had opted for a two hour aroma therapy.

Looks like I shall have to come again.

https://letsrelaxspa.com 

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Expat Life had the opportunity to meet the incoming Principal of Rugby School Thailand (RST) Mr. Bruce Grindlay, who takes up his position on the 1st August 2021, over a Zoom call from his current school Sutton Valence School in the Garden of England in Kent.

He is naturally looking forward to taking up his position at Rugby School Thailand (RST) but has sadly been unable to visit Thailand over the last year, so has had ongoing Zoom calls with his colleagues and the School board. 

I asked him why it was thought necessary for the School to appoint an overall Principal and he explained that due to the rapid growth that the now, three schools – Pre Prep, Prep and Senior, student numbers will be up to over 900 when they return in September. It was decided by the board to appoint an overall Principal to continue the drive to the target occupancy of 1,400 students and to create consistency across every child’s educational journey at Rugby School Thailand (RST). It will also allow the School to work towards its vision to be a truly British boarding school in Asia focused on educating the whole person. In the first year, Mr. Grindlay will also take responsibility for the Senior School as Mr. Alan Ball has now returned to Australia. After a year Rugby School Thailand (RST) will appoint a Head of Senior School allowing Bruce to focus on more strategic developments. 

Coming into the role will allow the Teepsuwan family to take a step back and look after other projects at Wisdom Park and take on a more non-executive, governance role.

Its 80 acre campus (190 rai) is approximately 110km (68 miles) from Bangkok and 20km (12 miles) outside Pattaya. Rugby School Thailand (RST) offers a British curriculum to both Thai and international students. It opened in September 2017, the Prep and Pre-Prep school opened for Pre-Nursery (2 year olds) up to Year 6 (10/11 year olds). Years 7-13 opened in September 2018. Tuition fees range from 439,900 – 827,400B per year. Boarding fees are 364,300B per annum for weekly boarding and 435,000B per annum for full boarding.

Mr. Grindlay was born in 1967 and is a renowned British organist, chorister, conductor, teacher and experienced Headmaster with the full complement of skills to drive the School forward. His specialist subject of Music shows Rugby School Thailand (RST)‘s desire to deliver its ethos:The whole person; the whole point”. They want their students to be highly successful in all the academic subjects, but also to develop their characters and vital soft skills through sports, culture, creativity and the arts. He repeated the words that I had heard from Nigel Westlake that ‘he intended making Rugby School Thailand (RST) the best international school in Asia and one of the best boarding schools in the world’. 

He believes in the boarding concept and is a fan of weekly boarding where the children are dropped off at School on a Sunday evening and collected or driven home on Friday to spend time with the family. Boarding creates the time and space for so much to take place outside of the classroom whether that be academic enrichment and support or activities, sport, drama, design or any number of clubs. Weekly boarding really is the best of both worlds: weekends with the family but the working week packed full of opportunities at the School without time wasted on the daily commute.  

Rugby School UK was founded in 1567 as a provision in the will of Lawrence Sheriff, who had made his fortune supplying groceries to Queen Elizabeth I of England. Established 454 years ago it has 16 Houses. It was one of the nine prestigious schools investigated by the Clarendon Commission of 1861 – 64 (the other schools being Eton, Charterhouse, Harrow, Shrewsbury, Westminster, Winchester and two day schools: St Paul’s and Merchant Taylors).

There is an impressive list of Rugby alumni in the ecclesiastical, armed forces, political and foreign service appointments and a former Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain.

Bruce’s father was an engineer in the paper industry and his mother was a chemistry teacher and he was educated at King’s College, Wimbledon in London. His father was then posted to Canada where he attended St. George’s School for Boys in Vancouver.

He met his wife, Lilla, when they were both at Cambridge and she is currently Head of English at The King’s School Canterbury and the author of an academic book, Queen of Heaven. They have two grown up children now finishing their studies in the UK. 

After graduating from Emmanuel College, Cambridge he took a postgraduate degree and gained a Bachelor of Music at Cambridge University. He was Director of Chapel Music and a Boarding Housemaster at Bedford School between 1994 – 2001 before moving to Christ’s Hospital as Director of Music with a large music staff of 50 plus, the experience, he remarked, was “like running a school within a school”. In 2009 he moved to Sutton Valence as Headmaster where he has been for the last 12 years and had the experience of assisting in the creation of a sister school in China in 2017.

He sees his role at Rugby School Thailand (RST) to blend the history and heritage of a British public school with the excellent and state of the art facilities that the School has built in the wide open countryside of Chonburi. He sees the potential to deliver a world class and unique education and was drawn by the owning family’s commitment to education evinced through their investment in this remarkable School. I remarked that ‘whenever I visit it is not like an international school but it reminds me of an international convention centre or business premises – the facilities are just so impressive’. 

He wants to develop students and staff and is driven by helping people achieve the very best that they can. He is keen to focus on skills acquisition and developing specific dispositions in the students so that they will compete in an ever widening global workplace. A workplace that will be heavily reliant on technology, but still needs the human skills of collaboration, communication, creativity and problem solving. These vital, uniquely human, transferrable skills are frequently learnt outside of the classroom and that is why the extended boarding day is so good at allowing these to flourish and develop.

Rugby School Thailand (RST) has recently achieved COBIS (Council of British International Schools) certification and in the process was given two Beacon status awards for its boarding provision and enrichment opportunities. An amazing achievement for a School that has only been in existence for four years. 

The next chapter of Rugby School Thailand (RST)’s development is going to be an exciting time and certainly the energy and experience Bruce brings to this new role can only assist in moving this School to ever greater heights.

Rugby School Thailand (RST)

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To: His Excellency General Prayuth Chan-o-cha

Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand

Government House

1 Pitsanuloke Road, Dusit, Bangkok 10300

Dear General Prayuth,

  • Amid the third wave of the pandemic, which recorded over 2,000 infections a day and daily deaths climbing to double digits, I understand that the government is facing the monumental task of pulling the country out of its COVID-induced economic crisis. In the meantime, Thailand has no international travelers and the hospitality industry is struggling to survive on the domestic market alone. Minor International operates in the tourism sector, so I can offer some specific thoughts and speak on behalf of this critical industry that accounts for up to 20% of Thailand’s economy. I would like to make the following specific comments and suggestions:

  • Accelerate vaccine rollout for both Thai and foreign nationals: The mass immunization program must be accelerated at full speed. Not only is it essential for most Thais to be vaccinated by the end of this year, but foreign nationals in the country must also be vaccinated without delay. The Chinese government has already sent vaccine doses to Thailand to inoculate Chinese citizens living here. The government should encourage other foreign embassies (e.g. the United States, Australia and other European nations) to assist their citizens urgently, especially those nations with excess COVID-19 vaccine supplies. Once their home populations have been inoculated, foreign countries should also provide vaccines for their citizens abroad. The Thai government’s urging through the foreign ministry can help achieve earlier herd immunity in Thailand. The recent news citing a potential delay of the second dose appointment for AstraZeneca is already causing concern about slippage in vaccination timeline. The government should ensure that the country has procured sufficient vaccines from multiple sources, to accommodate the population as scheduled. Different varieties of vaccine brands should be considered as the outbreak situation in the country is still evolving.

  • Allow vaccinated tourists to enter the country without quarantine: Nationwide quarantine free entry will be crucial to the success of Thailand’s re-opening to tourism. Merely shortening the length of mandatory quarantine will not be sufficient to revive tourism. Moreover, quarantine-free entry should not be limited to specific areas (e.g. the top-six tourist zones) but should be applied throughout the country. Fully vaccinated travelers from safe countries have much lower risk to transmit the virus and should be allowed to travel freely, as long as they have negative test results, remain masked and are tracked. Any quarantine requirement for such travelers will make Thailand uncompetitive against other tourism destinations that allow convenient entry.
  • The re-tightening of quarantine rules back to 14 days was unwarranted, considering the lack of evidence or reports that the third wave of COVID-19 was a result of the recent easing of quarantine rules to 7-10 days. Most new infections are local transmission (e.g. from entertainment clusters, prisons and high-density communities). I also hope that the government will still adhere to the Phuket Tourism Sandbox scheme, which is scheduled to welcome fully-vaccinated, COVID-19-free travelers to Phuket without quarantine on July 1st. With the vaccination drive well under way, the initiative should be able to launch on schedule. The success of this pilot scheme will be the turning point for our country’s reopening. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should initiate reciprocal travel agreements with low- to moderate-risk countries for quarantine-free entry by vaccinated travelers. Such reciprocal agreements are a necessary stepping stone to eventual full scale re-opening.

  • Speed up vaccine passports’ approved list and ease visa measures: The government should immediately establish a clear system on acknowledgement of vaccine passports from international visitors. As a global travel destination, Thailand should accept proof of vaccination from as many internationally endorsed COVID-19 vaccines as possible. Process of entry should be simplified and streamlined, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs collaborating with international airlines and other related parties. Process of entry for foreigners from countries that were allowed to enter Thailand without visa requirement since pre-COVID-19 period should now return to the same condition as long as they possess a vaccine passport and a negative COVID- 19 test result. Certificate of Entry (COE) and other documentation for entry application may no longer be necessary.

  • Provide free or low-cost COVID-19 testing for the public: Knowledge is key to fighting COVID-19. The cost of testing should not be an impediment to safeguarding the health of individuals and communities. Knowing who, when, and where someone is infected is essential to stemming the spread of the disease. Testing international travelers will also act as a first line of defense.

  • Promote public confidence in the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines: The success of mass vaccination depends largely on public trust in COVID-19 vaccines. The government should work with partners and support community organizations to enhance public knowledge on the importance, urgency and safety of vaccination. Vaccine information should be released timely and with full transparency to enhance trust and confidence.

  • Rollout co-payment scheme for hospitality staff with monthly salary: The government should use the Social Security Fund (SSF) to assist employees in the hospitality sector. Although technically employed, many hotel staff are struggling with significant losses of income caused by COVID-19 and considerable numbers resort to increasingly unsustainable personal debt. Hotel operators are doing their best to stay afloat and not lay off staff. They want to retain skilled workers who will be in high demand when the sector recovers. However, under current rules, the only way for hotel employees to receive financial aid from the SSF is to resign or be laid off. During this ongoing third wave, the heavily hit tourism sector has yet to receive any social security compensations which were previously given during last year’s lockdown.

  • Allow corporate losses to be carried forward for ten accounting periods: On top of the current five-year tax loss carry forward, the government should consider allowing an additional five years to carry losses forward for businesses devastated by COVID-19. This pandemic has triggered the most serious economic crisis since World War II. It will take many years to recover and resume normalcy. Allowing losses to be carried forward for ten years would hasten recoveries. Some countries in Europe such as the Netherlands and the Czech Republic have already allowed businesses to carry over their losses for an unlimited number of years. Moreover, other measures that the government may consider implementing include reduction of utility charges for medium to large businesses, especially those in the tourism sector as well as extension of tax cut on land and buildings by 90% for two additional years. Value-Added Tax for the hospitality sector should also be waived or reduced in order to boost domestic tourism. Adjusting VAT is ideal for its convenience and immediacy. Last year, the United Kingdom cut its VAT on hospitality services from 20% to 5%. Similar measures were applied in Germany and Austria. The impact of the pandemic is still ongoing, and many countries are further extending the period of relief measures to ensure that the sector does not collapse. Such policies will give tourism businesses the much-needed helping hand in surviving COVID-19. The National Economic and Social Development Council recently predicted that it could take up to five years before Thai tourism will fully recover, indicating that all help and support must gear toward this fragile but critical sector. Once again, thank you for your consideration of my comments. My suggestions are offered in good faith and with the best interest of Thailand at heart. I pledge my full support as Thailand makes the critical next steps of reopening the country and re-starting the economy. I look forward to doing what I can to support your government’s efforts to tackle this unprecedented crisis.

Yours Sincerely,

William E. Heinecke

Chairman

Minor International PCL.

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Expat Life had the opportunity to interview Tim Bulow who is the COO of Minor Education in Bangkok. He heads the Asian Institute of Hospitality Management (AIHM), Thailands newest hospitality institute which combines the academic excellence of Les Roches in Switzerland with a uniquely Asian outlook.
 
Tim nice to meet you – please tell us about yourself.
 
I was born and raised in the U.S. but have spent the last 20 years working around the world. I earned an MBA at Harvard Business School which led to my career in international business. I started working for multinationals like PepsiCo and General Mills and was promoted to a series of roles in strategy, marketing and general management. I moved into the education sector about 10 years ago.
 
I come from a family of educators – my father was a professor and my mother a school administrator. I have a deep love of learning which was nurtured by my time with a passionate and international community at Harvard. I am a big believer in the importance of education and its role in the positive development of students, academically and socially, and most importantly in their becoming responsible citizens of their communities.
 
How did you end up in Thailand?

This is our second time living in Thailand. I have been based mostly in Asia and Latin America over my career, and travelled to over 70 countries, but I found myself being drawn back to South East Asia. My wife and I very much enjoy living in Bangkok and raising our kids in a multicultural environment. We have been here for three years now and have no plans to move. It is also exciting being based in South East Asia which is such a key driver of the global economy.
 

Please tell us about AIHM.

AIHM is the vision of Minor International’s founder, Mr. William E. Heinecke who’s always support education projects in Thailand at all levels (primary school, high school, etc). A big part of Minor’s success is the education, training, experience and vision of our team members.

 
AIHM is founded by Minor Hotels, one of the world’s fastest growing hospitality companies, with properties across six continents under a portfolio of both homegrown and international brands – Anantara, Avani, Elewana, Oaks, NH Hotels and Tivoli. Our hotels regularly win awards from leading publications such as Conde Nast Traveller, Travel + Leisure and DestinAsian.
 
We have partnered with Les Roches, one of the top three hospitality institutes in the world, to bring superior education to Asia. Les Roches is known for its Swiss style academic rigour, personalised education paths, and hands on learning in small classes. Students benefit from internships at luxury hotel chains, global businesses and entrepreneurial startups, and are much sought after once they graduate.
 
What makes AIHM unique?
 
There are several key differentiators in our dynamic learning programme. Our international lecturers have real world experience in the hospitality sector and in the classroom and we have access to hotel executives both in corporate and hotel operations who will help round out students learning experiences at AIHM through lectures and guest seminars. Using our business network, we also have lecturers and advisors from the food and beverage, entrepreneurship and emerging disciplines.
 
Our students are based at our campus at Riverside Anantara and Avani+ hotels, which immerses them in day-to-day operations and gives them access to top executives. Internships can take place both at a Minor hotel and a company of the students choosing, not only Minor Hotels, anywhere in the world. This broadens their experience and outlook.
 
Our partnership with Les Roches means our students follow the same curriculum as in Switzerland, and lecturers are trained and certified by Les Roches. Students also have the option of exchanges at Les Roches campuses in Switzerland and Spain – and vice-versa, Les Roches students there can come to Thailand and study at AIHM.
 
Being based in Asia gives our students a unique edge – this is the area of the world to be in in terms of hospitality. We are training students to be next generation leaders and give back to their communities.
What is the biggest challenge facing the education industry today?
 
Obviously Covid-19 has interrupted many students access to education, not just in Thailand but around the world. Some of them have also experienced hardship. As educators, we need to evolve to a new normal, particularly for the more practical aspects of hospitality. Many of our student services are now digital, and our students have adapted quickly – they have learnt resilience and new ways to communicate, work together and solve problems.
 
What do you see for the future of hospitality?
 
We will recover. There is enormous pent up desire for travel, connection and recreation, and the industry will bounce back quickly and continue to grow, particularly in Asia. Our first cohort of students is graduating in 2024, and there will be an increased demand for their talents. They are a very enthusiastic group with a passion to learn and big dreams for the future. I have full confidence that a great many opportunities will be waiting for them, and our students of course benefit from an extensive network of alumni and hoteliers to help them in their careers.
 
The Asian Institute of Hospitality Management has two campuses, one in Bangkok and one in Pattaya. Students are based in some of the worlds leading tourism destinations. The international Bachelor of Business Administration in Global Hospitality Management takes three-and-a-half years to complete, with the next intake in September 2021. For more information, visit https://www.aihm.education/
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Expat Life had the opportunity in lockdown to interview the Mongolian Ambassador to Thailand H.E. Mr. Tumur Amarsanaa online.
 
How long have you been the Ambassador to Thailand?
 
Since August 2020, I presented my Letters of Credence to His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun on the 26th of October 2020 and officially started my duty as an Ambassador of Mongolia to Thailand that day.
 
Did you arrive in Thailand from home, or were you posted somewhere else before?
 
I came directly from Mongolia, where I worked for the last nine years as a Deputy Director-General and Director-General for the International Legal Affairs and Treaty Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before that, I served as a diplomat at the Embassy of Mongolia to the Republic of Austria and Permanent Mission to the International Organisations in Vienna.
 
Where are you born and brought up?
 
I was born into a family of teachers and raised in Ulaanbaatar. Usually, the fates of the children are substantially influenced by the family they were born into. That was the case why I became an international lawyer.
 
How do you look at Thailand today? Have you had any obstacles since you arrived?
 
I look at Thailand as a country with a constructive approach that continuously improves its people’s social lives. Especially today, we can witness that Thailand has become one of the first countries that responded to Covid-19 effectively under strong leadership with the well resourced public health system. I have experienced no obstacles in my personal life since my arrival. The only obstacle could be the lengthened process and delayed approach in some official relations. We need lively and prompt collaboration to advance relations in today’s dynamic world. 
 
Thailand has an ambitious plan to become “a developed country” by 2037 in its national strategy. Thus, the Royal Thai Government has successfully launched Eastern Economic Corridor, Thailand 4.0, and other development strategies and projects. As one of ASEAN’s key members, Thailand has made tangible progress in achieving sustainable development goals, especially in renewable energy, information technology, tourism, and the public health sector during the last decades. I think this experience of Thailand might be vital for us to study
Do you see any similarities between your country and Thailand?
 
Most Asian countries have similarities in culture, religion, ancestor worship, and natural collectivism. Amongst these significant similarities tying our countries together, in my personal view, is that the networking connection strongly emphasises similarities, maybe because the culture transferred into a business. Thai people are amicable and hospitable in every aspect of their daily life. That makes Thailand one of the famous tourist destinations, in my opinion. This type of hospitality to guests, travellers, and foreigners is also common in Mongolian nomadic culture.    
 
How do you look upon your work here? What does an average day look like?
 
We recently moved our Embassy to Athenee Tower, the premier office building in the heart of Bangkok. The location is close to the Ploenchit BTS station. This significant location saves the visitors’ valuable time and provides an opportunity for us to make necessary diplomatic contacts. Since time is the only nonrenewable resource, our Embassy works every day during the Covid-19 to overcome issues caused by this pandemic and how we can support businesses to recover.
 
As with every Ambassador, I assume you have some goals you really would like to fulfil before you leave Thailand. What are they?
 
Resources have always been played an essential role in framing the country. The countries’ ability in our Asian region is to use their resource to manufacture and build high tech industries. I see that this is our possibility of cooperation which is eye opening in its scale. Having said that, and even though our team has numerous goals to achieve, the priority has given upraised collaboration between our two countries.
How many of your countryfolk are living in Thailand? When and why did Thailand become a desirable destination for your people?
 
We have around a hundred compatriots living in Thailand. Even though we are few in numbers, I firmly believe that Mongolians residing in Thailand are outstanding contributors to Thailand’s development. The number of Mongolians visiting the Land of Smiles is increasing because of Thai’s impressive picturesque beaches and hospitality provided by the welcoming and friendly people of Thailand. The other reason is that we have two non-stop flights a week connecting our two capitals, Ulaanbaatar and Bangkok. If we increase the direct flight frequency, the growth of tourist numbers in this region will expand dramatically.
 
Do your country and Thailand have any exchange programs for students today?
 
We do have cooperation between the universities, and we hope to expand collaboration between universities further. Based on a Covid-19 pandemic experience, I found that the Thailand university laboratories are very attractive for researchers who may not have access to the scientific facilities or joint international research on particular areas. During the last six months, I have visited Chulalongkorn University, the National Institute of Development Administration, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, and Chiang Mai University and agreed to develop an exchange programme and benefit from a variety of research.
 
If you could choose your next destination, where would you like to go?
 
The future depends on what you do today. Thus, I choose a place where I can do as many things as possible for my country.
 
What do you believe is your most important task as Ambassador?
 

Our job is to increase trade volume between our two nations. As a lawyer, my job is to encourage entrepreneurs to invest and build a concrete legal basis for reliable investment. We are working on several documents with our Thai counterparts on the Inter-Governmental Bilateral Investment Agreement and Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, which is the primary document to benefit both countries. The other thing is we encouraging B2B networking to find various opportunities to connect entrepreneurs. The Thai Chamber of Commerce graciously accepted our idea to realise this opportunity, and we established the Mongolia-Thailand Joint Chamber of Commerce in March of this year. Once these two tasks are fulfilled, then it will unquestionably improve two way trade ties.

What else would you like the expat community to know about your efforts?

I want to invite all people involved in the business sector to come on board to the Mongolia-Thailand joint Chamber of Commerce that could serve as a big ticket to expand their businesses. 

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I found myself taking a tour of the wide open spaces of Esan recently, the agricultural heartland of Thailand. I hadn’t been there for many years and so much has changed in this area – the roads are all either four lane carriageways or in the process of being widened. The out of town shopping malls seem to have blossomed in all of the major towns.

I made the mistake originally of visiting the major towns like Ubon Ratchathani and Surin and although new hotels have sprung up, there really is not a need to travel city to city. 

Later in the week I arrived in Buriram which has been put on the map by Mr. Nevin Chidchob and his family who have invested heavily in sports and the infrastructure. I then found the serenity of X2 Vibe Buriram and decided to base myself there and travel outwards from the city each day.

Football is the mainstay of the city and it seems that everyone in Buriram province is proud to wear the blue shirt with the club logo on it. Thunder Castle is their home and it is an impressive stadium on the outskirts of the city.

The family then built an international racetrack behind the stadium and now host MOTO GP and frequent domestic and international events and again it is an impressive racetrack and spectator facilities. I wonder how long it will be before Mr. Chidchob captures Formula 1 motor racing. 

There are a host of historic sites within easy reach of the city: Phanom Rung which is an ancient Khmer temple on an old volcano and is a smaller scale Ankor Wat. Prasat Muang Tam, a smaller more serene destination at the bottom of the hill. 

Khao Kradong Forest which is a national park again on an old volcano. Wat Khao Angkhan a Khmer Buddhist temple just over an hour from Buriram city. Phimai Historical Park and temple an ancient complex with impressive decor just 90 minutes from Buriram.

So if the sporting events and or the myriad of shopping facilities do not capture your interest you can as you can see make various visits to the surrounding towns and cities all from your base in Buriram in the heart of Esan.

X2 Vibe Buriram seems to be the best hotel in the area. Although built 5 years ago the facilities are in excellent order. There is the largest swimming pool in Buriram in a central courtyard, a fitness suite for the young at heart and the rooms are modern, impeccably clean and the staff know how to take care of their guests. An all day cafe even served complementary afternoon tea and it is off the beaten track but just 3 minutes from the highway and the major shopping facilities.


X2 Vibe Buriram 044 634 678 x2vibe.com Cross Hotels and Resorts

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I needed a break from Bangkok and wanted to go somewhere within easy reach of the city and coming from an island in the UK I have always felt that I have an affinity with water so chose to visit Kanchanaburi.  

The driving distance from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is only 78 miles/126kms but it took an hour to get across Bangkok so the journey time door to door was about two and a half hours. Once you clear the metropolis the dual carriageway is easy driving, although as ever with most Thai routes from Bangkok, they are improving them so there were roadworks. 

Sadly Kanchanaburi is best known for the 1957 film The bridge on the River Kwai starring Alec Guinness and William Holden and the atrocities that occurred whilst the Japanese oversaw the building of the 257 mile/415kms railway line from Thanbyuzayat in Burma (now Myanmar) to Non Pladuk in Thailand.

Commonly referred to as the Railroad of Death or Death Railway was one of only eight steel bridges of the estimated 688 that were built. The rest were made of wood and local materials. The Japanese Railway Regiment forced thousands of allied POWs and natives to build the railway using what they could carry in their hands or on their backs from nearby camps. The barbaric methods without modern mechanical technology subjected each man to find their soul to survive.

Standing in front of a dense wall of jungle, miles of uneven terrain, mountains that needed to be blown apart with explosives armed with just hand tools, working 18 hour shifts – the Japanese felt no sympathy as they poked at the prisoners with bayonets when they struggled to continue. They used outdated equipment, such as an 10 pound hammer and chisel, carried supplies up and down uneven rock surfaces, faced fears of heights while standing next to cliff faces, and overcame the dangers of working around the clock despite illness and fatigue.

I remember watching the film as a kid so had to visit. The city has many memorials including the Death Railway Museum, a number of cemeteries, the Railroad of Death, Hellfire Pass as well as rivers, caves, waterfalls, and many other natural attractions. 

One of the nearby waterfalls is seven tiered, emerald green and magnificent and can be found in the Erawan National Park (one of the most famous in all of Thailand), just a short journey from town centre. Deciduous forest covers 81% of the park, while the remainder is blanketed in evergreens, making the whole area a real haven for nature lovers. They even encourage visitors to swim in several of the plunge pools in the area.

Srinakarin National Park is another perfect choice for nature lovers near to the city. It is famed primarily for the spectacular Huay Mae Khamin waterfall, which crashes down towards the Khwae Yai River and is said to be the most stunning Thailand attraction. Adventurous visitors can visit caves in the park, whilst art lovers must see Tham Sawan and Tham Phra, where prehistoric paintings rub shoulders with a wondrous Buddha image. There are animals like leopards, bats and orioles are also reported to be in the park – so keep your eyes and ears open.

I used to think that it was because I was born on an island that I had an affinity with water. So I was lucky enough to stay at X2 River Kwai Resort, Kanchanaburi in what can best be described as a floating hotel suite.

It had floor to ceiling windows facing the river where you could access a terrace with table and chairs, a day bed and two kayaks. You could also get onto the roof where there were large day beds to view the green and verdant riverbanks and watch the odd boat trundle past.

The bedroom had a king sized bed, nicely appointed bathroom with separate shower and wc cubicles, a bathtub to soak in and the boutique styled hotel was perfect for couples or family groups and an ideal base to explore the area. Highly recommended. 

034 552 124  [email protected]

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International Schools – UK Universities – Year Abroad in Beijing – First Job in Bangkok

by Alice Osborne



Hi there, my name is Alice! I’m twenty -two years old and currently based in Bangkok. Not one for stereotypes, but definitely fit your perceived mould of a third culture kid – born in the UK but relocated to South East Asia at the age of two. I graduated from the University of Manchester in the summer of 2020 and now find myself starting a career in Bangkok with a blockchain company called SDLT. Exciting times!

To date, I have lived in a total of five countries: Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, China, and England. What I don’t tend to tell people upon first meeting them is that I’ve moved between these countries eleven times over the last twenty -two years and can’t even begin to recall the number of times I’ve relocated to a new house… my intuitive guess would be to treble that eleven! How many times people have asked whether my parents are in the military or are diplomats – of which they are neither – I have also lost count of. 

People can think what they like, but my parents didn’t come out to Asia twenty years ago as CEO’s or GM’s. They came as a loved -up, middle -aged British couple attracted to the region’s sensational potential. It was actually mum who drove dad to ‘go for it’ and pursue a career out here because ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. Had she not then my story would be quite a bit different! People can think what they like but I come from a conscientious family that have given me opportunity not money. Forever grateful to my mum and dad for providing this extraordinary start in life, which I have worked incredibly hard to maximise. 

Just sharing with you how life can be

The article you’re reading today has no intention of being perfect, it’s about how I feel today and my journey. I’m not a journalist or a publicistpublished author, just sharing with you how life can be. My hope is that students, young professionals, and parents can read it and get some value about how they live their life going forward. If you’re a parent, that could be something as simple as loving your children andor letting them grow into who they want to be. 

This piece explores my recent experiences with university in the UK, a year studying in China, working life in Bangkok, and also reflects broadly on my fifteen years in international education. 




Feeling like a stranger in my country of birth

Education is the most defining aspect of my life so far, having been immersed in it since starting out at Singapore’s Brighton Montessori at the age of three. Nineteen of my twenty -two years have been shaped by the schools and university that I’ve attended. People say that third culture kids are the citisenscitizens of everywhere and nowhere. It wasn’t until I went to the UK for university that I understood what was meant by the latter… 

Despite having spent the majority of my life in Asia, the feeling of being a stranger in my birth country was still surprising. It was the little things such as when native Brits would assume that I knew the staple TV show/musician/local pub they were referring to or casually used unfamiliar slang words. There were Western customs and normal ways of doing things that felt more unfamiliar to me than those in the foreign countries I had relocated to in the past. I preferred green tea to English breakfast for one. 

You learn to understand people from different backgrounds, adapt to situations, remove expectations, embrace new things. Fast forward four years and now the deep connection to Manchester and the feeling of longing to return is what surprises me! The down-to-earth people, vibrant city, and independent coffee shops are among the things I miss most. It was difficult to have this chapter cut short so abruptly when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Hope to go back when it’s safe so I can see my wonderful boyfriend who I miss A LOTa lot.

The proudest moment of my time in education was graduating (virtually) with a degree in Business Management and& Mandarin, with first class honours and distinction in spoken Chinese. The icing on the cake to end this chapter was receiving the university’s most prestigious extracurricular accolade, the Stellify Award. Receiving my certificates was still brilliant, regardless of the fact a DHL mailman handed it to me instead of the School Directorthe Head of School.

Sure, I had a fair share of culture shocks when returning to the UK. Even more so when moving to China on my own – more about that to follow. But as any of us international students appreciate; the feeling is only temporary. We know it won’t be too long until that familiar sense of belonging greets us like an old friend, making a new place feel like a second/third/fourth/fifth (you get the picture) home. 




A phenomenal year studying in Beijing 

The most demanding but inspiring experience to date was the year spent studying abroad in China. Going to Beijing was the first major personal decision and challenge to face completely solo. It has to be said that I thought my spoken Mandarin would be good having studied it for almost 6 years… But upon landing in Beijing Capital International Airport quickly realised that I could not speak Mandarin in a way intelligible to locals, nor could I understand their native accents. 

I enrolled on the 720 hour ‘Intensive Chinese Language Programme’ at Tsinghua University in Beijing, often referred to as the Oxford or Cambridge of Asia. The first month felt like it lasted a year. An unparalleled learning curve from a cultural and linguistic perspective. By the end of the two semesters, my command of the language had progressed substantially, and I was proud to pass level 5 of the HSK Chinese Proficiency test with a score of 261/300! There are 6 levels in total. 

At Tsinghua, the access to insightful panels, lectures and speeches given by highly esteemed professors and experts from around the world was phenomenal. In my second semester I sought an internship at the Global Communications Office to write articles about these current affairs lectures taking place on campus. It was a personal first, writing for enjoyment rather than for an educational requirement. I developed an attachment to accurately representing the opinions/arguments of the speaker, as well as a fondness for adjusting the style of writing and selecting appropriate content in order make the article accessible for a wider audience.

Overall, my time in China was incredible beyond expectation. Personal highlights include camping on the Great Wall, strolls around the Summer Palace, boating across Longqing Gorge, karaoke in Pingyao Ancient City, and pitstops to eat dumplings at 2am on the cycle back to campus. Even the daily 8am Chinese classes hold a special place in my heart! Especially when followed by Hainan chicken rice for lunch in the canteen and a yummy bubble tea. Not such fond feelings towards the minus 20 -degree extreme winter weather… The memory of renting bicycles for my parents to tour the campus on a minus 10 -degree freezing cold day does make me smile though. 

It’s incredible to be able to make friends and have contacts across the globe. The opportunity to continuously learn and explore through new people, places, and cultures is something I truly cherish. With age have I’ve definitely realised how central language is to understand and communicate with people on a deeper level. Now that I plan to work in Bangkok for a while, the Thai lessons have begun!




Starting a career in Bangkok with my first full-time job

When COVID-19 spiked in March, I hopped on a plane back to Bangkok to be with my parents and finish university remotely. Made it just in time before the borders shut! Considering the turmoil plaguing the world and seeing the majority of my fellow graduates in the UK firmly unemployed, I feltfelt extremely fortunate to find a job in Asia. The timing was ideal as the business had just begun rapid expansion. The company is called SDLT and specialises in distributed ledger technology a.k.a. blockchain. 

Back in August at the start of the job as ‘Creative Media Publicist’, my technical knowledge wasn’t amazing. Six months down the line and I am becoming increasingly passionate about blockchain through regular research and related copywriting. Seems that I am realising its huge potential as leading businesses in of the post-COVID environment do so too! As creative lead at SDLT, I have been responsible for writing original technical articles, developing company branding and marketing materials, designing graphic and digital media about distributed ledger technology. Now that the domestic and international markets are ready for cutting -edge blockchain, work has been especially exciting with various press releases and networking events.

It’s been great to work in a dynamic, start -up environment within a team that is energetic and driven to the max. Flexible working habits which have become commonplace since COVID also mean I’m able to strike a great balance between professional and personal life. Many of my morning Tteams meetings on Teams have been happily spent at Luka Moto with an oat milk matcha latte in hand! Please reach out if anything I have’ve said strikes a chord with you, I’m always happy to meet for a matcha and a chat.

It’s already been such an outstanding journey to get to this point where my life as a working professional begins…!

Looking back on the academic rigour of international education

Reflecting on my time at school in Asia, the biggest lesson learnt thing I’ve learnt is that being academically strong does not make you immune to the educational rigour systemically embedded in international schools. 

In Singapore, I loved attending Tanglin and progressed to get excellent IGCSE grades during my eight years there. Teachers suggested that I would be suitable for the rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) for post -secondary education rather than A -levels, the route initially in mind. Last minute my family decided to move us to Thailand, where IB was the only option at Bangkok Patana School. Although being an all -rounder with strong IGCSE grades (6 A*’s, 4 A’s), I found the academic transition very demanding. The support of outstanding parents, teachers, and friends made all the difference!

The IB came with its own challenges, heightened by being the new girl again for my last two years of school. I struggled with maths and physics, two subjects that I had previously excelled at. On reflection, I could hav’vee been smarter with subject choices; higher level physics, economics, and business with standard level maths’ maths, mandarin, and literature was quite the killer combination. Not only for Uuniversity applications but also my energy levels! 

Regardless of academic prowess, the IB taught me the importance of playing to your strengths and making balanced choices to avoid burnout. This has greatly benefitted my approach to university and work. During the two -year programme my brain held the largest quantity and diversity of information it has experienced to date, even university didn ’nott compare. The personal growth I experience throughout my time in education also went beyond intellectual development and academic success. I cCan’t believe I’m about to quote the ‘IB Learner Profile’, but it’s true. We do become inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open -minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective. 

Upon review it’s interesting to note that after leaving school, the greatest challenges I faced at university where not to do with the academics at all. Rather, they concerned cultural aspects of adjusting to independent life in the UK and studying abroad in China. 

Throughout my education journey, I never knew what profession I would like to go into in the future. All I knew was that my heart was in Asia, so wanted to specialise in Mandarin instead of choosing a specific career path as a lawyer, doctor, or urban planner. I had also loved studying business at school. The University of Manchester offered the course best suited to these requirements, and I went with it despite unconditional offers from higher -ranking institutions like Kings College London, whose programmes didn’t have the Mandarin component. I did seriously consider abandoning the Chinese portion of the degree to go to a more prestigious university but am so glad my parents advised me to stick with it!

Now it’s down to me!

It’s refreshing to look back and realise that the writing skills I have developed from a steady stream of academic essays can now be applied in my career. 

Reflecting on the work so far with SDLT, I have written good copy that includes two of their entire websites, original blockchain insights, press releases, social media marketing posts, and materials for clients. This has prompted several realisations that 1. mMy writing skills extend beyond academic writing, 2. I enjoy writing, and 3. Wwould really like to see where a career in this could go. 

So here I am writing my first personal perspective piece for Expat Life in Thailand! It’s not something I have done before and take my hat off to all the writers out there who use first person more than third. There’s considerable demand here in Thailand for quality English copy, whether that be magazine articles, blog posts, press releases, website content, social media posts, marketing brochures, you name it. 

So, my plans for 2021 are to explore the freelance potential in this arena, keep learning about blockchain, dabble in an online coding course, rent my own place in Bangkok, start a food blog, and perhaps train for a half marathon. I’m also working on honing my written Mandarin so I can incorporate it into upcoming writing endeavours as there’s no doubt China will feature heavily in my future. 

It’s been a challenging time as of late. I feel so fortunate to be close to my family, have stimulating work and great friends to explore the bustling city of Bangkok with. 

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Domestic violence is closer than you think. It is often perpetrated by someone close or intimate with the victim. More than 600 million women live in countries where intimate partner violence or domestic violence is not considered a crime. Domestic violence and abuse do not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or background. Women and children are often more vulnerable to domestic violence, which rears its head in various forms, including physical, sexual, financial and emotional as well as controlling behavior. Domestic violence and abuse are used to gain and maintain control, keeping victims under the abuser’s thumb. There are many causes of domestic violence and abuse. It may start when one partner feels the need to control and dominate the other because of low self-esteem, extreme jealousy, difficulties controlling strong emotions or when they are under a lot of stress. 

We at L’Oréal fully understand the seriousness of domestic violence and felt the need to take action against violence and stand up for those who are most in need. We want to use our brands and partnerships with non-profit organizations as a platform for meaningful campaigns that spread knowledge and raise awareness about domestic violence and mental health issues, with the hope that it can be useful and further contribute to meaningful change as well as to help break the stigma behind domestic violence as well as ally the trauma of the abused victims. 

During this difficult time we brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown situation, we hear and see heartbreaking stories of domestic abuse becoming increasingly prevalent. Many women are trapped living with an abusive partner during the lockdown and are unable to seek help from experts, organizations, friends, loved ones or colleagues.

One of our brands, Yves Saint Laurent Beauty in Paris, France, launched the “Abuse is Not Love” program in November. It is a global program aimed at helping combat intimate partner violence (IPV). Approximately 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime and prevalence rates have increased from 30 percent to 60 percent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the United States, United Kingdom and France, one woman is killed every three days by their partner. Abuse is Not Love is supporting the prevention programs of its non-profit partners through funding academic research to develop thought-leadership around youth and prevention, training YSL Beauty employees and beauty advisors on intimate partner violence in the workplace as well as educating at least 2 million people by 2030 on common signs of IPV. If key warning signs can be detected early, we may be able to recognize it better and seek or offer help to the victims. Abuse is Not Love was launched as a global program with 3 key partnerships in 2020: En Avant Toute(s) in France, Women’s Aid in the UK, and It’s on Us in the U.S., with more partnerships coming in 2021 in other countries. 

Supporting women, especially when it comes to their independence, is central to the way the brand acts. Intimate partner violence hinders the safety, wellbeing and independence of women,” said Stephan Bezy, International General Manager at Yves Saint Laurent Beauty. “It therefore felt very natural to work on an issue that stood in opposition to our core values and beliefs.” 

Maybelline New York also felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which has taken a physical and mental toll on everyone around the world. More than 284 million people experienced anxiety disorders. Depression affects more than 264 million people. Half of all mental health conditions start by age 14, and with the Covid-19 pandemic, these numbers are rising. With anxiety and depression on the rise, as the no. 1 international makeup brand, Maybelline New York wants to provide the right support to help tackle obstacles that are in the way of women and young adults making their mark. With the help of leading mental health NGOs, experts and advocates are offering hands to help Maybelline during this program which is the “Maybelline Brave Together Program”. It is a global cause that provides critical one-on-one support and helps everyone, everywhere. 

Maybelline has always believed in the power of making things happen in your life.  And we know that mental health is critical in feeling ready to do that,” says Trisha Ayyagari, Global Brand President, Maybelline New York.  “We want to use our global voice to de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health and make support easily accessible.  Now, more than ever, we need to be there for those living with anxiety and depression.”  

Maybelline’s Brave Together program aims to help teenagers and young adults who are struggling with anxiety and depression, to break down the stigma around anxiety and depression, and provide cross-generational support. By partnering with leading non-profit organizations, the program has a specially curated online platform that gives people around the world access to an online community. The program was announced on @Maybelline Instagram account and maybelline.com/bravetogether in September. 

Over the past two years, Maybelline has commissioned an expert-led research and conducted focus groups to better understand the topic of mental health. In the focus group, people need a globally accessible platform featuring resources and tips on mental health. Our online community will foster an open, diverse and inclusive destination with inspiration and stories from real people and experts worldwide. To let them know that they are not in this alone, Maybelline has partnered with leading non-profit organization Crisis Text Line to provide increased access to free, 24/7 confidential crisis counseling via text message — those in need can text TOGETHER to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor. Maybelline also wants to expand this program even further and has committed to investing $10 million over the next five years to mental health organizations worldwide who share its goal of making a real difference. Maybelline Brave Together will continue to grow and develop with the current environment with support from its partners.

An international survey on sexual harassment in public spaces, conducted in partnership with L’Oreal Paris, Ipsos and researchers at Cornell University, reveals that 78% of women have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. Only 25% of victims say someone helped them. Moreover, 86% of us do not know what to do when we witness it happening. Also, the survey found that 79% of victims of sexual harassment in public spaces say it improved the situation when a witness intervened. These results are extremely alarming. Armed with information and the determination to stand up for all women and combat against everyday street harassment, L’Oreal Paris launched an international bystander training program called “Stand Up Against Street Harassment” in partnership with NGO Hollaback! The program aims to train 1 million people globally in bystander intervention to tackle street harassment. Stand Up aims to simultaneously discourage harassers, support victims, and encourage bystanders to intervene in a bid to overall effect a cultural shift in the global response to street harassment. With the brand’s signature tagline, “I’m worth it”, L’Oréal Paris has multiplied brand initiatives to break down the barriers that prevent women from fully believing in and realizing their self-worth. Leveraging its global reach, today, the Stand Up movement takes the brand’s support for women into the public space by tackling the intimidating behaviours that impact girls’ and women’s very sense of freedom to move through the world. 

“L’Oréal Paris stands for empowerment in every walk of a woman’s life. By removing obstacles preventing women from fulfilling their ambitions, we are committed to elevating their sense of self-worth. With Hollaback! and other local NGO partners we invite women and men to stand up, to safely respond when they witness or experience street harassment. Together we can create a world for girls and women to march confidently forward into a future free from street harassment.” Delphine Viguier-Hovasse, Global Brand President of L’Oréal Paris. 

The Stand Up program was launched in five countries on International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8. It will be launched in more countries including Thailand. The program aims to drive awareness of street harassment on a global scale to create a call-to-action. To prevent street harassment happening in the future — from schools to public transport to festivals to online spaces — Stand Up will grow a global community of 1 million upstanders trained in the 5Ds method: Direct, Distract, Delegate, Document, and Delay. 

Thai women also encounter domestic violence, street harassment and depression. L’Oreal Thailand will activate the brands’ global campaigns as well as provide tools and trainings in Thailand to help raise awareness and fight against these issues. 

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