Expat Life

Welcome back to my latest newsletter. Many thanks again for your feedback and advice. I do appreciate that you are taking the time to read my newsletters. Hopefully you will also enjoy this week’s Letter from Thailand.

The big news this week is that the UK has taken Thailand off the Red List. Not only that, but they are also recognising vaccine certificates issued in Thailand. So, if your vaccine is on the approved list, you can now enter the UK without having to do quarantine. This is good news for me as I have been double jabbed with AstraZeneca. Unfortunately, the news is not so good for other people. The two main vaccines administered in Thailand, namely Sinovac and Sinopharm, are not yet recognised. Nor is mix and matching such as first jab of Sinovac and second jab of AstraZeneca. But you can mix vaccines on the approved list.

King Power Mahanakhon Building

King Power Mahanakhon Building in Bangkok (Photo by Sam Wayde)

This week, the SkyWalk on top of the King Power Mahanakhon building reopened to the public. I never get bored with these views and so I couldn’t resist going there on opening night. At 314 metres, it is the highest publicly accessible viewing platform in Bangkok. As you can see in this photo by Sam Wyde, it is open air and you can get a 360 degrees view of the capital. On a clear day, you can see as far as the islands near Pattaya. You can actually see the tallest building in Bangkok in this same photo. The Magnolias Waterfront Residence, next to ICON Siam, is 318 meters high. But they cheated as they put a spire on top to reach that record.

An artist impression of One Bangkok

Although Magnolias Waterfront Residence and King Power Mahanakhon seem very high to us, they will soon be dwarfed by the 430 metre tower in the Bangkok One project that is being built opposite Lumpini Park. This will be like a mini city as it will have five luxury hotels, retail precincts, offices and residential units. It is expected to be completed in 2023.

Self-Test Kits for Covid-19

I bought a box of ATK for my neighbour whose son tested positive. He doesn’t live with them but they wanted to get tested. They really need to make ATKs cheaper if not free. The price has come down to ฿1,299 for 5 kits. But still too expensive for my neighbour who is unemployed. https://t.co/BCq7MxArRs

I’ve been doing the Antigen self-tests for Covid-19 at my workplace every Monday for the past month. In some countries, this has become the norm though not so much in Thailand due to the cost. They started at 1,500B at Boots for a box of five kits (300B per kit). The last time I bought a box, it had been reduced to 1,299B which is 259B each. Still too expensive for most Thais. However, the government is now distributing them for free to high-risk groups and from 18th October, anyone can buy them for only 40B each from Government Pharmaceutical Organisation pharmacies around Bangkok. I have done a map for you. Scroll down for the link.

GPO Pharmacies in Greater Bangkok

Thai schools are talking about going back on campus for the start of the second semester on 1st November. I know some international schools have already gone back. A friend of mine said he has to do the self-test for his kids every Sunday evening and then send the results to the school. I think my school will be doing much the same thing. I am also pretty sure we will be expected to pay for these test kits. Hopefully by then, prices would have come down and become more widely available. Maybe even for sale in 7-11 convenience stores.

Lunch with the New British Ambassador

I had a good lunch today with the new British Ambassador @markgooding at his private residence. We chatted for several hours about various issues that concern tourists and expats living in Thailand. https://t.co/KPYQtz0SkH

I was really happy to be invited to have lunch with the new British Ambassador last week at his private residence. This follows my tour of the new embassy in AIA Sathorn Tower a few months back. I find these informal meetings with ambassadors, and consular staff, very important to get to know each other and to let them know about concerns of the expat community. I share a number of social issues and concerns as them such as tourist safety, road safety, air quality and climate change, and of course, fair and equal treatment of foreigners living in Thailand. During lunch, we talked about ways we can work together to help the expat community.

Lunch with the British Ambassador

I didn’t post pictures of what we ate and so quite a few people asked about this. So, if you are really interested, we had smoked duck and mango salad for the starters, seared red grouper with lemon butter sauce and vegetables for the main course, and lemon posset for dessert

View from the British Ambassador’s Residence

I cannot show you pictures of the inside of his residence, but I will say that it is much larger than I thought it would be. I think there is enough room to host a reception here for up to 40 people. Obviously not as many as what they were able to do in the past at the old residence, but you cannot beat the magnificent view that they have now.

The Former British Embassy

The Former British Embassy in 2018

After eating lunch with the British Ambassador at his new private residence, I thought it would be a good idea to go and take a look at what has happened to the former residence on Ploenchit Road. I took the above photo about three years ago from the fifth floor of Central Embassy. The mall where I stood used to be the front lawn of the embassy. The remaining land was sold in 2018 for a record at the time of £420 million. It was bought by Central Group and its Hong Kong partner. At the time they said it would become a mixed-use project.

The Former British Embassy in 2018

This is how the plot of land now looks three years later. To be honest, I thought there would be more progress by now. I am not sure why it is taking them so long. The War Memorial, which I will talk about in a future newsletter, was moved to the British Club. The Queen Victoria monument was sold as part of the deal. It will apparently be put back in place once the building has been completed. I am not sure where it is at the moment. I also heard a rumour that the former ambassador’s residence would also be reconstructed on site and be used for functions. But that seems very unlikely.

Nai Lert’s Boundary Markers

Boundary marker at Ploenchit intersection

It’s always good to see some historical landmarks still remaining in Bangkok. This structure in front of Central Embassy used to be one of six boundary markers on the land owned by Nai Lert. This is the information about it from the plaque:
In 1909, Phraya Bhakdinoraseth (Lert Sreshthaputra) bought a vast plot of land near Saen Saep canal. The low lying land, full of tall grass and reeds, was developed, next to the roads which Nai Lert named Ploenchit, Chidlom and Somkid, and turned this land into a huge park where he built a villa, known today as the Nai Lert Park Heritage Home. Nai Lert, the visionary, designed unique boundary markers. The six two metre tall markers, built to imitate ancient cannons with their muzzles pointing to the ground, were placed along the border line to prevent future boundary dispute and to facilitate the boundary survey. Many years later, the markers were dismantled, with only one left at the Wittayu-Ploenchit intersection. This remaining marker is considered to be one of the historical monuments of Pathumwan District in Bangkok.

Blessing a New Aircraft

A monk gives a traditional Buddhist blessing to two new Airbus A330neo aircraft that were recently delivered to Thai Lion Air. Blessing new vehicles is a Buddhist tradition in Thailand. It is believed to bring the owner good luck and to help avoid misfortune #Thailand https://t.co/3txOFORdno

I have attended monk ceremonies before for new houses and even new cars. This week was the first time that I was invited to the blessing of a new aircraft. Thai Lion Air had asked Phra Sitthi Singhaseni, Abbot of Phraya Suren Temple, to come and anoint two Airbus A330neo Aircraft and to give a blessing. Also present at the ceremony were Mr. Thierry Mathou (French Ambassador to Thailand), Mr. Pierre Andre (Head of Country, Airbus Thailand), and Pilot Officer Thanee Chuangchoo (General Manager of Don Mueang Mueang International Airport).

Thai Lion Air recently bought two new Airbus A330neo aircraft, which were delivered last week from Airbus in Toulouse, France. The airline is planning to fly to international routes and air cargo services at Don Mueang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport. As well as witnessing the ceremony, I was able to sit in the cockpit. Really cool.

In the cockpit of Airbus A330neo

Commemorative Pepsi Cans

When I was a kid, I used to collect commemorative Coca Cola cans. These ‘Taste of Asia’ Pepsi cans at 7-11 caught my attention this week. It’s a nice souvenir of Thailand having pictures of Thai Street Food on them. I couldn’t resist buying the complete set. By the way, before you ask, it doesn’t have a spicy flavour!

Klong Lad Pho Flood Gates in Samut Prakan

These are the Klong Lad Pho floodgates in Phra Pradaeng district of Samut Prakan. There’s been a short cut canal here for hundreds of years for small boats to shorten their journey to Bangkok. In 2006, the canal was widened, and floodgates built. Now it is a short cut for water flowing out to sea which helps alleviate the flood problem in Bangkok.

The big loop at Bangkachao

The big loop in this section of the Chao Phraya River is 18km long but the short cut canal is only 600 metres. When the tide goes out, they open the floodgates and instead of the journey taking 5 hours, it only takes 10 minutes for the water to drain out along the shortcut canal.

The Royal Thai Navy did some experiments and they found that these purpose built boats moored in place helped push the water through the shortcut canal and out to sea faster than normal. It is claimed that these twelve boats in this narrow canal can push 30,000 to 150,000 cubic metres of water per day. This ultimately helps alleviate flooding in riverside communities. You can read about the math for this here.

Bangkok Walking Maps

In Issue #3 I gave you a link to the first of a series of PDF downloads for a book called Walking Bangkok. This week, the map is for Nang Loeng. If you are doing these walks and are posting your pictures on social media, please use the hashtag #walkingBKK as I would like to see what you discover. I will be doing the Nang Loeng walk this week if you want to follow along virtually.

That’s all for this week. The school holidays have now started and so I will be out and about a lot over the next few weeks doing some exploring. However, due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, I plan to stay close to home. Follow me on social media for the latest pictures of my travels. Links can be found on my blog www.richardbarrow.com

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

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

0 comment
3 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Everyone loves a good love story, right?

Where do I begin? Let me start at the end, when I met Perry at Maybelle’s Coffee Garden in Phuket. He has just returned from his wedding ceremony in Korat in the northeast of Thailand. A glistening gold ring on his finger engraved with Phichawi Perry. This spurred me to write this blog as a testament to a Thai love story.

Maybelle’s Coffee Garden

The love story began at Maybelle’s Coffee Garden, a melting pot for those arriving via the Phuket Sandbox. You will literally find all sorts of people here, from those sipping health smoothies or wheatgrass shots, or those after a pre training coffee who have found Muay Thai as fitness their saviour. Or the ‘Stuff it! Life is for living!’ guys ordering a Big Baddy brekkie with black pudding! From hairy arsed traders to cool crypto currency geeks speaking in foreign tongues, coffee for us ladies – of all ages, we are an eclectic international mix. Drawn into coffee conversations are tales of life’s triumphs and adversities, and occasionally a love story. There is never a dull moment at Maybelle’s!

Richie and Maybelle’s YouTube

Maybelle’s Coffee Garden is an off-the-beaten-track destination, tucked away by the main road. Most arrivals seeking out Maybelle’s million-dollar smile, as Richie calls it, already know the lay of the land from watching Richie and Maybelle’s YouTube channel. 

Here, an overseas bloke meets and falls in love with a beautiful Thai lady. The attraction of their story is replicated many times over in this coffee garden by those drawn to meet them and share their own similar and very personal love stories. It’s not all boy meets girl, this week I meet an Aussie lass who meets and falls in love with her Thai Muay Thai teacher.

Love in the garden

The first thing you see when arriving at the cafe is a giant love heart with a bench in its middle – a perfect Instagram photo spot, or just a place to cuddle up for a happy snap. Richie and Maybelle’s are as captivating in person as they are on camera with an ever growing number of 16,000 plus subscribers.

No wonder they inspired Perry to push through the obstacles of pandemic life to return to his long awaited wedding ceremony to Phichawi. Perry like Richie is from the UK. He has been coming to Thailand for twenty years, returning year after year for the beaches, hot weather, Thai food, attracted by the friendly people and the freedom to explore Phuket on his bike. 

Perry met Phichawi who worked at a restaurant in Patong in December 2018, on a stopover to see his daughter in Australia. Phichawi had moved to Phuket for work after her husband was killed in a motor scooter accident, leaving behind her two children to be looked after separately by her mother and her mother in law. 

Perry laughs telling how the shy Phichawi stood him up when he invited her to join him on his motorbike to visit the Big Buddha. She said she slept in, after all, her work was long hours and she was always tired.

Luckily, Perry gave Phichawi a second chance and by the end his visit they knew it was serious. Perry cut short his Australian holiday returning to Phuket on the homeward leg, to be with Phichawi. 

With Perry’s support, she was now able to realise her dream of owning a shop in her village and give up the all night work. She packs in her job and Perry takes her back home to be reunited with her two teenage children. 

By Jan 2020 Perry returned to Thailand to complete the legal paper work and marry his Thai sweetheart. But with Covid looming they were not able to have the big village marriage celebration they hoped for. Perry returned to the UK for work knowing that Phichawi was safe amongst family in her village. 

During the seventeen months that Covid kept them apart, Perry found Richie and Maybelle’s YouTube channel. With a similar love story to theirs, Perry’s was inspired to return to Thailand arriving via the Phuket Sandbox entry scheme that permits quarantine free entry to fully vaccinated people with a negative Covid test. Perry saw this as his chance.

 

Unfortunately, rising Covid cases across Thailand caused Phuket to instigate additional health safety requirements and closed to domestic arrivals. Additionally, all domestic flights in Thailand were on hold, with Phichawi unable to enter Phuket. 

Meanwhile Perry completed his mandatory 14 days in Phuket then took an overnight bus to Bangkok, a 14 hour journey. From there, another five hours by taxi to Korat.

But love in a pandemic meant no romantic reunion. Oh, no!  After seventeen months apart there was to be no flinging arms around each other, especially under the ever watchful eye of the Korat quarantine officer. Pichawi’s village elder consented to let Perry enter the village providing he did a 14 day quarantine at a motel in Korat. Twice a day Phichawi made the 10km trip to deliver food to Perry. 

Perry is respectful of local rules, which meant that eventually he could return to Phichawi’s village. He realised it was an honour, as he was the only Farang, (western foreigner) there. After a lengthy quarantine and endless negative Covid tests Perry was finally allowed to join Phichawi and her kids. 

The village at the time was in a dark red zone (the highest level of Covid health precautions) so Perry was confined to the house and the garden. The house has been decorated since he last saw it, the walls painted blue, chosen as the perfect backdrop for the wedding photos. Perry never left the premises except for an occasional escorted visit to the 7-11 convenience store.

The wedding celebration was planned to be at home, festively decorated with a banana leaf archway and colourful balloons. The reception was planned for 150 guests, however in Covid times they were allowed only 10 guests within the house, which meant the tricky job of reducing the guest list by 140 and condensing the celebration into three hours. 

Perry amusingly tells us about the wedding ceremony, much of which he laughs in recognition that he had little idea of what was occurring, yet he knows everything is for a reason. Phichawi who speaks English well tries to explain to Perry the many traditions such as the dowry. Perry listens but he wishes he were more skilled at sitting on the floor!

Whilst guests were not allowed in the house, Perry says that somehow he still managed to feed the entire village! He knows this is important as Thai people love their food and he adds with a laugh, ‘If you like to eat 10 times a day, marry a Thai woman. If they are not eating food, they are preparing it!’ 

The following day, one of the wedding guests was declared Covid positive and the house declared a Covid no go zone, with a large warning Covid sign put up and the house taped off. 

After a 14 day of Phuket Sandbox entry, a 10 day motel quarantine in Korat, and now a 14 day Covid isolation is enforced – it is certainly a memorable wedding and honeymoon! 

For more information on the Thai Wedding ceremony here.

Perry is relieved and feels a great sense of accomplishment in being able to finally hold their Thai wedding ceremony. He describes the past year and a half as a testing period, when there were times he wondered if he should sensibly put it all on hold. He felt however that he had to pursue love regardless of the obstacles.

Perry credits Richie with the inspiration to persevere. 

He says, ‘I saw Richie’s love story I thought if he can do it, and he’s from Derby, I can do it as I am from London!’

Wishing Perry and Phichawi a lifetime of love and laughter and happy ever after!

0 comment
1 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
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.

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

The biggest news this week is that Thailand is gradually reopening to tourists. Starting from 1st October, quarantine has been reduced from 14 days to seven days for fully vaccinated international travelers. Not only that, people can now come from any country. Yes, there is still quarantine of sorts, but if you go to one of the sandbox destinations like Phuket or Samui, then you can spend the seven days sitting on the beach or exploring the island. After that, you are free to go anywhere in Thailand. There is no guarantee, but maybe in November or December, fully vaccinated visitors, may be able to enter Thailand without having to do quarantine.

For more details about newsletter please suscribe here – https://www.getrevue.co/profile/richardbarrow/issues/letters-from-thailand-issue-4-775990

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Welcome back to my weekly newsletter which has now been renamed as “Letters from Thailand”. I really appreciate all the messages of encouragement that I received after the last newsletter went out. It really helps with motivation when it comes to doing things like this. Hopefully you will enjoy the third edition too. Thanks!

Better life ahead for expats?

For a while the other week, a lot of us were getting excited about the news of long-term visas, no 90-day reporting, and being able to buy both house and land. Well, it was all a bit short-lived as we woke up in the morning to the news that the government were trying to attract multi-millionaires and that regular expats, like you and me, wouldn’t be included. I guess no surprise there.

My opinion is that they cannot look after the expats they have here now, how can they attract more? Take a look at the case of the people who had bought into the Thailand Elite visa. The most expensive option cost them over two million baht. When Covid-19 hit last year, they were barred from re-entering the country when people on Non-B visas were allowed in. That made a lot of people angry.

Then, how about the foreign men who are married to Thais? Particularly the ones with children. Why do they have to jump through so many hoops to extend their stay? Why can’t they been given permanent residence or even citizenship after a certain number of years? But then, naturalized citizens aren’t treated that well either. One contacted me to say that he wasn’t allowed to register for vaccine because he was told he is “not a real Thai”. He has a Thai ID card but the numbers on it gave him away as a “farang”.


I am not sure if we will ever be allowed to own land in our own name. Particularly as there was a big outcry among some groups of Thais who called the prime minister a traitor for selling the country to foreigners. If it does every happen, it will probably be for property that is more than 10 million baht and only in certain areas. However, we can buy a condo which is exactly what I did this year. In a future newsletter I will tell you the steps I went through to do that.

Every year on 20th September, it is National Canal Conservation Day (วันอนุรักษ์และรักษาคูคลองแห่งชาติ). On this day in 1994, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn visited people on both sides of Saen Saeb canal between Bangkok and Chachoengsao. Therefore, the Thai government decided to mark 20th September as the National Day for Conservation of Canals.

Did you know, Saen Saeb canal was built by King Rama III in 1837 in order to transport soldiers? It is 72km long and goes all the way to the Bang Pakong River in Chachoengsao. However, it is not navigable all of the way. About five years ago I took a boat along the extension from the end of the Saen Saeb canal boat route to Minburi. Towards the end we had to change boats as our way was blocked by a water gate.

I have a plan to map the canal paths in Bangkok and I will share news about that with you next month.

Thai Island Times

Eating lunch with my friends Chin Chongtong (left) and David Luekens (right)

This week I want to give a shoutout to my good friend David Luekens who is the creator of Thai Island Times (thaiislandtimes.substack.com). He is on a quest to visit every island in the country, and Thai Island Times is his way to share that journey with everyone through regular newsletters. However, he doesn’t just cover islands and coastal areas, he also does a good wrap-up on travel and Covid-19 news. His newsletters are a mixture of free and paid. I can assure you, they are worth your time. Check out the links below for more information.

Thai Island Times

Sharing the beauty, challenges and distinctive identities of Thailand’s islands and coastal areas.
thaiislandtimes.substack.com

I will be joining my friends David and Chin (she owns the company Chili Paste Tour) next weekend to do a bit of exploring along the coastline of Samut Prakan, Bangkok and Samut Songkhram. Yes, you heard right, Bangkok has a coastline. Hopefully I will have lots of pictures to share with you including map links of all of the places that we visited.

Nang Loeng Park in Bangkok

The former Royal Turf Club of Thailand (Nang Loeng Racecourse)

Bangkok will be getting not one but two big parks next year. I already told you about Benjakitti Forest Park in #Issue 2 of my newsletter, today I want to tell you about Nang Loeng Park. This used to be the Royal Turf Club (Nang Loeng Racecourse). It was founded in 1916 and used to be popular for horse racing for many years. But the popularity waned and eventually the Crown Property Bureau evicted them in 2018. For a long time no-one knew what the CPB had in store for the land, but then in 2020 came the news that it would be transformed into a public park in commemoration of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

I would love to fly my drone here to get some shots of the progress, Unfortunately it is right next door to Suan Chitlada palace and so very illegal. There are also no tall buildings in this royal district. However, this picture that I found on Wikipedia, was taken with a long lens from Baiyoke Tower. I am not sure if the observation floor is open at the moment, but I will make a note of going there on a clear day to see if I can get some photos to share with you.

Question from a Reader

Henri Dunant (Picture: www.silpa-mag.com)

Why is Henri Dunant Road in Bangkok named after a foreigner?

Thanon Sanam Ma (Racecourse Road) was renamed Thanon Henri Dunant on May 8, 1965, at the request of the Thai Red Cross Society (TRCS) to the Bangkok City Municipality, as the BMA was then known. The road passes TRCS property on both sides. On one side stands the TRCS National Blood Service Centre; on the other are the TRCS College of Nursing and Chulalongkorn Hospital of the TRCS. The road connects Surawong Road to Rama I Road via Chulalongkorn University and the Royal Bangkok Sports Club with its racecourse. The request of the TRCS to change the name was based on a proposal of the International Federation of the Red Cross, at its meeting in 1963 to celebrate the centenary of the Red Cross, that something should be done to commemorate Henri Dunant. Meanwhile, most Thais continue to call the road by its pre-1965 name.


– Tej Bunnag, Assistant secretary-general for administration, the Thai Red Cross Society
You can send your questions by filling in this form and I will do my best to answer them: https://www.thailandqa.com

Yaowarat – The Dragon’s Lair in the Capital City

I love exploring Bangkok on foot and so I was really happy when TAT Bangkok produced a book called Walking Bangkok. It was initially released in the Thai language but they now have an English version. These maps and guides are a good starting point for doing your own exploring.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Each week I will be giving you a link to download different areas of Bangkok. This week it is YAOWARAT, which is more commonly known as Chinatown. Click on the link for the free PDF file.


If you are posting your pictures on social media, use the hashtag #walkingBKK as I would like to see what you discover.

Bangkok Breaking

Bangkok Break on Netflix

If you are looking for a worthwhile drama to watch on Netflix, can I recommend Bangkok Breaking which was released this week? I have only watched the first two episodes so far and it has already gripped me.

Bangkok Breaking is a character-driven drama centred on Wanchai, who moves to Bangkok to save his family from poverty. Following in his brother’s footsteps, Wanchai joins a local ambulance foundation and is quickly pulled into the mysterious high-stakes world of the rescue services. Desperate for justice and answers, Wanchai realises he must unravel a city-wide conspiracy with the help of a determined female journalist.

From the Archives of the Bangkok Post

July 1963: Introduced in an attempt to end Bangkok’s traffic chaos, Thailand’s first six sets of automatic traffic lights began turning red in Bangkok. Visit the Bangkok Post website for more.

Street Art along Prem Prachakorn Canal

It is always good to see new street art in the city. This one is along Pracha Ruam Chai Song Canal in Chatuchak district of Bangkok. It is just south of Khlong Prem Prison and Don Mueang Airport. I haven’t been there yet, but I think I have managed to find the location on Google Maps.

Green Bangkok 2020

The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) have a ten year plan called Green Bangkok 2030. The aim is to increase green areas for Bangkokians from the present ratio of 6.8 square meters per person to 10 sqm before 2030. This means adding another 4,349 acres of green space. Nine parks and green spaces will be opened over the next two years. The latest is Vibhaphirom Park in Chatuchak district. It was originally vacant land and was donated to the BMA to be turned into a green space. Here is the Google Map link. It is not too big so don’t expect too much.

Every Sunday I have been visiting public parks around Bangkok. I am taking photos and mapping them for a blog post which I will share with you in a future newsletter.

Rendering of MRT Silom Station

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

It is easy to feel like you are at the Mediterranean or on some back small coastal road in Hawaii while cruising around Uluwatu, the southern surf town on Bali. These days, as we all make decisions where we want to be based if one cannot travel, I have decided to ease my small Ubud village life by integrating some “Uluwatu-vibes”. I am still here on Bali dear expats, missing Thailand here and there but have made a decent life here as I await where in the world can I go if I even want to go. I am pleased that Nick, our editor and publisher, has moved to the coast and that we can still share online our stories and interests. Living in SE Asia is a wonderful life as we all know but we are all being challenged for I am sure, like me, we all enjoy popping to Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines and Laos sometimes for a bit of a change, even Singapore! Finding one other place within Thailand could be an answer to keep travel in your life and some varied interests. Below I share some ideas and ways I have been managing.

Uluwatu holds interest for me even though I am not a surfer. There are upscale cafés and restaurants, small boutiques for a different style dress than the yoga wear life I lead upcountry in Ubud. Over the last 6 weeks I have found a 5 star hotel to stay at for $23 a night due to no tourists here (yes, we have a vaccine only entry from Jakarta and at present a 14 day quarantine). The hotel boasts two huge lap pools and a gym, a golf course and has easy “small road” access to the various beaches by scooter. (Le Grande, Uluwatu) From this space I can zip to my favourite coffee café, Drifter’s, a surf café with surfboards, barefoot kids and tussled blonde locks all over, coconut milk lattes and avocado on toast. The holistic health food still permeates Uluwatu as it does in Ubud so that is an easy transition as to not strain the diet!  Bingin and Uluwatu beaches are the best for sunning and being able to grab a cold drink. They have stunning rock formations in which one can enjoy some wonderful photography, mollusc admiring, sea urchin gazing and swimming through these tall structures to get to the wide open sea.

For early evening, I go to Ulu Cliffhouse. This is the friendliest high style place to see and be seen, which I like to do sometimes living on a small island and slightly missing the urban way. Most of the restaurants on the coast have a pool and lounge chairs, Mana is another of these with an open, friendly feeling. Ulu Cliffhouse put effort into a bit of a social scene however, with Monday night movie night. They bring out a huge screen for everyone to sit and watch as evening falls. The décor at Cliffhouse is also very modern and clean, reminds me of a Malibu home with all the white, blue and views! Management there is kind with no pretentious feel so even though the atmosphere is “expensive”, the kind of people it draws are very “chilled”, softly spoken, mature and easy on the eye too I must say! Because of the swimwear industry here on Bali, there are young Ukrainian and Russian models swanning around with their elegant style, tanned surfer’s and some posh Europeans in their white and cream linen. With the sun touching people’s complexions and a relaxed feel, one can forget the turmoil of the world we are all going through for the evening. I myself have started a swim/activewear  lifestyle items line (MEJSPIRIT) using my own designs from my paintings and taking in inspiration down here in Uluwatu to inspire me. 

Again, as to the feeling of the Med, while scooting around all the small roads to the beaches and such, bougainvillea pours over the walls, prickly pear cactus sprouts up into the air and hibiscus colours drench the hills. The police aren’t on the streets here checking people’s masks and driver’s licenses. In Ubud and elsewhere, they are on all the main corners to, what I feel, hassle us expats/tourists, to get their monthly quota, which is a real shame. There are very strict laws here repeated over and over that if a tourist is caught without a mask they will be deported. We also must buy a local driver’s license for $200 if we don’t want to be ticketed for not having a license, or make sure you get an international one based on your at home license before you come. This is the unpleasant side to living in paradise here on Bali. You would think they would cherish having us here and bringing in money but instead, I can rightly say, we are hassled a lot. To deal with this issue, a lot of people are actually leaving and not many are coming in. This is why, in order to ease the strain, I am commuting between the beaches and jungle a bit more often now. I won’t move to Uluwatu for I enjoy my Ubudian village life in general and have established quite a community of friends here and with the Covid prices, my rent is almost halved so going to the 5 star makes for a lovely 5 day break a few times a month that I can afford. 

If you’re feeling restless in the area you are living and want to travel some, this option to create a second home within the same country could be a great way to continue to live in joy during these times. A positive thing that has come out of the various lockdowns around the world could be that people are making home more, developing close friendships more and realising how important community is. I hope wherever you are these days you have support and good friendships around you. It is nice to have some change once a month or so to keep creativity and interest alive, get a feeling of some travel and perhaps make some new connections. 

Drifter’s Cafe surf boards with a collage of cute shops in Uluwatu

My creative side has been bursting with my new line of items; swimwear, active tops, flip-flops, water bottles, loads of different bags and a day backpack, notebooks, coffee mugs, throw pillows and yoga mats… all made from my watercolour paintings. The service is called “print-on-demand” (there are many print-on-demand companies to choose from). If there are any other artists/photographers out there that would like to try their hand at developing items on a website through Shopify or similar and connecting all the different print-on-demand companies to it, this is something you may want to experiment with. If someone goes to your website and clicks on and item and buys it, the print-on-demand company you’ve chosen will make the item and send it to the person and you get a direct deposit once a month. It is something to think about for passive income once you’ve created your chosen items with your designs and set up an Instagram and Facebook Business page too. It sounds complicated but all things can be done one small step at a time. Once your website is developed you then just do one Insta post a day and share it with your FB Business page and slowly can begin to get followers and surprisingly, buyers! If you would like to see my sight as an example, I will list it in my bio below. Anything, these days, to turn your creations into an income is welcome I am sure, across the board for everyone!

Manager Dedy at Ulu Cliffhouse.

Another way I am “staying sane” (I prefer this saying over “stay safe”) is by keeping my fitness up. If you have a gym open next to you, please join and go. If you can walk the cities or the beaches, please do. We all must stay healthy and vibrant as the world collective is learning how to cope individually and collectively as time moves into the end of 2021 and who knows what is in store for 2022. 

This “postcard” is meant to be a stimulator, a fresh idea zapper and maybe even a mover and a shaker if you’re an artist wondering what to do next! I hope you enjoy the pictures I’ve included with this message of love from Bali to you in Thailand. I’m eating dragonfruit like nobody’s business these days too, one of the best fruits for vitamins, minerals and lots of fibre. Enjoy the season as it comes in and let us stay positive and bright as we make decisions daily that can affect our futures. Perhaps you’ll pull out that map and choose another destination within Thailand you would like to begin to create a new community or home. Enjoy the process of discovery, exploration and seeing parts of Thailand you’ve been meaning to see. There are always different ways and styles to live and it can be fun having an urban and a country life or the country mixed with some beach life. You may even find a good hotel that you can leave a large suitcase with the concierge in their storeroom and stay one week a month and experience the “hotel lifestyle” for a while. Once you’ve gone a few times, they get to know you and you can develop a lovely rapport, a second home. Thailand has so much to offer and even though I am not there, I am making the most of my small island life here on Bali. Ciao for now!

******************************************************************************

Margaret is enjoying Bali continuing with her painting and writing however is excited to share her new passion with us at www.mejspirit.com. If interested to know more about “print-on-demand” online income, she is more than happy to share what she knows with you, Expat Life in Thailand reader. She can be reached through her website. Meanwhile, surf vibes and jungle life fill her days as she stays sane!

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

The world’s largest monument to love is undoubtedly the Taj Mahal in India. But Bangkok also can claim its own monument to love, if somewhat smaller, but no less in deep affection: the Neilsen-Hays Library.

The origins of the Neilsen-Hays Library can be directly traced to the Ladies’ Bazaar Association, a charitable organisation. In 1869, thirteen American and British women, who were members of the Ladies’ Bazaar Association, established the Bangkok Ladies’ Library Association, also called the Ladies Circulating Library. Due to the Bowring Treaty being signed in 1855, and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, expats started to pour into Siam in ever increasing numbers as trade agents, missionaries, consulate and legation officials, businessmen and their families. Life in Bangkok at the time could be harsh. With frequent epidemics and little to do outside of home and office, books and other reading materials were scarce and highly sought after. 

The aim was to circulate and share books. Initially the books were housed rent-free in various personal homes and in 1871 moved to the Protestant Union Chapel. Initially staffed by volunteers, the ‘library’ was only open one day a week. A young woman, Jennie Neilsen, joined the association and became one of its most active board members and the future namesake of the Neilsen-Hays Library.

Jennie Neilson Hays was born in Aalborg, Denmark in 1859. First she lived in America then came to Siam as a protestant missionary in the early 1880s. In an anecdotal tale, while on her way to Bangkok on a ship, she and a friend supposedly heard that two suitable young American doctors were also onboard going to Bangkok. Jennie and a friend were said to have selected their respective future husbands prior to them all disembarking. She began her relationship with the association in 1885. She conducted benefits to raise funds and assisted in the library.

Eventually she married Dr. Thomas Heyward Hayes. An American doctor, he was born in South Carolina, USA in 1854. He arrived in 1885, becoming the Chief of the Royal Thai Navy Hospital and later Consulting Physician to the Royal Court. Jennie remained a mainstay of the organisation for twenty years, serving as President of the Library three times. By 1897 the ‘library’ was open every day of the week except Sunday with a paid librarian. In 1900, Jenny arranged for the books to be all moved to Charoen Krung Road home of Mr. T. C. Taylor of the Gold Mines of Siam Company. The Library continued its peripatetic journey, finding a new home in 1903 on Chartered Bank Lane. The Library was moved several times after.

The Library’s name changed to Bangkok Library Association in October 1911. But by 1914 it was clear that a dedicated building was required. To this end, Dr. Hays bought a plot of land on Suriwongse Road.

Sadly, Jennie died suddenly in 1920 of cholera. Dr. Hays chose to honour his late wife by commissioning a new library to be built in her memory using the plot of land he purchased earlier. It was also a gift of love. Designed by the Italian architect Mario Tamagno, who also designed the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, the Parutsakawan Palace, the Thai Khu Fah Building (the Government House of Thailand), Hualamphong Railway station and other important buildings. The result was an elegant neo-classical building. Dr. Hayes died in 1924. He and his wife are buried in the Protestant Cemetery on Charoen Krung Road.

The Library flourished in its new and permanent home for several decades. However the Library received a grave a setback in 1941. When Japanese forces invaded Thailand they used the building for billeting military troops. More than 1,000 rare volumes were shipped to Japan along with many precious architectural blueprints. Many books were eventually returned after World War II ended. But some of the Library’s rarest books and blueprints are still missing.

In 1986 the Neilsen-Hayes Library was granted “Historic Landmark” status by the Association of Siamese Architects. Apart from the elegant wooden clad 20,000 book Library, there’s also a children’s corner and a Gallery Rotunda. Meanwhile, the spacious garden contains the Garden Gallery and Café. The Library looks almost exactly the same after a century of use. It houses tens of thousands of foreign books, some of them very rare and valuable. It is a regular venue for a variety of art and photography exhibitions. It remains a Bangkok landmark. 

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Plots, settings, characters, conflicts, imagination and the pouring senses navigate a writer to bring out the voice of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, thriller, and varied genres a phenomenal experience. Who would have known two dynamic expat ladies (Chloe Trindall and Cheryl Leend) in the year of 2000 in Bangkok would start their own writing group! The passing of time, laughter, discussions, teas, coffees, wines, brewing inspiration, and likeminded charismatic ladies brought us to a journey of celebrating 20 years.

On the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Bangkok Women’s Writers Group, ‘Rhythm of Missing Anthology’ was published by I-Fah Publishing honouring short stories by BWWG writers and was launched in the soulful, artistic, and welcoming Open House Bookshop by Hardcover, Central Embassy in March 2021. The event was graced by friends, writers, dignitaries, music, well wishers and has crafted a precious memory for everyone. The celebratory occasion was enriched with H.E. Italian Ambassador Lorenzo Galanti with Lady M. Francesca Andreini and Lady M. Tetsuko Wiberg. Poet and soulful Jazz singer, Coco Rouzier read her Poems in a jazzy style and Giulietta Consentino, one of BWWG’s inspiring writers and her team sang the amazing lyrical English and Italian Songs – ‘Sperlinga’. The readings by varied writers from global cultures nurture the theme of ‘time’.

Exploring subconscious imagery, tapping into experiences, coming out of the comfort zone, therapeutic sensations, and braving to showcase kinds of stories over decades bring about the connoisseur of storytelling where sharing one’s stories amplifies voice, creativity, and connects communities. ‘‘Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it’’ by Salvador Dali recreates many stories and creative pieces of flow since one cannot pause or stop the lyrics the mind and heart are infusing. This brings us to ‘The Melting Clock Bistro’ Bangkok, where BWWG writer meet up takes place and honouring creative scripts amongst the paintings of Dali caressed the 20th year celebration with oomph, joy, readings, dance, and flamenco in April 2021. Carla Soledad Rivera, the heart and creator of Olé Siam Flamenco and The HOMEBKK performed the magical flamenco with her team. The highly expressive, hand clapping, percussive footwork and intricate body moments performed live echoed distinguished tastes of life, creativity, passion, and community. Integrated part of rhythm, transforming spectacular beauty, and embracing storytelling celebrated the eminent anniversary in a festive galore.

coated with honey – tears of trending legacy
keep it down – the fuelling words
cats, typewriters – blank notebooks
stars, wine – 3 cups of coffee
elegance of tick tock – fury of time
for a moment – all you feel – craving
basking in layers of stories – inking out
cheese, candles, knives – mocking the storyline
shortlisted stories, intensive competition – do not manoeuvre time
sunflowers, cakes – mirrors of progressive tastes
cannot shield – darkness between light
for the ink of words – has comforted generations
only to reconcile – rhythm of missing pieces
romancing within – symphonic galaxy of time

I joined BWWG three years ago. This is a simple sentence when written, but it took several years to be carried out. I had known about the group and curious, but I just couldn’t bring myself up for the group. There were always excuses, like I was busy with this and that. But after all, I wanted to stay in a comfort zone: Writing was my consolation and sharing it with someone I had never met was a scary thought.

Writing is a solitary work. You work alone. You ask a question and try to answer, back and forth, in your mind. Your silent dialogue never ends. It’s painful sometimes, but writers find a joy in creating their own world which is a very private part of themselves.

Writing is a form of expression and naturally, you would like to present the art to the audience. But simultaneously, it is scary to share your writing because it is like exposing yourself inside out to the public. What if people don’t like it? What if it’s not as good as you’ve thought? That would be like being denied your entire self. My ego would not be able to take it. I chose hiding over being vulnerable.

One day I met Nick Argles, publisher of Expat Life in Thailand. After we talked on different matters, he mentioned Bhavna and told me I should contact her. I was not sure why I should since it was not clear who she was, what she did and how I could be related to her. But Nick being Nick, was very persuasive. I did contact her and found out Bhavna was one of organisers of BWWG. I almost believed in the destiny. I told myself it was time to open the door to a new world.

Before the first Tuesday of the month, regular date of their monthly meeting, I was still mumbling myself, trying to find some reasons not to go. But I knew I had waited too long. I told myself that English was not my primary language and that was my last indulgence to excuse myself if my writing was not accepted well.

I arrived early at the venue, ‘The Melting Clock Bistro’ to find Bhavna sitting in front of the painting of Salvador Dali. Dali’s big staring eyes were overwhelming, but Bhavna’s eyes were welcoming and so were the group of ladies. No one was critical or dismissed my writing. On the contrary, their comments were nothing but warm and positive. I could sense they were simply trying to support and encourage each other. This was not a group for judgement, but communal nurturing. I felt embarrassed and ashamed of being timid of joining the group. I was the one being preoccupied with comparing to others.

We read each person’s writings, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essay etc. I didn’t know anyone in the group: They were total strangers. But reading their stories, I felt I knew them, who they were, without even knowing their names. Each person distributed her short writing and it was like being invited to their private parties. Each host offered her specialty of drinks, pure water with lemon, throat burning whisky, deep tangy red wine, and sweet chocolate. I enjoyed tasting different flavours of their worlds.

By the time the party was ended, I simply felt elated. It really didn’t matter if my writing was better or worse than anyone else. We were connected in a desire to write. I imagined these women trying to express whatever their feelings in letters, biting their nails, staring at the window, waiting for a magical plot pop up, in front of a blank paper or screen. I was with them. Being present in a group of women who share the same passion was inspiring.

Oh, I didn’t and couldn’t use my last indulgence. None of them attending that night was a native speaker of English. Actually, I think everyone was from a different country, very cosmopolitan. It was even more inspiring when you learn these women are expressing themselves cross culturally. You find hidden gems from all over the world in a corner of Bangkok. Isn’t it exciting?

Rhythm of Missing Pieces is available at Kinokuniya Bookstores and Open House Bookshop by Hardcover, Central Embassy in Bangkok. Bangkok Women Writers Group is co-led by Morgan Pryce and Bhavna Khemlani. To join the BWWG you can connect through Meetup and FB: Bangkok Women Writers Group.

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail
Newer Posts