Food and Drink

“Make food simple and let things taste of what they are” by Curnonsky

Songkran or Thai New Year is such an important festival, and it may look a little different this year. However, some things can remain the same, such as cooking special dishes to be eaten at this time. These dishes that may include Khao Chae — cooked rice in flower scented water with various condiments, Mango Sticky Rice, Prawn Pad Thai to name but a few. Already ones mouth is watering, knowing that these dishes are made with such exquisite flavours.

For more than two decades I have written about, talked about and advised about, the five flavours from which people make their meals. These flavours are salt, sweet, bitter, pungent and sour.

So how do we get to taste these flavours. The official word used for our taste is gustatory. Two of the main processes that help us to recognise flavour when we eat, are taste and smell.

Firstly, we taste from taste buds that contain taste receptor cells. You find these cells on the front and back of the tongue, the sides, plus the roof of the mouth. The little bumps that you can see on your tongue are called papillae. There are two types of papillae, one called circumvallate and the other fungiform and contain taste buds. There are approximately 10,000 taste buds in the mouth and they are replaced every 2 weeks. In older folk the taste buds decrease to approximately 5,000.

There are areas of the tongue that hold different receptors for flavour. When you eat one of the flavours, be it salt, sweet, sour, bitter or pungent the receptor will process an electrical charge and that releases a neurotransmitter. That electrical charge passes along a neurone and that message is carried to the brain.

Once the information is received by the brain, we have that moment of recognising what the taste is. How amazing that our receptors can send these signals to help us distinguish multiple flavours all that the same time.

The scientific community continues to discuss, debate and research whether in fact we have regions of the tongue associated with different taste sensations or whether there
are only three specialised nerves that have been discovered and that they are responsible for the tastes we have.

I am always advising people of the importance of chewing, also known as mastication, to start the process of digestion. Chewing not only aids in digestion but we now clearly see the importance of being able to enjoy the flavour of the food we eat through the saliva that is in the mouth. Saliva is another transport mechanism to our taste buds. The majority of people never chew their food long enough to truly impart enough salvia to assist with the breakdown of food particles.


The science of taste is an ongoing scientific project. Further studies are being conducted on a new taste Umani, which is the taste of amino acids in meat broth and aged cheese. The other exciting investigation is whether we have taste buds specifically for fat. Learning more about how the body works and what we are capable of is exciting. It’s your body, why not know how it works.

Another fascinating area of your tongue is that it is a window to your health. Look in the mirror and stick out your tongue. A healthy tongue is pink and you can see the papillae. The tongue can be pale, white, black or grey, which are indications of health challenges.
Oral thrush is a yeast infection inside the mouth. Patches appear that resemble cottage cheese on the side of the mouth. Oral thrush can occur from taking antibiotics, inhaled steroids, or people wearing dentures.

If the tongue in some way has been irritated white patches may appear which is called Leukoplakia. This is often seen in people who smoke. This condition needs to be addressed as soon as possible as it may be a precursor to cancer.

If the tongue is red, the first thought is Vitamin B12 deficiency. Easily rectified by Vitamin B12 foods or supplements. A blood test will help determine if a person is deficient in B12.
In very young children who have Kawasaki disease the appearance of the tongue is red similar to a strawberry appearance. This is very serious and must be seen to immediately.

Good dental hygiene is so important for having a healthy mouth and tongue. When people do not have good dental hygiene the bacteria in the mouth can grow and a coating almost like hair is formed over the tongue, making the appearance look black and hairy. Canker sores also known as mouth ulcers usually go within a week or two. The common thought is that these are bought on by stress.

If a lump or a sore appears on your tongue seek medical advice as soon as you can. It might be nothing or it could be the start of oral cancer. One item to give up is smoking. Smoking causes the tongue to be irritated.

One unique ability for some people, is that they are extremely sensitive to taste. There are people who are considered super tasters and they are several times more sensitive to bitter and other tastes than most people. This phenomenon is associated with the amount of fungiform papillae and therefore taste buds on the tongue and may run in families.

We must not forget that taste is also associated with food texture and temperature. Different temperatures have a different reaction on food particles. If the food consumed is  thick then the mastication process required to chew the food so the inner particles can get to the taste buds is greater. This is different from a food that melts with the heat of the mouth or is in liquid form. 

The sense of smell is present when we eat. When you have a stuffy nose or if you have a cold for example, there is no taste to the food you eat. Further discussion on smell will be included in my next article.

There are a number of things that can limit our sense of taste, from the types of food we have eaten during our life, to our environment and where we live. There is also internal and external pollutants in our home to take into consideration. However, when you come to the process of eating your food, take time to chew and enjoy all the taste sensations that food has to offer. 

“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people eat together.”  Guy Fieri

Health and Happiness

Karla Walter

www.5seasonsliving.com

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We all aim to eat well and follow a healthy diet. Having healthy snacks can keep you satisfied, provide the energy you need to keep going, and help prevent ravenous hunger so you don’t overeat later on. The more you plan ahead, the easier it is to stick to a healthy diet. After all, isn’t this why we mums pre-pack healthy snacks for our children? Along the way though, after we’ve given birth and the baby is no longer a part of our body, we seem to forget that tight association between how we care
for ourselves and how we care for our children’s health. In the past, I used to send my daughter to school with a nicely prepared, healthy snack box, whilst I ravenously gobbled up banana bread for breakfast on the way to work. Why is it that as mums we often shortchange and deny ourselves all the good things we do for our kids? A healthy diet, healthy snacks, and the importance of pre-planning are just as crucial for you, as it is for your child. Preparing healthy snacks ahead of time doesn’t have to be a complicated affair. You don’t need to pack a separate box for you and your child. Whatever is good for you is good for your child and vice versa. Here is a list of things I keep in mind when I pack snacks for my family. Smart snack guidelines: Pick appropriate snacks to suit your needs: Of all the macronutrients that you consume, your body can digest carbohydrates the fastest, followed by protein and then fat. Knowing this fact can help you plan ahead and choose appropriate snacks for you and your little ones.

When to reach for carbohydrates: As carbohydrate is digested faster than protein and fat, it can provide you with a fast energy boost to overcome your mid-afternoon slump. Carbohydrates have developed a bit of a bad rap recently, but do you know that carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy? However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Simple carbohydrates, common snacks I see at school, like baked treats, juices or breakfast cereal, will give a short term energy spike follow by a subsequent crash. To get a steadier energy lift, reach for complex carbohydrates snacks like fresh fruit, granola bars, or homemade trail mix.

When to reach for protein and fat:

Protein and fat take longer to digest, so snacks that contain these macronutrients will keep you satisfied for longer. If you know you’ve got a longer gap between two meals, then prepare snacks that contain some protein and fat ahead of time can prevent a family “hanger” meltdown. For a long family road trip, I like to pre-pack things like raw cashews, roasted salted almonds1 and beef jerky. You can also pick up on-the-go snacks like peeled hard boiled eggs, roasted sunflower seeds, roasted pumpkin kennels, shumai, or milk from the convenience stores. Use the substitution rule rather than subtraction for maximum snack pleasure: There is a difference between feeling satisfied and just full. A good snack should satisfy and give you pleasure, rather than simply filling the void in your stomach. If I tried to get my daughter to eat a healthy, low sugar, fat and salt snack, she wouldn’t have a bar of it. Chances are I wouldn’t want to eat it either. I have a sweet tooth and so has my daughter (I’m sure I may be to blame). We both love brownies which are not particularly healthy for us. However, rather than subtracting them from our lives, I choose to bake them myself. This way I can control the quality and the quantity of what go
into our brownies and substitute some ingredients to make them healthier. In the recipe at the end2, chickpea was used instead of flour (less processed and more fibre) and honey instead of white sugar (less processed, and less sugar due to higher water content).

Snack on food you ‘want’ to eat rather than food you feel you ‘should’ eat: I don’t know what’s true for you, but I know that I feel most at peace with food when I prioritise healthy eating, balanced with occasional snacks like chocolate and chips. If you and your kids truly want to eat something, allow yourself to. When you deny yourself or your child a particular food because it’s labelled ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’, you’re glorifying that food by making it more special. This can lead to intense cravings and the final outcome is often binging. Eating chocolate or chips is not inherently unhealthy, it’s only unhealthy when we binge eat it. This tends to only happen when we finally “give-in” to the forbidden food we’ve been wanting, but we’ve been denying ourselves. Imagine giving yourself and your child unconditional permission to eat a cookie every day, chances are by day 10, or even 20 you and your child will feel so sick of cookies you will no longer see cookie as a special indulgent food. To conclude, what’s good for you is good for the kids, so pre-plan so you’re not caught out, and treat snacks as something pleasurable to eat, something the family can look forward to.

About the author:
Gale Ruttanaphon
– Founder of My Mummy First
Asia’s exclusive health & fitness expert for mums Gale works with busy mums who can’t identify with the person they see in the mirror now and feel guilty to take any time for themselves, which makes them feel ashamed, insecure, and out of control. She helps them become strong, lean, confident women who take on greater challenges beyond exercise, translating into happier mums, and good role models to their kids.

Footnotes:
1 The brand that I like is Blue Diamond roasted salted almonds because it has pretty lower sodium (4% daily value per serving). As a general guide: 5% DV or less of sodium per serving is considered low, and 20% DV or more of sodium per serving is considered high. 2 Fudgy chickpea brownies *Slight modifications from a recipe I found on Pinterest from lindseyghoens.blogspot Ingredients:
• 1 can of chickpeas (drained and
rinsed)
• 2 tbp unsalted butter (melted)
• 2 eggs
• 1/3 cup of maple syrup or honey
• 2 tsp of pure vanilla extract
• 1⁄2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 pinch of salt
• 1⁄4 cup of dark chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 180°C. In a blender, combine all the ingredients except dark chocolate chips and blend until smooth. Stir in the dark chocolate chips and pour into a baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean when testing).

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As a single expat man living in Bangkok shopping is oddly enough not my favourite pastime… I am much more at home with my feet up sat in my Lazyboy watching the sport on TV.

However I have found a compromise… I ride my motorcycle or drive my car along the Sukhumvit Rd and down the Bangna Trad Rd to IKEA and Mega Bangna in Bang Kaeo, Bang Phli. I park up underneath alight the stairs and suddenly I am in the middle of the shopping mall.

I prefer to go mid morning on a Saturday before it gets too busy and then I drift around the shopping centre visiting all my favourite haunts then head for Sizzler for my lunch.

A bowl of soup, maybe the spaghetti carbonara then on to the salad bar for a wide array of crisp, fresh vegetables. I have taken to their juice busters and normally have a couple of them for the feel good factor.

The staff there know me and I am always seated quickly and the service is prompt and attentive.

I order the juices and a main course… either a ribeye or New York Steak or a rack of pork ribs – my eyes are always larger than my stomach, but they provide me with a take home box if I ask. I look around me at the restaurant with roughly 250 covers and observe a real mix of customers. Expat families taking the kids out for Saturday brunch and Thai couples or families taking their elders to dine. A real cosmopolitan mixture and lunchtime theatre for me the big man with the white hat that eats alone.

I like to watch the interaction between the families, parents with young babes in arms, adolescent children, elderly relatives and couples in every direction. On a Saturday this factory of delectable cuisine will turn it’s 250 tables 4 times – can you imagine how much salad they must get through!

The have 54 stores nationwide for sit down restaurant eating, 33 stores in Bangkok alone at the moment but plan to open new outlets. It is such a simple but effective dining solution.

They even provide a delivery service by calling 1112, a ‘Grab & Go’ service called ‘Sizzler to go’ in 5 of their branches, and are often located at high traffic interchanges like the BTS and MRT stations like BTS – Saladeang, Chong Nonsi, Asoke, MRT Rama 9, and at The Office at CentralWorld.

They are offering an exclusive promotion for Expat life in Thailand readers – soup and a salad, a New York or Ribeye steak with your choice of lemonade drinks (a Raspberry Mojito, Strawberry Velvet or a Lemon Soda) special price of only 699B (from 868B). To get the promotion readers can scan the QR code below to get the promotion and show it to the staff at your chosen destination restaurant.

Enjoy your lunch
– I know that I do every time I go!

Exclusive promotion for Expat Life in Thailand readers, their guests and families:

New York or Ribeye Steak with your choice of lemonade drinks (a Raspberry Mojito, Strawberry Velvet or a Lemon Soda) price only 699B from 868B

How to get promotion:

Readers can scan QR code to get the promotion. Then show it to staff at restaurant.

:https://www.dropbox.com/sh/a3oz9hexxgmslu5/AADvRlhrztyKzDL3izQQqPQba?dl=0

QR code : 

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Pomegranates. They are a very sensual fruit, as I am in Thailand right now I see it selling on the streets for pennies compared to what I’m used to in exotic local Farmer’s Markets in both USA and the UK. I think people refrain from buying them as a normal consumption fruit because they plain ol’ forget about them! Unlike oranges, apples and bananas, it takes a bit of time to be able to enjoy these divine fruits. The seeds need to be plucked from the insides and they may stain your fingers but the result can be a delightful addition to salads, on top of yogurt or just as a fine summertime treat all alone. Pomegranate has many incredible health benefits for your body. It is called a divine fruit because it is the most mentioned fruit in theological books.

The pomegranate is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and was cultivated and naturalised over the whole Mediterranean region since ancient times. It is widely cultivated throughout India and the drier parts of SE Asia, Malaysia, the East Indies and tropical Africa. Now I see it all over the world and I always get a thrill when I see them offered so abundantly here in Asia. As a child I used to sit on a neighbours fence and pick them with a friend and then eat them in my treehouse getting stained fingers and nails so the fun of the pom has been in my days growing up in California.  My mother planted a pom tree in our backyard for this reason but as I grew getting stained nails as a young adult was something I tried not to do… haha, now I just don’t care!

Pomegranate has anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-tumour properties and is said to be a good source of vitamins, especially vitamin A, C, and E, as well as folic acid. This amazing fruit consists of three times as many antioxidants as both wine or green tea.  Protection from free radicals and the thinning of blood can prevent the hardening of artery walls and also help pump the level of oxygen to our blood. This fruit also can help reduce inflammation, works with cardiovascular and cancer issues in the body and experiments have proven it helps improve memory! The high fibre due to the seeds helps with digestion and prevents plaque formation in the mouth. All the nutrients to be had in one delicious pomegranate are well worth the trouble picking out the seeds.

Here in Thailand there are small fruit stands on every corner and one can order plain sweet unadulterated pomegranate juice. I usually have mine with some carrot and orange for a very wonderful midday treat! At home I spend 3 minutes putting the seeds in a glass jar and then sprinkling a few tablespoons full on top of my yogurt and/or chia seed puddings I’ve been making lately with coconut milk and seeds. Colour is the name of the game when wanting to get all the nutrients into your body and with that delicious bright red colour you cant go wrong!

I thought this information on the fabulous pomegranate fits in well with this edition’s discussions about woman’s issues and also goes along with my article Hormone’s in Balance; A Woman’s Way. The pom is a leathery skinned berry containing many seeds, each surrounded by a juicy, fleshy aril. It is one of the recommended fruits to incorporate into your diet to help stabilise hormones naturally. Read more about hormone support through food in this edition!

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Food Universe Thai International, Century The Movie Plaza, Phra Khanong Nuea, Wattana, Bangkok 02 086 6886
Living in On Nut you are not spoilt for choice now for restaurants. A couple of years ago there wasn’t a quality restaurant in the area – now thankfully there are a few but in my humble impression Food Universe on the ground floor of Century Mall is probably the best.

The staff are attentive, the restaurant is clean and unpretentious but the food is good!
This was what I had and as you can see it was not that expensive:
Hotplate black pepper pork 159B
Grilled prawns and squid combo 299B
Squid in ‘prik pao’ 259B
Prawns omelette 159B
Stir fry morning glory 119B
Crab meat in curry scramble eggs 299B
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Like most British people I am very partial to quality Indian food. 

I want to introduce you to Benares, a fine dining Indian restaurant, concentrating on modern ‘fusion’ Indian food and it really does taste as good as it looks! It is hidden away about 300 metres down from Sukhumvit Rd on the right hand side behind their Indian street food restaurant Chowpati (also excellent without the 5 star setting).
My discerning guests for dinner last week were two hotel GM’s – so they know a bit about quality cuisine. One ate vegetarian, as he was recognising vegetarian week, and the other like me was a carnivore. We let the restaurant suggest the menu and they served us one of their “tasting menus’. We were treated to the 9 course but they start at 6 and go up to 10 courses! I have to tell you – you could have rolled me down the road afterwards… I was so full of quality Indian food!
We didn’t drink wine and settled for Asahi beer, which has a nice clear clean taste, which complimented the spices and the sublime food that just kept coming.
I could never explain the complexity of the menu or do justice to the food – so best that I just print the menu we ate and let you look at the quality of the food.
Please try it, I guarantee that you will be impressed. To book a table call CJ on 084 755 6654 and tell him Nick sent you!

How to access:
Located at 15 Sukhumvit Residences, Sukhumvit Soi – 15, near to the 15, Sukhumvit Residences Lobby.
Closest BTS sky train stations are “Nana” & “Asok”

Parking:
Ample free parking on the 3rd floor in the 15, Sukhumvit Residences building.

Operating Timings:
OPEN DAILY: 11:00 AM to 03:00 PM
06:00 PM to 11:00 PM

Our Prices:
A meal for two without wine comes to 1000 to 1200 Baht.

Our USPs:
Extensively using Sous-Vide and Molecular gastronomy cooking methods to provide a unique taste & experience to our guests.

Our Signature Delights:
Non-Vegetarian: Sikandari Raan, Lamb Chops, Chicken Tikka 3 way, Nalli Gosht, Murg Makhani our way Vegetarian: Khichdi Arraccini.

Reservations:
Not necessary for lunch, recommended for dinner

Credit Cards Accepted:
Yes, we accept – Visa, Master, & other major cards. No Amex, please.

Where can you find us?
Simply log on to www.benaresbangkok.com
Facebook: Benares Bangkok
Instagram: @benaresbkk
Do email us for any assistance required at:
[email protected]

[email protected]

Namaskar and please visit Benares for a one of a kind dining experience!

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by Moira Lawler Medically Reviewed by Kelly Kennedy, RD

You have no doubt heard the advice to drink eight 8 glasses of water each day. But do you know where that advice for avoiding dehydration comes from, and if it is still relevant? Sean Hashmi, MD, the regional physician director of weight management and clinical nutrition for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, says it originally came from a recommendation from the US Food and Nutrition Board in 1945. (1) “But people misread the statement,” Hashmi says. “The second part of the sentence said most of that water you get from food.”

That said, you still need to drink water during the day to avoid health risks like kidney stones. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine, or IOM) generally recommends ½ ounce (oz) to 1 oz of fluid, including water, daily for each pound of body weight. That means if you weigh 150 pounds, you’d need between about 9½ and 18¾ cups of fluid per day. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need more. (2)

The exact amount you need also depends on factors including age, gender, and activity level, says Rachel Lustgarten, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.

The good news for those who have a hard time sipping H2O all day: The foods you eat play a big role in keeping you hydrated. Shreela Sharma, an associate professor and registered dietitian at UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston, estimates about 20% of the body’s hydration needs come from foods. “These foods are not just hydrating, but also nutritious and provide various nutrients, including vitamins and fibre,” she says.

Another plus: You don’t have to overthink it. “If you are eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, this should not be hard,” says Julie Devinsky, RD, a clinical dietitian at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. To hit the mark, you can follow tried-and-true nutrition advice by aiming for two to three servings of fruit and five or more servings of veggies daily.

That said, some foods are more hydrating than others. “Foods that rehydrate are typically the ones that hold the most water,” says Garth Graham, MD, MPH, the president of the Aetna Foundation and a cardiologist based in Hartford, Connecticut. Just keep in mind that the fruit or vegetable will lose water if it is cooked. “To optimise the hydration aspect of these foods, it is best to eat them raw or minimally cooked,” Devinsky says. And for the best, most hydrating effect, enjoy these foods with a glass of water. “As much as it is important to eat your daily dose of fruits and vegetables, do not use it as an excuse to skimp on water,” Devinsky says.

Here are eight of the most hydrating foods and some ideas for how to enjoy them.

  1. Swap crisps for cucumbers for a hydrating snack

Devinsky says cucumbers, which are 95% water, are one of the most hydrating options available. The green vegetable is not just a salad topper. Sharma says to get creative about incorporating cucumbers into your diet. For instance, try dipping cucumber slices into dip in place of crisps or making a chilled cucumber soup for a refreshing summer appetiser. Be sure to keep the skin on to reap the most vitamins and minerals.

  1. Dip celery sticks into creamy peanut butter to up your water intake

There is not much to them. They are low in calories (only 14 per cup) and other vitamins and minerals, but they’re very hydrating and made up primarily of water. (3) Celery sticks can be boring to eat on their own, but there are ways to make them more filling. Devinsky suggests pasting them with peanut butter or tuna salad, which can help reduce your carb intake if you use celery in place of bread.

  1. Watermelon is the perfect addition to a summer salad

The refreshing summertime fruit has water built into its name — and that is not just a coincidence. Watermelon is high in water and low in calories (and has just 46 calories in one cup). (4) It is a welcome addition to many summer dishes and works well in gazpacho and fruit salads. Devinsky says watermelon also plays nicely in an arugula and mint salad.

  1. Cantaloupe offers hydrating Potassium and is good in a fruit salad

Even though watermelon is the most obvious hydrating melon, others, such as cantaloupe, should not be overlooked, Sharma says. A 1 cup serving packs 427 milligrams (mg) of potassium, which is about 9% of your daily value. (5,6) The nutrient is important for hydration — it is an electrolyte, which means it helps the body balance its water content. (7) You can eat it solo or in a fruit salad, add it to smoothies, or pair it with prosciutto for a sweet-and-savoury snack, Devinsky says.

  1. Strawberries contain a surprising amount of water

The sweet red fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, with a whopping 162.6% of your daily goal in just 1 cup of slices! (8) That’s not all: Strawberries are also incredibly hydrating and clock in at 91% water. (9) Devinsky suggests getting your fix by serving a strawberry-and-basil salad. Or try dipping pieces of the fruit in melted chocolate or adding to chia seed pudding for a nutrition filled dessert.

  1. Trade your bread bun for iceberg lettuce

All types of lettuce (and other greens like kale and spinach) have high water content, but iceberg lettuce wins as the most hydrating at 95% water by weight. (9) The most obvious way to enjoy it is chopped in a salad, but you can use it in place of a bun on your next burger, Devinsky suggests.

  1. Tomatoes, no matter how you eat them, are hydrating

Tomatoes boast about 95% water content. And, like cantaloupe, they’re also a good source of potassium, offering about 9% of your daily target in a 1 cup serving. (10) Happily, they’re as versatile as they are delicious. You can enjoy them in pasta sauce, stew, fresh salsa, gazpacho, or simply sliced and sprinkled with a touch of salt and pepper.

  1. Bell peppers are a low-carb hydrating food

Bell peppers are about 92% water and are a decent source of fibre, especially considering how low-carb and low-calorie they are. (11) Use diced bell peppers to add crunch to salads and salsas or large slices as an alternative to crisps for scooping hummus or dip, Devinsky says. Stuffed peppers are also a great entrée option, though keep in mind they will lose some of their hydrating benefits during their time in the oven

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Saturday, 4pm, Mahboonkrong Shopping Centre (MBK).

MBK is a big, older shopping mall, off \ Siam Square, consisting of thousands of little shops selling cheap clothing, bags, and shoes and all kinds of electronics like mobile phones, game-players, CDs, and DVDs – authentic or non-authentic. It even has a movie theatre, beauty salons, and food vendors. MBK is like a toy box crammed with junk and treasures. You would be surprised what you can find in there.

Mitsuko has never been alone at MBK at this time of a weekend. In fact, she has never been alone at this time on any weekend. The weekend is family time. Well, weekend or not, her time is always for family. But Yuichi tries to spend time with his family on the weekend, so the weekend is “special” family time. 

But today, little Mina went to sleep over at a friend’s house (first time in her life!) and Yuichi took Kota for an overnight fishing trip. Fishing is not really Yuichi’s sport, but one of his work-related friends, Kojima-san, has a boat in Pattaya, a beach town not far from Bangkok, and he invited them down for the weekend. At first, with Japanese customary politeness, Yuichi was hesitant to bring a child. But Kojima-san has a son around Kota’s age and assured it would be more fun and easier for Kota to come along. 

Mitsuko was a little worried about the two men managing the two boys at sea, but the boys were not babies any more. Plus, Kota was so eager to go on his first “men-only” trip. Seeing his pleading face, Mitsuko reckoned this would be a great experience for them. 

And so, she was alone on a weekend. First, she felt a tinge of emptiness. Could this be what an empty nest feels like? But she instantly denied it. Time alone overnight was a surprise gift. 

“Freedom!” 

She spoke the word aloud, stretching it out, as she stood alone in her empty living room with her arms outstretched. The cheerful sound of her own voice worked better than she had expected. She felt much better. 

She didn’t know why she thought about MBK. She could have gone somewhere fancier, even a luxurious spa at a five-star hotel. That was very tempting indeed, but it felt like maybe too big a jump for this little bit of freedom. She could have gone shopping at a department store like Emporium or Central Chit Lom, but they were customary among the expats. She was in no mood to bump into familiar faces. She wanted to do something different to savour this unique moment. 

MBK is definitely not a place regularly visited by the Japanese expat wives. They all know about it, but it is not in their territory, even though MBK is conveniently located with a skytrain station, only six stops from Phrom Phong (a station of the Japanese ghetto). Five stops to Siam Paragon is “in” the wives’ territory, but six stops to MBK is “out.” 

So MBK. Alone on the weekend. It was Mitsuko’s little adventure.

From the moment she stepped inside, she was overwhelmed by the people, many people, the locals and tourists, men and women, young and old, couples and friends and families. She felt there was hardly any air left for her to breathe. She felt that if she stopped moving, she might be taken over by the throng, swallowed as if by a tidal wave.

And the smell! The odour was a mixture of garlic and something fishy. Maybe nampla, fish sauce? Mitsuko guessed. It was definitely not the classy smell of expensive perfumes that graced the air of Emporium or Siam Paragon.

And the noise! Some kind of rock music was being broadcast over speakers. It was so loud that Mitsuko could feel it throbbing inside her skull. Am I getting old or what? 

Despite the assault on her senses, or perhaps because of it, Mitsuko couldn’t help but feel excited. The exhilaration of the place reminded her of the festivals of her childhood. The shrine near her home had held festivals a few times a year, according to the Shinto rituals. Mitsuko didn’t understand the religious meaning of them, except the worship of ancestors, but the festivals were fun. There were children’s games like goldfish scooping and shooting at targets. And lots of vendors opened up their temporary little shops, selling special treats like cotton candy, caramelised-sugar-coated tangerines and apples artificially coloured in bright orange and red, barbequed squid with soy sauce, deep fried corndogs, and takoyaki (octopus dumplings fried on a hotplate with sweet and spicy sauce). They were cheap, simple, street snacks, and yummy! 

Mitsuko used to like watching an old candy man who made various animal shapes out of hot sugar. After rolling a small ball of caramel-like sugar with his thumb and forefinger (Mitsuko still wondered how he didn’t burn himself), he attached it to the end of a short straw, blew air into it like a balloon, and used little scissors to snip here and there so that, in a few seconds, he produced a small rabbit, chicken, or cat. It was like magic! Mitsuko’s mother didn’t allow her to buy one because she thought it was not hygienic, but little Mitsuko’s secret wish was to buy a little candy elephant. 

MBK had a similar allure. Indecent but captivating. 

Mitsuko didn’t know what to buy. She wasn’t really looking for anything. But she started walking, hoping to find something like a little candy elephant. 

Soon she saw a bright, grass-green belt, and she was drawn to it like a fish to bait. It was hanging with a bunch of other belts of different colors with a sign saying 199B. It was not leather of course, but shiny vinyl with a silver buckle. Mitsuko held it against her waist and wondered if it looked too cheap. Her mother used to say that she should wear decent accessories as she got older; otherwise she would look poor. 

But only 199B, Mitsuko thought. It wouldn’t be much to waste, and it’s such a pretty green. The design is simple, so it won’t stand out too much, and the colour will give a good accent. It will go well with my navy-blue linen shirt and with jeans and a white shirt as well. And only 199B. 

Mitsuko handed the money to a skinny young girl who was eating Som Tum (green papaya salad) out of a styrofoam box with a plastic fork. Strong smell of fresh garlic, nampla (fish sauce) and lime juice dressing floated over as she stood to get the belt. 

Kob Phun Kaa (thank you),” said the girl, as she handed Mitsuko the shiny green belt in a cheap plastic bag. When she smiled, her white teeth shined in contrast to her dark skin. 

Pleased with her small purchase, she went on to the next floor which was a maze. The shops were all very small, probably 2 metres by 3 metres square, with a narrow walkway between. They all looked the same, displaying similar electronic gadgets and tech accessories. Mitsuko knew she would never find her way back to the same shop once she passed it. 

A phone cover with neon-colored spangles caught her eye. It was similar to the one Mika was using. Mika had been excited with her latest purchase (she was always excited about everything anyway), saying the same cover was very popular in Japan and cost three times more there. She had joked that maybe she should start an export business online. Mitsuko did not pay too much attention to Mika’s talk. Mitsuko was neither interested in a spangled phone cover nor an online enterprise. Mitsuko thought the phone cover looked too girlish for any woman except Mika, who had a kind of Peter-Pan-never-grew-up style. But soon after Mika showed up with it, Mitsuko saw other women her own age with them and realised it was indeed popular among the Japanese ladies. She still didn’t like it, though, and that had made her feel a little outdated. 

Now, at MBK, she wondered if she should get one, but then her head was turned by the tablet covers on the next rack. Just two weeks before, Yuichi had bought an iPad for their children. Mitsuko was not so sure if a six year old, or even a ten year old, needed an iPad, but she didn’t say anything against Yuichi’s decision. She made it a rule to follow her husband unless she had a very strong reason to oppose, unless it was something she could never compromise. So far, there was nothing Mitsuko could not compromise. To be honest, she was opposed to the iPad. She didn’t want her children playing computer games all day. But she didn’t want to spoil their joy, and she hoped Yuichi would find some good educational apps. When Yuichi showed them the iPad, Mitsuko just gave them a motherly smile as if to say, “It’s your lucky day, isn’t it?” as she began to plot how she would control the game time. 

The kids had wanted to buy a cover case for it, but Emporium had only red, black, and white, and Kota and Mina couldn’t agree. Now here at MBK, Mitsuko saw cases in yellow, purple, blue, orange, and pink, plus patterns like polka-dots, stars, and hearts. Amazed with the selection, Mitsuko asked “Taw Rai Ka (how much)?” as she tried to remember the price at Emporium. 

“Six hundred ninety nine Baht, Oku-san.” the older sales lady replied.

Oku-san means “madam” in Japanese, and Mitsuko was a bit taken aback, actually disappointed, by the acknowledgment. She knew she couldn’t fake being Thai, but how did the lady know she was Japanese? Mitsuko had to admit she looked Japanese. If there was a typical Japanese expat wife look, she definitely had it. Asako or Mika often laughingly reported being mistaken for Singaporean, or Filipino, or even Spanish in this cosmopolitan city. But that never happened to Mitsuko. 

As she held the tablet cover, sealed in a plastic bag, she was surprised at the price. At the Emporium, she was sure a similar case had cost more than 2,000B, almost three times more. She tried to study the case through the plastic, wondering if the quality was that much different. She couldn’t tell any significant difference.

The sales lady interpreted Mitsuko’s silence as hesitation about the price and said, “OK, Oku-san, five-hundred-ninety-nine Baht, Piset (the Thai word for special) for you!” In one short sentence, the lady had mixed up three languages, English, Thai and Japanese.

Mitsuko was suddenly reminded that bargaining was a common practice in Thailand’s local markets, where she had never shopped. But you never bargain at Emporium, Mitsuko thought, and this is a shopping mall, is it not? 

Mitsuko tried to remember the details of how and where to bargain. She had learned this a long time ago in a welcome seminar by the Mitsumaru Club, but the memory was blur. Still it seemed quite clear that MBK was a place to bargain. Gingerly, she tried a phrase she had never used before. “Rot iik dai mai ka (Can you discount more)?”

Mai dai (cannot), Oku-san! It is already very cheap.” She gave Mitsuko an “Oh-my-God-give-me-mercy!” face.

The lady had a short tightly permed hairdo, and Mitsuko thought she could name several aunties back in Japan who had the exact same hair style. Mitsuko was instantly embarrassed for bargaining about an already cheap price. I don’t want to look like an arrogant, stingy foreigner giving a hard time to a poor, elderly lady. 

She wanted to leave the store immediately, but when she looked around for a way out, the lady shouted, “OK, Oku-san, 550B. Final price!” She gave Mitsuko an “I-cannot-win-over-you” face. 

In a way, Mitsuko felt saved. She didn’t particularly want the case, but relieved from a guilty conscience, she smiled and picked up a light blue case which she hoped both Kota and Mina would like. 

As Mitsuko handed over the money, the sales lady was quick to change her mode, briskly opening the plastic bag to show Mitsuko the case and explaining how to use it. Mitsuko still didn’t see any difference from the one at the Emporium. The lady then handed it over in a cheap shopping bag with a cheerful “Kob phun ka.” 

Mitsuko felt much better and repeated the phrase with a smile. 

After that, she strolled around, picking up some silver jewellry and hair accessories for a few hundred Baht, as she worked her way toward the skytrain station, so that she could head home. 

The section near the station was a fashion floor with lots of bags and shoes. She loved bags and shoes, or rather she used to. When she had been an OL (office lady), she owned dozens of pair of shoes, all sorts of colours and styles. Her father used to joke, “How many feet you’ve got?” She had also bought a couple of brand-name bags from Chanel and Louis Vuitton (just like any other OL who went through the bubble of the 1980s Japanese economy). She still kept the bags in her closet, although she rarely used them now. 

But bags and shoes were not the top of her list anymore. With a husband and children, her shopping priorities had changed. It was not because they were financially tight, but because shopping for Yuichi, Kota, and Mina brought a different kind of shopping pleasure. It reinforced her sense of herself as a devoted wife and mother, running her household diligently, making her family feel good and look neat, and bringing her a new kind of fulfillment. 

And actually, as for bags and shoes, functionality had become more important than style since the children had come. She needed bags that she could hang on her shoulder so that both hands were available for the kids, and the bags had to be big enough for diapers, bottles, extra clothes, wet tissues, etc. And she needed shoes with flat soles, so she could carry them and run and chase if necessary. She didn’t want to admit it, but as she got older, comfort became an important factor as well. 

As Mitsuko passed the window displays of stylish bags and shoes, she remembered that her children were growing up. She didn’t have to wear a flat sole anymore or carry diapers around. And tonight, she didn’t even have to hurry home to make a dinner. She could enjoy shopping all evening if she wanted.

She walked into a rather fancy looking shop (for MBK), which could easily be somewhere in Tokyo. Maybe not in Ginza, but Harajyuku or Shimokitazawa. The shop displayed just one or two bags on each shelf, so unlike the other MBK shops which piled bags from the floor to the ceiling. The elegant bags looked somehow familiar, though she couldn’t remember where she had seen them. She reached out and touched a beautiful cobalt blue handbag, which felt surprisingly soft and supple. 

This is a very good quality leather, Mitsuko thought, and very well made. And it’s so chic. It doesn’t look mass-produced for low cost, but rather handmade for exquisite customers. Very unlike MBK.

Mitsuko couldn’t resist holding the bag in one hand and looking at herself in a tall mirror. 

Ta-da! It was that magical moment of shopping when you see someone else in the mirror. Mitsuko hadn’t felt that in a long time. In her black dress, the cobalt blue bag made her look elegant with a touch of mystery – and maybe even a few years younger.

The salesgirl was quick to catch the moment. “Suay ka (Beautiful).”

Though she recognised it as sales talk, Mitsuko couldn’t resist smiling. “How much?” Somehow, her words came out in English. She knew this shop was used to dealing with foreigners. 

“Forty thousand Baht.”

What? That’s like $1300! Mitsuko was certain the shock registered on her face. She thought perhaps she had misheard it. The girl took out a calculator and tapped 4-0-0-0-0. 

How could it be so expensive? This is the MBK, famous for cheap stuff. That’s not even in the price range of the Emporium. Mitsuko still thought maybe the girl had made a mistake in the number of zeros. If it was 4,000 Baht (which was still expensive for MBK), she would snatch it. It was such a beautiful bag with such quality. 

Mitsuko looked around the shop to see if this particular bag was the only expensive one. She saw an azalea pink bag with narrow leather strips woven like a basket. It was such a sweet colour. If she had been twenty years younger, she would have loved it. The girl followed Mitsuko’s gaze and said, “That’s 42,000 Baht.” Again, she tapped it out: 4-2-0-0-0. 

Even more expensive! Five figures seemed to be the price range of this shop. 

All of a sudden it hit her that this was a shop designer brand knockoffs. That was why they looked familiar. These were copies of Bottega Veneta, Hermes, Gucci, Chanel. Mitsuko had not followed the latest collections of these brands, but she had recognised the brands’ distinctive designs. Maybe she had seen them in an exclusive women’s magazine. If they had been genuine, they would cost twice or three times as much. This most-MBK-unlike shop was, it seems, a most-MBK-like shop after all. 

“I can discount for you.” The girl said as she pushed the calculator forward, tapping some numbers. 

Yes, this is a very-MBK-like shop. 

Mitsuko smiled and spoke, this time in Thai, “Mai pen rai ka, kob phun ka (Never mind, thankyou),” and left the shop.

Still heading toward the station, she walked through more MBK-like shops, impossibly stuffed bags and shoes and signs of “199 Baht” or “399 Baht.” Then she found a small shop which looked neither MBK like nor MBK-unlike-but-actually-very-MBK-like. This one just looked like an ordinary, nice store. When she walked in, a long-haired woman who looked to be in her late thirties stood up courteously. She wore no makeup which added to Mitsuko’s sense that the woman was not about to put on a pushy sales show. 

These handbags were all made of similar soft leather in brown and black only but in a variety of styles. The bags were tagged as a brand Mitsuko had never heard of. It seemed to be an original Thai local brand. Mitsuko looked at one bag after another carefully. The idea of owning a locally handmade bag that no other woman would have was something that would appeal to any woman. 

Her eyes settled on a small brown handbag which could also hang off the shoulder since the straps were a little longer. The leather was not like Italian, but a tanned leather that could shine if polished. The sewing was neat; not as fine as the designer brand look-alikes, but an accent of the bag, giving it a sporty touch. Casual but chic. Not very flashy, but versatile. She could wear it with both jeans and dresses. Also, the bag was much more spacious than it looked.

“How much is this?” 

“Two thousand nine hundred Baht ka.” 

Her English was decent, and her tone was calm. There was nothing aggressive about her attitude unlike most salespeople who spoke good English. She had been standing quietly while Mitsuko examined the bag. Mitsuko liked her, as well as the bag. And after hearing forty-thousand Baht, two thousand nine hundred sounded unreasonably cheap. 

I will take it, she thought. But this was the MBK, so she should at least try to bargain, shouldn’t she? 

Rot tow rai ka?” she asked, practicing her request for a discount.

The lady hesitated but gave a calm smile. “Two thousand five hundred. OK mai ka (is it OK)?”

More than OK! Mitsuko exclaimed silently. But she nodded and smiled.

As she left the store with her new handbag, she thought, What a shopping spree! Bag and belt and other finds, and I didn’t even spend 5,000 Baht.

She felt almost like a long-time Bangkok resident, bargaining at MBK. But that was enough. She had fun. Time to go. 

She was feeling hungry but eating at MBK would be too much of an experience. She was not quite ready for the food court. She pictured herself, a middle-aged Japanese expat wife eating alone at MBK on the weekend, and that didn’t look very pretty. There should be some decent restaurants at Siam Paragon where I could comfortably eat alone. Or I could stop at the Gourmet Market for a ready-made take-home meal. A lazy dinner on the couch was quite appealing after a couple hours of walking. 

On her way out of MBK and into the station, she passed a small vendor’s sign: “iPad case, Special, 499 Baht!!” The sign was handwritten on a piece of paper. Mitsuko froze and stared at the vendor’s inventory. Isn’t this the same thing I bought for 550 Baht as a special price? The cases looked exactly the same. “Oh!” She covered her opened mouth and started laughing. Some passers-by looked at her curiously, but she couldn’t help it. 

You got me, Auntie! 

Mitsuko had feared she’d given “Auntie” a hard time with her bargaining, but now she knew that lady was much smarter than Mitsuko. 

She didn’t think she would come back to MBK soon. But when she did, she was determined to come back as a much more skilled MBK shopper. 

To contact the author and find out more about Bangkok Madam please write to: [email protected]

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Hello, everyone now is the time for each of us to stay safe at home and to wait for the restrictions to lift for Covid-19 crisis.

Work related issues; it is almost impossible to stay in the house for a couple of weeks like this because of school issues. So, to overcome the crisis and finish your seven-step tasks, let’s just do the following:

1. Cooking

First of all, let’s say this: ‘the gut’ is the most important thing. You can ‘wait for the bowels of the womb’ and do other things you want to do in the womb. 

In addition, it is absolutely essential to maintain good health now that you have to cook your own food.

We also encourage those who have never been in the kitchen to try and cook. So, when you are alone, There is no problem when it is time to eat from home.

2. Spend time with family

Because of work routines, it is not always possible to spend time with the family. Now is the best chance to fill the void.

While at home, you can make bread with your family. By watching movies together, you can fully create the best memories of life.

For a moment, I would like to remind you of social media and encourage your family and your archetypes to warm up.

3. Tell your crush

It is now time for everyone to stay indoors, as well as to climb the line almost full time.

There are so few external issues and little attention is given so now is the best chance to get attention from your crush.

Therefore, I would like to encourage you to take a closer look at crush in your own way.

Speak up immediately… If you immediately ask for an answer, immediately (repetition) blame yourself.

4. Make time for hobbies

Now you can spend a lot of time working to get what you are passionate about.

I would like to encourage you to do some lighthearted and fun things to relieve your tiredness at work.

Look at what you want to do and what you want to do because it depends on the person doing it.

5. Get recording

While filming your day at home, take a video and record it. I also want to talk about what you want to say. Also, tap into the video that you want to share.

By doing so, you can re-evaluate yourself. The memory will remain.

Besides recording video, you can record audio and video. You can also do diary writing.

6. Keep yourself safe

It is easy to let go of too much fast food while eating indoors. Do not stop doing what you do every day.

We do not always live at home. Soon you will be interacting with people.

The skin is damaged or damaged during that time. Extra fat – don’t be bothered by acres.

Eat a healthy diet. There are so many exercises that can be done at home, so take a look online and try it out.

Male or female skin girl or girl learn makeup tutorials and step up so when you meet up with your friends, you will be glowing and glowing.

7. Think about the future

When you are less active, review your position.

Whether it’s love or not. How to deal with work issues. How to do it better. Think about what you still need. Make plans.

Those looking forward to the future will not be the night. You will be able to work calmly with what you have to do.

So, I urge you to be prepared for the future while you are spending time.

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COVID 19 has changed the way we work. Working from home has now become a necessity. In trying to keep the pandemic from spreading any further and reduce the numbers of people getting sick, quarantined, or caring for loved ones, we’ve had to look at ways to send our employees home and trust that business targets continue to be met. 

Establishing a work-from-home routine isn’t simple – especially when you have no time to waste. When done right, however, employees and business owners working from home can stay just as engaged and productive as they would in an office space. 

I’ve put together a list of 7 practices applicable to anyone working from home, no matter what role or industry they may be, so you can all stay safe – and productive – while the virus takes its course. Please note that these are self-leadership practices to help you stay ultra-productive, on an individual basis. I will cover strategies to help virtual teams at a later stage. Here they are:

  • Set your schedule for next day before going to bed. That’s right. Your performance next day will be impacted by how you organise it the previous evening. Look at your calendar, your must-dos, and everything else you’d like to fit in to make it a productive day. Plan for it and schedule it in your calendar, so you can follow your way to success the next day.
  • Set a daily routine. If you sort of wonder out of bed at different times and don’t follow a particular routine, you’ll be wasting a lot of precious time and dedicated focus to propel you forward in what needs to be done. Sticking to a daily routine will help us to be more efficient, create structure in our lives, make us feel more in control, help us save time – our most valuable resource – and reduce procrastination and bad habits. 
  1. Select a dedicated space. Just because you are working from home, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a dedicated workspace or office. Create a clean, organised, calming and inspiring home office environment, which can help you get into the right mindset and prevent you from distractions. I have created a working desk to do my content work, that I’ve decorated with quotes and visuals that help me stay focused and inspired, and a sitting area for me to conduct my clients’ calls and connect via phone of email with others. 
  • Schedule breaks during the day. Every 40-60 min, stand up and stretch, walk around, go drink some water, interact with people at home or make a quick call to interact with others and maintain a sense of connection. Just as you schedule meetings and tasks in your calendar, you must also schedule breaks to refocus and recharge. This is not the time to go on social media and lose track of time. These are intentional breaks to help you maintain a sense of balance and self-care during your day, so you allow time to eat, rest and connect with loved ones. 
  • Get into the habit of working early in the morning. My morning routine goes something like this: wake up – set my intention for the day – do some deep breathing (1 min) – make my bed, do some light yoga / exercise, shower, breakfast, work by 8am. Add to that my plan of action from the previous evening and I am ready to tackle my day with clarity and motivation. Habits will help you create effortless efficiency. Give it a try for yourself, stick with it until it becomes automated, and watch your productivity soar. 
  • Set specific work hours. If your home is your permanent office, at least for a while, then set specific work hours. If your work and company allow it, you can choose your own flexible working hours for yourself. Let’s say if you feel more productive in the morning and not in the late evening, then you can set your work hours from 7am to 3pm. Don’t forget to share your work schedule with your colleagues or boss. Having set times will help you get more done during your day, rather than just continuing to work longer hours with no end in sight. The brain works very well by assigning it pre-determined tasks within a specific period of time – that’s why deadlines work! 
  1. Put yourself high on the “to-do” list. At the end of the day, no matter how many productivity tips I share with you, if you are not looking after yourself, you are going to lack the motivation, energy and focus that you need to help you create the right priorities in place. All of the above requires you to do some intentional work, possibly outside of your normal routine, and changes require energy and focus from you, otherwise your brain will find ways to trick you into quitting trying to change how things are. Later on, I will dedicate a full resource on how to take a proactive approach to taking care of your health, but I bet you already know most of it, only now it is time to really do something about it. You’ve heard it all before, eat healthy, clean food, stay hydrated, sleep well, take rests during the day, exercise, and do some kind of practice to help you keep your mental and emotional states in check. These are all very important ways to help you stay positive, optimistic and productive at a time of crisis and change like this.

I could go on. When it comes to ways to continue to improve performance, the possibilities are endless. Put into practice the ones you need to build into your day working from home now, and watch your effectiveness and efficiency improve dramatically. 

What’s your favourite productivity practice and why? Please share the ones you found work best for you. At times like these, we all need to lean in together and share best practices. 

Stay safe everyone, let’s do our best!

Isabel 

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