Lifestyle

Every time I pass by the entrance of Prince of Songkla Univeristy, I see this sentence on the gate frame: ‘Our Soul is for the Benefit of Mankind’. And I always think that I’d like to kiss that person who came up with this idea as a welcome note. In fact, for me it is not a welcome note at all, but an urge to reconsider my actions and thoughts. It often brings me to a contemplation state: am I using my time in this life wisely to leave it as a better place at the time of my exit? Which type of actions I am taking are dominating which, the good or the bad?

If I wanted to narrow down my actions to my current career path, teaching, my questions became: how was I using this privilege of spending time with these people (students) to make some sort of positive influence in their lives, be it temporary or permanent? Was I not the same as (or worse than) a YouTube tutorial from which they could learn the same content I am teaching?

With kindergarteners, my strategy was always compassion, patience and understanding. And knowing that their age was a critical stage of forming characters, I tried my best to be an idol in my behavior and values. And now, as a university teacher, I always try to urge my students to think for themselves, to write down their ideas so they can observe what’s in their mind and understand it. I try to expose them to sociological and psychological ideas that have personally interested me, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, or Pavlov’s Classical conditioning experiment. I ask them to make vision boards, to write love letters to themselves in order to highlight their best attributes, to read biographies of their favorite idols, to make plans for their futures… Every now and then, I let them watch movies that inspired me personally. Movies of remarkable teachers, such as ‘Dead Poets Society,’ stressing the idea of Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) or ‘Pay it Forward’ to understand ripple effects…

Oh, there’s much more for improvement all the time, and even though doubts about my approach come and go now and then, I’d rather be in a state of recurring contemplation, experimentation, learning and growth, than in a statue of ‘I know it all.’ Because, as Henry Ford said: ‘Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.’ And I’d rather keep my mind young, because ‘When a tree is growing, it’s tender and pliant, but when it’s dry and hard, it does. Hardness and strength are death’s companions, pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win’ (quote from Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’)

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So, you’ve made up your mind! You want to quit your lame job and start pursuing what you really love and are passionate about. But it is a bit scary to make the leap. You’ve told yourself that it’s going to be alright, but until you make sure that your new passion will start bringing you a stable and consistent source of income, there is always the tendency to just stay where you are… because it’s stable and secure. But guess what? Life itself is unstable and insecure. I mean, could you guarantee me right now that you will be here tomorrow, on planet earth, living your life and doing what you do?

I personally, don’t like security too much! But that also doesn’t mean that I take decisions on impulse. I do, in fact, think well about all the decisions that I take in my life, especially the life changing ones. Before taking my new career path, I research to understand how I would transition myself from one career to another. And so, allow me to share my findings with you, in hope that you could also make use of them, as I profoundly have.

First, you should know that there is no one single path that everyone could take. According to your current situation, at your job and in life, and based on your character, you will choose the path that fits you best. I have found that there are 3 effective ways to change your career. But before we get into that, let me tell help explain to you the importance of time.

You need to know that in order to be successful, all you need is focus and time. The former is pretty obvious, but what about time? I’ll tell you: you will need to dedicate 20 hours each week for the best career transition results. That means that, if you have a stable job that requires you to work 45 hours per week, your total working hours will rise up to 65.

But in order to understand whether you can do that while keeping your current job, let’s carefully examine the hours you spend weekly doing your different activities:

If, an average person sleeps 8 hours per day, that adds up to 56 hours per week. When we minus that from the total number of 168 hours we have in a week, we will be left with 112 hours.

Now, let’s say you work 45 hours per week, you commute for 8 hours, you also travel for 5 hours in total for non-work related stuff (like going to see friends, shopping, paying bills, etc.). Then we have your leisure hours of watching TV, browsing the internet and so on, for 15 hours per week. We will also add cleaning time that you take to 3 hours, shopping, cooking and eating food for 12 hours, bathing and getting ready to 4 hours, and doing your hobbies, like playing an instrument, doing yoga, reading, etc., to 5 hours per week. We will now add the time you socialise with friends or talk to them on the phone to 5 hours, and finally, the time you spend with your family, boyfriend/girlfriend to 15 hours.

If we add all these hours up, guess what number we will get? 117 hours!!! Now, let’s add the 20 additional hours you need to dedicate for your new career and we get a total of 137 hours!!! Do you see the predicament here? How will you free up all these 25 hours you need to make the leap towards your new career? 


If you’re really dedicated, then you would think that you can free up the hours of leisure that you have. But make no mistake here: leisure has to have its time, because the mind, as well as the body, really need it. If your mind is always working, working, working, sooner or later it will shut down and refuse to work. If your body is constantly doing, doing, doing, there will come a time when it will get sick! So, make sure that you leave some time for play. Now, if you don’t have a family or a partner, that helps also save you some time for your passion. You will also have to really consider what other options you can eliminate or substitute in order to make the necessary time needed for this transition is available. Only you yourself can make the right schedule for you. But I will also advise you here to make sure the new schedule is realistic: if you make a timetable for yourself that you know you will not be able to stick to, then it is better to reconsider planning that schedule. Sometimes, there isn’t time enough for experimentation. You will need consistency.

Now let me explain to you about the 3 different paths that you could take:

1 The adventurer’s path:

It is when you leave your job cold turkey and decide to pursue your dream career head on. Here, you don’t have to worry about not having enough hours to work on your new job. You will have all the time you need. If you choose this career path, then forget all about what we’ve discussed above concerning time management. But this path is a bit risky, because you will not have a stable source of income to back you up, so you will really need to think about how it will make you will feel. Will this corner you up and bring you back running to your old job? Or will you have enough discipline and patience to work on what you love and wait for results? This option is risky, yes, but it is totally time saving. You would have the opportunity to shift careers faster than if you choose the next 2 paths, where your time is less dedicated to your passion. The biggest advantage here is time; the most important question remains: Are you focused enough?

2 The strategist’s path:

This is a more secure path, since it requires you to work enough hours to sustain yourself, and at the same time, have enough 20 hours to work on your passion. And this could become real in a few different ways: For example, you could ask at your current boss to reduce your working hours down to 25 instead of 45. Here, you would still have a stable source of income, but you will also have that extra 20 hours to work on your passion. With this option, you might not even need to compromise any of your leisurely or social activities. On this path, you could also refer to working solely as a freelancer, taking up the number of projects you need for income, while at the same time, having enough time for working on your new career. Beware though, that you focus doesn’t get distracted between the work that brings you income and the passion you are trying to pursue. So, you need to evaluate whether you could shift your focus between these two simultaneously.

3 The grinder’s path:

I would have to say this is the most difficult one, and would probably take longer than the previous 2 paths. But it is also the most secure. Here, you don’t have to give up your job, nor reduce any working hours. You will just have to make enough time (20 hours per week) to work on your passion. But this path will require a lot of compromise: it might mean working long hours on weekends and not having time for family or friends. It could mean, not watching any TV or engaging in hobbies. This path means working 9 hours daily at your current job, then sparing 2 more hours daily for your new career, while still having to work 10 hours during the weekend!
Keep in mind that this might be sustainable for a few months, but what if you need 2 or more years to start making income from your passion? Will you be able to hold on that long without having a burnout? Also, will you be able to stick to your 20 hours weekly, when there might arise some unpredictable events, like having to move houses, attend a wedding, etc? How will you make up on those lost hours? I would suggest that you don’t compromise your sleep hours, since we need those rest hours for our body and brain to rejuvenate. My best advice here is to do as many hours as you can from the 20 hours needed. The important thing is that you DO! And that you don’t let laziness or distractions win you over. Good luck!

So now that you’ve seen these 3 different paths, which one will you take? Let me know in the comments below, or ask any questions that you might have about these paths. 
I wish you a happy career changing and a glorious pursuing of your passion!

Inspired by Joe Barnes’ book “Do the Work You Love”

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We are speaking today with Lesley Naylor, author of the new book ‘The Land of Trees’

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

When did you first come to Thailand?

First trip was in 2010. My partner (he had already fallen in love with Thailand and been visiting for years) and I made the three hour bus ride from Bangkok to Ban Phe and then the boat ride on to Koh Samet. Having lived in East London for the past 20 years, a place dear to my heart but high in crime and deprivation, I was impressed by the friendliness of locals, the cheap availability of delicious foods, the lack of crime and the rocky and isolated beauty of the island with its forest covered coast and sandy beaches. I went to my first and only full moon party, joined by a coach load of ladyboy revellers and had the time of my life! 

What has changed here the most?

We moved to Phuket in 2012 and it has since changed dramatically. The airport was a one terminal building, there were no streetlights over much of the island, no dual carriageways and no Makro or Villa Market’s near us. You could drive from one end of the island to the other in an hour. Over the past decade we have seen the airport expand to an international hub capable of bringing in five times as many tourists (about ten million people) pre-Covid. The frenzied development of villas, hotels and beach clubs and subsequent removal of flora and fauna has been shocking to witness.

What has changed here the least?

In spite of all the commercial development there are still local vendors and restaurants that remain unfazed, particularly in Phuket town. 

What are you working on now?

I am writing academically for the first time in 20 years as I complete a master’s module in Education, specifically on raising the achievement of learners. 

What do you do for fun?

I love yoga, music, reading, roaming beaches, swimming in the sea and hanging out with friends.

Where are your favourite places to visit?

Since Covid, our world became very small, and we have not left the island in almost two years. Pre-Covid we loved driving to Penang in Malaysia and flying to Cambodia. Within Thailand we loved spending time in Khao Sok with its ancient tropical rainforest and multitude of animals.

What are your favourite foods to eat?

Noodles and dim sum!

What got you interested in writing about SE Asia?

I have an uncle who escaped China by swimming to Hong Kong. My family, as you can imagine just from that, has a crazy history of migration. I want to write about it as migration has always deeply affected me, but I lack the confidence. When Covid happened it kind of gave me the excuse to stop writing for a while. But it is often on my mind. I am getting ready and keeping busy in the meantime.

What advice do you have for anyone that wants to move to Thailand (or SE Asia)?

Do it. But remember you are a guest in a culture that you will need to be able to genuinely love and respect. So, visit first! Phuket is not the best place to practice the Thai language because so many people speak English and are proud of the fact but learn as much as you can. Also, give as much back as you can: recycle and reuse things and support community initiatives.

My partner says do not move to Thailand if you are a hot tempered kind of person! And he is absolutely right because Thai people have a kind of philosophy that involves being mellow at all times: Jai yen (cool heart). Confrontation and yelling at people is kind of repugnant. Obviously not every single Thai person is perfectly behaved! But you are guaranteed to meet far, far less irate people than you would in London. Thais, mostly, are kind, welcoming and principled folk. They are a big part of why we are still here. 

What do you see in the future for yourself?

I have never been good at seeing the future, even with my wild imagination! Do not know where we will be on this planet or what we will be doing. I will probably be writing though. 

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by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

I have been asked by other aspiring writers, since I am doing a lot of book reviews again for Expat Life in Thailand, how can they become a writer? I am immediately reminded what Daniel Craig (James Bond movies) just told other aspiring actors who want to become thespians: “Don’t do it!” He explained it is too hard, the humiliations and rejections are constant, the odds of becoming a success in the business are impossibly long. And this advice is coming from one of the most successful, widely admired, enormously talented actors of his generation. Give up yet? OK, you asked for it! Here we go with my (poor) advice.

Before I ever put pen to paper back in 1988, I was a U.S. Navy Minority Officer Recruiter in El Paso, Texas, USA. I invited one of the U.S.’s best selling authors to come down to speak. He agreed to come. His name was Captain Edward L. Beach, Jr., author of the Naval classic Run Silent, Run Deep later made into a popular movie. I asked him: “What does it take to become a writer?” He replied: “You need three things. First – know what person you are speaking in. Second – know your audience. Third – know your subject.”

There was an old saying in Hollywood: “For every face you see on the screen there are a 1,000 failures.” When I occasionally moonlighted as an extra in Hollywood, when I was still in U.S. Navy Recruiting in 1988-1991, the common wisdom was there were 110,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Of that only 3,000 made more than $10,000USD a year. So the competition to succeed was intensely fierce. I did an interview with the prolific, best selling author, Colin Cotterill for Expat Life in Thailand. We spoke about what it takes to become a writer. He said that C.S. Lewis got over 800 rejection slips before someone saw the charms of The Chronicles of Narnia. (My first novel, Air Base, got slightly less rejection slips from book agents and publishers.) Colin said he got very lucky in having his enormously popular murder mystery books reach a market that was eager to read them.

However, I also spoke with the Executive Senior Editor of the U.S. official military newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, Bob Reid, about writing. He explained it is all ‘rigged’. Publishing is all an insider’s game, closed to outsiders looking to break in be a successful writer. He said that a publisher will take a bad book from a famous author over a great book from an unknown author. This is definitely true, looking at some of the mangy, flea bitten, moth eaten works I have seen from some well known authors. Towards the end of his life, Mario Puzo (The Godfather) put out several critically panned books. But because he was “Mario Puzo”, these books all sold like free hot cakes since his third book was an international blockbusting best seller. I have seen other local great writers in my time including Steve Rosse, William Peskett, Robin Westley Martin, Stephen Leather, Tom Crowley, Collin Piprell, and others here craft as good, or better, as anything the bestselling authors have on the market. The problem – lack of audience for whatever reason, not skill or talent.

How did I get my five books into print? The first two books I had printed out of my own pocket. I sold them to friends, family and anyone who would buy them. I made a modest profit. The next two books went out as eBooks on Amazon. But it was said that perhaps one million other writers were also putting their self-published books up on Amazon annually. Only a few of them broke out of the herd and went on to be best sellers. On my last book, The Perfect U.S. “Deep State Operation!” I had a U.S.-based Pay-to-Print publisher do it for me. They were not cheap, but they put out a good product and are trying to get publicity for it. Writing was the easy part, getting the book into mainstream media has been (next-to-nigh on) impossible, but I am still trying to catch the right eye. I am still trying.

What else? You will need talent, luck, perseverance, stamina and patience to succeed as a writer. There are no guarantees. It is just like running around the Sahara desert trying to get struck by lightning. It can happen, but not very often. Break a leg!  

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Let me tell you what it is like, so you won’t have any misconceptions… at least, this is how it is for me. Life of an immigrant. Where to start and where to end?

The weather for the past few days has been like the early spring days in Lebanon, when the winter’s cold is broken, and the heat of summer starts peeking its head in. It is hot, dry, not enough to annoy you, but enough to make you go on bicycle rides towards the beach, watch the shimmering light of the waves reflected by the sun, take off your clothes and dip for a cooldown in your underwear. That’s how it felt like for me when I was there. Many were even impressed by it, my swimming in underwear that is, for I seemed to be ‘not much of a normal girl’.

It’s strange though, if I really think about it, because knowing I’m not-so-typical, I am from that land, influenced by the western culture like many other people who lived there too, along with each other’s influence on one another, the actual local population. I have to admit, Lebanese people are one of the coolest people I’ve ever met: they are very open minded, they know how to dress nicely for every season and occasion, they are very artistic, not to mention very hospitable. Yes, it was for those reasons and others that I liked living there, on the Mediterranean Sea, and even though I wasn’t the most special or the most unique, I did enjoy my weirdness among the crowds.

Lebanon’s geography was super beautiful for me too: I loved the mountains as well as the sea. I loved the plains, the waterfalls and the rivers, I loved going on road trips and picking fresh fruit along the way, straight from the trees: the apples, cherries, citruses and berries. I knew how to speak to the people, since we all shared a unified language (not without different dialects though) and I had friends which I knew for years. Furthermore, I had family: a mother that I could turn to when I needed unconditional love and a warm familiar hug, a father that I could speak to when I needed some help, relatives that I would see not very often, but enough to maintain bonds with, and cousins whom I loved the company of and whom I’d play with like little children. Yes, it felt nice being among them; we didn’t need to explain anything to each other, we just needed to be, to enjoy, to communicate, to relate.

Flash forward to the time I left there: I had no idea for how long I’d be gone, where I was going to or what would happen. All I knew was that Lebanon seemed too small for me, the government too corrupt, and those tales of immigrants accomplishing themselves in foreign countries very attractive. Yes, finding myself was more important than any patriotic beliefs and I knew I was strong and ready enough to start anew. ‘Finding myself’, as cliché as it may sound, creeped up on me, and the progression of time became an intense burden on my mind. Change became a must and ‘masked’ behind the idea that I was to meet the man of my dreams, with one huge suitcase and a 1 way ticket, I set off towards the land where the ‘grass is said to be greener’.
The grass, in fact, was greener there. But the tone of the green was different, the sun shone differently, the air smelled different, and gradually, I became indifferent to my own country, to its own pros and cons, to the laughter and the misery that sprang there. Or so I thought…

But you’d think that that saying isn’t true until you experience it: “You can take the girl out of Lebanon, but you can’t take the Lebanon out of the girl”. Wait, hold on. Maybe this is not the accurate expression here, but something closer to the sound of ‘feeling homesick’. Yes, that was more like it. It was a term that I had never understood but now was very clear to me and quite familiar. Now, it was directly related to my own personal experience. Now it was a shadow that would creep up on me occasionally, and though I know I can get rid of it after a day or two, I also know that it would stay with me forever. Yes, forever… forever I will be a part of who I was and forever that which I came from will be a part of me. Think of it: wouldn’t your mother also remain a part of you forever, even if you have never ever met her? Let alone if you’ve spent years knowing her and sharing times together! “Forever” … that was a scary word, but I keep trying to remind myself that the only time is now!

This time, yesterday to be more exact, all these feelings arose from browsing an old classmate’s Facebook page. We studied arts together and just by looking at her photos, I could feel the intensity of the sun back in my homeland, the smell of air there, the tipsy afternoons during ‘happy hour’ at the pubs in the endless streets of booze and rolled cigarettes, the coolness of the river water where we’d play in the summer time. I missed those feelings: the sun, the booze, the breeze, the laughter of friends. ‘Homesickness’ came. I wasn’t ready to welcome it yet so soon. I started asking myself why I was here, and when, if ever, I’d return to the belonging, to the mundane problems, to the nature, to all the complications.

“Take yourself out!” I ordered myself. That alternative was definitely much more comfortable than having to go over these crucial questions again which keep on arising, sometimes even thought about and contemplated, but never taken a decision toward. Not taking a decision was also another form of taking a decision, or is it? Yes, going out would be a good distraction for my confused and melancholic mind. Maybe even a beer would help.

Unlike typical me, I bought that beer and matched it, like typical me, with a short novel from my bookshelf. Then I set off towards the sandy beach with the line of tall coconut trees. And afterwards, consuming the whole 33cl of locally canned beer and a chapter of the non-local novel in hand, I happened across friends that I’ve made during my stay on this island. They invited me to some BBQ that they were planning for the evening. ‘Nice’, I thought to myself, ‘one more distraction for my unsettled mind’. Then I happened across another friend, and we walked along the stretch of the beach and back, looking at the topless men and chatting about them, gazing at the sunset pink clouds in the sky, and the surfers that were courageously trying to balance themselves on the wavy waters. This all pushed away the gloomy feelings I had felt earlier during the day, and once more reminded me of how lucky I was to be here, how jealous some others would be, and how longing their feelings and thoughts to be in my exact shoes, or the lack of them thereof, under my feet at this moment while walking on the soft wet sand.

At the BBQ that evening, where more booze seemed to flow, musicians improvised unprofessional harmonic tunes and everyone complimented the homemade French fries that I had made and brought along, consuming them faster than all other items present there, including the breathable air in the atmosphere. I chatted with the only woman among the attendees, who reminded me of how lucky we were to be here. She said that just today she was pinching herself, thinking how lucky she is and how life here was so good, and that she had been here for at least triple the time period that I have spent here myself. Yes, her conditions were different than mine and yet we were the same, and how actually familiar was that feeling of the experience of life here resonated with me, which sometimes made me want to pinch myself too, just to confirm the actuality of this dream of living in ‘paradise’. And these expressions weren’t even the first time that I’d hear here: ‘paradise’, ‘pinching oneself’, ‘life is so good’. We were, in fact, so lucky and life was beautiful, and this place was truly a ‘paradise’. The beaches, the mountains, the easy life, the warm weather, the people, the endless activities, the, the, the… but what does the heart really want?

‘Homesickness’… bye-bye for now. We’re bound to meet again, soon I’m sure. But for now, let me just be content with the now, let me rise and grow, give, share, dream, celebrate… “Homesickness’, go away and come back later, for the only time is now, it is only now.
Love, Sarah,

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I would be hard pressed to find a single person in Thailand that has not been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in some way, shape or form. It has been a really wild quadruple corkscrew rollercoaster ride that is now slowly, mercifully, coming to a gradual end.

But what about the long historical view of the pandemic? There is an old Chinese curse: “May you live in an important age!” There is no question that we are definitely living in an important age. All of us are seeing major, historical, even wrenching, changes. Many institutions, businesses, interpersonal relationships, supply distribution systems and organisations are going through tremendous, even earth shattering, alterations. Some of them will not survive. With every major pandemic throughout human history all have brought about profound changes to all the civilisations it touched. This current pandemic is no different. A brief review of previous major pandemics is warranted to see where we are all going next:

Actually the first major power change occurred during a typhoid fever epidemic in ancient Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Athens held absolute power over the whole of Greece and region for centuries. The epidemic decimated the population plus the Athenian army. Athens lost the war and never regained regional dominance.

In ancient Rome, the Antonine Plague (165-180 A.D.) killed millions of people with a high mortality rate. Many historians believe this significant loss of population greatly weakened Roman power. It allowed non-Romans into the empire as citizens to replace population losses, leading to its eventual decline.

The longest and most devastating pandemic was the Plague of Justinian (541-588 A.D.). The outbreak hammered the Byzantine Empire. Perhaps 50 million people died. It broke the power of the ancient pagan religions as many sought religious solace elsewhere. They found this in Christianity soon becoming the completely dominant religion in Europe.

The most famous pandemic in history was the Black Death (1347-1351 A.D.). It devastated Western Europe with between 30 to 50% of the population succumbing. This led to the end of feudalism as surviving workers could demand their own wages and jobs. Due to the great lack of manpower this event spurred many technological and scientific advances.

The Columbian Exchange ravaged the North and South American Indian populations starting from the early 15th century. The European invaders brought smallpox, hemorrhagic fevers, and other diseases the local people had no immunity to. It has been estimated that up to 90% of the indigenous people died, many tens of millions.

More recently, several successive influenza viruses have had a big impact on the world, especially the “Spanish” influenza of 1918-1920 and the AIDS pandemic from 1981. It is ironic that although 50 million people expired during the “Spanish” flu, the devastation of WWI was the event that changed the entire world.

Mankind will again survive this terrible pandemic. But things will look very different when the dust settles.

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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!

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Moving home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I have owned condos in Hua Hin for 12 years and rented them out occasionally and stayed maybe 3/4 times a year but recently because of Covid, lockdowns in Bangkok, air quality, traffic gridlock and various other reasons I moved full time to the resort city.
I have to date always been a supporter of Market Village shopping mall. Mainly because of Tesco, Boots, Let’s Relax, Minor Group’s Restaurants etc and have been almost a daily visitor. However due to a recent regrettable incident there I will not be frequenting the complex in the foreseeable future – more of that later…
Today I went to Bluport and did my shopping in Gourmet Market. Because of its later build it is better designed from the car park to the escalators and the choice of brand name retailers. It is not as busy as Market Village which for me is a plus. The staff seemed to be more appreciative of my custom and I wandered round the three floors unhindered and or without being hassled. 
I parked my car conveniently near to an entrance/exit, was saluted with respect by the security man who realised that as a consumer I have a choice and spent roughly 10,000B on groceries, a wine rack, electrical goods, wine, etc. I may have had to pay a few Baht more on certain items in Gourmet Market but there was forgive me a better class of consumer there that was more polite and genteel than in Lotus’s (who on earth came up with that name – sorry but it does not make sense)!
Next time I am going to try Tops on Petchaksem Rd., and I already visit Villa Market/Index on a regular basis to get comfort foods that I cannot obtain elsewhere. Sadly their fruit and vegetables are overpriced…
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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

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