Lifestyle

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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Social distancing, vaccination inoculations, face masks, hand cleansing, testing for the virus. All these actions have become routine, an all-to-familiar part of our daily lives due to the global spread of the Covid-19 Corona virus. These measures have success to a greater or lesser extent, but the variants that keep springing up seem to keep us all on the back foot. However, there is another way we can try to counteract the adverse effects of the virus, and we can do it ourselves.

Our diet. After all, we are what we eat. A heathy food regimen – and ingesting things that are good for us – has been proven to boost the body’s own defences by promoting a robust immune system. Now could be just the right time to look at how our diet might be able to help us in our fight against this insidious disease.

You do not necessarily need to make a lifestyle change – such as becoming a vegan or a vegetarian – to train your bodies immune system to be the best it can be, and we will be taking a look at every option available to us. Including the use of conventional and traditional medicines or herbal supplements, in this quest to help our bodies help themselves. 

First off I talked to a personal trainer, qualified nutritionist, and yoga instructor I have previously interviewed, Steve Pilot. Steve told me he became a vegan a decade ago, and was surprised to discover that a plant based diet can provide more than enough protein to maintain and even increase musculature. But can a plant based diet give any benefits to the human immune system, particularly during the ongoing challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, I wondered. Steve is a committed vegan and a fitness professional, but before he answered my questions he told me that there is no magic bullet, and that he, or indeed anyone, can fall prey to Covid-19. There is, as yet, no guaranteed way of ensuring you do not become infected.

Steve told us about his views on diet and health; “A balanced vegan diet is the most suitable for all age groups, from the very young up to those in their eighties, pregnant ladies, or even the infirm. With a vegan diet that includes cauliflower, pumpkin and chickpeas this will go a long way to boosting the body’s own immune system. For Covid-19 a good way to power up the body’s defences is with an infusion of turmeric and black pepper, mixed with the juice from a lemon to make it taste good. This is a potent little tonic, and it contains a ton of antioxidants. Also consider raspberries, goji berries, strawberries, and blueberries, these are super fruits that also contain a high percentage of antioxidants. A diet high in antioxidants reduces the risk of many diseases. including heart ailments and some cancers, as well as respiratory illnesses, which are one of the primary features of the Covid infection. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals from the body cells and prevent or reduce the damage caused by oxidation within the body. Vitamins are an essential part of a vegan diet. But eat fresh fruits and vegetables to obtain the best benefit, don’t go for the supplements found in pharmacies. However, essential vitamins not found in a vegan diet are vitamin D3, K2, and B12, so a vegan should look to be taking these supplements to maintain the best level of health and fitness. Studies are continuing, but preliminary results are showing that the Covid-19 virus doesn’t appear to find a vegan body a very hospitable home. So if you have been thinking about a lifestyle change now might be the perfect time.”

The second specialist that I talked to was Dr. Erik Fleischman, a medical professional from the States, who has been a resident of Thailand for many years.

I asked him a few questions: 

Are there any foods you could recommend that might help our body to deal with the effects of Covid-19, and is there anything we should avoid? He replied ​“The most important thing is to avoid food or drink with sugar in it. Viruses, as well as bacteria and fungi all rely on simple sugars to fuel themselves, feed and grow. Foods with a high sugar content decay the immune response and make a sweet environment for pathogens in the body to thrive.”

Which medicines for treatment would you recommend, for example – Favipravir, Ivermectin, or any of several others that you are aware of? “Anecdotally, I believe that of all the ‘home’ remedies, Ivermectin has the most hope of being an effective treatment medication. Nothing striking, but hopefully it can help to lessen the length of an illness and accompanying symptoms. Remdesivir is having significant successes, and the monoclonal antibody Regeneron is definitely a lifesaver for those at risk of severe infection with Covid-19.”

Are there any vitamins we should take, and why? Should we take electrolytes? “I suggest Vitamin C, 2000-3000mg per day, Vitamin D3 3000-5000 units per day, and Zinc 15mg per day, along with a good high B complex. These will all help to support the immune system’s fight against viruses. Electrolytes are good when you are dehydrated, but general hydration when you are sick is even more important.

Hydration and vitamins are important, so are 100% fruit juices a recommendation, or only plain water? “As I said previously, good hydration is important during any illness, but I’d stay away from fruit juices, the sugar content is way too high. I’d recommend warm water with lemon juice squeezed into it. This can add electrolytes and at the same time can sooth the throat, and a warm, strong ginger tea is good for the kidneys and the throat.”

Are there any OTC medicines that might be a help? “Take Ibuprofen and Paracetamol for pain, and over the counter medications such as cough syrup if there is a cough. Like any flu, Covid takes time to ease, control, and eradicate the symptoms.”

Thank you for your time, Dr Erik. “You’re more than welcome. Good luck to you and all your readers.”

The Mayo Clinic in the U.S. are world leaders in the development of new drug treatments. A spokesman from them said that although there is only one drug currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat coronavirus many medications are being tested. The FDA has approved the antiviral drug Remdesivir to treat Covid-19 in adults and children who are aged 12 and older. Remdesivir is an option for people who are hospitalised with Covid-19. Its administered intravenously by medical staff at a hospital, under strict supervision by doctors trained in virology. The FDA has granted an emergency use authorisation for the rheumatoid arthritis drug Baricitinib to treat Covid-19. Baricitinib is given in tablet form, and seems to be effective by reducing inflammation and having antiviral activity. The FDA suggests Baricitinib could be used in patients who are in hospital with Covid, and are on mechanical ventilators, or being given supplemental oxygen.

Researchers are also studying other potential treatments for Covid-19, including Favipiravir and Merimepodib. The corticosteroid Dexamethasone is another anti-inflammatory drug that researchers are studying to treat or prevent organ dysfunction and lung injury due to inflammation. Studies have found that it reduces the risk of death by about 30% for people on ventilators and by 20% for patients receiving extra oxygen. Doctors have warned, though, that Dexamethasone and other corticosteroids may be harmful if given for less severe Covid-19 infection.

Researchers are continuing to study the use of a type of immune based therapy. The FDA has granted emergency use authorisation for treatment by convalescent plasma therapy. Convalescent plasma is blood donated by people who have recovered from Covid-19. It is high in antibodies and may be used to treat people in a hospital who are early in their illness, or who have weakened immune systems. In the U.S. and other countries around the world research is continuing in its quest to find a way to deal with the virus during the pandemic.

Natural treatments

In Thailand the herbs to go under the microscope have been green chiretta (fah talai jone, or Andrographis Paniculata) and fingerroot (Chinese ginger, Boesenbergia Rotunda), DPM and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said recently. The Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTTAM) has reported that green chiretta is effective in suppressing the Covid virus and hindering it from replicating. In July 2021 the Thai government approved the use of fah talai jone after a trial on prison inmates, in which 99% of 11,800 subjects with mild symptoms reportedly recovered. The government is hopeful that wider availability of the herb will help relieve pressure on the public health system.

Dhanin Chearavanont, Chairman of Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group, and one of Thailand’s richest businessmen, said that he has set aside about 100 rai (16 hectares) of CP Group’s land in Saraburi Province to grow fah talai jone. The herb is used to make an anti-inflammatory drug to treat coronavirus patients, and the company will also build a factory to turn the herb into capsules, and provide them to the public for free.

Vitamins, minerals and probiotics can help maintain a healthy immune system. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has informed that while natural remedies can have a positive impact on health that they are not a medically proven treatment for fighting Covid. But although no food or supplement has yet proved to be able to cure or prevent Covid, a healthy immune system and proper nutrition are fundamental in keeping us fit during these difficult times. They could be a precious defence, alongside social distancing, hand washing and vaccines. Vaccines against the virus which are now entering their second generation, and are designed to cope with the emerging variants.

Plants have been used for centuries in almost all cultures across the world as natural remedies to treat chronic infections, including viral diseases. More than 2,500 years ago, the father of western medicine, Hippocrates, said: “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.” The introduction of important medicinal food plants into the general public’s daily diet could be an easily achievable game changer in the fight against viruses and diseases, strengthening and improving people’s natural immune systems, and aiding general health.

I have found, after researching extensively, that there are a few fruits, vegetables and herbs that might help tackle Covid-19. Pomegranate peel extracts could help inhibit viral internalisation, when the virus enters the body looking for a host cell. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina found pomegranate polyphenols extracted from peels of pomegranate fruit can play a role in inhibiting coronavirus infection. The extracts have previously been shown to have beneficial effects for other diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, inflammatory diseases and even some types of cancer. Most importantly, they have shown significant antiviral activities against viruses other than Covid, preventing influenza virus entry and RNA transcription. They could be an aid in treatment or prevention of Covid-19.

Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. The idea that ginger can boost energy levels and the immune system and relieve the symptoms of other diseases, such as a cold, is rooted in its actual medicinal properties. Ginger has been used for centuries not only as a spice, but also as a herbal medicine to relieve pain, nausea and vomiting.

Dandelion, a plant that grows naturally in meadows and fields, is one of the many plants scientists are testing for potential use in the fight against Covid. A study conducted by scientists in Freiburg, Germany has found evidence that the common dandelion is able to block interaction between the spike S1 protein and the human ACE2 cell surface receptor (the protein on the surface of many cells the virus attaches itself to). Another study looks at data coming from Sweden and the UK, both consumers of dandelion as a food. It is thought possible that the plant can prove to be useful against Covid. Although we still know very little about the effects of dandelion on health, it is also being looked at for potential use against prostate and breast cancers.

Curcumin is a natural compound found in the spice turmeric, and is another promising herb scientists are looking at. A study published in the Journal of General Virology found that curcumin can prevent infection from transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV), a coronavirus that infects pigs. Curcumin has also been shown to inhibit the replication of viruses including dengue fever, hepatitis B, and the Zika virus. In the context of Covid, it is thought that curcumin can hinder cellular entry and replication of the virus, but once again more evidence is needed.

A balanced diet that includes vitamin A, B, C, D, E, and K, together with micronutrients such as sodium, zinc, potassium, chloride, calcium, and phosphorus may help maintain general wellbeing and strengthen the immune system, thereby decreasing the chance of infection. There is ample evidence to suggest that vitamin D might help to protect against getting contaminated from developing serious symptoms of Covid. Vitamin D may ensure protection against it in two different ways; firstly, it helps to boost our bodies’ natural defences against viruses and bacteria, and secondly it has the capability to prevent an overwhelming immune system attack upon our own bodies, which has in some cases been seen to attack healthy tissue in the lungs. The suggested dietary dosage of vitamin D is 600 International Units. A deficiency of vitamins and minerals in our bodies leads to a reduced performance of our immune system, opening the door to the unwelcome guest that is Covid-19.

After my interviews and research, I believe that we will overcome this hellish disease that has caused so many deaths, emotional pain, and has resulted in so many livelihoods to be lost.

We will win… “The only way is up, baby!”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Born and raised in the Philippines, Gladwin Pantastico, 40, was surrounded by musicians in his family. Yet, he discovered his love of classical music at just 12 years old. By the time he was doing his music degree in a Filipino conservatory, he had taught classical music for five years in several schools in the Philippines.

Aged 22, when the classical music sector was still evolving in his home country, he realised that making a living out of it was a tough nut to crack. Keen to explore his boundaries, he ventured into the wide world and took his first overseas job offer in the Maldives, where he performed classical music for seven years.

But after some time, staying in the entertainment industry felt like a dead end to him; he wanted to “go back more academic,” and moved to Singapore, where he taught classical music for almost ten years. In 2013, he was designated as general manager of a music school in Singapore and led a team of internationally acclaimed music teachers.

Visiting friends in Phuket, he noticed the lack of music education on Thailand’s largest island – and that was the start of his lifelong journey in a destination better known for beaches, parties, and tourist life. 

His profile offers insight into the different approach to education and child development, the challenges of relocating, and ultimately, setting up a business in Thailand.

Why did you start a music school in Phuket?

“I recognised many children had a talent for music, but there weren’t enough music schools. I thought it was important to introduce western classical music to the young generation and enhance the quality of classical music education with qualified teachers from abroad.”

Gladwin set up his licensed “Phuket School of Music” in 2018 with his Thai partner. His school – registered with the Ministry of Education – has lived to tell the tale and grown despite Covid-19. He believes that foreign teachers and quality instruments are critical to his school’s success.

“It’s imperative to provide high quality instruments to the students because the very foundation for them is to train with responsive and tone sensitive instruments, allowing them to express themselves in performing. We offer programmes for the violin, piano, classical guitar, clarinet, saxophone, singing, and flute, immersing learners in the art of western classical music.”

Phuket School of Music boasts a 70 seat recital studio equipped with a Steinway designed Boston GP178 Performance Edition II, and music rooms furnished with Essex upright pianos by Steinway & Sons, enabling students to learn and perform with superior instruments.

“Speaking of quality instruments, I can safely say that about 95% of major concert halls worldwide use Steinway & Sons, and many institutions prefer to use Steinway designed pianos for their students. Steinway has become the preference of many great musicians.

His enthusiasm is palpable. He stands up, and strokes the grand piano affectionately. “The beauty of this piano is – we always think a piano is the key; that you get the sound you need. But in fact, the piano changes. When you play it softly, it sounds very sweet. When you play it harder, it responds to you. This grand piano can be fierce and bright, like the chiming of a bell. It’s a privilege for a pianist to know how to play a quality instrument,” he raves.

He says it allows the performer to express music with ultimate control of tone, dynamics, and articulation. “The response is very sensitive.”  

Are most of your students children?

“We have lots of young kids aged five to twelve, and there are a couple of teenagers and adults. There are no boundaries; we also teach three year olds.”

Even if a 70 year old signed up, he would accept them. “Music has no age limit; you can learn it at any point in life. But the best age to learn music is usually from age six to nine, so we encourage this generation to take the chance.”

Learning to play an instrument, Gladwin says, is like learning a language. “When you learn it at a young age, it stays with you as you get older.”

Children grow in the school over the years. “And especially nowadays” – he pauses, takes a deep breath – “it’s becoming more competitive; youngsters are getting more into music. Many kids are taking up music at an early age. It’s a privilege. I started late; I was twelve. They begin at four.” 

His father wanted Gladwin to pursue music and have his studio in the Philippines. “He wanted one part of the house to be a music studio, something like that,” he says and laughs heartily. But he never forced him; musical family members surrounded Gladwin. His uncle and cousins were all doing something with music. Eager to gain experience in different countries, he left the Philippines. He believes he learned from that.

For Gladwin, classical music is a lifestyle. “I want to make sure every student who learns here – it’s not just about learning to play a particular instrument – that we also build their character towards music, especially that of young kids.”

He wants the kids to lead the lifestyle of a musician. “It’s not just about the one hour per week that they’re here. When the students go home, it’s important for them to surround themselves with music. Whether it’s listening to music or talking about it, music has to be part of their lives. If they don’t do anything with music in their free time, it can be challenging for them to cope with their lessons. It has to be planted into their lifestyle. And that’s what we teach them.”

Has any of your students made it big?

“Some have joined competitions where they won first, second, and third prizes, but we are still a young school. We encourage kids to set their goals, whether for a performance or music exam – which we offer under the ABRSM – the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, a UK based examination board. And of course, the ABRSM is an excellent programme for all ages. When someone wants to get into university to develop music further, we set a strong foundation for them and help them prepare for auditions.”

What were the biggest challenges of setting up a music business in Thailand?

“I had to make sure moving here was feasible. Was the potential for a music business big enough? I noticed many expatriates want their kids to study at international schools in Phuket. There are also many local schools for sure. I realised every family wants their child to do something with music. And with this population that we have here in Phuket, I saw there was an opportunity.”

Scouting the area for a location, he found this place near Central Festival. “I felt it was the perfect location for the school. Having to start a school from scratch, with zero students, zero teachers, was demanding.”

“Business in Thailand” – he takes a deep breath – “to be honest, it’s a lot of paperwork. And to get to the right people who can show you how it’s done is a challenge.”

He explains you have to know how to develop a curriculum and submit it to the Ministry of Education, which needs to approve it. The school had to be licensed with his concept of employing expat teachers who need visas and work permits. “And qualified music teachers have to earn a decent income to sustain themselves here. We have to balance sustainable rates for the school and keeping them affordable for people.”

Another challenge is the language barrier. Some students aren’t able to communicate well in English, but they understand, somehow. And he has staff that helps him translate in the classes. But if a Thai doesn’t understand English at all, it isn’t child’s play. Some parents deliberately expose their children to this environment, so they learn English in the bargain. 

“Interestingly, it works for many students. Music is a language,” Gladwin says and laughs in a relieved manner.

Each kid responds differently in music, and creating individual solutions isn’t always easy. Some students have longer lessons, one hour or two hours per week, and if they’re preparing for an examination, concert, or any performance, even longer.

What was settling in like?

“I had to find a room, which is difficult if you don’t speak Thai. I was in Singapore for a long time; moving here after living in a fully developed city was a significant change.” He reflects. “Public transport is not as convenient here as in Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, or Manila, where you have the skytrain or subway. You got to have your own car. Other than that, you get everything you need. It’s very liveable.”

When Gladwin moved to Phuket, he always ate at food courts. Big C, Central Festival. Then he discovered eateries like Gluay Nam Wa, a restaurant in Phuket town’s Samkong area. He prefers local dishes now and always eats out as he enjoys the variety of dining options in Phuket. “I stopped going to the malls after a year. You can eat at different places every day for a month and still find new meals and restaurants.”

He thinks Phuket town is a mini city and appreciates the excellent balance in life the island offers. There are many world class hotels, beautiful beaches, and friendly Thais. To be in the centre of the island helped him a lot as it gave him a sense of Phuket’s local lifestyle.

What advice can you give to anyone wanting to move to Thailand, and Phuket in particular?

“It depends on what you want to do. You need to understand the culture, locals, and their lifestyle. How they tick and do things here might be very different from the way they handle things in your country. Many unexpected things might happen.”

He explains that if you want to settle in Phuket as a business person, you need to know the market and blend in.

Gladwin stresses it’s essential to follow your passion. When he moved to Phuket, people were skeptical about a classical music school on the island. “They were like, ‘There’s no market here for a classical concert.’” Gladwin ignored them and organised concerts in 2018 and 2019, and they were sold out.

“Before relocating, I was fully aware that the vast majority of companies targeted tourists. Phuket is and will always be a tourism hotspot. But I am not into that business.” He laughs convincingly and says there are many opportunities. “If you want your project to last, do what you love.”

Are you living your dream?

“Doing something that you love is a dream. But of course, we always try to expand our boundaries; life is an endless journey. For me, helping students grow and seeing them succeed is a dream. It’s a dream come true for them and for us.”

But rather than Holy Grail, for Gladwin, seeing the kids perform well in a concert and achieve high grades “is not just a dream, it’s a fulfilment.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New book unveils the mystery behind the US invasion against Iraq

Prolific author Dr. Leonard H. Le Blanc III brings forth another revealing read that many would never have thought happened or that it’s still even ongoing. With an honest and an unrelenting mission to expose a glimmer of truth, “The Perfect US “Deep State” Operation reveals the real reason the US invaded Iraq during Gulf War II. This is the first part of the “Knew or should have known!” series.

It is the largest theft in American history. It is the largest cover up in American history. It is the biggest scandal and cover up in US Marine Corps history, the assassination of a stalwart Colonel who investigated the titanic thievery. It is the largest group of Americans to simultaneously betray their country since at least the US Civil War. It is also the biggest unsolved mystery in US history: Why did the US invade Iraq during Gulf War II? It is the greatest example of a perfect US “Deep State” operation that is still ongoing.

This book is available online and can be purchased at online bookstores.

About the Author

Dr. Leonard H. Le Blanc III is the Dean, Vice-President for Institutional Advancement and Professor of Social Sciences and Human Security at the American University of Sovereign Nations, a new online, US based university and also General Manager of SEATE Services. Additionally, he is a Contributing Editor of Expat Life in Thailand magazine. He has written and been a story contributor for TIME Magazine, Literary Editor for the Pattaya Trader magazine and authored four books on Amazon. He has also edited numerous books for the White Lotus Press. He holds nine academic degrees, has travelled extensively and lived all around the world and a retired US Naval Reserve officer. He currently lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Lena, daughter L.J. and son J.L.

The Perfect U.S. “Deep State” Operation by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

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