Family

A seven year-old girl saved the life of her father in Northern Thailand convincing him to drop his plan to kill himself after he had tried to shoot his wife.  The young girl pleaded with the Thai man not to shoot himself in the head.

Police officers were sent to an incident that occurred in Thap Than district Uthai Thani province after being notified of a shooting. When police arrived the incident they found a woman with a gun shot wound to the face. Also a man about to shoot himself in the head.

Rescue workers rushed to the gunshot victims aide and immediately took her to Hospital.

The police then tried to calm the man down and stop him from killing himself in the head. After 30 minutes  police then brought the mans seven-year-old daughter to plead with him against killing himself.

The daughter told her father that she would visit him even though he would be arrested. He then put the gun down and hugged his daughter while apologizing for his actions.

He told police that his wife was having an affair and when he threatened her with a gun. She and her mother tried to stop him with knives and he fire at them to defend himself.

His wife said she fought with her husband often as he had a problem with drugs. She had left him for a month to live with her mother. But her husband wanted her to return to him and came to her house.

When he saw her talking on the phone with someone, he became jealous and wanted to shoot her. Seeing the threat to her daughter’s life, the mother pushed herself in the line of fire and got shot in the face.

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Tomorrow Saturday 11th of January is Children’s Day in Thailand.  Children’s day is celebrated annually in honor of children all over the world. The actual day for this celebration varies by country. In Thailand National Children’s Day “Wan Dek” in Thai, is celebrated on the second Saturday of January every year.

The prime minister of Thailand K. Prayut Chan-o-cha commemorates the day by giving each Children’s Day a theme and a slogan.

The Slogan for Children’s Day 2020 is,

 “Modern-Day Children to Pursue Solidarity and Be Aware of Civic Duties.”

A great way to celebrate Children’s Day is by taking children out to have fun. So many places in Bangkok are doing special events to honor the day and for families to come and celebrate their children. We are sharing with you some of these events here.

Have a very Happy Children’s day.

1. KIDS GO GREEN By Kiddeepass x Patom

2. KIDS CARNIVAL 2020 @The Crystal (Ekamai – Ramindra)

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/518152495465115/

3. JUNGLE JOURNEY @ K village


For more information: https://www.facebook.com/kvillagebkk/

4. THE FOREST RANGER @ Forest Learning Center in the city By the Institute of Plantation and Ecology, PTT.

TRANSALATION- The Forest Ranger Episode -Exploring the Tree Kingdom.  They say- “The adventure has started again.  When we the wild people in the city will take travelers to explore the mysterious land to find answers and unlock secrets about Khun Tree at Children’s Day Festival”
Saturday, January 11, 2020 9:00 am-4:00 pm
@ Forest in the city, Sukhaphiban 2 Road, Bangkok, Thailand
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/988003754899438/permalink/990999157933231/

5. International Book Exhibition @ Playville

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/2511639599159646/

 6. CHILDREN’S DAY @ Vachirabenjatas Park (Rot Fai Park)

TRANSLATION – Bangkok Children’s Day Party 2020
 “Bangkok children who love the environment get ready to be a good citizen “
 Under the concept of “garbage free child day”  have a fun day at Wachira Benchachat Park (Railway u)
There would be many prizes, learning activities and fun game booths  
 Saturday, January 11, 2020
 Time 8:00 am-4:30 pm
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/BKKchildrensday63/photos/gm.2169762453330321/106965860799448/?type=3&theater

7. FAMILY POTTERY CLASS

Poteri Clay Workshop
PCHA Ceramic

If you want to avoid the crowd this can be a great idea. Have a family pottery lesson and spend the day being creative with your kids. There are many places offering group pottery lessons in Bangkok

Source: @ https://thailand.prd.go.th/ @ www.tasteofthailand.org

Keep in contact with us by following our FB page EXPAT LIFE in THAILAND

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  1. Dinner Cruise at Chaopraya River

You can sightsee, enjoy a family dinner and if the kids want to play with their gadgets that can be done easily too. You will also have a first class seat for watching New Years’s Midnight Fireworks which are the best at riverside.

Bangkok River Cruise offers a number of options.

2. Countdown at Central World

If you and your kids are the adventurous type, then this is the thing for you. The countdown and fireworks display are superb and right in front of the capital’s flagship shopping centre Central World. Plus, its free.

To get there– Just get off at Chitlom BTS and start walking towards Central World

P.S- it gets super crowded so go well in time and take along a picnic basket and foldable seats for the little ones.

3. The Commons Thonglor– Open air community hangout place

Ring In 2020 event.

Party from the afternoon onwards with live DJ sets and bands, food vendors and plenty of drinks.

Dec 31, 5pm-late. The Commons, 335 Thonglor Soi 17. Free.

4. Asiatique Riverfront

Asiatique with its restaurants, food stalls, shopping and activities for kids has put together a great evening set for you. Plus, you get to see the mid-night fireworks at the river which are considered one of the best in town.

The restaurants at riverside Asiatique put on special menus for new year and there are plenty of more informal restaurants and food stalls where you can get a variety of options and cuisines.

The kids can enjoy rides on Ferris wheel, go carting and a couple of other rides and fun activities.

To get there– catch the BTS to Saphan Taksin pier from where free shuttle boat service will take you to Asiatique

5. Family New Year’s Dinner

Many of the top hotels will have special gala dinners for the family on New Year’s Eve and day.

Noche Mexican
8:00pm-1:00am
Authentic Mexican Food
   Mahanakhon Bangkok SkyBar Countdown Party
9:00 pm – 3:00 am
Broadway themed 7 course dining experience at the highest restaurant in Bangkok

The Gardens at Dinsor Palace
Located Between BTS Thonglor and Ekamai. The property is amazing as it used to be a palace. They have many animals on their grounds that the children would enjoy interacting with.
10:00 pm – 1:00 am
The Gardens is offering special New Year Set Menu, Fireworks Display & Screen Projector feed on the 31st December . For booking website

There are many other more restaurants offering New Years Dinner. Checkout Bangkok Foodies page for more restaurant options. Many restaurants will just operate as normal.

6. New Years Eve at a Temple in Bangkok

Even though Thai’s have their own New year (Songkran)which they celebrate in April, a lot of Thai Buddhists celebrate the Gregorian new year by going to a temple on New Year’s Eve. Most temples have a ceremony, known as Suad Mont Kham Pi, that goes on throughout the evening and at midnight.So, you can simply go to temple nearest you with your family and enjoy a calm peaceful New year’s celebration in traditional Thai style.

Alternatively, visiting a temple near the river such as;

Wat Yannawa
(The Boat Temple) 
You will get to see fireworks in the background at midnight, while enjoying the temple ceremony.
Wat Saket
(The Golden Mount)
Another great temple from where you can get great views over the city.

Sanam Luang Temple
There is also a big New Year’s Eve gathering here
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Activities for teenager

It’s important that our teenager learn to rely on themselves for entertainment instead of constantly electronics or paid after school activities. Technology has a place and can be helpful, but as with anything in life… balance is the key to health and happiness.

It will be hard, but SO worth it… technology can be addicting to our kids and even for us (because it makes life easier when they are watching a show or playing a game on their mobile phones and we can be do what we want to do), but that is what makes it even more important that we break the cycle and limit it.

Below some ideas for teenager what they can do alone or with their peers together around Bangkok:


Superpark Thailand @ICONSIAM, 6th floor

Spanning 4,000 square feet, SuperPark has over 20 sport-based games and activities to take part in. It’s made up of 3 zones: Game Arena, Adventure Area, and Freestyle Hall, there is fun for every age.
www.superpark.co.th


The Movement Playground, Sukhumvit Soi 69

The Movement Playground is a fun alternative to a regular gym. At the Movement Playground are typically kids and adults of all ages at all times. When you are finished with your class you’ll leave with the biggest gift, “something you did for yourself and by yourself.”

https://www.facebook.com/AsiaParkour/

MPG Family Gym

Posted by The Movement Playground on Sunday, December 15, 2019

Thai Wake Park, in Lamlukka

TWP Lumlukka offer you an escape from the hectic city life with a nice laid back vibe. Enjoy riding with nature.

https://www.thaiwakepark.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thaiwakepark/?fref=ts

Thai Wake Park

Zanook Wake Park

Experience the best outdoor activities in Bangkok have never been easier! Enjoy either of our awesome activities:

  • Cable Skiing/Wakeboarding
  • Inflatable Aqua Park
  • Stand Up Paddling
  • Junior Motor Cross
  • Jet Skiing

https://www.zanook.com/
https://www.facebook.com/zanookwakepark/


Nongbon Water Sports Center (FB page in Thai)


You can sail, surf and paddle on the lake by joining the club and pay an annual membership for only B 80. You only need 2 profile photos. Around the lake is a short biketrack only 4 km long, quite nice.
https://www.facebook.com/bungnongbon/


Flow House, Sukhumvit Soi 26 at A-Square


Beat the heat and traffic with Bangkok’s only urban beach club. Flow House brings a full-on beachside vibe to the city. Ride the wave, enjoy fantastic food, sip cool drinks, and hang out. There is an intimate beachside groove here everyday from 10am to midnight.
https://www.facebook.com/FlowHouseBangkok2/
https://flowhousebangkok.com/

Shove it!!

Shove it!!🙏📷 tum_nonsee—————————⠀🏄‍♀️ Enjoying it at @ Flow House BangkokFree instructor & equipment providedat Join us now 🎉—————————Promotion Sun Set Surf580 THB Per 1 Hours (18.00-22.00pm)( This Price not including vat 7%)—————————For Booking please call our Hotline 02-108-5210Or please send your enquiry(Date / Time / no. of riders) toDesk@floweverthailand.co.thReservations Hotline open everyday11 : 00 am – 9 : 00 pm.#Flowrider #flowhousebangkok #ladyday #Ladynight #flowgirls #Ladiesthursday #surf #flowhousebangkok2 #njptgp #activitybangkok #bangkokactivity #activity #surfbangkok

Posted by Flow House Bangkok on Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Easy Kart Bangkok @RCA Plaza, 2nd floor

Experience the thrill of racing in one of the largest indoor go karting tracks in Asia located in the heart of Bangkok. Easy Kart Bangkok operate 7 days a week, 365 days a year, start opening at 1 pm. You will find 3 different kart models to suit your needs (kids model, regular model and fast model).
https://easykart.net/bangkok/easykart-bangkok/
https://www.facebook.com/easykart.net

Easy Kart Bangkok

Bangkok Batting Center, Sukhumvit Soi 31


Bangkok Batting Center offers batting cages with automatic ball pitchers. It’s a great place to practice your baseball swing, while getting in a good workout. The centre is Japanese-operated and there is limited information in English.
Regular rates are 100 baht (1 coin) for one game (25 balls). Each homerun earns the batter an extra coin. Weekday and weekend promotions available.
https://www.facebook.com/BangkokBattingCenter/

Bangkok Batting Center

Board Game Cafés

Battlefield Bangkok
https://www.facebook.com/BattlefieldBkk/

BoardVille Cafe
https://www.facebook.com/BoardVille/

Kopi-O Board Game Cafe
https://www.facebook.com/kopioboardgame/

More than a game
https://www.morethanagamecafe.com/

and there are many more. Just google Board Game Café and look which one is the closest to your home.


Outside of Bangkok

SUP Hire Thailand, in Kanchanaburi


SUP HIRE THAILAND offers a range of stand up paddleboarding and bicycling experiences from our base in Kanchanaburi. SUP lessons, bicycle hire and activities, sightsee, learn and exercise. Enjoy the activity early in the morning, enjoying the serenity of a fresh new day or come out for an evening sunset paddle, to take advantage of the lower temperatures.

https://supkanchanaburi.com/
https://www.facebook.com/suphirethailand/

SUP Thailand (not sure about English speaking instructors)
https://www.facebook.com/supstationthailand/

SUP Hire Kanchanaburi
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teenager activities

1. Bake something new from a cookbook.
2. Find something in your room that enjoyed when you were younger and try it again, just for fun.
3. Colour, draw or paint.
4. Play a board game.
5. Walk a dog (yours or a neighbour’s).
6. Call a grandparent (you’ll make their day).
7. Do a crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or word find.
8. Ride a bike, skateboard, or scooter.
9. Write in a journal.
10. Have a bath.
11. Do origami.
12. Play darts, ping pong, or air hockey.
13. Have a Nerf gun war.
14. Try to figure out how to fix something broken in your home.
15. Read. Find a book in your house you’ve never read before.
16. Cuddle with or play with a pet. Teach them a new trick.
17. Go for a run or walk in a park.
18. Paint your nails.
19. Play frisbee or catch.
20. Start or tend a garden.
21. Do a jigsaw puzzle.
22. Knit, crochet, or rainbow loom.
23. Practice or learn an instrument.
24. Take your mom’s grocery list and buy everything.
25. Make a bucket list. See if you can set a record at something.
26. Get the neighbourhood kids together for a game of tag football.
27. Paint a room.
28. Go through your drawers and make a pile of clothes that you want to donate.
29. Teach yourself cursive/calligraphy.
30. Make a scrapbook of your last year’s adventures.
31. Teach yourself to whistle using your fingers.
32. Go to the library or bookshop.
33. Look through family photo albums.
34. Make a photo collage for your room.
35. Play with sidewalk chalk.
36. Alphabetize the spices in your kitchen.
37. Organize your shoes.
38. Make a friendship bracelet.
39. Ask your grandparents about their childhood.
40. Shadow your parents at work.
41. Ask your parents about their first date.
42. Learn how to do henna designs.
43. Read a magazine or newspaper you have never read before.
44. Do an extra chore and surprise your parents.
45. Create a compelling argument about why you should get to use technology.

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Superhero!

Terminal means incurable, inoperable, untreatable, mortal, deadly, lethal, fatal. Many of us have felt the pain and shock of finding out that a family member or close friend has a terminal illness. But can you imagine getting this news about your young son or daughter? Your niece or nephew? For too many families, this news is a reality.

In the moments of darkness, anxiety and sadness surrounding these diagnoses, there is a ray of hope. Since launching in Thailand in 2012, the Make-a-Wish Foundation has been putting smiles back on the faces of many of these critically ill children.

Elsa

For those unfamiliar with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, it’s an American non-profit organisation, operating in over 50 countries, that grants last wishes to terminally ill children who would not otherwise be able to have these experiences. It was started in 1980 with the wish of one American boy and the foundation has granted over 480,000 wishes to children around the world since then. As adults, we often forget the beautiful simplicity of a child’s desires. Many of the wishes are quite simple – a party with friends, a trip to the beach, a tea party with Elsa from Frozen. But the joy that they bring to these children and their families in a time of immense sadness is far from simple. It’s life changing. Without Make-A-Wish, these modest requests would be unattainable for the sick children and their families.

Wish

For children to be eligible to apply for the programme, they must be critically ill and between the ages of 3 -18 at the time of referral. They need to be referred to the programme by either a parent or legal guardian, by the medical professionals treating the child or by the child themselves. The applications are reviewed by the foundation who then grants as many wishes to deserving children as they are able to. Not all children’s wishes are granted but there is something we can do.Unfortunately, in Thailand, despite the many critically ill children, the wish programme has not taken off the way it has in America, the UK, Australia or Europe.

Lots of wishes have been granted but more can be done to help these kids. It’s well documented that Make-A-Wish is totally committed to using donor funds for the benefit of the children, not to carry inflated administration costs. The global reputation of Make-A-Wish as a financially responsible non-profit means that donors can be confident that their contributions are going to be used in a responsible manner.

Hapiness

Make-A-Wish takes their transparency a step further and shares photographs and documentation of the wishes with donors. Thailand is a hotbed for non-profits but Make-A-Wish has proven its value, stability and impact around the world making it one of the worthiest causes to support.


Besides financial support, there are several other ways you can help these kids have one last unforgettable memory before they pass. The final wishes of these kids come in all shapes and sizes so there are options for the average person as well as the multinational corporation to help. Volunteers give an extremely valuable gift, their time. Make-A-Wish needs volunteers who share in their commitment and passion to see these kids smile. There are three types of volunteers: supporting, cooperation, collaboration.

Supporting volunteers give venues or food to support the wishes. Cooperation volunteers work with the foundation to plan and prepare activities. Collaboration volunteers do activities along with the kids. Volunteers are critical to the foundation and you can apply to be a volunteer by writing to [email protected].

Granting these wishes does more than allow for some photo ops and a fun day out for the kids. These events have much further reaching effects. First, the wishes help children to replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope. The positive emotional repercussions are really important for the children’s mental state. Second, the wishes allow the kids to see outside their sickness, even if it’s just for a day, and feel like a kid again.

Children

This, in turn, brings a sense or normalcy and stability back to the struggling family. Lastly, forty years of research shows that wishes can improve the children’s quality of life and produce better health outcomes. Physicians agree, which is why so many medical practitioners support this foundation. The ripple effect of just one small wish being granted has positive effects on all parties involved. Children accepted into the Make-A-Wish programme would not be able to have these experiences without the hard work, donations and kind hearts of everyone who supports this organisation. If you feel compelled to help out in any way, contact Make-A-Wish Thailand and see how you can get involved with this worthy organisation. Grant them some hope and a little happiness, they deserve it.

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The ancient-architecture-art

I remember when I was a 27 year old woman living in Canada, so unaware of what my future had in store for me. I had come to know a very inspiring group of ecowarriors in my nifty open minded community. They really opened my eyes to many different aspects of life from spiritual health and healing to gardening and natural medicine options as well as much more. It was so easy to fall in love with their kind Canadian ways and their inherited strong wisdom. I valued my time with them and considered it like school, so I was very open minded to my “teachers”.

Until one day when everything changed… At a community meeting we were discussing sustainable communities and what that might look like. I remember my excitement until they mentioned things like sharing, communal living spaces and eating together to save resources. I honestly ran for the hills as quickly as possible. I had grown very used to my private lifestyle on a few beautiful rolling acres in British Columbia Canada. The thought that I would have to give up all of that privacy and possession simply did not register well with me. I also saw nothing but problems when it came to sharing resources.

What if someone breaks something? Who will pay to replace it? Will it be equal in who brings what to contribute? What if someone makes a mess in the kitchen and is lazier then everyone else so others have to clean up after them? No, no and no. I just could not see it working for me. Especially with a new baby on the way I did not want to be in that kind of a situation at all. As they were slowly working with the city to start up their project I made my exit and looked for other options in the world.

Their lines of thinking did however leave an impression on me and made me consider how I could live a more simple and less harmful life without having to give up my treasured privacy and independence. Ultimately, that is a very big part of what led me to move to Thailand. I researched warmer climates with low costs of living, access to clean food and the possibility of medical assistance. Friends of mine from Canada had already suggested to me that I would love Thailand; it kept popping up as a possibility and eventually became a reality. In the beginning I thought I would just come for a year to be a stay at home mommy to my new little girl and then move on or move back home. For sure I did not predict the massive impact my time in Thailand would have on me and the change of life course it would bring about.

Initially, Thailand was a mixture of shocking and difficult with spurts of excitement and wonder. I finally settled into a beautiful little house on stilts in the garden of a very sweet Thai family. The story of finding this home was actually quite special in itself and maybe fate was taking me by the hand to teach me some very big lessons. My dear friends from Canada had allowed my daughter and I to be house guests with them until I found a place of my own. I was a bit scared to be out on my own but one morning, after over a month of living with my friends I woke up knowing that I really needed to find my own place. I went for a motorbike ride with my daughter to a new little breakfast restaurant in our town. On the way we took a little side road where I saw this house that hit me like a bolt of lightning. I pulled over, stared at the house and said to my daughter, “I don’t know how but we are going to rent that house”.

After a few dumbfounded minutes of staring we continued on our way to eat. In the restaurant I explained in my very broken Thai that I was looking for a home to rent for my daughter and me. The sweet woman that worked there just looked at me and smiled but as I tried to explain what we would like she seemed to be genuinely interested and caring. As we parted ways she told me her name was Pi Newt and gave us one of those beautiful loving Thai smiles that left me feeling hopeful. I decided to drive past that house again on my way home to see if maybe there was someone there I could talk to. When we pulled up I was shocked to see a man hanging a sign in English that said House for rent. Of course we went inside immediately and I did my best to talk with him. It was in fact the house that I loved so much for rent and shortly after we arrived Pi Newt pulled into the drive way behind us. It was hers and her husbands, Pi Prasit’s, home and they were happy to rent it to us. We moved in the very next day and that was the beginning of my first Thai family.

Our little house did not have a kitchen and although it was beautifully set in a lush garden it was actually very tiny. One room with a bathroom and that was it. We ate outside under the house and often ate together with our Thai family or our neighbours. They shared everything with me so very openly and easily. They allowed us to use their bikes to go to the market; they would even drive us to the main city if we wanted to go shopping. Most days my daughter would wake up and wobble straight over to see Pi Newt because she grew to love her very much. Pi Newt would often make her a few eggs and some homemade kahnom and just enjoy her company. I did not realise how much I needed that support. As a new mother she was a lifesaver for me. All of the sudden I had a support system and I started to thrive again. In Canada I had friends and support groups that I could go to for “socialisation”, as well as a friend or two who would pop by from time to time but daily life was essentially solitary. I thought I valued that and even protected that but my experience in Thailand was starting to open me up to new possibilities.

Growing up in the United States was a very impactful experience for me. I was taught to work hard and always strive for more. Bigger, better, faster, stronger was deeply ingrained into me. Fortunately, I balanced out the need for more over my time in Canada and Thailand and have calmed down quite a bit.

Although I greatly appreciate my life lessons and the opportunities I had as a child in the USA I also feel a little bit sad for the people living there. I noticed there has been a large breakdown in the family unit.

Aside from getting together for holidays (if they are lucky) most people move out of home as early as 15 to 18 years old and find their own ways in life, often relocating to other parts of the country. The typical work structures do not condone a strong family unit and it is common not to keep a strong bond with parents.

The adult-asia-beach

Of course there are always exceptions but I am speaking from what I observed. The USA offers retirement homes everywhere and many people opt for this simple solution for dealing with ageing parents. I see the impact that this has had on me and now wonder if, in Canada, I was not running from all of the problems of community living but rather running from having to be in relationship with others and deal with people in a more family like way? I was simply not brought up with the tools to navigate that world.

There in the south of Thailand, in our little garden, I was shown such a beautiful example of family living that it changed me. I accepted that a loss of privacy would be replaced by support from those around me. I loved that I wanted to support them back and that there was not a concern for who was giving or taking more but rather a natural rhythm of caring. This country has been greatly shaped based on a father figure loving them and seeing to all of their needs and that is a treasure in our world. My heart has been touched right down to the core and changed by this unwavering feeling of being cared for and working together.

I have also accepted that my possessions that I loved so much in Canada were of no value at all when compared to the advantages of family. That made giving them up and moving on so much easier. Since then I have never really looked back. I have spent the past 9 years living in simple rooms or houses where we cook with the family around us, eat together, take each other to doctor’s appointments and just generally look out for each other. They iron my daughter’s school uniform (I loathe ironing) and I sew up their clothes for them. We all do what we are good at.

I really love how the labels for family can be applied to many people here as well. For example, any woman around my mother’s age could be called mom or auntie. That goes for men as well and it really helps to make me feel like I have family everywhere I go in the country. I still get privacy from time to time but I do not find I miss it as much as I thought I would.

I wish for everyone this holiday season to look around them and notice the family in their community. This might be the person who makes sure to smile to you each day on your way to work or the person who knows what coffee you want before you order. I hope we can all build on that and expand our family units.

Embracing the Thai sense of family has been a blessing I would have never realised I needed so much if I had not come to live in Thailand. If you are lucky enough to have built a family community around you I wish you and yours a loving and supportive holiday season.

The ancient-architecture-art
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I’ll never forget standing on the 57th floor of the newly-built Marina Bay Sands, chatting with Sir Ranulph Fiennes while looking across the ship-choked waters of the Singapore Straits. It was a very clear day, so I pointed to the land on the horizon. “And that, Sir Ranulph, is the island of Batam, in Indonesia.” The ageing adventurer was jet lagged from his overnight flight from England, but no explorer could fail to be excited by the realisation that there was another country at hand, so close! He perked up.

“Really? I had no idea!” He wasn’t alone. Singapore receives over 17 million tourists annually. Yet few visitors realise  just how near Indonesia is. In fact, Singapore is surrounded: by the tip of the Malay Peninsula to the north and by Indonesian islands in every other direction. At their closest point, Singapore and Batam are just 6km apart. Work had taken me to Batam multiple times when we lived in Singapore. But I had never been there on vacation; in fact, the idea had never crossed my mind.

Of the nearby Indonesian islands, it was Bintan that was the ‘resort’ island. In contrast, Batam had a mixed reputation as agritty, crowded ‘industrial’ island with a few nice golf courses. Could there be really be enough to keep our boys busy for four days? When I first informed them that we were going to Batam, they all started giggling. I didn’t get the joke. “Bottom?” Tai asked, grinning. Of course; I should have thought of that. But amongst Indonesia’s 17,000 plus islands, Batam was actually near the top. Offering very cheap labour within sight of ultra-expensive Singapore, Batam had developed a large manufacturing base and was already one of Indonesia’s most important islands economically.

Water park in batam Indonesia

The availability of jobs had lured migrant workers from across the archipelago, swelling the population to 1.2 million. It’s easy to get to Batam from Singapore. There are nearly 80 daily ferry crossings between various locations on the islands. Travel times range from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. We travelled with Batamfast from Singapore’s HarbourFront Centre. It’s a very convenient location for tourists: accessible by MRT, next to the big Vivocity shopping mall and directly opposite Universal Studios Singapore. Onboard Batamfast’s sleek Ocean Raider boat we got a wonderful surprise: seats in the spacious VIP/Business Class section upstairs!

Wow! This is total luxury!” Logan shouted, sprawling out on the comfy white leather seats. The boys’ eyes were glued to the windows as the boat cruised past Sentosa and out into the Singapore Straits. As always, the sea was busy with dozens of boats waiting to call at Singapore’s port. It’s quite an amazing sight. After crossing the Straits, we sailed east across the northern edge of Batam before turning into the deep inlet that led to the port. Despite a long line of golfers shouldering heavy bags, we cleared immigration quickly and were met in the arrivals lounge by Darno, our friendly driver for the next four days.

The Batam View Hotel is an older property in a brilliant location. The rooms in the classic double-winged main building have been nicely renovated and the well-maintained grounds include a large pool, a soccer pitch that doubles as an ATV course, a fruit and herb garden and an effectively private beach with a full range of water sports. Logan and Tai loved riding on the mini-motorcycles. I took Drake and Kiva for ATV rides over little obstacles. All five of us climbed to the top of the floating bouncy castle.

“For the adults, the real attractions of the resort were its sea view and waterfront villas. Built in a traditional style with wood shingled roofs and protruding gables, the villas have wonderful views of the Singapore Strait and the South China Sea.”

At night, I could see the lights of Singapore’s East Coast Park, where I had pushed the boys a thousand miles in a jogging stroller. During the day, I could just make out the distinctive shape of the Marina Bay Sands, where I had stood with Sir Ranulph all those years ago. The illusion Batam wasn’t large, but we spent two happy hours in the Trompe l’oeil playground. The four young ladies working there were fantastic, helping us to stage the photos and look after the boys.

My favourite illusion was of the boys levitating: legs crossed, palms together, floating halfway up the wall. The image looks convincing, but I know better – what my boys achieve daily is the opposite of Nirvana. I did, however, enjoy (almost) an hour of real serenity at Spa Central, the best place for a proper massage in Batam. I actually prefer Indonesian-style massages to Thai-style deep stretching torture. My masseuse had the strength and skill to untie the knots in my back caused by four weeks of sleeping on rock-hard Thai hotel beds.

Nori was getting an aromatherapy massage nearby and the boys were getting foot massages and back/neck massages in a separate room. It was uncharacteristically, perfectly quiet. Just as I was beginning to drift off, I heard the thumps and shouts of a Brixen boy fight. Sigh. Batam is busy on the weekends, with hotels and golf courses full of Singapore locals and expatriates. During the weekdays, the same resorts are generally empty. On Thursday, we had the pool to ourselves during the day and were one of a few occupied tables at the hotel’s Kelong Restaurant in the evening. But by Friday night, the lobby bar was heaving with tipsy colleagues on a company off-site.

We had hoped to do a mangrove kayak tour at the new Seaforest Park, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. So while Nori and the boys got a golf-buggy tour of the Nuvasa Bay development, I zipped back to the hotel to pick up the boys’ swimming clothes. Despite the foreboding, black clouds and choppy waves, the boys were begging to experience the Aqua Adventure Track, an inflatable obstacle course tethered off the point. I was a bit hesitant (I broke my nose at a similar water park in Thailand) but we all had a great time.

We love to makan (‘eat’ in Bahasa Indonesia), so when I came across Batamliciouz’s Instagram feed, I knew we’d be alright. With over 77,000 followers, a bottomless gullet, high cholesterol and loads of charisma, Chandra is the guy who would have taken Anthony Bourdain around if he had ever made it to Batam. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to meet Chandra in person. But his recommendation for 3-in-1 carrot cake at Abun Cha Kue was spot on. Even our finicky boys enjoyed the different textures of the two types of noodles (mie and kway teow) and the spongy radish cake all wok-fried together with a dark, semi-sweet sauce.

In Kampung Batu Besar (Big Rock Village), we stopped for dinner at a busy place serving chicken satay (sate ayam) and grilled chicken (ayam bakar). It took 30 minutes for them to charcoal grill the boys’ 40 satay skewers and five minutes for the boys to devour them. At first they dipped and then they dunked the charred meat into a delicious, freshly-made peanut sauce. Our simple-sounding ayam bakar was an unexpected treat, an ample leg with perfect grill marks served with a spicy, smoky sambal sauce. Clearly, we had not given Indonesian food enough credit previously.

Scott Brixen drive motor bike

Not far from Batu Besar, we turned down a road that passed first a Muslim and then a Chinese cemetery. Just before the road descended to the coast, there was an entrance gate and a man selling tickets – 5,000 rupiah per visitor (about US$0.30). I’d never seen this before: a fee collected by a village to help protect its authenticity. But I liked the concept.

Down near the muddy shore, a cluster of stalls sold coffee, tea, coconut water, fried crabs and shrimp omelettes. Everybody wanted to know about the boys. Thankfully, my Indonesian is decent. “Mereka dua kembar.” They are two sets of twin boys, I replied, to predictable shock and amazement. “Very good… very strong,” said grandmas in headscarves, smiling and clenching their hands into triumphant fists. Nori frowned. She had done most of the work, after all.

Nunung, a tall, skinny man who spoke a bit of English, took us on a walk through the community. First we tromped along a wooden walkway that wound through the mangroves. Then we circled back through an area of fruit trees and fishponds. He was clearly proud of his village and hopeful for the future. “We are building areas for camping and archery,” he said, pointing to a clearing. “And preparing home stays for tourists.”

As we crowded onto the ferry to Tanjung Pinang, Bintan Island’s capital, I thought about our four days on Batam. What a pleasant surprise this ‘industrial’ island had been! We would have loved a few more days to explore the local food scene. We never did get the chance to drive the Barelang Bridges, six spans that connect Batam to Rempang, Galang and other islands. Batam had ferry services to islands that I had never heard of (Lingga, Singkep) and an increasing number of domestic and international flights from Hang Nadim Airport. Batam was much more than just a weekend golf or spa escape from Singapore. It was an authentic, chaotic, entertaining, delicious and even beautiful gateway to a little￾explored region of Indonesia. Batam’s up!

Trip Details:

Trip planning: (tripcetera.com) Great discounts and packages, ferry bookings, hotels with more than 200K properties worldwide, car rentals, activities

Batam Fast Ferry: (batamfast.com) 20+ ferries daily from Singapore to all of the international ferry terminals in Batam.

Hotel: Batam View Beach Resort (batamview.com) – hotel rooms and 1 & 2 bedroom villas with big buffet breakfasts and many kids activities

Spa: Spa Central  (spacentralbatam.com) 1 of the best spots in Batam for a spa weekend with 2 convenient locations: Batam Centre and Nagoya

Activities: Seaforest Adventure (seaforestadventure.com) huge adventure park with family-friendly activities like mangrove tours, zorb soccer, paintball, floating obstacle course and much more

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The search is on for our retirement haven. As we draw closer and closer to the age of retirement we as Canadians who have been non-residents for many, many years need to find somewhere that we can create a similar financial and tax situation that allows us to be residents. Malaysia fits the bill. We had been to Penang and stayed in Georgetown for a few days on a visa run almost a year ago. We really liked the area and thought it had potential to be our retirement destination. Malaysia allows expats in retirement a 10 year visa with no residency requirement in country; meaning once you have got the 10 year retirement visa by meeting the Malaysian government’s requirement there is no minimum number of days you need to reside in country.

This is ideal for us because it gives us residency with no actual residence requirement. To be honest, wherever we choose we will spend a portion of our time there but it makes it is easier if there is no minimum then meeting some arbitrary amount of time with rules associated to how it is calculated will not be a problem or a headache. One of our chief concerns is whether or not our dogs will fit into the community. This is a primarily Muslim community so it is a concern because in general because of religious restrictions Muslims don’t care for dogs.

Couples

They generally prefer to not be around them and it can be a problem to find help in your house because housekeepers who are Muslim sometimes will not clean up in areas where dogs have been and our dogs are allowed to go pretty much everywhere in the house. When we aren’t around our Thai Mae Baan looks after our dogs and we would want any kind of help we had to do the same, be it taking them for walks or staying with them when we are away.

We were very fortunate to meet up with a woman that we met online who helps expats get settled in Penang. She is a Canadian woman who has a medical concierge business and is in Penang on a 10 year retirement visa. She and her husband packed up and moved from Ontario, Canada to Penang, Malaysia two years ago after they successfully received the 10 year retirement visa. They have lived full time in Penang ever since and really like it. Their aim is to help other people navigate the obstacles of moving to Malaysia and specifically Penang. Normally, she doesn’t start helping people until they have already made the move and are in Penang but we were fortunate to steal some of her time and probe her with questions that we had so we can make a somewhat informed decision about Penang before we move there blindly like they did two years ago.

vintage car

We found out that like most Muslim countries stray dogs and cats are a real problem. She works with PAWS and since Penang is an island they were actively trying to contain the problem. It seems that there was adequate vet care and access to good quality dog food however the issue of help might be a problem. Penang has a large population of Chinese so therefore it is more dog friendly than other areas of Malaysia that are more heavily populated with Muslims.

As anyone in Bangkok knows who has dogs it is very difficult in anywhere but Nichada Thani to rent when you have a dog. Usually the apartments available aren’t very nice, old and expensive for what you get. I understand the availability of apartments in Penang that allow dogs will also be very limited. We also learned that although legally we could buy it is not advisable because selling takes a very long time to complete sometimes up to two years and is fraught with bureaucracy. It seems that for expats, at least Canadian, renting might be the way to go but having dogs just like in Thailand may pose a problem in what we can and can’t rent.

Another big concern of ours is community: by this we mean how available is the community to us socially, religiously, physically and different means of entertainment. Wherever we go we want to become part of the community and some destinations are just more open to allowing newcomers in than others. If a community doesn’t normally have transient people coming in and out of the community they might be reluctant or distrustful of newcomers. Also, if there is a lot of transients then sometimes members of a community are reserved about getting to know newcomers until they figure out whether they are going to stay or not.

We got told that the expat populous in Penang although very mixed falls into the latter category. There is a great deal of transients in Penang after all it is an island and some people think they can live on an island and find out they can’t. In general, people are unwilling to invest in newcomers until they know they plan on staying for a while. We also found out there is no end to ways to meet others: through clubs, physical activities, educational opportunities, volunteer opportunities and various other miscellaneous things one does outside the home. It seems if a person has an interest then there is a group associated with that interest and if not one can always be started.

The weather in Penang is similar to Bangkok however, because it is an island surrounded by water and mountains, it subject to those influences. One can drive across one of two large bridges to the mainland and after about four hours will arrive in Kuala Lumpur, so you are never really far from a very large city with an international airport however Penang’s airport is also considered international and Qatar Airlines now flies out of it instead of just budget airlines. Ease of travel into and out of the destination is very important. The airport don’t need to be big but they need to be efficient, reliable and organised.

We need to be able to get back and forth to North America without too much difficulty and have people be able to come visit us with relative ease. We also want a place where they want to come visit us because it looks like some place that would interest them and Penang does have lots of interesting things to do. From what we could understand from the answers to our questions and our research thus far we estimate that Penang’s cost of living will be about 30% cheaper than living in Bangkok but we will continue to investigate this.

While on this trip we stayed in an area we would consider renting and we tried to visit a number of other areas we had read or been told were popular with expats and found some very nice areas. We are not sure about actual buildings or rental properties that allow dogs as that will require more research on another trip. Penang is still on our radar with much more research left to do it shows great promise for our needs and lifestyle. We continue to build our pro and con lists and our eventual destination will of course have a much longer pro than con.

swimming pool

cats

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Patrick Wamoto

Eager summer sunlight streams through the large windows of the Ambassador’s home. We are led through a hallway lined with framed photographs: in one, the Ambassador presents a Kenyan painting to the Crown Princess Sirindhorn; the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, smiles out of the frame of another; and a third gives us a first glimpse of the Ambassador, his wife, and their two sons. It is evident as we are led through a dining room, with its long stained-wood table and chairs, that the two boys are given freedom to play as children should.

Football goal nets are set up against one wall, and several mini cars and trucks line another. We reach a sitting room decorated with blue and gold chairs circling a coffee table. It is here that we meet H.E. Mr Patrick Wamoto, the Kenya Ambassador to Thailand. Dressed in a dark blue suit and rectangular glasses, Patrick offers us friendly handshakes and gestures for us to sit. His presence invites us to relax and be comfortable. We chat for a bit before a beautiful lady appears in the archway to the dining room, wearing a buttoned jacket and skirt patterned black and white.

We make introductions with Madam Valerie Rugene, the Ambassador’s spouse and an ex foreign service officer herself. The two take their seats in chairs across from us, casual in a way that makes me feel right at home. Valerie teases my supervisor for having a Starbucks cup with him. “The real coffee is Kenyan coffee,” she says. “They sell Kenyan coffee at Starbucks, did you know that?” Between us, the table is beautifully set with a box of Kenyan teas, a pot of coffee, and a spread of samosas and fruit. Valerie fills a cup to the brim with steaming coffee, which I sip gratefully, as Patrick begins to tell us about his diplomatic career.

 

“I am now on my fourth year,” he says, referring to his post in Bangkok. “The last leg. We normally do four years, although my predecessor was here for seven. But I have no intention of staying seven years.” He and his wife laugh. “Bangkok is unique,” continues the Ambassador. “It’s very cosmopolitan. You don’t feel homesick because you meet practically everybody. It’s almost like a UN.” Patrick began his diplomatic career in London. He had spent a year studying Diplomacy and International Relations in Oxford, and travelled to London often, so his country felt it fitting for him to return on business. “They thought I knew London well,” he says, “so it was easy for me to just move in and hit the ground running.”

After London, Patrick was posted in Austria as deputy head of mission, and then in Nigeria in the same position. He returned to Kenya as director of the Africa Department and was later upgraded to Chief Political Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thereafter he served as Ambassador to South Africa. Thailand then became his first post in Asia. Patrick’s extensive experience is impressive, especially considering his age. At 57 years old, he has been in the diplomatic service serving his country for 34 years.

The conversation then turns to Mrs Wamoto, whose role as the spouse of a head of mission keeps her equally as occupied as her husband. “Sometimes I joke with him and tell him, I’m busier than you are,” she says. This is partly because people often find Ambassadors’ spouses easier to talk to than the Ambassadors themselves. “Some people find it easier to approach us to bring in a project for the Embassy. If someone is interested in doing something on Kenya, they’ll come to me. So I constantly find myself very occupied.” Valerie describes some of the organisations she is involved with. She recently hosted the International Women’s Club of Thailand in their home.

This spurred the organisation’s interest in Kenya, and she supported their thematic annual meeting on the country. She is involved with Spouses of Heads of Mission (SHOM), the association of partners and spouses of Ambassadors accredited in Thailand. Patrick and Valerie are patrons representing their country in a SHOM collaboration with the Young Women’s Christian Association of Thailand (YWCA), and they also champion the Red Cross.

Patrick Wamoto

“The spouses do quite a lot,” says Valerie. “In fact,”– he laughs – “at times we get worried that they might take over our jobs. They’re quite a powerful organisation. Very active.” When they are not busy with diplomatic work, the Ambassador and his wife are occupied with their family life. Their sons, ages 7 and 6, currently attend St Andrews International School. “St Andrews is small and intimate,” says Valerie, “so when the kids come from abroad they don’t go and get overwhelmed at a huge school.”

As their parents describe, the boys are big fans of soccer and support the local Thai team Port FC. “That’s our other life,” says Valerie. Patrick describes how they often travel to other locations around Thailand for away matches, and how their sons will push aside the furniture in their home to make room for a soccer pitch. “If you look around our house you’ll see our walls are fairly soiled and marked but this is a family house,” laughs the Ambassador. “We can’t stop them from playing soccer inside.” That explains the large set of goalposts in the dining room.

In particular, the family enjoys travelling – often, by car. Most recently, they took an 8 hour road trip to Sisaket province. “When you fly,” says Patrick, “it’s over in 40 minutes. You don’t see much. But I believe when you live in a country, it’s also good to drive around, see what it looks like, meet local people – not just in the city but also outside. The best way of doing that is to drive. We stop by the roadside, have some Thai food, meet the local people and then move on.”

As Kenyan Ambassador to Thailand, Patrick’s post is one of the only two diplomatic posts in South East Asia. Therefore, his mission is also responsible for several neighbouring countries: Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. Having such a large scope of responsibility, Patrick tries to combine work with a vacation. “Last time we went to Vietnam we went to Halong Bay,” he says. “We were introduced to the motorbikes of Hanoi. I’ve never seen so many motorbikes in a capital city.”

There is a fondness in his voice as he recollects this, as if he can see a swarm of motorbikes billowing out before him. Patrick names Chiang Mai as the family’s favourite place in Thailand. “It reminds me so much of my own country,” he says. He was born and raised in western Kenya, by the border with Uganda. “It’s cooler, green and verdant. It’s just nice, fresh, clean are and very picturesque. I think I like the northern part (of Thailand), because I grew up in rural Kenya and it reminds me of my own early years.”

Kenyan Ambassador

The conversation then turns to the relationship between Thailand and Kenya. Kenya’s population is 45 million, but there are not many Kenyans in Thailand. Because Thailand was never colonised, the two countries were not linked by a historical relation with an outside power. Kenya and Thailand are also slightly disconnected because of language. Thailand has not had a major pull factor for Kenyans because, generally, neither speak foreign languages outside of their native tongues.

“We tend to work vote with our feet and go where, as soon as you land, you can communicate,” says the Ambassador. Therefore, Thailand is quite a recent destination for Kenyans. Although the Thais opened an Embassy for Kenya in 1967, there are now only around 400 Kenyans here, mostly working as teachers.

In a foreign policy orientation called “Look East,” Kenya has attempted to bridge the gap between countries like Thailand and diversify its ties, which have previously been much stronger with the West than the East. “That’s when we opened a couple of missions in Asia,” says Patrick. “We wanted to diversify, so we weren’t dependent on one or two trade partners.” Most importantly, the two countries are linked by trade. Kenya’s middle class is quickly growing, and people are now eating more rice than they did in the past.

Thailand is a “primary source” for rice, making this an important connection between the countries. Kenya also purchases auto components from Thailand. In Kenya, cars keep left, so the auto components are compatible. Meanwhile, Thailand relies on Kenya for imports like soda ash, coffee, and seafood, giant prawns. “We have a lot of gemstones coming in from Kenya,” he says. “Our gemstones all come raw and then the Thais add the value here.” The Embassy is however now working with the Thai government on reversing this so that there is more value addition at home.

Kenyan Ambassador friends

There are many aspects of Thailand’s economy and industries that interest Patrick, and he wishes to introduce these tools to his home country. He admires Thailand’s agriculture system and its effective use of water. He hopes for Kenya to one day follow Thailand’s lead when it comes to agriculture, fishing, sustainability, and even simple things like product packaging. Differences in packaging allow for products to gain value, so improving this industry could only be beneficial for Kenya. Repackaging could increase the value of raw products and bring in a greater profit. Patrick also compliments Thailand’s universal healthcare, which he says the country has handled “wonderfully well.”

According to him, the Kenyan prime minister’s goal is to achieve universal healthcare in Kenya by 2022. Both Patrick and Valerie also express their admiration at Thailand’s ability to market itself and bring in revenue. On a small table set against the wall is a framed photo of Valerie on a catwalk, dressed in a beautiful sunset coloured garment and the Maasai beads of Kenya. She explains that the garment is of traditional Kenyan style but made from Thai silk. The picture is from the Thai Silk Fashion Show, which began in 2012 and is held annually in commemoration of the Queen Sirikit’s birthday.

Kenya Ambassador in Thailand

This year, as many as 34 countries have been invited to participate. Their traditional garments will be designed in Thai silk and modelled on a runway at the spectacular event, which is growing and expanding every year. They are even set to publish the first “Thai Silk Week” magazine. “The Thais are so innovative,” says Patrick admirably. “They use Thai silk to make designs of other countries. When people see her in silk” – he gestures to the photograph – “African attire, but Thai silk, they want to buy it.” Valerie comments that this is also a very good method for Thailand to market itself. Not only do countries like the look of their garments made from silk, but the designers from abroad are also invited on tours throughout Thailand. In this way, Thais market their country by organising creative ways to bring in revenue and encourage foreigners’ interest.

They organise similar trips for Ambassadors and their families, allowing them to learn more about the country they serve and live in. Thus, the Ambassador believes Kenya could learn quite a few things from Thailand. Nonetheless, there is still much to see and experience in Kenya that cannot be found here in Thailand. An obvious attraction is the safari. Unlike some other African countries, whose safaris’ over neat roads will make you feel like you’re in a city, Kenya can offer a true safari experience. “It’s dirty. A very bumpy ride,” says Valerie. “It’s all about nature.”

playing soccer

Patrick agrees: “You come out feeling like, yes, you’ve been on a safari.” Because of Kenya’s efforts in wildlife preservation, it’s very easy to see “the big five” – lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and the African buffalo. “You don’t have to stay in the park and should wander around a bit and get a feel for the country,” says Patrick. In some places, the camps are elevated so you can sit in a Jacuzzi and watch the lions roam free down below. These descriptions made me want to hop on a Kenya  bound aeroplane immediately, but the safari is not the only attraction that makes the country worth visiting. Recently,  people have begun travelling to Kenya to train with elite athletes. In Thailand, as well as around the world, the marathon is becoming more popular.

Thais travel to Kenya to “spend a week there,” says the Ambassador, “do some training, meet some of the elite athletes, see the wildlife, and then come back.”For those uninterested in safaris or athletics, Kenya is worth visiting simply for the good weather, food, people, and beaches, which, according to the Ambassador, “are some of the best.”It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the Kenyan Ambassador and his family plan to return home after their Bangkok post. They’ve spent years travelling abroad and now long to be homebound.

This is in part so their sons can get used to being in Kenya before going overseas again, and so that Valerie’s mother can spend more time with them. Until then, they will honour their country’s independence on December 12th with their friends and family. They will celebrate Kenya’s beauty, culture, uniqueness, and people in style, perhaps clinking their glasses for a toast to many years to come – years in which the country may thrive, all the while pleasing its residents with comfortable weather, beautiful beaches, awe striking wildlife, and the wonders that its Ambassador to Thailand and his wife speak so  highly of.

kids with a dog

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