Magazine

Let’s hope that the hotel, restaurant, souvenir and massage shops, the retail giants, hospitals and others that depend on foreign trade read the Bangkok Post and force some action on the Thai government and TAT who of course have their own ideas about stimulating tourism and the economy.

Naturally they are heralding Thailand Elite and high spending short term tourists as that is where all their money has gone so that they can turn round and tell us how successful they have been.


Forget the retired expats that Bering their lives savings and pensions to Thailand to spend on a daily basis – they have.

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A shopping event to meet 150 amazing creators, discover trendy fashion collections and accessories, sustainable home goods, natural cosmetics, healthy groceries, vegan delicatessen and much more.  In addition to our regular popular brands, a wild range of new products and services, and their designers, will be present. 
Since 2014, the Hope Fair has been offering alternatives to Bangkok shoppers with ethical, environmental, or social concerns. 
Expect to see organic, local, and fair-trade SMEs & entrepreneurs putting their heart into their business. Every product has a story, and every choice has an impact. 
Also, at each of our events, all the vendors donate to the kids of the slums of Bangkok through the Mercy Centre. With the donations made at the September 24th event, the Hope Fair community will support the renovation of the Landin Preschool and improve the daily comfort of the 116 children enrolled there.
To this day the Hope Fair Community has raised 785775 THB.
You are invited to bring your donation: unused shoes or clothes, household items, etc. 
The foundation will collect them onsite to redistribute them to the ones in need. 
Come join us for this event, be a responsible consumer, and have fun at our prestigious venue!
September 24th, 2020 – From 9am to 3pm. 
@ Avani Sukhumvit Hotel, 7th Floor
BTS On Nut, exit 3.
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Anand Panyarachun

With Thailand still struggling to return to electoral democracy after a military coup, it is worth looking at the nation’s unfortunate wealth of experience in such endeavours. Of particular note is the role played by Anand Panyarachun, the leader of what many count as the most successful post-coup government in Thai history. Anand not only led honest and effective governments, but twice returned the country to elections. From the point of the generals who originally chose him, however, Anand turned out to be a disaster for military political power. Anand Panyarachun and the Making of Modern Thailand by long-time Bangkok journalist Dominic Faulder not only sheds new light on Anand’s post-coup role, but provides much else of interest.

This biography of Anand, the first in English, is the outcome of six years of work by Faulder. It  covers Anand’s life and work as diplomat, Prime Minister, company chairman, philanthropist and contributor to national and international reform. As the subtitle of the book indicates, Anand’s career also provides a useful lens through which to view a half century of Thai history. The book includes interviews with many of the key actors in the events that have made modern Thailand. As Faulder notes, “The benefit of writing a book about Anand is that many people are willing to open their doors to talk about him; this kind of access is rare in Thailand.” Sadly, at least eight of those interviewed have since passed away – highlighting the timeliness of Faulder’s work.

Dominic Faulder
Dominic Faulder

Before going further, I should acknowledge that I do not come to this subject without my own experiences and biases. I covered Anand’s surprising nomination as Prime Minister in 1991 as Bangkok bureau chief for United Press International. A few years later I was part of the group that persuaded Anand to chair the non-profit Kenan Institute Asia. I served for a decade as executive director and later president of the Institute under Anand’s leadership. I later worked as part of a team of writers supervised by Anand that produced a book on King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I have been friends with Dominic Faulder for many years and more recently became friends with editor Nick Grossman.

Although I covered parts of Anand’s career and worked closely with him, Faulder’s book gave me new information and greater insight into Anand’s life and character. Faulder has given an accurate picture of a man of decisive rationality and integrity. He set high standards he set for himself and those working with  him. As the book shows, Anand is a man of great self-confidence and quick decisions. More often than not, even in confusing circumstances, his judgment has been sound. Anand worked in a wide variety of roles in his career. He brought value and concern for the public good to each of them.

Elite has become a term of disparagement, but in many positive ways, Anand was legitimately elite. He did not suffer fools easily and was often straightforward in exposing their foolishness. This is not the easy way to popularity. Although he certainly had enemies, Anand gained public support because most people could see his blunt assessments were intended to serve the public good. They also saw that he recognised the advantages his privileged upbringing had given him and sought to understand and empathise with the lives of ordinary Thais. He was elite without being elitist.

Faulder gives a good account of Anand’s early life as a student in England and shows how his personal bonds with fellow overseas Thai students proved valuable in later years as Anand and his friends rose to positions of greater power. The background on Anand’s family and the particular importance of his father Sern is useful in understanding Anand. Sern, the son of a high-ranking official of Mon ancestry, won a King’s scholarship to study in England before being called back to Thailand to serve in the Ministry of Education, rising to take charge of all the royal schools, to serve as a professor at the Civil Service College and to become the top civil servant in the ministry. After the coup that overthrew the traditional monarchy in 1932, Sern became a  businessman and publisher – precursors of his son’s later occupations. It is hard to find fault with most of what Faulder has written. It is well-organised, carefully documented and, as far as I can tell, accurate. The faults I find lie in what is omitted, perhaps due to circumstances beyond the author’s control.

Faulder gives a brief account of Anand’s courtship and marriage to Mom Ratchawong Sodsee Chakrabandh, a fellow student in England and a descendant of King Mongkut. The book, however, says little about Anand’s long marriage, despite Faulder’s extensive access to Anand and his two daughters. Similarly, the book fails to shed much light on Anand’s relationship with King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Faulder notes that Anand had numerous meetings with the King, especially during Anand’s two terms as Prime Minister. He quotes others about the relationship. One friend described Anand as a Bhumibolist rather than a royalist. However, there is little on this topic directly from Anand. As Faulder states in his author’s note, Anand made it clear that matters discussed privately with the King were off limits for the book. This is understandable, but unfortunate, as Anand’s views of the King could have contributed to a better understanding of a monarch whose long reign has been obscured by unfounded rumours, excessive adulation and excessive blame. Both the King and Anand had minds shaped by extensive early education in Europe that had to deal with the complexities of traditional Thai society. Their discussions of Thailand’s problems must have been interesting.

There is also little account of Anand’s religious thinking. Faulder notes his opposition to making Buddhism the state religion during the development of the 1997 constitution and quotes him as saying “normally I don’t give money to temples.” Since Buddhism is so important in the thinking of many Thais, it would have been useful to learn more.

Anand Panyarachun

Many of Anand’s views in the book were familiar from my chats with him at board meetings, dinners or social events, but some were new to me. For someone often described as part of the traditional elite, Anand’s views are rather untraditional. Faulder quotes him as rejecting the idea of “Thainess” and lamenting that so many Thais misunderstand their own history – taking pride in the glory of a unitary state that never existed. The book shows he rejected the common prejudice of many in Bangkok against the Lao ethnic minority, saying he saw them as intelligent and hardworking. He is quoted as saying he appreciated the writings of Thai “radical thinkers,” including Jit Phumisak, Seni Sawaphong, Khamsing Srinawk and Seksan Prasertkul. He decries the abuses of Thailand’s Lese Majeste law and recommends its reform. As head of a commission on the troubles in Thailand’s far south, he opposed the views of most military and government leaders, recommending more local autonomy, greater respect for Islam and a bigger role for the Malay language as measures to reduce the violence there. At the same time he rejects the idea of a “network monarchy” popular among foreign academics. Faulder says Anand sees this network monarchy as “a convoluted, somewhat obsessive conspiracy theory.”

At 608 pages, Anand Panyarachun and the making of modern Thailand is comprehensive and detailed. It is an important step in filling the marked lack of serious English language biographies of leading Thais, but it does more.

Using the life of a significant Thai leader, the book gives us insider accounts of many of the critical developments in recent Thai history. Anand’s career extended to diplomacy, government leadership, private enterprise, reform commissions and charitable work making him an important player in that history. But because the account is tied to Anand, it says little about the impact of change on the people of the countryside, the recurring radical movements, the rise and fall of the Thai communist party and much else. However, it does give us a better understanding of whatever events Anand touched and they were many. Anand and many others contributed hundreds of hours of interviews to the book. This wealth of material provides an understanding of Thai diplomacy during the cold war and Thai efforts to adjust to the new reality after the wars in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In particular there is an inside account of the fiasco of the Mayaguez incident and the contentious departure of US troops from the Thai perspective. The book describes Anand’s role in the Thai effort to readjust its relations with the communist governments in Vietnam and China. As a result, he suffered the wrath of the conservative Thai military in the process, seemingly bringing his government career to a sudden end.

The highlight of the book, however, is a detailed account of Anand’s two terms as Prime Minister. It describes his surprising appointment as Prime Minister after a military coup in 1991 and the confusing process that led to a second term after a public uprising against an unelected military leader the following year. Faulder sheds light on the relationship between Anand and army commander General Suchinda who appointed him only to see him move against military interests and sideline key generals.

He details the Anand government’s considerable achievements during those two brief terms. Quite correctly, a share of the credit is given to the ministers that Anand brought into his cabinet. With Anand’s support, those ministers advanced the rights of women, espoused much needed educational reform, improved the telecommunications infrastructure and made Thailand a model for enlightened action against AIDS, saving many thousands of lives.

Paul Wedel

There is a good discussion of Anand’s work to help write Thailand’s 1997 constitution – one that many feels was the best of the many constitutions Thailand has had. His well-timed actions against the leaders of the 1991 coup kept Thai military leaders in their barracks and out of politics for nearly a decade. Somewhat apart from Anand’s story, Faulder also provides inside accounts of publications about King Bhumibol and a long overdue dissection of a travesty of royal biography, The Revolutionary King by William Stevenson. Whether read for its insights into the life and work of an important Thai leader or for its account of recent Thai history, Anand Panyarachun and the Making of Modern Thailand is good value. Hopefully it will set the standard for biographies of many other significant Thais that are long overdue.

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The Soroptimist International Club of Bangkok (SIB) is part of Soroptimist International, a worldwide organisation for professional women who volunteer their time to work on projects that promote human rights and raise the status of women.

“Chartered in 1977, our mandate is to inspire action and create opportunities for women and children through advocating for equality, promoting safe and healthy environments, increasing access to education, and developing skills for a sustainable future.”

In Thailand, there are two chapters of Soroptimist of Bangkok International: SIB and its sister club Soroptimist of Dusit (SID). Each club meets once a month for lunch or dinner, to discuss club business such as our fundraising projects, provide networking opportunities among professional women, and occasionally listen to guest speakers. Recent speakers have covered diverse topics, from the status of women and girls in Afghanistan to how to build an engaged and community-driven dialogue to address the deep-seated issues surrounding interpersonal violence. Throughout its four decades of existence, SIB has focused on education, funding scholarships, building dormitories and toilets in rural schools, and supporting vocational training for poor women and women prisoners.

“All women with professional backgrounds in any industry or business are welcome to join us at our monthly meeting, to learn more about who we are and what we do to improve the lives of girls and women in Thailand.”

In addition, our club supports student nurses studying under the Queen Mother’s Foundation nursing programme. We hire nannies to care for children at the Pakkret orphanage. We developed an award-winning Cross Stitch of Love Project that helps hilltribe women in remote villages in Chiang Rai to market their remarkable cross stitch handicraft, generating income for themselves and their families. The club also supports the Siriraj Project, funding boarding for low-income families with gravely ill children under palliative care.

This year, under the helm of new President Niru Narula Chansrichawla, SIB will also turn towards promoting sustainable development, working to reduce the use of disposable plastics and air pollution. According to Greenpeace, poor air quality shortens the lives of 50,000 people in Thailand annually, while negatively affecting the health of 2 million people in SE Asia. Planting a tree improves air quality by cooling the area and removing pollutants within a 100 foot radius. While Thailand is top 5 worst polluters of plastic in the world generating almost one million tons annually.

“It is our responsibility to look after mother nature for this generation and for generations to come,” says Niru. “Guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, going green and reducing plastic are pressing issues in today’s world.” All women with professional backgrounds in any industry or business are welcome to join us at our monthly meeting, to learn more about who we are and what we do to improve the lives of girls and women in Thailand. We meet every second Wednesday of the month for lunch at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel.

For more information or to get in touch, please visit www.sibangkok.org or follow our facebook page: Soroptimist International Club of Bangkok.

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One of our recent Expat Book Club books was ‘Little Deaths‘ by Emma Flint. I’m the first to admit that thrillers are not my genre of choice, and I also tend to steer clear of books where children are victims of crimes. Yet this novel, which follows the story of a mother whose two young children are murdered, had me hooked. The reason for this? Well firstly, we already know the horrific fate of the children. We are not left desperately turning the pages hoping they live, and there is no ‘goryfication’ (not a real word but it should be) of the murders. Instead, ‘Little Deaths’ focuses on their mother, Ruth, and the way she is perceived and treated by the police, the press and the people in her neighbourhood.

Secondly, the writing is so assured that I couldn’t believe it was Flint’s first novel. Ruth’s world of 1960s working class New York is brilliantly observed; as a reader you are drawn right in. You can feel the relentless heat of the summer, hear the Queens’ accents, and see how the women in the neighbourhood watch and judge Ruth. I was also intrigued by the fact that the novel is based on a real case which gripped America in the late 1960s. Alice Crimmins was a divorcée and mother of two young children. One night the children disappeared and were later found dead.

Crimmins maintained her innocence but two years later – based on flimsy and circumstantial evidence – she was convicted. This was later overturned, and then she was found guilty again… and later released on parole. Did she do it? Well, she was definitely guilty of being a very attractive woman who flouted the norms of the time – she had affairs, she stayed out late, she drank. It seems the police and the press pinned the murders on her right from the start. In ‘Little Deaths’ Flint shows how Ruth is watched and judged by everyone; we see how the tabloid press reduce her to a femme fatale to sell papers and how she is immediately presumed guilty because she does not fit into the ‘good mother’ mould.

I loved Flint’s evocation of time and place, and how she gradually built up a portrait of Ruth so that we could see behind the ‘mask’ she put on. Ruth’s grief – and attempts to numb her pain with sex and alcohol – are compellingly written. Some of our book club members found it a little slow in parts; I would also say that, for me, this was more

a psychological drama than a ‘thriller’. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much. I was thrilled when the author, Emma Flint, agreed to take some questions from The Expat Book Club. Thank you to Emma for being so gracious with your time and answering every question that we put to you!

The Expat Book Club interview questions with Emma Flint

‘Little Deaths’ is your debut novel; how long have you been writing for?

I’ve always written – ever since I knew what stories were, really – but I started to write seriously in my thirties. I began Little Deaths in 2010 and finished it in 2016.

We have lots of writers as well as readers in the group; do you have any advice for people who are working on their first book?

I believe that the most important thing is to read as much as you can, as often as you can. Read to find which writers you love, and work out why you love them. Find writers you don’t like, and work out why. Read other books in the genre you’re working in, and read outside your area of interest. Read poetry to find new ways of using language. Read drama to understand dialogue. Read non-fiction to give your fiction credibility and authenticity. I’d also recommend finding a writing group.

It’s impossible to write a first novel in isolation: you need support and you need feedback from readers you trust. I also needed the accountability of writing a certain number of words for my writing groups by a certain date. Most people write a first novel about something they’re passionate about, and you need the objective judgment of others to tell you whether that passion translates to the page.

It helps to find a routine that works for you – whether that’s writing 1000 words a day, or 5000 words a week, or spending ten hours a week with your novel. Work out when you’re most productive. Set aside lunchtimes or two evenings a week or find childcare for half a day each weekend – but carve out the time and then use it. Above all, don’t give up. Writing can be a long slow process – it took me three years to write a full first draft, and there were eleven more drafts before it was finished.

To make time for that amount of work, you have to believe completely in what you’re doing and that you feel you have a story to tell that only you can tell. That belief will get you through the rejections and the lack of free time and the slog and the utter exhaustion. Belief in what you’re doing will also help you decide whether the criticism you’ll get is fair or not: only you can know if changes that others suggest are right for your book.

You must have done lots of research into the case of Alice Crimmins and the murders of her children. Do you have any theories on what really happened? I realise this is an unfair question, but it is one we have all been asking each other!

I obviously don’t know the truth of what happened to the Crimmins children – and unfortunately it’s very unlikely that any more will be learned about their deaths, beyond what was uncovered during the investigation and the trial. But my starting point with the book was that it didn’t seem that the police had looked at other suspects.

Because it took so long to get enough evidence to bring Alice to trial, and because it took three court cases to return a guilty verdict, I felt there must be other versions that were at least as plausible as the official version. I wanted to write a book that felt like it could be true, both in terms of the evidence found, and from a psychological perspective – and that’s where the idea for my ending came from.

One of our members gave the following summation of ‘Little Deaths’; ‘It was the patriarchal Madonna/whore dichotomy – women were expected to be either modest, saintly angels to be placed on a pedestal or to be sinful beyond all redemption. That a woman could enjoy her independence and explore her sexuality yet still love her children simply didn’t fit into his world view. Once she was shown to be unfaithful, she was seen as capable of any crime’. Would you agree with this?

Absolutely – I think this is a great way of looking at it. There’s a line in the book: ‘a bitch like that is capable of anything’ – and I had that in mind the whole time I was writing.

Unfortunately some of that attitude is still prevalent today: look at the way the appearance of Kate McCann was analysed in the media alongside the disappearance of her daughter Madeleine. Or the way Amanda Knox’s sex life was discussed in articles about the murder of Meredith Kercher. Appearance and sexuality are clearly irrelevant to guilt or innocence, but they’re often discussed as though they can provide clues to a crime, especially when a woman is the prime suspect.

I was drawn to the story because of the sense of injustice that pervaded it, and because of my impression that the real-life Ruth was condemned for who she was, rather than what she’d done. I’m not sure that society, particularly certain areas of the media, has moved on a great deal in that respect over the past fifty years: I wanted to highlight how women are often still judged on their appearance and their sexuality more than anything else.

The opening chapter of ‘Little Deaths’, where the children go missing, is a frightening scenario, yet the book is attracting lots of interest from our book club (no doubt it includes parents). What made you write about this topic?

I first read about it when I was sixteen, and the details stayed with me until I began to write the book that would become Little Deaths. I was fascinated by a woman who could become the chief suspect in the murders of her children before the police even had confirmation they were dead. Little Deaths was borne out of my fascination with this ambiguous woman: she was a wife, brought up a Catholic and married in a Catholic church – yet she was separated from

her husband and had multiple lovers. She was a mother who claimed to be devoted to her children, yet she worked long shifts in a seedy bar instead of staying home to take care of them, and locked them in their bedroom for hours while she slept late. She was bereaved and supposedly grieving, yet she continued to dress provocatively and to apply her heavy mask of make-up in the days following the discovery of her children’s bodies.

What fascinated me about her was why she behaved the way she did. I wanted to know if there might be another story to tell, beyond the obvious surface details.

I thought ‘Little Deaths’ evoked a very strong sense of place and time, yet you are British, not American. Why did you choose to set it where and when you did? How did you go about doing the research for the background of the story?

Thank you – it’s very good to hear that Little Deaths conveys a strong sense of time and place. It wasn’t a conscious choice to write a book set in America more than 50 years ago, and had I known what a difficult task I was setting myself, I might have thought twice! It was more that I was interested in the story and in the character at the centre of it, and that story happened to be set in New York in the 60s. I read two excellent books about the original case which I mention in the acknowledgments, as well as dozens of relevant newspaper articles, but most of my research was done online.

I used Google Maps and Streetview to ‘walk’ down the streets in Queens where the story is set, to look up at the buildings, and try to get a sense of the neighbourhood where Ruth lives. I listened to Queens accents on YouTube, and I looked at thousands of photos of suburban America in the mid-60s. I also kept thinking about my own childhood: I grew up in a quiet and sometimes claustrophobic suburb on the outskirts of a city. I think anyone who grew up in an environment like that will understand the closeness of that kind of neighbourhood, and how anyone different stands out.

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“What makes for great holiday reading? Well, that’s  about as good a question as  ‘what makes a good holiday’.  We all like different things,  thank goodness.”

What makes for great holiday reading? Well, that’s about as good a question as ‘what makes a good holiday’. We all like different things, thank goodness. A lazy beach holiday might be anathema to some; to others the idea of an ‘active holiday’ is an oxymoron. I personally haven’t met a sun lounger I didn’t like… One thing is for certain; the summer is short and your holidaytime is precious.

There is no space in your suitcase for bad books. So here are some recommendations from our recent reads in The Expat Book Club to get your holiday reading list started…

A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backmann

Ove is a grumpy old man. He shouts at his neighbours. He is completely stuck in his ways. Modern life confuses and enrages him. But the arrival of a new family into his street marks the start of changes for Ove – and the whole neighbourhood. As the book progresses we learn more about Ove and, the more we learn about Ove, the more we begin to see that this old curmudgeon is actually very lovable.

I don’t think many of us finished this without shedding a tear or two, but there is also a lot of dark humour in the book. Some of the funniest moments are between Ove and the stray cat he begrudgingly adopts: “Ove stomped forward. The cat stood up. Ove stopped. They stood there measuring each other up for a few moments, like two potential troublemakers in a small-town bar.

Ove considered throwing one of his clogs at it. The cat looked as if it regretted not bringing its own clogs to lob back.” In a lot of ways this book is similar to our first (and most popular) Expat Book Club read, ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ (Gail Honeyman) as both have a central character who is lonely, prickly and not conventionally very likeable. But by the end of the book Ove, like Eleanor, had completely won us over.

The Expat Book Club verdict? 4 stars

‘Absolutely loved Ove! So touched and moved.’ ‘Read it for the second time and loved it even more than before.’ ‘I found it hard to get into. The book has also very remarkable quotes, but still… I was counting how many pages until the end.’

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

‘How To Stop Time’ begins with the narrator, Tom Hazard, telling us about his age: “I am old – old in the way that a tree, or a quahog clam, or a Renaissance painting is old. I was born well over four hundred years ago, on the third of March 1581…”. As Tom explains, he has a condition which means he ages slower than everyone else.

He may be 400 years old, but he looks as if he is in his thirties. And, while this may seem like a blessing, Tom shows us how it feels more like a curse: “It made me lonely. And when I say lonely, I mean the kind of loneliness that howls through you like a desert wind. It wasn’t just the loss of people I had known but also the loss of myself. The loss of who I had been when I had been with them.”

The novel moves back and forwards in time to tell Tom’s story. He has been recruited by the sinister ‘Albatross Society’, the aim of which is to protect the secret of their condition from ordinary humans – or, as they call them, ‘Mayflies.’ This really is a genre-defying novel – it has great historical detail, it’s very funny, it’s a bit sci-fi and, at times, it reads like a James Bond spy thriller.

But above all, it plays to your heart – about what it is to be human, about what it means to love and be loved. Oh, and there are some great quotes in this book. This, as an avid reader, was probably my favourite; “Whenever I see someone reading a book, especially if it is someone I don’t expect, I feel civilisation has become a little safer.”

The Expat Book Club verdict: 4 stars

‘An excellent, thought provoking read.’ ‘I enjoyed it more towards the end, some of the stories really moved me and it made me think about the past, present and how things haven’t changed that much…’

going home

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

‘Homegoing’ begins in 18th Century Ghana with two half sisters, Effia and Esi. They are raised in different villages and are unaware of each other’s existence. Effia is married off to an English slave trader while Esi is captured, sold as a slave and shipped off to America. What follows is almost a series of linked short stories; each chapter is narrated by a descendent of either Effia or Esi, and each voice represents a different generation.

Alternating between America and Africa, Gyasi illuminates the impact of slavery on those who were enslaved and those who were left behind, on subsequent generations, and on nations. This is a family tree that has been split down the middle, with limbs that have been cut off and broken. Gyasi is giving us the stories of the people whose voices usually go unheard: ‘We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story.

So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth?’

This book is ambitious in scope and beautifully written – it’s hard to believe that it is Gyasi’s first novel. It’s very moving – at times painful to read – but, as one of our Book Club members put it, it feels like it should be required reading. If you are looking for a book that will draw you in and really make you think, this would be a good choice.

The Expat Book Club verdict: 4.5 stars

‘It was epic, beautiful, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, poetic and important. What a writer! What a book!’ ‘Really enjoyed it, although heartbreaking to read I felt that it was really well written and an important story that deserved to be heard.’ Other great holiday reads…

maria

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Following on from her hilariously screwball debut ’Where’d You Go Bernadette’, Semple is again on outrageously funny form. ‘Today Will Be Different’ is set over the course of a single day but is packed with comedy and memorable characters.

Beautiful Ruins  by Jess Walters

One of my favourite holiday reads, this book is set between Italy in the 1960s and modern-day Hollywood. It’s
a glamorous, romantic read that just sweeps you along and makes you wish you were on the Italian Riviera.

dry

The Dry by Jane Harper

This gripping novel is set in the Australian outback. A Federal agent is sent back to his hometown to investigate the death of a local man. We soon find out that this small town holds big secrets. This is a real page turning mystery with a great plot line.

What is The Expat Book Club?

The Expat Book Club is an online community connecting women living overseas through a shared love of reading. As the Expat Book Club is online you can join in whenever suits you… and you can remain a member no matter how many times you move!

Facebook/expatbookclub

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Volvo car

Volvo XC90 T8 review

Luxury seven passenger plug-in hybrid
The Volvo XC90 T8 is a luxury high performance plug-in hybrid SUV. It offers comfort, safety, and a level of efficiency previously thought impossible in an all wheel drive people mover. It's expected to offer about 14 miles of all electric range, and the equivalent total fuel economy of 59 miles per gallon.

volvo

Styling

The Volvo XC90 received a major redesign for 2016, after 13 years on the market with relatively few updates to its styling. In addition to a totally revamped exterior, the SUV now offers a new powertrain option, becoming the first seven seat plug-in hybrid SUV.

In 2016, the look of the XC90 was completely re-envisioned to compete with expensive luxury SUV models like the BMW X5 and the Mercedes GLE. This was part of a greater effort on the part of Volvo after its purchase by Chinese conglomerate Geely Holding Group, a Chinese multinational automotive manufacturing company to ditch its image as the dowdy, utilitarian, safety-first cousin to flashy European luxury nameplates. One look at the new XC90 shows the difference in Volvo’s approach.

volvo

The new XC90 leans forward with an aggressive, imposing attitude. Inside, the XC90 plug- in is pure luxury refinement. Soft leather, brushed metal and high-quality plastics line the cabin. The crystal joystick shifter is handmade by a renowned Scandinavian glassmaker. The console boasts every technological capability you’ll find this side of a Tesla Model S, but it feels more like analogue luxury than sitting at the controls of a spaceship.

A single touchscreen sits between the driver and passenger air vents, and save for an unobtrusive row of buttons below, the console is devoid of clutter. Using a relatively intuitive operating system based on expanding and contracting panels, the XC90’s touchscreen interface should be easy enough for most first-time drivers to use without searching for the manual. Or if you prefer, Volvo’s natural language voice command system can pull up directions, change the music, or tweak the climate control hands-free, as needed.

Sound comes from a 19 speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium system complete with a reverb setting tuned to mimic the atmosphere of the Gothenburg Concert Hall. Volvo designers went to every length to convince buyers that this is indeed a high-end luxury SUV, both inside and out.

Performance

Where many plug-ins and hybrids ask drivers to trade power for efficiency, the Volvo XC90’s proposition to buyers is quite the opposite. The plug-in T8 are rewarded not only with higher fuel economy but a shot of electric drive capability and that rockets the SUV to 407 bhp and 472 pound-feet of torque. The T8 can achieve 0 – 60 in just 5.9 seconds. Some of that extra power is necessary to compensate for the additional 550 pounds of curb weight (2.34 tonnes) brought to the T8 by its lithium ion battery pack and twin electric motors.

volvo

On the whole though, the effect is to give the SUV a more muscular, substantial feel, and the T8 especially benefits from the available air suspension system included at the Inscription trim level. Like most plug-ins, the XC90 provides several driving modes. The default is “Hybrid,” which fades power between the engine and both electric motors for optimal energy efficiency. “Pure” shuts the engine and puts the car into electric-only mode for up to 14 miles in typical conditions. “Power” and “All-Wheel-Drive” optimise performance for different terrains, engaging both the engine and motors for maximum output. “Save” mode shuts the battery’s contribution to save power for “Pure” operation later on.

The handling is more responsive than you might expect from Volvo. The XC90’s “twin engine” powertrain pairs a 2.0 litre supercharged and turbocharged engine with twin electric motors attached to the front and rear wheels. The SUV uses a 34-kW starter- generator to charge the battery pack when its regenerative braking system is in use. That system is noticeably more gentle than many other regenerative braking setups, which some drivers who miss coasting might find consider an attractive bonus.

Efficiency and Range

As the only seven-passenger plug-in hybrid on the market, the XC90 may not feel the same pressure to eke out the greatest possible range from its battery pack. This is decidedly a luxury performance SUV – albeit one that gets the energy equivalent of nearly 60mpg thanks to its plug-in capability. Volvo says it expects a 14 mile all electric range and a 59 MPGe rating. What this translates to is you will be driving the most efficient large SUV on the road, and your gas savings will be cut significantly.

volvo

Passenger and Cargo Room

The XC90 T8 plug-in is a spacious and inviting seven-seat SUV, with plenty of room for either seven passengers or a substantial cargo load. The front seats feature 10 way power controls, the second row reclines and slides – not necessary an expected feature on cars in this class – and the back row is surprisingly roomy. The entire cabin is decked out in premium leather and lavish flourishes to make even the seventh passenger feel a little bit privileged.

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With the third row down, the XC90 provides up to 41.8 cubic feet of cargo space (depending on how the rear seats are adjusted.) The T8 comes with a standard hands-free tailgate and optional remote controllable air springs that lower the rear of the car for easy loading. Contributing to the XC90’s aura of spaciousness are large, intelligently positioned windows and a panoramic sunroof that come standard on all T8s.

Safety

The image that Volvo is trying to transcend with models like the XC90 is one of staid dependability and unsurpassed safety. The XC90 is available with all of Volvo’s critically acclaimed safety features, including blindspot monitoring, automatic breaking to protect drivers from accelerating into traffic and a pre-collision conditioning that adjusts the seating to embrace for impact. The XC90 also has an optional head up display which I found most useful in keeping my eyes on the road by projecting important information on the windshield.

 

The available pilot assist system is an automatic driving feature that brakes and accelerates along with traffic and steers to keep you aligned with the car ahead. A spacious, luxury SUV definitely worth considering.

volvo classic

 

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Kentucky to Bangkok

by Cody Jackson
kentucky to bangkok- bridge

 

kentucky to bangkok- buildings

Hey y’all I’m Cody. I come from a small rural town in the United States of America. Specifically, the northern part of the state of Kentucky with a population of a little over 2,000. To put it in perspective, none of my family lives more than 30 minutes away from one another. Everyone knows everyone. It’s a real homey feel. Kentucky is known for the rolling hills, bluegrass, Bourbon, and racehorses. Farming is still very popular in Kentucky as well. I grew up on farm raising tobacco and learned what hard work was from a very young age.

Multiple summers and school breaks were spent in the tobacco fields. I’m married to a handsome local Kentuckian named Andy. Andy’s from a small town in eastern Kentucky. You are most likely familiar with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Andy’s hometown is near where the first KFC was built. Coming from similar backgrounds, it took our families by surprise when we told them that we were going to move to Bangkok.

When Andy’s work offered him a relocation contract to move to the Bangkok office I didn’t know what to think. I had never been out of the country before. Travelling to me was going 850 miles away to Florida to the beach, not going across the globe. I had only been on a plane a handful of times and it was never over a two-hour flight. Panic struck me, what would my parents think? I’ve never moved so far away from them.

What about my friends? I won’t get to see them for a long time. Oh, and my job? I will have to quit my job. I knew though that we couldn’t pass on such an opportunity so we made the decision together that we would move to Bangkok. We thought we were both young, no children, and have never travelled before. It all seemed like the perfect opportunity to leave Kentucky and see the world.

What a shock it was when we first got here. I couldn’t understand people and they couldn’t understand me. I didn’t know where anything was. I didn’t have friends. I couldn’t find a job. I felt like I didn’t have much of a purpose. Andy would go to work and I would be home by myself all day. How I first coped with this feeling was downloading books on my Kindle to read. I had never read much so it was a good time to be by myself and read. I still had this emptiness inside me. I needed something more. I decided I would sew. My grandmother actually got me a sewing machine back in the States and when we moved I brought it with me. So, I worked on quilts and I made two quilts for friends. As fun as that was I still didn’t have friends. I could no longer be on my own. I needed a girlfriend who I could chat with. Women long for communication! I wanted a job I could go to.

My job search in the beginning was a complete fail. I went to some by Cody Jackson interviews but none would provide me with a work permit. The majority of the jobs here are for English teachers so I looked up the requirements and did a course online to get my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certificate. While I was completing the course to get my TEFL certificate I started to look up groups I could join but I wasn’t ready to commit and pay a membership fee to join any of them. A co-worker of Andy’s recommended I look at Internations online, that there may be some volunteer work I could involve myself in. I saw that Internations also has a membership fee but you can see a lot of the posts without having to pay. I saw a post that needed volunteer English teachers

. I was intimidated at first because I didn’t have any teaching experience but I reached out to the organizer anyways. She was delighted to have me on the volunteer team and explained to me the need for English teachers at the Duang Prateep Foundation. It was the perfect opportunity for me to use my TEFL certificate and gain teaching experience. The school was located in Khlong Toei slums. I taught kindergarteners. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I volunteered once or twice a week.

A lot of the volunteers helping at the school in the slums were older and I wasn’t able to connect with them. Don’t get me wrong, everyone was extremely nice! I even met a Thai friend who I still keep in contact with. She’s so busy with her own work and she travels a lot so I wasn’t able to meet with her much. Through Facebook I found a girls international group that’s based in Bangkok but didn’t find myself making friends there either.

A lot of them are younger, like me, but are not here long. I find myself detached from younger groups because I am married and I don’t like going out drinking. I think I isolated myself at the beginning because I didn’t feel ‘worldly’ enough to be around people. I haven’t travelled before so I didn’t have any stories to share. It’s very intimidating at first making new friends and there is a sense of vulnerability that’s felt when expressing myself to a new person.

It’s been a year now and I have continued to volunteer. I am using my TEFL certificate and tutoring Thai students. I am now going out more and I have started going to the park near my house and going for a run in the mornings. Being here in Bangkok I have met a lot of interesting people. We may not all be lifelong friends but we all can give a listening ear when a sister needs it. We can uplift each other and tell each other our stories. I also have a wonderful husband who encourages me and seriously has shown me the world. For all these things, I am grateful.

 

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This is the February-March 2017 issue of the Expat Life in Thailand Magazine.  Please feel free to share it to your friends and family.

Click the link above to view it as a PDF, or view the issuu.com version here.

 

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