A Little Escape

This past Saturday, while waiting for an appointment, I had the opportunity to try out a little coffee shop that stood in a quiet part of Soi Aree 1, Paholyothin Road. Those who live around there probably already know about this place, but it was new discovery for me. Wawee Coffee.

Wawee coffee at Soi Aree 1 has a quaint little atmosphere to it. It is housed in an old-styled house that is at least 20 years old, and renovated to accomodate the coffee drinkers. Brick walls, alternated with wood and funky chandeliers make the place warm and inviting. It feels like home away from home.

Unlike some places which are so small you can hardly sit, at Wawee coffee there were more than enough tables, chairs and sofas for you to find a comfortable little spot from which to escape from the world.

The wonderful thing about this place is that there are different kinds of seating for you to choose depending upon your mood or preference. There is the gazebo on the porch, the table on the patio, the sofa in the stained glass room, the stool by the front window, or the little chair by the book corner. I personally enjoy the sofa in the front room where I can get a view of people walking by and glimpse a little bit of green outside the window.

It is somewhere you can easily spend a couple hours with a good book, good music and a hot cup of tea. As I sat there reading some magazines and playing with my iPhone, I told myself: “I have to come back again, I have to make some more time for myself to just sit, relax, and escape from the crowd.” It’ll be my little hiding place. Don’t tell anyone. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thonglor Soi 10

This afternoon, I went to check out the sales that the City of Bangkok had organized at Thonglor Soi 10 to help merchants from Siam square affected by recent events. It was a large shopping event, though on a smaller scale than the one at Silom Road.

I got off the skytrain at Thonglor and walked to the free shuttle bus stop. People gathered around the stop, waiting for the little red buses to come. In the meanwhile, zillions of motorcycle taxis rushed in and out sending off those who couldn’t be bothered to wait. It was crowded and hectic.

When the little red bus arrived, everyone rushed in and filled it up to its full capacity. There was no space left unfilled. The bus was like a little red sardine can filled with sardines all packed up close together. The bus zig-zagged in and out amongst the small streets of Thonglor, passing a beautiful Chinese styled home, the Embassy of Kenya, a delicious fondue restaurant called Andaman, before finally arriving at the site of the sale.

There were so many stalls selling beautiful clothing at wonderful discount prices. Some sold accessories, vintage styled t-shirts, jackets, shoes, bags, etc… It was a feast to the eyes. People shopped left and right.

While shopping though, there were some sad reminders of why these clothes were on sale. At one particular store, as you rummaged through the clothing, you could still smell the smoke from the fires that encompassed many shops in Siam Square. At first, I thought it was just the smell of fabric, like that at a fabric store, but people around me said it was not so. I picked up a piece of clothing to my nose, and found it to distinctly smell of smoke. A sad reminder indeed of why everyone was out there selling beautiful clothing in the hot, humid sun.

Nevertheless, seeing all the support from everyone in Bangkok, I think this weekend lots of money had been spent. Everyone was out of their homes and spending, shopping, and helping each other revive and heal the wounds. Lets hope we all continue to help each other!

Bangkok Smiles

It’s a long weekend here in Bangkok and one filled with so many activities. The largest department store, Siam Paragon, reopened and the Silom Street Market was organized to help merchants who had been affected by recent events. Life was finally back to normal in the city of angels. I couldn’t just stay in and miss out on all the fun, so I went out to have some fun.

My first stop was the Silom Street Market. The roads through the main business district today was closed to traffic and turned instead into a massive walking street. I got off the skytrain and was amazed at the number of people who came out in droves. There were over a thousand stalls and over a thousand visitors. Everywhere I turned there were people. Black heads wobbled left and right. Stalls were so busy selling, some couldn’t sell their goods fast enough.

Everything you could possibly want was at Silom today. There were clothes of all styles and sizes, shoes, jewelry, house decorations, and of course the all essential food. There were so many things to see and do, you could easily get lost in the crowd. It was like Bangkok’s famous weekend market (Jatuchak) had moved to Silom. People were happy, hands filled with shopping backs and tummies full. Everyone came out to help each other recover.

My next stop was Siam and a new Ramen franchise called Chabuton owned by the Japanese winner of the TV program “TV Champion.” I loved the atmosphere the moment I went in. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but I liked the fact that it felt like I was in Japan. It was small, simple and clean, with fast and polite service. Wonderful.

The menu was simple with 7 kinds of ramen to choose from. I tried the recommended one and was not disappointed. The ramen noodle was mouth watering. Its texture was a perfect balance of chewiness, density and flavor. I could not have enough of it. It was served in a pork based soup with a bacon-like slice of pork which was intense with flavor, but slightly too salty for my taste. Dessert was green tea ice-cream. I have to say it’s one of the best green tea ice-cream I’ve ever had. It wasn’t overly creamy or overwhelmed with green tea flavor. It wasn’t too light or watery. It was perfect for me. There were even some nice chewy bits inside.

Next was Siam Paragon. The mall was filled people and shoppers didn’t have enough time to get all their shopping done by the 9pm closing time. Bakeries ran out of bread. Everyone was smiling, both the customer and the seller.

Today Bangkokians all came out to celebrate and to shop. Life was back to normal at last in the city of angels. ๐Ÿ™‚


May 2010 has gone by so fast this year I can hardly believe it. Time seems to be flying by faster and faster the older you grow, and there never seems to be enough time to do everything I want. Soon I’ll be sixty and retired, or not, and soon I will have past the best years of my life.

What are the best years of your life?

Most often people would say its the teenage years, or your twenties. When you’re a teenager, you discuss about what you want to do, what you want to be when you grow up. In the twenties, fresh from college and full of energy, you devote yourself to work, work and more work.

When you reach the thirties, it seems to hit you like an unwanted bump on the road. For me, the thirties was more like an awakening. It has been a time of reflection, and for rediscovering what is it you want in life. A time to re-balance.

Goals and dreams previously set out and never reached had to be re-evaluated. Its either do it now, or don’t do it. Dreams sometimes get lost and forgotten amongst the zillion other responsibilities. They get pushed aside.

You find yourself on an unexpected path and realize that you’ve lived through half your life already and yet, there were still so many dreams left untouched.

Will they remain forever dreams, or can I make them into reality?

I want to look back at sixty and see the dreams become a reality. It can be little dreams, like taking care of my health, losing weight, publishing a book, or going on that trip to Africa and seeing the great Victoria falls. Taking a safari out to Kenya and watching the elegant gazelle or having a balloon ride over the Serengeti. Spending a night out in the desert surrounded by a million stars.

More important than just reaching goals, I want to “like” the person I am becoming. We all change overtime. Influenced by our environment, by our associates, we lose a little bit of ourselves, our original self, in the process. The inner child gets buried underneath all that persona.

The bump I hit at thirty was a good one. I like myself more at thirty, than I did in my twenties. I am no longer focused on what “I” want anymore. Other people now are more important. Life is more balanced with more time for my health, my life, my work, and the people around me. The inner child with the dream came alive again.

So take some time out and find that inner child. Re-balance yourself and see if you are living the life you want to live, and then start living it before its too late. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Eating Durians

I was having fruits tonight when popped in a funny and true story. The story is about “How I eat durians.”

Durians are large, thorn-covered and have a very distinctive odour.
If you’ve never eaten durian or don’t like it, the smell will resemble somewhat that of a rotten egg mixed with rotten cheese . However if you love eating durian, which I do, it smells just wonderfully delicious. (As long as it isn’t in an air-conditioned room.)

It is undoubtedly a one of a kind fruit and has been appropriately named “The King of Fruits.” You just have to try it at least once in your life.

I wonder who was the first human brave enough to eat this?

Anyways, the funny thing about durians is that I grew up eating them always with a knife, spoon, and fork. The creamy texture which somewhat resembles a fatty cheese like Mont D’Or , or that of a custard was always eaten scooped up on the spoon.

It was a dessert fruit, so naturally we used the dessert utensils. I always ate it that way and always thought it was the way that durians were supposed to be eaten.

One day at university, nostalgic for home and coupled with a desire to have some Durian, a group of asians (Indonesia, Malaysian and Thai) got together to break open a wholly frozen durian bought at the chinese supermarket. It wasn’t easy with its thorny husk, but we managed.

Once open, everyone set out to eat. In went all the hands to much delight, while I just sat there. I didn’t know how to eat a durian without a fork. I wasn’t joking. I realized then that we are very much the person we are depending upon how we are raised. Habits are formed growing up without us ever knowing that sometimes we are the ‘odd’ one out.

That afternoon, I learned an interesting fact: at least 90% of the people ate durians with their hands!!

What if the smell sticks to your hands? The miracle is that if you put water in the husk and wash your hands with it, the smell dissipates! Drinking water from the husk also apparently “cools” you down since Durian is considered a “hot” fruit according to Chinese medicine. The wonders of nature. “Hot” and “Cool” all in one.

Nowadays, I alternate between using my hands and my spoon…depending upon where I am.
Its actually much more fun with the hands!! How do you eat your durian? :D:D

The Tapping Rain

Too much politics can give one a headache, so tonight my topic will be completely different. My topic tonight is: Rain. (And no, its not about the Korean star called “Rain.” I really mean the rain as in raindrops)

As it has been raining cats and dogs regularly for the past few days, tonight is no exception. As I sit here at my desk, I can hear the soft tapping of the rain as it hits the window pane. The tapping raindrops are intermittently disrupted by sounds of the blowing wind, and then the soft tap evolves into a gentle gush of wind.

I love all this: I love hearing the soft tapping of the rain, feeling the coolness that it brings, smelling the freshness in the air, and the momentary silence as people halt their activities. It makes me nostalgic.

For me, rain has always been associated with good memories. I spent a good part of my childhood life in Belgium where it rained for 10 months out of a year and the sky was a permanent shade of grey. It rained when I first went to the Rose Garden with Alex.

In Belgium, the rain brought with it life and at the same time a sense of calmness. My house bordered on the Foret de Soignes, which is an extensive 4,421 hectare forest on the south-eastern part of Brussels, and when it rained, I would look out of my window and see the massive trees swaying in the wind amidst the sheets of rain. A little pool of water would form in the garden and without fail, a pair of ducks would appear and spend a good amount of time paddling around. My miniature long-haired dachshund, Dyzio, would be sitting by the window, wishing he could go out to give them a good chase.

When the rain had subsided, I would sometimes go for a ride in the forest with Dyzio in a basket and the greenness of the 200 year-old Oak trees would overwhelm you. I felt like an explorer. The forest had been around since the Middle Ages. Napoleon had used oak trees from this forest to build the Boulogne flotilla intended for the invasion of England. Imaginations ran wild.

Evenings were spent watching the family of wild foxes that ventured by our fence. First would come the scouts, the male guards then finally the female and the young ones. There was an hierarchy in the wild world. The weak were protected.

I suppose, with all this reminiscence (which is a sign of me getting old) what I wanted to say is that for me, it feels good to just sit still and enjoy the moment. Soak in the wonders of nature before grumbling that it is wet, the ensuing traffic jam it causes, and the disruption to our planned trips. Rain is often seen as an obstacle rather than a good thing in this hectic world.

Forget not that rain brings with it hopes of life in the arid deserts of Africa. Without rain, there will be no life. Rain is life.

No Right or Wrong

Four days after the burning of Bangkok, citizens got up on their feet and resumed life. Schools and offices reopened and traffic filled the streets. Shops overflowed with customers and queues snaked around the post office. Everyone wanted to get out and get things done.

In the office, conversation wavered between work and politics. News and rumours were exchanged. Why were only some buildings targeted? Why not some others?

Emotions still ran high. Expressions of anger abound as colleagues wondered “How could they do this to our city? How could they burn down what we hold dear? Did you hear the central bank was also a target? Who are these hooligans to consider themselves above the law? They should be punished. “

The reds, however, do not understand why others didn’t see it their way. How do you know that more didn’t die? Do you truly believe the news you hear? Are you sure its not being censored? How did you know it was the reds that burned the buildings? It was a third hand.

Both sides have their reasons. Both correct in what they say and ask. Both highly skilled.

Who is right and who is wrong then? My answer: No one.

All this bickering will get Thailand nowhere. It’s no longer about determining who is right or wrong. Buildings have been burnt and lives lost. Feelings of resentment have been born and the chasm between the Thais have widened. It will take years and maybe even a lifetime before the wound can be healed.

The reds have returned to their homeland, more determined than ever to come back with force. They say that Thailand of a thousand smiles no longer exists. Smiles exist only for those of the same colour. They say that they walk and talk differently. (According to NYTimes article “Heartland of Thailand, Still Angry and Divided.”) Yet we are all Thais made of the same flesh and blood.

The pro-government side, however, are now more united than ever before and determined not to ever let this nightmare happen again. The young are participating in political debates and making their voices heard. The Prime Minister is working hard to implement policies and changes that will heal this painful wound. Already he is open for suggestions and has already established various channels through which we can reach him.

The government is trying its best.

If Thailand is to move forward, we must remind ourselves that bickering will get us nowhere. We must put aside our differences and work together to mend what is broken.

Only then, will Thailand once again return to being the land of a thousand smiles. The Thailand I know and long for.

Return to the City

After having evacuated my apartment exactly a week ago, I returned. There was a strange and bizarre feeling today as I drove into town towards my apartment.

On the outskirts, a sense of normalcy had returned and the shopping malls were once again filled with people. However, as I got closer to my apartment, the roads were still strangely empty and the sidewalks abnormally quiet. I felt as if people had not yet fully returned to center city. My feeling was reaffirmed as I turned into my apartment. The garage was half empty and there was still an eerie calm as I walked down the corridor. My neighbors had not returned.

Eventhough, the sky train and underground resumed service today and responsible citizens had come out in droves to volunteer for the big Bangkok Cleaning Day, a sense of worry and concern still lingered in the air.

As I went about my apartment cleaning and putting things in order, electricity suddenly blacked out. I rushed to the window, wondering if there was another disruption.

I saw no disruption, no smoke, and heard no bombs.

Instead, I saw a beautiful sunset amidst the rain. (Blackouts are sometimes caused by rain in Bangkok, don’t ask me why.) Rain was pouring down on the Thonburi side of Bangkok across the river of kings. The clouds glowed a beautiful golden orange and the sun was a round circle of light. It was absolutely breathtaking.

I stood and watched it for a few minutes, here was yet another of nature’s masterpiece.

The sunset reminded me to put behind all that had happened in the past week, for tomorrow the sunrise will bring with it a new day. A new day filled with new opportunities for us to move forward and fix all the problems we have. A new day to live our life. A new day for us to experience and to love.

A new day I hope will let this strange and bizarre feeling subside as Bangkok heralds in a new dawn and a new era in its history.

Born Free

Our Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced today that “Order had
been restored.” Upon hearing those words, I felt like a mountain had
been lifted off my shoulder.

I am delighted beyond words that these two months of protests have
finally ended so that I may start living my life again. Never have I
been so thankful to have my liberty back.

Liberty that I had previously taken for granted. I now understand
why Liberty and Freedom are probably one of the most cherished rights
one could have. To be able to go where and when I wish without
having to fear danger or worry about roads being closed. To be able to
roam the streets free as a bird.

A very old song I liked as a child growing up is “Born free.”

“Born free, as free as the wind blows, as free as the grass grows,
born free to follow your heart…….. Born free, and life is worth
living, but only worth living, cause you’re born free..”

We must not forget and let anything take our freedom away, for we are
“Born Free.”

A Time For Renewal

This morning I woke up to charred remains of main offices and shopping malls in Bangkok. The image was emotionally disturbing and will forever mark its place in the heart of Bangkokians.

What I found uplifting though was all the messages of hope and renewal that were being sent out by my friends. It was no longer time to despair but a time to move forward.
We can’t change the past but we can change the future. Thailand will overcome this obstacle and we will once again rebuild our economy. We can only go forward. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Problems will not disappear overnight, and may even take decades to work it out, but we must work hard to ensure that this does not happen again. We must forgive but not forget. Problems of inequality must be seriously addressed and corruption stopped. The old growth model must be rethinked.
Pointing fingers will not get us anywhere. We must let the justice system solve the problems.
For the time being, “Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you,” for in the end, we will all die. (This is a great quote from the movie “A Serious Man” which I absolutely love.)