Happy Birthday!

Today I’d like to wish all my readers out there a very Happy Birthday! 🙂 I’d like to Thank You each and everyone for your comments and for reading my blog! I wish you all lots of happiness, good health, and success in all your endeavors. Don’t forget to have some fun and enjoy life!

Some of you might wonder why I’m wishing you “Happy Birthday.” The answer is simple: today is my birthday so I wanted to share the happiness one feels on this joyous day with everyone. It also happens to be the same date that the first test-tube baby was born. I wonder where he/she is now?
Birthdays are always a time for self reflection for me: “I’m a year older now, am I any wiser?
How have I changed?” In life there must be progress. I want to be a better person and have a happier life. Looking back on the past year, things have certainly changed for the better. Here are some of the highlights:
1) I am now much healthier. A year ago, I was 15kgs heavier and very unhealthy. I could barely run. I had less energy and more stress. My weight has been steady now for 7 months and it WILL be like this for the rest of my life. No, I’m not kidding. I’m not going to let myself get unhealthy again. There’ll be times when my weight goes up a kg or so, but I will be aware of it and then just run it off. Life is no fun without good health. There are still so many things to do and places to see before my time on earth is over. I don’t want to spend it being ill.
2) I can now buy clothes wherever I want to. No longer am I limited to certain brands at certain department stores with limited selection. I can wear anything I dare to. I am no longer fooling myself that I am “conservative.” I like to dress up.
3) I am now more caring, more understanding and more patient. I’m less demanding. Other people’s needs are now becoming more important to me than my own needs. I can give “more” now that I have more “me” time and there is more for me to give. “More is less”
4) I am more content. I used to have a zillion wants in this world, and could never imagine myself staying home on my birthday. It had to be party time! Today, I actually wanted to stay home. I was tired and although it is a joyous day, I will be celebrating it for the next two days with the people who matter most: my family. That is all that matters.
5) I started writing this blog. It has now become my passion. Writing has taught me more than I have ever hoped for and has given me the opportunity to learn more about people and all that happens around me.
6) I’ve walked around Bangkok more than I have ever done in my ten years of living here. Together with Alex on our little “walking tours” we’ve been exploring more of the historic neighborhoods and sites along the Chaophraya river. Learning more about the city and its inhabitants and ourselves in the process.
7) Being more “positive” since Alex and I decided to say “good” things when we talk to each other about work or other subjects. It’s all too easy to get into the habit of complaining and seeing the negative side of things. Appreciate life and all the things it has to offer. Life’s too short to be spent complaining.
8) More financially responsible. I can actually survive on the little income I have left after buying a new car and apartment. It’s just a matter of adapting one’s spending habits. Less little odds and ends, but bigger and more useful items. Opening oneself up to more opportunities and fearing less.
9) Realizing that I’m not getting any younger and that I’d better do what I want to do and take care of myself before life passes me by.
Blink! and another year has passed by. Mine has definitely. I can only hope that the next year will bring with it more adventures and new discoveries. Life’s an evolving process that never ends and never stops. Time only keeps on ticking forward.
Good night and sweet dreams my dear readers. Happy Birthday 🙂
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Old is Beautiful

Looking through the photographs I took on my walking tour, there is one that evokes within me a somewhat sad and nostalgic feeling. It’s a photograph of an ancient wooden house that must have been around for the past couple hundred years built roughly during the time of Rama III or Rama IV.

A feeling of sadness swept over me, as I first spied the wooden house from the boat. It’s a beautiful house that was wonderfully designed and built to be lived-in, yet now it stands empty. Its shutters are closed and the house seems abandoned. There is no sign of life.

The family that must own it, does not live there now.

There is perhaps a house keeper who lives towards the back of the house for I see that the empty garden is used to dry red chiles, and a little small window to the back has its shutters open. It’s a guessing game.

It’s not a large villa or palace, but it has a feminine feel to it. The balcony and the windows have wooden carvings. Little curves decorate the roof. Perhaps it was built for a lady to live there. Perhaps it belonged to a noble family. I don’t know.
I wish I knew. I wish I had the power or the budget to renovate the house. It’s ancient buildings like these that form a part of our heritage. I suppose growing up in Europe has evoked in me this fondness for things from days past. Everywhere you go, you are surrounded by buildings and places that are written about in the history books.
In Asia, new is often considered better. We can’t keep living in the past, we must move forward. There is less of a need to conserve. Only the “main” historical buildings are maintained. Old buildings are instead torn down to be replaced with new glossy windowed cement buildings. It’s a materialistic world.

I somehow sense that this house will not be standing much longer. Probably it’d be torn down within my lifetime. However, I pray and hope that am wrong. I pray that when I pass by there again sometime in the future, it’ll be standing proudly and beautifully renovated. Beaming with life. It’ll make an absolutely beautiful riverside residence.

It’s a dream, but who knows what will happen? Perhaps lightning could strike.

The Guan Yin Shrine by the River

Yesterday, while visiting Santa Cruz church not far from it was a Chinese Shrine of Guan Yin and a Thai Buddhist Temple. For hundreds of years, places of worship of different faiths and religions have stood next to each other in perfect harmony forming the diverse country we are today. All linked together by the Chaophraya river and the trade that florished along its banks.

As I entered the Chinese Shrine of Guan Yin or the Goddess of Mercy, I felt a peaceful calm come over me. It was a small space, yet the 200 year old wooden structure built during the Reign of King Rama III by the Chinese Community had an aura of grandness.

Encompassing the virtues of love, kindness, compassion and forgivness, the Goddess of mercy is apparently the patron saint of the sick and destitute as well as protector of sailors and fisherman. It’s no wonder the Shrine was built along the Chaophraya river amongsts the ancient fishing village.
The wooden beams with which the Shrine was built is surrounded by wooden carvings that once must have been carved with great care depicting the virtues of the goddess and painted in various colours to show off all that it has to offer. Lotus shaped carvings hang from the ceilings whose shape is replicated in the oil lamps that stand below. Sadly, the wooden beams are now devoid of colour exposed to the powers of nature. The only colours that remain are ones that radiate from the blue ceramic or tiles that decorate the shrine.

Inside, yellow and red lanterns greet you with chinese characters. I suppose they are words of wisdom.

All is peaceful and quiet inside the shrine as devotees take turns praying. The stillness is intermittently disturbed by the ringing of the ancient bell as devotees make their entrance heard.

On the side, an iron grate separates the shrine from the neighbour’s garden which stands like a hidden oasis. The trees and plants there seem to sway along with the wind and beam up towards the hot sun. Nature is loved here. A little water feature is music to the ears. It cools you down both physically and mentally.

I hope this shrine lasts for generations to come. It would be a shame to let such a small beauty erode away with the sun and water.

Portugese Cupcakes

Walking around Bangkok today, I felt like a tourist. I was a visitor in my own city exploring the many sites we have to offer. There are so many things yet still to discover and see without having to go out of town.

It’s something Alex and I like to do when the weather isn’t so hot and sunny. It’s our little “adventure.”

Today’s trip involved going to old Portugese settlement area around the Chaophraya river to find that traditional Portugese Cupcake that had been brought to Thailand since the 16th century. They are “Egg” cupcakes with raisins and frosted with sugar.

We hopped on a boat crossing the Chaopraya river and got off at the Wat Kanlaya pier. Apparently the Portugese had been prevalent in Thaland since 1516 when they signed a treaty to supply arms and munitions to the Kingdom. In return, they were also given the right to reside, trade and practice their religion in Thailand. Granted land, the friars built the Santa Cruz church in 1770.

Tucked away in a little road just off the side of the church is a little wooden house with nothing but a little wooden sign to tell us that it sells the famous Portugese Cupcakes which we Thais have made our own. The house is like a hidden secret. If one wasn’t observant, one would have just walked past it.

Upon entering, we were transported back to another time when cakes were made the traditional way. No shiny kitchen with big metal ovens greeted us. Instead, we felt the heat of the coal oven.

Five people worked quietly each at their own task. There was no sound or music to disturb their concentration. Each worked at their own pace. Quietly doing all that was needed. I suspect they are all family.

In a small room, a lady prepared the batter. Another buttered the molds and was in charge of scooping the batter into the molds. Another sat by the oven, putting raisins into the half baked cupcakes whilst another made sure the coal was sufficiently hot. The oldest lady was the packaging department. She sat and packaged the cupcakes. She was also in charge of sales.

In a room just off from the working area, I spotted ancient pictures of past relatives. They must have lived and grown up in this house. How rich in history this area must be, and how much it must have changed over the years. I wish I could see it way back then.

The oven was fascinating. It was a coal oven made simply. It had a little area for the coal at the bottom, places for the cupcakes to be placed. To have the heat from the top, they simply had a steel tray placed over the cupcakes upon which sizzling hot coal was placed. There was no thermometer, no clear window from which we could check to see if it had risen. It all depended upon experience.
Techniques that must have been handed down from generations to generations.

Alex bought six packs of the cupcakes. Little ones and big ones. They were absolutely delicious.

Light, fluffy and melted in your mouth. They apparently sell elsewhere too, but nothing beats seeing how they’re made.
We will go back there again for sure not only for the cupcakes, but for the little journey back in time. The church of Santa Cruz still awaits us. We must see it in action.

Reflection

It’s a long weekend in Thailand and there is an unmistakedly feeling of lightness in the air as we head home for the weekend. We all look forward to it. It’s a time when we get to rest and really have some “Me” time.

As I listen to the news, it always makes me wonder about the different thoughts that must going on people’s mind. In France, people are concentrating on the Tour de France as it returns to the small town of Salies de Bearn after 70 years. The Financial world is waiting for the much awaited Stress Test Results of 91 banks in Europe. In the Buddhist world, monks and devotees are preparing for Asarnha Bucha Day to commemorate the day Buddha gave his first sermon. Oil workers capping the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are rushing to beat Bonnie the Tropical Storm. The Governor of the Central Bank of Kosova just got arrested. India displays a prototype like the IPad for only $35.

So many things are happening at the same time all over the world. All equally important in each person’s mind. What is more important than the other?

Importance depends on what you give priority to or where your concerns lie. It all differs for each person. Some may deeply environmentally conscious, while some are more worried about the state of the financial markets and the global economy. Salies de Bearn is focused on making sure the Tour de France is a memorable one. Last time it passed through the town was in 1939.

Things happen, things past by, all equally important. Some things are more important to others. Economics calls it the “utility function.” We all have a different one.

Sometimes we forget though, and think that what we like or consider important is what someone else considers important, but we don’t really. We discover only later. It’s important to really self reflect and know oneself: one’s likes, one’s dislikes, one’s priorities.

Life eventually reveals these things to us. I suppose that’s what living life is all about. Combining all these different experiences, likes and dislikes to eventually form the person we become. Is this the meaning of life? A journey through which we can discover ourselves and throughly understand the meaning of life?

Living Without

Today I read an interesting NY Times article called”Shoppers on a ‘Diet’ Tame the Urge to Buy.” It’s quite fascinating. Heidi Hackemer started a global project called “Six Items Or Less” where participants were to choose six pieces of clothing that they would wear over a period of one month.

It was an experiment to see if the way you dressed really had an effect as well as having the added benefit of making you shop less. Interestingly, the article mentions that not many people realized you are wearing the same six pieces throughout the month. Not even her husband, (who does the laundry) noticed!

Shopping, therefore, is really to fulfill yourself. If you don’t notice, others won’t.

Six pieces is hard. However, if you’re on a budget, I think the best way is to just go through your wardrobe and decide what clothes you really need or don’t. If you are lacking something, you can get it, but don’t use it as an excuse. However, if you already have everything, just give yourself a time period of what to shop and what not to shop until when.

Of course it’s easier said than done.

Two years ago, I counted how many pairs of shoes I had. I was surprised..I had over 35 pairs of shoes. I could wear a new one everyday for a month and still have leftovers to change during the day. I thought I shopped less than a lot of people, but I still had A LOT. Shocked, I donated the old ones that I hadn’t touched for years, got back some valuable room space and cleaned out my shoe cabinet. It felt good. Even so, I still have some brand new ones I haven’t had the chance to wear!

Bags, I haven’t counted. I definitely have A LOT.

I tend to shop a lot and on impulse, so the only way I can stop myself from buying more than enough shoes or bags is to give myself a set timetable. This year’s resolution: No working shoes nor bags. I have more than enough. I want to live in a minimalist style.

So far it’s been six months and I’ve been surviving pretty well. I have not bought a bag nor any shoes for work. I still have more than enough shoes and more than enough bags. Some are still untouched at the back of my closet. The rest of the year should be fine.

I hope I can keep this up. Having too many things become a burden: What to keep, what to donate, what to do with it all? I’m running out of storage space. I have to clean up the place, I have to put things in order. Buying boxes to fill them up, and then having to buy even more boxes. Then I need a bigger room to store everything. It’s a vicious cycle.

If I don’t have anything, I won’t have to bother with all these problems…Won’t that be bliss?

More than "Words"

A few years ago, I read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” Something I learnt from that book was that your choice of words is important. Not just for communicating to other people, but more importantly to yourself. It is an important determinant of the person you are and the person you will become.

An example the book uses is this: Instead of saying you “cannot” afford something, instead say “how can I afford this?”

Both phrases indicate that, at present, the person saying it has limited budget. What differs is the effect it has on your mind. Saying you “cannot” afford something, closes you to opportunities, closes you to new ideas. You mentally stop yourself from getting that something throughout your lifetime because you simply “cannot” afford it.

However, if you instead said, “How can I afford this?” You would start thinking of new ideas, and new possiblities. What activities, what can you do, to “afford” that which you don’t have? Just changing the sentence around, gives you new motivation.

Sportmans use this too I believe. The other day, upon winning The 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa said “I felt confident all week.” He told himself he was confident and he was. He won.

I suppose its something like attitude. The words you use reflect your character and how you think. So if you use positive and encouraging words, you will be. If you keep saying to yourself that you are not deserving of something, you won’t be. If you say you cannot do something, you won’t be able to.

Words ain’t just words. They’re more than “Words.” Use them well.