Two Worlds at Once

It’s the end of August. This time last year I was in Malaysia visiting a good old friend just before Malaysia’s independence day. This year, I am in Bangkok, and am instead keeping touch with good friends through other high tech means such as Skype, Google+ and Whatsapp. It really is quite amazing all this technology. It brings people together. Yet, it can also bring people apart.

You might have noticed that since the advent of BB messaging and chat programs on iPhones, smartphones, androids, many of us (me included) sometime zone out of conversations and instead grin at our phones. We are living in two worlds at once.

One moment, I’m in conversation with the person next to me, the next, I’m in a conversation with someone else on the other side of the phone. Maybe that person is in another country. I don’t mind it at all, but sometimes I think we ought to put down our phones and enjoy the person next to us. Enjoy the conversation a little more. Enjoy what is happening around us.

I’m still working at it. I have a tendency to just pick up my phone and constantly check it for messages. It’s addictive. You hear a little “beep” and you feel a sudden urge to check it. It’s annoying. I want to get rid of this addiction. I see the iPhone lying still in front of me, and I just want to pick it up and play on one of its many applications. I like the feel of the rubbery skin I bought for it.

I suppose, sometimes we really should just turn off the phone, put it away in our bags and really enjoy the people around us, especially during lunches or dinners. Perhaps we’d get to connect a little more, really enjoy the company and learn a little about the person next to us. Connect more without the phone when we are surrounded by people. Connect with people through the phone when you are alone. Maybe that’s how we should balance out all these online chats….

What do you think?

Have an Annual Health Checkup

In just a few days, it will be the end of August and it will have been eight months since January. If you haven’t accomplished your goals, perhaps now is a time to reevaluate them and reprioritize. If you have not yet gone for a health check up, then I recommend you do so. Health should be a priority.

Surprisingly, not a lot of people regularly have annual checkups and we go through life thinking that we are healthy, all is fine and that we are still young. Nothing is going to happen to us.

The sad truth is, we get older every year. Our bodies get older, and suddenly we find ourselves faced with health problems we previously never thought of. Backaches seem more common in the thirties. If I get up too fast, or move too fast, I risk hurting my back which results in endless days of torture and wearing low unattractive heels. I finally understand while the older ladies are always spotted wearing “comfortable” shoes versus the high high heels. I still love my heels, and so being somewhat shoe conscious, I shall have to dish out the extra cash to pay for comfortable ones, or just spend less on miscellaneous toys.

Blood test results are important too. Many people I know were completely unaware of having an abnormal functioning of the liver or kidneys. A lady I know has had to take work leave for her kidney had been working overtime and had succumbed to kidney failure. Taking medicine and antibiotics without first seeking doctor’s advice is not recommend. Apparently, she just went to the pharmacy.

If you get dizzy from time to time or feel abit under the weather, have a good rest and be aware that something might be up… So take some time out, have an annual health check up. Prevention is better than cure! :):)

The Car Park Lady

The other day I went to Central World (yes I go there so often you’d wonder if I had a stake in it) and found a little box of happiness sitting in the car park giving out parking tickets to all those who entered.  Her name is Kanthong (Golden bowl) and she is just happiness all around, despite having what I must consider to be one of the most boring jobs in this world:  she keys in license plates and hands out parking cards to all those who enter central world.

Traffic was awful, it was more than awful and beyond description.  It was raining outside, end month, and some convention was being held.  Roads were jammed packed outside, and even just coming up the garage ramp to the 3,000 car car-park, there was a long line of cars.  I had been stuck on the ramp for a good half hour and moods were not so good.  Others in the car and myself included were getting slightly bored, annoyed, and tired.  You are stuck in a box with nowhere to go.

Then I reached the car park attendant box and reached out my hand to get the car park card.   Being somewhat in a zombie state, I was surprised to suddenly be faced with a bubbly smiling face of Kanthong.  She sat there in her tiny little box telling me that there was a lot of traffic due to the convention.  I asked her for details and for a few minutes we had a good conversation.  I couldn’t move and neither could she, and so there we were face to face having a pleasant talk about the state of the traffic.  She was all smiles, happy and jolly.  Like a happy girl getting a treat, even though there were none for her.   She seemed to be genuinely happy just to make conversation.

Her conversation and smiley face made all the tiredness go away.  It made me happier and the effect fell on others in the car.  We laughed at how pleasant she was and wondered how lonely she must get sitting there all day giving out car park cards. (Yes, labour in Thailand is relatively inexpensive.)  I have to say it made the rest of my day quite pleasant.

I went back again another day when there was no traffic and so spoke to her about how nice and empty it was in the morning.  Again I was treated with a jolly smiley face that resonated nothing but happiness.  She is indeed a happy lady.

All her happiness makes me think.   Here is a lady who has probably one of the most boring jobs in the world, yet she does it with such pleasure.  Hundreds of cars pass by her each day, maybe a thousand, but there she is all happy and jolly.

You can’t say that she has a good work environment, for she is in a box, in front of a computer, under neon light, breathing in carbon dioxide.  The aircondition probably helps a little, but I don’t think much.

How does she do it?  I don’t know, but I think it will have to be along the lines of being happy with what she has.  If you see the good side of things, then life isn’t so bad.  She has a job, she doesn’t have to be out working in the hot sun or rain, and if she’s friendly, she gets to talk to the customers passing by.  She gets to make someone else happy.

I have to say, some who have all the goods in this world, still complain they have a bad life. An unhappy life.  Nothing is ever good enough.  I have one, now I want two.  The list is endless.  There is no happiness if you search for it from external factors.

Looking at Kanthong, it seems that happiness is internal.  It’s a state of mind.  You can have one of the most boring jobs in this world, yet be happy, have a smiling jolly face, and be so sweet I wonder if she shouldn’t be in customer relations.  I hope her happy smiling personality, helps her get along in life, get a better job, and have a better life.

She is someone I’d remember.  Each time I take that particular entrance, I’d now take a little pause to peer inside the box to see if its the pleasant Kanthong.  A character to remember, and a reminder to me that happiness depends upon your state of mind.  Even little things, can make one happy.

Decision Fatigue

The other day I read a New York Times article on “Decision Fatigue” and it has been intriguing me ever since.  It is fascinating for it helps us understand a little more the things that affect the mind and how it works.   We all know that when we are tired, the brain functions a little less, we make human errors, we make mistakes, we start becoming unintelligible, and if we are really tired, we start to resemble a zombie.  However, what we don’t realize is that in the course of day to day life we may make a lot of decisions without realizing we are actually tired and that this “tiredness” is affecting how we decide.

The article cites a research that was done on parole hearings.  Those heard early in the morning, or after coffee breaks and lunch were more likely to get parole than those who were heard later in the day.  This is even if they had the same profile.  I feel sorry for those being heard later in the day.  The reason being is that being “tired” the judges make the easiest and safest decision.  That is, not make a decision. Parole not granted.

The phenomenon’s discoverer is the social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and he calls this “ego

Thinking about it, I think it makes good sense.  I mean, after an entire day of deciding what to do, what not to do, would A be better than C?, what should one eat for breakfast, lunch dinner? how should one’s tailored suit be? should one go exercise? should one call D? how should one approach a certain situation etc.. the list is endless.

Yes, it’s related to everything. Even shopping and I think also eating.  The article mentions how having to decide on materials for a bespoke suit, the shopper grows tired and eventually settles for whatever the shop recommends.  The hungry and exhausted person will grab and eat whatever is in front of them.

I find myself giving the same response when I am hungry.   I look at the list of menus, and being “fatigue” I sometimes just ask the restaurant what is good, what is recommended.  That is what I’ll end up eating on those especially tiring days.  My mind is too tired to “decide.”

This applies to everything. If you have a difficult decision to make that you don’t want to make.  Sometimes the easiest route for the tired mind is to just avoid the problem and not make a decision.  Too much information needs to be processed.  The mind is tired, but little does it know that this “fatigue” can have long term consequences.

Reading this, I think one has to be aware of one’s body and be aware if it’s tired or not.  A best way would be to schedule in breaks and rest time during the day.  A ten minute break might do wonders for the mind and you’d find that it will help you make decisions faster, rather than opting for the easiest response which is to do nothing.

Have a break, give your brain a little pick up and make better decisions, whether it be on what dress to buy or what food to eat.  🙂

Health Check Results

I just got my health check results today.  It’s always a bit nerve-racking when you receive the results in a sealed package and have to open it.  It makes you wonder what will be written inside.  How will my cholesterol be this year? Am I going to have high triglyceride levels?   It’s a time when you cannot run away from reality and the numbers are either telling you good or not so good news.  Getting the health check result is like getting a reality check.

A reality check that tells you how well, or not well, you have been treating your body.

A few years ago when I was at my “peak” (in terms of being overweight and unhealthy, not peak fitness level!), I never liked the health check results.  It was always had the same phrases on them:  “Lose some weight, eat healthier, exercise, cholesterol levels are high, avoid fatty foods and dairy products.”

Yes, I remember them all. It was always there and I read them year after year.  It became something predictable.  I’d start exercising for a few months and then somehow the effects of the reality check would subside. I’d forget the results, forget the exercise and go back to my unhealthy habits.  “So what?” I thought to myself, “it’s not that serious.  I’m not in any high risk level.  Just slightly overweight.”

It takes awhile for all the bad habits and unhealthy lifestyle to readjust and find its footing.

I think it was the body composition test that hit me hard. I was composed of roughly 40 percent of fat. (Yes, I still have the results with me) “Gosh, I’m a walking 40 percent blob of fat.” I thought to myself.  I was “almost” in the “obese” category.  A scary thought.  Just a few grams more and I would have been I think.

I lost 15 kg by the end of 2009. Started running.  In mid year 2010, my health check showed a slight improvement in cholesterol levels, but it was still above the 200 recommended level.

Now finally almost 2 years since I started running, my cholesterol level has gone below the 200 level.  It went down 10 from last year.  I’m esctatic.  I’m delighted.  It’s even lower than when I was 29 years old.  (That’s the oldest health report I could find).  Other blood test results have turned up better too.

All that exercise and running is definitely worth it.  Yes, I will probably have to keep running the rest of my life, but I love the fact now that I get tired a lot less.  I can withstand the heat more and walk without feeling tired.

Let’s all exercise regularly and take care of our bodies.  It’s the only one we have (for this lifetime anyways)  Cherish it more than anything else, for without good health, you don’t have anything in this world.  Imagine, you might not even be able to walk or go see your favorite movie… Here’s to good health!

Bangkok Real Estate: Help a fellow reader..

As one of my readers (who is also a good friend) commented the other day, I seem  to be in a good mood. Yes I am.  It’s a good day, not because I was efficient  and got many things done, but because I have received and heard interesting  stories from my readers.  It is always a pleasure to hear comments or recieve emails.  It’s one of a writer’s little joys in life.  Tonight I write about an email I recieved from a reader (“S”) earlier this week with regard to where one should look to purchase a condominum in Bangkok.    Although this is not  directly my field, I will try my best to help her. 🙂

Of course the condominum one ultimately ends up purchasing,  depends upon your lifestyle, your needs and your budget.  It also depends on what purpose you are buying the condominium for.  Are you buying it for yourself?  Are you buying it for rental? or are you buying it for speculation in the hopes that the real estate price will go up?  What is your budget?   These are the questions you have to ask yourself.  Once you have the purpose, the goal of the purchase thought out, then comes the question of what area one should buy the condominium?   Bangkok is so diverse and each area has its own particular characteristics.  Even with the BTS (skytrain) and MRT (underground), one end differs day and night from the other.  Of course, this happens in many large cities where intercity life and life on the outskirts diverge.

Now where should “S” buy a condominium?  I went through the qualities she is interested in.  She and her husband enjoy travel, good food and the local cuisine.  They enjoy eating local authentic foods and even hawker shops.  That is the lifestyle, the desire to be within walking distance of a little part of authentic Bangkok.  Not the business nor the commercial side of Bangkok.

Having shared information with me that she enjoys eating local hawker foods, while at the same time would like a modern luxury condominium is indeed a difficult question to reply to.  I cannot say exactly which condominiums would be the best ones but I can give my opinions upon the location where quite a few luxury condominiums are located so here goes:

There are a lot of modern luxury condominiums along the sukhumvit road.  However, in my opinion, Sukhumvit is a great place to be if you are an expatriate and want to live the expatriate life.  There are lovely restaurants for brunches, more international cusines, boutique shops and spas that cater to the expatriate kind of lifestyle and budget.    It’s a wonderful place to be, and almost all the shops speak english.  However, it doesn’t get very “local local.”  It’s where Thais go when we want to enjoy the clubs, the  music, and the food.  It’s buzzling at night.  It’s great if you are young (or young at heart), enjoy the night life and the convenience of having lots of shops all around.  There’s everything from salsa clubs to local food.

Then there’s the Sathorn Area.  This place is in the heart of the business area.  Accessible by skytrain, it is adjacent to Silom Road and most of the major banks have offices in the area.  High rise office buildings rise up into the air amidst four to five lane roads.  Some major embassies also reside in this area.  It’s clean and has the air of a central business area, but I am not sure if it is some place I would want to live in.  On the weekends, it gets a little quiet and there are no local markets for me to walk to.  No stalls to where I can just hop over to buy fruits or other local snacks.  If that’s not something you do anyways, then that’s not a problem.  You could almost always dine out, or just buy food from supermarkets.   It’s a clean and safe area.

Lumpini Area.  This is not too far off from Sathorn Road, but it is near to Lumpini park which is one of the few parks in Bangkok.  This is where locals and expatriates alike go exercise, have a walk and enjoy being shaded underneath tall tall trees from the hot Bangkok air.    Local stalls and foods can be found lying along its outer edges.  It is indeed a place where locals also go have some good local cuisine.  However, the BTS (skytrain) doesn’t reach this area and the nearest station would be the MRT underground) station.  I think the MRT is a great thing for Bangkok especially since it links the
residential areas to the city centre.  However, if you want to go shopping at Siam and the main shopping malls, it still requires a connection to the BTS.   If you don’t go anywhere along the BTS that much anyways or always prefer the taxi, then I suppose it’s not that bad.

Another area is the Langsuan area.  It is in the middle between the local and the commerical areas.  On one  end of the road, you have the BTS and the major shopping malls. On the other end of the road, you have the park and the local food stalls.  It’s not too far off from the BTS station which means that it is easily accessible to the main shopping malls and financial districts.  It’s also walking distance to the Lumpini park which means that you can enjoy the park, the local stores as well as the convenience of supermarkets and other eateries along the skytrain station. However, Langsuan is a one way road which means that if you are going by car, depending upon the traffic, the ride by car could be a bit inconvenient during rush hour.

Other areas of Bangkok though also charming in its own way, still do not possess luxury modern condominiums.   They usually comprise of smaller units and target a different market.

If you ask me, (and I must first say I am no real estate guru here)  I would say that “S” should opt for a condominium along the BTS route.  It is still basically the main road that links the suburban local areas of Bangna to Sukhumvit, Siam and the weekend market which is a must for all tourists.   If you plan on having guests from out of town staying, these are the places that tourists are most likely to visit.  If  they go to visit temples, they can hop off the BTS station at Phyathai or Siam square for the Jim Thompson house.  It’s also connected to the Airport Raillink at Phyathai so that is a plus if you are traveling light and taking a weekend trip to Chiangmai or Phuket.

For me, the MRT seems to be more for locals. It’s the route that links the outskirts of Bangkok to the city centre.  For me, there are very few places that I have actually taken the MRT to.  I still mostly take the BTS.

If you can’t already tell, I think from all the above areas…I like Langsuan the most.  It’s not too densely populated, it’s not too full of clubs and night life, yet its not far from the main shopping areas and the Lumpini park.

What do you think?   Are any of you knowledgeable about real estate?  Where would you recommend our reader “S” to invest in? Please share you opinion.  Thank you!

Bangkok Lunch Trip: Seafood at Rabienta-Le, Bangpu

It’s Friday evening and the weekend lies ahead.  When I get tired, when I need a holiday sometimes all it takes is a little day trip to revitalize the soul.  Just an hour outside of Bangkok and already it can make one feel relaxed. I see the big open sky high above me and somehow it dissolves away the hassles and tiredness of everyday life.  If you are wondering what to do this weekend, perhaps you can take a little trip to Bang pu (Bangpoo).  It’s actually only around 45 minutes away and a good place to just go have a good lunch and come back refreshed.

Bang pu is adjacent to Bangkok in Samut Prakarn province and lies southeast of Bangkok.  It borders on the Gulf of Thailand and that’s where its charm lies.  You can go have a nice meal by the gulf and it’s only an hour’s drive away.  A good place to escape the hassle and bustle of modern Bangkok.  A restaurant Alex and I tried and have since gone back is called “Rabiengta- Le” which literally translates to the “Sea Balcony.”

They have a few branches, but the one in Bangpu is located in a particularly nice location on the edge of the gulf.  You can therefore have lunch with a sea view.  It’s not beautiful (especially during the monsoons season when the waters are muddy), but its the sea and somehow that always makes things alright.  You get the breeze and the wide open space.  The mind clears up.

Rabiengta-le sells all kinds of seafood, but what I enjoy is always the basic dishes.  We ordered fish deep fried in fish sauce, prawn cakes, crab fried rice and soft shell crab fried with garlic.  Everything was delicious and fresh.  Hot off the stove.  Yes, together with just the two of us, we polished off enough food to feed five people.  The table next to us had around five people and they actually ordered roughly the same amount of food.  I even had their dessert of Sala in ice and syrup.  Definitely a good way to end the meal. It’s so refreshing.

The price was also very reasonable.  All that food came out to only around 700 thb ($23).  That’s not much compared to if we had the same kind of food in town.

An added benefit is the little walkway just in front of the restaurant.  You can walk around and sit on the bench looking out to sea. We loved it and will definitely go back there again.

Oh here’s their website:  Sadly it’s only in Thai.

Book binding for the soul

Tonight I write not about travels, good eats, nor exercise.  I write about a little activity that is great for relaxing and in the end you get something that also comes in handy, a little notebook or sketchbook.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved books and stationery.   I could spend hours on end in bookstores, browsing through the titles, flipping through titles and feeling the paper between my hands.  This love for books included a love for stationery.  Fine writing paper, beautifully crafted notebooks and calligraphy pens were my thing.  As I grow older, it now involves a love for books that have been handcrafted.  I have a sketchbook that I handmade in highschool and it still holds up fine.  Everytime I use it, I remember sitting there making the cover and cutting up the paper. Drawings inside date from the 1990’s, but each one holds a memory.   Happy memories.  It’s not surprising my first drawing is of my beloved dog.

Looking around for a nice notebook in Bangkok, I could not find one to suit my taste.  I therefore decided to make one myself.  Yes, I walked over to the art section, got myself book binding tape, latex glue, art paper, hard cardboard paper and found a beautiful piece of paper that would be the cover.  I could paint a cover myself, like I did before but maybe not this time.

I came home and spread everything out.  I sat there on the floor for hours, cutting up paper, measuring sizes and making sure that covers and pages measured out.   Then came the actual sewing of the pages together and then making sure they were held together tight.  I have to tell you, those were one of the most relaxing several hours I’ve had in a long time (despite a slight backache).

I’m still in search of a nice finishing touch to my notebooks but they are almost complete.  So if you know not what to do this weekend or need a little relaxation, take up a project and do something
with your hands. It works wonders. 🙂

Where did I buy the material? Not going out of my way, I got most of it at B2S art section at Central World which is quite large and has most everything for the amateur artist.  However, if you want beautiful papers for the cover go to the imported art section at Paragon.

Have fun and enjoy!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers in this world!  Yes, in Thailand today is Mother’s day and everyone is out in droves taking mothers out to lunch.  Mother’s Day is always a happy day for me even if I’m not a mother, but I like it because it is a good occasion to tell our mothers how much we love them.  It’s a day that makes mothers all over the country smile.  It’s a day that allows children to remember their mothers, families to reunite, and reignite bonds.

Ideally we would treat every day as if it were Mother’s Day, tell our mothers how much we love them and show appreciation for their being there for us daily, but I realize sometimes with busy lives we forget.  For those whose mothers’ have passed I suppose it can be a special day of remembrance of good times past.   The great thing is that it is not only for the children.  Husbands too wish their wives a good day and make peace for a day.  Today is HER day. A day to cherish and remember one another.

Eventhough the roads are jammed pack, the restaurants are all full and people have been eating out since the early hours of the day, I somehow feel as if the air is lighter and that a certain happiness clouds the air.  Despite being stuck in traffic for hours, horns were hardly heard and every where I looked, cars were filled with families.  Happy families chatting away.

This is what life should be about.  Forgetting all other things for a day and remembering those closest to us.  Remembering what it means to love and to recognize the sacrifices that have been made.  Give them a hug or a kiss or give them both.   Make a mother smile.  Happy Mother’s Day!

YOU are a Priority

Oftentimes we spend our lives taking care of others and forget the most important person:  ourself.  You find your days and hours devoted to taking care of family members, taking care of clients and customers and work non-stop to meet deadlines.  Work consumes us alive as well as the zillion other tasks we have to get done in our daily lives.

Now how much time you spend taking care of family members of course depends on how large your family is.  It can include parents, siblings, your spouse, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, inlaws, etc.  If you have a large family, this of course will consume quite a bit of your time.  If you have children, you will most often be preoccupied taking care of them.  I don’t have any but from what I see, having children is a full time job.  From the moment you wake up, until the time you fall asleep there are things that need to get done.  Many times, parents forget to take care of themselves, their relationships and the household ends up running on clockwork.  The parents forget why they are together.

I remember reading an article in Shape Magazine one day about how a mother of several children  managed to stay in shape and remain healthy.   Parents who are capable of handling business, taking care of the kids, while staying healthy and happy inspire me. This lady said one of her tricks was to post on her fridge a reminder that her time was also a priority.  That her time too was just as important as those of the kids.

That I think is important to remember.  No matter how busy you are at work, no matter how many deadlines there are, or how busy you are taking care of your family, do not forget to take care of yourself.  Your health is a priority. YOU are a priority.  For if you don’t take care of yourself, who will?  Do not expect others to take care of you, they are not you.

Once you take care of your physical health, you will realize that this will spread to a better mental health.  You will be less stressed and emotionally stronger.  Interestingly you will also discover you “seemingly” have more time.  Being in good health allows you to take better care of everyone else.  Therefore spending a little more “me” time is actually beneficial to all those around you!

Here’s to good health everyone! And remember, without good health (both physical and mental), you have nothing 🙂