Bangkok Activity: Snowboarding @ Ski365 Future Park Rangsit

It’s been a busy busy year and am glad to have a few days off year end. It’s amazing what just a few days off can do to your soul.  It’s wonderful to wind down and hear yourself think for a few days. It’s wonderful to have ‘me’ time.  Today, I want to share with you this new place Alex and I just discovered. It’s an indoor skiing and snowboarding training playground.

Yes, in 35 degrees celsius Bangkok we now have an indoor skiing and snowboarding training place. I couldn’t quite believe it when Alex sent me the website.  We plan to go snowboarding in March and having never snowboarded before, we wanted to practice. Alex and I last skied many years ago.  We decided to check out Ski365 on Christmas day.

It opened in late November so parts of the facilities are still under construction They are, however, open for skiing and snowboarding.  We booked for the 1 hour trial lesson and had a slope all to ourselves with an instructor.  Equipment (snowboard, helmet, boots) are all included.

The lesson was exactly what we wanted.  Having read and studied about snowboarding, we haven’t had the chance to put one on and try it out. This place allowed us to do just that.  We got to practice heel slide and standing up on the board from a seated position. By the end of the lesson, we could both slide down the slope and stop fairly well.

Will we go back? Yes we will.  We want to be able to master a few basic techniques by the time we get to Japan so we can enjoy ourselves in the snow.

How was the overall quality of instruction? It was okay.  The boards were not customised to height and the instructor seemed a bit timid. To get information, you had to actively ask, which is great because we prefer instructors who don’t talk to much.

What do you wear? Wear comfortable clothes that dry quickly because you will get wet. I wore my yoga pants with a lose top. The slope is infused with water so when you sit, fall over or roll over, you get wet. Bring clothes to change, but their changing rooms are not finished yet so we had to use the mall bathroom.

What is the slope like? The slope is like a giant treadmill. There’s no ice involved and no fake snow. The slope is covered in synthetic material infused with water. They can keep the slope moving so you never get to the end of the slope, but being beginners we didn’t get to try the feature yet. We liked being whisked back up to the top of the slope once we’ve gone down the slope.

How does the slope feel? It feels like packed snow that is starting to melt. It’s like snow when you go skiing at the end of the ski season.

Overall, I think it’s great if you plan on going skiing or snowboarding for the first time and you want some basic training.  It saves practice time in the snow so you can enjoy more of the slopes when you get there. If you already know how to ski or snowboard, I think it would be a good place to brush up on your skills before you go.  My recommendation for now is that they get rid of the mosquitoes in the facilities.

Ski365 is at FuturePark Rangsit on the 3rd floor by the new Zpell mall.

Website: http://www.ski365.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ski365.zpell?_rdr

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Places to Donate in Bangkok

Last week I wrote about cleaning up and purging things.   The next question then is always where should I donate the clothes I no longer where or other stuff I no longer need?  Below I’ve compiled a list of places you can donate your things to for reference.

  1. Pankan Society: www.panakansociety.com .  They accept almost everything that is still in working condition, resell the things for a very reasonable price and use the funds to for educational scholarships.  If you have large pieces such as furniture or large quantities of donation stuff, they will pick it up from your place for free.  I’ve used their service before to get rid of old tables and shelves I no longer needed and although it’s around a two week wait, they staff were extremely friendly and even came on a Sunday for me. Call 02 301 1096
  1. Mirror Foundation, Bangkok : http://www.mirror.or.th/mirrornew/#item8 Founded over twenty years ago the foundation has a number of local initiatives such as helping villagers affected by flooding, helping the homeless, or orphans,  any many more.  They accept all kinds of things still in working condition as well as books.  If you have old computers you no longer use, they also accept it.  They offer pick up  service as well from your place, but you may be asked to email them photos to show that it is still in acceptable condition.  Pick up costs THB 200 to help with transportation costs. Tel. 02-973-2236 -7
  1. SuanKaew Foundation : http://www.kanlayano.org/info/info_map_02.php  Founded by Monk Phra Payom Kallano almost thirty years ago, the foundation accepts everything from broken down furniture, electronics to old clothes.  Basically anything that you no longer want.  The foundation will fix the furniture or any electronic and resell them.  This provides work for the jobless, and also gives them a way in which to make money.  The money helps those in need and is even cycled to a number of other projects such as housing for those with AIDs, food for the hungry and other projects.   Oh, and if you would like retro furniture at reasonable prices, you can also go shop at their outlets!   I saw pictures of old school desks which are perfect for those with children. Tel.  02 595-1946 , ext 113-119, 135; 02-595-1444, 02-921-5023, 02-921-5602-3
  1. The Thai Red Cross Society:  http://www.redcrossfundraising.org/th/html/merit.aspx; You can also donate things to the red cross society and they will resell it at their shop.  Tel. 02-256-4622; 02-256-4440-2
  1. Foundation for Children: http://www.ffc.or.th/info/lack.php; This foundation focuses on helping children who are our future.  They provide housing, education and food. Donations accepted run from foods to other necessities.  So if you stocked up on years worth of shampoo or toilet tissue and want to declutter your house.  These children would be more than happy to accept your oversupply.  They also accept educational toys, school materials and sports equipment. Tel. 02-814-1481-7 Donations can also be sent by post.
  2. Foundation for Slum Child Care: http://www.fscc.or.th/eng/index.html; This foundation helps children who live in slums have a better life. They accept both monetary donations as well as donations for all things children related from old toys, mattresses, pillows to food. They also have corporate programs or can help you organise lunches for children.  Tel. 02-249-0953-4 ; 02-541-7991, 02-541-6092-5

There are many more foundations and if you have any particular one you would like me to add to the list, please let me know! 🙂 Let’s help us make this world a better place for everyone. If we don’t help, who will? 🙂  Your excess is someone else’s treasure.

Book Review: “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo

It’s May and it’s hot in Bangkok.  Thailand broke an all new record for electricity use the other day.  My thermometer reads 36 degrees celsius but yahoo weather says it feels like 45 degrees.  I agree.  There’s not much I feel like doing in this heat except stay indoors, out of the heat and with a good book.

The other day I picked up “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and it has gotten me on a purging spree.   For the last few years I’ve been trying to clean up my stuff, donate things to charity, but still there seems to be a never ending pile of clutter around the house.  I dream that my house would be minimal like that of a hotel room with only the bare necessities. When I travel, I seem to be able to cope well with just the stuff I have in my suitcase, but when I’m home it seems to be another matter.  Sometimes I feel like I want to just throw everything away, but in the end, I never can.

I succumb to thoughts of guilt and talk myself out of throwing away things in perfectly good condition and function.  I downgrade old t-shirts and pants to “stay at home” clothes and end up with a large pile of stay at home clothes which are not comfortable.  My shelves are filled with books both at my house and at my parent’s house. I have almost all the books I’ve bought since I can remember, even those penguin classics since first grade.  I have handwritten letters in shoeboxes from years ago when we didn’t have email and the only way we kept touch with friends was by writing letters.  With books, I’ve been getting better and sharing the joy of reading with friends, but still, I feel overwhelmed with all the clutter.

Then I picked up this book and she makes you feel better about purging things.

Kondo as a whole “Kon Mari” method to throwing things away by categories and concept on how to fold clothes, but what I love most about the book is the psychology behind it.  She eases your guilt about throwing things away.

She says to keep only the things that “spark joy.”  If it no longer sparks joy, then it no longer needs to be with you.  For things that once gave you happiness and now have passed their use, you can thank them for the pleasure it once gave you.   If you have books and things you saved up to one day  read and use, but have not yet gotten to them, then you most likely will not have the time to get to it. Out it goes. If you have folders and folders of old seminar notes that you hardly refer to anymore, toss it out.  Everything you learnt, should be in your head already.

Decluttering your environment also declutters your mind and soul.  I haven’t done the entire house in one go yet as she suggests, as I may need a whole week off (or maybe two if you count my stuff at my parents house)  but just two days and I am already seeing results.  I have more closet space and my study feels lighter.  I need less furniture. I don’t need to buy anymore storage.  I feel great.  I could keep doing this all day.  Alex has to tell me to stop and rest.

I wonder why I keep so much junk. I  tell myself,  “Live simply. Accumulate experiences, don’t accumulate ‘things.’

Happy cleaning my dear friends.   Oh, the book is pretty light reading and can be finished in one afternoon., But if you don’t want to read, she’s on youtube too.

https://youtu.be/w1-HMMX_NR8

Pray for Thailand

It’s hard to write anything non-political when most of what occupies my mind these days is politics, even on a day of love.  I think about politics every day, because it very much affects my life, and I do not mean just dealing with the commute or having to work at back-up sites or work-at-home.  External inconveniences caused by all these protests are secondary to me.  Taking four hours to drive back home will not kill me.  Seeing my country with so much potential yet no cohesiveness will kill my soul.

What worries me is the path of Thailand.  What lies ahead?  Where will this all end? How will we end up in a couple years’ time?

It doesn’t matter whose political ideals you adhere to, I think after almost four months of protests it’s time to agree that something is terribly wrong.

Even if you believed the government are in the right and that these protestors were spoiled losers who didn’t know how to lose an election, were elitist and didn’t understand the poor, I think somewhere there must be an alarm ringing.

On the other hand, even if you believed the government were in the wrong and that they are utterly corrupt, regard themselves above the law, and have vested interests in every policy they do, then after almost four months of protests you have to agree that the longer these protests drag on, the longer the country will take to recover.

What do I think? I have to admit that this is excruciatingly hard to write about in an objective manner.  Having a media that is not exactly objective makes it all the more difficult.

So all I can say for now is good night and let’s pray for Thailand.  Oh, I forgot, Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Makha Bucha Day too.

Bangkok Politics: Election or No Election?

Yesterday was Children’s day.  Entire families were out en masse watching airplanes, dancing, singing and having quality family time.  Shops and restaurants were filled and everywhere there was a queue.  You’d think food was being given out for free.

Tomorrow, it’s the Bangkok Shutdown. Literally. Major roads and intersections will be filled protestors, protesting against the government and the election.  They call for reform before election.    At the same time, there are protestors out in support of the government and symbolically lighting candles.  The government wants election then reform.

Both have valid reasons.  Anti-government protestors have lost faith in the government despite the government’s reassurance they will reform after the election.  The government is skeptical of what will happen next if there are no elections.  Who will be in power and will democracy prevail?

Meanwhile, the election date has been set for 2nd February 2014.  The problem though is that 28 constituencies do not have candidates and even if elections were to go through, the number of  MPs would not meet the minimum required to convene the House of Representatives.  The Election Commission is suggesting the government move the election date to 4th May 2014. The budget is 3.8 billion baht. (~$115mil.)

Is the cost of holding this election worth the outcome? I can’t help but try to make sense of all this and think about what will happen next for Thailand.  What is the best way out of this?  What is the best solution for Thailand?

In my opinion, I think the best way out of this is for both sides to just take a step back, put away their personal egos, fear of losing face, and really just ask themselves this, “Am I doing what is best for my country?”

Will holding elections for the sake of having elections resolve the political situation?

Think of this: 1) There are millions on the street protesting and closing major intersections.  The people clearly are not happy even if they are not the majority. 2) The House of Representatives will not be able to convene as the number of MPs will be insufficient.  3) There is no guarantee elections will cause the protestors to disperse, forget and accept the results. 4) There is a chance the protestors will come out again the protest the results

Taking all this into consideration is the election worth the 3.8 billion baht of taxpayer money?

Some may argue that elections ensure we remain democratic and that the people will have to accept it.  The government has promised it will reform after elections.   This should be sufficient given that we live in a democracy.  The government should not give in just because protestors are out on the street.

My only problem with this argument is that it fails to address the issue.

The issue is that a significant number of people (millions) have lost faith and trust in the government.  They say the government is corrupt and is pushing policies for personal gain.  And like any relationship, once the trust is broken, the relationship fails and breaks apart.

The government will have to work hard if it is to get the people to trust in them, to believe that the government will truly undergo reforms that will help the people and be for the benefit of the country.  These things take time, and words are insufficient.  It’s the action that counts.

In the end, no matter what you believe in, actions always speak louder than words.

Good night Bangkok.  I pray all ends peacefully. I love you Thailand.

A day for Democracy

Tomorrow has been set as the D-day that Thais will walk out on the streets of Bangkok and protest against corruption and misuse of power by the current government. Still many are asking, why are you protesting when the government has already abandoned the controversial amnesty bill? Isn’t it enough? Protesting a democratically elected government is like protesting against democracy. Are you in favor of a fascist state?

Let’s make a few things clear.  I am not protesting against democracy or in favor of a fascist state, but I am protesting against a government who has misused the power entrusted to them and to this day, has not admitted any wrong doing.   Why have they been able to corrupt and misuse power to such an extent? This is because the current model of democracy in Thailand has flaws in its check and balance system.  And as you know, a check and balance system is important if you are to prevent a majority government or party from misusing their power.

This misuse of power by the majority is a concept feared since the time of Plato and as Tocqueville called “Tyranny of the Majority.”  The misuse of power happens when the majority controls the legislative power, the executive power and the judicial power.  In plain English, when the majority controls how laws are made, executed and interpreted.

In designing the US constitution this was considered and James Madison realised that, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.”  The US democratic system reduces the incentive for the government to succumb to human nature and pursue personal interests with its separation of powers and its system of checks and balances.

In Thailand, the legislative branch of the government is majority controlled by the government.  The judicial branch shares its powers with the constitutional court which at times has had controversial verdicts.  Think of  Clarence Thomas in the US.  I need not mention the executive branch.

The media, which is supposed to objectively report news has also been influenced.  Since the protests started earlier in November, the “Free TV” which is broadcasted throughout the country, has barely covered the protests.   They have selectively omitted the news.  This, I presume, comes from the government’s ability to influence and make life hard for any journalist or station not in their favour.

This lack of an objective and reliable source of information has led the population to turn to social media for news and information.  It’s hard to distinguish between real news and rumour.

The government is wonderfully smart at getting things done, keeping the opposition quiet, and appealing to those who want a “democratically elected” government.  They have put their own people in important positions and if a policy needs to be pushed, a politician becomes head of a committee. Interfering with governmental agencies.  This I have witnessed. They are masters of marketing.  Every interview with foreign media boasts of how the government was “democratically elected.”  Pro government supporters have signs in english and foreign media are given VIP treatment.

If this democracy is to work in Thailand, it has to be tweaked and polished. We need a strong legislative and judicial system, one that would not be subject to external influence and a strong media that will report and help be an “eye” to any misuse of power.

For now, action has to be taken before the cancer spreads any further.  That’s why we are protesting and that’s why tomorrow you will see millions on the streets of Bangkok.

Short term pain for long term gain. What happens next, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Bangkok Brunch: Chu chocolate bar and café

Having my own home, kitchen and not so crazy about food as in my fat days, I’ve been eating out a lot less.  However, don’t get me wrong, I still go out and enjoy good food.  Today my good friend recommended we go try this new place in town called “Chu: chocolate bar and café” as we wanted to have “Eggs benedict” and this place served breakfast all day long as well as a variety of chocolate drinks and desserts.  My favorite kind of place for a lazy weekend breakfast.

It’s still it’s soft opening, but it seems to have attracted quite a bit of clientele with its new space and great atmosphere.   It’s furnished fairly simply in an industrial style with open ceilings, cement floors and wooden tables.  Simple, yet comfortable and most importantly, spacious.   Something that is now harder and harder to find in Bangkok.  It has a lot of natural light which is great, even though there is no view.  There are seats for every kind of customer. If you just wanted dessert, there were soft sofas where you could rest, and if you were eating alone, there’s a high table with high chair where you can look out of the restaurant and people watch. Lovely.  A seat for everyone.

What about the food?  We ordered Eggs Benedict with Norwegian Salmon, Norwegian Scramble, Homemade Pancakes with blueberries, Chicken Ciabatta with pesto, walnut .  For dessert we had Lava cake and Chocolate con churros.  What a feast it was.  So what’s the verdict?  I think overall the food was average.  The ingredients were fresh, presentation beautiful, but taste wise it wasn’t the best place in town.  The Eggs Benedict were a bit disappointing.  I had expected the jumbo poached egg to just melt into the smoked salmon and sourdough muffin base when pierced, but instead the yolk was soft boiled.  I wanted runny eggs to just melt into the hollandaise sauce and permeate the smoked salmon and muffin.  That’s how I like it.  The sauce was okay, but I think there was slightly too little of it to offset the jumbo egg.

The Norwegian Scramble was good though.  I love anything with eggs and the scrambled eggs were a delight to eat.  Soft with mascarpone cheese and smoked salmon, it melted with each bite.  I just wished I had a little more of the scrambled eggs. Portions are not exactly on the large scale here, but good if you want to watch your waistline.

My favorite was the Homemade Pancakes.  I think it was probably the only dish to which I have nothing to comment on.   The texture was nice and fluffy, the fruits fresh and the maple syrup just lovely.  I enjoyed every bite.  Chu only provides you a little pot of syrup though, so if you are the type that loves to just drench your pancakes in maple syrup then you’d better ask for more.

The Pesto Chicken Ciabatta with Walnut Sandwich was okay.  I always like chicken and pesto so for me, it’s always a good choice to order.  It tasted great, but if you want to use fork and knife, it gets a bit hard to cut.  I ended up using my hands to eat the sandwich.

Dessert was chocolate lava cake and Chocolate con churros.  It’s okay, but I thought the lava cake slightly too sweet, the outside not soft and fluffy enough.  If you’ve had chocolate and churros in Spain, of course it’s no way as good as the original.  I miss San Gines in Madrid and wanted the Chocolate con Churros here to be like the one I had in Madrid, so was a bit disappointed at the small size of the churros and the chocolate that wasn’t liquid chocolate.  It could be from a different part of Spain, but helas I’ve only had the one in Madrid.

Service?  It was fast, friendly and efficient, but I was a bit surprised when one of the waiters did not speak Thai.  Hey, I’m in Thailand!  It was also a bit inconsistent. Before dessert, they cleared the dishes, but failed to finish clearing all of it.  Minor details which I am sure will be improved upon once the restaurant is fully opened.

Overall?  I still like the place and thoroughly enjoyed sitting there for almost three hours without feeling rushed.  The food was average, atmosphere pleasant and a great place for a lazy weekend breakfast with friends.  It’s great if you are indeed of a quick meal and are not necessarily in search of the best Eggs Benedict in town. Will I go there again?  Yes.  Location is great. Atmosphere lovely.

It’s at Asoke BTS, Exchange Tower 2nd Floor.  Convenient and you can even go walk around Terminal 21 afterwards to digest. Bon appetite!  https://www.facebook.com/CHU.BKK

Seating area
Seating area

IMG_8652 IMG_8648 IMG_8647 IMG_8644 IMG_8642 IMG_8641 Chu cute sofa corner Like their decor Chu brownies Chu seating view Chu menu Chu long table Chu menu Chu menu