Be Kind to Yourself

This morning I had the opportunity to Skype with one of Having ‘Me’ Time’s readers and we had a good discussion about our journey to better health and weight loss.  A lot about the path to better health means avoiding processed, unhealthy foods, sweets or what seems to be almost all of our favourite foods.  It often feels like we are starving ourselves of what we love, especially if that’s how we’ve been eating our whole lives.

What happens when we mess up our diet and fall for that piece of decadently delicious chocolate fudge cake, or that juicy cheese hamburger?   Nothing. Nada.

Many times we are so strict with ourselves that when we fall for that piece of cupcake or donut, we feel like we’ve failed the diet and end up eating for the world.  We throw all our hard work away and lose hope. We go back to our old ways and eat and eat.

My advice to you is this:  Be kind to yourself.  Don’t lose hope and enjoy the experience.

Remember that it’s okay to treat yourself every now and then.  If you crave a hamburger really badly, go out and eat it.  If you want that cake, eat it.  Sometimes having a bite is enough to satisfy the craving. Enjoy it, savour it and then just make a mental note to yourself to work out extra at the gym the next day.  Add an extra session to the week’s workout.

No big deal right?  Have fun being healthy.  Enjoy the experience!

I’ve lost 5kgs or 12 lbs since the beginning of the year and every night I treat myself to some dark chocolate.  I have ice cream and egg tart.  I do, however, make sure that it’s super delicious and worth my extra workout time.

There’s no failing, no wrong in becoming healthy.  It’s a journey that goes up hill, down hill, turns corners and brings you to wonderful new places.  Just keep working at it! Keep on walking down the path. Don’t stop and turn back.

Five years on and I am still working on it 🙂  Step by step, little by little, we’ll get there. Be kind to yourself and be patient.

The good side of the Bangkok Shutdown

Politics is a serious topic and the situation in Bangkok isn’t getting any better soon.  I  wonder everyday how it will all end, will there be bloodshed? Will this end in civil law? Will the protestors get tired and disperse? (I doubt it) Will the government step down? (I don’t think they will either)  When this ends, will Thailand enter a new era of prosperity? or… is it all downhill for now?

I don’t know.  I don’t think anyone else knows either. If you know, please let me know. I pray it becomes an era of prosperity.

Anyways, reading the news today I came across an article about how the pollution level at main intersection levels in Bangkok where the protestors are camped out have more than halved in the past few days and so it has gotten me thinking of all the unintentional benefits of this Bangkok Shutdown.

1. It has raised political awareness amongst the Thai population and taught them that politics isn’t something not related to them, but that it can seriously impact their lives.  One must participate.

2. The Anti-Corruption campaign must be at an all time peak. Millions of people now understand and know how harmful corruption can be for the country.  Let’s just hope they continue to act on it and will not succumb to corruption, no matter how small the temptation.

3. It’s been a Car Free Week in downtown Bangkok causing the pollution level to decrease by more than half thus helping the environment.  Millions of cars are now off the streets.  Oil consumption therefore must be correspondingly lower. I wonder if the number of car accidents have decreased too.

4. Public transport is now used more widely with buses, sky train and mrt fully packed till late at night.  No need for status symbol cars anymore. Everyone uses public transport.

5. Office workers and protestors are now getting their daily dose of exercise walking kilometres to protest sites and realise it’s really not that bad to walk a bit.

6. Bangkokians get to explore Bangkok on foot. I even spotted some tourists joining in.

7. Work life balance amongst office workers promoted as many have to leave earlier to find their way home.

And most importantly, I think the best benefit of all these protests is that more people realise that the power lies within their hands and that what happens to the country depends upon each and everyone’s decision and participation.

No matter which side you support, the future of the country depends upon you. You are your own future!

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.

Having “Me” Time: 2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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.

Music by the street

I’m waiting for my ride to pick me up for lunch today and even though I am next to a polluted street, with car and bus exhaust fumes blowing in my face, noise pollution hitting my ear drums, amidst all this chaos and gloom I am relaxing to the sound of music played from a man playing the flute at the base of the train station.

His music cuts through all the sounds and creates an atmosphere that is so much more enjoyable than the sounds of roaring buses and motorcycles by the street. I take a little seat on the bench by the bus stop and for a few minutes enjoy the music.

I feel like its moments like these that somehow remain in your mind even years from now. If you are in a rush going somewhere, sometimes just take a look around and watch the life. Enjoy the moment and see the flowers. Even by the roadside, if you listen, if you allow your senses to open up, you might just have a little more music in your life. 🙂

Let the music flow 🙂


Old Bangkok Morning Life

Summer is coming soon to Bangkok and already I am dreading the summer heat.  Fortunately we have a few days of cool weather at the moment so it feels as if we are enjoying a short festive season.   I love it, because it is a short reminder to enjoy the little things in life.   This morning I had the opportunity to take a little walk before work and it feels good to just walk outside, feel the breeze in your hair, watch people going out and about and listen to the birds chirp.

Early morning walks just as the city is waking up for me are always one of my favourite times of the day because you don’t get rushed, or have to feel the hurry of the morning rush hour.  Watching the sun rise, you get to observe how varying degrees of sunlight affects the way you see the colours around you.  This is especially interesting in the old part of Bangkok where traditional wet markets still exist and with it the traditional way of life in Thailand.  You see people carting baskets of fruits, vegetables and even fish to sell at the market.  You see housewives out for their daily supplies, people passing by on their way to a destination or the lone dog hoping for a kind heart to give it some food.  Markets, being typically the focus of action, often find shops and restaurants nearby.  In Thailand it’s the same with stalls selling all kinds of food not far off from the market filled with people grabbing something to eat before another long day.

Coffee and croissant is not the typical breakfast here.  No Cafe Solo nor Uma Bica.  Here it’s Fish Maw Soup, Congee, Rice with Toppings, Noodles.  Whatever you want to eat, its open since early morning.  We eat our breakfast like a King, as the saying goes.   I used to wonder how one could eat so much for breakfast, having grown up on cereal or toast coupled with a glass of milk.   I now start to understand.  If you start your mornings early since it gets quite hot later on (lets’ say breakfast at around 6am) by noon you feel like you could eat horse. A big one.  It’s best therefore to have something slightly heavier than just toast so that you don’t go crazy and bite a chunk out of your colleague.

The great thing though is that food is available 24 hours a day in Bangkok.  It still fascinates me how in Thailand, food is available everywhere no matter what time of day it is.  It can be 6am or 4pm, you’ll find restaurants open for business with people inside.  I used to ask what meal they were eating, now I find myself sometimes eating at odd hours of the day.

Watching life reminds us how special and wondrous it is.  Each person has their own life story to tell.  We have ours to tell so to live one’s life is indeed a blessing.  Each and everyday, look at the life around you and think how lucky you are to be alive.  Life is precious. Tomorrow there may be no more markets,  no morning chaos nor dog wagging it’s tail…


It’s your choice

The past few days I’ve been thinking a bit about life.   Having had so far a pretty active weekend joining the  Cancer Care run for charity on Saturday and watching the Honda LPGA Thailand one can’t help but to contemplate a bit about life while relaxing one’s soul.  Life really is quite a journey.

Yesterday running at Lumpini Park, which is something I hardly ever do, I got a glimpse of the different stages of life.  Running through the park you passed groups of elderly people doing Qiqong, slowly moving to pace beneath the trees.  It’s a meditative exercise that seems great for the soul and for practicing mindfulness.  You have to be aware of every part of your body and its movement.  Further along are the religious and the pious giving alms to monks whilst alongside the lake parents take their children out for a ride on the peddle boat or simply a stroll around the garden.   Kids run around, happy and oblivious to the world whilst at one end of the park you have the elderly and retired out for their morning exercise and to socialise.  They’ve been there and done that.   They sit and chat, play a game of thai chess, and discuss who knows what.  In the end it seems that  Life is nothing without good health.

Today, at the Honda LGPA, it was the first time in history that a Thai Women’s golfer had a chance at winning the title.  It was exciting and exhilarating.  After all it was her first time playing as a pro and she made it to the top of the chart.  She finished 11 under par.  She lost by 1 point at the last hole.   That is life.  In one day, by one point, her life will no longer be the same.   Her career will now take on a different path.  No one but herself was responsible for this change.

It makes me wonder, what will life be if you don’t make the effort to live it the way you want to live it?  Will you end up at the park in your older days regretting all you didn’t do, angry at the world,  or will you be one of those happy elderlies who sit there by the lake smiling and satisfied that they took the chance, lived their life and had a great journey.

It’s your choice. 🙂


Paris sardines

There’s something magical about Paris no matter how many times you’ve been here. Coming from Lisbon where locals are still surprised to see asians and kids waved to us as if we were superstars, Paris is a cosmopolitan city where everyone seems to be on the go and people of all races walk the streets. Taking the train into town from the airport we got a little taste of french human cargo. The train was simple enough to take and tickets can be bought from the tourist info. Unbeknowned to us, the trains had not been running for two hours due to suicide. The result? We found new meaning for packed sardines and human cargo. People needed to get into town and could not wait anymore. At the following stops, when you think not a single person more could board, we were mistaken. Three more people pushed and shoved their way on. Doors bounced back and forth before it could close and ladies insisted there was still space. Until she realized there was no space for her neighbour’s feet. A land of tolerance, everyone took all this in style. A squished lady next to me joked about climbing onto my luggage and a man welcomed us to Paris. The same kind man could not exit once he reached his stop. No one dared lose their space on this precious train. The ladies who had squeezed their way started chatting through shoulders and laughed. I love their sense of humour. They even recommended we take the direct train next time. Noted madame. Merci beaucoup. When we got to our stop at St. Lazare, I didn’t have to walk. I literally rolled out with a smile and a thought. On the way back we are taking the airport shuttle. It was an experience like no other and adds flavor to the trip, but is one I need not repeat. Tout meme, j’aime Paris.

The Alfama Life

In Lisboa,  Alex and I are for the first time renting an apartment for this leg of the trip. We wanted to see what it would be like living amongst the locals. I have to say it is pretty awesome. Upon arriving at the apartment we get a little taste of local as we are greeted by our neighbour popping her head out the window and s an elderly lady and her grand daughter ( I think].

Here, in the oldest neighbourhood of Lisboa dating from the times of the moors, you walk past men gathering in squares playing cards and making a huge racquet, and families out with their kids to get a bit of sun.  Clothes hang from lines outside the window.  Some decorations of yellow, red, green  crisscross across the narrow streets. A world heritage courtyard with an orange tree in the middle is just picturesque. Up narrow winding becos and cobblestoned alleys, there are still the traditional fishmongers, fruit stalls  and the pasteileires where you can stop for a quick cup of ‘bica’.

At these coffee shops you don’t have to sit and most just stand over the counter.  Some places are so small you don’t even have the option. Take away in a paper cup is unthinkable. Coffee is drank black and in a ceramic cup.  Request lattes, americanos or other versions and you might just get something else. Hot chocolate comes ready mixed in a bottle.  Not rich and dark. Portugese like sweets. Mars and snickers are sold everywhere next to sweet egg tarts that raise your sugar level.

The becos are so narrow it is pedestrians only and anything said may be heard by the neigbours if you have the window open.  Nevertheless, there are still plenty of dogs and cats here. People grow up and die here says my host though it is now not as common.

I wonder how different life is here in Lisboa.  I think of cinema paradiso and the village life. I think of the narrow alleys of venice yet here it is hilly.  I wonder how elderly people manage to walk here.  Yet this is the life here.  This is the alfama life.