Vacation homes have become a great source of pleasure for holidaymakers looking for a cheap alternative to hotels – but a growing headache for permanent residents who live nearby and often have to face revelers’ noise and pollution, especially at weekends.
With rents as little as 4,000 baht a night for a three-bedroom property in popular resorts like Pattaya, Hua Hin and Khao Yai, the take-up from people desperate to escape Bangkok’s traffic and pollution at rates well below most hotels is huge – and increasing rapidly.
While this is good news for owners of houses and condos that have been acquired for the express purpose of satisfying this rental market, it’s not always greeted so enthusiastically by locals who have to face this weekly influx of visitors.
With no official rules regarding the number of guests staying in these holiday homes – provided it does not exceed 40 – they have become extremely popular. Above that number, the property is regarded in law as a hotel with a long list of complex rules and tax obligations.
Renters often take advantage of the situation and share the nightly fee with many others, often members of the same family. “I’ve seen at least 18 people, including a few kids and babies, stay together in one relatively small three bedroom vacation home,” said the Thai wife of a Canadian expat, who lives in a nearby property. “It can’t be pleasant for so many of them to stay under one roof. But I suppose it’s OK because it is usually only for one or two nights at most.”
There’s no shortage of great places to visit in Bangkok when you want to quench your thirst. Here we present just some of the venues that are on a mission to serve customers with beers, wines and spirits from around the world
IF you’re into craft beers and ciders sourced from some of the world’s best brewers, then Brewski at Radisson Blue Plaza is your heaven on earth. With around 100 different varieties in stock, Brewski is a popular haunt for expats, locals and tourists who really appreciate the unique tastes of these special brews on tap.Located on the hotel’s 29th and 30th floors, Brewski is also the highest duplex rooftop craft beer bar in Thailand.
30/f, Radisson Blue Plaza, 486 Sukhumvit Soi 27, Bangkok.
Tel: 02 302 3333.
WHEN all Irish themed pubs looked the same, think faux-rustic designs with green walls, Guinness posters and rusty antiques, Flann O’Brien takes its cue from Ireland’s contemporary bar-scene and offers a fresh and modern take on the tried-and-tested international Irish pub template. Pop in and enjoy a proper pint of Irish Stout.
IMPACT Challenger Building, Popular 1 Road, Nonthaburi 11120. Tel: 02 833 4288. flann-obriens.com
National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures launch global search for alternatives to single-use plastics
Registration is now open for the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge.
National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures have launched a global search for innovative solutions to help tackle the world’s single-use plastic problem.
The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge, a one-year competition, will focus on three strategic ways to address the growing issue of plastic pollution: designing alternatives to single-use plastics, identifying opportunities for industries to address plastic waste throughout supply chains, and communicating the breadth of the issue through data visualization. The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge is a key component of National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures’ partnership to reduce plastic waste.
The unique life and daring exploits of Robert Tyler, a modern day adventurer who’s overcome some of the world’s toughest challenges
Marathon running in North Korea, studying in China, mountain climbing in Tibet, Egypt, Pakistan and Argentina, witnessing the death of colleagues in war-torn Afghanistan, working Yemen and Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Myanmar and now based in Thailand. There’s much more too.
This Oxford-educated former journalist is unquestionably living life to the full.
Young, handsome and single, Robert Tyler must have been born under a wandering star. At 35 years old he has sought out enough travel and adventure to last several lifetimes, and he seems to have an attraction for the world’s more troubled spots.
The Canadian-born vagabond spent most of his early years in Hong Kong before heading off to the UK to attend high school. He’s hardly sat still since, although he did manage to earn a degree at Oxford and study Mandarin in Beijing.
A passion for mountaineering has led him to scale peaks around the globe, and he once ran a half marathon in Pyongyang, North Korea. His resume includes a stint working for DHL in war-torn Afghanistan, and his background made International SOS a perfect career fit. The private company specializes in reducing exposure to security and medical risks abroad for corporate clients, NGOs and government organizations.
Previously posted in Yemen, Papua New Guinea and Myanmar, Robert is now of head sales and marketing for International SOS in Bangkok, which he says is ‘‘the nicest place I have ever lived’’. Maxmilian Wechsler caught up with Robert recently to talk about his definitely not boring life.
“I was born in Vancouver, Canada, in December 1983. My father is British but he was actually born in an army camp in Egypt. My grandfather was in the military. He grew up in South Africa, so, actually, I have UK citizenship but I am the third generation to be raised outside of the United Kingdom. I suppose you can say I was born into a military family.
In former times the ones sent off to look after the old British Empire were people from families like mine. “My father joined Cathay Pacific Airlines straight after university because keen to pursue opportunities outside of the UK, which was struggling economically at the time.
He lived in Japan, the Philippines, Italy and Canada, where I was born. Not long after that he was made a manager at Cathay Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong, where I did most of my growing up. Both my parents are alive. My mother is an artist and her father also served in the military in the UK and Europe during the Second World War. Her family is mostly from Scotland and I have wonderful memories of childhood there.
“I was bitten by the travel bug early. I was born in Canada, brought up in Hong Kong, and then as a young teenager I was sent to the same high school as my father, a small Catholic school in West Sussex. So at a young age I had experienced three continents. For me the world didn’t seem like such a big place and I didn’t find it so intimidating to go out and explore it after finishing university. Like my father, I attended Oxford university in the UK, where I studied theology.
“Studying at Oxford is very much like you’ve read about or seen in the movies. The place is a living museum. You are cramming in the same libraries, walking the same streets and drinking in the same pubs as famous Oxford alumni like J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Really, it is like something out of a dream. But they make you work very hard, so a lot of the time you are too stressed and too busy to really appreciate it. Many people don’t know it, but Oxford is not expensive. The university is run through the government system. It is a meritocracy; placement is based on your grades.”
By Sam Wilko
At night in an upcountry village, noise is not an issue – but come sunrise all things audible rapidly change with public announcements, trucks, motorcycles and vendors turning the place into a cacophonic ear-battering battlefield. It’s even noisier, says a British expat in this bitter-sweet tale of life in Thailand’s Northeast, when there’s a funeral and the ‘Noise Man’ comes to town and cranks up his sound gear to the max
My Thai family and I live in Nong Chaem, a small village of some 2,000 inhabitants located 100km to the west of Khon Kaen in the mid-northeastern reaches of the country. The nearest
ATM is a 25km trek away over some scarily rutted roads until you hit the smoother two-lane ‘highway’ leading into marginally larger Chom Phae. Local roads are best avoided once the sun sets over the western peaks and if you want to preserve your car’s shock absorbers and tyres you’d best not drive by night.
Our village, a miniscule blimp on Thailand’s geographic radar, offers very little in the way of labour for its residents except during the twiceyearly rice and sugarcane harvests so it’s a decidedly tranquil place to be at nighttime. Here, on a normal evening, cicadas chirrup their cheerful choruses while you can occasionally hear the distant yet distinct rising cry of the brown Thai coucal crow (Centropus bengalsis). People head off to bed at nine o’clock and the streets are deserted and all the shops shut by half past eight.
In case you’re wondering, the nearest bars or pubs are 30km away and are really not worth visiting. It’s a far cry from Bangkok’s bustling nightlife. Yet this sleepiness is not without its charms and the soft-spoken locals are excellent neighbours.
But come sunrise all things audible rapidly change. To start off, public announcements by the Pu Yai (the village headman, a genial chap blithely unaware that he is waking everyone up with a barrage of largely irrelevant information) are cranked up to MAXIMUM VOLUME with tinny speakers blaring out at cruelly and cleverly intrusive locations throughout the village.
Sip-lor (10-wheel trucks) rumble, roar and banging their empty trailers, sashay their way through the main thoroughfare, sound trucks – their roof-mounted speakers trumpeting wares for sale, ranging from fresh pork (“moo ma leeow, moo ma LEEOW”) to eggs to even bicycles and spectacles, bump through the ruts (it’s a mystery how they manage their diesel costs) while students’ motorcycles with their mufflers neutered snarl, shake, rattle and roll their way to school in much the same way that we, as kids, used to attach pegs to our bicycle spokes in order to sound like grown-up mo’bikes. So quite early on in the day our ‘tranquil’ village morphs into a cacophonic ear-battering battlefiel
· Meet Pashmina P, the force behind a new three-instalment book whose characters every woman can identify with.
· Bangkok-born Pashmina P. uses her Indian heritage and international experiences in Hong Kong, England the US to tell a compelling story about the lives of four women and how they interconnect.
· Here Pashmina P. talks about her own life and how she went from a high-flying PR consultant to art teacher and now an author
Tell us about the plot and main characters featured in your trilogy
The books are about four women, and the complexities they face with age. There are some valuable lessons they need to learn through friendship, connection and communication. However, there is an element of betrayal in the story, which will hopefully have the reader wondering, what next? The men in the book are sounding boards to these women, and reveal a softer side of masculinity.
The first part of the book, The Cappuccino Chronicles, is an introduction of the four women, and how the fabrics of their lives are intertwined with each other through friendship, time, and a good cup of coffee. In Mocha Madness and Endless Espressos, the journey of these women continues. And just as important as the air we breathe, they realise that time is actually their biggest commodity in life.
Over the years there are heartbreaks, losses, connections, re-connections and a sense of growth. However, life and legacy is endless; there is always a part of our DNA that is floating around somewhere through our offspring and family members, so the last part of the trilogy encapsulates this notion that everything is always evolving and ever changing, with strong foundations of ancestry.
Any living persons involved?
The women in The Cappuccino Chronicles Trilogy are a collection of the hundreds of people I have met through my travels and international living experiences. I have had complete strangers tell me that the first book reminds them of their own lives. Certainly I have some close members of my family and friends asking whether it’s them.
The song ‘I’m every woman’ by Chaka Khan always comes to mind when I get testimonials from my readers, because the book resonates with women across the world. We all have our good, bad and ugly days as well as our empowered, enriching and magical days. Like they say, we all have the good, the bad and the ugly!
My primary and secondary school years were spent at an ESF (English School Foundation) where I completed my GCSEs and A levels. My dream to own a theatre started at a very young age. At 17 I left home and went to study Theatre Arts at a liberal arts college in California called University of the Pacific. In my final two years I completed my degree in London at Richmond University and graduated summa cum laude. Five years ago I obtained my M.Ed. in International Teaching from Framingham State University, Massachusetts.
What languages do you speak?
My main language is English, and some Thai so I could communicate with my grandmother, when she was alive, who lived in Thailand.
Tell us about your family.
I met my Brazilian husband, who is from Rio de Janeiro, in Hong Kong when I was 16. He was a high diver at Ocean Park. We got married in 2003 and have two beautiful daughters who claim to be “Braz-Indian.”
After graduation, what did you do?
While still in the UK I played the role of Zanche the Moor in The White Devil, by John Webster, on a fringe stage in London’s West End. Actually, my dream was to go to RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) as well as do a minor in journalism so I could pursue my other dream of becoming an anchor on CNN.
However, I was summoned back to HK because my parents were not keen on me staying abroad. I landed a receptionist job with a reputable golf company who were property owners from Shanghai. After two years of working there, I moved into a PR firm where I worked for six years. As the English copywriter of a reputable PR firm, my Shanghainese boss introduced me to the world of Hong Kong’s high society. I helped to open the Louis Vuitton flagship store at the Landmark, met Marc Jacobs – when he started the trend of wearing trainers with suits - and I even danced with Nino Cerruti of Cerruti Jeans. My life in Hong Kong was a dichotomy of two separate lives. On the one hand I was rubbing shoulders with Hong Kong’s Moghuls and on the other hand I was dating my Black Brazilian boyfriend in secret, because of the backlash of racism from the Indian community.
After an amazing and sometimes crazy life in PR, I felt drawn to teaching, and obtained my license as a qualified NET (Native English Teacher) in Hong Kong through the government. This was a far cry from the PR world, as I was forced to teach at local government schools where children were under privileged and often from broken homes. Most of the children’s parents at these schools were either in jail or working four jobs to put food on the table.
After receiving my license, I worked at an Arts school called Kids’ Gallery owned by the Hotungs in Hong Kong, I taught a class to children, which was enchanting.
What sparked an interest in writing?
I have always loved reading and writing. I read Roots by Alex Haley when I was six years old. Judy Blume, Roald Dhal and the Enid Blyton series were my go-to reading materials. My mother’s library included a collection of memoirs, true crime stories, self-help books, poetry books, cook books and of course Danielle Steele’s and Jackie Collins’ books. My father’s collection was Tai Pan and Shogun, by James Clavell and other books that resonated with strong and sardonic themes.
I wanted to write plays and screen plays as a young child, because owning a theatre was always in my sub conscious. Writing and reading become some of my favourite hobbies. In school, I loved doing research on the classics like Britannicus by Racine, Roman theatre, Greek theatre and modern theatre all the way to musicals. I was fascinated how words and musical notes on a piece of paper could come to life through movement and voice. It was as if theatre brought words to life. Broadway was fascinating to me.
I wrote my first play entitled I-N-S-O-M-N-I-A which was also my first piece of writing that was produced in London while at university, and then again for an international school in Bangkok 20 years later.
If we talk about the festival that makes most Thai-Chinese feel happy and anxious at the same time, it could not be anything else but Chinese New Year. For children, it is the festival of joy.
Despite having to wake up very early to pay respect to the Gods, they later get to taste many yummy foods and count the red envelopes full of money. But once we get older, that joy seems to disappear because this holiday brings with it countless unpleasant questions from our extended family members, ranging from when will you get married to when will you have a baby. Moreover, the most painful thing is when it is our turn to give back the reward. This is especially tough for first jobbers, many of whom do not yet have a lot of savings but are already facing great pressure and expectation from family. UnionPay, the best payment companion, recommends five ways for first-jobbers to spend money wisely during this Chinese New Year.
1.New stuff, new luck
One benefit of this holiday is that it can be an excuse to shop for new clothes, bags and shoes because Chinese believe owning new stuff during the new year increases luck in life. We suggest heading straight to your favorite shops at your usual department stores. The price may higher than when there are Mid-Year Sale or End-of-Season sale but there will be more sizes and styles for you to choose. Plus, during the Chinese New Year festival, the department store usually offers many promotions. If you plan your shopping wisely, you may get a few cash coupons for your next shopping therapy.
2.It’s holiday but where to go?
Chinese New Year is a holiday where families get together, so it is normal that every place will be crowded especially in the temples and shrines. But if you feel dizzy from people or getting headaches from hearing kids crying, you can escape to a peaceful, semi-secluded place and focus on yourself for a couple of hours by watching a movie. If you miss the feeling of butterflies in your tummy, watch a romantic movie. If you want the year to be full of laughter, watch a comedy movie. Chinese believe how you begin the year will reflect how the rest of your year will be.
3.The Big meal is on me!
Family meals during Chinese New Year do not need to end up at luxury restaurants. You may change to restaurant which you know both the taste is good and your parents will enjoy it at affordable prices. This may be the best choice for treating the family with your first earned money. There are many restaurants that offers rewards and promotions even if you are not a member. For those looking to make the meal extra special, why not teaming up with your siblings and cook something nice yourself?
The women and children of my grandmother’s family spent the war at my grandmother’s family estate in Kent and were reunited with my grandfather after the war when Mark was eight years old. He recalls meeting a frail distinguished soldier off the train (my grandfather spent the war in a Japanese concentration camp in Japan and suffered from starvation and TB. He had seen Hiroshima go off and wrote in his diary “thank God the wind was blowing the other way!’
Mark’s youngest brother Dr Guy Graham was born soon after. My grandfather’s health meant that he could no longer serve in the army which led him to a career with ICI.
My father had a typical aristocratic education where children were groomed in manners, etiquette, basic reading, writing, nursery literature and general knowledge by nannies at home in their early years then sent away to boarding school, especially for those serving in the colonies. My father was the fourth generation born outside the UK (his father and grandfather, and great grandfather were Scottish colonial pioneers born in India & Burma).
However, his maternal heritage is French by way of the Seymour lineage and Norse Canadian by way of the Waylands, which my uncle Robert traced our line back to a legendary Nordic warrior from the 11th century. So at home French and English were the household languages with some Scottish Gaelic punctuation and later Italian - as my grandparents had a house on the Italian Riviera where the family spent their summers.
Mark along with his brothers Robert and Guy were sent to Fettes School in Edinburgh to connect with their Scottish roots. Mark was a rebel intellectual who did not like the linear approach of the traditional school system and did not do well academically. Instead he was known for his sporting prowess and athletic eloquence.
Fettes had a nine-hole golf course, which perhaps was where he learned to become a scratch golfer (a useful skill set during his later corporate years). Riding, rugby, cricket, squash, tennis, waterskiing, snow skiing, climbing and pretty much anything he attempted in sports saw him do so with passion and flare!
Mark loved the great outdoors.
My grandparents were also responsible for instilling this with traditions of hunting, shooting, fishing, walking etc. Being of aristocratic background the boys were also learned about wine, the skills of carving, calligraphy, an appreciation of art, history, artisanal craftsmanship, music and dance. The female lineage of our family were renowned embroiderers, knitters, lace and crochet aficionados.
As babies and children Mark and his brothers were always impeccably dressed in these beautiful creations. Perhaps this is where he got his artistic side from. Mark had a natural flare for art and calligraphy.
Mark did not attend university and instead went to Florence to study art at The Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze. After graduating, he dutifully joined The Seaforth Highlanders a historic royal line infantry regiment of the British Army. He did not enjoy the service so much when he was sent to babysit Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
He recounted with more vigour his time in the Malaya jungle when a mosquito bite on his upper thigh got infected causing his leg to swell up enough to be airlifted to a hospital where it was punctured. As children he loved to gross us out by telling us how ‘the puss hit the ceiling like a yellow custard fountain’ and how he was lucky to survive! This type of borderline humour was what he became known for. Mark was a great storyteller, a natural raconteur.
As much as he loved the great outdoors he was too much of an artist and free spirited romantic to be a soldier so he left the army and joined Saatchi & Saatchi in its early advertising heyday in London.
He shared a flat on Park Crescent off Regent’s Park with a friend whose father David Webster ran the Royal Opera House at the time. This was the heyday of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev and the emergence of modern dance in ballet. Mark loved music and dance with a passion, something he shared generously with us as children, especially me.
It used to frustrate him that he was good at neither, though he relished being a fan. This was also the swinging sixties in London, a time when jazz, the Beatles, Bob Marley, Rock and Roll was blossoming against the back drop the cold war and the war in Vietnam. His record collection was pretty awesome, with everything from Gregorian monks chanting to Gamelan to experimental jazz sessions with the greatest.
Given his extensive collection of books on war, history and biographies of the various global power protagonists of the 21st century, Mark still always maintained a fascination for world history and politics - or some say he was recruited away from The Seaforth Highlanders by MI5 and later the CIA, which moved him first to Hong Kong to work for Olgivy & Mather then on to Thailand during the same week that Jim Thompson disappeared.
From Bangkok travel expert to pig farming in Udon Thani - the amazing journey of an expat Brit who's eventually opted for city living
After working in the travel business in the UK and Europe, London-born Andrew Lewis came to Thailand in 1979 and eventually got a job in the same industry in Bangkok.
In 2001 he and his Thai wife bought land in Udon Thani province and Andrew decided on a complete change of lifestyle – growing vegetables, farming fish and finally raising pigs. It was hard work, but Andrew enjoyed his new and successful life as an upcountry farmer. Then his circumstances changed and suddenly he was back in Bangkok.
Andrew tells Maxmilian Wechsler about his unusual life journey in the country he's called home for 30 years.
ANDREW was born in South London and completed his schooling there. Fresh out of college he got a job with a British travel company. Later he worked in Holland and then for a couple of years in Denmark. “I came to Thailand for the first time in 1979 on holiday and returned three times. I have lived here permanently since 1988.
“I was in the process of getting a divorce from my first wife and I was between jobs, so I decided to spend some time travelling around Southeast Asia. Initially I planned to head back towards England through India, but I met a lady here. I did some more travelling in Southeast Asia and came back to Thailand.
I decided I wanted to settle down in Thailand, temporarily. I never had any plan to spend the rest of my life here. This was never ever my intention. I just thought I would spend a little time here and see how it went, and when I felt it was time to go, I would go. That time never came.
“I had been without work for about a year and a half and I needed to think seriously about making some money. Luckily, I had a Thai friend here who ran a travel agency in Bangkok; I met him when I was working in Europe. I asked him if he could find work for me and he told me: ‘I have one or two things you can help me with for a few months’. This was at the end of 1989. He gave me a temporary job which was supposed to last no more than six months. Ten years on, I was still working for him.
“By that time I was the commercial manager at the tour company, which means I was doing a bit of anything and everything. Sadly, my friend who gave me the Andrew Lewis job passed away a few years ago.
“I got married in 1991 and I kept working out of Bangkok for the same company until 2000, when I turned 50 and decided to ‘retire.’ ”
By Maxmilian Wechsler
You’ve heard of Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, U Tapao, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Ko Samui airports, but you probably didn’t know that there’s at least another 75 places in Thailand with runways
THE most basic definition of an airport is ‘‘a place where aircraft take off and land’’. To the surprise of many, public records show that there are 81 or more facilities that fit this description in Thailand, at least one in 51 of the country’s 76 provinces – as and Bangkok and more than one in 20 provinces.
These range in size from airfields that may consist of just a single narrow landing strip and perhaps a small adjoining structure, to the sprawling complex comprising Suvarnabhumi International Airport, which in 2017 accommodated almost 61million domestic and international travellers.
There are 24 airports with scheduled commercial service and 11 that function as international airports. About 18 airports are strictly for military use, reserved for the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), Royal Thai Army (RTA) or Royal Thai Navy (RTN). Fourteen others are joint public/military airports. Six airports are operated by the Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited (AOT), a government-owned company, and apparently 30 are operated by the Department of Airports (DOA), under the Ministry of Transport. There are also a number of private airports in the country, for example three owned and operated by Bangkok Airways Public Company Limited (BA).
There are also a number of airports constructed in the ‘middle of nowhere’, some with relatively long runways and associated structures. Looking at these isolated aviation centers on a map, it’s hard to come by a reason for their existence. An inevitable question arises: Could some of them be used for illicit activities? On a more positive note, however, it is comforting to know they are available to a pilot looking for a place to land in an emergency situation.