Chef in focus
Mr Narupon Wongthitivong (Pek)
Excecutive Sous Chef of Escape Bangkok, Roof top bar & Restaurant.
Graduated in Communications Arts, Advertising Bangkok University. Continued studying in London and also worked part time in the kitchen of Thai Rice Restaurant. Graduated with a cuisine diploma at Le Cordon Bleu, London.
ESCAPE BANGKOK: EMQUARTIER, BUILDING B, 5TH FLOOR.
OPENING HOUR: EVERYDAY 5pm – midnight. Email: Reservations@escape-bangkok.com
Tel: 02 003 6000 Facebook: @EscapeBangkok Instagram: @escapebangkok
The inside story of the FCCT Bangkok’s historic media hub – making and breaking the news for more than 60 years
One of the great institutions of this country, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) has a long and fascinating history filled with the exploits of legendary journalists and photographers who risked and even gave their lives to keep the world informed of events in Southeast Asia.
Now in its seventh decade, the club is a magnet for a much wider audience with members from all walks of life enjoying some of the hottest debates in town, presentations, book launches and congenial gatherings. It also continues to play an important role in the quest for freedom of speech and other media issues.
By Dominic Faulder
The informal origins of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) date from the mid-1950s, when a group of correspondents and media types gathered at Mizu’s Kitchen on Patpong Road.
Back then, airlines, trading companies, restaurants and other businesses dominated the area - a far cry from today’s garish and moth-eaten nightlife haunts. Mizu’s survived until very recently with its tablecloths stiffened by the sizzling juices of countless Sarika steaks, and is currently undergoing refurbishment.
The history of the FCCT is the sum of its members – a long list of characters who have played fascinating parts, large and small, in the reporting of Southeast Asia. The FCCT’s principal founder, Jorges Orgibet, rolled up in Thailand with the US Office of War Information at the end of World War II and set up the US Information Service (USIS) office. A journeyman journalist and public relations man who in 1953 served as the first bureau chief for the Associated Press (AP), Orgibet never left. He passed away in 1986 at the Bangkok Nursing Home.
Alex Wu, a Chinese-language editor with USIS, and Prasong Wittaya of United Press, who served several terms as the club’s president, also played key roles.
Alexander MacDonald, the station chief after the war of the US Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency, founded the Bangkok Post in 1946. However, he was chased out of Thailand by 1955 before the FCCT really got going.
Who can join the FCCT and what are the fees?
Anyone can join. About a fifth of the membership are correspondents and journalists. The remainder range from diplomats to NGO workers, retirees to students. The fees vary according to category but the highest rate – for associate members – is still only baht 6,500 per annum.
How many members?
The FCCT has over 800 members.
What are the approximate membership demographics?
Ages range from 16 to 96 originating from most corners of Earth.
What are the main benefits of FCCT membership?
Free entrance to almost all events; 25% discount on F&B of good quality and reasonably priced; welcoming staff; great networking; informative and interesting events; outdoor terrace; access to books written by members; excellent working space on the fly.
What events does the FCCT host?
The FCCT usually hosts three events a week including Monday night documentaries, Wednesday night panel discussions, as well as various report and book launches. Topics range from politics (local, regional and international), to business, human and animal rights, and environmental issues.There are also more cultural evenings, sometimes built around a particular author or noteworthy individual. The FCCT also hosts lighter events: sake and craft beer tasting, plays, and tango nights, and has a children’s hour on Friday afternoons.
Over the course of over 60 years, the FCCT has welcomed countless famous speakers including world leaders, politicians, pundits, adventurers, writers, actors, directors, activists, sports people, and more – and many of their pictures can be viewed in the entrance area.
The FCCT has reciprocal arrangements with 29 clubs around the world including the FCC Hong Kong, FCC Tokyo, the National Press Club in Washington, and the Frontline Club in London.
Who’s in charge?
Good question. The FCCT is managed by an executive board elected each year with no member allowed to hold the same position for more than two consecutive years. The main board forms committees to manage various aspects of the club including programmes, publicity, finance, membership, and professional matters. Daily operations are managed by the general manager and his friendly staff.
Reporter’s notebook: Revisiting great stories of the past – Part 6 Khao San churns out fake diplomas from world famous universities
Veteran correspondent Maxmilian Wechsler recalls some of his most interesting and exclusive assignments from the past two decades.
FROM THE YEAR 2005
A Bangkok street known for its backpackers is becoming a popular destination for obtaining a variety of counterfeit documents to help foreigners find employment as English teachers. In addition to fake degrees and diplomas from world famous universities, teachers’ certificates and many other types of identification documents, it’s also possible to buy driving licences and student and press cards here.
The matter came to my attention after an East European tourist named Ivan was offered a job as an English language teacher in Thailand, even though he had no teaching qualifications. Ivan later met a fellow “teacher”– an Irish steel worker – who told him that it was possible to obtain college degrees at nearby Khao San Road, and that this had been suggested by a job agency to fulfill its “requirements”.
A subsequent enquiry conducted by myself confirmed that fake documents are indeed openly advertised and sold in no fewer than three locations along Khao San Road. The first attempt to take photographs of the sellers and the handwritten advertisements failed because as soon as they spotted a person with a camera, they quickly packed and walked away. They did not return until the photographer had left. A second attempt using a more clandestine method was successful, however, and photos of the signs were taken.
Wellness Real Estate - a $134 billion business with proven financial and physical benefits that’s booming worldwide
“Wellness requires meaningful life changes and our vision was to create a community where our residents could live their best lives – physically, mentally and socially” - Adrian Bowen, Managing Director of Sunplay Asia.
At 58 years of age, George Clooney seems to have it all, doesn’t he? A charismatic and celebrated actor, devoted husband and father, and the global brand ambassador of Nespresso.
So how does he seem to get better with age? And how can mere mortals like us (both men and women) do the same?
It’s true that we all age, but who said we can’t do so with vitality and grace? Let’s be honest, few of us have the boundless energy we had in our twenties, but whilst this is an inevitability of life, being unfit and unhealthy isn’t.
Thankfully health and wellness aren’t exclusive to the young, it is there for all of us who choose to seek it out.
Long-term expat from Sweden talks about competing in the Miss World competition, her encounter with an Arab who wanted more than just her beauty, an alcoholic former husband, and her exciting life in Bangkok.
Name: Agneta de Bekassy.
Born: In a relatively small town Södertälje, south of Stockholm. (5th of February 1955, a good wine year) Later, my parents moved to Stockholm where I went my first years to school.
Family: My father is an engineer and my mom a secretary. When I and my 4 ½ years younger brother were small, mom mostly stayed at home looking after us. She was born to be a mother. When I was seven, we moved to Gothenburg on the West coast.
Education: I went to a private school, Göteborg’s Högre Sam skola, not very big at that time and we called our female teachers “Aunt” and the males “Senior Master”. It was hard discipline and the principal (headmaster) greeted us every morning and always controlled us, checking that we were on time, properly dressed and had our books. He was a real gentleman and we all liked and respected him.
I studied lots of languages like Latin, ancient Greek and Russian. In Sweden our first foreign language is English, it’s obligatory. My headmaster was an archeologist and he got me interested in Ancient Civic Life, which I went on to study at the University of Gothenburg. I also picked languages, as I was a zero in math.
I went on to the University of Lund, south of Sweden, when my parents moved to Malmö. Here I took Art History. I have always been very interested in art and music.
University life and part-time model During my studies, I worked in my spare time as a model to earn pocket money. I often modeled at the fashion weeks in Copenhagen. It was a fun extra job and quite well paid.
I also went to Paris during six months where I worked for a Danish photographer, Gunnar Larsen. He was, at that time, publisher and owner of a beautiful fashion magazine Le Jardin de Mode.
During my stay in Paris, I was asked to represent Sweden at the Miss World Contest, which took place in London, we’re talking 1975. It was a big thing at that time. We were 68 young women participating. It was a time when London had a lot of turmoil and we girls were watched over very carefully. It was a nice and fun experience, but to be honest, I think there’s a lot of politics behind those contests.
Everybody wanted the Miss Germany to become Miss World that year, but instead a girl from an island – I think it was Aruba – who won. No one expected her to win, but she brought a great gift to be auctioned for charity, and in my mind that might have helped her becoming Miss World (my thoughts).
He was deeply disappointed. He also made it very clear that I should not worry about getting pregnant as he went for some kind of injection every third month that made him sterile. What a thing to say….. I was shocked and said that I had no intention to share his bed, but of course that was what he had had in mind.
He got very upset with me. There was no talking about a casting. For the next three days, I was locked in this bedroom, without my passport, no mobile (we didn’t have one in those days) and his landline was, of course, not working. Believe me, I was scared. His servants delivered food three times a day, but I never saw any other family member or him. I was desperate and thought about trafficking, and even saw myself being sold to an Arab somewhere in the desert.
The third day I was taken to a room with a film camera and told to act, wearing very few garments. It was easy to see there was no film in the camera. He was pretending to film, quite ridiculous. I still remember how embarrassed I felt. Back to the room and locked in again. The day after, the driver showed up. He made a sign telling me to be quiet and held up my passport in his hand. I hadn’t unpacked my suitcase, so I was ready to leave immediately. The apartment was empty and the kind old driver drove me back to the airport, just in time for my flight. I kissed him goodbye. I had never been so happy.
Arriving home I told my parents who, of course, were shocked by my story but the model agency chef just shook her head and said that I begged her to send me. Well, true I did. It was a strange and scary experience that ended happily.
Falling in love in Switzerland
When I was 20, I met a young man, a Swede who lived in Switzerland and fell in love. He was visiting Sweden to see friends and invited me to visit him in Lugano, in the south of Switzerland. My brother joined me on the journey to Switzerland but he was too young to have a driving license, so I did all the driving in my red Triumph, which I was very proud of. After a few weeks, my brother returned to Sweden and I stayed on. At the age of 23 we got married in Stockholm at Riddarhuset, the House of Nobility, on a beautiful winter afternoon.
It was an elegant and fun wedding, even if my husband to be and I had a huge fight the day before the ceremony. He was on his bachelor party with the King of Sweden and other male friends. The guys came to pick him up in an ambulance at our hotel and dressed him in a typical Salvation Army uniform. They gave him a money box and let him walk into restaurants asking for donations. I couldn’t believe it, he who was such a shy guy, agreeing to do something so foolish. Of course alcohol was involved.
I had gone out with my family for dinner, but happened to be in one of the restaurants he was visiting. I became completely hysterical and had some kind of allergic reaction and was taken to hospital. The doctor asked what had happened and, crying, I told him the story, and his only words were: You don’t want to marry this guy, do you?
I knew my “husband to be” wasn’t allowed to have alcohol as he had just been released from hospital where he had been treated for his drinking behavior. I told his friends to keep him away from alcohol, but they told me not to start nagging like an old wife before we were even married.
My husband was a close friend of the King since their time in boarding school. I wanted to cancel the wedding, but my future mother in law and the high society priest wouldn’t let me. You can’t cancel such a wedding with so many ‘high-so’ people in attendance, they said to me. I found out later that almost all the couples that priest had married were eventually divorced.
A couple of years followed with many exciting trips and festivities with the Royal couple and life was in a way a dance on roses, but it also had a lot of thorns. We lived in Lugano for almost a year, but it was a city for elderly people, not much to do, so later on we moved to Zurich, which I loved from the beginning. The city has flair, polite people, and beautiful shops and, as everybody knows, excellent food.
Back in Zurich after our honeymoon, I was asked by the fashion store where I had bought my wedding dress if I’d like to start modeling for them. It was a great idea, as I didn’t have to speak a lot of German. I could talk to them in English, but they mostly answered in Swiss German or sometimes in High German, so after a while, I learned to speak acceptable German. I never bothered to learn to speak Swiss German, but I understand it well. In my opinion, it’s not a very nice language, not at all feminine. Today I’m fluent in German after more than 35 years in Zurich.
Zurich was a big fashion center at that time, with a lot of haute couture ateliers and eventually I worked for all of them. It was a time when models were treated as divas. On a day with four or five shows, normally held in an exclusive hotel, you’d start early morning at the hairdresser, followed by the make- up. You were served breakfast, lunch and dinners with mostly Champagne and wine between the shows. You also earned very well. So it was a great time which I’m very thankful for.
When I married in 1977, it was uncomplicated to become Swiss. I received my Swiss passport three weeks after we returned from the honeymoon which made it easy for me to work. That has changed today.
I was very happy in Zurich. I travelled quite a lot, worked in Germany, Italy, France, and Lichtenstein. Those were the days. Well, is there anything that stays perfect forever?
Divorce and a new husband: My husband and I got divorced after seven years, due to his drinking problem. It is harder than one thinks, to live next to someone who is addicted to alcohol. I was happy we did not have any children. I decided to stay in Zurich after our divorce; I was happy there and had a huge circle of friends and plenty of work.
After a year as a single, I met my second husband. He was also living and working in Switzerland. He is half Swedish and half Hungarian. When we met, he was working for the UNHCR in Geneva. We married in Zurich 1984 and the four first years as husband and wife, we lived apart, he in Geneva and I in Zurich.
It was okay to begin with, but after the four years of travelling between the two cities (mostly he had to come to Zurich, as I didn’t like Geneva that much) he applied for a job in a bank and moved to Zurich. Here we had a great life. We wanted kids, but even with lots of trying it didn’t work out.
‘Our aim is to become one of the best schools in Asia and truly recreate the King’s College School, Wimbledon ethos in Bangkok’
Interview with Founding Headmaster Thomas Banyard
What makes King's College International School Bangkok different and outstanding among Bangkok international schools?
We have a great location, outstanding facilities and will have some of the best teachers in the world, but our main strength is the way in which we educate. We truly believe that students need a community centred on kindness, good manners and wisdom and this makes King’s Bangkok a great school. We believe that Thai and English culture share the same aim of educating students to try their best and succeed through valuing others and showing respect. It is the well rounded and humble characters of our students that will set them apart.
What are the school's primary objectives?
We wish to provide an outstanding education for our students and to develop a community in which parents, staff and students feel a sense of identity centred on shared values. Our aim is to become one of the best schools in Asia and truly recreate the King’s College School, Wimbledon ethos in Bangkok.
What is your target market?
We want students who are eager to participate fully in sport, music, art, drama and a full range of extra-curricular activities. To do this, students must be interested in everything they do and have a ‘can-do’ attitude. For parents, we want them to share our values and to support the school on our journey.
What languages will the students learn?
All students will be taught in English and English is our main language. Thai is taught from the youngest students upwards and they all have four lessons a week in Thai language and culture. We also provide a number of Thai extra-curricular activities and celebrate the major national festivals as we wish all our students to value Thai. All Thai students will study Thai GCSE. Mandarin is our third language and all students from reception age and upwards will study Mandarin. In the future, we will also offer a range of languages for GCSE and we will listen to our parents and students to see what they are interested in studying before confirming these options.
Shrewsbury International School Bangkok City Campus can certainly justify calling itself a ‘happy school’. Right from the time of arrival, a happy Thai security guard, speaking in English, directed me to the car park. A happy principal, Ms Amanda Dennison, alongside happy staff I met, happy children on campus and happy parents who came to collect them, all confirm my case.
By Maxmilian Wechsler
“Shrewsbury is in the county town of Shropshire, in western England. Our Shrewsbury schools in Asia have very strong links with Shrewsbury School UK (which has been at the forefront of British private education for over 450 years). When I go back to England to recruit our staff – I recruit directly from the UK – we hold the interviews at Shrewsbury School UK, so that our teaching candidates know where our story started.”
Born from a passion shared by three friends, artisan crafted, dedicated to customer satisfaction. This is a sincere statement that can sum up Captain Hooks Smokehouse who have successfully brought truly authentic European style Smoked Fish to Thailand
On this occasion, Walter offers his shipmates a splendid treat and presents a plate of delicately sliced yellow fin tuna, fast hands reach for the plate, Martin’s being quickest as a “true foodie” and with a 114 kg and 6 feet 2 inch frame he is a man that loves his food.
So our Captain Ahab takes a bite of Walter’s treat, his eyes brighten and as a smile broadens his classic Dutch features, he exclaims with rapture: ‘Walter, this is smoked fish. Where did you buy it? Wow, it is amazing.”