With Thailand’s luxury hotel and hospitality industry in general now in recovery mode, the need for professionally trained staff has never been greater.
But where can they receive that level of training in time to welcome new guests?
‘First Class Service Training Company’ may well have the answer.
Based in Thailand, owned and operated by Khun Piriyasinee ‘Piri’ Chulasuwan, a former Flight Purser of Emirates Airlines with more than 20 years’ experience working with leading hotels, private aviation companies and wealthy individuals in Dubai, India and Thailand, First Class Service Training Company elevates staff to the highest levels of service and competence.
“Our training is aimed mainly at operational, front-line hotel staff - junior butler to head butler. But our courses can also be tailor-made to suit the needs of an individual customer’s preference.
“Professional training is essential for customer satisfaction. Elite hospitality requires sophistication, properly trained staff, and a great team. To achieve this, we provide butler training courses in order to deliver personalized experience to attract loyal customers,” explains Piri, who studied butler and house management in the UK and a professional chef course in Florence, Italy.
“In addition to the high-end businesses mentioned earlier, we also work with the concierges of luxury private residences to provide butler service for their owners.
“Another advantage of our company is that we deliver our butler service training here in Thailand. Our clients do not need to deal with more expensive overseas trainers.
“What’s more, as a Thai company we understand Asian and international culture and provide training in both Thai and English,” says Piri.
A graduate of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Piri is very much a hands-on instructor. With her long experience in the airline and hospitality industries, she is relaxed, entertaining and thoroughly professional when teaching young hotel staff.
Her mother was a painter, her brother an architect and her sister a poet – so it comes as no surprise to discover that Lesleigh Goldberg has followed the family tradition and become an artist - a successful sculptor based in Bangkok.
Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Lesleigh went to the University of Pennsylvania where she took a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and a Master of Fine Arts, studying and focusing on sculpture.
“I have been interested in art all my life, starting with drawing on walls and sidewalks, which wasn’t popular with my parents,” she remembers with a smile.
From an early age, Lesleigh knew she wasn’t happy living in Colorado, where the only thing she appreciated was the Rocky Mountains. At seven she told all her childhood friends she had to get out of Colorado.
Little did she know that this desire for change would take her from New York, where she lived after her university graduation, and then to Paris, New Delhi and finally to Southeast Asia.
“I always felt attracted to Asia and wanted to live here,” she says.
Not long after, Ralf’s family moved to Cologne, where Ralf finished high school and then enrolled in an apprenticeship program.
Ralf knew he wanted to become a photographer in his late teens when he met a veteran architectural photographer and his assistant. The pair were still using a huge ancient camera which required the photographer to cover his head with a black cloth in order to see the screen and the object. “I was so impressed and interested in what I saw, I just had to talk to them.”
“I learned that this photographer, as well as his wife who specialized in portraits, were both ‘masters’ of photography. They gave me the opportunity to study and practice photography under their guidance for the next three years. Those years were fantastic, and I had a really great time.”
After completing his apprenticeship with Master photographer Clemens Hartzenbusch, Ralf had an opportunity to work as a scene photographer during the shooting of the movie ‘The Tin Drum’ directed by Volker Schlöndorf and based on the award winning novel by the author Guenther Grass.
By Robin Westley Martin
Survivor! I had listened, fascinated, to the story that Claudia Anghel had just related to me. I had first met her at a party on the busy Bangkok social scene – pre-Covid – a couple of years ago, and knew little of her hidden depths.
At the age of 19 Claudia told me she had travelled to Japan, via Romania, where she was born, and Canada. She was a small-boats enthusiast, and soon met some like-minded people in The Land of the Rising Sun, so a few of them got together, decided to get on a catamaran and go looking for adventure. They found it!
Only a few hours after they had cast off, and land had faded from view, the sky above them tuned ominously dark. The blackened clouds roiled, the wind picked up speed and force, and the waves got higher and higher as the minutes ticked by. Soon the decks were awash, and after every pitch and roll of the boat water was heading below as the boat bucked and plunged, flooding the hold.
It quickly became a rote reaction of the crew to frantically bail out the water after every surging ingress, to avoid sinking, and being sent to a watery grave as the next incoming torrent threatened to engulf them. They had been forced to tie themselves to any available stanchion to avoid being thrown from the ‘cat’ into the storm-driven sea.
The perfect storm they had found themselves at the centre of lasted for a week, and the mostly inexperienced sea voyagers remained sleepless and hungry for most of that time. There was barely time to eat, or do anything else except struggle to survive … it was all about traversing their way through the tempest and coming out safely the other side. Nothing else mattered. But eventually the power of the cyclone began to abate, and they breathed a collective sigh of relief as they sighted a coastline … they wearily limped towards a landing in their battered craft, and with their bruised bodies.
It was not to be a fairy-tale ending. Rather than being welcomed back to shore after their fight with the elements, they were greeted with suspicion rather than succour. They had arrived in waters patrolled and controlled by the US Navy. But after what they had been through – and overcome – the unwelcoming greeting they received was of little import to the battle-hardened crew. It does not surprise me that this adverse seafaring experience did not dissipate Claudia’s love of sailing, She currently has over 20 years’ experience behind her, and has taken to the oceans in everything from small dinghies to mega-yachts.
By: Deborah Bundityanond
Owner, Rabbit Resort Pattaya
Dongtan Beach, Pattaya
For more than 20 years a Pattaya resort hotel prospered. Then Covid-19 struck and business collapsed. But that’s not stopping its owner, a former self-proclaimed Southern California beach girl, from staying positive, whatever the future holds
By Ruth Gerson
The desire to be an artist runs deep and constant. This holds true of Ximena Sheldon, a charming Colombian lady born into an artistic family in Bogota, who has spent her life fulfilling that desire – despite leading a peripatetic existence in many different countries, including Thailand, her adopted home.
Counting among her ancestors a famous painter and national artist, Ximena tells how she has had a special relationship with visual arts since an early age. As a child and teenager, Ximena treated her love for art as a hobby, which was to change in time.
After graduating early from high school, she spent one year at Tortington Park School in Arundel, UK, where she learned drawing and painting, followed by a year in Switzerland at Montreux with the focus on interior design. She then returned to Bogota and tried her hand working at a large international company, but soon realized that it was not her calling.
Searching for a career that would be closer to her heart, Ximena enrolled in the newly introduced curriculum at the Institute of Art Education in Bogota, studying techniques of art education, with the aim of working with young children.
However, art seemed to continue to have a strong pull on her, and Ximena took action to satisfy it by taking lessons in the afternoons following university classes. Her teacher was David Manzur, an internationally known Colombian artist, whose work hangs in museums next to that of Botero.
“He was the best teacher you can imagine,” says Ximena. ”His strong personality in painting influenced my style.” She adds that Manzur believed that drawing is the basis to all art, and Ximena practiced with him for seven years, exhibiting her art along with his work in Colombia, and in Washington DC. At that time she also had a solo exhibition in Bogota.
In Sri Lanka, Ximena decided to try her hand in the local art of batik. She says that it is beautiful but very hard work. This satisfied her curiosity, as she always wanted to know how people created their art in whatever country they lived in. The life in the island nation was just one more piece of the mosaic that has become Ximena’s life and art. In this way, she continued to absorb and learn from various sources creating her own art, which continues to evolve.
Next destination was Hong Kong, a place that Ximena fell in love with immediately, with its diversity of people and art. “You can’t run away from art,” she declares with a smile. In Hong Kong Ximena began brush painting. Being passionate all her life about art, she seemed to find a special corner in her heart for this seemingly enchanted place.
When the news came that they were moving again, Ximena cried for one whole week. Feeling somewhat guilty in interrupting his wife’s life once again, Douglas bought her a Chinese silk rug, which she quickly named “the crying rug.”
Then came Thailand. The year was 1984. This time Ximena was in luck, the family remained in one place for the following fifteen years. Compared to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, Bangkok seemed slow paced. Searching for her common denominator, which was art, Ximena wanted to enroll at Silpakorn University and study art. This was not possible, however, as all classes were held in the Thai language, which Ximena was not familiar with.
Once again, Ximena had to recreate her own world of art in a new country. She began taking classes in watercolors with Suchart Yonthong, an established Thai artist. At that point, she did not appreciate working with watercolors, which she later came to love.
Several talented foreign women took lessons with her; some of them later became famous artists in their own right, such as Gay Patterson, Ginny Woolman, Nancy Chandler and others. Ximena enjoyed those lessons as she points out that she likes to see artists at work, their transfer of images that flow onto the paper, “You feel the moment.”
Ximena became very active in Bangkok’s art scene. She organized workshops bringing artists from neighboring countries, and organized exhibition in which her work was included. In the 1990s, she organized an international exhibition together with Khunying Kanitha in honor of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit to mark International Women’s Day.
Other exhibitions followed, and many of her paintings were sold, now adorning walls in countries around the world. Never pausing, Ximena continued acquiring new skills and techniques, mastering watercolors, learning etching, calligraphy, papermaking and photography.
After long and fruitful fifteen years, it was time to move again, this time to the New York area. “I had to start again,” she states. This time she landed in a haven of art and her desire was to become a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Interview followed interview, and then more, having her go through their rigorous drills. Armed with great passion, knowledge and experience in art and able to speak three language fluently, English, French and Spanish, worked in her favor.
Elated, Ximena was accepted to the docent program that lasted one year that was taught like a mini master’s degree, learning with the best people in the field. The regulations were strict, no one could miss a day, rain or shine, or even be one minute late. After passing the course, Ximena guided at the museum for seven years, while continuing her studies at the Art Students League of New York.
In 2014, Ximena came back to Thailand where her husband has his own business. Living in her comfortable home with an art studio, she continues to paint and exhibit her work, and has the privilege of passing down her art to the young generation of her grandchildren. Ximena now works in a new style of mixed techniques using acrylic, pastel and watercolors. She wants to continue learning and go on doing what she loves. Forever!
By Tim Cornwall
With a sister and brother-in-law who make handicrafts and then sell them at fairs in Canada, I always try to drop by handicraft fairs or markets here in Bangkok.
One of the best is Hope Fair, where I always pick up something new and interesting, while looking after my own booth. Normally I spend about the same amount on charity items as on some great food, from homemade bread to great jam, and Greek snacks to homemade salsa sauce.
With a break in the fairs during the Covid-19 lockdown, I was worried the fair might be gone for good, but happily, it is returning bigger and better than ever this month, September.
Wondering who was behind the fair, how it got started and who is involved, I met up with Aurelie Doye, one of the founders, with my list of eight questions to learn more.
When and how did the fairs start?
Hope Fair was started in late 2014 by two ladies from the French community, one of whom (Aurelie Doye) is still involved today. Originally held twice a year in the Sathorn area, its venue has moved to Sukhumvit to be closer to where most fair clients live and like to spend time. More regular events are planned for 2021.
The fair has grown in size and numbers over the years, and about 150 vendors are expected at the next fair at Avani Hotel outside On-But BTS station on September 24 and even more for the annual Christmas-themed fair in late November.
Why did the ladies get involved?
Noticing the generosity of others in the expat community and with previous experience in hosting events, the two organizers decided to start Hope Fair and donate to the Mercy Center.
However, the fair’s success comes from the support they receive from everyone involved, vendors, visitors, the hosting hotels, women’s groups and many more, all working together to make each fair a success.
How a personal passion for ethnic products inspired international research and marketing executive Rakdaow Pritchard to set up an Instagram business that preserves and promotes local traditions
After a 30-year career working for some of the world’s largest research agencies as well as several large non-government organizations in six different countries in Asia, Ms Rakdaow Pritchard thought not unreasonably that it was time to slow down and retire in Chiang Rai.
The move from Bangkok to the tranquil mountains of northern Thailand happened four years. But despite having a large garden and orchard to tend, and an English husband as a constant companion, Rakdaow soon found it hard to adjust to the slow pace of full-on retirement.
“It just wasn’t for me,” explained this attractive and bubbly Thai lady. “I just had to get involved in something else.”
That ‘something else’ came along not long after when Rakdaow, during her frequent travel in the North, attended the Akha hilltribe’s famous annual Swing Festival. She was captivated by the unique cultures of the varied ethnic peoples living in Chiang Rai and the extraordinary beauty of their traditional textiles and clothing. The vivid colours and complex designs of garments made by the Akha and other hill tribe people captured her imagination and she realized the commercial potential of their universal appeal. Rakdaow had found a project to keep her busy.
By Ruth Gerson
We live in strange times with many issues confronting us and forcing everybody to take a closer look at the world we inhabit. A new social awareness has arisen, especially with regard to the environment, what has happened to it and what we can do about it.
Diane Archer is a young French-Australian woman, born in Thailand, with a PhD in Land Economy from Cambridge University in the UK. She explains that this degree is a multi-disciplinary subject dealing with human geography, law, economics and the environment.
Diane’s field of expertise is in urban development, and it seems only natural that her PhD thesis concerned issues facing Bangkok, including climate change, unfavorable living conditions and the vast influx of plastic waste invading the land and oceans.
Part of her research focused on the Baan Mankong slum upgrading program led by CODI (Community Organisations Development Institute) under the Ministry of Welfare, which empowers people to improve their living conditions, and helps them get loans for housing and infrastructure.