By Arshi Banerjee
What more can be said or written about Bangkok that’s not already appeared elsewhere? After all, there’s a mountain of books out there on Thailand’s enigmatic capital, and the pile grows ever bigger by the year, so you’d think pretty much everything had been covered.
Then along comes Philip Cornwel-Smith and his wonderful newly published book ‘Very Bangkok’ and you realize that there is still much to be learned about the Thai capital.
Sub-titled ‘In the City of the Senses,’ this is a well written and deeply insightful guide to Philip’s adopted home since 1994, and deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone with an interest in Thailand.
It’s an impressive production, beautifully printed, 360 pages long, featuring Philip’s thoughtful photography and unique research arranged in three parts: Senses, Heart and Face, each providing a different way of looking at one of the world’s most complex and complicated cities.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometrium is the tissue that makes up the uterine lining. Endometriosis is a condition in which this tissue is present on other organs inside your body. It is usually found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the surface of the uterus, and bladder wall. Displaced tissue continues to act as it normally would – thickens, breaks down, and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. As this tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped and the surrounding tissues can become irritated developing scar tissues and adhesions.
Retrograde menstruation is one of the causes of endometriosis. Menstrual blood containing endometrial cells flows back through fallopian tubes and into the pelvic cavity. These displaced endometrial cells are deposited in unusual locations. These lesions are commonly found in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, lining of pelvic cavity, and cervix. The displaced tissue can also be found on lining of the bladder and the bowel wall.
Talar Zambakjian has all the right credentials and personal experiences to give others help and advice on living a beautiful life. Born and raised in Lebanon, she grew up during that country’s long civil war, and when the situation became very dangerous was even forced to live underground for a year with her parents. “I was nine years old when my family escaped the turmoil and we went to Paris for a year. When the war ended, we returned to Lebanon.
“After high school in Lebanon I studied Business Administration with a major in Finance. I graduated with Honors. I am also a MBA graduate from the Lebanese American University. I wished to become a global citizen and so I pursued an international degree which would give me opportunities to live and work all over the world.”
“At a very young age, my passion for fashion started, maybe already in my mom’s womb. When my parents hosted dinner parties at home or when I was just a bit bored, I disappeared and emerged back to the festivities with make-up, high heels and accessories, borrowed from my mother’s wardrobe. I enjoyed dressing up and being glamorous, it became a creative outlet for me.” Talar met her future husband in Lebanon. At that time he was already living in Thailand, but often returned home to visit his family. Says Talar: “We happened to meet through a good, common friend.
“Two years before I met my husband, I visited Thailand and immediately fell in love with the country and the beautiful and serene culture. I especially fell in love with Bangkok’s bustling vibe. I remember during my first visit I made a wish at one of the shrines to come back and live here. Two years later I met my husband who had already built a life in Bangkok.
“After courting for two years we decided to get married and live in Bangkok. My wish was fulfilled when I settled here in 2008.
“Although I was educated as a banker, I have always followed fashion trends very closely. Lebanon, in my eyes, has always been up to date in the fashion arena for both women and men. I grew up amongst a diverse community of people who reveled in fashion. For us it was normal to always dress up. My upbringing in Lebanon honed in on my ability to absorb what was in-trend and what to wear, and I learned how to become creative with my own style preferences.
“When I made the transitional move to Bangkok, I left behind not only my family and friends, but also a successful career in the finance world. It was a big change from being at home in Lebanon. My husband is a successful business man and I often accompany him to work functions as well as to private dinners and events.
“I noticed at an early stage, that people didn’t know my name, I was only seen as my husband’s beautiful wife and people called me ‘khon suay’ which in Thai means ‘beautiful person’. Nobody seemed to know I was a banker by profession. I decided that ‘beauty on the outside’ was definitely not enough for me.
“I knew I had a calling and the desire to be something more than just a pretty face and my husband’s beauty queen.
“I strived to create a life for myself that would empower me and other women. Beauty isn’t the only constant in one’s life. With the birth of my three children, I knew I couldn’t just accept being ‘khon suay’. I felt I was destined for something more. I wanted people to debate with me about life, current affairs, the news, fashion and motherhood among other topics.
“I am a woman who has seen and lived through a war, experienced poverty, achieved a degree and got a job without my parent’s guidance.
“I didn’t accept being just a beautiful frame to decorate my husband. It was time for me to transform and I enrolled into a life coaching program in 2014 and soon I was ready to help others. My long term vision is to be a role model.”
Family, full-time job and now a women-to-women business to run
Originally from a small town just outside Toronto, Canada, called Niagara-on-the-lake, Lacia Sherlock Olofsson always had a keen interest in fashion and attended Sheridan College, an art and fashion design school in Ontario, to pursue her dream career. “Being raised by my mom in a single parent family meant that I had to start to work at a young age and quickly became very independent,” says Lacia. “It also gave me an appreciation for what women go through and the importance of helping those less fortunate and supporting small businesses managed by women.
Lacia was fortunate to work for a number of vertically integrated companies and fashion brands from 1985-2000, enabling her to get involved in the design, production and purchase processes of new collections, while at the same time fueling her desire to one day start a brand and make her own mark.
“Learning the basics of how to cut, stich, weave, work with leather garments and print on fabrics is all very useful in the processes I’m now employing in Shared Philosophy,” continues Lacia. “However, the true inspiration that I’m now translating into my own collection is from traveling the world and incorporating the things I see, people I meet, friends I make, architecture that I like and food that I taste. Owning multiple properties has also given me the opportunity to truly experience working with different materials, colors, layouts, building prerequisites and climate challenges in designing and renovating houses - another great passion of mine!”
Resident in Bangkok since 2010, Lacia arrived here after a seven-year stint in Russia and lots of travelling the globe. Her assignments abroad have come through her employer, Swedish home furnishing giant IKEA, a company she joined back in Canada in 2000.
A couple of years later she moved to Moscow with her Swedish husband, also a regional director for IKEA, and the family has been expatriates ever since. Both of their teenage sons are students at the Bangkok Patana School and together they enjoy the international lives and the opportunities that comes with having a diverse upbringing, multilingual opportunities, as well as friends and family in different corners of the world.
From banks and hedge funds in New York to dive instructor and marine conservationist in southern Thailand
By Ruth Gerson
It never ceases to surprise me the type of careers, occupations or ways women have found to sustain themselves, often starting on the path of one career, just to find themselves in a place that they had not planned to go.
Leslie Finlay falls in the last category, a spirited young woman who takes chances and is not afraid of change. This attitude has taken her to the idyllic island of Koh Tao in southern Thailand.
Although the allure of Koh Tao speaks for itself, I wondered what made Leslie, who was gainfully employed in New York City working for banks and hedge funds, leave all that behind and come to Thailand.
“I got to a point that I had to commit to the job, but being unsure, I took a sabbatical to make up my mind,” she says.
An International Relations and Communications major, Leslie decided to take a “gap year” from her work, one that has extended to seven years, and from the looks of it, may be permanent.
Leslie yearned to see Asia and so she set foot on this vast continent in 2012 in Korea to teach English. It seems that all high schools in Korea, private as well as public, have one foreign English teacher for the program that Leslie had joined. While teaching, Leslie also began writing for travel magazines to supplement her income. “It was a great transition,” she says.
By Ruth Gerson
It is not every day that one meets an expat woman who has decided to settle in Thailand and dedicate herself to this country’s most revered creature – the elephant! But that’s exactly what Michelle Reedy has chosen as her mission in life.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, Michelle spent her early years working in retail. But her real passion was animals, so in order to find suitable work she returned to the classroom to acquire a degree in zoo keeping. She spent the next ten years at Melbourne zoo looking after various animals, though her dream was to care for elephants, but no such position was available for her at that time. Michelle first learned about the elephants of Ayutthaya in 2001 when the Melbourne zoo was trying to acquire some of these amazing animals. This immediately spurred her interest and she wasted no time coming to Thailand on an exploration trip to study the opportunities of working with elephants.
She continued to visit annually and in 2006 Michelle eventually found employment in Ayutthaya’s Royal Elephant Kraal village (established in 1996) to work with Khun Laithongrian Meepan whose family was planning to set up a program for retired elephants, which meant creating a system suitable for these aging pachyderms.
“Wondering how an Ayutthaya family became interested in caring for elephants, I was told that they bought a young elephant for their daughter’s fifth birthday 25 years ago, and soon realized that elephants need space, an area of their own,” explains Michelle.
“Ayutthaya is historically and culturally connected to elephant rearing and training, evidenced by the old kraal structure – kraal is a Dutch word for corral – that still stands at the northern edge of the city. Caring for elephants was in a way continuing the old tradition of this city-kingdom.”
Lady with a passion for fashion From regular visitor to Thailand-based entrepreneur behind the Ambre Jolie brand
By Agneta de Bekassy
From regular visitor to Thailand-based entrepreneur behind the Ambre Jolie brand.
During the 90s, German-born Fineé Schuektanz was a frequent visitor to Thailand, enjoying some of the many beautiful islands and, like so many other people, she quickly fell in love with the country, its natural beauty, the people’s kindness, the culture, food and the warm climate.
When she reminisces about her first visit to Thailand, Fineé recalls feeling immediately at home here.
Returning to Germany, she couldn’t stop thinking about how good it would be to find a way to live in Thailand, and to run a business in Bangkok.
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family near Düsseldorf in Germany, Fineé is a natural born business woman, with a strong will and living by the motto: ‘Nothing is impossible.’ In 2003 she started to look for business opportunities in Asia that would combine pleasure with practicality.
The place is buzzing with new galleries, restaurants and events thanks to new MD Linda Cheng
By Ruth Gerson
Linda Cheng, Managing Director of River City Bangkok, has injected new life into the famous venue after losing some of its shine since opening 35 years ago.
This highly engaging and approachable lady tells of the circuitous route that has taken her from Taiwan at the young age of 12 to study in the United States, and later to Thailand to work in her family’s business. Linda’s father had owned a business in Taiwan manufacturing Christmas lights and moved its base to Thailand, establishing a factory in Bang Na. In 1989, following graduation from UCLA in Los Angeles, Linda joined her family business in Thailand while pursuing an MBA degree at the newly opened and prestigious SASIN business school at Chulalongkorn University. “It was my father’s way of keeping me here,” she says. And indeed he succeeded, as it was in Bangkok that Linda met her husband and put down roots in the City of Angels.
Linda’s husband’s story runs parallel to hers. Also of Taiwanese origin, his parents invested in ceramic tile manufacturing in Thailand. While Linda had studied on west coast USA her husband finished his studies in New York and was already employed there when he was summoned to return to Asia to his family’s business. The two met in Bangkok and married in 1994. Linda continued to work in the family’s business in marketing and sales with the US as a major market, while her husband’s ceramic tile business took them to Europe, mostly to Italy and Spain from where the tile-manufacturing machines were imported.
“Many people have inspired me through the years, including my parents. They always encouraged me to be strong, not being afraid of failure, never hesitating to admit that you are tired, weak or down, or that you are insecure about something. They always told me that learning is part of life, but try to avoid repeating mistakes.”
Currently, Alexia is living and working in Thailand and Cambodia. She mentions that the company is based in the United States and that she is here to oversee production.
She spends about 80% of her time in Bangkok and the other 20 % she travels, both for leisure and business. Alexia recently launched her first handbag collection with a charity show at the Dusit Thani hotel, with, among many models, former Miss Universe year 2005, Nathalie Glebova. Her exclusive and unique handbags and clutches. The bags are made of leather from Europe and Australia.
What design a handbag collection?
“As a former model, I wore many designers’ clothes, some I liked, and some I liked less. I mostly felt that something was missing.
“I decided to design a bag collection for “stay home moms” and business women. I talked to any women and all of them said, they had so little time to pick a suitable handbag, one for the daytime and one for after work. It’s often you have to go directly from work to attend a dinner, a concert or any other event. I came up with the idea, to make bags that you could change yourself in a very easy way.
“Most of the bags are in two different colors and you can play around with parts of the bag, give it a new look every time. It saves you time and hassle and you don’t have to carry two bags along, or run home to pick up the ‘after work’ bag. Today you can order Alexia’s bags online
www.Alexiakay.com. She also sells to retailers using sales agents.” Alexia is CEO of Alexia Kay and she is the ‘brand face’ of the company.
“I’m representing my brand with pride and the best of my ability,” she says. “I’m also the creative mind behind the designs; I meet up with potential clients and demonstrate the multi functionalities of the bags.”
To achieve her ambition, this amazing doctor had pass exams written in Thai
By Ruth Gerson
Understandably, not all husbands or wives of expats in full-time employment in Thailand are content just to stay at home and look after the house and kids. This is especially when they have enjoyed careers of their own in the past and want to find suitable employment.
Such is the case with Dr Donna Robinson, a now well-known Briton who had to overcome obstacles that would deter all but the most determined in order to be able to practice her profession in Thailand.
Not only did she have to learn the Thai language to be able to communicate with patients, she also had to master medical Thai terminology to be licensed to work here – and she succeeded!
Born and educated in Newcastle in northern England, Dr Donna trained as general practitioner, and holds a diploma in gynecology and occupational medicine, the latter focusing on maintaining health at the workplace.
Feeling that life was passing her by, at the age of 26 she looked eastward and went to work in New Zealand while getting higher medical qualifications. On her journey, she stopped for one night in Singapore, her first encounter with the Far East, and she liked it. “Asia is a pretty good place,” she thought.
When it was time for Dr Donna to leave New Zealand she did not rush back to the UK but rather sought out Asian destinations, landing a job in Hong Kong. Although she spent a mere six months there, it changed the course of her life, as it is where she met her husband – on a cross country run organized by the Hash House Harriers run, romantically enough, on the Chinese Moon Festival!
Over tea, we discussed the challenges and difficulties she faced. Dr Donna related how in 1996 she decided to venture out on her own, beginning at Chulalongkorn Hospital where she was given the position of Honorary Medical Officer, a rotation job that provided training. Parallel to her work, she studied for her Thai medical license exams, both clinical and theoretical, including exams written in Thai, a monumental task. On April 1st 1998, she obtained her Thai medical license, a monumental achievement to which she says, “It was a huge boost to my confidence.”
Getting the Thai medical license enabled Dr Donna to move more freely in the Thai medical community.
And so she began her newly revived career working for Kimberly Clark, a producer of medical supplies, as regional medical director to deal with expat employees in their factories throughout Asia.
Fortunately, her schedule allowed her to follow her true calling - that of tending the sick and she began working two mornings a week at Bumrungrad Hospital as general practitioner and internal medicine.