Nickname: Fon (from my Thai friends).
Age: Don’t deny it, defy it! 50-ish is my new 30.
Born: Heidelberg, Germany. I was a US army brat.
Education: Bachelor of Business – Communications (Journalism)
Family background: Mum is an Aussie – a ‘gypsy’ who loved to travel and met my father in Germany. We lived in the USA when I was young and then moved to Australia where she married my step-father, a real country gentleman. He passed away 20 years ago and now she is married again to a sailor and spends her weekends yachting with an Aperol Spritz in hand.
I have two brothers – both married to Asian wives, a sister and a family tree with branches around the world. Let’s just say there’s never a dull moment in our household.
Family today: Two sons, Dylan and Tyler, who were born in Thailand and now call Brisbane, Australia, home. Both attend my old university QUT, studying music and film. Not surprising considering their Dad, Les, was a rock star and cameraman while their Mum was writing stories for as long as they knew.
Your profession: Initially it was journalism. After graduation I started work in country TV doing crop reports. That was a laugh but I learned a lot about being versatile both behind and in front of the camera. I then made a move to Channel 9 as a reporter and a news anchor in Brisbane.
In 1993 I came the move to Thailand where my partner and I started our own TV shows and media business with CNBC, True and Star World. Journalism morphed into lifestyle TV (a much happier pursuit) and now into video content creation for all sorts of platforms. Today I would say I am an entrepreneur and a passionate story-teller.
What do your companies offer? Capital TV is our production house and focuses on documentaries, lifestyle programming and corporate video.
Crave Asia is my digital media company and focuses on video for social media marketing, along with marketing representation for travel and lifestyle businesses. Crave Beverage is our alcohol imports and events businesses. Each company supports the other with ideas or media & event solutions.
The best project ever undertaken? Being sent around the world to film beautiful resorts and destinations. Most people say that’s not a job it’s a privilege and they’d be mostly right. It actually is hard work (I imagine eyes rolling now) but very rewarding. I feel privileged to have had a front seat view of the world when it comes to travel.
And the worst project? Mmm, there are always challenges in any project. The tough assignments on the travel side have been varied – like filming in Pakistan during an unexpected nuclear test, arriving to film in New Zealand in mid-winter only to discover our woolen clothes and all the equipment had been mistakenly sent to Rome or our crew being chased by gun boats in Myanmar. Those were all nightmares at the time but had their amusing side.
News coverage is the toughest. There is always something going on in Thailand but covering the Asian Tsunami for Australian news was by far the most emotional and traumatic experience.
How long in Thailand? I came to Thailand for a year to try it out. I am still here after 25 years. How did that happen?
Where do you live? I live in the heart of Bangkok, on Sukhumvit Road.
Your current state of health / state of mind: Hahaha. I sometimes wonder… I believe the two are connected. I am very happy and that makes me feel great. I have a lot of energy so it’s important to maintain that by staying healthy.
Is it easier for an expat male to live in Thailand than a female expat? An interesting question. People ask me this a lot. It really comes down to two things: What you do with your time and how you embrace where you are. Many of the women I know here are working or running their own businesses and they are committed, involved, active in the community and have a good network of friends.
If you are alone, stuck at home or looking for love then Thailand has its challenges for an expat woman – but so do many places in the world. I have expat girlfriends living in tougher places like Bangladesh or Nigeria and they would cut off their leg to live here, but some women do find Thailand harder than their husbands or male friends. It’s important to stay positive and make a connection with other supportive women.
In my case, I fell in love with Thailand the moment I arrived and that hasn’t changed.
Favorite hang-out places? Escape Bar, Rooftop Marriott Surawongse and Smalls.
Favorite restaurants? Di Vino’s Italian Thonglor, Mozza, Mrs Balbir’s Indian, El Gaucho, The Dock, numerous Japanese haunts and a hole in the wall Thai place near me that has the best local food.
What do you do for exercise / relax? Paddle-boarding (when I can escape), swimming, reading books, massage (of course), small intimate dinner parties with good conversation and making my own silly video stories.
Best destinations in Thailand to get away from it all? Sailing around Phang Nga or hiding on a small island. Hanging out at Royal Varuna Yacht Club Pattaya. Exploring Chiang Mai.
Has your view of Thailand changed over the years?
I have a love hate relationship with the system – even after 25 years it’s still challenging with some facets of business – so maybe nothing much has changed there. But there is a lot more choice here now and a lot of very clever people who have invested their energy into improving people’s lives.
Thailand is a very resilient place and while there are ups and downs I think it’s become a more comfortable, interesting and rewarding place to live. It’s also a lot more competitive.
I have been really lucky in my work in Thailand and the region to have met media, fashion, political, business and industry movers and shakers. And I have been privileged to meet some of the most amazing everyday people who work on projects, charities and artistic endeavors whose names many will never know but you see the results of their efforts and the people they have enriched all around us.
What’s the most overrated things about this country? The weather. The cost of living. Bangkok especially is no longer a cheap place to live.
What does Thailand need to do to sustain its popularity as a tourist destination? Less plastic, more sustainable tourism, more environmental initiatives, more emphasis on learning English.
Do you keep anywhere secret to stop it from being overrun by tourists? Yes, but that’s a secret.
What’s your best talent? Communicating with people. What would change about your career or yourself if you could turn back the clock? If I could turn back time it would simply be for the reason to have more time to do all the things I still want to do. But even despite the tough times I wouldn’t change anything.
Has anyone told you that you look like someone famous? Elizabeth Taylor. I am often told I look like her – the younger version hopefully!
What’s next for you? Love. Who would have thought? I am soon to be married so another grand adventure is about to begin. Probably the best journey of all. Gianni is from an old noble family in Modena, Italy, and I am discovering a great passion for all things Italian.
Any final thoughts? My advice to myself has always been to work smarter not harder, make time for loved ones and don’t worry what people say about you. Most importantly, be curious, be generous and be the best possible version of yourself.