Thursday, November 5, 2015

How to Stay Motivated at Work: Maybe it's more than just money?

If you are reading this, may I ask you a question?

Why are you waking up before the sun rises, going to work at least 5 days a week and possibly arrive home when the sky is just as dark as the moment you woke up?

Let's face it. Most of us work primarily for the the income our work generates, so that we can give enough to our families and ourselves. But to a large extent, the things we do at work are usually not directly related to the money we bring home at the end of the month, so if work becomes simply doing enough to reach payday, it will be very hard for us to stay motivated for a long period of time.

There is no perfect job in the world, but every job has its worth and value-adding element to the society. There are people who stay motivated because they are passionate about what they do, others stay motivated because they are so good at their craft that it will be a disservice to their customers/supporters if they stop. What about you?

What I do in Thailand predominantly revolves around importing small hand-held agricultural equipment and their spare parts and distributing them throughout the country. Truth be told, I have absolutely no love for the products I sell. I do enjoy the process of building the company from scratch and putting the system in place for it to run smoothly within the relatively short period of time I have been in Thailand, but the 1 thing I have found that will always keep me going is this:People.

I appreciate my co-workers, every one of them. I would not be living a comfortable life in a foreign country if they did not commit themselves to helping me. Many of my colleagues were doing odd jobs on the streets like driving motorcycle taxis before joining me. Over the years, I have seen colleagues recover from 2 bouts of pneumonia and acute appendicitis without needing to pay a single cent, all because they can enjoy the benefits of Thailand's social security as they are working for a properly-registered company. I have also seen another colleague blossom from a bell-boy at a hotel into a successful sales manager owning 2 family cars. My colleagues motivate me, to keep going, to grow the company even more to make everyone's life better.

My customers inspire me. I came in as a foreigner holding the distribution rights to a couple of brands which were not popular here. They had no obligation to support me, but many of them did. Today, some of my customers have become much better off because of this belief and trust in me and my products. For them, I cannot stop.

Preparing lunch for toddlers at a children's home

My company's charity work motivates me. In the last 4 years, we have contributed to many charity projects, including building a road that provides improved accessibility to a poor remote village and the building of toilets and playgrounds for schools in rural Thailand. I have seen for myself how such small contributions can make big differences to the lives of people who are not as lucky as us. This drives me to work harder, so that we can do even more for them year after year.

To a job well done.

Your source of motivation might not be the same as mine, but I feel that the only way to push through the difficult times at work is to find some meaning from what you actually do everyday at work. Good luck looking for it.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bangkok Life Hacks: Free WiFi!

If you have been living in Bangkok for a long time now, does data connectivity give you constant headaches? If so, maybe there need not be any headaches at all? Let me explain.

According to my understanding, post-paid dataplans in Thailand usually come with limited high-speed data. For example, if you signed up for a package with 3GB of high-speed data, once you reach the limit, your data will continue to run. Good news is, you will not be charged for unlimited additional data usage, bad news is, this data is no longer high-speed. You will be given access to much lower-speed data with speeds closer to 512kbps, yes, so slow you might pull your hair out waiting for something to happen.

We all want to agree with this, but come on, give me my WiFi!!

How then, do you go around the problem and survive a full month with high-speed data? Firstly, you might want to call your telco's hotline. They might have a top-up package that will give you more high-speed access at a reasonable price.

A second way is to use this life-hack and see how far it can bring you.

If you still do not know, most reasonable postpaid data plans in Thailand already come with unlimited access to WiFi hotspots all over the country. TrueMove boasts that it currently has 100,000 such hotspots country-wide! This means that once you are in the vicinity of a hotspot provided by your telco, you are just a step away from disabling your dataplan and gaining access to unlimited, stable, high-speed WiFi. These hotspots are available in most indoor spaces like community malls, cafes, shopping centres and department stores.

How then, do we access this free WiFi then? Simple, just dial a number to receive your username and password (usually permanent for your mobile number), log-in and you are good to go! Here are the detailed instructions from the 3 main telcos in Thailand:

  1. AIS  
  2. TrueMove 
  3. dtac 
  4. AIS and dtac users can use 3BB hotspots too
Remember, you can use the same method to connect your laptops and other devices as well, or even share with your friends when they are in need. Just remember that one code can only be used for one device at any time!

Need more Bangkok life hacks? Leave me a message!

Disclaimer: The information above is accurate to 19th October 2015. The Stranger in Bangkok does not take any responsibility if any of the mentioned telcos make changes to their dataplans and packages.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Ping's Hotpot: The Best Hotpot/Steamboat Restaurant in Bangkok for Soup Lovers

I used to live for 2 years right opposite Seacon Square along Srinakarin Road. Before Centralworld appeared, Seacon Square was the largest mall by floor area in Bangkok, and is patronized by locals from all walks of life in eastern Bangkok. Aside of its sheer size, one other aspect of the mall stunned me. Last I counted, there were no less than 11 hotpot/bbq buffet restaurants its top floor, with more than half of them completely full half the time. I later found out that the famous MK Restaurant has a whopping 422 branches across Thailand, which is more than double that of the number of outlets McDonald's currently has(!!).

We finally found a hotpot that we truly love.
Even though Thailand is well and truly a hotpot-crazy nation, with well-established brands locally (MK, Sukishi, Shabu-shi etc.) and internationally (Coca), I personally have found it difficult to eat at any of the big names, because a soup-lover like me cannot bring myself to enjoy steamboats with starting soup-bases which are almost as bland as water. Some are better than others, but on the whole, the focus of the local consumers seem to be their dips and the familiarity of the highly-advertised local brand images.

However, after 6 years, I am happy to say that I have finally found a restaurant that serves hotpot like it should be. Ping's Hotpot is located right beside Ping's Thai Teochew Seafood Restaurant in Pathumwan Princess Hotel, which I earlier reviewed on my blog to serve arguably the most delicious fish maw soup in Bangkok. I was told that the original soup base used for the hotpot is the exact one used to make their famous fish maw soup, so that's a good starting point. Ping's serves 4 other soups, the Teochew Herbal, Mongolian Spicy Herbal and 2 versions of Tom Yum, clear and milky. If you ask me, if you are here for the first time, you absolutely have to go for the original soup base, and probably the Tom Yum with coconut milk, just because you are in Thailand.

The original soup base on the left, and milky tom yum on the right, bubbling away.

Like its sister restaurant, Ping's Hotpot focuses on bringing out the best in quality ingredients. I especially enjoyed their assorted meatballs made in-house, as well as their seafood set, which included premium fish like salmon, cod and 2 incredibly sweet and succulent scallops.

My wife and I finished all these!

Wide range of sauces available, together with minced scallions, chilli padi and garlic. If you are not sure, just ask the helpful wait-staff to help you make a standard dip, which is what I usually do.

If what you just read is not tempting enough, let the Stranger in Bangkok tell you a secret that's not on the menu. If you have finished all your food but still have some soup left, there is actually a way to conveniently finish every last drop.

Order the boiled rice/ khaotom set!

In fact, I am almost embarrassed to admit this is my favourite part of the entire meal. With the remaining soup (preferably the original soup base), the meticulous waiter will require a few minutes to incorporate the ingredients above and turn it into the tastiest porridge you would have eaten in a long time.

A shot of the shimmering egg yolk before it's carefully beaten into the porridge.

Tadaa... the perfect ending to a satisfying meal. The porridge set costs 140THB and gives you 4 rice bowls of porridge.

I think I will need to end here. It has been an utter mistake writing this in the middle of an afternoon in which I do not have the time and resources to have a proper lunch. Time to grab a bite.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Parenting Poem Month: Love is...愛. 是.

Before we become parents, ideally we would have fallen head over heels in love with someone. One who makes our hearts beat faster every time we hold his/her hand, one whom we would like to grow old with. 

But the real challenge comes AFTER the initial flutter of our hearts. How do we love our spouse more each day, so that we can walk through life's challenges hand in hand? My Parenting Poem Month ends off aptly by a poem, written in 2 languages, by a respected sister in Christ, Ann, who casually spells out her little definitions of love. 

Love is...every day's compliments and heartfelt "I love you"
Love is...every day's hugs and kisses.

Love is...taking care of the 6 a.m cries.
Love is...taking responsibility over the family's finances.

Love is...asking "is there more?" after complaints.
Love is...making me the priority everyday.

Love is...the well planned getaway for two.
Love also is...the chat over sunset on the couch.

Love is..."I'll get take out" during one of those days.
Love is..."thank you for dinner" for the simplest of meals.

Love is...finding out four hours flew  by.
Love is...bringing up a new topic even after lights out.

Love is...sharing the Spirit's promptings.
Love is...baring the soul's condition.

Love is...over the top passions.
Love also is...sweet ordinaries.

Love is...praying together every night.
Love is...celebrating every year.

Love is...after 12 years of marriage
Still feeling...Yeah...I do like you.

Writer of the poem Ann, and her lovely hubby Tim












Parenting Poem Month is not about parents writing for the sake of writing. Such emotions cannot be faked, and you will not be able to write phrases like these without experiencing them yourselves.

If you missed our other pieces, here's where to catch them:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Birthday Letters from Daddy - Ellie turns 1

Our little celebration at home on the actual day
Dear Ellie

Before you, there was only Noah. Your korkor had Mummy and Daddy exclusively to himself, every moment, everyday. Looking back at the past year, the overwhelming emotion I have is a lot of apologies.

You did not wake up in the morning with Daddy on one side and Mummy on the other.

You did not listen to Daddy sing softly into your ear to coax you to sleep.

You hardly ate food specially planned and cooked for you by Daddy.

You hardly enjoyed any showers given to you by Daddy.

You hardly spent any actual time with Daddy since Day 1.

Being the little one in our house, you have been forced to share right from the start -- Daddy and Mummy's time, the clothes you wear, the books you read, the toys you play with.

Luckily, we are blessed that you have a big heart. You beam at me with love in your eyes even if I didn't do much for you. The cheeky, feisty streak that you are developing is also a welcome addition to the house formerly completely owned by your possessive brother.

You are such a precious little lady, and that's why, on the week leading up to your 1st birthday, Daddy and Mummy planned a whole week of activities to make sure your special moment is properly celebrated. Every single guest at your birthday party was hand-picked by Daddy and Mummy. They represent completely, the people who have showered you with love and welcomes into their houses in the past year, plus Daddy's special friend from Singapore who made it a special effort to be present.

What a cheeky pose from you, at Uncle Romans' house before going for your birthday photoshoot

Your birthday party at Champions Restaurant!

Your emotions swung from the highest
To the lowest 
You had what could be the most incredible-looking nyonya kueh cake for a 1-year old in recent history

All our lovely guests

Daddy promises you that from now onwards, I will make up for lost time. You will see more of me and do more things with me. I also hope that you will grow into a toddler bursting with positive energy, surrounded every moment by the boundless love showered on you by Daddy, Mummy and korkor.

Happy Birthday Ellie.


PS. Special thanks to Jacqueline for making the party such a great one, and Romans for the beautiful pictures.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Itim Lamoon: Traditional Thai flavours frozen in Premium Ice Cream

Slightly less than 2 weeks ago, during my weekly visit to Mega Bang Na, I chanced upon an ice cream stall like no other. It looked rustic, playful and vintage all at the same time, and after tasting their concoctions, a wave of excitement rushed through my brain, as it's been a while since a F&B concept in Bangkok grabbed my attention in such a manner.

Itim Lamoon's shop front at Mega Bang Na
Think of Thai sweets and you can come up with a few names. Mango Sticky Rice, Thai Durian, Coconut and the ever-reliable Thai iced tea. But having lived here for almost 6 years, there is much, much more. Take Yakult for example. Back in Singapore, we are used to Yakult being sold everywhere in assorted flavours, but here in Thailand, Yakult cannot be found anywhere readily. There is only 1 flavour, the original, in a tiny bottle, which can only be purchased when the Yakult lady appears in your neighbourhood. I reckon if I were a little boy in Bangkok, I will be waiting eagerly for this particular lady to appear at my doorstep everyday to have my favourite drink.

Yesterday, I spoke to Danupon (more affectionately known as Moo), the owner of Itim Lamoon, and was suitably satisfied to understand that his concept is to weave together the childhood memories of local adults and present them in the form of premium ice cream. His first signatures were coconut cream, Thai tea and Milo, and he slowly came up with more and more flavours, most of which carry a distinctive Thai soul. Some interesting ones will be the Thai coffee (Oliang), Taro coconut, Sala(a red syrup carrying a similar identity to rose syrup in Singapore but tastes different) cider with Lime, Rum and Raisin (which uses locally-famous Sangsom Thai rum) and even a Red Bull sorbet.

Even his toppings have a vintage feel about them, from crispy dough fritters to mug bean to rainbow sugar

Moo shared with me that his biggest challenge was to convince the Thai locals that local Thai flavours are not always cheap, as even though he tries to emulate traditional tastes, he uses imported raw material to ensure his ice cream are as good as the premium home-made ice cream we can find in other more internationally-established dessert shops. As a foreigner, however, I feel that spending 49THB on a scoop of good quality ice-cream (with a free topping, no less) that tastes uniquely Thai is more than worth it.

The ice-cream shop is designed to look like a vintage playground. Kids are encouraged to play with all their toys.

Aside of selling ice cream by the scoop, Itim Lamoon also comes up with their own vintage sundaes and drinks, all of which carry a Thai traditional flair as well.

Can you recognize this character from Kamen Riders?

One of their specialties really surprised me. I bet most of you understand Affogato as an Italian dessert that involves pouring richly aromatic espresso over some gooey vanilla Gelato. What if I told you the Lamoon Affogato is pouring rich Thai kopi-O called O-liang over their signature creamy coconut ice-cream?

Lamoon Affogato looks and tastes charming

The main reason why I have such a strong feeling over Itim Lamoon is because After You and Mr Jones Orphanage have been hogging the Thai dessert headlines for far too long. Both have legitimate reasons for success, with Mr Jones Orphanage depending more on their atmosphere than cakes to attract customers. However, both these big names have earned their reputation recommending foreign-style desserts to the public. Finally, Itim Lamoon has a concept that brings local traditional desserts to the next level, packaging it in a attractive way, yet versatile enough to refresh their flavours as frequently as they wish.

All said and done, at this moment, Itim Lamoon is certainly not the finished product yet. The ice cream is still a wee bit too sweet for my non-Thai palate, and I do wish they eventually come up with a proper ice-cream shop that allows customers to enjoy their pretty desserts like the Lamoon Affogato in a more comfortable space with their whole family. I also think they should start considering opening stalls in places where tourists have more access to.

If you do manage to see it though, please give it a shot, as it might transport you back to your long-lost childhood. The Stranger in Bangkok's favourite flavours are Thai Tea and Yakult Jelly.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Parenting Poem Week: The Singlish aka SG50 chapter

Parenting is not a bed of roses, for every beautiful moment that tugs our heartstrings, there might be more than one contrasting moment of complete frustration, which I believe, will be quickly forgotten, or not.

So here's my rendition of one such instance, spoken silently in my brain, now also silently on cyberspace, in a language that best suits the occasion:

The day is great the sun is high
Finally the clothes can dry

Then someone nudged me on my thigh
"Daddy Daddy, I just bang sai."

Wife look at me, I say chin chye*
But deep inside, I want to cry

Ripped off diaper, he said “Wa!”
Ohhhh that smell
Really can die

“Poopoo mountain, I so lihai!”
Wah lau eh, sibey kana sai

Nuff said. Photo Credit: Busy Chris


Parenting Poem Month is not about parents writing for the sake of writing. Such emotions cannot be faked, and you will not be able to write phrases like these without experiencing them yourselves.

If you missed our other pieces, here's where to catch them:
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