Thursday, April 29, 2010

Time to be a man

I just want to share some thoughts running through my mind now.

2010 has flown by. Many of my friends have been telling me the same thing too. I am nearly 30, and a lot of things are happening to my life as well. Not only to me, but to things around me that make me feel extremely frustrated sometimes.

Firstly, I am getting married this year. Planning a wedding is tough, but I need to make 2 banquets happen, 1 in Singapore and 1 in Sarawak when I am physically in Bangkok 90% of the time. Feels like building castles in the air! However, I am very fortunate Li Li has be extremely supportive and helpful. Nothing's gonna stop me from making our big day a really special one.

On hindsight, before I can even feel like I am married, marriages are breaking. In my impression, less than 50% of my close friends are married, but in the minority, some are starting to prepare divorce papers. If marriage leads to divorce, why get married in the first place? In a broken family, surely someone would get hurt if not everyone, especially the young children. I can't help but think about this time and again though I cannot do anything to help them. I think the best thing I can do is to try my absolute best to hold my wife's hand till the day I lose the physical ability to do it. Long way to go though......

Secondly, setting up a new company in a developing country speaking Thai is tough enough. The small team I have is working our socks off coping with everything thrown at us. But now, things are getting more complicated. Political turmoil is threatening to blow Thailand to a new low, and again, I cannot do anything about it! Friends who have not spoken to me for AGES are starting to talk to me again because I am here. My mom, who has always wanted to visit me, has tried not to talk about a possible trip here. Although it's really easy to stay out of trouble, it's really demoralising and unsettling that all this is actually happening.

Maybe staying for too long in Singapore has affected my ease to get accustomed to political turmoil, and I am sure I will grow stronger and stronger after all these special experiences. Maybe that's what becoming a survivor is all about.

In the coming months, I need to start introducing new products into my line to prevent my company from making losses during the rainy season. I need to start finding a new location for my company when I am not even really used to this place yet. I need to start finding a new residence when I do not know where my new office is located yet. I need to build a family, one that I can call my very own.

I need to grow up. I mean, really grow up.

Time to be a man.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Another reason to visit the Stranger in Bangkok

I realise I am more motivated to update my blog more as more negative news of Thailand gets poured onto the global television and newspapers. I think everyone would like to read something positive about the Land of Smiles right? So I figure I should do my part.

Anyway, being arranged to stay in a Home Office in Bangkok means I need to be content staying steps away from my office and warehouse. In spite of the fact that there are many positives with this arrangement, I can't help but think what would have been if I had stayed a distance away from my workplace in a proper residential development. One of the obvious drawbacks is the fact that it was not possible for me to arrange a cooking facility in my building, so after half a year of eating out, I was determined to put things right:

Tadaaa..... there comes my mini authentic charcoal barbeque barang. The red hot coals only mean 1 thing -- that the budding chef Eddie can start his culinary adventures again.

Gloriously coloured skewers prepared by my good staff and greater friend Rit. I think when you take a closer look at the green things, you will suffer a mild culture shock. I don't think anyone in Singapore would make chilli skewers topped off by a cherry tomato right? Haha.... Absolutely fantastic!

Nothing makes it more rustic than some ghost dogs joining us in the fun. The white one is Khaaw, my best doggy friend in Bangkok.

Sizzling kebabs, mushrooms, tomatoes. Did not have the luck to buy live prawns this time though... sigh..... and a juicy surprise is trapped in the aluminium foil.

Grill-steamed plaa tub tim!! We plucked it out flipping for its life just hours before it went on the grill and it costs merely 5sgd! Live fish on a grill. BBQing in Thailand has really gone up a notch compared to what I could achieve in Singapore with a similar budget.

No one knows what's gonna happen and how this chaos is gonna end, the only thing I know is that I will continue to munch my chilli skewers and enjoy live fish all the same... come what may.

Friday, April 23, 2010

My new-found friends--The real native dwellers of Bangkok

My goodness, it has been nearly a week since I got back to Bangkok from Singapore and how time has flown by! The rat race in the business world has started and the busy-ness has been spreading like wild fire. Visits to customers, preparing my next container order from Singapore, taking a look at our potential new lorry, running errands at the bank etc. etc.... it's almost impossible to even think of what's happening to the rainbow-coloured protestors at Silom.

Anyway thanks to all my friends who have been sending me sms-es and speaking to me on MSN, I am fine and I know how to stay out of trouble. It's frustrating that I cannot see the end of protests, but all's well on my end, and I will keep it that way.

Ok, back to my topic of the day. From the first day I arrived in Bangkok, I have been amazed by how the Thai people have been sharing their land with other dwellers (cockroaches, geckos, rats, spiders to name some of them). In Singapore, some of us are quite irritated by the number of hungry cats marauding proudly in the void decks, but you will be surprised that the number of dogs roaming the streets here is exponentially higher than the number of cats you can find in Singapore.

I have had my fair share of doggy experiences in my 7 short months here, and I am proud to say that after being touched, licked, and ran after by different canines, I have officially overcome my doggy-phobia which I had since I got chased around my garden by a dog when I was a little boy. In fact, I have had the fun of naming dogs and spending some really great time with them. They have provided me real companionship, especially when I spend 80% of my time alone in a foreign country.

Now I shall introduce to you my new-found friends, and believe me, these pictures are all taken with my camera or mobile phone within a radius of 1km around my office.

He belongs to the tzechar stall near my office. I have not named him yet. He is usually naked, and I have hardly seen him get out of his sleeping position. Obviously his owner dressed him up to welcome the Songkran festival. The colourful shirt did not perk him up one bit though.

This cute little one is owned by a neighbouring office. Full of energy and love, I am determined to find out his name one day.

Khaaw, which means white. He is by far my best doggy friend. Being the youngest of the 6 stray dogs active in my village, he is the most friendly and active. No matter how late I come back sometimes, he will always be throwing himself at me, wagging his tail non-stop. I could only take a nice picture of him sleeping though, haha.

Namtaan, which means brown/sugar, caught on camera by me while he's snuggling beside the refrigerator. He is resting so that he can feel rejuvenated soon, as he always goes about showboating his good looks. And really, when he wants to, he is easily the smartest looking dog in the area.

See what I mean? That's Namtaan at his best. No wonder we caught him shagging a female dog at 7am in the morning, no dog could resist him! Good looks and showmanship aside, Namtaan had better take care of his rapidly-expanding waistline, or else Khaaw is gonna overtake him and grab all the female attention!

My impression of dogs has changed completely after living in Bangkok. I remember watching Marley and Me on HBO and holding my tears at the end when Marley was put to sleep. Let me finish off with a quote at the end of the movie from the usually-hilarious Owen Wilson.

"A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes or designer clothes. A water log stick would do just fine. A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Just give it your heart and it will give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?"

He can!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend getaway - Part 3

What you see here is a coconut custard, known to be one of the best in Thailand and many people surely buy this home if they pass by the province of Cha Am. Think slightly crispy caramelized top with sweet eggy custard below infused with a fragrant essence of coconut. Delicious.... but what if your search for this custard brought you to....


And this?

Our initial plan was to end our weekend getaway in Ampawa Floating Market, which we heard is most beautiful in the night, but a brochure led us to MaeKimLung, a bakery which has a decently huge garden beside its shop.
I have told many people that Thailand is a place that is full of beautiful flowers, and you do not have to pay huge sums of money to go to China or Europe to see them, but I always thought the most beautiful flowers are up North, during the cold seasons. However, this has proven me wrong, as we witnessed some really gorgeous flowers 3 hours South of Bangkok in the piping hot summer.

Rit and me.

Li Li and me together with the highlight of the entire place, the sunflowers!!

Our one day getaway out of Bangkok comprised of an early morning trip to the Floating Market, spending an afternoon at a un-commercialized beach painting clay figurines and enjoying fresh seafood, and ended with a search for the famous local dessert at a garden full of flowers. All in a day's work!
Having spent my entire life in a place where there's nothing more to do aside of watching movies and shopping (ok, I can now gamble for free too as I am not a Singaporean), I have to say that Thailand has been a breath of fresh air. Work has its fair share of frustrations, but I know in my heart that this country has been extremely good to me so far in most aspects, and it gives me a better close-up view of God's wonderful creations.
We cannot predict where life brings us, but we must be confident that we can survive in any situation and make the best out of it, which is what I am trying to do now.
Therefore, while the red troops are planning for their next assault in Bangkok and the riots drawing to another (anti-)climax tomorrow, I am starting to plan my next weekend getaway.......

Anyone wants to join me?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Weekend getaway - Part 2

Violence has erupted in Bangkok immediately after I left. In spite of me being able to stay out of trouble easily in Bangkok, I have to admit that reading the news everyday has been extremely disturbing and I would be lying to myself if I said I was not worried that it would get worse.

Therefore, I am really grateful that the Songkran Festival has come. It's a timely one-week break for me to sit down and free my mind from work and the political strife, which I really am not accustomed with having spent my whole life in Singapore. Anyway, as I said before many times, life goes on, and I would need to return to Bangkok next week whether or not the protests have ended by then.

Ok, enough of my sharing, now back to the good stuff. Part 2 of my weekend getaway - Damnoen Saduak Floating Market! Well, most people would directly associate floating markets with Thailand, so I would not elaborate much more on this. Let the pictures do the talking.
After going about taking pictures in the morning, we realised we woke at 6 to rush to the floating market and did not have breakfast. It's not something to worry about though, even if you are stuck in a small boat on a river. Help is always on the water.
See, they even make sure you have the condiments to make your kwayteow as tasty as you want them.
Naturally I would like to give my travel tip again. I believe that most floating markets in Thailand are now quite commercialized. Still, though I am not overly impressed or overwhelmed with it, I think floating markets are a must-go in Thailand as it's not easy to find anything else like it. Feel free to buy any food and drinks at very good prices here, but please, unless you cannot control yourself, leave the souvenir shopping to Chatuchak Market when you get back to Bangkok to prevent grossly over-paying.
A sneak peek into part 3 of the weekend gataway...................

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Life goes on amidst the announcement of the emergency...

Been a week since I updated the post, and though I know that I should be posting the second part of my weekend getaway, I am currently more inspired to write about other random things.

Since my wife has been here, I've been trying to make life in Bangkok more fun and happening, and to be honest, it's been a real hectic and fun time in the past 2 weeks, there's so much to blog about and I hope I can share it all with you in my future posts.

Anyway, the PM of Thailand has just announced a state of emergency in Bangkok. This sounds bad, but I still want to prove to you that in the face of crisis, LIFE GOES ON.

I had the energy to wake up during the wee hours on Easter Sunday morning to catch a glimpse of what the local garment trade is all about. We reached the garment wholesale street at around 3am and it was a real shocker! People from every part of Thailand squeeze into the Bobae market and haul piles of garments home to sell. This was not Chatuchak market and we might be the only foreigners around, and it's the wee hours in the morning with the red shirts camping around 5 minutes' drive away. Take a look:

This was taken on an overhead bridge at 4.20am. Bangkok is well and truly alive man, if the protestors think life will stop because of their futile acts, this is a kick in their ass.

My note to travellers would be that Bobae market is a wholesale market, and the goods are medium to low-class garments meant for locals. Put excellent material and fashion at the back of your minds if you would like to spend a night here to feel the atmosphere. I bought 2 polo T-shirts at 140baht (6SGD) each and one of them is shown in my pictures below.

Well, since my previous post on Korean Ginseng Chicken soup, I have felt a little bad about not giving Korean food its due credit, so here's my redemption piece.

Kimchi Hotpot!!
As much as I love Kimchi, I do not know whether this will suit the palates of most people, as it is an overwhelming pot of spicy fermented cabbage and kimchi-bacillus, not for the faint-of-heart.

This was Li Li's first try of this delicious wholesome pot of goodness, and I we were both afraid the waitress would accidentally stain our clothes while cutting the Kimchi into smaller pieces.

Naturally, I was excited to plunge into this pool of red as I finally had a companion to share such a large dish, a luxury I did not have when I was all alone. Aside of Kimchi, there were mushrooms, beancurd, onions, chilli, leek and most importantly, juicy fragrant slices of pork belly. So we ate, and ate.......

Until we could not eat anymore........ Please come to Bangkok and help us finish a whole pot up next time ok?

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