Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Paradise Park -- Made in Paradise, Open on Earth (my glimpse of Aum Patcharapa)

I live in the East of Bangkok. It's not the most glamorous nor accessible place in this metropolis, with frequent floods and no BTS (train) station in the vicinity. However, I have always felt blessed that I am within walking distance of the second largest shopping mall in Bangkok (Seacon Square) and another stone's throw away from an old but very 'useful' mall in Seri Centre, where I can find the most delicious street food in a comfortable food court setting.

Every cloud has a silver lining, and my silver lining is that the traditional Seri Centre has just been turned into a classy Paradise Park. It prides itself as the Oasis of Eastern Bangkok, but judging by the looks of it, it will soon become the Oasis of Entire Bangkok.

As my company's bank is situated there, I am one of the few who has witnessed the evolution of Seri Centre into Paradise Park due to my never-ending bank transactions. In a nutshell, the design concept of this new mall is to make it look like a massive indoor garden, with natural sunlight coming in to nourish the abundant greenery in the mall. Whatever I say would not actually do it much justice, so I would let me pictures do the talking. These were taken during the extravagant opening celebration last Saturday, which involved performers from all parts of the world and a documented 1000 (??) celebrities.

How could a party be a party without eye candy for the kids?

The cute Dr Samitivej who has such a massive head that it wouldn't stay on its neck without support from the hand.

Swatch's Flik Flak putting my height to shame.
Also, many signboards scattered around to make it a picture-perfect memory for all involved.

The main theme of the mall - Made in Paradise, Open on Earth - well illustrated here.

Another designed with plants and flowers suggesting this is more of a garden than a mall.

It has dedicated rest zones that make you feel completely relaxed and zoned-out from the intense shopping:
Classy right, I doubt the chairs will hold up for long though.
There are rest stops that make u feel like u are in a vineyard.
The management realised too little emphasis has been placed on the wallpapers in most malls, and therefore aim to put it right. These are just a few shots of the many different designs on show to give a different feel to each area.

I am personally quite proud of this montage, hope you enjoy it.
How could I possibly miss out the many celebrities who graced the event. From young 14-year-old heart stoppers to one of the most popular local female celebrities in the past few years, Aum Patcharapa (click here to see why), I am fortunate to rub shoulders with even more Thai celebrities.

Can you find Li Li?

The exhausting day ended with a carnival (machiam Chingay) and a nice bit of fireworks. It's really nice that the management made all this effort just to open a shopping mall with a bang. It certainly underlines the determination to make this project work, though to be honest, it would have been a rousing success anyway without the trouble.
Welcome to Paradise.

Just when I thought I was in Paradise, Li Li pointed to a sign which brought me back to Earth with a loud thud.

If you are comming to Bangkok anytime sooon, please let mee know and I promisse to brring you to Parradise Parkk.

PS. Thiss iss nott ann addvertisementt.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Palio - a hint of Europe in Thailand

It's been a while. The past 10 days have been nothing short of breathless. An influx of visitors (family and corporate) kept me extremely busy. Technically, I became sort of a part-time tour guide for a good week. It was all good fun with Li Li's sisters and an important customer visit with my principle supplier, so I have nothing much to complain, only that I really really need a breather now.

That said, I am happy that the band of sisters enjoyed their visit to Chokchai farm, which is not something a normal tourist would do when they come to Thailand. Having visited and written an entire blog post on the Umm-Milk! makers just a while ago, we were surely going to take this opportunity to visit another vacation venue, this time, Palio, around 20 minutes drive away from Chokchai. I had high hopes for it, but aside of a very very difficult time to find it and some nice pictures, I have to say it is not exactly worth a dedicated visit if you are not passing by the area. However, it is a paradise for photographers, as it provides local Thais with a hint of an European old town square with lush green mountains as a backdrop.

Pictures will speak more than words now, but if you are interested, please take note of my shirt. In my previous post, I mentioned spending a bomb on a couple shirts. This is one of them, designed by popular Thai designer Anurak (shop named ANR). I love it, it brings out the kid and the feminine side of me all at the same time, haha!

Oh man, such a small nameplate with no colour contrast, how do they expect us to know when we pass by??!!

One of the many nice flower decorations on show.

My trusty G10 made a lonely lotus sprouting out of a dirty 'pond' look exquisite.

Li Li on the second floor of a building. An European old town square with green tropical mountains as backdrop, quite a unique setting eh?
A closer look at my designer shirt.
There are countless corners like this for photographers to get a really rustic and classic shot of their models.
Finally, we found someone to take a picture of us together. We thought our photographer was a handsome young man, she turned out to be a boyish pretty young lady, welcome to Thailand.
Now that the busiest part of August is behind me, my wedding is staring me in my face. There is no time to waste nor lose. It's full speed ahead towards my big day, I am looking forward to it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Where the waitress brings the bill and laughs at you.....

During the eve of Singapore's National Day, Li Li and I scrapped our gym plans and went for another calorie-burning activity, a shopping spree at Siam Square! It was only the 2nd time I went to that area since I started living here permanently, it was also the 1st time I saw with my very eyes some of the charred remains of the buildings burnt by the Red Mob before they surrendered. I was finally walking in the once-troubled Ratchaprasong intersection after the mayhem and it did feel a little different this time. However, the vibrant busy-ness remains, with the heavy traffic, uneven walkways complementing the mixture of locals and tourists scampering around looking for their next trendy purchase.

Before embarking on our shopping trip, we chilled out at a cafe named On8 @ Sukhumvit after church service ended and witnessed one of the things I am certain can only happen here in Thailand. After our meal, I asked for the bill, the waitress came and passed me this bill that totals to 555baht. In Thai, the pronunciation of the number 5 is simple- "ha, or 哈", therefore, the price of the bill effectively reads "hahaha, or 哈哈哈"??!!

Seriously, in which other country would you chill out at a cafe and have the waitress laughing at you while giving you the bill? That said, this feat would not be easy to achieve in Thailand too. If you would like to have the same experience as me, I suggest you buy something that costs 55 baht, because anything exceeding 2 "ha-s" would require some meticulous calculation during your ordering process, especially if 10% service charge and 7% VAT (value-added tax) are involved.

The Stranger in Bangkok now challenges all who read this to attempt being "laughed at" by waitresses in Thailand, the 1st successful person with a receipt to prove it will win a lunch at On8 @ Sukhumvit with the Stranger himself.

I have attached another 2 pictures taken during the shopping frenzy yesterday as these sights were interesting for me:

A juice bar dispensing cool water from a tank soaking carrot and another tank soaking oranges, skin, peel included.
Dirty is the new clean?

A photo exhibition right smack on the main walkway on Level 5 of Siam Centre. I was suitably shocked to see a splash of nude pictures (full nudity involved). Everyone walks by, talks and takes pictures like it's normal, men, women, kids, elderly included.
Nude is the new normal?

A shopping trip concluded with Li Li empty-handed and Eddie going home having spent a good amount on a new T-shirt and a new long-sleeved shirt. I am very impressed with the creativity of Thai designers and I hope to share my purchases with you guys soon. Everyone, start planning your trip here, I promise you Thai fashion is much more than Suan Lum Night Bazaar, Platinum Mall and Chatuchak Market. You will empty your pocket, visit the ATM machine and crawl back for more!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

An international reader pool?

The Stranger in Bangkok blog has been created for more than half a year now. To be really honest, my principle goal of setting up a blog is to keep myself in touch with my friends, to provide an avenue for all who remotely care about me to see what's happening to me. In other words, it's used to prevent myself from disappearing from the surface of the earth since I am no longer staying in the country I grew up in.

My other equally significant driving force is to give my readers an insight to the Land of Smiles. Bangkok is a place where everyone frequents, but working here and trying to enjoy life like a local is different from coming here for a short shopping trip. Since I arrived, I have weathered floods (which Singaporeans are currently enjoying too), uprisings, curfews and thus done my fair share of blogging on these issues too.

This essentially means that I have designed my blog mostly for my really good friends and relatives in Singapore and Malaysia. However, a month ago, google gave its bloggers like me a chance to have some detailed breakdown on our reader statistics, and I have been mesmerised by the numbers ever since. I have cut a shot of my breakdown for the last 7 days so illustrate my surprise:

Firstly, I had 117 hits in a week, which to me is not too shabby a number considering there are close to 20 reads a day on the average. However, the most astonishing thing is that my readers from Malaysia and Singapore only make up an astounding 35% of the hits. I fully expected it to be nearer to...... 80%?? Incredibly, hits from the United States are running a close 2nd to that of Singapore, and I get hits last week from the Netherlands, France, UK, Canada and the Waka Wakas in South Africa. In my history, I got hits from Hungary, Croatia, Russia and even Fiji. I do understand that I have friends spread all over the globe, including some in the above stated countries, but still to me, this statistic is nothing short of incredible.

Of course, other interesting stats would be that there are more Firefox users than IE users, and I've had only 2 hits from the Ipad, I do expect this statistic to give me an indication of the success the Ipad team has achieved over the coming months.

I would like to thank the Blogger team for giving us such a wonderful tool for us to analyze our reader break-down, and I would like to also thank my friends who have been visiting my blog once in a while. If you are not my friend but is finding this blog any bit interesting, do drop a comment because I would like to be your friend.

With such a diverse pool of readers, you can expect the Stranger in Bangkok to remain highly active for some time yet.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Re-living the story of our wedding solemnization (aka ROM)

This is the second segment of my blogposts leading my readers towards my wedding on the 11th of September. As I mentioned briefly 2 posts earlier, none of my friends were invited to my ROM as it was a very low-key event shared amongst the closest of relatives, I think it is only fair for me to finally reveal what exactly happened on 14th of November 2009.

Unfortunately, the first thing that came to my mind was a disastrous preparation. I just started my new job in Bangkok, and after a couple of whirlwind trips to Singapore, I was beaming in delight having found a perfect place for my event and also ironing out the details way before what some other couples would. The planned location was My Humble House (more famously known as 寒舍), but alas, a couple of weeks before the event, my coordinator dropped me a bombshell by telling me Esplanade would be sealed off from the public because of APEC, and I had to start planning all over again. They did find a new venue for us in the end, but seriously, both of us were inconsolable. I was trapped in some rural villages in Thailand during that period of time, and I hardly slept for 3 nights worrying how everything would pan out.
My Humble House was going to be such a perfect venue for us, but sigh, it was not to be.
Eventually, our ROM was held at Tung Lok Signatures at The Central (the one at Clarke Quay MRT). Honestly, the food was great and the service not too shabby, it was a well-managed event, but the last minute grenade thrown to us by My Humble House (when they could have at least warned us about what could potentially happen) left a pill too bitter for us to chew, and we decided not to go for any Tung Lok restaurants for our banquet itself.
Happily posing at the camera before the ceremony started, I was really nervous at the moment.

Saying vows to each other.
Luckily, in spite of all the turmoil during preparation, the actual day went smoothly, and we were supported by Michel Tay, my dear brother at church and a highly talented photographer who has just ventured out on his own. Aside of capturing wonderful memories during the event, he agreed to walk with us around the area to continue taking pictures later in the afternoon, all the way till we walked from Clarke Quay to Ritz Carlton. It became some sort of a preview to our real pre-wedding shoot and we were even worrying whether our bridal boutique would do as good a job as him, haha!

We walked first to my brother's Settler's Cafe at North Canal Road, followed by Victoria Concert Hall, Supreme Court and finally Ritz Carlton Hotel. To our astonishment, we were even banned from taking pictures at the lobby of Ritz Carlton because of some APEC seminars. Our ROM effectively became a day of compromise, damn APEC.

In case you have not seen them on Facebook, I will now share with you some of my favourite pictures taken on the day and hope you can feel some of our joy.

Trying to enjoy a game or 2 at my brother's Settler's Cafe before departing for more shoots.

One of the doors at Supreme Court

Another one of my favourite shots at the same door.

Yet another door at the Supreme Court, it was a tale of many doors on that day!

This door is our hotel room door at Ritz Carlton Hotel, thanks Uncle Lee Wah for the free room!

A very classy shot taken at the hotel corri-door
Despite my complaints above on all the obstacles we faced, I must admit that we thoroughly enjoyed the actual day itself. My advice to all wedding couples would be that shit happens, but regardless of all the angers and frustrations, it is YOUR day and you have to keep a cool head, take things easy and make the best of it. For us, thanks to our kind family and a great photographer, we managed to turn it into an unforgettable day, in a good way.

Wedding trivia of the post:
Li Li and myself share the knowledge of playing an obscure instrument, the erhu (二胡)!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Stranger in Singapore?

Michel with D'arcy, who has grown 5 times in size since the last time i saw her

Having spent year in Bangkok now and recounting all the strange happenings in Bangkok, I have surprisingly detected myself feeling more and more like a stranger in Singapore. Not that I don't remember the way around anymore, but I start to feel like a tourist (which I technically am). This might be an indication that I am getting accustomed to life in Bangkok, which might be a good thing, but don't worry, things are still strange over there and I will continue to share them with you.

However, I plan to do a complete turnaround this blogpost as Singapore has inspired me with its utter strange-ness this time round.

  1. During my taxi trip home from the airport, the driver told me the population in Singapore has exceeded 5 million according to the latest reports. How Singapore can have a low birth rate and grow at such a frenetic pace really baffles me. The last time I knew, foreigners contributed to 50% of Singapore's service industry. From my experiences in the departmental stores and 7-11s this time, I am quite sure this proportion has swung greatly in the foreigner's favour.

  2. Floods! I remember I was very shocked yet mesmerized by the floods around my office in Bangkok last year. I was quite pissed and even did a blogpost this year to complain about it. Now, the Venice of the East has clearly changed its location, because Bangkok has not had a flood yet, and it floods everytime there's a heavy downpour here in Singapore. I can't help but have a weird uneasy feeling about this, because in my 28 years here I have not seen a flood, not even 1. Looking at the bright side of things, if this makes Singaporeans more prepared and aware that they are not immune to the forces of nature, it could be a blessing in disguise.

  3. Construction, construction, construction. I can't really count the number of construction sites there are, let me just put it this way. Singapore feels like 1 massive construction site to me. I was taking a bus from NJC back to my place in Toh Yi, and along the whole road, i was flanked by construction barricades. This did not stop until I walked into Lorong Kismis. Upcoming elections and an ever-increasing influx of foreigners might have caused all this, but I can't help but wonder whether there will be any price (see point 2 and point 4) that will be paid at the end of all this reconstruction.

  4. I was just walking out of my compound when I heard some commotion in the trees. I looked up and saw a monkey in a tree tearing off flowers and eating some fruits. I have stayed in Kismis Court for 20 years and it was the first time I saw a monkey in our tree! To my astonishment, another monkey was crossing the road and soon joined his/her counterpart. They could either be from Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or Bukit Timah Hill which are both not too far away, but it must have taken some huge mischief or push factor to force them to leave their natural habitat.

    Could it be that they are just a nuisance to their community and were thus forced out? Or could it be a sign of worry for us? Too much construction and noise going on that it was impossible for the monkeys to stay where they are? I guess we will see more and more signs in the coming months and years that will give us a clearer picture, but it's getting really really strange around here now.

That said, though I am really quite sick this week, it still gives me a sense of satisfaction to not only complete another milestone in my wedding preparations, but also to have some really great fellowship and bonding time with my CG-mates all throughout the week, be it in usual CG activities, helping out in 40-day PDL decoration, cooking for Wenguang's family, visiting Michel or having a late-night Teochew porridge supper.

I fly back to Bangkok tomorrow knowing that I will be back in a month's time. Take care my friends, the Stranger in Singapore will be back soon.

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