Southern California Christmas

I have been in the US for about two weeks now for the holidays. I have been lax in posting for the last week since I have been spending time with friends and family. I’ve also been traveling around California and I just got back from a weekend in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. It was wonderful to see the California coast and I enjoyed seeing the unique California lifestyle. Even the ocean smelled different to me, saltier somehow. Christmas day was spent biking along Newport beach and many other California’s were out enjoying the seascape as well, from surfers to families. The weather was sunny and breezy. We might not have a White Christmas in Southern California, but we make do somehow.

No trip to America would be complete without several shopping trips. It seems like the holidays brings out the shopper in most people, but when I first arrived it was the week before Christmas and everyone was out. Since I was only casually shopping, I’d often walk around the store with one “maybe” item in my hand and then when I was ready to leave I’d glimpse at the checkout line. Once I say ten people waiting for two registers, I’d slyly put the “maybe” item back, I didn’t really want it anyway, and walk out of the store. It was only when I had a “really want” or “must have” item that I’d consider waiting in line and only after reconsidering the purchase a few more times.

A pleasant surprise for me is the abundance of Sephora stores these days. For those of you who don’t know what Sephora is, it is a beauty retail store from Europe where you can find brands such as Philosophy, Benefit, Hard Candy, Cargo, Bliss, Bare Escentuals and L’Occitane. It used to be that the only Sephora location close to me would be South Coast Plaza. If I went to South Coast Plaza, I’d be a trip especially to go to Sephora since most of the stores in South Coast are very expensive. Nowadays, Sephora’s are everywhere and there are over 40 locations in California.  On my weekend trip, I spotted a Sephora in Santa Barbara and even in the smaller city of San Luis Obispo. Closer to me are the Cerritos and Brea locations. Be forewarned however, that Sephora can lead to one easily dropping $100 on miscellaneous beauty and pampering products. My excuse is “We don’t have this in Thailand!”

Mini Cooper at Motor Expo 2007


While I was at the Motor Expo a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist snapping some shots of my favorite little car. There was an entire booth dedicated to the Mini Cooper’s from the Next Millennium showroom in Bangkok. The on right up from was the classic red with white roof and racing strips, although a silver and grey Mini Cooper were parked right behind it. All of the Minis on display were used vehicles for less than 2 million baht, considerably more reasonable than 2.4-2.8 for the new 2007 models. Since Minis don’t really change much and advertise their classic styling, a pre-loved Mini Cooper could bring you just as much fun as a brand new Mini Cooper with a much lower price tag.

This is the interior of the Mini Cooper when you go inside the vehicle through the fifth door. You can see that there is no much room between the small trunk, the back row and the front seats, but you’ve got all the basics you need in a car, as well as some of the fun features and cool interior. The seats and dash are black but the dials are primarily white to contrast all of the dark coolers. Of course, it all feels rather sporty and befits this speedy little car.

This is a shot of the trunk with the hatch open. Don’t plan on taking any long camping trips with the Mini as it can barely pack enough luggage for two people on a weekend trip. We all know that the Mini Cooper is perfect for a cramped metropolis like Bangkok, but it’s ill suited for large families, toting lots of people or lots of stuff. However, if you are a high society (hi-so) Bangkokian who needs to zip around Bangkok in style, it’s perfect for squeezing through those tight streets in Sukhumvit!

Petchaburi Noodle Lunch and Khao Wang

On another day trip away from Bangkok, we found ourselves in Petchaburi next to the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. Petchaburi is a small town which doesn’t attract much tourism, especially when compared to its neighbors of Cha-am and Hua Hin. However, it suited our lazy attitude perfectly that day and as it happened to be midday, gave us the perfect opportunity to visit our favorite noodle and dessert shop in Petchaburi.
These are the noodles that we had in Petchaburi next to Khao Wang, which means “Palace Hill”. These noodles had a dark soup like boat noodles but it wasn’t as thick as the soup for boat noodles. This particular shop had green “bamee” noodles, which are normally yellow egg noodles. The noodles at this shop was yummy and they have two different times of spicy sauces to choose from. One of the sauces has more soy bean paste in it but it a local recipe. It is very spicy. They also have the normal chili and vinegar style spicy sauce and chili powder. I have to go to this noodle shop whenever we are in Petchaburi.

This is the dessert cart that is a few houses down from the noodle shop. It is another place that I have to visit if I’m in Petchaburi. It has a unique twist off of the normal shaved ice and toppings dessert places because they serve everything in a glass (you can as for a bowl if you wish).

If you’ve never had this type of Thai dessert before, all you have to do is choose what type of ingredients you’d like to have and they’ll put your toppings in a glass with syrup and shaved ice. Some of the common ingredients that you’ll see are bread, red beans, palm seeds, jackfruit, sticky rice, corn, taro and green tapioca noodles (pictured in the glass below). Some of the desserts also come with a bit of coconut milk for a creamier taste. In Petchaburi, they use a syrup made from coconuts and it is called “nam taan ma praow.” Other regions will made the syrup out of different materials like palms and it has a different taste. It’d recommend the sticky rice with syrup or bread with red syrup, also known as “nam dang.” Be aware though that this dessert is naturally sweet since it is loaded with syrup.

After all that food, you might feel a little guilty about all the calories you’ve consumed. Not to worry because about 100 meters up the road is a large moutain that you can climb once you feel up to it. The 92 meter high hill will give you the workout you need and a chance to stretch your legs before heading back to Bangkok or on to your next destination. Khao Wang, Phra Nakhom Kriri Historical Park, offers a beautiful view of the Gulf of Thailand once you reach the summit. There you’ll find the white palatial estate of King Rama the IV (King Mongkut) and Wat Maha Samanaram. Khao Wang was his summer retreat from Bangkok that was built in 1860 and many of his successors follow his lead in building other palaces in Petchauri and surrounding provinces. The palace is built with a strong European influenced style with some Thai and Chinese character mixed in.

While walking up the hill, be wary of the monkeys as they are looking for food and are known to bite people if you tease them or if they feel threatened. Old women might try to sell you some fruit to give to the monkeys for 5 baht, but please refrain from doing so. There is a museum which contains the more precious royal artifacts, such as bronze sculptures and European, Chinese and Japanese ceramics. Many of them are gifts to the King from foreign countries and are part of the royal collection. The park opens daily between 8:30 and 16:30 with a 40 baht admission. You can walk to the palaces on top of the hill peaks or get there by cable car for 30 baht.

How to get there: The park is 36 kilometres north of Cha-am and a few kilometers west of Petchaburi. Songtaews are available from both places and cost in the region of 30 Baht.

Sugar Glider FAQ

Q: What is a sugar glider? Is it a rodent like a squirrel or mouse?

A: Sugar glider is the common name for a small marsupial native to Australia and Indonesia. Its scientific name is Petarus Breviceps.

Q: Are sugar gliders good pets?

A: They can be good pets, but they require lots of extra attention and care. They need a balanced diet, a large cage and daily interactions to remain healthy. It is illegal to keep sugar gliders in some cities and states, so keep that in mind before you acquire one. It may be difficult to find a vet that has the specialized knowledge needed to care for these small critters.

Q: How long do they live?

A: Sugar gliders live as long as our more common household pets, dogs and cats. Their average life span in captivity is 12 to 145 years. This means that you must be ready to care for your pet for many years.

Q: What do sugar gliders eat?

A: Sugar gliders require a specialized diet with a careful balanced of protein, calcium, fruits, vegetables and other nutrients. There are many commonly accepted diets which you can prepare such as BML, Priscilla’s Diet, the HPW diet and Darcy’s (Ensure) diet.

Q: What is the proper way to house sugar gliders?

A: Sugar gliders need a very large cage compared to most small pets. For 1 or 2 sugar gliders, the minimum cage dimensions are 24 inches wide by 24 inches deep and 36 inches high. A bigger cage is of course better, especially taller cages, since sugar gliders are arboreal and need the extra room to glide around. Bar spacing on the cage should be no more than 1/2 inch wide to ensure that your sugar glider cannot squeeze out. The bars should be powder or pvc coated as galvanized wire cages can result in urinary tract infections.

Q: What kind of toys do sugar gliders like?

A: You can find toys specially made for sugar gliders on the Internet or you can use baby toys and bird toys. You can even make your own sugar glider toys if you are handy and there are many directions to be found on sugar glider websites. Sugar gliders love toys that enable them to hang or climb around their cage and pouches or nests were they can snuggle. You want to avoid toys with small parts, especially small holes that your sugar glider could catch his toes in and injure himself. Also, avoid cat toys since catnip is toxic to sugar gliders.

Q: Do I need more than one sugar glider?

A: Two sugar gliders is strong recommended since they live in colonies in the wild. One sugar glider will often be extremely lonely and can become depressed. Depression in sugar gliders causes poor health, self-mutilation and even death. If you do choose to have only one sugar glider, be prepared to spend 3-4 hours a night interacting with him.

Q: What is the best age to get a joey?

A: Baby sugar gliders are called joeys, just like baby kangaroos. Joeys should be a minimum of 8-10 weeks Out of Pouch (OOP) before they go to their new home. This ensures that they are properly weaned and can eat on their own before leaving their mother.

Q: Can I let my sugar glider run loose in the house?

A: Sugar gliders should only be let loose in a glider-proofed area, also known as a safe room. They should be supervised at all times to make sure they don’t get into trouble and injure themselves. They can easily fit into small spaces and run the risk of being squished, drowning in a toilet or sink, harmed by other pets or potentially eat something that is toxic to them.

International School Trend in Bangkok

While glancing through the Nation a few days back, a read an article describing a new international school set to open in Bangkok in two years. Another international school? In a city where international schools are the new fad, I doubt that Bangkokians need another international school to choose from. When it comes down to choosing a place to send you kids to school, it really seems that international school is synonymous with quality, or at least that’s what most Thais believe. This belief stems from the aversion to the traditional Thai educational system in which rote memorization and lectures are the mainstays. Old fashioned teachers still abound and many Thai educated teachers are teaching the same way that they were taught.

Now, if you have the money to pay for ISB, NIST, Bangkok Prep, Regents, Harrow or any similar school, I say go for it. These schools provide the best education that money can buy. But be forewarned, these schools are based on British or American curricula and are comprised of Western teachers. Your child will be thrown in with the children of expats and other well-to-do Thais and acquire English to the point of native English fluency. As a Thai, however, you do run the risk of raising a child with very few Thai values unless you take the extra time to provide the training which these international schools will not provide.

While I am skeptical of the claims made in the article about Ivy League International School, I am hopefully that other Thais see the need for educational reform in Thailand. I agree that “education is the key to improving society” because by teaching our children, we can influence the leaders of tomorrow. I also applaud Ivy’s ambitious mission “to provide high-quality education for children so that they will grow up to become productive and responsible citizens. We would like to teach children to push beyond memorisation of accepted facts; to question and explore issues and ultimately to think critically on their own. The spirit of inquiry and intellectual excitement is what we would like children to experience at our school,” as this is exactly what I believe education is all about.

However, with such lofty expectations and claims, why does Ivy plan to accept only students aged 3-8? Granted young children are the most malleable and easily influenced at this age, real change will only occur if children are continually trained with the skills needed to become leaders and productive members of society. The small classroom size of 8-10 is amazing, the school is in a prime location for expats and wealthy Thais and the price, 400 thousand baht a year, is expensive to say the least. All this makes for  very elite school that is bound to serve only the super rich Bangkokians. Sure, these students will get a world class education promised by Ivy League International School, but then again they would have received a world class international school education anyway.

If we want to make a change in Thailand’s educational system, lets try to provide quality education and a price that middle class Thais can afford. Society is comprised of all types of people in order to run properly and not all of us can be the leaders of tomorrow. For the rest of us who will become politicians, musicians, teachers, doctors, nurses and business people, a good Thai school will provide the learning experiences needed to open the door to further opportunities later in life without sacrificing our Thai identify.

From the Nation newspaper in Thailand

School for future leaders

Chatiporn Assarat inherited a strong urge to improve Thailand’s education standards from his forebears.

Published on December 11, 2007

He and his two sisters have launched a new international school in Bangkok which they say will be in a class of its own, taking children and making them into ethical leaders. Chatiporn’s strong family heritage in public service can be traced back to the late 1800s. For instance, in his maternal lineage, his great-grandfather, General Luang Suranarong (Thongchai Jotikasthira), served as a royal aide-de-camp and privy councillor to His Majesty King Bhumibol. And on the paternal side of his family, Udane Tejapaibul, one of Thailand ‘s philanthropic legends, is Chatiporn’s great-uncle. Ivy Bound International School has been initiated by Chatiporn, 28, and his sisters Jiraorn, 29, and Sikan, 24. Their parents, Vichai and Ketana, believe strongly that education is the key to improving society. They are preparing to invest more than Bt400 million to realise the dreams of their children – to provide a quality education for kids. The school will be located on 3.5 rai in Sukhumvit Soi 39. It will be developed in two phases. The first phase will offer an after-school enrichment programme and the second stage will be a full-scale international school, serving children between the ages of three and eight. Construction will begin next year, with an official opening in 2009. The two-level building will contain 10 classrooms, each accommodating between eight and 10 students. Tuition fees are estimated at Bt400,000 per year. “The mission of Ivy Bound is to provide high-quality education for children so that they will grow up to become productive and responsible citizens. We would like to teach children to push beyond memorisation of accepted facts; to question and explore issues and ultimately to think critically on their own. The spirit of inquiry and intellectual excitement is what we would like children to experience at our school,” Chatiporn said. “Beyond stimulating children’s cognitive development, schools also have the responsibility to instil strong ethical morality in children. I would like to develop a new generation of Thai children who are proud of our heritage and understand the value of giving back to society. Strong leadership skills and good ethics are qualities that our country desperately needs.” Jiraorn, who is in charge of the curriculum, said: “Ivy Bound is led by a team of educational experts who have all received their degrees from Ivy League colleges. We are a school that understands the cultural context in which Thai students achieve in school. With this knowledge, we can make the necessary adaptations of programmes and methods largely conceived in the West to the needs and background of Thai students. It will be a school in a class of its own.” Chatiporn received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Williams College in Massachusetts and a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University in New York City, focused on public management and education policy-making. His older sister Jiraorn received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University, and holds two masters’ degrees in education from Harvard and Stanford Universities. The youngest of the three, Sikan, also received a bachelor’s degree from Williams College, concentrating on educational psychology. At present she is working on a master’s degree in education at Harvard University.

Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn  

The Nation

Pomelo Liquor Rise In Popularity

A new Thai product is increasing in distribution. It is a brandy made from the pomelo fruit. A pomelo is a citrus fruit often mistakenly called a grapefruit. It is actually much sweeter and has larger sacs than a grapefruit. The liquor is now available at select International airports and hotels in Thailand.

From the Nation newspaper in Thailand.

Fruit liquor sells well

Sawasdee Brewery, a producer of pomelo liquor, is reaping the fruits of its creativity. The product has proved popular with tourists after being on the market for only a year.

Published on December 11, 2007



The company is asking Bangkok Airways, the operator of Samui Airport, to distribute the liquor there and at U-Tapao Airport, near Pattaya. A deal could be signed this year, managing director Pacharaporn Kerdkaewfa said.

The drink is available at King Power Duty Free at Suvarnabhumi Airport and its downtown store.

Orders are received from hotels in tourist destinations such as Phuket.

Pacharaporn decided on pomelo for the fruity brandy because she lives in Nakhon Chai Si district of Nakhon Pathom, home to the country’s best pomelo. The beverage comes in a specially designed bottle.

“I wanted to market a unique product. The company’s target buyers are tourists with large incomes. At the beginning, I wanted to sell it at Suvarnabhumi Airport, which accommodates more than 40 million passengers a year. I sent the liquor to the purchase department of King Power for testing and they accepted it,” she said.

Pacharaporn said Korean and Russian tourists especially liked the brandy.

At present, the company produces 5,000 bottles a month but can increase that.

Besides Suvarnabhumi, she plans to sell at other international airports.

She wants to distribute to Chiang Mai and Phuket airports’ duty-free shops.

“My company’s gone further than I expected. It is growing after just one year,” she said.

Sawasdee will make a dragon-fruit gin next year.

She hopes Thai Airways International will stock it on its flights. She said this was a good way to promote fruity liquors.

Sawasdee manufactures spa products made from coconut and pomelo, such as coconut oil and pomelo scrub, she said.

“Liquor and spa products are in the same market. Both are distributed in hotels and high-end pubs,” she said.

Nalin Viboonchart

 The Nation

Global Climate Change and Thailand’s Coast

If you are in Thailand and visit the seaside towns of Hua Hin and several less touristy beaches south of there, you can see how roads running parallel to the beaches have been washed away. Many times these roads are repaired only to be pounded on in the next monsoon season and get washed away again. Of course, in these areas the beaches are spotted with resorts which motivate the repairs and these businesses will invest money and time into protecting their shoreline and adjacent beachfront.

This video shows how global climate change is altering the coast of Thailand. It depicts locals who live along the Gulf of Thailand with their description of how the shoreline has been eaten away and their village has had to move several times to escape the encroaching waves. Often times, the direct effects of global climate change are hard to see, but in this short video we can see how these villagers’ lives are affected by global climate change and how their homes are being altered year by year.

About this video:

The UN is warning that Bangkok is one of thirteen cities at risk of disappearing into the sea because of climate change.
Al Jazeera’s Selina Downes been taking a look at how authorities in Thailand’s capital are trying to tackle the problem.

Date Added:

December 10, 2007

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAqBYaqozeM

Fight Against Rabies in Thailand

 Rabies is a deadly disease prevalent in Thailand. It is a virus spread by bites and scratches from an animal that is a carrier of the virus. Symptoms of rabies are frothing at the mouth, running around wildly and snapping at the air. Any warm-blooded animal can be a carrier of rabies.

All dogs and cats are required to be vaccinated. The vaccine is cheap and readily available from veterinarians around the country. Boosters should be given annually.

Unfortunately, routine vaccinations are rarely enforced in Thailand and it is up to the pet owners to be responsible and ensure that their pet is up to date on its vaccinations. To make the situation worse, the millions of stray dogs and cats who have no owners rarely receive health care of any kind, let alone annual vaccinations.

Thailand is one of the countries with the highest risk for travelers. About 200-300 human deaths are contributed to rabies annually in Thailand with 95% of those due to dog bites (from Medical College of Wisconsin).

About this video:

It has been called “a forgotten disease”. Yet, rabies claims 55,000 lives worldwide per year – with most deaths occurring in rural areas of Africa and Asia.
It is a disease that can be eliminated, as has happened in developed countries. But in Asia the fight often faces cultural challenges.
Selina Downes reports from Bangkok.

Date Added:

October 28, 2007

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz4Adx6eCLA

Beowulf IMAX 3D

Last Saturday, I spent the afternoon wandering around Paragon in Siam. I decided to watch Beowulf. My cousin recomended the IMAX version and so I bought my 250 baht ticket for the 18:10 show. The 300 baht tickets had the same chairs and amount of leg room, but further from the screen. I enjoy watching historical movies set in times long past. Beowulf is a well known tale of the 6th century poem about the hero who defeats a huge troll, one-eyed sea monster and a dragon. In this rendition, Beowulf is a brave and arrogant king who is fearless. His weakness is his desire for fame and fortune for which he makes a pack with Grendel’s mother to ensure.

It was a good movie although the 3D effects were what really made it a great movie. Beowulf is the first movie that I’ve watched in IMAX 3D and it was probably a very good choice. The film is perfectly suited to it because it is an action animation movie. Zemeckis’ epic retelling of Beowulf displays the progress of performance capture since he first debuted the technology in Polar Express. Although the characters’ skin had an unusually shiny appearance, the improvement in the human characteristics since Polar Express is amazing.

 Ray Winstone plays Beowulf and with the help of computer imaging which changes him into the larger-than-life hero. The monsters are also modelled after the actors and actress that voice them. Angelina Jolie portrays the repitlian seductress and Crispin Glover plays the monsterous Grendel. The visual effects even track the muscle pulls in the eyes and eyelids. That means that there is more emotion in the eyes that actually comes from the actors and actresses.

The best part of watching Beowulfwas watching the 3D effects, especially in the landscape and action sequences. One particular scene that was lovely to watch is when the hawk snatches up the rat from the roof top and the screen shows the winter scenery below changing util Grendel’s lair. The last action scene that ends with Beowulf ripping the heart out of the dragon keeps your heart racing until the end.

If you have the chance watch this movie in IMAX 3D.  Siam Paragon in Bangkok is the only movie theater to offer IMAX in Thailand. It is the largest screen in the country and boasts an amazing sound system as well. The movie screen is filled with so many holes you can actually see the speakers behind the screen. You also get to wear the goofy 3D glasses that help to bring the two seperate  2D images on the screen into one 3D image. It’s worth the money!

Subaru Cars in Thailand

Subaruhas a reputation for being expensive in Thailand as these cars are taxed highly as imports. At the Subaru display at the motor expo there was the new 1.5 Subaru Impreza 4 door and 5 door. This is the lowest priced Subaru on the market in Thailand. Elsewhere in the display you could see the Outback, Legacy and WRX model of the Impreza. These cars were so shiny and I got the chance to sit behind the driver’s seat of a few of the cars. With its rally car heritage, Subaru cars provide high performance, AWD (All Wheel Drive), Boxer (horizontally-opposed) engine, driving dexterity and overall safety. True driving enthusiasts everywhere can appreciate the design of these cars, especially whenever tight curves and winding roads are near.

To get a feel for the prices of Subaru cars in Thailand, here’s a short list:

  • Forester 1,890,000-2,790,000 baht
  • Impreza Sedan/Wagon 1.6i 1,400,000-1,550,000 baht
  • Impreza WRX 2,590,000-3950,000 baht
  • Legacy Sedan/Wagon 2,149,000-3,950,000 baht
  • R1 and R2 999,000-1,099,000 baht

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Locations to buy Subaru cars are limited since there as so few showrooms in Thailand. You are lucky if you live close to one. Subaru launch in Thailand.

Motor Image Showrooms

*Motor Image Subaru (Thailand) Co., Ltd.

12/17 Moo 2, Serithai Road
Khlongkum Sub-District
Buengkum District
Bangkok 10240, Thailand
Tel

:

(66) 2 725 1888
Fax

:

(66) 2 725 1899

2232 New Petchburi Road
Bangkapi, Huaykwang
Bangkok 10320

* Authorized Dealers

Subaru Bangkok Co., Ltd.

184/1-4 Soi Petchkasem
27/1 Petchkasem Road,
Phasicharoen,
Bangkok 10160
Tel

:

0-2868-7875-7
Fax

:

0-2467-5133

Subaru Chiangmai Auto Sales Co., Ltd.

464 Chiangmai-Lampang Rd.,
Muang District
Chiang Mai 50000
Tel

:

053-242767
Fax

:

053-245280

Tanasiri Motor Co., Ltd.

440 Tivanon Rd., Tasai,
Muang, Nonthaburi 11000
Tel

:

0-2952-3287-8
Fax

:

0-2952-3285