On this blue Sunday, I find myself in limbo at Bangkok International Airport. While I usually adore arriving at Suvarnabhumi, this particular visit feels surreal. Yes, I am on Thai soil and my AIS SIM-card connects to the mobile network, yet I am not able to leave the airport. Yes, I was out in the open air for a full 3 minutes, yet I am not able to meet my lovely wife. Yes, I am able to buy a sandwich at the very same Subway stand I always buy a snack before I leave, yet I have just arrived. Yes, it is 07:57 local time, but it’s only 01:57 in Belgium, and 08:57 in Shanghai where my next flight will land around 16:00. All a bit confusing, but that’s not all.
Commercial empires aren’t exclusive to mainstream business. Successful multinationals exist in underground markets just as well. A textbook example is British Dragon, the Pattaya laboratory that supplied the world with steroids. Ironically, it was conceived as a direct result of the clamp-down on the illicit anabolics trade and found its demise when Thailand increasingly integrated with the international intelligence community. The rise and fall of a shadow empire.
Over the last 3 years I have been trying to capture the essence of how Thai rural night markets look. There is something about the combination of a sunset and many different light sources, casting all kinds of shadows, that I find very appealing. My attempts have largely unsuccessful, up until recently in Phimai. For the first time I have been able to reproduce something that comes close to what I see in my mind’s eye. A selection of images is available if you continue reading. Any feedback is most welcome.
Pahurat, also known as Little India, is the neighbourhood just west of Yaowarat (Chinatown). Originally an enclave of the Vietnamese, and other South-East Asian cultures, Indians moved in shortly after the construction of the road that gave the area its name. About a century ago, the Sikh community settled a textile trading centre there, which is still very active and also trades in traditional clothing, including Thai. With my
girlfriend wife an accomplished traditional Thai dancer, the latter was our main motivation to head out there. Pictures of a colourful day in Little India, if you continue reading. Here are the directions, if you want to do some unusual shopping or have authentic Indian food in Bangkok.
This post started off as a follow-up to The Story of EST Cola. Thought to have come across another story of a Thai company standing up to a multinational conglomerate, I started to research The Pizza Company. Its founder did refuse to fold to Pizza Hut and he is Thai. But in another way he isn’t. This is what happens when business acumen, opportunity and sheer luck align. The tale of an empire that helped shape modern-day Thailand.
Yantra tattoos are extremely popular, even beyond Thailand’s borders. While Western tattoos typically have sentimental value, Thai tattoos have deeper meaning. Their distinctive style and magical powers date back millennia. Here is the result of my research into the history and practice of Sak Yant.
Every year, the Thai community in the Benelux area meets up late August in the seaside city of Bredene for the event formerly know as Thaise Markt (Thai market). Rebranded as I ❤ Thailand Festival and on a slightly different location, this year’s edition on August 19th seemed to draw in an even bigger crowd than before. With a large food court, a market area, traditional Thai dance, family-oriented activities, an outdoor live music stage, an indoor party area, this year’s introduction of a Muay Thai boxing competition and plenty lot of Chang beer, there is something for virtually anyone. Just like last year, I did a photo spread in my signature style. Available if you continue reading. I do hope you’ll enjoy the pictures.
We met Laurent while he was working behind the bar of our favorite tennis club. For years he entertained us with amusing tales about life in Isaan, Thailand’s North-Eastern region. His stories would cast such an enticing net that eventually we would be drawn to Siam ourselves. A taste of paradise can slowly turn into a lethal dose of poison. This is the story of a severe case of Thai expat’s disease, as I like to call it.
At least twice a year I fly from Brussels to Bangkok and back. My wife usually makes the same round-trip in the opposite direction every 12 months. With intercontinental flights not exactly cheap, we try to maximize our budget. Let me teach you the tricks we have picked up over time. Some are obvious, others a lot less so. Most European frequent flyers will probably benefit from reading this post. As an example, my latest air fare was just EUR 314.