A Phenomenology of Thailand

Your jail-cell window to Bangkok.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

a shopping mecca indeed

Majority of Steven Goh's examples of growth in the retail industry in Asia came from Thailand:

Tesco Lotus Express -- literally our sari-sari store sa kanto
FoodLoft in Central Chidlom -- i definitely miss this one
Paragon -- i still wonder why they demolished the old Inter-Continental Hotel for another shopping mall

I couldn't help but feel a twinge of belongingness to Thailand despite the fact that I'm back in Manila. I do miss Bangkok dearly and sometimes wish that I can click my red heels and say "There's no place like Emporium". Hahaha.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

the small stuff

the everyday thai stuff that i miss:

- automatically having straws in the bag whenever you buy a drink
- seeing people made-up and dressed
- perfectly cut vegetables and fruits in every market, Tesco Lotus, and Carrefour
- green tea drinks everywhere
- noodles!

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Guess who was in town? Poor guy, he had 3 official engagements in one day - regardless of the fact that he's 72, was jet-lagged, and had to talk the whole day! No wonder he's an international leadership guru.


In one part of his lecture, he used the expression "DUH!" to stress a point (and repeated it several times too) - I asked my co-workers if they understood the word and apparently Duh is such a non-polite word that there is no Thai equivalent to it. No wonder The Simpsons aren't well-loved here.


Yesterday's conference reminded me that sales will never be an alternative career. I was part of registration and being chirpy and helpful at 7am will never really be my thing - probably moreso because 9 out of 10 participants would talk to me in Thai and I'd give them a standard smile and refer them to the next person.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


It's funny how we get attached to things - a mobile phone that can reach family and friends, a favorite pen that makes your signature look perfect, or a worn-out shoe that still feels comfy after a thousand miles. I've cleaned out my desk at work and emptied my drawers, but have put off handing over my computer, chair, and table to my replacement -- yes I am probably in denial.

For the past 2 1/2 years, my computer has been my faithful friend and my virtual link to the outside world. It has been my sole witness and companion to the madness of my stay here - how, instead of bursting into tears or staging a solo walk out, I hammered into my keyboard all the insults, curse words, and ill wishes that I could not say. Despite being here physically, my mind and spirit have really been elsewhere, much like Hermione (in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) - and my computer and phone line have been my magic compass to take me there. My little corner at work has been a refuge of sorts - in here I have zoned out the words I wish I did not hear and the thoughts I did not want to entertain. Somehow, in this little space I call my domain, I have held on to who I was before I came here.

Now my bulletin board is empty, Post-Its stashed away, drawers empty, and CDs gone. As I turn over my table, delete my files, and change my passwords, my Bangkok chapter slowly draws to a close - by Monday I'll be sitting in a makeshift desk that doubles as a paper station, with a computer whose sole purpose is to go online.

I survived Bangkok.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

the real thing

Now this is a real recruitment ad. How I wish the Thai market was this mature, and had better English comprehension.

*image from hodes.com

Sunday, November 07, 2004

goodbye chatuchak

Last Saturday, I said goodbye to Chatuchak. In all my trips here, I always linger in the home section where a variety of ceramics, wooden decor, and silk table runners are found. This time, I bought a fitting souvenir - an 8-inch wooden Sawasdee Girl. I've always admired the craftsmanship in Thai woodwork. but have delayed buying any home items for lack of a home to decorate (hehehe!). Best of all, it only cost me 350 Baht for 2 pieces! After a few more stops, I had too much to carry and was ready to call it a day. I will miss the hustle and bustle of Chatuchak, and everything in it except the pet section!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

only in thailand

Thai English Sample of The Day:

Setting: a classifed ad for a major manufacturing company

Copy sent to me: "Able to work under pleasure and flexibility"

Thought bubble: Hmm... maybe they require their employees to wear leather to work, and hook them up in chains too.

Monday, November 01, 2004

pratunam marathon

Realizing that I only had a few weekends left, I went on a marathon shopping trail yesterday at the Pratunam area. After our usual Sunday brunch, R & I went to Pratunam to scout for funky bargain finds. Ironically, I've lived in Bangkok for 2+ years but have only shopped in Pratunam once.

Psyched as we were, it took another full hour before either of us bought anything - we were both reaching the boredom point because nothing was appealing. But true to shopping form, after I purchased something, I was on a roll. Before we knew it, we had walked around for 2 hours (no drink, food, or bathroom breaks!) and literally walked around the whole Pratunam area.

Our next stop was a sidewalk vendor near the boat station, a stone's throw away from Pratunam. I always pass this lady on my way to yoga class, and her knit tops are the best - and her prices are pretty unbeatable. R and I virtually wiped out the woman's merchandise for the day since we were both buying in bulk (a.k.a. hoarding). One customer was even waiting for us to return a few pieces we were holding because they wanted them if we were not going to buy them!

Our last stop was a few meters down the road - Big C's underwear section and Fashion Outlet. After depositing our bags, we were off to the lingerie section. For some strange reason, Big C always has a good selection of Wacol bras, even better than most malls. I guess it's because the display is more organized and staff are more friendly here. Best of all, we didn't have to line up to pay for our purchases because the salesgirl took care of it!

Last on the list was Fashion Outlet (inside Big C) where the cheapest and best thermal underwear can be found. (Since Bangkok is a popular tourist destination, there are a lot of stores that carry winter apparel overruns.) After another hour of browsing thru the merchandise, I declared our marathon was over - my legs were killing me and my pockets were definitely lighter than 5 hours before... plus, R & I realized we were both hungry as it was already 8:30. WIth shopping bags that made us look like tourists, we went home and called it a day. Any more shopping and I'll really need a 10-ft. container to ship my things back home!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


To take advantage of my last long weekend in Bangkok, we went to Kanchanaburi. As we were only taking the bus, we left M's place at 6:30am and got to the Southern Bus Terminal at 7:30. Just like any other long weekend, people were packed like sardines - long lines at the ticket booths and people waiting at the bus docks woke up our systems. By 7:45, we boarded the bus, marking the start of our 3-hour trip to the River Kwai Resotel.

We got to the Kanchanaburi bus station in 2 hours, and were greeted by songtaew drivers eager to get passengers. We hired one old driver who looked trustworthy and told him to bring us to Thong Pa Phum, where the resort's boat was docked. We didn't realize how far it was - 120+ km away from Kanchanaburi - it took us another hour just to get to the small dock. No wonder the driver said that 500 Baht (for the whole songtaew) was the standard rate!

The resort's long-tail boat took us on a 10-minute ride along the River Kwai. When we got to the resort's pier, we were impressed by the sheer beauty of the view - 2 mountains divided by a river, and a beautiful resort with a rustic ambience. The resort's website does not do them justice - you have to experience the stillness and closeness to nature it offers.

After settling into our rooms and a hearty lunch, we walked around the resort and followed the trail to Lawa Cave. The trail itself was a path worthy of pictures since plants, flowers, shrubs, and herbs were in abundance. Apparently, Lawa Cave was in a small national park so we had to pay a fee at the entrance of the park. 100 steps (going uphill) later was the entrance to the cave. Although dark and damp, the deeper parts of the cave proved to be awesome. Curtain-like stalactites created odd walls and pillars that seemed to hold pieces of history - it felt like a scene fresh out of a Tolkien novel. The cave had big pockets which felt like a big empty room, and sometimes small pathways reminiscent of secret passageways in big houses. (I obviously watch way too much TV.) To top it all off, there were about a hundred SLEEPING bats in one part. I did not dare take a picture, for fear of waking up those ugly creepy things. The photos we took do not convey the beauty of the stalactites - much like seeing frozen waterfalls in Banff... you have to discover the beauty yourself. (Plus, it was dark so my camera could not take pictures properly.)

After breakfast, we rented mountain bikes and took the small, paved road at the back of the resort. Although it was a small road leading to the main highway (we assumed so since there were a few cars going up to the cave), the scenery was nonetheless breathtaking. We were practically biking thru a meadow filled with trees on both sides, and a view of other mountains in front of us. Getting on a bike again took me back to my younger years when riding bikes under the hot sun was an everyday activity. I loved the sound of the bike's tires gripping the gravel and pebbles, and its gentle hum while we were going downhill.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back. After lunch we made our way back to the concrete, crowded, and polluted streets of Bangkok, armed with a healthy dose of tranquility and calm to last us (or them) til the next long weekend. As for me, it was a fitting goodbye to fun long weekends in Thailand, and a gentle reminder that there will always be memories and places to come back to when the right time comes.

Friday, October 22, 2004

discovering asia's pop culture

In college, I had a Film class that I truly enjoyed. Even if it was a 3-hour class on a Wednesday, I looked forward to it since all we did was watch movies. Our professor showed us a buffet of movies - from Citizen Kane to other Asian movies. After that semester, I was hooked on cultural films.

My move to Bangkok has not only widened my perspective on Asia, but has also given me appreciation of the unique facets of each culture. No wonder Europeans think that Asia is so exotic. Even if I don't understand Thai, I regularly channel-hop to watch interesting shows and ads (deciphering what they mean is another story altogether).

In the past 2 years, I have been able to watch and truly enjoy a few Asian pop culture pieces that may even outdo their Hollywood pop counterparts. Of course these pieces cannot compare to the more visually-poetic French-Vietnam piece "Scent of Green Papaya" or Thailand's sexually-disturbing Jan Dara... that would be like comparing a La Vie En Rose with The Princess Diaries.

My Sassy Girl

Directed by: Kwak Jae-Yong
Starring: Cha Tae-Hyun, Jeon Ji-Hyun

The first half of this movie was a bit slow - I was tempted to either give up on it or fast forward it at the very least. But the slow development was quite worth it - after 30 minutes, the story takes an interesting turn and ends beautifully with dramatic cinematography. The theme song is also kilig-worthy, although it's sung in Korean.

Love Letter

I tried watching this Korean series on local TV, ergo it was dubbed in Thai. I got the story mixed up so everytime it was shown on TV, I'd ask my co-workers what the story was about. I am Korea-ignorant so I was surprised to see that the Catholic faith is stong there. It's a very welcome change from pinoy dramas that are full of screaming, crying, and sabunutan.

Meteor Garden

Now who doesn't recognize Meteor Garden? I had already moved to Bangkok when this series consumed the Philippines so I did not understand why virtually everyone liked F4. They were on Thailand's billboards and buses but I didn't think they looked cute in any angle. So when R lent me the full series, I went on a Meteor Garden marathon and began to understand why girls are so gung-ho about them. (I do understand the fondness for those 4 boys but I'm definitely not about to run to the nearest bookstore to buy a special F4 magazine, nor am I crazy enough to shell out a huge amount of money to watch them perform live.)

The plot and locations used in Meteor Garden are impressive. Although it has a lot of cliche in it - bus chasing, saving your damsel-in-distress, poor girl rich guy - it has that kilig factor that all of us are looking for. I loved the theme song, and liked it even more when I found the English translation to it.

Watching Asian movies or soaps are definitely better than otherwise-tiring pinoy plots. Mainstream Philippine movies like the Mano Po series or Tito, Vic & Joey movies - suck the artistry out of cinema. Let's just hope there are budding Lino Brockas out there who can produce better films with less sampalan, iyakan, at sabunutan.