Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Back home

Sunday I moved back to my apartment after 43 days (and nights) of living in hotels in Bangkok and China (mainly Foshan) due to the flooding at my building and at my workplace. I wasn't exactly roughing it but it's very, very nice to be home.

But Sunday I go back to China for a couple of weeks - still for work related to the flooding event though the water is down at home and at work.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday, September 30

This morning (my morning) I was thrilled to talk to two of my great friends: Orlando and Miguel. Orlando was in Philadelphia, Miguel in Campinas, Brazil and me in Bangkok. Three friends, three continents and a great "bate papo"(fun chat). I miss those guys!

Sunset from my balcony today shortly after a rainstorm:

What you can't tell from the photo is how high the water level of the river is. The is quite a bit of major flooding in the country and many of my low-lying neighbors are at least partially underwater. I'm at no risk on the 9th floor but we have had to move our cars from the underground parking area although right now it's just a precautionary measure. The Chao Phraya river that flows by my building is a tidal river and the high tides keep the water from flowing to the sea and exacerbates the flooding.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunset yesterday on the Chao Phraya River next to my building

My building from the dock. The blue flags are in honor of the queen's birthday.

Nice evening...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Queen of Thailand comes to Suan Thip

Last Thursday the queen of Thailand came to where I live to visit a famous monk who has lives in a cottage on the property. The venerable monk is 97 years old and can't get around very easily. I was told that in his younger days he would visit the queen on her birthday (which was the previous Friday, Aug. 12). This year she came to see him. I missed the hoopla because I was at work.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Headed to Chicago

I'm on my way to Chicago to attend a trade show for commercial interiors. Then Wednesday to Virginia to see family.
I'm in the airport in Seoul waiting for my flight to Chicago, a long way still to go.
Looking forward to seeing friends and family!

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Today marks one year that I've lived in Thailand. I've had an excellent time so far.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hua Hin

Koong and I took advantage of a rare weekend when she wasn't working and a three day weekend for both of us to boot - Labor Day in Thailand (and many other countries). We went to Hua Hin, a resort town on the  coast of the Bay of Thailand about 3 hours drive South of Bangkok. We booked our room at the last minute and ended up at a staying at a Marriott Resort right on the beach. It was an older property but in good shape and beautifully landscaped. And the best feature: right on the beach!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Warden Message: Travel Alert from the State Department

I signed in with the U.S. Embassy when I moved here and as a result I receive these Warden Messages from the Embassy from time to time, usually related to something happening in Thailand. I received this one moments after Obama announced that Bin Laden was dead.

I am fine though, so don't worry.

The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens traveling and residing
abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent
counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan.  Given the uncertainty and
volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent
events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit
their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings
and demonstrations.  U.S. citizens should stay current with media
coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all
times.  This Travel Alert expires August 1, 2011. 

U.S. Embassy operations in affected areas will continue to the extent
possible under the constraints of any evolving security situation.  U.S.
government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert.
These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public
services to assess their security posture.  In those instances, U.S.
Embassies and Consulates will make every effort to provide emergency
services to U.S. citizens.  U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor
the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. Embassy or

Media coverage of local events may cause family and friends to become
concerned for their loved ones traveling and residing abroad.  We urge
U.S. citizens to keep in regular contact with family and friends.  U.S.
citizens living or traveling abroad are encouraged to enroll in the
Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), to
receive the latest travel updates and information and to obtain updated
information on travel and security issues.  U.S. citizens without
Internet access may register directly with the appropriate U.S. Embassy
or Consulate.  By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the U.S.
Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. 

Travel information is also available at www.travel.state.gov.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling
1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers
outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at

For information on "What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a
Crisis," please visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs' website at
www.travel.state.gov.  For further information on specific countries,
U.S. citizens should consult the Country Specific Information pages,
Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings at www.travel.state.gov as well as
the Worldwide Caution.  Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular
Affairs' page on Facebook as well.

Note:  You may be receiving this message more than once.
This email is UNCLASSIFIED

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Playing football (soccer)

About two weeks ago our company had an inter-company football (soccer) game where the factory management played the head office management group. The game kicked off (literally) a few weeks of sporting events between different departments. The games also include foot-volleyball (volleyball played with the feet) and "share ball", a game I've never heard of where the women pass the ball around and shoot at a basket held by one of their teammates who is standing on a chair or ladder at one end of the field. It's like basketball with a moving basket except you can't dribble, just pass and it's played on grass.

Anyway, I played football (soccer) on a reduced field with a team of eight (7 plus a goalie). I hadn't played in over 20 years but did relatively well with and against mostly younger guys except that I missed the defining penalty in the penalty shootout after regular time to break the 2x2 tie , much to my embarrassment. Fortunately the game was mostly about having fun so my teammates are still speaking to me.
But boy, was I sore the next day!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Visit Home

I had a very nice visit back home in the US for about 10 days over a week ago. I had a brief but very fun stop in Chattanooga where I moved some of my "stuff" to a less expensive storage unit and more importantly got to spend some great time with friends. Unfortunately I couldn't see all my friends due to the brevity of the visit but squeezed in some memorable meals, drank some good wine and found time to enjoy one of Jenny Mac's great yoga classes at Clearspring.

Then I drove to Virginia, enjoying the Spring mountain scenery on the way, to spend a week with my parents in Staunton in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a great visit - very relaxing and enjoyable. My father is recovering from a broken knee cap and now getting around quite well. Mom is well too and as good a cook as ever. I may have gained some pounds on this trip... I was able to help a little around the house but mainly it was good just to hang out with them.

It was very comfortable and familiar being back where I can speak the language, read all the signs and especially enjoy the company of long time friends and family.

Then it was time to go back and 30 some hours of travel later (Staunton to Charlottesville to Atlanta to Tokyo to Bangkok)  I was home halfway across the world. The coolest part of the trip was running into my good friend Nancy in the Atlanta airport. She was in my yoga teacher training class and I hadn't seen her in a good while since she doesn't live in Chattanooga. We had a good if brief visit since she had a flight to catch - coming from Buenos Aires and headed home to Florida.

I am back in Thailand and enjoying it too. Although I miss all my friends and family scattered around the planet. Come visit.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Saturday in BKK

Last Saturday in Bangkok, I started the day with meditation then participated in the 97th (!) birthday of the well respected monk, Phra Boonyarit,  who lives in a house on the property. The celebration for me was mainly giving rice to the many monks who came to pay homage to the elder one. The rice is a symbolic offering and the ceremony took place right in front of my building. 

Waiting for the  ceremony

Quite a crowd (on the driveway outside the condo)

Phra Boonyarit

One of the monks receiving the rice

Later that morning I attended a yoga class where, among other asanas we did at least 12 navasanas (boat pose) over the course of 120 minutes, mercifully not all at once. It's a great class taught by a Canadian named Mark at Elements Studio in downtown BKK and it's always challenging and very worthwhile. It always provides me with something to add to my home practice.

Followed that with a Thai lunch (pad thai gai), some errands and then later I met Kanyarat after she finished work and we saw the very entertaining film The King's Speech. After that dinner at an Italian restaurant and then off to Titanium where we danced to the excellent all female house band Unicorn. 

Normally my Saturdays are not that packed but then again I'm never at a loss for something to do here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


The first part of this was written a few weeks ago in China:

Last week I went to China to visit our factory located in Nanhai, which is about 45 minutes drive from Foshan. Foshan is near the mega city of Guangzhou in Southeastern, China. It’s also not far from Hong Kong and the scenic way to come is to take the ferry from Hong Kong up the Pearl River and then a car for about an hour to reach the factory. I was coming from Bangkok though and the easiest way was to fly into Guangzhou and where a car picked me up and took me the new Intercontinental Hotel in Foshan. I have a nice room on the 31st floor overlooking a park with an artificial lake. But you can’t see much beyond that because of the smog, most of which I am told is generated by the huge ceramic tile industries in this area. 

Smoggy view f/ the room

Our factory is small by comparison to the ceramic factories. 
A view of the Tai Ping factory in Nanhai

We make Axminster woven carpets for the hospitality industry (mostly hotels and restaurants) and public spaces like airports and theatres and high-end hand-tufted rugs for residences, boutiques, private planes, as well as public spaces and hotels. They are made with tufting guns that look like oversized drills and that shoot yarn into a canvas like substrate. 

The hand-tufted rugs can be like artwork for the floor – think of painting with yarns of wool and silk instead of paint. It’s more craft than industry. The (mostly) women who make them require 3 to 4 years of experience to be able to make the more complicated ones. Then they are hand-sheared and carved by other craftspeople and the finished rug is a thing of beauty – and usually one of a kind.

Somewhat surreally, at lest in my mind, the hotel has a Brazilian steakhouse restaurant (a chrascaria tipo rodízio where different types of meat are grilled over an open flame)). The chef is a mineiro (someone from the state of Minas Gerais where I grew up) and we had a good chat. He’s done a pretty good job of finding ingredients to create some of the regional specialties and his picanha, a particular Brazilian cut of beef, was most excellent. I enjoyed the taste of Brazil in China, especially since there are no Brazilian restaurants in Bangkok. I know: what about Chinese food? I can get good Chinese in Bangkok and will certainly have that opportunity here in Foshan before I leave.
Somewhere along the way, I suspect lunch at the company canteen although none of my lunch companions who had the same food suffered (but as was pointed out – they are Indian and “can eat anything with impunity), I picked up some intestinal plague that keep me up and miserable most of the night and following morning. My normal hardcore remedy of Imodium, even in a double dose, had no effect. Fortunately a British colleague, MJ, who lives and works here came to my rescue: he sent me some Norfloxacin capsules which he swears by from his days of living in India and I have started feeling better although weak from the experience and not eating. I hate not eating and not even wanting to eat. I should be fully recovered by tomorrow night in time for the commemorative factory dinner, which will be held outside despite temps in the high 40s at night. Oh, the factory is not heated – neither manufacturing areas nor offices so I guess the Chinese are made of sterner stuff than me. I was cold yesterday at least until the afternoon where some of the sun’s warmth had worked its way into the buildings. A colleague from Bangkok visited some factories in Northern China last week and despite temps well below freezing they were not heated. She nearly froze. So it’s not so bad here. Anyway the dinner is to commemorate the end of the year and the start of the Chinese New Year holiday when everyone takes two weeks off and the country – or at least industry – takes a holiday. Most of the factory workers come from villages in the countryside, often many miles away and they all travel back to visit family. Sometimes they don’t come back either for social reasons or because they find something closer to home. The company provides dormitories located right next to the factory for the workforce and also provides free meals at the company canteen so in a way it’s easy to pick up and move.

Feeling much better after the medicine from MJ, I enjoyed the next day and particularly the factory's festive Chinese New Year celebration. Here are some images from the event.

Starting the party

One of the dragon (or lion?) dancers

It's the year of the rabbit. These kids were cute.

Our table: I'm about in the middle of the group. We didn't stay seated for long.

Some of the food 

Awards were given and drawings for gifts went on throughout the evening.

There were dancing girls (and guys too but mostly girls)

More dancing: most of the performers, except the kids, work at the factory. There was singing and a comedy skit too. The MC (not pictured) had an amazing voice although I had no idea what he was saying.

Balloons, bubbles and an almost full moon

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Locked door

Last Saturday as I was leaving the bedroom I shut the door behind me. When I tried to go back in I found that at some point the push button lock had been pushed and I was locked out. Both landline and cell phone were in there along with my wallet, car and house keys. And since it was early morning there was no one about to whom I could have asked for help even if I spoke enough Thai to do that. So I tried unsuccessfully to pick the lock  - fortunately I had access to my toolbox. If you watched enough thrillers you know how easy it is: you just stick in a long narrow pointed object (assuming you have one – and I tried several) jiggle it around a little and presto – the door pops open. Well I must not know the right jiggle or have the right tool because it didn’t open. And the door was too tight with the frame to use the credit card trick so finally I chiseled out some to the wood with a hammer and screwdriver and was able to pry it open with the screwdriver. I didn't panic at any point although I did give the door a couple of good kicks. It didn't give. Anyway I got in and made it to yoga on time but the door doesn't look too great. It was funny in retrospect. And by the way, there are no keys that I know of or could find for any of those internal apartment doors.