Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fan of Fanta

I love Fanta Red. I even blogged about it when I found it sold in Eddie's hometown KK in this post. I mistakenly thought it was Cherry flavour, it's actually strawberry. I can no longer find this in most of Malaysia (except in KK for an exorbitant price) and Singapore, so was really chuffed to see it in abundance here in Bangkok.

It appears indeed true that Malaysia and Singapore doesn't carry this soft drink; as shown in this Wiki page.

And from that wiki page, I also learnt something very interesting:

Red Fanta has been officially endorsed by the King of Thailand as one of his preferred drinks. Consequently, glasses and open bottles of red Fanta are often seen as offerings on the small Buddhist altars displayed by every Thai home and shop.

He he I have royal taste or what?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Into the heart of the red shirts' den

I don't know what it is with us and the red shirts. The more we try to avoid them, the more we bump into them.

Eddie has been very cautious in avoiding the areas where the red shirts are. Me, less so but anyway, today, we decided to drive to Thonglor, a suburb away from the protest sites, for lunch. Some of my friends who live near the protest site have actually moved to Thonglor, temporarily.

Our first foray into Thonglor wasn't fruitful. The Soi (road) was very jammed up so after we passed by Tops and 8 Thonglor, we turned left to park at this Home Mart. When we came out, we should have looked left to go to J Avenue where there are lots of restaurants. Instead we walked right to where we had driven past. Ended up walking all the way to Tops, and when Sean saw Burger King, he insisted on eating there. By then, I was so tired of looking for things to eat, all of us ended up eating BK!

Not in a very good mood, we proceeded home after lunch. Eddie had set his GPS for our apartment, and the journey home would not take us anywhere near the red shirt encampment. HOWEVER, instead of our apartment, he had actually set it for another development, with a very similar name, right where the red shirts were.

I was already puzzled when the directions said to drive to New Petchburi Road and the GPS eventually led us to Chidlom, past the barriers, into Langsuan. We were stopped by red shirt guards when passing a barrier but they let us pass through with little bother. I managed to take some quick photos.

Actually, aside from the barricades, the lanes inside the barricaded areas seem rather peaceful. Not many red shirts at all. Of course, this isn't the main artery of the protest, that would be on Ratchaprasong. Hope everything gets settled soon. I'm seriously tired of hanging out at Emporium and Central Rama 3.

The How of Happiness

YY or Mariposa, a reader, brought this book, The How of Happiness, to my attention. In a comment on this post, YY said, "Have you read the book 'The How of Happiness' by any chance? Sounds like you might have.. ;-) I'm in the middle of it now and it's one of the most illuminating books I've ever read! It may end up next to the bible for me in terms of guidance for living... :D"

Wow, next to the bible! Now this perked my curiosity. I've not read the book but found an iPhone app called Live Happy, and here's a video of the author talking about this app.

I asked YY why she would think that I might have read the book and she said, "Oh, because you mentioned in a recent post that you don't think you're a fundamentally happy person (the book posits, through research, that people are born with a predetermined 'happiness-setpoint'--a happiness thermostat, if you will--that determines the basic 50% of their happiness).

And then in this post you mentioned the term 'overthinking'--which the book elaborated on as one of the list of 'happiness activities' to embark on (this one is about *avoiding* overthinking, actually).

However later as I searched your blog I realized you had previously read something called the 'Happiness Project' and was at one time applying its suggestions.

Oh I see. I totally believe in Happiness Setpoint. This is not really from reading any book or from that Happiness Project site (which I've not visited in a long time), but partly from listening to New Creation's Pastor Prince's sermons, I think. Whatever one might say about this pastor's swanky lifestyle, all I know is his sermons are the only ones that ever stick in this cynical mind of mine.

So anyway, I remember having an aha moment when Prince said something about how nothing can really satisfy or make us truly, truly happy but Jesus (and I expect other religions teach the same, either to search within or at a higher being). And then I thought about all the promotions we hanker after, that new house, the latest gadget, that wonderful crush...and you notice how you tell yourself that you will be happy forever if only you get that promo, that person to love you back, that gorgeous apartment, and yes, you do get a high after achieving something, and then within weeks, days even, you're back to your old self. Nothing really changes. The same old things still bother you. The same issues still make you depressed, think negative thoughts, think the future's bleak, lose precious sleep over.

So when you depend on these achievements, or even people, for your happiness, you are bound to be disappointed. Cos even those closest to you, your spouse, your children, they will say or do things which hurt you. You do the same to them.

Not overthinking things helps too. Overthinkers tend to be a less happy lot, I think. There I go again, even blogging about this is kind of overthinking, isn't it? haha.

So this book says we have a happiness setpoint, which determines about half of our state of happiness, another 10% is due to our circumstances, which leaves 40% that can be determined by our actions (I may be wrong, this is just what I gleaned from the video).

I guess the 10% is where Money comes in, having means helps, but note only 10% or less, according to the book. Monica and I were just talking about the recent Idol Gives Back, and how the African kids, despite their intense suffering and poverty, still smile and always look happy. She went on to say, "Our kids seem like spoilt brats.", I said, "Not just our kids, us too!"

Now what about the 40%? I don't know what the book says, but here's something I learnt from my mother-in-law. She's a staunch Buddhist who meditates. She's gone through lots yet laughs a lot, though sometimes I do see sadness still in her eyes amid the laughing. I asked her once how she manages to stay positive, and she said something about how there really is nothing much you can do to change others, you can only make changes in yourself. It's like what I always tell my kids, you can't control how other act, you can only control how you react.

From my talk with her, I also realised that for the most part, no one actually intentionally goes out to hurt us or be cruel to us. The villains in our lives (for the most part, I'm not talking about rapists, murderers, paedophiles) do so to fulfil their own needs, yes, even thieves cos they need the money to maybe feed their family or their drug habits. Mothers scream at kids cos they are stressed at work. Bosses are mean cos their own bosses are mean to them. Some people are just inherently mean, what can you do about it? You can't let someone else dictate how you let it flow past you. Don't take things personally. I found this helped me a lot to get over unhappiness faster and return back to a happier state.

Being slim makes me happy too. But having struggled with weight all my life, I've only been happy in this aspect a few times in my life, right before my wedding when I was at my skinniest ever, and some other times after crash diets. I blame the media for their portrayal of ideal woman (size zero) and Singapore women in general for being so darn thin, kidding (not really :P)! Well, I now realise I'm never gonna be small, so no more fad dieting, I'll be happy being healthy and at a healthy weight. And no, I'm not there yet, not even close, but I'm taking steps to get fit. Thanks to Hsien, I've embarked on the C25K running programme, and am into my 4th week at it.

Not comparing is another crucial key to happiness. I wanna stop doing this. What I have is what I have. I don't wanna sound like sour grapes too. I will admit it would be nice to have a bigger place than my tiny apartment in Singapore, but if it means extra stress on the sole breadwinner, forget it. If I'm not willing to work my own butt off climbing the corporate ladder and bringing in the dough, I shouldn't be comparing to others who are. It really is about counting our blessings, we all have them. My cousin sister and I have been emailing each other recently, and it really is a case of grass greener over the other side; funny how I think she has it all, and she thinks the same about me.

Anyway, I'm sure the book has lots more to offer, and the tips are said to be scientifically backed up. So go have a read if the pursuit of happiness is something you wanna do, if not, never mind. I'll be looking out for this at the bookstores.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bangkok sweeties

Warning: Reading this post could give you diabetes! First up, Songkran gifts from Eddie's office. The hand garland is for good luck. The sweets here are as sweet as they look, more so maybe. They do look really pretty. No one except me ate even one of the sweets. I tried a brownish looking one which tasted a little like Kueh Dodol, just harder.

The rest of these sweety photos were taken at Gourmet Market in Soi 26/Soi Aree's K-Village, a new low-rise mall which looks like a nice place to chill out in. But no photo-taking is actually allowed, I was told later.

Here's the section on Kiam-Sng-Tee (Salty-Sour-Sweet) goodies, these are dried preserves (someone correct me if I'm wrong). So many to choose from.

Lots of samples.

That's kiwi fruit on the right.

This one I found really interesting. The green stuff (also in container below the samples) is actually Green pepper/Capsicum! Who knew you could make kiam-sng-tees from Capsicum, and they were delicious.

Fruits galore. Thailand is tropical fruit heaven...they even cut the fruits so nicely for you, of course you pay a slight premium for this convenience lah. Love the papayas and mangos here.

Pure mango juice, no syrup added. About S$1 a bottle.

And of course the King of Fruits, no samples though. I'm not a fan of Monthong Durians. Even though Thai durians look more majestic, I still think Malaysian durians rule, much more fragrant (or pungent depending on your affinity to the fruit).

First Thai cooking class

Learnt two Thai dishes yesterday while the boys were at school. They are Pad Ka Pao, nice name ya? Pad Kapow!! It's a fried spicy minced pork dish.

The second dish was Khang Ju, pork ball soup. Both recipes can be found here.

So after school, I headed to the supermarket to hunt for the ingredients. A very nice Thai lady told me Ka Pao is actually Holy Basil (there are different kinds of basil, another type is used when frying beef). Got all my stuff and ta-da, dinner is served. Made a non-spicy version of Pad Ka Pao for Sean but he still struggled through his dinner. Both Eddie and Brian liked the new dishes though.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Red Shirts in Rama IV

Today, I was supposed to meet a friend in Thonglor, away from where the action is. I thought there wouldn't be a problem cos we were headed away from the city. But on the Rama IV highway, there was bad traffic. The red shirts were having yet another procession :(

The driver thought they were headed to PM Abhisit's house on Soi31, which would mean them turning off soon enough towards Asoke. In other words, traffic would be fine in a bit. Sigh...the buggers never turned off towards Asoke. Realising I would be stuck in traffic and be extremely late arriving for lunch, I called my friend and said I wasn't going anymore. Instead, we turned off and went to Central Rama 3 again (boring...).

I later found out that the red shirts were going through the city displaying their dead from the weekend's clashes (it was actually an empty coffin lah). From what we saw of the reaction from the public to the procession, it is clear that there is strong support for the red shirts' cause, at this stage.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Close shave in Ratchaprasong

The major malls have been closed this past week and only re-opened on Friday. We wanted to watch a 3D movie in the lush Siam Paragon Cineplex and decided to take a cab there yesterday (Saturday).

Red shirts were still camping out at that main avenue but cars had access to that mall. When we got to the mall by taxi, there was security check and we asked what time the mall would close (it was closed at 6pm on Friday). The guard said 8pm, confirming what we read in the papers.

We had lunch and proceeded to the cineplex on the 6th floor. This was around 1+pm. At the cineplex, we were told it was closed. People were queuing to get refunds. Then we saw patrons streaming out of the cinema. Very strange.

Okay, another disappointing visit to the cinema. Nevermind, we'll go window-shopping in Paragon. As we took the escalator down, we started seeing shops closing their shutters. What was going on? Went towards Paragon's entrance and the guard said it was closing at 2pm? Not 8pm? No, closing now. It was a really hurried decision. We realised something must be going on.

I felt uneasy and we quickly headed for the BTS. By now, the crowd getting out of Siam Paragon was HUGE...we knew there was no way of getting a cab. At the BTS station, we saw all the gates were closed except one narrow gate guarded by a BTS staff who was letting people out of the station, and letting a few people squeeze in.

From here, we could hear loud blaring from the rally site and unlike a week ago, the mood wasn't festive anymore. I felt that after a week of camping out in the hot sun, the red shirts were getting edgy and impatient.

So there we were with the boys, squeezed in a large crowd, not quite sure what to do. In a couple of minutes, even that gate was shut! We couldn't get in. We were stranded. The crackdown was about to start or had already started.

Although we hadn't wanted to be at the street level where the red shirts were, I knew we had no choice. Told Eddie we will go down and walk towards MBK, away from the rally site. Quickly headed for street level and walked towards MBK. On the way, it was business as usual for many shops on the street level, people were eating in cafes.

But we were not taking any more chances, really fed up already. So at the junction, we found a cab that took us back, without meter. Stayed home and watched Shutter Island, bemoaning our bad luck. We later found out that BTS service was closed soon after.

And this morning, we woke up to news of the crackdown and ensuing deaths. Although the deaths were in another area, not the main shopping area, we still felt it was a close shave.

Hoping normality returns soon.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Red Shirts in Sathorn

We are into our 2nd week in Bangkok and Eddie is back in Singapore for a meeting. So I'm in the apartment with the two boys when I hear loud incessant honking from outside. I head for the balcony and this is what I saw.

Two large red shirt convoys just went past Sathorn road across from where we live. I was a little worried that they were planning to camp here like they are doing in Ratchaprasong shopping area. But it doesn't seem like they've parked themselves anywhere nearby as traffic is smooth after they left. Still, it was a little unnerving :(

My poor baby

Since moving in to our temporary apartment, I've noticed the door of our 2nd bedroom slamming shut by itself when the balconies of that bedroom and the hall were both opened. I shuddered to think what might happen if the boys' hands were near the door.

My worst fears came true yesterday when Sean got two of his fingers slammed by the door. And it wasn't as if he was mucking about, in fact, he was helping me keep clothes which were drying near the balcony. He was in and out of the room and I know I should have been more mindful of the danger, but at that time, it just slipped my mind.

The two nails are now darkened and he is in extreme pain. We've applied soothing and anti-inflammatory gel and also dipped his fingers in cold water all day. He wasn't able to sleep since 10pm as he was crying in pain. This went on all night and his throbbing finger kept me up all night too.

Pictures here are not for the faint of heart. And the fact is, by the time I took the pictures, the swelling had already come down a bit, it was worse yesterday, can you imagine?! *Heart ache*

I took a video of the door slamming when I brought the matter up to the management. They eventually fixed a magnet to keep the door open. The fact is that the sound from the video does not really reflect reality. In reality, the slamming is much louder and it's really thanks to God that the finger wasn't smashed.

This is a backpost and it's been 3 months (this is posted in mid July) and both fingers are back to normal now. It was quite a scare then though.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Red Shirts in Ratchaprasong

We've been in Bangkok for a week and on and off we've been hearing of rumours that the red shirts would be stepping up their protests soon. We didn't think very much of this. And today, a Saturday, our first independent day now that our predecessors have left, we decided to take a cab to Central World.

Alamak, we saw that the road leading to Central World was blocked. The taxi stopped us on a road next to Central Chidlom and we made our way towards Central World by foot.

Wow, what a sight. There were red shirts everywhere. The entire mood was one of festivity and fun, with loud music blaring and people dancing and making merry. Still, we made our way as inconspicuously as we could, though the boys were wondering why there was so much noise all around.

When we reached Amarin Plaza, we saw that it was closed. Then we found out all the malls were closed! So we ended up eating brunch at McD there. While inside, there were many red shirts coming in and out to buy food. After we were almost done eating, we saw that McD staff were trying to close up too. This was before noon. Red shirts were upset with them for closing cos I think they wanted access to drinks and food all day. They started giving trouble to the McD staff at the main glass door entrance. We and the other patrons (Japanese/Korean expats) couldn't get out...and had to be led out the side door.

Just our luck, this was the first day that the malls were closed. Was very disappointing. We had no choice but to take the BTS to Phrom Phong's Emporium and watched Clash of the Titans there. The show was rather blah.

Despite our unexpected meeting with the red shirts today, we still felt that things were well under control. Little did we know what was to ensue in the weeks ahead :(

And no I did not take any pictures, not brave enough :)