Thai Life, live, reflected and quote back

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Beautification of course, it’s a no brainer!

I caught a debate if you can call it that, on day time Thai TV today that made me find time to blog again. The subject discussed was the desire by parents to support their children to get “beautiful” at whatever costs which of course, ends up being plastic surgery, making Thai plastic sergeants laugh all the way to their offshore accounts.

OK most Thai parents can enter extreme parenting. They have to be resourceful in finding the best schools, money to pay, to get into the best school. Then extra tuitions once the little angels get into the best schools so they can be in The “Kings” and “Queens” top classes from kindergarten through to high school and even more extra tuition to make sure they pass entrance exams to the best universities. Perhaps due to this extreme support, it instills in their minds, the needs to be  the “best” come above all else for their children.

Have you ever wonder how many “bests of breed” can we have? At this rate we have to redefine “best” as this word loses its meaning. I know some of you will say that the plus side is Thailand becomes the land of the beautiful so for those who think this, I hope you are being ironic.

I’m all for living amongst beautiful things but not artificially created ones and not one that makes “beauty” a singular attribute a person strives for.

How do we get ourselves out of this rut? Not easy. The more worrying thing about wanting to be the best looking is the creation of society that moves itself further away from understanding humanity and the state of being human.

The show mentioned  that our youths believe that being good looks alone will allow them to do whatever they want. So like getting extra tuitions to pass exams, to be the best in class, parents are obliged to pay for plastic surgery.

Now take a look at Pancake of the cover of Lisa, she can be Korean or even Japanese, no trace of Thai-ness.  This is who most girls aspire t be. Can you imagine the unfortunate girls that aspire to look like her as that means “beautiful” and the level of artificial correction they need?

OK, look alone for “show biz” even if I detest the idea, makes commercial sense but what this show hinted at is that our youth and subsequently their parents (by the way shouldn’t this be the other way round?), think that beauty alone will open doors to all jobs now that is freaking scary! Why? Because it shows that we have lessen the bar yet again for our  youth.  Will Thailand economic growth doubled or quadrupled if all Thai youths are good-looking? No let me rephrase that, not good-looking but looking as good as Korean or Japanese pop stars or  at a bigger stretch, Hollywood stars since we have become so good at being other nationals rather than our own race.

The show also interviewed a legend, well in my life at least but if she has a wiki page perhaps she is truly a legend to us all, Ajahn Mae, Dr. Sunee  Sinthudacha, a brilliant linguist that is renowned for her wits and advocate of Thai culture. She is an educationalist who has done more for Thailand than most by holding a mirror to our culture and dare to speak on the taboo subject that most would rather swept under the media carpet.

Ajahn Mae is an original and she should be someone who modern Thai girls should aspire to be rather than “Pancake.”  She has a voice, she is funny, witty funny which is getting rare to see on TV, clever and has integrity a word that has little association with the media.

True to form during this show, she raised the question why Thais today think that being beautiful is more important than getting the right education. Why parents would rather see their children become famous rather than becoming for example, teachers.  A very good question that sadly  the show did not take out to the street and ask the popular mass.

From my world, this is happening right in front of my eyes, a dear friend who has a beautiful little gal, took her to photo shoot from age 3 month and by six month she was a veteran and now at 4 she is on soap operas, magazine covers and guess what, she can cry when told to cry, sit when told to sit. All her colleaugues including me, cooed at this baby and now when she walked int her mum’s office, she has to post for photos as everyone just want to take her pictures. Well, need I say more!

Right now our youth prefer to be “beautiful” and so when given a choice between education and beautification, it’s a no brainer.

So why as grown ups, do we ourselves, put value on things that has little contribution to the moral fibre of our society and at the detriment of our cultural worth?



Happy New year and a not so happy heart

This weekend will see most Thais do what Thais do best, enjoying the materialistic lifestyle.  A lot of people will be spending their hard earned money on the loved ones  and sense of proportions and living within your means will be discarded as it’s time to show off to all how materialistically generous we can be.

Hedonistic and materialistic through and through. Some might say why not and why ever not indeed.

For those who don’t know we have Valentine and Chinese New Year roll into one weekend. So expect long queues everywhere.

.Xīnnián kuàilè; Happy New Year

Xīnnián kuàilè; Happy New Year

Opulence will be the theme this whole week as the Chinese families busily stocked up goodies to celebrate. This is just the right time to feel generous and also religious. For those living in Bangkok, you might notice something that makes me question our sense of generosity and proportions yet again. There are huge billboards and banners decorating streets of Bangkok asking for parents to send their sons on the spiritual path to be ordained and in return accumulating spiritual profits. The banners are slick, highly emotive and very inviting.

The same campaign technique as the poster on your left and some how reminisce of marketing school classroom!

A few years back we heard of  Wat Dhammakaya and the abbot was being trial for embezzlement but nothing came of it and this foundation as I prefer to call it rather than a monastery, is still actively accumulating wealth and teaching masses of people the new cult of material Buddhism. Let me remind you all again of what this cult is all about before you buy into their marketing machine to enlightenment.

This time Dhammakaya has come out and campaigned for 100,0000 ordinations nationwidee and it has won supports from other monasteries. The question I’m asking is for what benefit is this latest campaign.

Ask yourselves this, why go to such length, the answer if you visit their website is the same as ever, accruing money by selling  to Thais desire for instant spiritual comfort. It beats me telling you that there is no such thing or that money cannot buy you enlightenment though!

Let me remind you by sharing this fantastic piece from Journeyman Pictures.

Something to think of while you enjoy yourselves this Chinese New Year.

If 100,000 men ordain, each one has a family which has minimum numbers of relatives and friends of 10. Being Thais these friends will want to share in the merits and will donate money.  The norm in Bangkok is 500 – 1000 bahts per person. Though the web specifically say that no fee is charged for ordination but all donation goes to Dhammakaya account. Now get your calculator out and work the sum.

Let me remind you that a Buddhist monk, in theory,  has no need for money, no property and no bank account.

Being a practising Buddhist, I ask myself this question, did the Buddha ever campaigned like this or promise enlightenment via donation. I have to confess all that I can find from the teachings are based on understanding the traps that materials bring and how materials wealth bind you to this world of birth and death and not lead to nibbana, feel free to disagree.

If you have spiritual yearning to ordain, just visit your local monastery first and let me tell you, ordination is free anywhere.

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A Different Perspective

I recently came across a gallery, La Lanta first on-line and later in person and thought I should encourage you to take a tour. It was a piece by the Bangkok Post on Photocubism by M.L. Mingmongkok Sonakul that caught my attention.  Here are some examples that I found of interest and like to share with you.

Photo montage of the chaophraya river by M.L. Mingmongkol Sonakul

© 2009 Chaophraya by M.L. Mingmongkol Sonakul

What I like  about the collection of work is that it allows the subject to tell its own story.  Often we only get subjective view of from the artist perspective even when we view a landscape, we see that only from the photographer or painter own perspective.

The next piece I also like because of its simplicity and total honesty.

Photo montage of leaves by M.L. Mingmongkol Sonakul

© 2009 Leaves by M.L. Mingmongkol Sonakul

Then there is  this which makes me chuckles but have a look, corrugated zinc are so beautiful to look at especially the weathered and eroded pieces.

photo montage of corrugtaed zinc

© 2009 Zinc by M.L. Mingmongkol Sonakul

Now this is entitled “Yellow” and I must say, it’s my kind of yellow and I think it’s by far my most favourite.

photo montage of yellloe flames

© 2009 Yellow by M.L. Mingmongkol Sonakul

This puts a new perspective on things. It makes me take a close look at things that we often walk pass without giving it much care or attention. All things deserve a closer look at least  once in your life, for example when you travel down the Chaophraya river, have you taken noticed of the river or are you too busy getting suck into some melodrama playing right in front of your eyes? Or how many times do we walk on dead leaves without seeing what lovely texture they have and how they aged and died in such a graceful way.

Go on if you have time visit La Lanta if not then take a ten min break from your computer screena nd go online and treat your mind to a new way of looking at everyday things.

I would like to say thank you to La Lanta and here is how to get there.

245/14 Sukhumvit soi 31
Klongtan Nua, Wattana,
Bangkok 10110


Escape or confront? What’s your choice?

We all dream of living our life peacefully without facing  any major changes that might have an impact our daily life!

Take Bangkok traffic, we all seems to be able to cope with idiosyncratic drivers, taking short cuts that occasionally end their lives.  But when we have to face major roadwork that will improve the traffic conditions and road safety, what do we do?  We all feel aghast, cheated and shocked at why they have to do this now and disrupt our daily routine!

Changes are not easy to live with yet we do live in continuous flux of change but we hardly take notice! The only change we notice is when something major is happening in our lives. A wedding, a divorce, a birth and a death, getting fired, getting promoted, and getting a knock back from friends or colleagues. .. I don’t need to go on here, do I?

Before the actual change takes place, there’s usually something that instigated the change; a reason, an incident, an outcry but most of us simply ignore this. We simply get on with our daily lives and simply bury our heads in the sand or under the duvet, your choice!

Take the political situation in our country, long before the PAD or the red go marching, did anyone of us care about how this country is shifting and bending to a particular direction. I don’t think so! What we care about is how to please ourselves, our family, our friends. Or how to get what we don’t have or have more of what we like!

Each time that groups of people instigated any changes, we simply listen in one ear and out the next. As long as it doesn’t affect us then just let things be, much safer and easier that way.

The question is why are we Thais afraid of changes, new things and progress. Why do we leave things to the last minute until it gets almost out of hand before we choose to take a peep and see what’s happening!

Right now, Thailand is at a crossroad. What will you do? Escape or confront your inner most fear. Allow progress or just let things continue on as is. Can we afford to not make a choice and do something about this? I don’t think so!

Are we going to be like passengers in taxi cabs, allowing the drivers to rant about their political views and aspiration while we winced and hope they don’t turn round and ask our opinions!

What is there to be afraid of? With change comes uncertainty and not knowing but with change, comes progress!

Catherine from Women Learning Thai, recently commented on my previous post,

My take… for westerners, it’s a part of who they are. Coming up with ideas to improve where they live is all about contributing to whatever society they find themselves in.

Standing by doing and saying nothing, could be be construed as taking while giving nothing back.

Anyway, that’s just the way I feel personally. If I am not giving back to a country that is giving so much to me, then I am being selfish.

Her comment shows us the difference in attitude between westerners here and I totally agree with her.  Standing by doing nothing to most of us is easy and supported our ” mai pen rai” attitude that seems to halt many progress.

Come on, isn’t it time we wake up to what’s taking place here in Thailand. This is actually quite exciting, it’s called progress. We all have the right to decide what we want for this country and the choices are not two colours but the whole spectrum out there. All that is required of us is to stand up to what we personally believe in, escape your fear and confront your enemy! We have the right to be free so what choice will you make?


Unretouched Beauty

I was talking about the concept of beauty in my earlier post and the subject seems to be in the air! I read in yesterday Daily Express that there will be an exhibition this coming Thursday at Central World called Unretouched Beauty. A photographic display of unretouched well known celebrities in this land of the Big Mango by another celeb, Amat  ‘Yai’  Nimitpark, a well known photographer and socialite.

Well, does no Photoshop make a difference?  This does not mean  ‘au naturel’  as in make-up free though.

Why not go and see the “Unretouched Photos” which incidentally I have no photos to share as I could not find one on the net.

However, this reminds me of the Doves Campaign for Real Beauty so I have trawled YouTube and embed some interesting clips here to  share with you.

Incidentally this is a global campaign but does not include Thailand! I wonder why?

Be warned, it’s still an ad about make-up however understanding they might appear to be. But at least it’s sending out the right message! Here it is, watch and decide for yourselves then we can define beauty!

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Is beauty in the eyes of the beholders? If so how would you define it?

It is not often that we spend time questioning the definition of beauty here, in Thailand. Most of us are perfectly happy to be spoon-fed images of beauty by the fashion industries or the media and come to accept these as the norm. Not much room for any debate on the subject or opportunity to learn where this definition came from!  But this month at the Arden Gallery of Modern Art, we have the opportunity to question just that! The exhibition I refer to is called Beyond Beauty by  Chairat Sangthong. The exhibition will be on from October 26 to November 22 so we have plenty of time to plan a visit.

Here is what ThaiAsiaToday has to say about this exhibition,

Beyond Beauty is the latest solo exhibition by Chairat Sangthong, a national artist award winner, who depicts people from rural communities in the south of the country. Marks relating to a subject’s age, such as rough hands and wrinkled complexions reflect the stark reality of impermanence. Beyond the surface lies the eternal beauty that is love, compassionate and good will, which will hopefully be transferred to future generations.

Beyond Beauty, Chairat Sangthong, 2009

Time, Chairat Chairat ">Sangthong, Acrylic on Canvas, 185 x 145 cm, 2008 © Ardel Gallery and Chairat Sangthong, 2009

His painting directly question our definition of beauty and how hard we have tried to stay young, wrinkle free and beautiful!  A very interesting subject as most of us are bombarded by the media notion of beauty and a vast majority of us spend a fortune trying to defy ageing! But ageing is natural, getting old is graceful and inevitable fate of this human condition.

Courtsey of teh Ardel Gallery and Chaairat Sangthong

© Ardel Gallery and Chairat Sangthong, 2009

For me wrinkles are something worthy of respects, they are marks of a life and is something quite noble and dignified. Not a horror! Ageing and getting old means outgrowing our foolishness and gain wisdom, surely!

Take a look at these paintings and see for yourself the fragility of life! We, women, should not run away from the inevitable and surrender to it gracefully. We can still be beautiful at our most vulnerable age!

The Beauty I, Chairat Sangthong, Acrylic on Canvas, 145 x 185 cm, 2009 © Ardel Gallery and Chairat Sangthong, 2009

This is my favourite painting.  I love is the juxtaposition between the real female image and the icons depicting western definition of art, i.e. Botticelli Venus behind her and Venus de Milo statue at her feet!

I will blog on the actual definition of beauty next but in the meantime, please  go and see these paintings and come back and tell me your views.  I look forward to hear your thoughts.


The Oldest Swinger In Town

Now if you think that this blog is  about the hedonistic lifestyle of people who hate the idea of committing to one partner at a time then I have to apologise.  I had a different kind of swinger in mind.

At least I got your attention for however brief the moment!

What I’m referring to is the Hindu Vedic ritual of swinging and it does involve one gigantic swing or in Thai,  Ching Cha (ชิงช้า).

Yes, in Bangkok, we have one of the world largest swing and might be oldest at that, right here in the old town district.  See for yourself.

เสาชิงช้าม teh oldest swing and by far the largest in Bangkok!

This swing measured 20 metre high and 10.5 metre wide. It was built in 1784 (พ.ศ. 2327) and it’s as old as Bangkok!

Every year in  December when Shiva descended  from the heaven to visit us, this ritual was performed. It was stopped in 1935, due to high fatality rate!  The ritual re-enacted a scene between Shiva and wife, Parvati (formerly Sati in the previous incarnation!). Gosh Hindu Gods do lead such interesting lives! If you want to find out more then  read up here, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_Swing.

Two years ago this swing was restored back to its formal glory and again this weekend, the ritual will be re performed. Here is a clip of how, apology as it is narrated in Thai.

For those who have already spotted that this year ceremony isn’t in December, thank you for paying attention zzz…. You’re right!

This year, the ritual is slightly different and it’s a two in one, post modern take  on the old ritual! It’s re invoked to bless young teak saplings, all 75 of them so that they can be given away to the each of Thailand province governors  as part of the organised ritual for the King’s birthday.

So if you have a weekend free, it’s worth going to relive Bangkok history. Good photo opportunity too. Might bump into you there then! Let’s hope the rain is taking a short break this weekend!