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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Thailand's Oldest Department Store

84 YEAR OLD Nightingale Olympic, Thailand ’s first ever department store, is STILL in business. I'm pictured above with the daughter of Nightingale's owner. 

Stuck in time, displaying 50 year old products still in their original packaging. The no air-condition two level store sells old-fashioned cosmetics, clothing and sports equipment.

Prices range from cheap to much. What was most amusing, were the purple uniformed staff diligently positioned behind each counter on the first floor, ready to handle customer enquiries like it would have been bustling in the past. These salesgirls were hired since the 80s and they stand, position unchanging.

There was only one grumpy one, who looked at me through the top of her glasses, wagging her finger and said, "no photos". The others were typically polite, smiley and curious in me as i am with them.

Taking my time to walk the rather small (but i imagine sprawling in the 1930s) level 1, i see products somewhat neatly displayed. All items were covered in 5-inch dust with items falling apart. The items not falling apart like shoes, rackets and balls are worth purchase consideration. After all, its a sign of remarkable quality, no? They withstood the test of time.

"Good thing these stairs weren't wooden", i thought to myself. As i turned round the spiral staircase to the second floor, i caught a tabby cat pissing red-handed on one of the "merchandise", a set of snooker poles. 

I looked at the nonchalant salesman sitting across. I lifted my arm wanting to alert him of the tabby's deed. My mouth opened, hesitating to make a sound. He seemed like he didn't want to be disturb. I decided against informing him, the snooker pole was covered with 10-inch dust that i felt the cat's pee probably did a favor than harm. At least the dust is partially gone, revealing the genuine colour. 

The unwelcoming salesman was in his 60s, engrossed with fixing something. I approached to see what. He was re-stapling music scoresheets. 

Nothing has changed in this department store, except the prices that has rose with inflation. Sports equipment on the second floor cost much, now being antiques. 

If you're looking for an off-the-beaten find in Bangkok, take a peek in Nightingale Olympics. Buy something for good measure & to keep it open! Located 25/41 Pharurat Rd in Chinatown. Not open on Sundays & closes before sunset Mons to Sats. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Taste of Siam

Tourists would be familiar with Som Tum (papaya salad), Tom Yum and the likes, but the flavours familiar to the tourists are not quite as authentic as what i've sampled having lived in Thailand for 18 months now.

Having eaten authentic Southern (papaya salad originated here) and Northern Thai cuisine, i didn't quite know there is also Bangkok cuisine! Recipes that likely originated from the royal family. A rare find today, these characteristically Bangkok unique dishes can be found at Baan ('house' in Thai) Wannakowit.
Not easy to locate, Baan Wannakowit (64 Soi Damnoen Klang Tai) can be found near Khao San road. The clue to entering the right soi would be to locate the line-up of lottery ticket sellers. Baan Wannakowit is not a public restaurant, but a 100-year old private house where a catering business owner lives with her family and eats these dishes daily.
Eating at Baan Wannakowit is like eating at a friend's house, as i remove my shoes to enter the home. Roaming room to room, seeing personal photos hung on the walls. There is no menu nor waiters here. With the language barrier, we ordered in faith. We had the owner bring everything she offers, as we were determined to try everything after a much tedious hunt for the place.
Everything was delectable. Khanom jeen sao naam, thin rice noodles soaked with a rich coconut milk dressing and topped with chunks of pineapple, sliced shallots, garlic and ginger.

Mee Krob, golden crispy rice with a sweet and sour sauce combined with shrimp, scallions and fried toufu. Served with fresh chives and bean sprouts. We also had green pork curry with prata.

We also had rice crackers with a pork, shrimp and peanut dip called khao tung na tung.

What was really special was khao chae, an unusual porridge where you put together yourself rice, jasmine-infused water and ice cubes. Yes, you heard me right. ICE CUBES in your rice. This is a summer porridge. You then eat the porridge served with various condiments like stewed radish, sweet and salty pork floss and fried yam balls.
The bill was no more than 800THB for 3 persons, including food and drinks. Highly recommended for a unique experience. Only by appointment, call +66 81922 6611 to book.

The epitome of home cooked food, found at Baan Wannakowit. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Invisalign Replaces Plastic Surgery

When i started the Invisalign journey with i.Dental, i did not expect this. I did not expect my face shape to change. For the better.

In less than a year, the Invisalign treatment turned my jaw shape into the much coveted V shape of Korean actresses. Without surgery! 
I was shocked at the face shape change! Braces didn't do that.
My teeth was so misaligned that when i take pictures, i look like i'm missing a tooth!
Here's how it works (at least from a patient point of view, not as a technician). 

1. Visit i.Dental for an assessment including an x-ray to ensure you are suitable for treatment.  Receive a video visualization of treatment process. Dr Cheng will explain how Invisalign will change your life. From a horse face to a human face. 
2. In the same visit, you will do mould impressions if you decide to proceed. At the same time, Dr Cheng will put on "attachments" that suit your tooth colour. You will have these little hooks on your teeth that doesn't drop off, and almost invisible to the eye (but you can feel it) to "hook on" the aligners. These extra fixtures are almost neglect able. You will forget you had them as it becomes part of your mouth. 
Matching my tooth colour
Do you see the squarish "attachments"?
3. Receive 50% of your aligners. I had 33 sets in total. In the beginning, i changed one every 2 weeks. Later, it accelerated to changing weekly. There were some weeks i totally messed up the order. I panicked but nothing could be not fixed by Dr Cheng. It was very assuring that he told me i'm not doomed. Although i wouldn't advice you to jump the order on purpose!
No one could tell i had Invisalign on. No one could tell my teeth was being fixed as we speak. No metal teeth embarrassment. No skin cutting accidents while kissing or others. No cut corners of my mouth! 
No monthly visits to the dentist required! It was such an independent process that eventually when i had to relocate, i easily administered to myself just by following Dr Cheng's advice! 

iDental was even on email response if i needed to consult or check in every now and them on my progress. They responded quickly to the photos i send them of my teeth. Virtual consultation! I've never had that with any dental clinic. Although i also wouldn't advice you to do that but just sharing how excellent iDental's service is. 

4. Finally, my entire process is complete, just slightly under a year. I then return to iDental to get my nightly retainers done that i'll wear as long as i live. Dr Cheng inspected my results and is rather pleased with his magic. I am too!
If you want to know the difference between braces and Invisalign (as i've done braces before too), i've compared them before.

Finally, if you want to know how much it costs and if you are a suitable candidate, call iDental! There is a first-time consultation fee of $20 - $60 depending on duration. If you decide to proceed with an x-ray to complete the check, there is an additional $220. The total investment for Invisalign starts from $4000 depending on the number of aligners you need based on the severity of your teeth, but they are payable with installments. The Invisalign aligners are made in USA with a patented technology. You will need to find a local reputable clinic to help administer and watch your progress. One mis-step can make your teeth worse! My friend went to a clinic in Orchard (i don't know which one) and towards the end of her treatment, her teeth actually sunk into her gum!!!! That was irreversible :( :( :(

My dentist, Dr Cheng Eng Wah, from i.Dental Surgeons won the Best Individual award for 2013 and Invisalign Platinium Elite Award for the last 5 years.  His clinic on Robinsons Road is dedicated to Invisalign treatments only.
My new teeth. Better to take pictures with!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Life Worth Living

I was handed bags of rice packets and told to go out and scour the streets to distribute in Rattanakosin, Bangkok. An area where the poor buy or sell second-hand items, items so broken that one'll be appalled that they are even for sale/ will be purchased. 
Anything broken imaginable for sale

The rice packets were bought from the local vendor for the street people in the neighbourhood. I peeked in the rice packets to check out what i'm distributing; jasmine rice with stringy bits of pork or jasmine rice with a tad more generous serve of vegetables.

With each hand carrying 10 packets, we begin our distribution route.

The Street Sex Workers
A lady in her 70s sat on a bench with her belongings packed neatly around. She dressed reasonably well for a street person, lightly made-up with sunglasses perched on her head. She was jovial, alert and bright for her age. She immediately struck a conversation with my friend as she is a regular squatter in this area and they've got acquainted as he does his regular distribution rounds. She fussed over our rice packets before deciding she won't have any. "What is her story?" I asked as we walked away from her.
"She is too far away from home with children overseas. She is a sex worker for some reason we can't quite figure."
Two teenagers, faces painted with cheap make-up, sat cross legged by the road. They were within arm's reach to each other, but they were not friends.
"Have you eaten?" they looked away as we attempted to chat them up. It was late afternoon, we were in their way of attracting "business". They were both introverted and quiet, avoiding eye contact. When we repeated our question and gestured we want to give them a rice packet, one girl gingerly accepted. The other followed suit. As i stretched out my rice packet, she reached forward gingerly. She lifted her chin, and her eyes finally met mine. Eyes big, wide and a little wet, as if a silent plea.
Her look was haunting.
The next few sex workers we meet on the street divider, by the pollution of whizzing cars, are of a more mature age. They were readily accepted our handouts but weren't too forthcoming in interaction. One chubby lady with gaudy make-up in a cheery bright yellow dress,  asked politely for an extra cake while she put aside the rice packet for later. She clearly enjoyed the rare treat.
A scrawny dark skinned woman, both cheeks powdered with talcum, body covered in plasters saw us distributing food and approached us while lugging her folded cardboard box. When she reached us, she laid out her cardboard box and sat.
"I'm dying," she said as she dug into her rice packet.
Taken aback at her candor, she shared with us she is dying from HIV and her entire body is in pain. She covers herself with plasters as she do not want to pass the disease on.

Another told us some women are sex workers because
"They've been raped by men they know."
The Unemployed
A man sits on the grass, fixing broken radios. Engrossed in figuring out the broken radio, he didn't hear us asking if he wanted food.
When he finally heard us, he asked if he could take 2 packets as he has a family to feed back home. 
Filled with gratitude, he thanked us profusely before going back to being engrossed with fixing the broken pieces laid out in front of him. A dejected soul who has lost his job, ashamed to tell his family he lost his job.
Most people sat facing the street, even if just to pass time but he faced the bush, his back upon the street. We knelt, and asked how is he. He proudly reminisced the days he was a foreman, told us his glorious days with a toothy grin.
An older man, passed on his wise words. That he as a pauper, has health that riches cannot buy. 
The Abandoned
Many of the street people have family troubles. Unable to return home, or unaccepted by their family, they each have a story to tell.

She is divorced from her husband, forcing her on the streets. All she wishes is that her children will be able to live in harmony with their new step mum. She tells us, she only has one more year to live on the streets. Her eyes filled with hope, her daughter will graduate from university then, get a job and will rent an apartment to be reunited.
They formed a community, watching out for each other. When we distributed food, some asked for extras for their friends and "neighbours". Those sleeping, we pulled a "Santa". 

Whatever they could find, they used to make shelter. Public barricades, broken bedsheets. 
My heart broke with each human story heard. My eyes wept, as i peep into their "home" (or the lack of a home). My spirit humbled by their contentment despite not having much. 

They kept stray dogs as pets. They find ways to feed their dogs, if not themselves first. My heart bled, knowing these dogs give non-judgmental companionship in return for their unconditional love. Which the street people are capable of giving, despite not having a house made of walls and beams. 
A home is built with love. 
It reminded me how poverty isn't a choice. 
We don't get to choose how we are born, but we are given a choice how we live. 
We, who are able, need to give. Distributing food in the past 2 months did not and will not eradicate poverty, but i was there to give a touch, to give a ear, to give time. I urge us to lead a life worth living. 

They all have names.
"Those who have nothing, loved much. Those who've nothing, touched much." Luke 7:36 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Reasons To Love Shanghai

Other than it being the same memorable trip where i went to learn kungfu, i like Shanghai for various reasons.

Water Towns
When in a big city, it is nice to venture out of the city to see a different life. 朱家角 Zhu Jia Jiao, is an absolutely beauty. Ancient bridges and houses line up the sides of the canal as we see boatman still in their traditional get-up, wide brimmed straw hats and traditional Chinese costume, shuttling tourists up and down the canal.
It is a myriad of smells, sounds and sights as we walk the cobbled stone pathway trying all sorts of street food like smelly toufu and buying little knick knacks as souveniers.

Locals visit and release life (fishes) at the Bridge of Life as a Buddhist way of gaining merit.

Smelly toufu; crispy on the outside, silky soft on the inside.
You could even visit the Tang Dynasty's first post office!
Old City
While the city is filled with skyscrapers and a pulsing night life, there is the old city which we chanced upon in the city center. 
Watch a show at the old peep hole cinema. 
Marriage Park
A highly amusing sight, parents bring out their umbrellas and notices advertising their "eligible" children in this park. The notices are very detailed! With information like their education, their jobs, their assets, characteristics and past relationships.
Insect Market
Near the antique market, is the insect market which we also chanced upon by accident. Here, men frown in concentration to select the best fighting cricket.

What is there not to like about Shanghai?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

World's First Magnum Playground in Singapore

Yet another unique activity to do when in Singapore, is to visit the Magnum Infinity Playground on the rooftop of iconic Esplanade.

Open to public from now till 21 August, expect a special MAGNUM Dessert & Cocktail Menu with a mini experience of the Playground to extend the pleasure experience. 

In collaboration with London-based culinary experience designers Bompas & Parr, the larger-than-life adult playground's highlights are the Infinity Slide and Skyline Swings of more than 4 metres facing the city skyline. 

Once you have your heartbeat calm down, indulge in ORGO's creations with the new Magnum Infinity, made rom a rare source of naturally rich Tanzanian cocoa that produce intense premium dark chocolate. 

If not at ORGO, you can certainly find them in convenience or supermarkets available in two indulgent flavours and sizes – Classic-sized Chocolate and Caramel and the Chocolate Mini – both include a combination of irresistible chocolate ice cream, covered in crackling dark chocolate and real cocoa nibs.

Find ORGO at 8 Raffles Ave, Esplanade rooftop. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sundays at Channel 7

One of my favourite free things to do in Bangkok on a weekend is to join the crowds in Channel 7 recording studio. Muay thai boxing, a national sport, air on TV every Sunday at noon to 3. Little known to tourists, it is free to get a spot to watch these live boxing matches in a very authenthic local atmosphere. 

There are many touts and brochures selling boxing matches but they can't get any more authenthic than the ones televised for the nation. 

How to get to Channel 7 Studio:
Get off at Mochit BTS Exit 4 and walk towards the Bangkok MRT office building. This is located at the end of the street, in a corner.
Turn into the street where the building is located and walk deep into the soi.
Watch out for this building, which is Channel 7. 

Enter freely and head towards the right where you'll see buses (they are mobile toilets), and head inwards where most of the crowd is moving towards.

You'll reach the Studio.
The matches start at noon, so be there before to find a nice parking spot. Locals arrive as early as 11am and mill around to watch the boxers get oiled and prepped. 

There was a low rumble in the studio as the atmosphere builds up. Hands started rising and waving. I learned that these waving hands belonged to bookies taking bets amongst the crowd. I chuckle to myself as i caught a glimpse of the sign "No Gambling" on the wall. 

The crowd roared with each punch and kick. Monies passed from my left to right. Millions of illegal baht was transacted in that studio, with 300, 000 baht gifted to the winning boxer. Seated sardine packed on the bleachers, the yells and gestures from the bookies proved to be more interesting than the match itself. Heart pounding, I felt like i was part of something big, bad and dirty.
It made me feel alive. 
Follow me @chrispytine on Instagram for videos.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lessons from Bangkok

6 months in Bangkok and i'm loving it. 
I wait a thousand years to cross the busy street with no traffic rules, it has taught me patience. 

My hairstylist is a Japanese female who came to Thailand to be a male. He taught me there is no shame in telling a stranger your secrets. 

A Thai's name is long and complicated. They have nicknames like Meta, Jedi and the most creative must go to Name. Remembering Thai names and their nicknames trains my memory. 

My favourite (illegal) street food stall is at the same spot everyday but one day. The Police works on Monday. 

The Thai straight men love taking selfies and checking themselves out in their reflective mobile case. It taught me not to stereotype gender. 

Taxi drivers who roll down their windows and ask where i'm going is most likely not to take me anywhere. It taught me perserverance. 

The many old farang ( Westerner) and young Thai couples don't disgust me but told me everyone's searching for love in ways they define it to be.  

I went for a massage and they asked if i minded a male masseuse. I hesitated until they added, "don't worry, not a real man." I learned to adapt and not mind to have things my way. 

I meet people all walks of life, most recently a conspiracy preacher who proved to be more interesting than an inflight movie. The French man has a bag filled with gold and silver, ready to run (to the mountains) the next economy crisis or nuclear war. I learned that to live, is to not fear. 

I saw a creepy voodoo spider doll hanging in a taxi, i learned to respect anothers' beliefs. 

The friendliest taxi driver i met was a ladyboy who wouldn't stop giggling and keeps an English dictionary in her glove compartment. She taught me happiness is from within. 

I walk the same route everyday and i see the same beggars everyday. I tell myself not to turn numb any day. 

I volunteer at a shelter for trafficked victims and it taught me i can make a change. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cardinal Sins Couples Commit

They say love is blind, but surely we can fall out of love if love is taken for granted. 

Some friends tell me they end relationships because feelings were gone. What makes feelings last a lifetime and what is the recipe to long lasting marriages that takes little effort to maintain? 


1. Invading Bathroom Privacy
When you live together, it is inevitable that there'll be times you're in a rush or impatient to use the bathroom. In some way, you've achieved the highest level of comfortability in coupledom if you're able to take his/her shit. I had an ex who told me his then-girlfriend wouldn't stop talking even while he's on his golden throne. Lavatory time is sacred time, most people meditate in there. Or, check illicit messages from mistresses. Unless both of you are into the golden shower fetish where its actually a turn-on, i'll say stay out of each other's bowel-time. There'll be chances later on in life, in old age, where either of you have to help each other move bowels. Until then, if you must invade bathroom privacy, make sure its to surprise him/ her in a steamy hot shower. 

2. Criticism Overload
While you are your partner's greatest fan, you will also be his/ her biggest critic. I've seen couples who in their "harmless teasing" hide invisible knives that cut. A friend's husband is always teasing how unfit his wife is. I pointed out that while she isn't as fit as he is, he should be glad he found a partner who joins him in every outdoor activity with much gusto. A relationship still needs tact. 

3. Forgetting "Please" and "Thank You"
The more comfortable we are with someone, the less formal we become. The Japanese have a very sweet tradition where a couple greet each other when one or the other steps through the door with this phrase; "its been hard on you". Its a show of appreciation for the other, hard at work. It could be not entirely sincere because of habit but remember that successful people cultivate good habits. 

4. Disapproval in Public
In relation of #2, it is easy to lose your temper quicker with someone close. Especially when you know you're being loved unconditionally (assuming that's why you're both together). My parents are married for more than 25 years. I dislike the manner they frown, chide and demonstrate their disapproval of each other publicly. My longest relationship was 3 years, everytime there's a behaviour i disapprove, i consciously bite my tongue and keep a pokerface. My mistake though, is not revisiting and talking about it when we get home. It isn't healthy letting the unspoken or forgotten eat you up. 

5. Not Sharing Common Interests
In my opinion, common interests is a pre-requisite before committing to a relationship. However, i've seen couples who are total opposites who remain attached. I can't fathom a partner who doesn't love travelling, trying new things and doing sport like i do. My partners often have opposite thoughts and beliefs which offers friendly (sometimes challenging) debate, but we will always share common interests. Couples who share common interests have a better chance at growing old together. Don't lose the partner who can match your pace in said interest. My parents both like being outdoors but my dad is alot fitter and faster than my mum. This often leaves mum biting dad's dust, which then makes them both feel very alone. 

6. Forgetting Self
When we are comfortable with each other, we stop being vain. There's no need to put on nice lingerie when its more comfortable to hang lose. There's no need to put make-up on because he's seen me without. There's no need to put any clothes on because its coming off. Ok, maybe the last example isn't a bad thing. 

A woman ought to continue putting on matching (and sexy) lingerie. A man ought to continue keeping trim without a belly. When a woman becomes a mother, take time out to love herself. If a woman becomes a housewife, find activities that makes her interesting. Find friends to use the 10,000 word quota than offload it on the husband the moment he steps in. A woman tends to forget herself the moment she becomes a mother. Don't, because you'll grow old resentful as i watch my mother become. When children have grown out of their nest, when your husband will never be able to be as sacrificial as you are (its a different sort), you become resentful at old age. 

7. De-prioritizing Each Other
I'm guilty of lying on a partner's lap and texting while he's also texting above my head. We occassionally share text stories and joke about our friends. This is a special moment, as its only what couples do. 

We've passed the formality stage where a person on his/ her mobile all the time is a deal breaker. However, this couple activity is breeding the habit of seeing your partner less important. When the mobile phone becomes more interesting, when the children demands more attention, when your job/ deadline seemed more important. Today, we see ever more couples on their mobiles at dinner in a restaurant.

Since their children were born, my friend haven't been out with his wife alone since he-can't-remember. His daughter is 16 now, so i asked him what's stopping him from taking his wife out on a date? He gave excuses like, "Naaah. We're too old for that", "I'm not in the mood today." But he did take her out that night, and he messaged me a word of "thanks" after. 

Know that your partner IS human, and unconditional love is something only God or Mum can give. 
I'm not sure about you but I was taught to have only one boyfriend before marriage. It could be religion, or our culture but I definitely wasn't encouraged to go experience love. 
To the Chinese, if we have more than one boyfriend, its condemned as "she's loose/ easy/ slut". My Spanish girl-friend once enlightened me with a different perspective, "doesn't it make you a lot more interesting, having different experiences?" She is currently in a relationship of 8 yrs. 
If we were born as babies with zero knowledge and skill except to suckle or swim, how likely are we to know love and to love without experience? 
I've never used "i love you" frivolously in relationships because "best friends 4eva" written in graduation books were not true. 
When my first boyfriend at 19 said "i love you" within 3 months of relations, i wasn't sure how to react. He surely didn't know what he was saying, as love was meant to be accepting but he frowned at my dressing, speech and behaviour. 
My second boyfriend at 23 was abit more like me, we don't use the word love in vain. There were no "i love you" until we broke up. The first time he used the word love, it was with a marriage proposal. But surely he didn't know what he's saying, because of the inconsistencies in actions. If he loved, he wouldn't leave me behind when we were snorkelling. If he loved, he wouldn't mind my bag spoiling his style (by carrying it). 
For all the men who taught me what love is not, there was one who taught me what love is. Love is giving up pre-planned and paid trips to spend more time with you. Love is not minding how uncomfortable, ugly and tiring it makes him so you can be not. Love is asking you for your opinion on everything not because he can't decide but to make decisions with you. Love is making plans with you in it, love is wanting to know and understand everything of you. 
Have i then loved? I thought i haven't, but my friend who've observed me in my times with relations said i have. Love might be a universal language but the ways of expressing love is very different between cultures. The Chinese are alot more reserved in demonstrating love, "have you eaten?" is more commonly said than "i love you." The Chinese's demonstration of love is, protecting you at all costs, ensuring you're well-fed without lack and caring for the finest details of daily life. Love to the Chinese is not words of affirmation and touch. 
Love is not as simple as we wish it to be. There is parental love which is sacrificial, Godly love which is all-accepting and romantic love, filled with lust & more. Love fills this Earth and in this journey of finding love, i learned to love myself & i found i had passion within. 
Born a Gen Y Singaporean, I never had to fight to live. I was groomed to excel in academics, I was not nurtured to think out of the box. I never had a strong passion about a topic, subject or person. We were like carbon copies.  
In the last 6 months, preserverance brought me to Bangkok and passion gave me reason to fight for someone. 
Women wished their romantic life would be like the movies. Mine is like a drama that doesn't end and i'm relishing every twist of the plot. 
They say a son looks for a wife like his mother and a daughter looks for a husband like her father. 
I used to be attracted to chauvunistic men, a total opposite of my father. It turns out they are the worst lovers and i grew wiser. 
As i come of age, i recognise traits of my father in my boyfriends in later years. My father thinks my mum is still beautiful even when she doesn't shave. He massages her legs as they run thick with varicose veins. He calls her perfect when her belly hangs loose with skin after 3 children. 
She yell words of hate and shame, he loves her the same. He goes to work where there are other women, but nothing changed. 
Gen Y's love is nothing like before. We give up too easily when the tough gets going. So i'll wait. Wait Christine. Wait for that "him" who'll wait for me. Protect my heart as its the most valuable thing.

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