Bangkok

Mahi Mahi BBQ in Double Bay, Sydney
Having the chance to visit Australia, I made sure to meet up with a couple of friends there: Paul (first met him in Bukit Lawang’s jungle, watched wild Orang-utans together, and made our way out to paved grounds), Charlotta (a colleague from uni, been studying and partying together in Linköping) and Emelie (met her once at Pablo’s place, and listened to her fascinating year driving, literally, around Australia).

My cousin André (who’s been living in Australia the last year) happened to be more than a thousand kilometres north of my destinations, thus we will catch up back in Sweden instead. And last but not least, my friend and colleague Olov (see last post for picture), who is also part of the graduate progamme that brought us ten time zones from Sweden.

Really nice to meet up with all of you guys!

Picture of Emelie and Byron preparing for a lovely BBQ dinner in their garden, in Double Bay, Sydney.

Remote friends

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Chilling at the pool in KL - Erik Winther 2014
My trainee-colleague Johanna has already left KL, and Angelica leaves Bangkok in a few days.

It is not without mixed feelings I realize that the first quarter of 2014 is coming to an end, implicating that my stay here in Thailand is facing the same fate.

So with only a few weeks left, I look back and enjoy my fantastic memories, while at the same time try to maximize the remaining days by ‘acquiring professional help’ from Stockholm. In practice my good friend Johan is visiting; a high-performer who rarely omit a party or social gathering. I think we will have lots of fun on Bangkok’s dance floors!

Picture of Johanna, Angelica relaxing in front of Petronas Towers (background), shot from the pool area on 22nd floor at Johanna’s residence in KL during our visit there in February.

Q1 2014 is coming to an end

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Saab APAC Trainees - Erik Winther 2014
Realized that I haven’t posted this picture earlier. I shot this photo in my Bangkok apartment in January, when Frida’s and my adventurous vacation in Thailand and Laos was coming to an end.

So we made our way back to Bangkok, where three of my trainee colleagues had just flown in from Sweden. From left: Johanna (based in Kuala Lumpur during her months abroad), I, Angelica (Bangkok), Cathrine (Jakarta) and my travel companion Frida (Linköping).

Colleagues in Asia

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The Monk, the Tiger and Erik - Erik Winther 2014
Jenny, Henke, Angelica and I visited a wildlife sanctuary last Sunday; similar to the one Frida and I visited outside Chiang Mai in December. They both host numerous tigers, and one get to meet them inside their cages.

No doubt there is a certain adrenaline rush when the 160 kg beast you’re cuddling with makes sure you remember what he is. And that his necklace isn’t chained.

Picture from today, when the monk and I took one of the tigers for a walk outside the cage.

The Monk, the Tiger and I

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Sumatran fisherman smiling - Erik Winther 2011
Thailand greets you with a great smile when you arrive, when you leave, when you help and when you misbehave. Thai people smile when they get tip and when they trick you, and when you bust them for it.

In Sweden, the last example would be considered very offensive and some people would loose their temper because of such obvious disrespect. But in Thailand, just as most countries in this region, such smile is the best way for both parties to jointly agree on what happened, that it was wrong, and a way for the busted person to show regret.

However hard and uncomfortable it feels, do yourself and the other party the favour to remind yourself of this next time you find yourself in such situation – regardless if the smile is yours or not!

The happy fisherman in the picture lives in Indonesia, on the south coast of the vivid island in the middle of lake Toba in Sumatra. I met him there during Kyung Hee University’s winter vacation 2011/2012.

Smile through life

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Koh Samet Ao Phrao - Erik Winther
Adjacent to the last post, I want to bring up something that bothers me a lot these days. Because who or what is it that gave me all opportunities I experience in life? Why?

I am both grateful and humble to all of it, but keep reflecting as I walk past several prostitutes on my way to work every day. Passing people who are just as good as me in all aspects, but who were less lucky in life’s lottery of opportunities. Where are the drawbacks and the unacceptable fine print?

And what more is, who am I to decide whether I rightfully can and should continue this awesome journey through life in the fast track? Would the world become a better place if I said ‘no, thank you’ instead? How can I make others share the joy?

Picture of the Gulf of Thailand shot from Koh Samet’s beach Ao Phrao last weekend.

…then again

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Scooter in Hua Hin - Erik Winther 2014
With the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) that makes the ASEAN countries consider themselves as one single market by 2015 and Thailand being the prevailing car manufacturer; with Thailand’s ‘first time [car] buyer’-promotion for its people; with the recent termination of Australia’s automotive industry; with low labour costs; and lastly with the fact that Thailand still demand 100% import tax on all vehicles manufactured abroad; there is no doubt why all car manufacturers set up production lines in Thailand, each of them with huge capacity. By 2017, the research company HIS expects ASEAN’s annual demand exceed 3.3 million cars.

Yet despite the collision safety arguments and the possibility to turn on the air conditioning when queuing, status is the only reason for the Thai (and ASEAN) people to replace their numerous, reliable two-wheelers. I mean, few things makes one feel as free as jumping on top of one’s bike and leaving the car queues behind on the way to the beach.

Picture of the 125cc-scooter I rented during a weekend trip to Hua Hin; the capital of retired Swedish seniors.

The Automotive Industry

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Erik surfing at Flow House in Bangkok
To exchange Linköping’s cold and dark climate for Bangkok’s warm sunlight and energizing tempo is really a good deal. Sure it wouldn’t be for everyone, but this time a year and at this time in life; it really fits me well.

Picture of me surfing on the artificial wave at Flow House here in Bangkok. Photo credits to Henrik Wetterling.

High life

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Frida sipping whiskey in Laos - Erik Winther
Sorry for the Swedish heading on this post, it’s just that the well-suited expression makes no sense direct translated.

As earlier mentioned, my colleague Frida travelled with me during this Asia-visit’s first sixteen days; which took us to and around the perfectly-averaged Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, to calm, healing and beautiful Luang Prabang in Laos, and lastly to warm Koh Samet in south-eastern Thailand before we returned to Bangkok.

During our stay in Laos, we went on a full-day hike. As we passed through a small village, we got to try the locals’ rice wine as it is supposed to be served: filtered through sawdust in a large clay jar and drunk with a super long bamboo-straw. With such hospitality, one does not remind them that strong alcohol at 9 am is a little so-so.

Picture from the mountains south of Luang Prabang, with Frida sipping liquor for breakfast.

Morgonstund har guld i mund

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Kuang Si Waterfall - Erik Winther 2014
I used to swim. A lot. 20 hours a week. But just as the Swedish Speedway legend Tony Richardsson did, I too quit for real when I quit with competitive swimming. Thus, I haven’t swum at all the last three years.

But nowadays, with a roof top infinity pool within an elevator-ride, things have changed. To start the day with a refreshing 30-minute crawl session is quite something.

Picture shot by Frida of me swinging into the water in one of the basins below the mighty Kuang Si waterfall outside Luang Prabang, Laos.

Swimming

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native-tribe-woman-in-thailand
I am currently thinking a lot. Trying to find the global optimum (i.e. the best solution, for those of you who does not speak math) to a question with no/one/two/multiple (I don’t know which) correct answers.

To live a grandeur and exciting life in interesting places with people like oneself; or to live a much more down to earth “Svensson-life” with lots of “must-do’s” in a colder, darker and more boring place but with the advantage of having old friends and relatives closer? What is worth the most to me? That is the question.

Picture shot in northern Thailand on December 31, 2013.

The known versus the unknown

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Pad Thai at soi Rambuttri
Across the road from the world’s backpacker hub #1 (Khao San Road, Bangkok) lies a small street, soi, named after the colourful and sweet fruit Rambuttri. The name couldn’t be better chosen, as this is one of my favourite places in Asia.

Walking from Khao San, a temple is hidden in the flourish vegetation on your left while cosy restaurants and €5/h-massage saloons limit the soi on the right side. Between these boundaries you’ll find shopping stalls offering all clothing, books, gears, food and drinks a happy life can ask for. Add to that a bustling crowd of smiling and extrovert travellers who gladly share experiences and memories over a few bottles of Chang beer.

In case you’re still not convinced, Rambuttri’s motorbike-restaurants offer Thailand’s best Pad Thai (picture) and my favourite dessert: Mango w/ Sticky Rice. Awesomeness, for less than five bucks.

Soi Rambuttri

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Convertible in USA
Dear reader,
It has been a while since I wrote to you lastly, thus let me give you a short summary.

I returned to Sweden from Ghana in December 2012, finalized my thesis (see DareAfrica.com if you are interested), graduated and started to work. With exception for a bunch of great weekends and vacations in Finland, Estonia, Netherlands and UK, and of course the amazing roadtrip along the US west coast, I stayed working in Sweden until December 2013.

After lovely days around Christmas with family, relatives and friends in Lund, I left Europe for Asia once more. Twenty days of backpacking in Thailand and Laos with my colleague and friend Frida followed, fantastic days that this blog will return to several times. Meeting up three other colleagues, I made myself ready for a couple of months’ work based here in Bangkok; this bustling and smiling city!

Picture of me in our rented convertible from Highway 1 in July 2013.

Asia 2014Q1

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