Giving & the Origin of Condo Srisuwan

A for-sale sign is posted in a widow of the condominium building

In February 2017, our group of friends began to look into the rental market. We had been informally surveying locations in various parts of Bangkok. But we were most interested in the area around Lad Phrao, as it is our home neighborhood and we are partial to its qualities. Initially, giving was not our intention. But we were looking to do something special with the money we had for investment.

That’s when we came across the Condo Srisuwan residential area, a complex of five buildings, five stories tall each, just set off the road with a parking lot in front. Giving a call to the number of an advertised condo, an older woman picked up the phone. She became one of the many Aunties that we have the pleasure of knowing here in Thailand – and her story is one worth sharing.

The Auntie (and Uncle) Story

Auntie is 60 years old now. She had been a government worker, and her husband was an engineer. Throughout their marriage they both worked, but never had children of their own. Of the early investments they made, the Auntie used 600 baht from her own salary to pay for the loan she took to purchase Condo Srisuwan. Over time, she and her husband increased their residential assets. They had continued to rent out the condo to people, but as the Auntie became older, she was not longer looking to care for the condo, which naturally involved managing the unreliable renters.

The door entering into the condo - number 9/386. A large blue bolt locks the outside of the door, and there are stickers decorating.

Giving to Auntie

We met her once to look at the condo and agreed to move forward with purchasing from her. Auntie told us that others had contacted her to purchase the condo, but they tried to lower the price. She didn’t want to lower it, so she did not sell to them.

“Keep it simple,” she had said.

We decided that we could help her. In our conversations, we discussed what it would be like if we were her. She was older already, and was hoping to reduce her burdens.

What would we want if we were in her shoes?

As women, we all nodded and agreed: we would buy it from her, at her stated price. This is how the basis of the decision to buy turned away from focus on the condominium itself. We were convinced of the story of Auntie, and it became a chance to help her.

A habit: give meets give

To start, we gave a deposit of 5,000 baht.

Shortly after we sent her the deposit money, she called us to tell us of her intentions for the money from the condo sale. She said that on the day the Condo was purchased, she would give 10,000 baht of the money to Siriraj Hospital (the location of Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine in Bangkok) . Quite impressed and happy with her intentions, we joined her in her donations, and gave her 2000 baht to give to Siriraj Hospital for us.

After a week, we had processed the paperwork and gave the remaining money to the Auntie for the condo. Not long, Auntie called us again to inform us that she she did not just give 10,000, but she gave the remaining balance of her earnings from the condo to Siriraj Hospital.

Auntie explained that she and her husband were retired with no children, and they already had other real estate investments. This gave them more than they needed. In fact, giving to the hospital was something they had done for many years now. Whatever was extra, they would give it. They had given so frequently that the Auntie’s name is in a placard posted on hospital donations wall.

The special thing about this older couple is that their giving is a habit. Auntie and her husband have not just been giving to Siriraj Hospital, but they give elsewhere as well. She told us of how they send money to children in need – they have separate relationships with six children, and support them with monthly allowances.

They give until it is second nature for them – it is easy for them.

Give first and you will get.

In addition, Auntie and her husband have never had difficulty financially. They enjoy traveling abroad when they can, and have been to Europe and United States. The husband was an engineer for the motorway that was constructed from Bangkok to Pattaya, and now they could live easily on his retirement alone. They also keep an orchard for fruit in eastern Thailand. They give what they can and are happy for the opportunity. Their habit seems to leave them with a comfortable life, their generosity returning to them consistently.

We can each practice to give – give what we can. We gave the Auntie and her husband ease of mind – to be able to sell the condo at their stated price. In turn, they used the money for public benefit. Instead of seeing the purchase of this condo as an exchange, we had thought from the beginning to give. From here, more opportunities to give arose.

An important lesson we learned from this story is that our intention is the foundation of everything. Whether we think to give or think to take, this comes from within our own mind. We can consider this before every transaction. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a transaction any more, but an opportunity to practice thinking of others and giving to others in a world where most of us give mostly to ourselves.Lotus flower turns into lotus seeds

 

Nong Khai

NONG KHAI

Knowledge Notes

  • Nong Khai is located near the Udon & Laos border. It takes approximately one hour from Udon airport to drive to Nong Khai. (Cost of van to Nong Khai from Udon airport: Approximately 700 baht)
  • It is not a typical tourist target compared to other Thailand destinations, which contributes to its unique and authentic Thai charm. However, it has become quite popular with the expats in more recent years.
  • In 2016, Nong Khai was declared the 7th best retirement destination in the world, according to America’s Modern Maturity magazine, for its low-cost and livable conditions, and relaxing nature.
  • It’s quite lovely to stay here during the Christmas/New Year season if you miss the wintry, chillier feel of this season back home.
  • Recommended accommodation: Nong Khai Park & Pool Resort, a lovely family-owned resort surrounded by trees and tropical flowers. Its welcoming and quiet environment will make you feel warm and in a state of relaxation. To increase that, you can relax by the pool or get in-room Thai massages in your own personal villa. The staff are also very helpful and accommodating.

Itinerary

DAY 1

1. Fill up with a Thai or Western-style food at Park and Pool’s breakfast buffet.

2. Arrange for a tuk tuk tour (Tuk tuks are usually available within 5-10 minutes) to take you to two of Nong Khai’s unique attractions:

  • Wat Kaek/Sala Kaew Ku: A Buddhist sculpture park with massive sculptures depicting various Buddhist figures or themes. This park is very unique and you will find yourself in awe of the attention to detail and greatness of these sculptures!

  • Wat Pho Chai: This temple is known for its legendary Buddha image and colorful wall murals. To read more about the legend and history, click here.

3. Visit Tha Sadet Market, also known as the Indochina market, an extensive market selling imported Chinese and Laotian goods. Try some Thai traditional coffee in a paper bag to take with you as you explore.

4. Enjoy Vietnamese food and some Vietnam-style tea at Café Viet along the Mekong (Has A/C, too!).

5. On your way back to the resort, ask to be dropped off at (or simply point to) the Nong Khai railway station. Across the street, on your way back to Park and Pool Resort, you will find an old train car that has been transformed into Nong Khai’s railway public library.

6. Weather permitting, take a dip in the pool before going to enjoy some homestyle Thai cooking at Kruua Kru Nong (The Kitchen of Teacher Nong), a homestyle Thai restaurant along the Mekong. Digest your food with an evening stroll, savoring the sights along the Mekong River.

DAY 2

1. Relax at the pool or pamper yourself with a massage for a day. Walk around the neighborhood and explore, stopping at some fruit stalls to buy some fruit or take pictures of the beautiful flowers that are native to this area.

2. In the afternoon, take a tuk tuk ride from Park &  Pool, to Nagarina restaurant across from Mut Mee guesthouse, which is the meeting point for a sunset cruise to the Thai-Laos Friendship bridge. You can order drinks and snacks on the boat, and chat with other tourists and locals as you listen to local Isaan music and observe the sparkling hues of the sunset reflected on the water.

3. For dinner, walk to a nearby popular Vietnamese restaurant, Daeng Namnueng. This place is almost always crowded and it is suggested to order dessert first (buua loy dessert or durian with sticky rice) because they run out fast! For dinner, order the Vietnames namnuang plate, consisting of DIY spring roll/lettuce wraps which you can fill with Vietnamese sausage, veggies and herbs, vermicelli noodles, along with peanut and chili sauces

DAY 3

1. Arrange for a driver prior to this day, as they will pick you up early (7:30 AM), costing around 3,300 baht to go to two very special destinations:

2. 1st stop: Wat A-hong Siliwas, a small Buddhist temple located in a serene setting with a Mekong River view of the Laos border (known as the “navel, or deepest point, of the Mekong”) and a giant rock garden. This point is also famous for the Naga Fireball festival.

3. Phu Tok (also known as Wat Jetiyakiri): 150 kilometers from Nong Khai, his is one of the most unique destinations in Thailand. It is a completely wooden monastery built on a mountain by Buddhist monks in the mid 20th century, and has been preserved for tourists to climb to the top for breathtaking sights of the countryside of Nong Khai. It may also make your heart race if you are afraid of heights, as the wooden boards creak as you make your way to the top. The location is known as the “stairway to heaven”, and the fearful trek is believed as a way to train mindfulness and overcome fear on the path to spiritual enlightenment. Read more about the history here, and you can find the directions to get you from Nong Khai to Phu Tok.

 

DAY 4

Take a day trip to Vientiane, Laos. It is easy to hop over the Thai-Laos friendship bridge for a day to go explore Laos.

A visa on arrival is 35 US dollars, and an extra 220 baht for the Thai/Laos immigration and customs fee. Once you cross over, there will be many drivers waiting to bargain a deal with you for a day tour. If you’re not as adventurous, then you can arrange from the Thai side for a driver to actually bring you through the visa process on the Thai side and then connect with a Laos driver once into Laos. You can rent a tuk tuk for a day and tell them the stops you wish to take, or have them design the trip for you!

The only other money you’ll be spending is minor admissions fees for the sightseeing sites, and for a taste of Laos food. Get your camera ready! – Here are the typical destinations on a day-trip to Laos:

  • Xiang Kwuuan Buddha Park
  • Prathat Luang (Golden Pagoda)
  • Wat Simuang (Temple of city pillar)
  • Pratuxai (Victory Monument)
  • Hor Prakaew (The Emerald Buddha Museum)

 

If you have more time to spend in Nong Khai:

1. Volunteer and give back to the community with one of these opportunities:

  • The Vocational School for People with Disabilities, a short walk from Park & Pool resort.

2. Be adventurous with your taste-testing skills and try some rare foods at the bustling Sunday walking market beside the Nong Khai railway tracks.

3. Depending on what month you end up in Nong Khai, you might be fortunate to experience one of their unique festivals, such as the Phaya Naga Fireball festival or the rocket festival.

 

Asiatique – a boutique-like bazaar with an Asian flair

 

Asiatique has been given a a perfectly-attributed name. It is just as its name implies – a boutique-like bazaar with an Asian flair. Its name has a historical significance as well, giving recognition to the old Danish Asiatic freight company, which helped construct Bangkok’s first international trading port (now known as Asiatique). King Rama 9 opened the port in the 1900s with Danish support, and remnants of Thailand’s early industrial period can be seen around the marketplace. Old-school push carts, anchors, and car trolleys are among some of these treasures. Some of the stalls are located in renovated former sawmills!

Although it offers the best of both modern and traditional worlds, the products are some of the finest quality you can find when it comes to Bangkok markets. There are over 1,000 boutiques spanning across a 300 meter stretch in this unique bazaar. Whether you are a tourist or a local, shopping for a loved one or your little teacup Chihuahua, you will most likely find what you are looking for…

Whether you will find your way out, or back to the stall that you couldn’t quite decide on buying that 500 baht dress… is a different story. The good news is, Asiatique is quite organized and easy to navigate – even for the directionally challenged.

There is a different kind of energy about Asiatique. It is bustling — yet warm and friendly. It is spread out enough that it does not come with the general irritation of crowds or Bangkok heat. It is brightly lit to give its customers a boost of fake Vitamin D to propel their shopping adventures. The design is fun and best of all, the market is CLEAN!

You can find attractive clothing for all shapes, sizes, and ages for a good price. You can buy traditional Thai items, like Thai silk scarves, tissue box holders, bags… even traditional Thai costumes for babies! If it has elephants on it, they’ve got it. There are places to buy beauty products, custom-designed iPhone cases, handmade soap, jewelry, and much more.

Why stop at shopping, when you can have a sit-down dinner at one of the chain restaurants, have a drink at a bar, grab some yummy Thai snacks or thirst-quenching drinks at stalls, be entertained at the circus, ride Thailand’s tallest ferris wheel, get a foot massage, drive go-karts or watch a Muay Thai match or ladyboy cabaret?

There are street performers as well, such as the young Thai dance-dancing girls, or the man decked in gold from head to toe, captivating audiences by posing as a statue for long periods of time… and then giving them a scare, of course, when he makes a move!

The best time to visit Asiatique is in the evening or late night. It is one of the most popular Bangkok tourist attractions and you will never fail to see large groups of Korean or Japanese tourists snapping selfies with the giant gold elephant statue or the hot pink sun setting into the river. Whether you are a local, an expat, or a tourist, you can find something to see, eat, do, or enjoy here.

Asiatique is open from 5 PM until midnight. It is located on Charoenkrung Soi 74-76, alongside the Chao Phraya River. The most convenient – and most touristy – way to  get there is by taking the BTS to Saphan Taksin station and then hopping on the free shuttle boat with a final destination at Asiatique. The boat runs until 11 PM.

Chok Chai 4 – A Hood with A Heart

When people ask me which area of Bangkok I live in, I reply that I live in Chok Chai 4 (in Thai pronounced Chok Chai Si). If a Thai person hears me say Chok Chai Si, they normally reply: “a place with delicious food”. Now Thai are experts in food and there is no shortage of flavorsome food in any square inch of the country. So one has to believe that when they say this, it has to mean something.

The Thai Hospitality

Chok Chai Si is my hood. And for a visitor, an opportunity to experience the old fashioned Thai hospitality, usually experienced in the countryside or untouched communities, like Chumphon. Here in the hood, the locals welcome foreigners (or as Thai called us‘Falang’) with genuine smiles.

If you give a smile, you will not be countered by suspicious looks. And smiling in the hood isn’t hard to do. Because the overall attitude is simply happy and relaxed, or as the Thai expression: “Sabai Sabai”. The warmth and easiness is naturally absorbed and it is infectious.

A reputation

Chok Chai Si (Chok Chai 4) is the name of a street, an inner vein of one of Bangkok’s largest District – Ladphrao. Tourists who have heard of Ladphrao may associate it with its neighbors: Chatuchak and Or-Tor-Ko markets. Expats may associate Ladphrao with the immigration office at Imperial World. And Thai people may associate Ladphrao with heavy traffic.

Rightfully so, Chok Chai Si has earned its own reputation. So mentioning Ladphrao is needless. The hood is stretches over miles of land and close to a hundred street blocks. Architecturally, it possesses all the qualities a Thai urban panorama.

It is a mixed bag of Thailand’s finest and unique cultural symbols, both traditional and modern. Or, in other words…a mix and match (more so not match) of: shop houses, street vendors, fancy shopping areas, shabby modest and luxurious homes, large busy and tiny narrow streets, bridges and canals, and beautiful Buddhist temples.

Jao Me Kuam Im Temple

But there is a sense of intimacy that is not felt in many other areas I’ve been to in Bangkok. Imagine living in a suburb or countryside and having to go out to the big city either for work or a special occasion. Do you remember the best part of the entire day was the moment you entered back into your hood? Have you ever felt the sense of relief accompanied with the comforting thought: “finally home”?

I wonder if that is the same feeling that is portrayed through the common Thai phrase “Sabai Jai”, which  literally translates to comfortable heart. Sabai Jai – an expression that the heart is in a good place.

Authentic Thailand

Just recently, I began to notice a subtle influx of a select crowd of Foreigners in the hood. Some are expatriates, like myself. And some are travelers or backpackers who steer clear from the touristy crowd seeking authentic Thai experiences and hospitality.

Possibly local Thai in the hood have yet to develop an immune system to travelers. After all, travelers, especially westerners, may at times possess an overbearing attitude, even unintentionally. And major tourist attractions like Sukhumvit, Silom, Sathorn, Thong Lor and Khao San is where many Thai have become accustomed to earning off tourism, thus adopting some individualistic consumerism mannerism.


I’ve lived in the hood for almost four years. So I may be slightly biased. Local vendors have become part of an extended family so there is a natural sense of friendliness in the air. Nevertheless, I’ve talked to many expatriates who have lived in Bangkok for a longer time in so-called “expat areas” like Sukhumvit, Silom and Sathorn, who cannot testify to the sense of belonging or relate to these homely experiences. Experiences like when P’Daeng, the lady from Isaan who sets up a daily wagon cart for making Som Taam, (Papaya salad), Larb Plaa Duk (catfish salad), and Naam Tok Muu (grilled pork salad) puts a pestle in my hand and instructs me to stir the som tam in the mortar. Or, Luung (elderly uncle), who has been selling Khao Man Gai (chicken over rice) for over 50 years adds extra pieces of chicken in my takeaway wrap and smiles at me as if I was his favorite granddaughter.

The Chok Chai Si hood guarantees authenticity and abundance in real Thai flavors. This map samples just a small fraction of what the hood has to offer. Can I guarantee heartfelt moments? Well, there is a truth to be said that in order for someone to open their heart to you, you may just need to unleash yours first. The wider your heart is, the more room there is to receive. This formula may work anywhere and anytime. It isn’t exclusive to the hood. But what’s special about Chok Chai Si is the purity of an unspoiled Thai heart that allows those moments to happen effortlessly.

 


 

Chok Chai 4 road is the central vein. The experience of the hood stretches through the parallel Ladphrao 71 street (also known as Nak Niwat) on the east border, and the parallel Wanghin Road on the West border and the perpendicular Sena Nikhom street on the North end .

 

#Authentic Thailand, # off the beaten path, #Ladphrao