30 Jan

How many books have been published that talk about how to find happiness? I have no idea but there’re three pillars of happiness that are highly relevant to this blog, which are: Family&friends, traveling and doing good. On January 12 with these three cornerstones in tow we bypassed the bookshelf and went straight for the experience. An experience facilitated in the heart of Thailand’s smallest province.happiness
Phuket? Nope, the smallest province is Samut Songkhram, the birthplace of my mother and home to friends and relatives. This divine place is a great source of happiness and its beauty and tranquility is an inspiration for artists and writers. For me it’s an inspiration to explore my roots, on a bicycle of course and after countless visits, sport and spiritual retreats the time had finally come to add the do-good-factor to the Samut Songkhram experience. An experience that had been put on a tray like a ready-made roll just waiting be crisped up. Children’s Day provided an ideal opportunity for an exclusive weekend escape that you won’t find in any travel agency. Apart from being a social entrepreneur I consider myself an experience designer whose mission is to create value and happiness through Thailand experiences. The awe-factors of your surroundings and activities, the positive impact, inspiration, intellectual stimulation and fun are crucial parts of an experience, varying in their degree depending on the experience. My aim is to maximize certain elements to create a narrative in which everyone finds himself in the center point of his own exciting narrative instead of being sidelined as a spectator, coming for simple sightseeing.IMG_8446

Thus a Children’s Day platoon of 30 friends and volunteers from 13 different countries set off to one of the most beautiful and pristine places outside Bangkok. A place I’ve been visiting since I was a child myself, I think I was some whopping four years old and now 30 years later there was finally this great opportunity to give back to the children of Samut Songkhram.

I don’t know whether there is the term ‘happiness-overflow’ but that would describe what I felt due to some simple but fundamental things. Something that even the most beautiful beaches or the best clubs can’t deliver. Like, seeing familiar faces, your friends engaged with those kids, their parents, the monks, the smiles and laughter, the positive vibe and laidbackness, the nature, the beauty of Thai architecture, the unpretentious beauty of the environs and the people that reconnects you with the basics. All this blended into something of almost surreal beauty which at the pace of our hectic lives often seems remote and yet here we were at this sidearm of the mighty Maeklong river, at this century old canal community a stone-throw away from my grandmother’s house.bangkokvanguards children's day 76

Here we were, free of traffic jams and loaded onto a boat with hundreds of gifts and an oversize teddy, going for a refreshingly sunny ride on the only remaining clean river in Central Thailand.bangkokvanguards children's day 7
From our office desks and computer screens beamed to the banks of the river with our green wigs, having fun with the kids, dancing, painting, racing, catching, singing and playing tug of war, musical chair, and all those games that I don’t have names for but that would absorb us all and burn a whole lot of calories.bangkokvanguards children's day 22tug

Painted faces, little whirlwinds buzzing around almost uncontrollable as if someone had thrown away the remote. Maximum fun factor, dismissing any event schedules till we find a new owner for the big bear. Being chased and filtered out till two contestants are left who will be chasing a bear holding a bear to win the latter, a pursuit of happiness in real time.

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Here we were, games and energy abound, but still thinking of what message we’ll leave with the kids … something that will stick with them apart from a sweaty t-shirt, something that reminds them of being good, good to other, good at school, of being the future…  bangkokvanguards children's day 60
Immersing in these old temple grounds protected from the sun by huge trees and spoiled with the breeze from the river. Trees growing out of ancient Stupas and an old crumbling Thai pavilion held together by some Buddhist spell. The sun’s reflection sparkling on the river and framed by the trunks of coconut trees as if it was the Chaweng Beach of the 80’s. Well, we may lacked the white sand beach but the occasional trader canoeing past as an ambassador of this timeless river reminding me of the essence of this place.bangkokvanguards children's day 10a
Here we were, doing what would be beyond our imagination in Bangkok – swimming in a canal!! Splashing about or relaxing on the patio as the light turned soft and chillstep tunes gently filled the air.bangkokvanguards children's day 77IMG_8382 jump

Sailing down the river on a converted barge, catching up with good friends, cherishing their company, enjoying great food, nice tunes and the overall energy of being surrounded by good and inspiring people.bangkokvanguards children's day 91

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On a day that encapsulated a universal Children’s Day, we were here,  children trapped in adults bodies immersing in a different world, reflecting on a day of giving and absorbing the present with people important to us. A day of which more are in the pipeline, a workshop of travel, companionship and impact that facilitates an outreach program to the child in you.

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