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Free Hugs Bangkok (#FreeHugsBkk)

How It Began

I had come down with the flu over the New Year period. It wasn’t the big influenza virus, but I was down 10 days and recovering slow in spite of home remedial therapies, and medicines.

For two days, I did not dare touch my daughter for I didn’t want her to catch anything. Even on the day I felt better I still felt like crap (recovery takes a bit of time).

Suddenly my daughter ran to me and hugged me, hugged me so tight that I felt infinitely better.

The doom and gloom immediately lifted, I felt activated, energized, and rejuvenated.

Serious Bangkok

I observed Bangkok over the next few days.

Even during a holiday period people are just so serious, twisting their faces, running to places.

We’ve lost a sense of touch with one other. People can use hugs and maybe coaxed into opening themselves for it. With the encouragement of my wife, decided to tweet the idea of #FreeHugsBkk and @ a few people whom we thought would join on the idea.

Nicky of Thailand’s Business In Heels replied instantly.

 

OsitoBkk and the Power of Twitter

In separate and independent development, Khun Oh of La Monita and Osito Bangkok was considering a “Free Hugs” campaign at their restaurant over the Valentine weekend. In her concept, free hugs at her restaurants would have her restaurants pledging 10-2o Baht to charity for the free hugs.

As chance would have it, she checked the hashtags of #FreeHugsBangkok and #FreeHugsBkk, to find my tweets. She decided to contact myself and Nicky, over twitter, and we decided to forge together in bringing hugs through Bangkok.

The charities all our funds go to are “In Search of Sanuk” and “Operation Smile Thailand”.

 

14 Day Campaign

We carried a 14 day campaign of hugs through Bangkok.

By day 12 we were exhausted. We had been all over Bangkok. We had been in Asok, Rajprasong, Wireless Road, Aree, Victory Monument, PhromPong, Saladaeng/Silom, Chong Nonsi, and even the Skywalk in front of Siam Square One.

We had reached 18,000+ hugs.

We raised even more money. Though we fretted that we wouldn’t reach our totals.

Then Chomp Bangkok Cafe got involved. They took our campaign to Khao San road where we totaled over 12,000 hugs in just 2 days.

On Valentines day, we ended our campaign formally with 30,977 hugs, though the real count may have been much higher.

We raised over 100,000 Baht.

 

Bangkok Hugs and Gives

We met our goal, in spite of bad planning, and a total lack of resources.

We did so because of favorable media coverage and the loving people of Bangkok who volunteered and small businesses who held small hugathons at their private businesses in helping our campaign.

It wasn’t however all smiles and games.

A small percentage of these hugs, maybe around 3-5% were hugs taken by people who really needed them. This campaign felt all worthwhile when we got hugs and people would just hold us, sometimes a little longer than we felt comfortable, but that was just the medicine for them.

Then at times, when we felt down ourselves (standing around offering free hugs and seeing people avoid at all cost takes its own toll on you), and then we would get the brightest chirpiest people come and give us their energy via a hug.

So we got and received hugs in Bangkok. It was awesome. It was a touch of humanity, a touch we so much need.

Bangkok. You are awesome. You are charitable. In spite of all the seediness there is good in you. Let’s shine.

 

Thank You

We are not a formal charity, nor do we know anyone in the media.

It was to our pleasant surprise that Guru Magazine, Coconuts Bangkok, and Bangkok 101 carried our story. For this we are extremely grateful. Your coverage may have just been the notice that brought out the people who needed those hugs.

A special thank you to Nicola Jones-Crossley for replying to my original tweet, and lso to Khun Oh, Billy, Daniel, Jenni and the team of Osito Bangkok and La Monita for helping organize this to be bigger than expected.

Thank you Gili Black of ChompBkk for bringing this campaign to Khao San Road and Old Bangkok.

And a thank you to our friends, Ryu Sakomoto of Bangkok Farmer’s Market, Mutsumi Adachi from Om Room, Minh Minimum of Yogatique, Ben Cole of Tailor on Ten fame, and the Thai-Sikh community for sharing hugs and contributing to the campaign, and Grab Taxi Thailand team for letting their clients know about the Free Hugs campaign in their taxi confirmation emails.

Most of all I want to thank my tech geek wife, Rupa Palsingh, without whose encouragement of that initial first step, none of this would have ever happened.

Over the last 14 days, we shared 30,000 hugs and we received over 100,000 Baht in donations, these will go directly to Operation Smile Thailand and to In Search of Sanuk.

In each way you all made it even more encouraging and we will continue this project into the future.

 

Conclusions

Hug your family. Hug your friends. Hug your nears and your dears.

Hug not as a formality. Hug because you share, and hug because you care.

Sometimes, open your arms and hug a stranger, because we never know who may just need it.

Enjoy some pics below and come like us at http://www.facebook.com/FreeHugsBkk

DanielFreeHug

FreeHugCute

FreeHugJenni

FreeHugMuslim

FreeHugNeed

FreeHugNeeded

FreeHugPreggo

FreeHugsKSR

HappyFreeHug HugPrangie

InSearchofSanuk

JeanMarieFreeHug

RichardHugs

SmileyHug

Diversions Of Diversity

For the world it seems there is much to celebrate. There are so many things so great.

Yet, it is my opinion we spend too much time on hate.

Police State

Seemingly it seems in the United States, many people are waking up to the police state. Modern technologies and videos have allowed us a window into the deaths of many people.

This includes the death of a 12 year old boy named Tamir Rice who was playing when police officers zoom up in a car, one of them jumps out, points a gun at him, and within a split second of telling him to put his gun down shoots him. Killing a 12 year old boy, who was doing not much other than play in the snow and make shooting noises with his toy gun.

This includes the death of a man named John Crawford, who picked up a toy gun from the toy section at Walmart, and was walking around. If you see the Youtube video, he never once pointed that toy gun to anyone. He was brutally gunned down.

This includes a homeless man, James Boyd, who was shot, for no apparent reason other than being homeless and mentally deranged to some extent.

There is no mass outrage. Many of these police departments did internal investigations of themselves, and not surprisingly, found that they did nothing wrong.

Gaza Strip

Last summer, leading to September, the Gaza strip and its citizens were pulverized out of existence.

The silence by the Western Media, and the inaction of most of the world’s leaders on these deaths, and subsequent deaths following the loss of electricity is both hypocritical, and heart breaking.

Syrian War

It remains to be that the regime of Bashar Al-Assad is still at war with its own citizens. Like all wars, there is starvation, and a lot of lives lost to darkness.

It was within this darkness that ISIS was formed. Both within the confines of an Iraq war prison, and supplies of weapons of war and other weapons of destruction to these “freedom fighters” in the guise of ‘liberating’ Syria by the United States and its allies was ISIS formed.

Just like AlQaeda, it’s come back to haunt the world.

Je Suis Charlie

Yet what makes me write all this isn’t the above.

It seems what made me write, and what makes me somewhat still in the world that allows mass media to decide the conversation is what happened to cartoonists at the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Killing cartoonists is really quite lame.

Basic freedom of speech, and rights to say what one pleases is a human right. I might not like what Charlie Hebdo says, but so what. It’s not important what I think their editorial content “should” be.

Tyranny must be opposed always.

Not forgetting of course

Je Suis Ahmed

For that Moslem police officer, Ahmad Merabet, who died protecting the magazine.

If the cartoonists are heroes in the “Charlie Hebdo” story, then Ahmed is too, for anything, he died protecting the rights of a magazine to depict his prophet as a faggot. I give kudos to this brother for sure.

Out of Darkness

The whole point of the rambling above is to get to the place that the world is reactionary.

We the people, love to engage in sensationalism.

Somehow, beyond this bullshit sensationalist reactionary lizard brain of ours we must develop a sense of focus. A sense of focus maintained by breath.

Practice a humanity that goes beyond the conditioning of race, creed, and cultural bullshit we over feed ourselves with and justify our hateful reactions to others.

Not Diverse

This concept of diversity is a myth.

Follow me for a moment.

Diversity is a justification for not recognizing the Oneness in each other. Diversity sees beyond the mere fact that we are beings of flesh powered by breath.

Diversity isn’t bad, its colorful, and all life is fun with vibrant colors.

Diversity isn’t the end all.

Light is.

Love is.

No Excuses

History is important. History explains our journey. It lets us know why were are here doing what we do.

Yet, for all of what history has shown us about Colonialism, White Privilege, and continuing suppression of those who fall their thinking into the paradigm of “acceptable thought”.

At the end we must stop ourselves from all these fleeting thought used as excuses and come up with just one question as an answer

“So What?”

If we can’t serve what is the point?

So we pull ourselves to a higher plane

Its Love. Its Ecstasy. Its Light, Light, and more Brightness.

Its Fleeting. Its Momentary.

It is Infinite.

Suddenly you realize that there is nothing holding down except thoughts and ideas; and then Liberation occurs, because you realize nothing can tie you down anymore.

and I think of all my heroes

MLK, Gandhi, Swami Vivekanand, Nanak, Kabir, Buddha.

and I am reminded that they liberated others upon their own.

Song Of My Soul – 1st Pauri Japuji Sahib

this is not to be a literal translation of Guru Nanak’s Japji Sahib

It is my most honest understanding of it. I welcome corrections if I made a wrong understanding of the Gurmukhi/Punjabi language.

I had written once on the Mool Mantar, and this will continue to the 1st Pauri of the Japji Sahib.

Nanak Lama of the Tibetan Buddhists
Nanak Lama

One may contemplate thousands of times,
but thinking cannot put parameters into the infinite.

Even in the utmost silence there is no quiet,
as the song and dance of the cosmos goes on.

Hunger can never be satiated,
latching on and carrying the material world as baggage.

The mind will pull a million tricks to justify our living insanity,
but none of it will matter if you don’t recognize all of existence as One.

How to come into truth?
How to break this walk of falsehood?

Walk along with the Divine Order,
With whom Nanak writes this message.

– Japji 1st Pauri

Cycle to Eat – Medini (aka The EatUpTweetUp)

This story begins with a tweet from a man called @thaipirate who shared with the world this:

All you can eat for 999 - Medini
All you can eat for 999 – Medini

A message and a deal like that got a lot of people excited.

Free flow wine and beer? Free flow pasta and pizza? Who has ever heard of free flow pasta and pizza? Not I.

So you see, we just had to go; and it also started what we call the #EatUpTweetUp.

Since we were going, why not cycle there? After all, Medini is located at the Continent hotel, right adjacent to the Interchange Tower at Asoke intersection.

It doesn’t matter that there were rains beforehand, the rain had stopped, and the weather was perfect for a cycle.

Until we got there that is, this is where Continent Hotel asked us to park.

IMG_6989
Bicycle Parking = near garbage and staff room

Everyone who cycles just loves the smell of hotel garbage. #Fact

Sarcasm aside, when we go into the hotel, we had to wash our hands and faces, and then went to join the Eat Up Tweet Up.

At the end of the day we are talking free flow beer, wine, pasta, and pizza alongside 1 main dish and 1 dessert for 999 Baht or around US$34.

Eat Up Tweet Up
Eat Up Tweet Up

One thing I find about twitter is you meet people based on interest. When these interests align, you can have a social gathering called a TweetUp.

At this particular TweetUp, I was meeting in person many people who I had been following for years on twitter. It made for an enjoyable night.

Due to its free flow nature, we shared most of our pastas and pizzas, we ordered much more than the photos I shared, here are some highlights.

Cream Sauce Pasta and Spaghetti Olio
Cream Sauce Pasta and Spaghetti Olio

My favorite pasta had to be the Spaghetti Aglio Olio. It was spicy. The cream sauce was average.

Then we had some pizzas.

Ham and Mushroom Pizza
Ham and Mushroom Pizza
Green Curry Chicken Pizza
Green Curry Chicken Pizza

The pizzas took a long time to arrive. I believe anywhere in the range of 30-45 minutes from ordering, whereas pastas arrived within 15 minutes. In spite of a great deal, Medini itself wasn’t packed.

The pizzas and pastas were above average.

For main courses, everyone either ordered the Prime Rib, or the fish.

The

 

IMG_6871[1]
Prime Rib
The fish, looked so bad, I thought it disrespectful to take a photo, and the taste wasn’t much better.

All in all, I would say Medini’s food is 7/10, the company on the day 12/10 more than made up for it.

Medinis saving grace is probably their desserts.

IMG_6992
Delicious Desserts

All in all, I would say Medini’s 999 Baht deal is great, if you plan to drink quite a bit, and go in a big group.

For us after a long session of laughing and talking, including a break I had apparently taken to skinny dip in the pool of the Contient Hotel*, the night was to come to an end.

So back to the basement of the hotel, to get our bicycles from nearby the garbage dump, and cycle home.

Next on Cycle To Eat, we visit the area around Suan Plu district and eat at a French restaurant called “Uncle John”

*that didn’t happen, but my account had that tweeted – the lesson here is never leave your phone unattended).

 

Cycle To Eat – May Veggie Home

One place that has highlighted Bangkok with really great food since its inception is May Veggie Home. From its original location near the front of Thonglor, May Veggie Home gained a fan following with people going out of their way to enjoy their meals there.

About a year ago, May Veggie Home closed down their home base in Thonglor and moved to Asoke. It took me many months to go back there as the location on their web site was confusing, and back then of course I didn’t cycle much, and May Veggie doesn’t have parking (it now does).

Here’ s a better map of May Veggie Home.

Cycle Map To May Veggie Blue - Cycle Orange - Walk
Cycle Map To May Veggie
Blue – Cycle
Orange – Walk

After crossing Asok Intersection from upper Sukhumvit (coming down from Soi 18 side), we hopped out of the bike and walked across the pedestrian pathway to cross the lane that turns left from Ratchadaphisek. This is the safest way to get across. After getting back on the sidewalk (and the sidewalk on this side is pretty big) we cycled to May Veggie home.

You must cycle on the sidewalk here otherwise you will face oncoming traffic.

There is a light post outside the restaurant you can tie your bicycle to. Alternatively if you are driving, you can park at the Park Plaza hotel and pay 20 or 40 Baht for parking depending on how much time you spend to eat.

I am no vegetarian myself, however eating less meat, and eating healthy foods are the best thing you can do for the body.

Extreme Veganism
What is extreme?

Healthy eating doesn’t mean not delicious. May Veggie Home has some pretty good food.

I had a Khao Soy Jae, Rupa had a Japanese style vegetable curry, and we shared a Teriyaki “Duck”.

IMG_6732
Khao Soy Jae (Vegetarian Curry Noodle Chiang Mai Style)

I am a big fan of Khao Soy. When I visited Chiang Mai a few years ago I had Khao Soy for lunch and dinner sometimes because I wanted to savor the Northern delicacy for as much as I could.

May Veggie Home’s Khao Soy comes with crunchy fried noodles at the top and a layer of crunchy Enoki mushroom just below. Its served with a side of clear tofu soup just in case the curry taste starts becoming too overwhelming.

The Khao Soy was fantastic. As a meat eater myself I say that this Khao Soy is tastier than many of the ones using chicken meat in Bangkok. The taste of the curry, mushroom, noodles, is just the right combination.

Japanese Style Vegetable Curry Rice
Japanese Style Vegetable Curry Rice

One of the uncertainties when ordering Japanese style curry rice in Bangkok (and not just the veg versions) is whether or not the curry itself will be too starchy.

In this case, May Veggie Home gets the curry right. The mix of curry with vegetables and tofu with brown rice makes for a perfect meal.

Teriyaki "Duck"
Teriyaki “Duck”

Usually I am not a fan of mock meats. However the Teriyaki “duck” at May Veggie home is quite delicious. The mock meat on the day was more protein and less starch, the crunch from frying is just delicious and goes very well with the soy sauce.

With these 3 dishes we were quite full. I really wanted to eat the burger at May Veggie home, but couldn’t. The bean burger at May Veggie home is absolutely delicious and in my opinion better than many of the meat varieties at restaurants in Bangkok.

Below is a picture of a burger I’ve had at May Veggie home on a prior trip where I didn’t cycle there. It deserves a special mention because it really is that good.

The main ingredient in the bean burger is chickpeas, though there are other beans mixed in there (she wouldn’t say which) and is spiced with 15 different spices. Add to that a Japanese sesame sauce and actual sesame, and the flavors just explode on the tongue.

May Veggie Bean Burger
May Veggie Bean Burger