The third and final part of the Mark Stephens interview on Life design in Thailand and more specifically on life design in Hua Hin, Thailand
For 8 years now Mark Stephens has lived in Hua Hin, Thailand, finally making this his home after extensive world-wide travel. It must seem a long time ago now having also spent the best part of 10 years living in Australia, but Mark was originally from Ipswich, Suffolk in England.
- Trevor: Can you give us two of your favourite Thai songs?
Mark: Now you’re talking! This is much more my forte than rabbiting on about Thai cross-cultural relationships, mate.
Unfortunately most of my favourite Thai songs are sung by one very talented singer/songwriter who is, for me, way ahead of everyone else. My favourite Thai song ever is “Jai Sang Maa” (“My Heart Ordered It”) by Sek Loso – viewable here!
If I were to list my Top 10 Thai songs they would all be by Sek Loso. So In the interests of making this a little bit more interesting I’ll list my Number 11 song as the Number 2 song, OK!
Number two is by Taxi called “Grot Ter Mai Long” (“I Just Can’t Be Angry With You”) – viewable here
Okay – now I’m getting into this – Number three is by Parn called “Huang” (“Jealous”) – viewable here.
- Trevor: Can you give us two of your favourite Thai related books?
Mark: I’m afraid you’ve got me stumped here. I don’t really read books on Thailand specifically.
- Trevor: Can You Give Us Any Tips Or Advice On Learning Thai Language
Mark: As the Aussies say, ”do the hard yards” There is no substitute for hard work with the Thai language….. no short cuts, no miracle prescriptions. It takes a long time, but the rewards are great. Few foreigners ever get beyond a few mispronounced phrases, even after years and years here, so you will be placing yourself in a select few if you take the trouble to learn Thai well.
Move on to learning written Thai as early as possible and that will help you with your conversational Thai. If you learn written Thai you can pronounce any Thai word correctly which, with Thai being a tonal language, is a major step forward.
- Trevor: You are probably perfectly happy with the way things are now, but if you were to design the perfect day from morning to-night for Mark Stephens how would it look and would it still be in Thailand.
Mark: Yes, I have the feeling I’m right where I need to be at the moment. I would like to travel a bit more I guess, like the old days
- Trevor: You say you miss the travelling. What to you is the greatest way to travel, by that I don’t mean transport wise I mean your travel philosophy, what you travelled for and got from it.
Mark: Well mate, like you I always remember the back-packing days rather than the company trips away to plush hotels. I’ve done both in my life but the moments that stick with me are not the cocktails in the swanky hotel bar with a bunch of suits.
It’s the standing on the train for a 10-hour journey northwards in Mexico or meeting wild Orang utan in Sumatra… the days you and me always reminisce about when you’re over here; the arriving in Australia with $5oo to my name and having to get down from Darwin to Sydney overland to find work; the first time you set eyes on the Reclining Buddha in Wat Pho in Bangkok or discovering the white sands of Koh Samui 20 years ago in the days before they cut all the coconut palms down and you slept in bungalows for 50 baht a night… memorable moments, memorable days forever etched in the memory, mate.
It was all about discovering places of beauty, meeting people from all nations around the world (in the early 1990’s that was still a novelty), learning about local culture, living cheaply and simply from day-to-day, not worrying too much about what the next day would bring. living in the moment, enjoyment, writing the journal, playing music…. it just feels like living…. while all the suckers back at home worked in their 9-5 for…. money, car, house, things. Which didn’t matter at all. Travelling, you didn’t even know what day it was, let alone what time it was (9 or 5)
That was pretty much my philosophy. I do have hankerings to do that again but I knew at the time it’s the sort of thing that’s best done when you’re young, adaptable and you’re strong and don’t mind the odd dirty floor or cockroach or two!
Discovering New cultures And traditions
Trevor: Great stuff mate and I agree with that philosophy whole-heartedly . The best travel for me was travel to get lost just pure exploration, I must add in a precautionary measure, that firstly you make sure you’re not wandering in to some where you might not come out of again, so do enough research to know any bad places, but otherwise explore. The kind of travel nowadays is carried out usually according to a schedule, knowing the precise timings you will spend in say Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. It all starts off with a detailed schedule that you stick to religiously. It is then known as being run by the clock and run by the Calender whilst at home and abroad….. That’s not travel….No travel to get lost, that is real travel and I do miss that.
I worked in the opposite direction as the saying was travel to find oneself, whilst I used to travel to lose myself. I expect like yourself I have no souvenirs from my travels, no plaque from Jakarta, no statue of the CN Tower in Toronto and not even a Pungi a type of folk clarinet that I charmed a python snake with in Singapore, well I assume I charmed it….no, all that remains is a box full of photos and journals. You can tell how old the photos are as people were wearing tank tops and sporting mullets and that was just me and my mate. The journals are still hanging in there with year upon year of tea stains on them having been mused over often. Bringing out the old journals keeps the memories fresh and the laughs plentiful and that’s priceless in my book or journal.
View looking over Khao Wang Mountain, Phethaburi, Near Hua Hin
- Trevor: Do you have a dream or an end goal you are aiming for, the one thing you really want to achieve or perhaps you have already achieved it?
Mark: I’d like to think that my writing will take me somewhere eventually and allow me to open people’s eyes to what’s going on in the world so they make better decisions for their lives.
- Trevor: You say that you hope your writing might help people make better decisions for their lives. What are the present topics you write about the most and more to the point what are the topics you would really like to write about in the future.
I’ve always written things down. I used to do that from the age of 13 or 14 when I started writing poems, songs etc then a journal when I was travelling – most of which I’ve still got tucked away.
Recently, as you know I’ve started making a living from my writing – but it’s more the “water carrying” of the writing world at the moment rather than anything too creative – it’s the Didier Deschamps rather than the Platini I’m afraid – apologies if you don’t like football and don’t understand this, but Trevor will get the reference!
At the moment I’m writing mainly for web sites and much of it about online marketing. I ghost-write blogs for a few people, re-write web sites to make the copy better – things like that. Some of it more challenging but most of it fairly routine stuff. But I’m pretty pleased to be where I am after such a short time of putting myself out there and “available.”
Eventually as my reputation (hopefully) grows I would like to do less slog and more creative and meaningful writing about subjects that interest me – the precarious modern condition, history and what we can learn from it, interpretations of current events, alternatives to globalisation – things like that – but at the moment it’s a bit limited to what actually “sells”, so it’s more about Steve Jobs than Gandhi, unfortunately!
Trevor: If I remember correctly Didier was classed as not much more than a water carrier on the football field, but mind you if I also remember correctly a pretty darn good water carrier in football terms. If you are at the water carrier stage with regards to your writing then I am probably a level below that, possibly at the filling the water drums up for you to carry stage with my scribe. No seriously mate you’re going great guns and well in demand.
I have no doubt that all of your objectives will soon be realised and you can then give Steve back his jobs. Keep up the good work.
He’s Reading The Printed Out Version Of The Mark Stephens Interview
- Trevor: As you know I am a bit of a fan of proverbs, can you give me two of your favourite quotes, sayings or proverbs that have meant something to you and these don’t have to be from Thailand?
Mark: ” An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it” – Gandhi
“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act” – George Orwell
- Trevor: What with world-wide recession and recent political unrest in Thailand, has it caused harder, (and with regards to business) quieter times?
Mark: Yes no question that a number of factors have conspired to reduce tourist numbers (and hence business) in Hua Hin over the past few years. Most businesses have to make ends meet for the 4 months from November to March when things are busy…..especially January and February. The rest of the year they just tick over. There’s probably not a bar or restaurant in Hua Hin that wouldn’t sell given half a chance, to be honest.
The “high” season is a short 4 months (it used to be closer to 5 or 6) and other months that used to be busy like July and August (when European holiday-makers would head over for a couple of weeks during school holidays) are less busy too. That makes things tough for most people.
The political unrest in Thailand really only affected things briefly I think. It’s more that people’s investments and assets suffered during the credit crunch, economies are still generally depressed in Europe despite what we’re told, exchange rates are poor, there’s not so much money to go round, everything’s gone up in price just about everywhere and with austerity measures being imposed left right and center, it’s no surprise that fewer people are travelling overseas.
It’s A Dog’s Life ( No Recession For Him A New Jacket)
- Trevor: If you had to give one piece of advice (not already given here) to any newly arriving Westerner planning on a life in Thailand. What would it be?
Mark: Don’t leave your brain with Immigration when you enter the country.
- Trevor: Great stuff and with that final piece of superb advice I can now tell you that Mark Stephens has left the building. See below…. they liked it mate.
Missed Interview Part One then read it here
Click here for Part 1 of the Life Design, Hua Hin Thailand update 2011 (Mark Stephens interview )
Missed Interview Part two then read it here
Click here for Part 2 of the Life Design, Hua Hin Thailand update 2011 (Mark Stephens interview )
Superb Bar In Hua Hin
Click here for a superb bar in Hua Hin, where you can drink the coldest beer on the hottest day watching the sport of your choice, surrounded by great company at Billy’s Bar.
Engaging Thailand Website
For more information on Thailand in the form of articles, tips, relevant links constant updating and new guest interviews ,please visit http://www.engagingthailand.com/ the site where work will always be in progress.
Brilliant Thai Forum
Entertaining, friendly and very informative on subjects Thai. Come along and meet a welcoming crowd of Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Americans, Brits, Thais and others and be in the know and inform.
What More Mark Stephens, yes, the man writes volumes
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