Thursday, 27 January 2011

Barbara: Time to stop and smell the roses.

Barbara and daughter in Chiang Mai
Her name is Barbara Quinn and she speaks with a quaint Yorkshire accent. Newcastle like. But she's 100% Thai.

"Well actually my name is Rungaroon, which means 'Born in early fresh morning,'" she says, "but when I moved to the UK with my step-father no one could pronounce that. My Dad said, Well your nickname's Pla and that sounds like Barbara, so Barbara it is."

Born in Petchabun ("very hot, grilled chicken wings, and sugarcane") she's been on the move ever since, including a few years each in Phuket, Lopburi and Chiang Mai.

"Every year I visit back to Lopburi," the 26-year-old says, "visit some family and grandparents' graves. From October to February the sunflowers ... oh! You can sit on an elephant and go through sunflower fields. Or even take the train and from one city to another all you see is sunflowers, lakes, dams. We go back to country life, see how life was, really Thai. I miss all those things," says the wedding and event organiser ( with a background in marketing and hospitality.

Playing in Khmer ruins, Lopburi.
However she's happy to call Chiang Mai home where her family runs The Pub, Chiang Mai's oldest watering hole, now 41 years old ( "This is our family tree," she says, enjoying the shade of a sala in its leafy grounds. "A starting point for all the kids. I can stay here in the Thai way, but make a living in the farang way outside."

Just then her brother Thomas passes by, a drummer in a popular band downtown by night ... "You don't have to hire anyone else when you've got all the skills in the family."

Barbara's Top 5 Chilled Choices:

1/ Huay Tung Tao Lake, Chiang Mai: "A lot of tourists don't know it, and I prefer that, quiet as it is. I like to sit with my family and chill. There's a little library there. Even if you fall asleep there's no danger there."

2/ Coffee shops on Nimminheiman Road, Chiang Mai: "Every week I'll go to 1 or 2 different ones to see what the new generation is doing, what teenagers are thinking and doing. Some have garden atmospheres, different cakes. I can never get around to all because there's always a new one popping up. When you get a big welcome and a big smile, maybe you are their first customer ever!"

3/ Wat Umong and Wat Chiengmand, Chiang Mai: "I go to temple once a week. I like Umong's shady trees -- it's like The Pub but they don't serve Guinness! I go to Chiengmand on special occasions to feed the fish. The monks here still have their strong religion, doing what monks should do, not out shopping. I like Monk Chat when you can talk to the monks. There's a Thai saying: 'When it comes from your heart, you get the whole 100% of the blessing'."

4/ Phu Ping Royal Palace, Doi Suthep: "I go on the motorbike, sit around the garden and feel respectful to be so close to our 'Dad' -- our King -- and Queen and all they have done for us. It's not a big palace; it's natural, it's garden  ... new mixes of roses that our Queen and Princess created and planted."

5/ Lopburi: "They call it 'Monkey Town' because there's millions of monkeys in town. As soon as you step off the train, and they even have monkey gangsters who'll take things from you! It's historical but there's an extreme sport centre there too. I just went for a week and didn't want to come back."

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