Blue hour at Chocolate Ville

I was going through old photos and found these, taken four years ago at Chocolate Ville, Bangkok during blue hour. “The blue hour, from the French expression l’heure bleue, is the period of twilight each morning and evening where there is neither full daylight nor complete darkness. The time is considered special because of the quality of the light.” As the term suggests, when you take a photo during blue hour the result is a stunning deep blue sky.

We were at Chocolate Ville for dinner; I went around to take photos while we wait for our food. I have been wanting to try blue hour photography but since it has to be taken at specific time of the day — during twilight — I was not able to execute that plan and I have no idea why. Nonetheless, when I saw the photos I’ve taken at Chocolate Ville I was thrilled to realise that I’ve taken them at blue hour! So much about making plans when things can be accomplished at the least expected moments. Unfortunately, I started a bit late as the night began to deepen so as you can see the color of the sky in some of my photos are too dark.

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Chocolate Ville is a theme park restaurant in Bangkok though located a bit far off from the city center. The best way to get there is by taxi which will cost from 100-200 Baht. Don’t be mistaken by its name though, sorry to break it to you but the place isn’t about chocolates; I haven’t found a shop that sells chocolates there either. Contrary to most restaurants in Bangkok, Chocolate Ville offers a European vibe so if you are a westerner wanting to experience Thai culture, it’s probably not the best place to go.

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The best part is there is no entrance fee and you can take as many photos as you like. If you’d want to dine there I would suggest making a reservation to make sure you get a seat after that long trip by taxi; it took us an hour to get there! Also note that they are open from 4PM-12AM so don’t go there too early since it’s far from the central district and there is nothing else to do to kill time.

Chocolate Ville
Soi Nawamin 74, Yak 3-8, Kaset-Nawamin Road, Klong Kum Subdistrict, Bueng Kum District.
Bangkok, Thailand
+66-83-077-3738 or
+66-81-921-2016 or
+66-81-921-0661
http://www.chocolateville.net/


Dinner after midnight

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I sat on a chair across the band; gulped cold beer from a bottle while waiting for our food. My companion left for the loo. The band began to play. I can see her from the corner of my eye, walking slowly with a basket in her hand. “Would you like to buy some peanuts?” she asked me. I gave a lazy smile and said, “no, thanks”. She sat on the chair opposite us, carefully placed her basket half full of peanuts on the table as she watched the band. She looked like she was 60 or 70 years old but I can never conclude as I only based my assessment from her and my mother’s appearance. She looked much older than my mom who is now in her late 50s.

Our food arrived; we ordered two courses but they were too much for just two people moreso that I eat less. I asked the waitress to give us one extra plate, spoon and fork. I placed food on her plate and gave it to her with a glass of water before we began eating as I didn’t want her to think that we are giving her our leftover. She accepted and thanked me shyly.

I was enjoying my food when I unconsciously threw glance at her and noticed that she seemed hungry. It was 8PM, a bit late for dinner. She must have eaten early before leaving home to sell her peanuts, I thought. “Let’s buy some of her peanuts later”, my companion said after noticing that I was looking at her.

After she ate, she approached us with a smile full of gratitude. She handed us two packs of peanuts. “Allow me to thank you for your graciousness with these peanuts. You know, I normally eat after midnight usually around 1AM when all my peanuts are sold. I would run to the food stalls near the park and ask for a soup which they give for free after midnight. I would then go home to eat my supper of soup and rice.”

We didn’t know what to say. We were hit with a pang but couldn’t show it. Instead, we told her we will buy 10 packs and pay for all of them. She insisted on giving us two packs for free but we refused. We knew that two packs could already buy her a decent meal so we urged her to accept the money. She did, thanked us wholeheartedly and proceeded selling to other customers.

After dinner we dropped by at the apartment, took six pancakes leftover from breakfast and brought it to four students with the peanuts. People say peanuts are food for the brain so the old woman’s peanuts were perfect for the students who were preparing for their exams until after midnight.


Kayan tribe: meeting the long-necked women

There are different concepts of beauty but for me none is as eccentric and rather ‘life-threatening’ as that of the Kayan tribe. During my naïve years in my early twenties, I visited the controversial ethnic tourist village in northern Thailand that showcases the long-necked Kayan women as part of our tour package, unconscious of the ethical issues around it. I didn’t know then that there are existing activism against the exploitation of these women for tourism purposes. My preconceptions then was that these women migrated to Thailand along with their tribe to escape their hard life in Burma, used their tribe’s unique custom where women wear brass-necklaces to attract tourists which eventually became their top source of income — entry to their tribe village costs THB300 back in 2011. Little did I know that aside from the health problems and life risks these women suffer because of this particular custom, their tribe also face complex issues around citizenship and migration.

With the most beautiful woman in the village

With the most beautiful woman in the village. Why I said so? Read on.

Kayan tribe

The Kayan tribe, a sub-group of Karenni tribe, is one of the six ‘hill tribes’ in northern Thailand. They are refugees from Myanmar who fled from the conflict. As refugees they continue to suffer from dire poverty, lack of healthcare and basic services including education. They also receive unequal share from the tourism profit. Some of them also experience difficulties in integrating with Thai society probably because geographically they live mostly in hills farther from Thai homes and customarily they have a more backward way of life as opposed to Thais who have embraced modernisation. Such ‘identity crisis’ is worse among young Kayans who grow up between ‘two worlds’.

Human museum or human zoo

Some call the Kayan village a human museum or human zoo because the main tourist attractions are the girls and women wearing brass rings on their neck. Kayan girls begin to wear brass rings as early as 5 years old; more rings are gradually added as they age. It is believed that the woman with the most number of rings is considered the most beautiful.

Wearing rings is part of Kayan tribe’s traditional customs. Some believe that wearing the rings will ward off evil spirits. Some think that the rings will protect the girls from being bitten by a tiger. Some also say that village men use this tradition to keep their wives from having affairs as husbands would punish their wife by removing the rings. In doing so, Kayan women are left bedridden as their head can’t stand without the rings.

I was told that the rings weigh as much as 14 kilos. A replica is made available for tourists to carry so they will know how heavy they are; I could barely carry it longer with both hands! They also have a lighter version of the rings that visitors can wear to take photos with.

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Practicing their craft.

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Wearing the bonnet I bought from them.

She is so pretty!

She is so pretty!

Should one visit the Kayan village?

During one of our intensive classes on human rights of migrants, my classmate brought up the question on whether we should visit the village knowing that some tour agencies exploited these women without giving them a fair share of the profit. Although the issues they face are very complex, a sad truth remains that because of their refugee status this women will not find a job in Thailand and tourism in their village remains their only form of livelihood. As such, the question is not whether we should visit them or not but how we can help them through our visit.

One way to directly help the Kayans is to purchase their products. If you have spare cash, directly giving it to them after you take their photo will bring joy to their pretty faces.

The village

We went to a village with less tourists. At the entrance before you pass through the bamboo bridge were booths lined up where they display their handicrafts for sale. I didn’t know then that young girls also wear the rings so I was a bit shocked when I saw them. At first they were indifferent to our presence which made me uncomfortable because I felt we were invading their peace, but when I smiled and attempted a conversation they smiled back making me feel at ease. Some women vendors belong to another tribe so they don’t wear the rings.

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How to get there?

I visited the village in 2011 through a tour agency so I cannot be of much help to adventurers who would prefer to commute. Although I remember that we passed through narrow roads along bushes which is said to be inhabited by snakes. Even if I speak a little bit of Pasathai, I may still find it harder to reach the area so going through a tour agency may be the most convenient option.