A Look Into Tom Culture, Thailand’s Non-Traditional Gender Group


Sexual orientation and gender are influenced by social constructs of masculinity and femininity, but more people are starting to understand that both are not defined by a person’s biological sex. Because a person is born a woman doesn’t necessarily mean she is confined to society’s expectations of how a woman should look, act and think. As such, gender roles become blurred once we take away the binary perspective of man and woman.

In the 1970’s, when the American term “lesbian” was brought to Thailand, it initially had a negative response and soon the word was associated with negative images of women who love women. Since then, Thailand has grown to be one of the most tolerant countries when it comes to sex and gender. A mini documentary made by Coconut TV explores Thailand’s unique non-traditional gender group–Toms–and the culture surrounding them. By definition, “Toms” (a derivative from “Tomboy”) are biological women who want to appear male and fulfill male gender roles, but don’t identify as male. Unlike America’s mainstream lesbian culture, Toms aren’t only interested in other women, but there’s an added level of complexity with their distinct dress and social code that’s special to Tom culture.

Although Toms have been gaining visibility through media (especially in dramas), their representation hasn’t necessarily meant that Toms have the same legal rights as heterosexual women and men. In fact, the Tom Act magazine has been dedicated to creating a space for Toms and the women who love them. It’s their goal to humanize the Tom community for those who are struggling to understand them. In addition to the magazine, they created the Mr. Tom Act competition in hopes of increasing Thailand’s acceptance of Toms. Watch the mini documentary below as Coconut TV follows two Toms on their way to Mr. Tom Act.



Thailand Creates Art Exhibit For The Blind and Visually Impaired


The Thai Ministry of Tourism joined forces with Thai universities such as Chulalongkorn University and Silpakorn University to fulfill a single goal: To create a space where the visually impaired could experience art the same way others do.

Admittedly, many of us take our vision for granted when it comes to art. We forget that much of the beauty found in art exhibits — paintings, photographs and sculptures with giant “do not touch” signs in front– are only available to those of us with sight.

Well not anymore. In fact, you can kiss that “do not touch sign” goodbye.

Found in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a pilot project called “‘Feel the Happiness: Art for the Blind” aims to promote equality in the country by creating a space in which the blind and visually impaired can experience the country’s famous landmarks through feeling. For instance, there are bells in the shape of Buddha which can appeal to the sense of touch and the sense of hearing.

They hope to have artists create more sculptured and interactive artwork to be placed at Thailand’s tourist sites that allow the blind and visually impaired to experience the art.

Read more about this inspiring project here.


feel 1 feel 2

feel 3 feel 4



This Rescued Baby Elephant Playing With Ribbon Will Make Your Day


Meet Faa Mai, a 5-year-old elephant residing at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She’s here to make your day.

The Elephant Nature Park operates thanks to the Save Elephant Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides care and a safe place for Thailand’s captive elephant population “through a multifaceted approach involving local community outreach, rescue and rehabilitation programs, and educational ecotourism operations.”

The founder of the Save Elephant foundation is Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, who was named one of Time Magazine’s Heroes of Asia in 2005 and the Ford Foundation’s “Hero of the Planet” in 2001. She has been advocating for the rights and welfare of the Asian elephants in Thailand for years and has created a safe sanctuary for them for almost 20 years.

Faa Mai certainly seems to be enjoying herself at the Elephant Nature Park. In this video, she is seen joyously playing with blue ribbon. Although we first worry that she is simply tangled in the ribbon and is trying to shake it off, it soon becomes clear that she’s having the time of her life.

If you’re in need of a pick me up today, this 3 minute video should do the trick.


Get Ready To Cry With This MUST-SEE Short From Thailand

Sometimes, we all just need a good cry session. Well we’re here to help you out.

“My Beautiful Woman” is a touching and inspiring short about love, sacrifice and motherhood. The short film allows us to question what it truly takes to be a mother and reminds us that there’s still a lot of good in this world.

This video is brought to you by ‘Beauty Inside’ Wacoal Thailand and is based on a true story. So pull out the tissues and watch this heartwarming story below.


According to 4lifethailand.org, a fundraising organization that hopes to “bring life to the thousands of abandoned disabled children living in state institutions in Thailand,” thousands of unwanted children are left on the streets of Thailand for various reasons, including disabilities. State orphanages have been set up, but the number of children who find themselves without a home are getting overwhelming.

It is people, like the mother in this video, who open their heart up and allow these abandoned children to truly feel what love is.


Graphic Designer Pum Lefebure’s Insider’s Guide to Bangkok


Pum Lefebure, graphic designer and co-founder of award-winning design agency Design Army, was born and raised in Thailand. So though she now lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and 8-year-old daughter Sophie, she goes back to visit her homeland every winter. The itinerary? Bangkok, of course, where her family lives. “I like to spend an evening with my mom in our home and talk until 3 in morning,” says the 38-year-old. “We might have a Thai beer called Singha along with some mango and sweet sticky rice and catch up.” She also heads to the beach town of Krabi in southern Thailand, where it’s a perfect 75 to 80 degrees in the dead of winter. “I love being in the ocean and on the beach at Krabi, one of the most beautiful places in the world,” says Lefebure. “It brings me back to my childhood days, especially as I watch Sophie enjoying the sand.”


Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 12.04.42 PM


Here, Lefebure gives us an insider’s look into what to do and see in Bangkok.

* Must Visit: The Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok’s riverside terrace. To be outdoors on the Chao Phraya River in December is pretty special. The service is incredible, the atmosphere is beautiful, and the Bamboo Bar is a great place to hang out and listen to jazz music.

* Must Buy: I love to shop for jewelry in Peninsula Plaza, where local Thai artists sell jewelry that’s beautiful and inexpensive. At Mungkara Jewelry, I’ve purchased unique pieces with amethyst, rubies and emeralds and lots of bracelets. And though I bring all my beauty products with me, I do buy the local Thai shampoo since it’s made for Asian hair.

The Chatuchak Weekend Market, also known as Jatujak Market, is one of the world’s largest markets. It’s famous for antiques, clothes, food, furniture, plants, pets and more. Everyone has a shop there. It’s easy to get to by BTS, Thailand’s Metro system. My advice is to wear light clothes and drink a lot of water — it’s hot in there.


Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 8.54.20 AM


* Must Eat: We plan to try La Table de Tee, a new foodie place recommended by a friend. It’s Bangkok’s first “Chef’s Table,” where Chef Tee Kachonklin creates a daily changing tasting menu.

* Must Do: I must go to Wat Pho, home to the reclining Buddha, for a two-hour Thai massage at least twice. An hour-long, deep tissue massage is not even $10, and it’s the real deal. I’m sore for a few days afterwards, but it feels so good, and I return to the u.S. refreshed.


Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 8.50.54 AM

For a more high-end experience, try the Oriental Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. It’s located across the river from the hotel, and they have a boat service to take you there.

* Best Local Hole-in-the-Wall: Khao San Road is a famous backpacker street where you can find authentic Thai food that’s inexpensive. It’s a perfect street for travelers to experience the food and feel of Thailand, and the locals make communication easy there.

* Best Lunch Spot: Greyhound Café is a great place to pop in and eat. It’s a mix of Thai and Western food. Each location has a different décor and artist’s work on display. I like the Thai noodle dishes and Sophie can still have a sandwich. You can get spaghetti with Thai anchovies, for example — very creative food. The owner used to be a creative director at an ad agency so everything about it is very design savvy.

* Best Tourist Attractions: Grand Palace is the symbol of Thailand — you have to see it when visiting Thailand.

Also Amphawa with its floating market is really popular. All food is brought in by boats. It’s a great place to hang out and experience Thai culture. You can also find a lot of homestays, the name they use for the “hotels” along the river because you feel like you’re staying at someone’s home.


Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 12.04.23 PM


* Best Nightlife: The Vertigo restaurant and Moon Bar at the top of Banyan Tree Bangkok have spectacular views. I also like Patravadi Theatre. This cozy little theater on the Thonburi side of the river is a great spot to catch a performance of traditional Thai dance, or even a modern dance troupe, while enjoying some delicious Thai dishes, though it’s limited to weekends only.

See more of Pum Lefebure’s photos at Instagram.com/pumlefebure

Pum Lefebure photo by Dean Alexander; other photos courtesy of Pum Lefebure.

This story was originally printed in Audrey’s Winter 2013-14 issue. Get it here!

This May Be “The Best Anti-Smoking Ad” Ever

Avid smokers and anti-smokers disagree on quite a lot when it comes to cigarettes, but they can all agree on one thing: no matter how much people enjoy it, there is no doubt that smoking cigarettes can cause great deal of damage to your body. Regardless of the fine print on each package stating “Surgeon General’s Warning: Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy,” most continue to smoke and disregard the warning or cannot yet kick the habit. Whatever the reason may be, sometimes we all just need a little reminder as to how deadly cigarettes can be.

Just see for yourself below.

The campaign titled Smoking Kid was created for the Thai Health Promotion Foundation by Ogilvy & Mather. Although it was created over a year ago, it seems to have recently gone viral once again.

In the video, which won the Bronze Award at the 2012 Bronze Cannes Award, various adults are followed and are approached by a child with a cigarette asking for a light. Even more interesting than children asking for a light are the responses that the adults give to the children. Smoker after smoker, many with a cigarette still in hand, remind the children of how bad smoking is and tell the kids that they are too young.

A few moments later, the child responds with “If smoking is bad, why do you smoke?” They then give the adult a note which reads, “You worry about me. But why not about yourself? Reminding yourself is the most effective warning to help you quit.”

smo copy

The message that this video sends is definitely one that will not be forgotten. The filmmakers use of everyday life scenarios for this campaign contributes to the effectiveness of the video. It has opened up the eyes of many, including my own.

(Source: 1)

This Three Minute Video Will Have You in Tears

Thai company True Corporation‘s latest video titled “Giving,” has caused viewers worldwide to shed tears. With more than 3.5 million views on YouTube in less than a weeks time, an endless flow of emotional comments, and more than 40,000 likes, this video has definitely pulled at the heart-strings of many.

Set in the streets of Thailand, this short encompasses struggle, financial burden, family, and ultimately the power of good deeds. The video is beautiful video was given the description “This Three Minute Commercial Puts Full-Length Hollywood Films to Shame” by Gawker.  Watch below and you’ll understand.

AD lucky strike

Sometimes one good deed, without the expectation of anything in return, can certainly go a long way. “Giving is the best communication.”


Dream Destinations | Asia’s “Newest Wonders” & Its “Best Islands”

This past July, Travel & Leisure released the list of the “Newest Wonders of the World,” a list, compiled by UNESCO, of World Heritage sites, or places around the globe that have “cultural, historical and environmental importance.”  In addition, the well-known travel mag released their picks (with the help of readers) of the “World’s Best Islands,” complete with white-sand beaches and romantic get-aways. Seeing these lists will spark the travel bug in anyone, and we’re very happy to say that Asia is well-featured on the list.  Take a look below for the newest additions to our travel bucket-list in Asia.

The Newest World Wonders

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China
Located in southern Yunnan and over 1300 years old, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces are a complex system developed by the Hani people to channel water from the Ailao Mountains to their as-equally sophisticated terraces and farms.


Hill Forts of Rajasthan, India
Found in the Aravalli Mountains lies six forts that are “a standing testament to the power that Rajput princes enjoyed from the 8th to 18th century.” These series of eclectic forts utilizes the natural surroundings, such as hills, deserts and rivers, as defense while also using fortified walls to protect temples, palaces and other structures.


Mount Fuji, Japan
Also known as “Fujisan,” Mount Fuji has become an icon of Japan, serving as an artistic muse as well as a site of sacred pilgrimage. As described by UNESCO, “The inscribed property consists of 25 sites which reflect the essence of Fujisan’s sacred landscape” including Shengen-jinja shrines, natural volcanic features, lakes and waterfalls.

Kaesong’s Historical Sites, Korea
Located in the often-elusive DPRK and near the demilitarized zone, Kaesong is made up of 12 different sites that tell the story of Korea’s Koryo Dynasty.

Xinjiang Tianshan, China
Taking up over 600,000 hectares and part of Central Asia’s Tianshin mountain range, Xinjian Tianshin is made up of a four geographically diverse components (Tomur, Kalajun-Kuerdening, Bayinbukuke and Bogda), ranging from snow-capped mountains to forests and meadows to wide-spanning deserts.

World’s Best Islands
Palawan, Philippines (No. 1)
A favorite get-away of both local and foreign celebrities (including Mariah Carey, Pretty Little Liars’ Shay Mitchell, and Rachel Weisz), Palawan has a pure, almost surreal beauty that is something out of a movie.  When you’re there, go diving in the area’s warm waters and find yourself surrounded by natural coral reefs and abundant tropical fish or check out the world’s longest underground, navigable river.


Boracay, Philippines (No. 2)
An hour’s plane ride away from the hustle and bustle of Manila, Boracay offers visitors white-sand beaches, crystal clear blue water and a well-developed nightlife scene.


Bali, Indonesia (No. 6)
With its myriad of landscapes, ranging from rice terraces to rugged coastlines (not to mention to the world-famous beaches), Bali has become one of Indonesia’s largest tourist attractions, drawing in people from all over the globe for its “world-class surfing and diving, a large number of cultural, historical and archaeological attractions, and an enormous range of accommodations (Wiki).”

Koh Samui, Thailand (No. 9)
This 13-mile wide island, referred to as simply “Samui” by locals, is a favorite of beach-lovers and backpackers alike with its numerous and beautiful natural resources, perfect beaches, clear water and coral reefs.


Phuket, Thailand (No. 15)
The largest island in Thailand, Phuket is the Southeast Asian country’s most developed isle with world-renowned beaches, affordable (and more expensive) dining, fancy resorts and much more.  Be sure to make your way to the almost-undiscovered Mai Khao Beach or the visually stunning Phang Nga Bay.


For more information on this year’s additions to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites as well as a complete list of all World Heritage Sites, visit UNESCO.

[All images courtesy of Google]