Sunday, June 7, 2015

G-Shock 24, 25 & 26: My GSC travel to Thailand part II. Craft Beer, Interviews and Patry! Including the G-Shock Collectors Ultimate Limited Custom Set by Todd Piti (2015).

May 2nd, the second day of my short stay in Bangkok. I had a great night rest, which I really needed as I skipped a day on the flight to Thailand. I strapped on my Singha G-Shock, of course in honor of my host, Todd Pity. The hotel had a great choice of breakfasts. You want noodles for breakfast, or a full English Continental breakfast, sushi, fresh scrambled eggs. It looked like everything is possible and no wish impossible. I like French or Spanish breakfast with croissants and all kinds of buns. I discovered a very delicious kind of bread, which I suspect was banana bread. Ideal with marmalade. After my breakfast I was already picked up by my friend, who looked after me like a good big brother, Thiti.
In our busy schedule there was time to visit the touristic market. It was already over 30ºC and it was very crowded when we arrived. I still remember, we entered at entrance 18, somewhere halfway the market. I already saw the market was incredible big and very touristic. We followed the big stream of people and stopped at several stalls. As I was traveling alone, I felt I had to look for a souvenir for Eva and Bram, who stayed and followed, like the rest of my family, my adventures at home. And what happens, of course. Yep, the first thing I saw was a nice T-Shirt for myself, a Run-DMC spin off, RUN BKK, which I saw later everywhere in Bangkok. Luckily I found a nice red bracelet for Eva and, just when I thought I knew nothing for Bram, I stumbled upon a large wall with square panels with prints of famous science fiction and cartoon characters. My son is a huge fan of Bobba Fett (Star Wars). Among some panels with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, there was this panel with Bobba Fett. Even I thought it was awesome, but what did I ask the seller? Together with her mother she looked for this panel (for some kind of reason the panels on the wall were not sold) for maybe more than 10 minutes. No problem, Thiti handed me over a bottle of cool Singha Drinking Water and there was this very cure stool, with a cat engraved on it. If I only had a bigger suitcase…
Thiti noticed I liked watching the painting artists working. Maybe I even got inspiration for some of my own silly cat paintings. Surprisingly this was a less crowded part on this market. We probably were only for about 30 minutes at the market. Crowded tourist attractions are not so my cup of tea, and Thiti actually felt the same. So we called our minibus, while we walked back outside the market to entrance 18. The minibus arrived quite quick and we drove to our next destination.
We arrived at a small family restaurant. I was welcomed by Todd Piti and several other G-Shock Collectors. One of them was a cyclist and was wearing a Singha Drinking Water cycling outfit. Awesome! He showed me his customized G-Shock, which was also dedicated to Singha Drinking Water. Several plates of Thai food were ordered, which were shared among our group. The dishes were one by one tasting fantastic.
After lunch Thiti and I went to a a very unforgettable place. Todd Piti had arranged something very special for me. Normally I do not drink beer in the morning or early in the afternoon, but for some situations you need to make exceptions. In my early beer hunts to Westvleteren in Belgium, I often had one or two good beers just after 10 o’clock in the morning. Thiti told me in the bus we were going to a “Beer Shop”. There must have been a little mix-up here. This was not a shop, but a Craft Beer Bar, called BREW, Beers & Ciders. And this is not just a Craft Beer Bar. It had a very wide range of craft beers from all over the world, and I was allowed to sample beers without limit, meaning that I could let them open and pour in a beer, take a good sip to taste the beer and, if I want, go to a next bottle. Well, people who know me, that’s nothing for me. I don’t like beer spilling, specially not craft beer spilling. So I had to make good choices.
Above: Photo's taken at a small underground supermarket in Kyoto 2010
When I was in Kyoto in December 2010, I had seen some funny looking beer bottles in a supermarket. they all had little owls on it. These beers were from the Kiuchi Brewery, a brewery that not only brew beers, but also a range of sake. Not very surprisingly, as the brewing process of sake and beer are not that much different, except that rice is used for sake, and beer is usually brewed with barley and other grains. The beer range are called Hitachino Nest Beer and has the typical little owl as logo. When I took a good look in the fridges behind the bar, I saw this little owl again. I choose the Commemorative Ale. Wow! This was a good beer. Coper brown and a very full body with a rich spicy taste. According the brewery description the spicy taste comes from nutmeg, orange peel, cinnamon and vanilla beans. It is a typical degustation beer. This beer is one of the best beers I have ever tasted.
For the next beer my eyes fell on a beer of Nøgne Ø, a brewery from Norway known for their quality beers. I choose the Subturnbrew, It’s a beer brewed on the shortest and darkest day of the year (In Norway daylight time is very short in winter, or in the north even absent). This beer is totally different. With 11% ABV, this is a real heavy beer. It’s brew with smoked dark malts. It tastes delicate smokey with hints of licorice and vanilla. It should be drunk in front of the fire place, but it also tastes good in Bangkok. Meanwhile Thiti tries a Waterloo Double 8, a strong Belgian dark ale. After a while Thiti checks out how much time we have, before we have to be at the next event. Luckily there was still a little time, so I could finish the beers as far as possible.
(above is not my photo, found on the web)
Finally there was no escape. I was expected to be at the Sab Bar, a sport bar and grill, not far from the craft beer bar. When I stepped into the bar, it was already a little crowded. Luckily Thiti and Todd guide me through the crowd and introduce me to a table with a few journalists for an interview. The interview was lead by a woman, who fired, together with 4 other journalists, pretty good questions. It’s amazing you can talk about G-Shocks for about 45 minutes. After this interview there was a photo session. This photo session couldn’t take too long, because many bloggers were ready for a monster interview.
I did not know what to expect, but I was positioned before the bar, while a small crowd gathered behind a table. First another photo session with Todd and me and our Singha G-Shocks. Meanwhile I gave my camera to Thiti, so he cold take some photo's too.
Several recording smartphones were installed and a young woman was positioning next to me at the bar. She introduced herself as the interpreter. After a short introduction a waterfall of questions were fired on me in Thai, which were translated by the woman next to me, and after I answered the question, my answer was patiently translated back in Thai. I was quite amazed how she translated some of my long answers, which I could follow a little by her hand gestures. Again I was surprised about the detailed questions I got. Maybe the most interesting questions came from a man called Geranun and were about my Akira Kenada model, specially about the Japanese back engraving. He asked me if I knew what it meant. I told him that I have written an article about this watch, which must mean I highly probably have answered his question there. I was helped by a WatchUSeek G-Shock Forum member from Japan on that article. I have written so many articles (over 400), it is impossible to remember every detail I ever wrote. I just checked, and of course I have found the translation and meaning of the back engraving. The interview lasted maybe more than an hour and I became quite thirsty. Luckily someone handed me over a big glass of Singha Lager. Meanwhile the photo camera’s kept clicking for at least 10 minutes. Next the G-Shock Collectors Set was presented for the press. Todd and I showed these G-Shocks patiently to the photographers. When the fuzz had lowered a bit, I sat down with Todd, Thiti and some friends. I became a a little hungry and they had very nice grilled beef on the table. Although it was still big fun in the Cafe, it was already around 17:00. I had to go to my hotel, to fresh me up for the big party. There was only a little time, as at 18:30 I was already picked up at my hotel and it was at least a 30 minute drive. At the hotel I took a nice shower and put on a fresh T-Shirt, which I specially bought for the party.
At 19:00 I arrived at Club Demo, one of hottest night clubs of Thailand. The entrance was awesome. It was like walking through a huge DW-6900 bezel into the club. There were some photo sessions in front of the club and there were also T-Shirts for sale. These T-Shirts raised money for the victims of the earthquake of Nepal. Before I knew it I was checking out if there was a T-Shirt in my size, and of course, there was. At the entrance there was an exposition of custom made G-Shocks and a part of Todd’s huge collection. All displays were custom made for this party and they drew a lot of attention to the visitors. Todd, Thiti and I first went to the Demo Bar, next to the night club. There was a barbecue and there were people walking around with quite delicious food. Specially the little spicy meat balls were great and I must have eaten many. At a moment I was talking with Thiti when again meatballs were served. Todd was drinking a beer, when I asked what kind of meat it was (as there were different types of meat served). The waitress said: “Duck”. I told her it was delicious, when Thiti told that he didn’t understand her right. “Did she say dog?”. That was the rare moment Todd spilled his beer.
Meanwhile outside the club the visitors of the GSC Party were cueing up for the entrance. The exposition between the entrance and the club got much attention. After some drinks we went to the club, where the party was about to be started. I asked Todd what was going to happen. “First there will be a fashion show”. Well, that sounded like fun, so I positioned myself near the stage. What I didn’t know was that it was a kind of fun fashion show. Every time the DJ playes a song, two G-Shock collectors came on stage, dressed cool or weird and did a dance or at least did an attempt. Some were better than others, but most important, it was big fun, sometimes even hilarious. The crowd was getting really wild.  Todd reminded me that the pairs of G-Shock collectors only knew from each other via the Facebook group G-Shock Collectors (Thailand is quite a big country) and have prepared themselves by on-line chatting and many had seen their stage partners for the first time at this party. I expected at first something completely different by the word Fashion Show, but this was much, much greater. It showed how special the members of GSC are (The GSC has over 20000 members). Most impressive was a 13 year flexible girl and her mother, two stewardess like girls (later I learned it was the costume of bus attendants), a “she-male” and a red devil. While the colectors did their thing on stage, their facebook profile photo’s were projected the background, so you could see who’s who. Needless to say I had a great time, this was not something I had expected.
The last three photo's above taken by Wasuwat Torkaew for Catolic Indy
After the GSC Fashion Show the stage was cleared for an interview by Geranun and another host, with the designers of the G-Shock Collectors Set Jurajin, Tom Watcha. Then it was time for Todd Piti and me on stage. The girl from the interview in the afternoon also came on stage to be again my interpreter. As promised, I told why I choose for G-Shock 15 years ago and how my collection started. I opened a little paper bag, which I had carried carefully with me the whole evening and showed my first maroon DW-004 with leather cloth strap and my maroon DW-003 G-Lide, which was so comfortable, I had to buy it and must be seen as the instigator of my collection craze. After this interview it was time for a ceremoniously moment. The moment many G-Shock Collectors had waited for. The presentation of the G-Shock Collectors Limited Custom set. The first set was symbolically handed over to me. This was a great moment for real. A short movie was shown about the meaning of the symbols on the three models of this set. After this set was handed over to me, the stage was taken over by a lot of models, showing the set in many of the details and finally special displays with the prototypes of the customized parts, including the backplate in several stages of production.
After this ceremony I had at first not really an idea what was happening. I was standing next to the stage and a speaker was calling through a mic, while the public was reacting and shouting vividly. First a set was hold up on stage and the crowd was shouting and waving. It appeared there was a raffle. Visitors had received a number and could win several items. But it didn’t stop there. More shouting and hands in the air. At a moment someone was waiving with a pack of money. Then Todd walks on stage. The crowd is now really going crazy. Luckily Thiti explains what was happening. Items (prototypes and finally displays with prototypes) were auctioned. Todd mentions that whatever is bid on the items, he will double the proceeds. It was not just an auction. All proceeds were for the victims of the earthquake in Tibet.
The back engraving of Todd's set, of course with his lucky number 12.
After this there was a lot of time for taking photo’s. It looked like everybody wanted with everybody on the photo. Bear in mind that many GSC members were for their first time in Bangkok and had never seen other members in real. Curious as I am, I went backstage, to see where all these special displays came from and I ended up talking with the GSC guy who was dressed like a woman (she-male). He couldn’t find his clothes, so he was still in “his” dress. He saw me with my GSC set and was curious how it looked like in real, just like me. I wanted to see the special back engraving, as the sets were numbered from 01/100 to 99/100, but my set was was not numbered. It had simply the inscription “SJORS”. We found a back door, which lead to an alley, where I found a table under a lantern. I opened the big box and then one of the smaller boxes. We both stared to the back inscription. Awesome. Quickly I put the watch back in the box and closed the big box. Then we sneaked back into the dressing room, among the models, realizing this was a real funny scene. For a moment I doubted to do this again, while filming, but the guy was already gone. Luckily he found his bag with clothes not much later.
Photo above, obviously by Star Traveller Supavadee Butadree.
Thiti told me it wouldn’t take too long before we had to go. The next day I had to get up early for something very different. When the DJ start playing “Animal Rights” by Deadmau5, I could not resist to dance. We did a last drink in the Demo Bar and watched how the exposition was taken down. For a moment I guarded Todd’s Murakami Frogman, before it was locked safely away in a watch suitcase. Todd told me at the end of the evening the was very happy. The Auction raised over Bht 900.000, about €25000. When leaving the club, I saw Todd’s VW T1 Transporter, so I couldn’t resist to pose in front of it. Eva loves these vans. After making several GSC members happy posing with them on a selfie, I finally reached the mini bus to the hotel. After a nice hot shower, I set my alarm and went to bed.
The G-Shock Collectors Limited Custom set by Todd Piti consists of three G-Shocks, a red and white GA-110 and a blue GA-310. The GA-310 is a new model for me, but I believe the functions are roughly the same as on the GA-110. There is an improvement, as the GA-310 has a button tone, which can be toggled on and off. The set is presented in a beautiful box. When the box is opened three separate boxes are revealed. All three G-Shocks have quite a lot of symbolic meaning for the Todd Piti and the Boon Rawd Brewery
The red model represents the Red Singha. The Singha is a mythical lion in Thai culture. When Praya Bhirom Bhakdi founded the Boon Rawd Brewery, he wrote out a competition for a name of the beer. Besides Singha, also Golden Kite and Mam beer were introduced in 1934. Originally the Singha on the labels were red, but to avoid association with communism the color was changed into gold, as we still know it today on the Singha Gold Lager.
The white model represents Hamunan biting an Arrow. It is the corporate seal of the Boon Rawd Brewery. Hamunan is the God King of the Monkeys. Praya Bhirom Bhakdi was born under the sign of the Monkey. The arrow represents the Memorial Bridge (Phutta Yoda Bridge) over the Choa Praya River, which appears to look like an arrow from above. Praya Bhirom Bhakdi foresaw with the building of this bridge by King Rama VII problems for his ferry service, so he looked for a new venture. It is said that building this bridge, Thailand finally got a beer for it’s own.
The Blue model is decorated with kites. Praya Bhirom Bhakdi was a kite expert. He was often challenged in fights, which he usually won. The knowledge of making kites and winning competitions were passed down generation to generation, although the sport has lost it’s place in Thailand. In 1921 HRH Prince Damrong Rajanubhab requested Praya Bhirom Bhakdi
to write a book about kite competitions. This book provides a complete guide to kite building and competitions. It was the first of it’s kind.
Although the top color shows which model is in the box, the sides show similar details of the above descriptions. Inside you find a beautiful special hang tag. One special thing remains to be mentioned and that is Todd Piti’s motto on one of the sides of the boxes: “We love G-Shock for it’s value, not for it’s price”.
Want to read more about this set and the GSC Party? Here is a small selection of interesting links:

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