Yes, it’s Hotel des Indes, the imposing yellow building at the corner of Lange Voorhout in the centre of The Hague and a walking distance to the much photographed Houses of Parliament (Binnenhof). It was once the grand city residence of a Baron and Baroness. Baron van Brienen van Groot-Lindt en Dortmunde was an adviser to King William III. Baroness Marguerite M. or famously called Lady Daisy created the famous Japanese Garden in the nearby Clingendael estate which was their official residence.
When I am here, the fireworks just light up! This time, I am back in the restaurant with three other friends for the Business lunch menu of Executive chef Roel Gelissen. Not (yet) a superstar in the culinary world but definitely a big star in his own kitchen at Hotel Des Indes. His food presentations are clean, fresh, innovative and artfully plated, marks of a chef who has over twenty years of fine dining experience and one who has worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant before coming to Des Indes. He told me he creates all of his menu which keeps him very busy but admits it is mentally and creatively rewarding. When his new kitchen in the hotel is all set-up, he would be able to move about at ease and will find more time to meet his gourmet diners. After all, Hotel Des Indes is THE place to be seen when in The Hague, just like in the days when the much-loved ballerina Anna Pavlova was here along with other famous names as Mata Hari, Josephine Baker to name a few and their royal counterparts.
The Des Indes experience starts at the main entrance when Antonio Marreiros, the head porter who has worked in the hotel for the last 30 plus years greets visitors coming out of their cars and avail of his valet services. Even with the summer heat, it’s service with a smile!
It’s the grandeur of times past that welcomes you as you go through the entrance door. The beautiful carpets -thick, soft and rich in colours, the huge suspended chandelier in the middle of the lounge room, the marble columns, beautiful lighting fixtures on the walls and above you, a large glass dome. It’s just awesome! Huge vases filled with beautiful flower arrangements and you are seated in comfortable chairs upholstered in crimson-red and gold velvet. It’s 1856 opulence in good taste, I am ready for my lunch!
Let’s get started!
Sanne Eras, our waitress of the day was also our sommelier. She was excellent in reciting the day’s menu and offering us a choice of wines. We had McGuigan Wines the Pick Australian Chardonnay 2016 rated 3.8 out of 5 stars by Vivino, a quality online wine shop, while McGuigan Wines ranks #274 in Australia’s Top Wineries of 2018 receiving a certificate of excellence from The Real Review.
The Pick 2016 Chardonnay is fresh, fruity and light, it went together with everything we ate. For a palate teaser, Chef Roel’s ice of avocado with a mousse of mozzarella and mascarpone with a jelly of tomato and that yummy crisp of black olives did oil my palate.
Then came the Gazpacho of tomato served with raw tuna, avocado and grilled paprika in this sunburst-colour of a bowl, it was firing my appetite to the next course!
When the main course arrived, I knew that the finish will be a triumph: Lemon sole with seasonal vegetables, a cream of peas and truffle sauce, a beautiful marriage of fish and ingredients alongside my Australian chardonnay.
When tea & coffee came, our business lunch was coming to a close.
It was a very accomplished afternoon with friends you see once a year. They say there are no friends in business, but our business of the day was to come and savour good food! For a bonus, we got to meet chef Roel (and his sous chef who took our photos (not included here) and gave him our verdict that a chef’s key to a woman’s heart is through her stomach! It was a wonderful time at the Hotel Des Indes as we or I look forward to another dining experience in this legendary hotel. Un tel plaisir…
It’s light, fresh, youthful, springy and scentillatingly joyful! It’s the new Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue for women introduced in February 2017, a fresh interpretation of the first fragrance simply called Miu Miu by Miu Miu which was launched in August 2015 by the Italian luxury fashion company Miu Miu (a subsidiary of Prada and named after Prada Chairman Miuccia Prada).
Back then, the first Miu Miu eau de parfum did not capture my nose. It is sophisticated and feminine but I like to wear my scent light & fresh. The more hints of lemon, the better. The first Miu Miu eau de parfum definitely had an air of luxury. It was presented in an elegant turquoise bottle, characteristic of Miu Miu’s signature leather bags, with a bright red plastic disk stopper. It was sold only to a selected exclusive stores with Harrods of London in the UK as its launch pad before Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus stores in the US sold them exclusively in September till December of that same year, just before the rest of the world got hold of this “gem” in 2016. Acclaimed American fashion photographer Steven Miesel captured the elegance of the fragrance when they chose the youthful-looking French-English actress Stacy Martin as the face of the advertising campaign and with a curious kitten sniffing the bottle is pretty amusing!
When Miu Miu launched the new Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue eau de parfum in 2017, I shunned from it because I am a true Hermés user for almost a decade. Un Jardin Sur Le Toit to be precise.
This spring, I visited Hudson’s Bay in The Hague and Tariq, the dashing make-up artist & beauty consultant of Yves Saint Laurent (Hudson’s Bay The Hague, Rotterdam & Breda) handed me a sample of the new L’Eau Bleue along with his own YSL L’Homme Sport and L’Homme Libre EDT to smell and try at home. I smelled the men’s and I particularly like the freshness of L’Homme Sport.
Like Miu Miu, YSL’s L’Homme Sport is youthful and described as an “explosion of energy” for a man on the go! Mais, je suis une femme, and that is much suited for all the bel homme.
I sprayed the L’Eau Bleue to go to sleep and I woke up the following morning smelling beautiful and fresh that I was convinced my Hermés Un Jardin Sur Le Toit will be temporarily put to rest while I will be wearing my new MIUs for spring & summer and freshening up with the shower gel from the red label of the original Miu Miu fragrance.
The new edition of L’Eau Bleue may not be to everyone’s olfactory nerve but even my florist, Inge de Bruin, not the Dutch 4-time Olympic swimming champion ( https://www.bloemig.nl/) who is surrounded by flowers couldn’t help asking me what I was wearing. It’s Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue eau de parfum with key notes of lily of the valley and honeysuckle.
In a reprise, photographer Steven Miesel and actress Stacy Martin return with another fresh and playful interpretation of this youthful fragrance, this time presented in an elegant transparent “quilted” bottle topped with a soft yellow shade disc stopper. It’s simply youth in a bottle!
About Miu Miu & it’s fragrances
Both Prada and Coty Inc. teamed up to launch the first Miu Miu eau de parfum with award-winning German-born perfumer, Daniela (Roche) Andrier from Givaudan, the world’s largest flavours and fragrances company with its HQ in Vernier, Switzerland and owning a perfumery school in Paris.
Like the original, the new L’Eau Bleue was again developed by the esteemed Daniela (Roche) Andrier who created many of Prada’s fragrances and also for fashion houses as Bottega Veneta, Bvlgari, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Guerlain, Yves St. Laurent to name a few.
*Prada S.p.A. is an Italian luxury fashion house with its HQ in Milan, specializing in ready-to-wear leather and fashion accessories, shoes, luggage, perfumes and watches- wikipedia.
*Miuccia Prada is the youngest granddaughter of one of the founders of the original company, Mario Prada.
*Stacy Martin is mostly remembered for her debut movie in Nymphomaniac.
A month and 4 days have passed, and I am finally here to eulogise the death of one of my hero’s. I wanted to do this just hours of hearing of his passing away on the 30th of November 2017, relayed via Whatsapp by one of my close friends in Bangkok, but I couldn’t get myself to sit down in front of my computer without the tears blurring my eyes and flooding the keyboard. His untimely death made me dig up old photos of his first and apparently last visit to Amsterdam in 2005 when he and his wife led a Thai delegation from the Thai Dairy Industry to The Netherlands and visit some of the country’s dairy farms. I reminisced the time I asked my old Bangkok friend, Bill, who lives in Amsterdam to be the day’s tour guide, and we spent a good deal of time with them in one of their free afternoons. That was the first time we were all looking relaxed and casual.
Christmas is over and with some joyous celebrations shared with friends and family, I feel some strength to write and savour the good moments I have experienced being around Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, and the friendship I have fostered with him through the years- the man with a beautiful smile and a breath of fresh air and the only politician who sent me postcards from his travels. He is sorely missed!
Surin was the former Thai Foreign Minister from 1997-2001 who then went on to become the 12th Secretary-General of the Association of South East Asian Nations (2008 – 2012), having been ignored by the Thai government under Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to be the possible successor of Kofi Annan as UN Secretary-General. Thaksin’s government snubbed him for being in the opposing party as the Prime Minister and picked one of their men as candidate but Ban-Ki Moon of South Korea took the position instead. Surin would have been the much better choice having proven with his intervention in keeping peace in East Timor alongside the United Nations.
Everyone knows too well of Surin’s calibre as a Statesman and negotiator of peace promoting human rights. Chulalongkorn University’s Associate professor, Thitinan Pongsudirak mentioned in his commentary in the Bangkok Post in 15 December 2017, “No secretary-general of Asean is likely to come anywhere near the level of his eloquence, charm and charisma, the presence and confidence that his tall frame and good looks yielded. But Asean was second best for Surin.” That was my first lamentation of Surin. No backing from his own government for that UN position and they failed him. My second lamentation came upon his untimely death suffering from heart attack, preparing to speak to the Thailand Halal Assembly 2017. He collapsed. He was 68 years old. There were unfinished things that needed to be done and he’s gone and I will never, ever read the book he has started to write about his life because it was never finished.
In 2013, I came face-to-face with Thaksin Shinawatra in Harrods Department Store, Knightsbridge . Instead of slamming him for what he did to Surin, my soft spot took over me because here is a man without a country living in exile in Dubai and hated by many of his country men. He no longer have an entourage of body guards protecting him and like most shoppers, we are at par. Ordinary citizens. I then preferred to take a photo with him and managed a smile.
Just months after Surin left his ministerial position, I was asked by a friend if I have the time to interview him for Thailand Tatler (Thailand’s English-language luxury lifestyle magazine). Why, of course! I have admired him speak in so many occasions, I can’t wait to have him all to myself with a personal interview. I got into contacting him through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I emailed him and when I mentioned I was interviewing him for a high society magazine, he laughed. He said he’s probably not their type.
Tatler had him on their front cover and designated just 2 pages for my interview but Bangkok Post, Bangkok’s leading English language newspaper picked it up and published it unabridged for their December 23 Holiday Time issue. Here is that write-up:
SURIN THE COMMUNICATOR- From South to Seven Seas
With a toothpaste smile and alluring personality, Surin Pitsuwan is your man for all seasons for so many reasons.
Regarded as one of the most articulate and charismatic Thai speakers in the history of Thai politics, Surin Pitsuwan stands out in any crowd, be it in the international arena of politicians, businessmen and clergy and down to the ordinary citizens of the world, and amusingly, to the many women who adore his good looks and stature.
When Surin speaks, everybody listens including those who do not agree with him. The reason is that Surin has the ability to deliver his thoughts in a passionate, emotional and moving experience that you cannot simply deny and ignore.
Born in Nakhon Sri Thammarat in southern Thailand, Surin is the eldest of eleven children from a modest family of educators who ran a Pondok (a traditional Islamic school) which was established by his great grandfather during WWII.
His parents left him in the care of his grandfather when he was just two years old while they went to Mecca to pursue their studies and teaching careers, returning only when he was seventeen. Literally, he grew up at the feet of his very strict and disciplinarian grandfather who implanted in him the true meaning of discipline, dedication and motivation.
Surin says, “all my life has always been a cross-cultural existence. I was born a Muslim and I was sent to a temple school at 6 to learn the Buddhist mantra.” But at the ripe age of 18, Surin left for Rushford, Minnesota as an AFS (American Field Scholar) Fellow, hardly able to speak English. He recounts his experiences away from home saying, “I went to Sunday School in a Lutheran church. I read the Bible and I studied very, very hard learning the language and the culture. I was totally immersed. Before I turned 20, I had three cultures, one faith. Since then, I have been living this cross-cultural existence.”
From the time Surin received his AFS Fellowship, Surin reaped other laurels for himself. He was a Frank Bell Appleby Fellow for 2 years at Claremont Men’s College in California, graduating cum laude in Political Science in 1972. Then, he became a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in Harvard for three years. Returning to Thailand from Harvard to seek a position in the Foreign Ministry, the then permanent Foreign Ministry secretary, Anand Panyarachun dissuaded him. Instead, he introduced Surin to the former ambassador of Egypt who helped him acquire a scholarship from the government of Egypt to study Arabic, medieval philosophies and Islamic jurisprudence at the American University in Cairo. Wanting to further his studies after a year and a half in Cairo, Surin went back to Harvard and earned a PhD in 1982.
Other Fellowships under Surin’s portfolio include the Winston Churchill Foundation, Fulbright Travelling Grant, Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Friedrich Nauman Foundation of Germany, and Asia Foundation.
For a year beginning in 1983, Surin became a Congressional Fellow in Washington’s Capitol Hill working for US politicians. His professional political career kicked off in 1986 when he was elected MP from his native Nakhon Sri Thammarat. That same year, he became the Secretary to the Speaker of the House, Chuan Leekpai who later on became a two-time Prime Minister. In 1992, he was awarded the post of Deputy Foreign Minister and in 1997, the honour to become the country’s Foreign Minister was bestowed upon him at the return of Democrat Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai.
In the midst of the 2000-2001 economic crisis, Surin brought confidence to foreign investors and tirelessly addressed the issue in his countless extemporaneous and written speeches and addresses on globalisation worldwide. To this day, Surin is still the first Thai Muslim politician with the highest profile internationally.
After leaving his post as Thailand’s Foreign Minister in 14 February 2001, he continued to devote most of his time travelling overseas for conferences on Human Rights and Security.
ROLE MODEL: What impact is Surin creating for the young people of this country? “Role model. I’ve always wanted to be an instrument through which Providence can help others because all my life, I have been helped by others, and I’m not in any position to pay back all the people who helped me because they are all better-off than I am. In their minds, if this boy can share with others what he has earned, learned or accumulated through his experiences, that would be the payback. I’m sure they expect me to be a role model for the younger generation who probably are more humble than I, in my background or equally humble background. I have made it through perseverance, determination and positive attitude.”
Visionary Surin enjoys talking about the future of an entire generation and he thinks he is in that position to give inspiration to the younger ones. With conviction he says, “I look straight in their eyes and say to them, “I have done it!”
Surin’s exemplary work as a diplomat earned him two Thai Royal Decorations: Knight Grand Cordon Special Class of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand, and Knight Grand Cordon Special Class of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant. In 1999, during the State Visit of the Portuguese President to Thailand, he was given the decoration of Grand Cross of the Order of Infante Dom Henrique for his involvement in the East Timor crisis. His most recent decoration is the Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog by Queen Margaretha II during her Majesty’s State Visit this year.
Surin has cultivated lifetime friendships with international personalities and many even tipped him as the next UN Secretary General, but Surin dismissed such speculation as rumour. Instead, he expressively gives an account of his three years as Foreign Minister saying it has been rewarding and that he has done his best. For now, he is taking things one by one as they come. For him, there are a lot of things in the world worth pursuing.
FAMILY MAN: Surin’s life as a family man with a very busy political career is very, very tough, as he said. He thinks that nobody is satisfied. “The constituents like to see more of you, your boss thinks you are not giving one hundred per cent to your job, your staff say you don’t have enough time to listen to their problems, your mother thinks you are too involved in your work and not interested in the family. In addition, I don’t see my children enough. It’s amazing how one can maintain a family.”
Father of three boys, Surin speaks fondly of his children: Fuadi meaning “my heart” is 16 years old and attends Ruamrudee International School, Hosni meaning “a good person” is 13 and enrolled in Satit Kasetsart. The youngest, Fikri “the thoughtful one” is 11 and attends Dulwich International School in Phuket.
His wife, Alisa, has been the pillar of the family’s togetherness. A businesswoman, she takes the role of both father and mother when Surin is away almost half of the year on political assignments. When Surin is home however, he keeps strict that the quality time he has is reserved for his own family. He also hopes that his children will grow up to be professionals, not necessarily following in his footsteps. He dreams his children will take up professions in the engineering and medical fields, but again he says that to be able to make choices and options is a luxury. Most of all, he wants to see them live a good life.
PASSION FOR READING: Surin’s lighter side is his passion for reading and would spend his leisure time reaping words of wisdom from great philosophers like Aristotle. He indulges himself reading biographies, history and philosophy. But when he is on a plane, he admits to reading Cosmopolitan. He says it helps him to understand a woman’s psychology.
Once a columnist for local newspapers including the Bangkok Post, Surin is back writing again. He is presently writing a book on his reflections upon his years as Foreign Minister. But with a very busy schedule, he doesn’t really know when he will have the time to pen-down all of his thoughts. Recently, he wrote a five-page foreword on a book, The Boy from Boree Creek, a story about the life of Australian Tim Fischer, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Leader of the National Party, who gave up his political career in favour of spending time with his family. It was authored by Peter Rees. It won’t be too long until we will be reading Surin’s very own.
Finally, I asked Surin what message would he leave to our readers and without hesitation, he knew how much he wants to challenge us. When we have so many luxuries and free time in our life, where do our thoughts wander? Can we reflect on the deeper concerns of life, as well as what lies on the surface? Surin, having already learned so many life lessons asks us to do just that. “If reading a life story is interesting (then ask yourself), what change or transformation has taken place in your own understanding of your own society, of the personalities that are on the stage in front of you and then make that extra effort by asking yourself, can I make a change? can I make a contribution, and can I help? There are many more village boys who are still walking to school without shoes, who go to school and come home hungry and go to bed hungry. If you can imagine helping one of them, you have already made a tremendous contribution.”
5-page Foreword by Surin Pitsuwan, MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Kingdom of Thailand, 12 February, 2001.
Due to copyrights, I cannot print here the excellent words Dr. Surin has written.
“This is a fascinating account of the life and career of a man who, for many, bridges the gap between urban and rural Australia. It is an inside look at Australian politics during a time which saw many difficult issues for rural Australia and the nation as a whole. It is also the very personal story of a man struggling with the conflicting demands of political life and family life, against the background of his elder son’s autism. It is, ultimately, an exploration of just what makes the politician known as ‘two minute Tim’ and ‘the boy from Boree Creek’ tick.”
“Peter Rees was a journalist for more than forty years, working as federal political correspondent for the Melbourne Sun, the West Australian and the Sunday Telegraph. He is the author of The Boy from Boree Creek: The Tim Fischer Story (2001), Tim Fischer’s Outback Heroes (2002), Killing Juanita: a true story of murder and corruption (2004), and The Other Anzacs: The Extraordinary story of our World War I Nurses (2008 and 2009) and Desert Boy: Australians at War from Beersheba to Tobruk to El Alamein (2011 and 2012), Biography of Charles Bean, 2015.” – goodreads.com
The Boy from Boree Creek is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Boy-Boree-Creek-Fischer-Politics/dp/186508803X
William (Bill) Monsour, An American in Amsterdam. Singer, actor, presenter, Coach/Trainer and program director for Training Arts International. And among other things, Bill once delivered a singing and dancing telegrams in Hollywood to Diana Ross, Nancy Sinatra, Lucile Ball, George Burns, Elliot Gould, Rudy Vallee and Benji. For more of Bill & Training Arts International, visit his site at: http://trainingartsinternational.com/