Bon vivant Joe Thawilvejjakul may have slowed down a little since the birth of his twin daughters two years ago but the business executive has lost none of his panache for the good life.
You have been described as a ‘purveyor of finer things’ – what things exactly?
Cuban cigars, significant collections of rare whiskey and Armagnac, delicious Lavazza coffee and Gryphon teas. I also distribute Euro Cave, the world’s finest wine cabinets, and many accessories associated with fine wines.
Pacific Cigar was a pioneer of the cigar scene in Bangkok. How has the fine cigar market developed here in recent years?
The cigar market, although still nascent in Thailand, is growing all the time. Cigars have gained wider acceptance in recent years and consumers have become more selective. They may prefer to smoke less but they smoke better. They understand that the appreciation and enjoyment of cigars is an art, not addiction. Over the last decade cigar retailers have evolved into lifestyle bar operators focusing on premium quality products and impeccable service, which truly compliment fine cigars. That we now have a number of dedicated high-class cigar venues in Bangkok says much about the market.
Where are your favorites shopping haunts?
For fine spirits and personal accessories I shop in Tokyo and Paris. You can’t beat Bangkok and Vietnam for top European furniture. Much of it is manufactured here and can be bought for real knock-down prices. For fresh food, I like to shop at Samyarn market and I keep updated price lists from all my food and wine-importing friends so that I can order direct.
How has the ‘art of living well’ evolved in Bangkok over the years… have local consumers become more sophisticated and discerning?
Local consumers have certainly become more sophisticated. They want more bang for their buck and are demanding a fair ratio of price versus quality – just look at the wine business as an example. With new technologies and social media, younger generations are better informed and are becoming increasingly adventurous in their lifestyle choices. Consumers may be spending less generally, but when they do spend they want to buy the best. So, yes, they are becoming more discerning.
You are a member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs – where do you go to eat well?
I have many favorite places and I do like to eat well but oddly enough I also have a thing for street food, especially noodles. I find it hard to pass a noodle stall without stopping to try a bowl. In terms of restaurants, I have always enjoyed Gianni for Italian food and Silk Road at Plaza Athenee for Chinese. David Thompson’s Nahm is excellent, as is Erawan Tea Room for Thai cuisine. The whole fine dining scene is becoming a bit passé in my opinion but I still enjoy occasional visits to Water Library and Le Beaulieu.
Where do you take visitors for a quintessential Bangkok experience?
I love hopping on and off the Chao Praya Express boats, savoring the wide variety of food available at many of the piers along the river. It is a great way to introduce visitors to the city and its cuisine. When we have people over I like to finish off the day with sundowners, usually a few glasses of bubbly, at home on the balcony overlooking the river. The serenity of the Chao Praya at sunset is hard to beat.
After all the years of representing refined international brands in Thailand, do you also involve yourself in the export of fine Thai goods?
Oddly enough, no. I haven’t gotten around to that yet and sometimes I regret not having made the effort in that direction. Having said that, this is something that greatly interests me. We make a number of great products in Thailand and they deserve to be better-known and more widely available on an international level.
Has your outlook on city living changed since the birth of your twin daughters in 2012?
My wife and I enjoy a balance between town and country living. We spent most of our weekends soaking up the fresh air by the river. We love the dynamic pace of Bangkok but don’t want to waste quality family time stuck in traffic, so we tend to do things locally. We also have a home out of town and it’s great to be able to get away as a family. The twins really enjoy our escapes, which provide us healthy opportunities to unwind physically and mentally. Since our girls were born, I suppose I spend less time gallivanting around town on business and at social events. I’m more selective with my time and like to be at home.