Sometimes there are unexpected twists and turns, and additional obstacles in your path, but then you find yourself where you really need to be, anyway. This is what has happened to me this week, so I am very glad today to be introducing you to a young Thai woman I admire immensely, Sky Jansak.
Sky runs a burgeoning business, aptly named Sky’s Fresh Pasta, which supplies homemade, premium quality fresh pasta and sauces to customers, hotels and restaurants here and in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and soon in Phuket. Having started with the well-known basics of spaghetti, fettuccine and lasagne, Sky has expanded her repertoire and now includes a range of classic Italian sauces to compliment her fresh pasta. Indeed, she has further grown her product range to include filled pasta such as ravioli with several different fillings, green pasta coloured with spinach, baked lasagne and specialty items such as squid’s ink pasta and basil infused ravioli filled with egg yolk. This lady is a genius with flour and eggs, all produced at home on her squeaky-clean island bench, using just her hands and the biggest mixer you have likely ever seen, along with her trusty Italian pasta machine. Sky is particular about tidiness and cleanliness, always reminding her husband to clean and pack things away properly. She is proud of her housekeeping and has a lovely home it is a pleasure to visit.
Sky has come a long way from her childhood in Buriram. Her parents were, and still are, hardworking rice farmers who laboured to provide well for their three children, of whom Sky is the eldest, with a sister who lives in Switzerland and a brother in Bangkok. Sky remembers her childhood fondly, and Sky recalls walking carefully through the jungle undergrowth. To this day she remains afraid of both snakes and centipedes, aware of just how painful their bites can be.
Sky’s parents still farm rice in Buriram, content with their rural lifestyle. They have made trips to Hua Hin to visit Sky, but find a week at a time in an urban environment is all they can bear. Back home in Buriram, Sky still has a grandmother and a grandfather, 89 and 90 years of age. I was fascinated to hear how Sky’s grandfather, a Khmer-speaker from Cambodia, was awarded title to 20 rai of land by King Rama 9 of Thailand after successfully turning it from jungle into arable farmland. Although Sky has now been legally married for 2 years, she is still to have the Thai traditional wedding party, which is planned for the coming July in her home town. She knows exactly how proud it will make her elderly grandparents to see her keeping centuries-old traditions.
Sky’s love affair with Hua Hin began on her first visit 11 years ago, but she did not move here until October 2021, after her now-husband Adel decided during the Covid pandemic to quit his job and explore the joys of the early retirement lifestyle. The couple were able to embrace this because Adel, of Italian and Bahraini heritage, had long worked in the finance industry and had applied this knowledge to his own future financial wellbeing. Notwithstanding the difficulties of a two-week long stay away from each other in quarantine, the initial steps to building their new life together began.
The positive spirit of the community and its diversity is what attracted the couple to Hua Hin. It fits in the “Goldilocks” zone of quiet, but not too quiet, good weather, being close to Bangkok but just far enough away, or, in summary, “just right.” However, Sky does wish the roads were a bit wider and traffic circulated in a safer manner.
After school, Sky took a job with Mattel, an American multinational toy manufacturing company, a job which provided an income but not the long- term satisfaction she needed. So, when her Thai aunt, who was married to a Canadian university lecturer living in Doha, Qatar asked Sky to come to live with them to help care for the children, Kyra and Jaxon, Sky jumped at the opportunity, although this was far from the world she had experienced up to this point. She ended up residing in Doha from 2006 until 2021.
Sky recounted her first air travel experience to me. She was a young girl, packages and bundles in her hands and under her arms, taking a plane to another unknown, unseen country, with limited English. She knew so little about air travel that she kept expecting the plane to land and take off again, like a bus would stop along its route. She didn’t even know she could access food and water on the plane without additional cost. Luckily a Thai steward was able to reassure her.
Doha was a completely different world for Sky to navigate, so it was fortunate for her to have family to rely on. If you know or meet Sky, you might ask her about the pivotal role her young female cousin had in securing Sky’s future happiness. That’s a story you just have to ask her about yourself.
While living in Doha as a young woman, Sky became a valuable and much appreciated volunteer at the local Thai embassy. Initially, she was befriended by an official only 2nd in importance to the Ambassador, and was asked to teach Thai language lessons to young Thai children from the ages of 4 to 6 years of age. This work branched out to include teaching Thai classical dance classes, another of Sky’s many talents. When the Embassy participated in the ASEAN festival, Sky’s skills were called on again, as they were for hotel performances and a fund-raising charity performance to aid Nepal after a natural disaster. Sky also cooked for embassy events and the proceeds were donated for charity.
Sky was lucky enough to travel to Switzerland with her family, and loved the beautiful countryside she encountered there that summer. On the very top of her bucket list is a return trip to the little church with the tall steeple in the Swiss countryside where she prayed to find a kind and loving husband, as she wishes now to offer her thanks for a prayer granted. Her husband Adel learnt this story for the first time as he listened to us chat. Just before Valentine’s Day too, how romantic! As a teenager, Sky would never have believed her future partner would be a non-Thai she would meet half a world away. Given the chance, she would advise her young self to believe she is lucky and her future would be bright.
Sky and Adel met in Doha, and although their first date could not be called an instant success, Sky proved the adage that the way to a man’s heart is definitely through his stomach. Sky cooked Adel authentic Thai food for the first time and slowly taught him the difference between Thai food in Doha and the real deal. When Sky divulged that she was also a good pasta cook, and Adel scoffed at her, stating that only Italians knew how to prepare and cook fresh pasta, she was determined to make him eat his words. Today, he is keenly aware of what a lucky man he is, to have such a great cook for his partner. Perfecting pasta is a passion, but as a personal favourite, Sky can’t go past Som Tam, green papaya salad.
Sky is a calm, well-mannered woman. She chose the words “warm, accepting and respectful” to describe herself, and she treats others exactly the way she hopes she is treated herself. Sky is a firm believer in the circle of Karma, it appears. She is proud of her “can-do” approach to challenges, even though she confirmed this is not always easy for her. One way Sky handles difficulties is to remain non-confrontational and just move on. Sky felt this might be one of her weaknesses until I pointed out that I felt it might indeed be a strength.
Like us all, Sky thrives on feeling appreciated, and that’s exactly what she experiences in her workday building her brand, Sky’s Fresh Pasta. Adel is immensely proud of what Sky does, and as a customer, I can attest to how much I love eating Sky’s products, and no doubt Sky’s family does as well.
Sky is grateful for her wonderful husband. She also has a lot of respect for Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the daughter of Thailand’s King Rama 9, who has devoted her life and work to helping the people of Thailand. She has started many charitable foundations that work to make life better for the poor.
Sky loves a laugh and she can often find one at the expense of her husband. They share a love of a strong coffee sitting outside in the cool of the morning and a glass of good wine later in the day. I learnt that Sky loves rock music, her favourite song being “Made in Thailand” by Carabao, the most popular Thai rock group of all time. The other things Sky can’t do without are her ring and watch. As a worker still, I imagine it is important to still keep a firm track of time. By contrast, sometimes I struggle to recall what day it is.
Sky is not one to sit on her laurels. She has a 5-year plan that will see her building a couple of guest houses where she aims to host and feed small groups of guests in a family-like atmosphere. It sounds magical, and I am happy to put my name on the waiting list for when these open.
If you’d like to meet Sky in person, the Chokdee Market, to be held tomorrow evening at the Centara Grand Hotel, would be the ideal opportunity to meet her at her stand. Failing this, Sky’s Fresh Pasta on Facebook is easy to find, and an order is guaranteed to make your tummy very happy.