This is an excerpt from our April cover profile on Onchuma “Fay” Durongdej. Pick up a copy for the full story, available at fine bookstores across Thailand and via online subscription.
Dressed in a black tweed jacket with a swanky Hermès bag, large gold stud earrings and some noticeable finger-bling on her hand, Onchuma “Fay” Durongdej looks every bit the celebrity frequently seen in the social pages of Thailand’s top magazines.
She’s sitting next to her assistant at a booth in a quiet corner of Niche, a casual restaurant at Siam Kempinski Hotel, while her driver lingers outside, waiting to whisk her off to the day’s next appointment, and the next one after that.
At the time we met, her wedding reception was just a few weeks away, taking place not far from where we were sitting in the hotel’s Chadra Ballroom, one of the highest-profile and most anticipated nuptials of the year.
She’s spent the past few months splitting time between that – planning her wedding to prominent businessman Pitipat “Ti” Preedanont – and her three other jobs.
Fay has more than enough reasons to be distracted on this smouldering Tuesday afternoon, but she hasn’t looked at her phone once since sitting down. Instead, we’re talking about each other’s names, and how we both hated them as children, but like them now.
Her effervescent personality makes the conversation flow easily, and her humorous side makes us all laugh more than once – although she repeatedly denies she is funny at all.
Walking by, you would have no clue Fay is one of the busiest women in Bangkok, but she currently juggles high-level management positions in three separate companies in her family’s business empire – two being Mazuma and Rittanasap (Me Money), and her own business importing Iceland Spring mineral water.
She’s one of the city’s most visible socialites, regularly seen at some of the best celebrity events in Bangkok, and still manages to sustain a health and fitness routine – documented well on her Instagram page – that I probably couldn’t maintain if I had every day off for the rest of my life.
Needless to say, her monthly schedule is sobering, even for the most experienced workaholics. Ask her about it, and she’ll pull out a textbook-sized ledger, heavy enough to make a thud noise on the table.
Inside is an abyss of multi-coloured notes, arrows, boxes and scratches, mapping out her weeks and months like a football coach’s game plan. Everything is plotted out with meticulous precision – two working days at each company, one for social events, and a minefield of workout, beauty and yoga appointments squeezed in-between.
This isn’t accounting for life’s most essential moments – family, friends and personal time – which she manages to prioritise as well.
It’s a fool’s errand to try and sum up someone’s entire life in one word, but if you had to do that about Fay, the word would be “balance”.
It goes beyond a metaphor for her ability to calibrate work and play. It’s an idea that permeates her very outlook on life – including her star business venture with Iceland Spring – and what makes her the woman she is.
“My definition of being happy might be different from other people,” she says. “Some might say that happiness is when you reach a certain type of achievement, in terms of your job, wealth or personal goals, but my definition of being happy is basically rebalancing your life internally and externally. Setting life goals based on what makes you tick inside.”
Of all the plates Fay balances at the same time, none might be more impressive than her multiple jobs. She is the deputy managing director of her family’s 30-year-old Mazuma (Thailand) – which Fay is restructuring for an initial public offering in a few years – one of the country’s largest water management companies with an extensive consumer and industrial product range in addition to significant commercial enterprises – such as large-scale waste management and desalination.
Fay joined Mazuma in 2009 – the same year her sister, Chutima, won Miss Thailand Universe. She also has a role in accounting and finance for the 50-year-old Rittanasap (Me Money) Co., Ltd, a secured loans business dealing in gold and jewellery.
However, she is best known for her work importing Iceland Spring-branded bottled mineral water into Thailand, an endeavour she started in 2012.
On paper, she is also the managing director of H20 Hydro, the company responsible for importing and distributing the brand in Asia. In reality, Fay is the de facto face of Iceland Spring in Thailand, and, as an already well-known fitness figure, its most steadfast celebrity endorser.
The alkaline-heavy water, boasting the world’s highest pH level at 8.88, is sourced from melted glaciers inside a protected nature reserve near Reykjavik, Iceland, preserved for millions of years underneath basaltic lava rock – which is only found in Iceland, has high alkaline properties, and makes Iceland Spring what it is today.
The water’s high alkaline content is said by many to produce myriad health benefits by helping to rebalance your body’s natural pH levels, and it also boasts one of the lowest TDS (total dissolved solids) ratings in the world – making it one of the purest waters you can buy.
It’s not hard to see Fay’s passion for the brand. She’s done numerous health and fitness interviews discussing the benefits of pH balance, the dangers of acidic diets, and the rejuvenating effects of Iceland Spring. But she’s not simply a salesperson, like one might expect. Her passion for Iceland Spring comes from an experience close to home that changed her entire outlook on personal health.
“Time is the most valuable thing, and my fiancé would say the same thing,” says Fay. “Time is one of the most valuable things we have in this world, and we would rather spend it going somewhere we have never been before, experiencing a culture we have never seen.”
Time is the most precious resource a person has. You start with as much as you will ever have, and slowly lose it until you have none.
To “spend time wisely” might be the most valuable piece of advice that almost no one listens to. Instead, most of us spend time reiterating our pleasures as often as we can – akin to putting your foot on the gas until you run out of road.
As we wrap up our conversation, I notice Fay’s assistant looking at her phone. We’ve gone way over the scheduled interview time, but Fay doesn’t seem to mind.
A few swipes in the schedule can patch that right up – when you have things in balance a little wobble won’t trip you up. Her ability to manage everything in her life, to balance what’s needed with what feels good, might be her most inspiring quality.
“It’s like the Chinese yin and yang,” she says. “It’s all about balance. The most valuable things in life are your time and your health. You are what you eat, you are what you drink and you are what you do. Do what makes you happy, plan ahead, and that’s it. Live a better life.”
Pick up a copy for the full story, available at fine bookstores across Thailand and via online subscription.