Bangkok is a city brimming with talented personalities and charming characters who have pushed their way through to really make their mark. There’s no doubt that they’re truly living their best life, and doing it in great style. In our Good Life Gurus series, we explore and ask the city’s millennial tastemakers and cultural arbiters to reveal what the good life means to them and give us a little insight into how they live it up.
Growing up you may have seen him as a teen pop sensation dancing and singing away on your screens. But more than a decade later, Anan Anwar has broken norms and barriers to become so much more than that: himself.
Don’t be fooled, though, because beneath this independent and adventurous free spirit is a lifelong learner who is as multifaceted as he is talented, profound, and creative. Now, as a professional traceur and founder of Team Farang, a growing community of freerunners in Thailand, Anan has reinvented a name for himself to be one of the most influential faces of parkour in the country.
[All images courtesy of Anan Anwar via Instagram and Facebook]
Here, we learn more about how Anan’s journey came to be. A true creative artist at heart, Anan shares with us his ultimate key to success and a happy, fulfilled life: to always strive to be better, stay curious and passionate, work on yourself, find what it is what you’re good at, and to give back in the most meaningful way.
I am 35, Indonesian-Scottish, but I was born and raised here in Thailand. I spent most of my teenage years being a singer and actor in Thailand, but I then later found parkour after I went to university in Australia, found my passion for that there, and I have been doing that ever since.
For me, I first discovered parkour when I was watching television and came across a documentary called “Jump London.” It is a British-based documentary about the sport of Parkour and how it emerged from a small rural town in France, and I just instantly fell in love with that. My passion has always been in extreme sports. Growing up I did a lot of wakeboarding, skateboarding, rollerblading – so I was already into all of these alternative sports and when I first saw Parkour, it was the perfect match between being a physical sport but also a creative outlet because it was always just about using your environment in cool ways. I really love that idea.
When I first went to study abroad in Sydney, I found a local group of young practitioners and started training with them and… yeah, I just really took off. I was doing parkour every day.
And then when I was done with university, my parkour friends started visiting me in Bangkok, and that’s when we began making videos. This is because the sport was very young and not a lot of media about the sport was being produced at the time – it was mainly just training vlogs. But coming from a wakeboarding and rollerblading background, I love the cultures that those sports produce where they were making lifestyle videos that had deep dives of their beliefs, of what the communities were like, stuff like that. So we wanted to start making videos like that, but for our own sport: parkour.
So we started doing YouTube videos and those just started to blow up, and then Team Farang became a thing from there.
I started in 2006, I think. So I started in 2006, and after three years in Australia I came back home. I made a lot of friends in the parkour community there and they would start visiting me in Thailand, and we just started making videos, and the YouTube channel kind of blew up!
From there we grew the sports performance team, started our own clothing brand, and then our own line of shoes.
There’s the obvious health benefits, you know – sport is sport, it’s always good for you. But I think the thing that makes freerunning unique as a sport is that it’s a deeply creative outlet.
You know, for people who are not attracted to traditional sports like soccer or basketball, these are more free forms of expression for us where you can get deeply creative in your practice. There is no one right way to do parkour, you’re always training your body to be stronger, but the ways in which you use that body is completely up to you. You choose what movements you are practising, you choose the way in which you interact with the obstacles in your environment – so it is a deeply creative sport like that.
Also, one of the other things is that there is a deep connection to risk and fear. There is a deep mental side to parkour because it can be inherently dangerous. What you see on TV. of these people jumping between buildings – that’s not the complete [picture] of the sport, but the fear and risk are a big part of it. I think that’s useful because it is a way of engaging with our body and training our mind that we do not normally get to see. A lot of sports that we are exposed to nowadays are overly sanitised, they are very safe, and you basically just train your bodies because you need to keep them healthy enough to transport our brains around. But I think parkour gives you a different way to interact with your body and learn to train yourself to manage fear and risk, and manage your own mind in the real world.
The good life! (laughs) the good life, wow. Well I mean, for me I think the obvious track young people want to get to is: make a lot of money, buy a lot of things, and, you know, live a lavish life.
I think as you get older you start to find out that unless you find something that gives your life meaning, all the other hedonistic stuff tends to wear thin. Those are fun, but I think the big challenge for most people is – finding something that you do that gives your life purpose. What I have come across is that it usually covers two things: people have to find out what they’re good at and what their skills are, and then with that, find something to contribute to. And it usually turns out to be a community, a group, or a thing that you think is meaningful. But it is always those two things – finding what you’re good at so that you have some self worth and some value that you can provide to a community.
So for me, the way that turned out was that my skills always seemed to be creatively inclined. I was in music, acting, and dance from such a young age and I was also very curious about a lot of sports. I did all the team sports at school, and I loved all these team sports that I did with my brothers. When parkour came around, I found this magic combination of creative and physical community that I knew that I could kind of help grow and give a lot of value to. So that became my purpose. My purpose was to use my skills to grow this community and help people in that way.
So that is the way I give my life meaning and try to live a good life – in that sense.
- It’s really important for people to have a project – to treat themselves like a project that you can work on. I think having an attitude towards yourself as something that can be improved is really important. I treat myself as a video game character that has a skill tree and I need to improve in various ways.
I think about my physical health, how do I improve that? My creative skillset, what are the skills I can learn to be a better person tomorrow? And me as a friend, what does a good friend do?
So I actually have a few buckets of things that I think would classify me as a good, well-rounded person, and I actively work on those things. A lot of these things, for me, as you get older, do not happen by accident. You have to be deliberate in how you draft yourself.
For me, one essential thing is to treat yourself like something that you need to grow and take care of.
- If you’re a creative person, having a creative tool is nice. For me, I like having a camera with me just for capturing organic moments. If you’re a creative person having a decent camera for photos or videos is something I find very, very rewarding.
So right now I am enjoying having a Sony Alpha 3 mirrorless, and I am just enjoying taking photos and trying to be creative in capturing organic moments.
- I am someone who loves music so I always have a good set of Bluetooth headphones, none of those bulky over-the-head ones or those really snug over-the-ear headphones, so I can feel free to move as I do things around the house and just enjoy audiobooks.
- I love learning about new stuff, so I always have a book that I am listening to at any point. Long car rides, or anything like that, I have to have a subscription to something like Audible – that’s something that I really, really find a lot of value in.
- I have a mindfulness practice that I picked up over the last 10 years. This is something I think that everyone can derive some sort of value from. I am a big fan of Sam Harris and I have been using his meditation app, Waking Up, to guide me through the day. I also love all the mysterious, deep conversations he puts on there so I think that’s essential for me.
I have a girlfriend who helps take care of my face, that’s what I do. (laughs). For me, I actively always try to do something every day that activates my body in one way or another. If it’s not a full day of sports, I always try to do something that gets the blood moving or keeps activating the body. Even if I’m just sitting down on the carpet, I’d do some rolling out and a little bit of stretching or some activation of certain muscle groups.
When you do sports for a lifetime you have a lot of small injuries so sometimes you need to do some physiotherapy. I have a daily ritual that primes me to be aware of my body in that way.
Other rituals? Now I have completely cut out eating breakfast. All I do when I wake up in the morning is pour a hot black cup of coffee and fast for 7 hours. I find that my mind is actually not obsessed with food all the time. Now I only have two eating windows, so I am someone who just wakes up, gets up, and goes.
Yes, at first it was just a way for me to gain control over my calorie intake. But then I found that the lifestyle just makes life a lot easier when you are not hungry all the time. After you’ve been into it for too long, your body just adapts, and I find that very useful.
From a personal point of view, I am very much a minimalist at heart. I try to reduce the amount of stuff I have in my life all the time. Every year, you’ll catch me putting together a pile of clothes to give away or get rid of, and then also just constantly reducing the amount of clutter in my physical space. This, as a habit, makes me, wherever I am in the world, just don’t buy a lot. I don’t have a lot of strong impulses to consume, and that just makes me at ease.
I have one small wardrobe full of clothes and every year I try to minimise that to only have stuff that I will use. So that is my main way of trying to reduce my impact on the world around me.
Parkour is my job, but as a person, I am a skill addict. The attitude I have towards everything is to be as competent as possible so I am always acquiring skills. Lately, I am playing golf again, I am learning how to play golf. I am also rock climbing once a week with [my girlfriend] Sabina to learn that new skill and taking time off from my parkour injuries. Additionally, I also meditate daily. That is a practice I’ve enjoyed for almost a decade now.
I definitely have a lot of side hobbies. If you look at my Instagram you can see me playing basketball and solving Rubik’s cubes – I definitely collect hobbies as a side project and just try to get to a level of competence with all of them.
No breakfast! (laughs) But if I really had to eat somewhere, what I still eat (but don’t have for breakfast anymore), is a very simple, side-of-the-road omelette and rice. I love Thai-style omelettes – they’re definitely my favourite thing to chow down in the morning.
I am a big fan of little cocktail bars that pop around the city. That’s what I think of Bangkok before: little boutiques or interesting places. That’s something I enjoy for a date night – just going to a new cocktail bar and just enjoying those little vibes.
Aesop’s Greek Restaurant has the Apollo which I really like right now. I am a whisky sour guy, I love that there.
You ask a minimalist where he shops, he doesn’t shop! (laughs). For a sports guy like me, Decathlon (laughs), I can march up and down the aisles of Decathlon forever.
I am a Koh Tao kind of guy. Small islands. Most people would want to go to Samui or Phuket, but I definitely enjoy the smaller island vibes.
Bangkok is rare in that it has so many diverse experiences. I think when you first get here, you tend to stay in the main areas, but a lot of the value of Bangkok is exploring a little bit further out of your comfort zone, taking a risk and just going down a blind alley and coming across something organically.
Me and my friends, when they would visit, we would just pick a point and just start walking and get a feel of the city in a different way. I would definitely suggest that there is a lot that isn’t online, and a lot that isn’t on the main path – so there is a lot of value on just taking random day trips to see what else Bangkok has to offer.