The pain and pleasure is all yours

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Aside from the food, the wonderful people, the chaotic, brimming-with-life streets and the out of this world sights, Bangkok has yet one more undeniable pull that has visitors ooo-ing and ahh-ing, quite literally and that is the Thai massage.

For the uninitiated the Thai massage can feel like a mini-workout and make you realize that there are muscles that exist that not only did you now know existed but have certainly never flexed before. There is a pleasure and pain combo with Thai massage but once you have settled down into the luxury of being pummeled and stretched, let out a few helps of potential tender moments and resigned yourself to the person about to kneel with their full body weight on your back, you will not only enjoy the experience but will but back for more.p5

Thai massage is totally addictive once you have been through the experience of your first full body assault. You will realize that looks are deceptive when a slip of a woman with delicate features and hands gives you the pounding of your life, never losing that wonderful Thai smile and the sympathetic questioning of ‘jeb mai’ which translates as ‘does it hurt?’. What the uninitiated does not fully understand is that by answering ‘chai’ or ‘yes’ is not necessary going to instigate a sympathetic lessening of pressure but a satisfied nod that the massage is indeed working.

With Bangkok’s massage trade catering to all types of massage, as might tactfully be said, many visitors are fearful of what to expect from the wooden massage stick toting women. If you look out for the shops that have a picture of a food with acupressure point then you know you will be in the right hands if all you really do want is an actual massage. There are some beautiful spas which are fairly the norm.

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Thais like nothing better than a good old chat and rather than stand on ceremony there are places where your masseuses might not only be chatting with the women attending to someone in the next booth but might be having a gossip with every member of her family on her cell phone, whilst checking the lottery results or even watching the latest drama unfold in the nation’s obsession with TV soaps.

Apart from the swanky hotels where you will be paying top baht, you won’t necessarily be paying much more, if anything extra, for a spa with a chilled out atmosphere and one like a busy café but sometimes the simple mom and pop places can offer the bestp2 massages in town. Unlike the oil massage, with Thai massage you wear a pajama outfit. The trousers are fitted by pulling out to a point at the front seam and folding the material back flat against the stomach. The ties are then brought round and secured, before the material above the lies is folded down. It is simple, once you know how of course.

The next step is to try and book in for at least ninety minutes or even better, two hours, to really get the deep down kneading and appreciate that good things in life are not to be rushed.

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Feeding the monkeys at Sammuk Hill

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Some tourists in Pattaya think of something else other than the beach thing. They go to Sammuk Hill in Bangsaen and feed some monkeys. That is not to say Pattaya’s attractions are not great, but a day with the cuddly primates is, indeed, another story.

Sammuk Hill is just a short distance from Bangsaen beach and features the shrine of Chao Mae Khao Sammuk, a Chinese girl who, according to one version of the story, committed suicide by throwing herself into the cliff, after her parents refused to give her the blessing to marry her lover. The entire hill is inhabited by wild monkeys, but can be hand-fed if you have bananas.

If you go more than picture-taking and want to do this and you don’t have anything to give, fruit vendors, who ply their trade on Sammuk hill, will provide. The top of the hill where the shrine is located can be reached by cars. The road is winding but not steep so that you don’t have to rev up your vehicle beyond necessary. Besides, monkeys do exercise their liberty, crossing the road at will.

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You don’t want having a bad day after killing one instantly with your rubberized tires! There are those who hike their way up the hill. If you do this and you’re over 40, make sure you had taken a dozen of energy drinks prior to embarking on this short journey. Halfway up the road is the first stop, though. Take a rest, deep breath, under a shelter, and enjoy a spectacular view of the sea. Right here is a relatively large tree where lazy and overfed monkeys take their nap.

If you need additional energy to reach the top, buy a bunch of bananas and do feed yourself first, before you do to your ancestors. Look through the thick trees and bushes beside the road. You’ll find a lot of baby monkeys, breast-feeding mothers, and banana-belied males. Most of the time, especially when many other people have come before you, the monkeys will not even throw a glance at your bananas. You need quail eggs to lure them towards you for the photos. This is a more expensive commodity around here, but it is readily available.p3

The top of the hill is a watering hole in itself. There is a car parking area. The shrine is never without people around it, devotees and curious onlookers alike. Ironically, despite its sad story, people worship it for luck and to improve on their love relationship. Another legend has it that this spot was used as “Lover’s Leap” where couples kill themselves after making a vow to their forbidden love.

Still another tale says that the shrine was built in memory of a fisherman’s wife who waited atop the hill for her husband who was lost at sea. They are not so sure, of course. It’s an old tale and we are talking here of an 18th century story. — Jony Reese

OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN BANGSAEN • Bangsaen Beach, ideal for swimming, windsurfing and other water sports. • Wat Saensook, where there are many statues, describing hell and heaven stories. • Ang Sila Village, where large oysters, lobsters and shells are kept in a fisherman’s farm. Also in this village are many stone handicraft factories, where you will be surprised at the craftsmanship skills of artisans in creating beautiful sculptures out of stone boulders.

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Gorgeous Rayong

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Not far from Pattaya is a province known for its gorgeous seafood, delectable durian and fine beaches. Yet despite these attractions, Rayong is unlike Pattaya. It is not as touristy and it even has that sleepy feel to it. Although fine hotels line some of its beaches, the tourists visiting Rayong are mostly locals.

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The few foreign tourists who stray into the province mostly proceed to Ban Phe, a busy fishing port and jump-off point to KohSamet, the island with the whitest and squeakiest sand in the kingdom. The island is a 30-minute ferry ride away. It is a favorite among farangs as it has something for everyone — from funfilled beaches with jet skiing and live music to tranquil, secluded spots where one can enjoy sand, sun and sea in complete privacy. But while foreigners find island beaches more exotic, the locals have their own idea of what constitutes a better beach.

Such place doesn’t need to be isolated or off island. In fact, it is just about five kilometers farther down the highway from Ban Phe. This beach, known as the Suan Son Pine Park, is a popular picnic area among locals. It is squeaky clean and as white and sandy as those of Koh Samet, though not as tranquil and isolated. It is in fact busy on weekends when people from other parts of the province, including those from Bangkok, flock to the beach to frolic. Tall casuarinas trees give Suan Son its unique charm.

These trees line each side of the road, which runs along the one-kilometer beach. Interestingly, the crowns of the trees from each side meet above head, making the whole length of the road look like a green tunnel. The area, quite expectedly, teems with food stalls and food shops. And because it is not a farang haunt, food prices are cheap here. Accommodation is also available for those who want to stay overnight. It comes in the form of bungalows or guesthouses, which are reasonably priced.

The venturesome can rent a boat to explore the smaller islands nearby like Koh Kudi, Koh Kham, Koh Platin and Koh Talu. The climate here is typically tropical– hot from March through May, rainy from June through October, and cool from November through February. Average daily temperature throughout the year is 27 degrees Celsius. During the rainy season, rainfall is usually brief and the rest of the day is normally clear and sunny. Traveling around Suan Son can be relaxing because the traffic here is light and the roads are very smooth. The surrounding areas are mostly quaint fishing villages, too laidback that they offer a perfect escape from the bustle of the city.

A stroll along the beach will give you a first-hand look at life in Thailand’s coastal villages. Only a little over an hour from Pattaya (via Sukhumvit Road towards Sattahip) or two hours from Bangkok, Rayong is a popular getaway destination among urban holidaymakers who prefer a more peaceful beach atmosphere than the nearby touristy Pattaya. Those who are continuing on to Koh Samet will also find Rayong the perfect base, as it’s possible to do a bit of sightseeing and shopping before hopping on a speedboat or a ferry at Baan Pae.

Separated from Koh Samet by a 45-minute ferry ride, the city area feels like a world apart. It retains a pleasantly localized atmosphere, where you are more likely to bump into Thai families or groups of young university students than foreign tourists or backpackers. Young urbanites from Bangkok often drive out here to enjoy a great seafood meal or dig their toes into the soft white sand, before heading back with a lung full of clean fresh air.

Attraction
A launching point for land and sea explorations with long distance bus terminals, ferry piers, food stalls and a lively handicrafts and seafood market, Baan Pae is a hive of activity. Laem Mae Pim, perhaps the second most popular destinations after Baan Pae, is an ideal spot for relaxation, with a lineup of beachside eateries and calm, inviting waters. Other attractions further inland include Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herbal Park, Sopha Arboretum and the Rayong Aquarium.p3

Activities

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More popular for it is lineup of beachside seafood restaurants and shady beaches than for water sports, Rayong beaches are peaceful and relatively free of large crowds. Marine excursions are limited to fishing, snorkeling and diving at nearby islands such as Koh Kruai, Koh Thalu, Koh Pla Tin and Koh Kham. Island hopping is also an attractive option for those in search of a little adventure. Golfers will find a haven among Rayong’s range of well-designed courses, including the 72-par championship course at St. Andrews 2000 Golf and Country Club and Eastern Star Country Club.

Restaurants
Rayong is never short of mouthwatering seafood. In fact, dining is as much an experience for the eyes and ears as the palate, as many restaurants are situated by the beach, with an outdoor deck that juts right into the water. So, dining p2at these venues almost guarantees a great view. With a bustling seafood market, Baan Pae is one of the best places to go get a serving of freshly caught steamed crab, prawns and the all time favorite sea bass with lime ginger sauce. Finish off a satisfying meal the local style – with a plate of fresh tropical fruits.

Nightlife
Rayong is more famous for its causarina-shaded beaches and translucent blue sea than as a nightlife hotspot. However that’s not to say that there’s none around; a one-km strip Ratbamrung Road, which runs parallel to the main Sukhumvit highway in the city center, houses a large concentration of pubs, bars and nightclubs with stage shows and strip dancers. Getting Around Well connected by an efficient network of buses and songtaews (passenger- carrying trucks), public transport is the best option if you don’t have a car. Within Rayong, several lines of public buses operate between popular tourist destinations. These buses are color-coded and most run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ferries to Koh Samet depart from Baan Pae Pier on an hourly basis from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and drop tourists at major beaches, such as Sai Gaew, Ao Thaptim, Ao Phai, Ao Wong Duen and Ao Wai. The trip takes about 45 minutes, but if you take a chartered speedboat, it’s reduced to 15 minutes.

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Enter the Dragon fruit

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It doesn’t have any distinct flavor, but it has a lot of antioxidants known to ward off free radicals that’s causing many kinds of ailments. At a fruit stand, one would not miss the bright colors and unusual shape of this fruit. Because, for one, it doesn’t look like it’s not an ornamental plant. And it doesn’t look edible either. But surprisingly, many have already discovered the gem that is the dragon fruit. Dragon fruit is native to South and Central America.

But it is so widely distributed that several varieties can now be found in six continents. Thailand, because of her sheer agricultural prowess, is no exception. The fruit, called Kaew Mong Kon in Thai, abounds in fresh markets and even sidewalks. It is actually a cactus fruit with fuchsia pink skin and scales. Legend has it that the fruit came from a fire-breathing dragon. During a battle, these dragons would spit fire to the warriors and then spit the fruit last. After the dragon was slain, the warriors would collect the fruit and offer this to the emperor as a treasure and sign of victory.p4

The slain dragon would then be butchered and eaten by the warriors. It was believed that those who partake it would be endowed with exceptional strength and ferocity. But legend or no legend, dragon fruit is a healthy alternative. The fruit has three varieties which can be differentiated through the color of its flesh – white, red or magenta. The red variety is said to contain substantial amounts of lycopene, a natural antioxidant known to fight cancer, heart disease and lower blood pressure.

The popularity of dragon fruit has reached an all-time high. It is now the leading fruit export to Vietnam. Fruit juice giants Snapple, Tropicana and Sobe have added a dragon fruit flavored juice in their product lines. Don’t be fooled when someone tells you it tastes like kiwi (like how most people would describe it taste). The fruit is often chilled and cut in half with the flesh spooned cut. True, its texture and consistency is like that of a kiwi but its taste is not. It doesn’t really have any distinct flavor.

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The seeds though are crunchy. Because of its rather bland flavor, dragon fruit is best eaten with other fruits. It will actually add a twist to any dish which can be combined with fruit. Salads and salsas, for example, are best combined with dragon fruit. If you haven’t discovered this wonderful fruit, it is time to drop by your favorite fruit store and stock up on it. Remember not to eat the skin, it’s not edible.

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Fun and thrill in the Sunshine Strip

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From a sleepy fishing village in the ‘60s, Pattaya has grown into what it is now — a world-class beach destination. And one thing that has contributed to its worldwide appeal, apart from its dynamic nightlife, is watersports. Despite the rise in prominence of other beach destinations in the country, such as Phuket and Koh Samui, Pattaya has stood its ground as the place to go for watersports.

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Arguably it is now – in fact, always has been — the watersports capital of Thailand. Windsurfers from around the world come here to surf, thanks to its good sailing conditions. While the waves here are not that strong compared to those in Hawaii or Florida, many enthusiasts still enjoy coming over because Pattaya, particularly Jomtien Beach, is one of the few places in southeast Asia where enough wind blows year round.

During summer, while much of the region basks in sunlight and the beaches are full, Jomtien Beach, sometimes referred to as Pattaya’s Sunshine Strip, teems with amateur and professional windsurfers seeking to hone their skills. What makes Jomtien the favorite among foreign surfers is that it has a long coast and wind speed in the area is relatively the same year round. Also, there is little in the way of rocks or coral to watch out for in Jomtien. Due to this favorable environment, Jomtein has been host to a number of local and international windsurfing competitions.

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But windsurfing isn’t all that this resort city can offer. Another popular beach activity in Jomtien is parasailing. Like windsurfing, parasailing relies on wind. And the wind speed is perfect for parasailing. Parasailing is something that few have even dreamed about, much less tried. “My heart started to beat faster once the boat turned slowly. Suddenly, the parachute took me higher, causing an air-pocket effect,” said a first-time parasailer. “My knees felt rubbery. There was an unexplainable sensation to the whole thing. You practically felt like a bird. And it’s just great,” he added. Indeed, the sport gives those up in the air a different perspective of everything on the ground, and definitely a natural high.

How does one get to fly and watch the world while in Pattaya? Simple. Just go to the beach and ask for the parasailing team to attach the harness to your waist. Don’t forget to wear swimming goggles for eye protection. Then, get into the water and wait to be lifted to the sky. While up there, feel the wind and the freedom, and enjoy the breathtaking bird’s-eye view of Pattaya below. There are many other watersports to try here in Pattaya. They include water skiing, riding jet-ski, water scooter or banana boat, diving, kite-sailing, kayaking, cable skiing, and deep-sea fishing. So while in Pattaya, experience what many can only dream about. Take to the beach and go for some thrills that only the Sunshine Strip in Pattaya can offer.

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Thailand announces 14 Thai tourism favourites as voted by Chinese visitors

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The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) announced the 14 most popular tourist attractions and activities as well as medical and wellness services in Thailand among Chinese tourists, as a result of the much anticipated “2017 People’s Choice Awards Thailand Voted by Chinese Tourists” campaign. H.E. General Tanasak Patimapragorn, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, and H.E. Mrs. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports, presided over the “2017 People’s Choice Awards Thailand Voted by Chinese Tourists” ceremony at the Muang Thai GMM Live House, 8th Floor, CentralWorld. The winners of the 2017 People’s Choice Awards Thailand Voted by Chinese Tourists are :

1. Luxury Hotel: Rayavadee Krabi
2. Boutique Hotel: Anantara Lawana Koh Samui Resort
3. City Hotel: Centara Grand at CentralWorld
4. Beach Hotel: Banyan Tree Samui
5. Airline: Thai Airways International
6. Show and Entertainment: Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives
7. Medical and Wellness Service: Samitivej Hospital
8. Restaurant: Baan Rim Pa Phuket
9. Spa: Let’s Relax Spa
10. Golf Course: Gassan Khuntan Golf and Resort
11. Shopping Centre: Emquartier
12. Tourism Activities/ Theme park: Vana Nava Hua Hin
13. Attraction: Pattaya Floating Market
14. Destination: Pattaya

The contest was a continuation of a project carried out successfully in 2015 and 2016 to enhance Thailand’s tourism profile and brand image via social media networks, which are frequented by millions of Chinese every day. It also helps support the many Thai tourism products and services seeking more exposure in the Chinese market. TAT organised the voting campaign in partnership with Tencent, which owns a number of Chinese online channels; such as, WeChat (570 million users per day), QZone (330 million users per day), QQMusic (70 million users per day) and Tencent News (27 million users per day). Chinese who have travelled to Thailand were invited to vote via the website http://www.peopleschoiceawardsthailand.com between 26 May to 8 June, 2017, in 14 categories; such as, tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, medical and wellness services, spas, shopping centres, golf courses, etc. The voting attracted a total of 3.7 million votes, and the publicity given to this activity was estimated to reach an audience of 45 million. TAT launched the “People’s Choice Awards Thailand Voted by Chinese Tourists” project in 2015 as The Best of Thailand Awards Voted by Chinese Tourists, and renamed it to the current name in 2016. In its second year, the voting attracted over 3.2 million votes. During the first four months of this year, Thailand welcomed 12 million visitors, spending around 620 billion Baht, an increase of 4.71% from the same period last year. In this number, 7.5 million came from East Asia generating 308 billion Baht. China remained the leading source market at about 3.2 million arrivals, who generated 161 billion Baht in tourism revenue.

TAT Newsroom TAT Newsroom is committed to supporting the international media by providing latest news and updates on travel and hospitality industry in Thailand http://www.tatnews.org

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