M A N O H R A DANCE OF THE HUMAN BIRD

p3There are many entertainment ideas I would like to try after a day’s work, but watching a traditional Thai dance is certainly not in my list. Unless, maybe, if I get interested in one of the beautiful dancers! But if nothing’s left for me to see in Thailand except a set of cultural dances. I would like to see one particular Thai dance – The Manohra Dance.

It tells the story of Prince Suthon and his lover, Manohra. A southern Thailand kind of dance, Manohra can be traced back to Nakhon Sri Thammarat about 2,000 years ago. Like other classical dances in Asia, it features a series of gestures and steps that relate to stories based on myths and folklores. There is one recurring theme in this dance that serves as a single thread keeping the tempo and the different scenes in close knit together – the legend of Manohra, a Kinnaree or human bird, which features prominently in classical Thai literature. In brief, according to the legend, Manohra was captured and was presented to Prince Suthon as wife. With her beauty and intelligence, Manohra quickly became the most lovable jewel of the kingdom.

p2One day, while the prince was away at war, Manohra was accused by a jealous court counselor that she would cause a great evil in the kingdom and eventually the defeat of the prince at war. To appease the gods, the counselor said, Manohra must be sacrificed by fire. Manohra yieled to her destiny but asked the Queen’s permission to put on her wings and tails back so she could make a farewell dance. She danced gracefully then leap into the air and took flight to her home in the deep jungle and mountains.

DANCE COMPOSITION

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A Manohra dance troupe is usually made up of about 15 people including the dance master, also known as Nairong or Norah Yai, a magician, several musicians playing various instruments such the Pi Chawa (reed pipe), drums and ching (chymbals); and other performers. All performers wear different costumes that include golden crowns, bird’s wings, breastplates, swan tails, amulets, bracelets and long fingernails crafted from beaten silver spoons. The wardrobe alone can cost more than Bt20,000. The Manohra is confined to provinces in the southern region that is bordered by Malaysia. Although it is performed mainly in rural venues, visitors to Thailand can also watch it at hotels, theaters and cinemas. This dance and its music transcend al cultural barriers.

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Pampering holiday in a Thai spa

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Nothing compares to a day in a spa. Indulge in any of several types of body and health treatments that will surely relax the body and remove tension. Fact is, it might even add more years to your life. Recharge and discover the healing powers of natural elements. Feel your body getting back its energy after only a weekend stay.

Highly recommended is an aromatherapy massage. Start with a complete body care treatment that uses fragrant natural oils. Then have a massage where essential oils are blended to maximize their effect on the body’s central nervous systems that triggers a healing process. Try also traditional Thai massage that’s known for its therapeutic effects. It is said to have originated from India 2500 years ago as a form of treatment for improving general circulation and alleviating fatigue.

A massage is an excellent way to unwind after a hectic day of shopping, a night of excessive partying or a week of hard work. Foot massage is an ancient Chinese medical treatment that began with an acupuncture massage technique at reflex points of the feet where nerves are intertwined with others in several parts of the body. These help keep internal organ healthy. In foot reflexology, nerve endings on each foot are stimulated. Both feet, which are said to be the second heart of the body, have 14,400 nerve endings and over 100 reflex zones. Pressure and massage on a certain zone of the foot stimulates the corresponding organ in the body and brings about a healing effect.

A facial treatment or aroma facial massages are both worth trying. Only herbal cosmetics are used to clean facial skin, remove dead cells and rejuvenate living cells. Most spa is the country have modern facilities and luxurious designs. Treatment rooms have private shower, steam room and Jacuzzi. There are also beauty salons, boutiques, gyms and restaurants that serve health food.

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Mr. 99 Seafood and Steak Restaurant

18 successful years of providing delicious seafood and excellent

service with a smile to delighted customers

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When Mr. 99 restaurant was established on Valentines Day in 1999, the area between South Pattaya Soi 7 and South Beach Road and Central Road was relatively quiet. Soi 7, now crowded with restaurants and bar beers, was then green with trees and a few vacation houses. Now the whole area is teeming with business and the establishment of Central department store and the main police station and headquarters nearby has made the area a busy commercial center with crowds of people. One of the first things you will meet upon entering Mr. 99 is an array of aquariums where live seafood is kept. Here you can choose all sorts different crustaceans like Spider Crabs, Horse Shoe Crabs, Rock Lobsters, Phuket lobsters, river and ocean shrimps, prawns and much variety of fishes.

There also are the same types of sea food on frozen ice in display for these that do not like live fishes plus many more varieties of seafood. More often than not, Khun Oy, the manager will meet you personally and escort you to your table where experienced waitresses and other crew will take your selections. “Our policy of good food, friendly service, down to earth relaxing comfortable ambiance and competitive prices has worked very well for us,” says Khun Oy, the amiable manager that has managed the restaurant since it was founded. In fact during this critical period in Pattaya when business is in its worst recession, the restaurant has been able to maintain its own and prosper contrary to the overall experience of many other places. The restaurant is part of a group that operates a number of restaurants in Pattaya which as whole has maintained and kept its customers.

 

Based on the idea of serving good fresh food with good, satisfactory service and a smile, the restaurant’s kitchen tries to keep the natural flavors on all its dishes, avoiding sauces and flavors that tend to destroy or hide its natural tastes. “We try to be as naturals as much as possible while also keeping costs down to maintain our better than competitive prices,” according to Khun Oy. The restaurant even seeks to buy organic though often that means higher purchasing prices … just as long prices are within reason. “The word ‘organic’ sometimes means higher prices. As long as we can keep our competitive pricing we go for quality and nature,” adds Khun Oy.

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The restaurant is in good position to be able to get the best prices because their group of restaurants buys in bulk, purchasing in the millions of Baht of food every month. This huge buying power allows them strong bargaining power with suppliers, thus allowing not only attractive prices but also goods of best quality. The restaurant’s menu bulges with over 200 dishes offered. The menu itself comes in 5 languages – English, Chinese, German, Russian and Thai. Each food item has actually been photographed, not lifted from the web. Thus everyone can see what each dishes actually looks like. Mr. 99 Seafood and Steak Restaurant In addition to a wide selection of seafood the restaurant also offer imported steaks with meats mainly coming from Australia, Canada, U.S. and New Zealand.

Meat is kept chilled rather than frozen in keeping with the restaurant’s policy of keeping natural flavors. Freezing all too often destroys meat texture and tastes. The restaurant can seat 200-250 people. Thus the kitchen has also been expanded with over 20 cooks under the leadership of the professional Chef Khun Joy whom likewise is with the establishment since 1999! Thus the restaurant is able to maintain fast and personalized service. With a serving crew of 25 waiters and waitress the restaurant just hums like the well tuned organization that it is. With customers coming from all around the globe the place is indeed faced the formidable challenge of meeting many different tastes and differences in customs.

But its 17 year success proves best the fantastic ability of the restaurant staff to meet the challenge of keeping thousands of customers happy each and every month. Service is enhanced by the fact that most of the original staff is still with the restaurant. Despite the rapid growth of restaurants in Pattaya they have maintained most of their experienced crew so that they have not been greatly troubled by inexperienced people giving service. Also the people working seem all very happy at their jobs. Thus there are a lot of genuine smiles and happy faces creating a better experience for customers.

p7The restaurant is located right in front of the sea in an open air ambiance of al fresco dining. Soft ocean breeze blows most times. The panorama of sea, beach and people bustling around creates a certain excitement that enhances the spirit. A Filipino Band (Dhudz and Joy) provides musical entertainment that enlivens the atmosphere, creating a festival like feeling. The band plays new and old popular songs mainly but will play most requests. Mr. 99 also maintains an excellent wine selection of different kinds of wine from many countries in practically all the continents of the world. One can have red, white, rose wines and champagnes of different vintages to match the right dish.

The wide variety of tropical cocktails is also worth mentioning and whoever has a taste for the exotic must try one of their delicious and beautifully decorated cocktails! Located at the intersection of Soi 7 and Pattaya Beach Road, the restaurant is only a few meter from the corner of Pattaya Klang, or Central Road and about 50 meters from Central Festival Shopping Center where there is also ample parking space and the walk is only 3 minutes to Mr.99.

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Chinese delicacies in Thailand

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Chinese cuisine is not only known for its variety, but also for the meticulous preparations involved before cooking. The introduction to Chinese food often begins with a meal at a restaurant that serves Cantonese dishes. Everyone has probably tried dim sum, which literally means “touch your heart”. It’s basically an assortment of pastries and dumplings. Another sought after dish is Peking (Beijing) Duck, or grilled duck.

In most Chinese restaurants, Peking duck is usually served slicked and eaten with thin pancakes. It is accompanied by a sweet sauce make of fermented flour, scallions and thinly cut cucumber. Noodles are part of the standard fare. The Chinese believe that eating noodles leads to longer life. In making noodle in the traditional Chinese way, the dough is pulled and whirled through the air in order to stretch it.

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There are two kinds of noodles in Chinese cuisine: egg noodles or mien, and rice noodle, or bijon (called glass noodle in English). Whereas egg noodles are mostly shaped like thin spaghetti, rice noodles are wide like fettuccini and tagliarelle. According to the Chinese noodles can be served in three different ways; in a clear coup with meat and some vegetables, mixed with meat with a thick sauce (egg noodles:; or without sauce (bijon). Two of the more common Chinese soups, shark’s fin soup and bird’s nest soup, are thick not due to the addition of cornstarch but due to the two main ingredients that are simmered for several hours.

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In Thailand, there are many Chinese restaurants where prices are reasonable.

Beach and roadside buffet

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A country of outdoor kitchens and makeshift dining areas – these probably the initial impression a first-time visitor gets on his or her first few days in Thailand. At every corner, someone fries, grills or cooks something. A mobile kitchen on a bicycle or a small motorbike makes it possible to offer food on different locations. Anywhere you look and no matter what time it is, you will always see those ubiquitous food stalls.

In Pattaya, food paddlers are to the beach what files are to the buffalo. They come in swarms. Some even have charcoal ovens in tow, ready to grill your favorite seafood – crabs, shrimps, squids and seashells, whatever – right before your eyes.

Elsewhere, a huge parking area or a side-street transforms every night into a enormous restaurant with hundreds of fish, fried vegetables, dried squid, soup (with or without coconut milk), fruits, a variety of sweets, beers, and even Mekong, the Thai whiskey. There’s nothing really unusual about street vendors. Roadside stalls roasting chestnuts in charcoal braziers are common sights in most cities around the world. Not common in other cities, however, are pushcarts selling fresh, sliced fruits or preserved fruits. The fresh fruits, kept fresh by the ice at the base of the glass display, are sold by the piece, not by weight. The fruit commonly hawked are pineapple, watermelon, mango, guava, papaya, rose apple and other seasonal fruits.

Preserved fruits on the other hand are sold by weight. Another food commonly available from pushcart hawkers is coconut pudding or “Khanom Krok.” And what make it, interesting is that you get to see how it’s done – batter is poured into a large round pan with little potholes, covered, and cooked on a charcoal stove. The most common of all these mobile food stalls are those selling grilled meatballs (look chin ping) usually on barbecue sticks. They are dipped in a chili sauce before they are eaten.

Even roasted potatoes (mun ping) along with grilled eggs, can be bought from hawkers. Another favorite Thai snack, also available from itinerant vendors, is crispy pancake with fillings (Khanom Buang), which looks like Mexican taco. A spoonful of batter is cooked on a flat pan then filled with white icing cream, shredded coconut and egg yolk strips (Foi Thong) among other things. Of course, drinks are also available.

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There is green leaf water (nam bai bua bok) which has a unique smell and taste. Another popular hawker’s drink is the longan juice (nam lam yai), a brown-colored juice usually served with crushed ice. Travel isn’t all about sightseeing, beachcombing or bargain hunting. It is also about exploring food. In Thailand, there is much food to explore even along roadside.

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A paradise in Trat

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If you want to take a break from the glitz of Pattaya, go to the nearby province of Trat for a change of pace. Some of its most interesting attractions are:

Laem Ngob Laem (cape) Ngob, about 20 km from the town of Trat (Highway 3148) is where fishing boats moor on the long jetty. Locally preserved food, including shrimp paste and fish sauce, is on sale here. From the pier at the end of the cape, large vessels can be hired to Koh Chang and other nearby islands.

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Koh Kradat This is the only island in Thailand that is privately owned. The title deed for the island was issued during the reign of King Rama V. So called because of its flatness, Koh Kradat has some picturesque coconut plantations, pleasant beaches and a hotel with comfortable bungalows.

Koh Kradat and nearby Koh Rad are about 42 kms or 2-3 hours by boat from Laem Ngob. Both are blessed with exquisite landscape. They lend well to swimming and sightseeing. Owing to its good accommodation facilities,

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Koh Kradat is often used by tourists as springboard to nearby island like Koh Mak. Koh Kood A boat trip from Laem Ngob to this islands, located at the end of the eastern reaches of Thailand, takes about 45 minutes. It is about half an hour from Koh Kradat.

Klong Chao and Tarn Sanuk are two scenic waterfalls on the island. The name “Tarn Sanuk,” which literally means stream of fun, was given by King Rama VI in 1911. Koh Kradat, Koh Mak and Koh Kood are the only island off Trat which have not been declared part of the national park.

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Borai District Fifty-five kilometers from Trat is this former gem center of the eastern region, at title now held by Chanthaburi. Rubies were first discovered in Borai over three decades ago. A ruby festival is held here every year to attract tourists and potential buyers.

 

 

Love affair with the jumbo

p1In a country where Lord Buddha is highly revered, the story about an elephant taking good care of him during his life as a hermit tugs at the heartstrings of the people The Thais since time immemorial have always had special affection for the elephant. In ancient Siam, it was a national symbol, depicted in the country’s insignia.

During the reign of King Rama II, a picture of a white elephant was part of the national flag. That was nothing to be surprised about. During that time, the elephant was the chief means of royal transport. In special ceremonies or in battles, the king could always be seen riding an elephant. In the Sukhotai period, for instance, an elephant-riding King Ram Kang Hang the Great went to battle against the forces of Kun Sam Chon, ruler of Chod City, and won. In Ayutthaya, King Jak Kra Pad the Great fought against Prince Prae also while riding an elephant.

King Na Re Suan the Great fought against the army of King Oup Pra Raj the Great of the Hong Sa Wa Dee empire while astride mammoth-sized animal. Not to be overlooked, the elephant has been the country’s beast of burden, used to carry heavy logs across rivers and mountains. Although this has nothing to do with racism, the white elephants are plain lucky. Because of their rarity, they are elevated to royal status and consigned to a life of comfort with almost nothing to do.

The elephant had also played an important role in Buddhism. It is said that before Queen Sirimahamaya conceived Lord Buddha, she dreamed of a white elephant walking around her three times. It was widely believed that the white elephant in that dream was the infant Buddha getting into the womb of the queen.

A Brahman then predicted that the queen would give birth to a deity son who would be a great king if he chose to reign, or a holy man if he chose a spiritual life. Buddha was born and grew up to be a king. However, he later abandoned his royal heritage to live a life of a hermit in a remote village. In that remote village, the story goes, he found an elephant which took good care of him, finding food for him and even preparing his bed.

The elephant was said to have died after the Buddha left him to head for the Sawittee Empire. In a country where Lord Buddha is highly revered,such elephantine loyalty tugs at the heartstrings of the people.

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