Escape from the humdrum

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Pattaya may have a sleazy reputation and many tourists associate the city with sex tourism, thanks to a great number of go-go bars and easy availability of women “escorts.” However, there’s more to Pattaya than the superficial reputation that it has. It offers more, even for the family holiday makers. Today’s Pattaya offers varied experiences to a traveler. Pattaya was fated to be a resort city. First and foremost, its advantage derives from its being a seaside city, and we all know that the sea – and, its follows, the beach – is always an attraction for those seeking to escape the humdrum of office-home routine and big-city life. Pattaya’s proximity to Bangkok makes it an ideal weekend getaway.

The city itself is not big, that is, if you think of a big city in the league of a megalopolis, and so it exudes a casual, indeed resort-like quality. This is evident in the city’s many open, bistro-style eateries that are perfect settings for early-morning, leisurely breakfasts cum newspaper reading. Breakfast by the beach or in one of the restaurants lining the city’s seaside boulevard in Jomtien Beach is another defining moment.

You have a choice of renting a reclining seat right on the beach and ordering food from local vendors or eating in one of the many restaurants just across from the beach. Eating in the restaurant may not give you a view of the sea but instead of a sea of beach umbrellas, but still you get the feel of eating by the seaside, a feeling that is out of the ordinary. The Jomtien Beach itself is something to explore or just laze around, a more relaxing alternative to the busier Pattaya Beach in the northern part.

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This charismatic area can be as peaceful as crowded. You may just sit in the beach and engage in people-watching, read a book or watch sea activities from wind-sailing to parasailing, and so on, if you’re not yourself doing any of these sea sports. If you’re after the actual fun, you can rent a jetski for about Bt700 per half hour. A banana boat rents for about Bt1,500 for 30 minutes (a banana boat can be shared by four persons). Rent rates may vary, depending on the season.

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Benjarong art A royal heritage

The early Rattanakosin period some 200 years ago saw the peak of Chinese influence on Thai arts and literature. But with Western culture widely spreading in Asia, the Thai slowly lost interest in many Chinese-inspired arts forms, including benjarong and other kinds of ceramics. Of late, however, interest in ancient Thai pottery and ceramics has been rekindled, leading to benjarong’s remarkable comeback. Centuries ago, this ancient Chinese-Thai porcelain ware simply vanished from the Thai handicraft scene.

p3Invented during the Ayutthaya period, benjarong is a combination of Thai ingenuity, Indian designs and Chinese craftsmanship. Originally, benjarong was intended for the exclusive use of the Thai royal court. Original designs were used in the production of plates, spittoons, pedestal dishes and jars. As Western influence grew during the late nineteenth century, new items were created using also existing designs.

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These included teapots, teacups with handles, saucers and spoons. Today, collectors prized benjarong for its exotic exuberance and ornate decorative themes. It is regarded as one of the best samples of Thai ceramics. Many original benjarong pieces have survived and can be seen in royal Thai households and at the National Museum.

 

 

p5Benjarong is reflective of incredible workmanship, artistry and detailed design. The cost of benjarong is reflective of the hours and days needed by individual artists or teams of skilled craftsmen to hand-paint individual pieces and full sets. Deft applications of color through single brush strokes result in a raised surface feel. Several big and small factories in the provinces now make benjarong with attractive designs to meet increasing local and international demand.

DETOX BY MASSAGE

Blurb: A good Thai massage is believed to be therapeutic, stress relieving and muscle relaxing. Treatment takes about two hours and is believed to add years to your life By the time King Rama III ascended to the throne, massage had become a way of life in Thailand, so much so that he ordered that the basic theories be carved in stone in the Wat Po compound. Thus, Wat Po has become the center for traditional Thai massage.

At the Wat Po “centers”, the same basic principles are followed by massage practitioners, with slight variations in style. The “mor nuat” (literally “massage doctor”) press their fingers on muscles that the patient cannot reach himself. They also stretch the arms and legs. Usually, their efforts are centered on the area where the patient has a problem — be it an aching back, stiff neck or tennis elbow. It takes about two hours to conduct a complete Thai massage, which is believed to add years to your life.

The body is first treated from the waist down. The pressure points are then worked on to get energy flowing. Thai massage isn’t painful; in fact, it’s soothing and relaxing. Most people find massage an excellent way to unwind after a hectic day of shopping, excessive partying, or after a week of hard work. Thai massage is a form of relaxation, and some practitioners believe it can cure a number of common ailments.

Another ancient curative art known as foot reflexology has also become very popular in the last few years. In foot reflexology, nerve endings on each foot are stimulated. This is considered another form of holistic healing that is said to have originated from India and spread to China some 5,000 years ago. Both feet, — known as 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 and heals the corresponding organ in the body. Practitioners say reflexology eliminates uric acid deposits in the feet and improves blood circulation at the same time. It also ensures good health.

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Crab dining in Pattaya

One of the simplest and most popular ways of enjoying the crabs is to order them streamed (neung) and served with a number of different sauces. The one which complements the flavor of the crab, according to the many locals, is prik manao, a mixture of chopped chilies, lime juice, garlic and soy sauce. For a more interesting dish, you might want to try fried blue crabs with curry sauce (poo pat pong gari).

There’s also poo ta le pahd pong gari, which is made tangier by the addition of spring onions, and poo too ka-teum phrik Thai that’s flavored with garlic and pepper. A milder alternative is Chinese-style hot pot crab with vermicelli (poo op wun sen).

In some hotel menus, one can order the special mud crabs that must be cooked alive to get the best taste. Unlike blue crabs, which are sought mainly for their body meat, connoisseurs of mud crabs go for the claws, the meat of which is said to be superior to that found under the shell.

Some restaurants suggest reservations since preparing mud crab dishes take some time thanks to their thick shells. For those who don’t want to wait, there’s always fried stuffed crabs (poo ja), which is basically crab meat, pork, eggs and spices cooked in the shell. Try also mud crabs cooked in coconut milk and deep-fried crab skulls dish (kanchiang poo neung)

Hot stone cure

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Heat and massage create a relaxing gentle yet effect body treatment Hot stone massage is one of the fastest-growing massage techniques in spas throughout the US and Europe. This form of bodywork involves the use of heated and cooled stones applied to the body in various ways to bring about relief to stiff and sore muscles resulting in the alleviation of many chronic and acute problems.

The use of different temperatures on the body to bring about certain reactions has been done for eons, and many different types of practitioners know that adjusting temperatures in a bodywork can aid clients in healing. Hot Stone Massage combines heat and massage to create a relaxing, gentle yet effective treatment.

Basalt stones are the medium, and the hot and cold temperatures are the massage. This vascular gymnastics of the circulatory system assists the body in self-healing. Stone Massage goes beyond the physical experience of typical massage by entering deeper dimensions of relaxation, health and well being, creating a positive approach to the “body-mind-spirit” philosophy. Stone Massage produces alternately sedative and re-energizing responses to the body.

They physiological benefits of alternating hot and cold to the body have long been medically proven, and clients love the potent recharge they receive from the treatment. Basalt, the most abundant of the volcanic rocks, is a modified igneous rock that is formed by volcanic and sedimentary action. Basalt rocks got their smooth, potato-like shape and size from long years of stream or water activity. Since the dawn the time, people have been drawn to the energies of stones.

You need only look around to see the traces we have left from centuries of walking on Mother Earth. Monstrous stones have been carried unspeakable distances to honor kings and gods. We have created monuments of stones, where we have carved our faces and those of our gods. There worry stones people carry in their pockets, and stone fetishes are created for many forms of healing, rebirth, wealth and relationships.

The American Indians call the stones the “Stone Clan People”, Shamans, medicine people and spiritual leaders from all over the world use stones and crystals in their healing ceremonies. Each color and type of stone reflects energy, purpose, clearing and releasing effect on the clients as it is being used. In Hawai, the Kahunas use lava in their healing treatments. The lava stone represents healing and protection. In the Philippines, it is a common practice to use a rough basalt stone to slough off old, dry skin. In Russia, there is a tradition of using heated black stones in the bath. Even in the days of cowboys, it was common practice to heat stones in the fire and place them on the ground under one’s bedding. You can try Hot Stone Massage while you’re on holiday here. Your hotel concierge should know a spa that offers it.

 

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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