The Small-Island Charm of Si Chang

Just off the coast of Chonburi is a perfect island getaway – easy to reach, its sights can be toured in less than a day, leaving one enough time for the beach. Ko Si Chang’s main draw, however, is its sleepy vibe and small-town charm that other Thai islands lost long ago in the drive to attract tourists. Getting to Si Chang is easy thanks to regular mini-vans to the port of Sri Racha.

When you arrive, it’s worth taking a look around. Because of the many Japanese companies based in the area, businesses cater especially to Japanese expats – every second shop is a sushi bar and most signs are in Hiragana. Boats to Si Chang leave hourly and aren’t for the faint-hearted. At first glance, they seem rickety and most are overloaded with day-trippers carrying fishing gear. Sri Racha is close to the Laem Chabang deep sea port, so there’s a lot of shipping and the ferry boats often weave between the bigger vessels.

Jump ashore at Si Chang’s bustling pier and you’ll be offered (in the laid-back island way you’ll learn to appreciate) a Tuk-Tuk. These aren’t the cramped and view-blocking Bangkok versions, but large four-seaters with room to stretch out. It’s cheaper to take the same driver if you want to see the sights. If you’re just here for a beach break, the island’s best spot is the bay of Tham Phang, on the west coast. There is a nice stretch of sand and sheltered swimming with no annoying jet-skis. I like to spend the day sitting under the beach umbrellas eating fresh crabs or barbequed shrimps, but there are other attractions if you can get out of your deck-chair.

And it’s worth exploring Si Chang. Despite being small, the island plays its part in Thai history. Thailand is justly proud of having never been colonised, but Si Chang was briefly taken over by the French in 1893 during a struggle over control of Laos. Until then, the island had been a getaway for King Rama V the Great, who built his teakwood home here: the Manthatratanarote Royal Mansion. The small-island charm of Si Chang

After the Gallic incursion, the mansion was taken down and rebuilt in Bangkok where it’s now better known as Vimanmek Palace. But the lovely landscaped gardens are still intact and show it must have been a glorious place in its heyday with inviting bathingpools under the trees, made up like natural grottos. While only the foundations of the palace are still in place, the sturdy teak homes King Rama V the Great built for people to recuperate from illness still stand, with grand views of the Thai coast.

Take a walk out on the handsome wooden pier and you can see dozens of international ships at anchor. It seems little has changed since the 17th century when the island was called Amsterdam due to the huge number of vessels belonging to the Dutch East India Company. Do visit the sprawling Chinese temple on the hill known as San Chao Pho Khao Yai, with its colorful dragons, mystical murals and ancient statues. A cute cable car is there to take you up the hill.

Further above the temple is a replica of a Buddha Footprint in its own shrine. The view from the top will take your breath away, if there’s any left, as it’s an exhausting climb. Top tip: there is a back road to the top where your driver can drop you off. The relic was brought from India by Prince Damrong Rajanuphab in 1892 and is now a pilgrimage site.

When staying overnight, enjoy the sunset views from the Tham Phang point before visiting the old town to eat. There are seafood places by the roadside cooking freshly caught produce. There’s no nightlife on the island, other than watching the locals wandering round chatting in their pajamas. It seems a long way from partying Pattaya, down the coast. But this little slice of yesteryear offers the perfect break.

Essential massage tools

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In Thailand, where traditional Thai massage and countless other types of massage and spa therapies abound, finding one to give you that great rubdown is easy. Just remember, as wonderful as a good massage is, a good massage with the right massage oil, hot compress, hot stones, lotion, cream, gel or powder can make it a thousand times better.

p1To help you decide which type of medium you want your masseuse/masseur or therapist to use, some of the most common aides they use here are massage oils, creams, lotion and powder. A simple backrub already feels wonderful but using oil does not only make it feel better. Massage oils may offer physical benefits of their own, or simply enhance the experience with scent, sensation and ease.

Massaging with massage oil adds the benefit of moisturizing and toning the skin, as well as making it easier for your therapist’s hands to move and knead over muscles and skin. The scent you choose, the ingredients included and the way that you use the oil all give different benefits – from helping to heal old wounds to just plain making a massage more fun. Massage creams are generally used on people with sore muscles, an injury, or have muscle spasms. Herbal muscle creams with therapeutic properties stimulates healing and is great for a deep muscle massage. These creams contain essential oils and Capsicum which is a heat generating ingredient.

Many people prefer creams because they do not make the body feel greasy. For somebody with a highly sensitive skin, it is best to advise your therapist ahead so they do not use a cream that you will have allergic reaction to. A popular alternative to massage oils is the use of lotion. Massage lotions like oil, work well for deep tissue stimulation and non-slip massage. Most lotions are non-greasy and provide ideal glide protecting the skin from damage due to excessive friction during high-friction massages.

p2They help relieve muscular tension and stress without too much drag. As it is not quickly absorbed by the skin, lotion has the ability to condition the skin during massage. A very light massage using fingers, hands and arms over your powder-dusted body is like going back to the days when your sensitive baby-skin is caressed by the gentle touch of a mother’s hands. Powder massage is not designed to work your muscles as it is focused on the soft areas of the body like the back of the knee, elbow crooks, calves, palms, small of the back, etc., to stimulate nerve endings.

Sugar Hut Resort… Keeping the Thai Tradition Alive

Pattaya has fully embraced modernity just like the rest of other areas frequented by tourists in the Kingdom of Thailand but some traditions are still well kept alive creating a wonderful blend of modern conveniences and ancient Thai lifestyle. That’s exactly what you’ll find and feel at Sugar Hut Resort, a family-owned enterprise nurtured through the years, which offers a unique experience living in an old Thai-style house.

Set away in secluded jungle-like surroundings where animals like peacocks and rabbits freely roam around, Sugar Hut boasts of elevated wooden villas each with a serene and beautiful garden-like bathroom with traditional earthen Thai jar and a deck area that separates the bedroom from the living room. “You can barely see Thai-style house in Pattaya. It’s mostly high-rise buildings,” says Yanin Viravaidya, general manager of Sugar Hut Resort and a second-generation scion of a medical doctor who established the resort.

Yanin says their resort offers “an escape from the whole hectic city” and a chance to relive in a wooden traditional Thai-style house without sacrificing the conveniences of the modern-day era. Sugar Hut Resort… Keeping the Thai Tradition Alive Each villa has an elevated bed with a beautifully-laden mosquito net. Each bathroom has hot and cold water and a rain-shower for that that earthly jungle-feel.

The living room is equipped with a mini refrigerator and a cozy sofa where you can hang out or unwind. There are three swimming pools around the resort, each with wet and dry saunas. Non-guests can also avail of these amenities for just 1,000 Baht per person per day. Nearby is a restaurant where you can sample some of the best Thai dishes you can find. The resort also has a lounge area where you can read books or magazines, learn more about Thai culture or simply to chill out. And there’s more—Sugar Hut can arrange boat trips, scuba diving or even a brief tour to the city. Yanin assures their staff are always ready to help guests to make their stay in Thailand truly amazing.

For more info : visit http://www.sugar-hut.com

or call (66-038) 428-374 or 364-185.

A botanical bounty

THAILAND’s superb year-round climate and rich fertile soil enable local famers to cultivate an unbelievable rainbow of juice exotic fruits, crisp crunchy vegetables and fresh aromatic herbs that enliven the country’s dinner tables. These colorful botanicals are nurtured in warm tropical sunshine, instilling pure freshness and vitality.

They are harvested and maintain their goodness without the need for additives or preservatives. Eaten fresh, cooked, dried and juiced, these succulent ingredients bring extraordinary taste sensations that contribute to Thailand’s deserved reputation as one of the world’s cuisine capitals. Coconut, pomelo, papaya and durian, flavored with a hint of mint, lemongrass and ginger, all washed down with guava ad lychee juice.

Sounds like an exciting recipe to create some gastronomic delight, but these are just a handful of the abundant natural resources utilized in the refreshing elixirs served up in our Thai cocktails. The exceptional quality of Thai frits has made the country one of the main glob al exporters, and the orchard of goodness in astounding. Considered the ‘King of fruits’, with its pervasive aroma, the golden creamy durian is another much sought-after export that is in high demand in the growing Chinese market.

The durian is only outsold by the longan fruit, whose sweet translucent flesh makes it the country’s top fresh-fruit export. While most of us know and adore fruits like the tart to sweet flavored mangoes, and the refreshing red watermelon, less familiar are the fleshy segments of the purple-skinned mangosteen, which is crowned as Thailand’s ‘queen of fruit’. In fact, some fruits are so highly regarded that special annual festivals are held in provinces that yield the finest harvests.

A botanical bounty Aside from nourishing fruits and vegetables, Thailand is a major exporter of medicinal herbs and spices, earning billions of baht annually through the promotion of botanicals such as penetrating ginger, spicy black pepper, and saccharine sweet stevia, which help fight a variety of ailments.

When it comes to unique scents, who can forget their first whiff of an lemongrass burner as it banishes mosquitoes from a garden sala (pavilion), or of pandanus leaves freshening the stuffy interior of a Bangkok taxicab. The amazing healing properties of Thai herbs are truly staggering. The bitter root, black galingale, is taken as an aphrodisiac by men and was improving vitality long before Viagra came onto the market. Meanwhile, female villagers in rural Thailand have been ingesting the magically rejuvenating kudza root for centuries as a youth restoring potion that smoothens out wrinkles, improves eyesight, promotes hair growth and generally puts a spring back in the stip. And while ‘king of bitters’ tastes exactly as its name suggests, it is known to be a potent and speedy remedy if suffering with the sniffles of a common cold.

The dazzling array of Thai botanicals is an inescapable element to daily life in the kingdom. The curative and preventive effects of the fruit, vegetables, and herbs selected for these special recipes are detailed in the ingredient descriptions. Each botanical is rich in nutrients and the potential capabilities are incredible – bringing vitality, building up immune defenses, calming the mind, and restoring beauty and well-being. While consumption of certain fruits – especially citrus fruits like tangerines, limes and pineapples – is known to detoxify the body, other botanicals like mulberry reduce cholesterol, and Asiatic pennywort is known to stimulate memory.

While alcohol certainly isn’t the healthiest liquid to fuel the body and mind, by combining it with natural ingredients, the potential negative effects of its consumption are minimized and counter-balanced by nutritious botanical goodness. For hundreds of years, Thai have been instinctively infusing beneficial herbs and roots to white liquor to make the unique tasting medicinal Yaa Dong – herb liquor. So, when exhausted after a hard week at the office, simply nip into the kitchen and whisk up a couple of these exceptional cocktail recipes, and see how instantly perky and I tune your whole body feels – rejuvenated, energized and ready to embrace whatever life can hurl at it! – tatnews.org.

Fruits of the season

 

They come in different shapes, sizes and colors Instead of a slice of pine apple, why not try a mangosteen? Opt for papaya over watermelon for a change. Rather than a regular banana, seek out a durian or jackfruit.


Then, of course, there’s rambutan, jackfruit, longan and so much more, depending on the season. During summer, markets in Thailand brim with different kinds of fruits that come in several shapes, sizes and colors. Mangosteen is readily available from April to September, with price getting lower as the season progresses.

One world of caution when eating mangosteen: the purple skin tends to stain everything it comes in contact with.a Also abundant during the same period is rambutan. Of all the Thai fruits, the rambutan is arguably the most curious looking. The egg shaped fruit has a red skin with dozens of wiry green tendrils. The other Thai fruit known for it size, but more so for its smell, is durian. From May to July, an informal battle rages across the country. On one side are those who love durian, proclaiming it as the king of fruits. On the other side are those who hate everything about the pungent smelling fruit.

Papaya is another fruit with a curious taste. In fact, many people squeeze a bit of lime juice over it to help offset the bitter flavor. It contains lots of vitamin C and is easily identified by its dark green skin and deep orange flesh. Classified as a large berry, the fruit reaches an average weight of two pounds. Because of a natural digestive enzyme, papaya is often used as a meat tenderizer, and is a good for upset stomach. In Chiang Mai, strawberries are in season from December through February. They are available from street sellers and supermarkets all around the city.

The pleasant winter climate in the mountains is akin to the summer in northern Europe (without the rain) and provides the perfect environment for cultivating strawberries. They are expensive by the standards of what you usually pay for fruit in Thailand, but at as low as $1 a kilo they’re still a bargain. Many other fruits, both familiar and unfamiliar, are available in Thailand year round. Don’t be afraid to do a little experimenting. You’ll be glad you did.

 

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Thai silk An excellent gift idea

p4For a unique holiday gift, try something elegant, handcrafted and a real novelty – Thai silk, the country’s pride. Local silk is one of the most popular tourist buys in Thailand. It is an excellent formal wear that can be too expensive if bought abroad. The fabric is versatile – meaning there’s the light-weight type you can wear in a hot climate and the heavy-weight type of silk in cold temperature.

And there’s even one for the middle ground – the middle- weight, ideal in a climate that’s not too hot nor too cold. The ply of thread used in weaving it determines the weight of a given piece of silk. For example, lightweight silk is generally one ply, which means single strands of silk are woven together to make the cloth.

The light-weight variety is often used for ladies’ blouses, summer dresses and men’s shirts. When buying silk fabric to take to a tailor or dressmaker, remember that blouse and shirt combinations use about 5.5 yards of silk while men’s shirts use 2.5 to 3 yards. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous manufacturers mix silk and polyester, passing the woven fabric off as genuine silk. So if you have doubts about the purity of a piece, use the “burn test” to determine it. To conduct the “burn test”, ask the sales clerk to give you a small piece of the silk you wish to buy.

Burn the piece and examine the ash. If it is powdery and smells like burnt meat, it is pure silk. If it is coarse like plastic ash, the silk is part polyester. There are many places in Pattaya to buy Thai silk. Some Thai silk outlets are in department stores such as that of the Royal Garden Plaza, or in souvenir shops, and also along the sidewalks at the Beach Road. Be careful though, some could be overpriced. The popular price of pure silk is around Bt300 to Bt400 a yard.

p2Apart from clothes, Thai silk fabrics also make good pillow cases, serviettes and handkerchiefs. Any item made of silk exudes an air of luxury. As a gift, it is certain to be well appreciated by the one getting it. A number of shops specialize in silk outfits. Most have big showrooms full of every shade and fashion print you can imagine, often with very helpful staff.