Archive | October, 2012

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Oil discovered in Malaysian state

Posted on 31 October 2012 by admin

Oil has been discovered off the shores of Malaysian state of Pahang, bringing the estimated Bertam reserves to 64 million barrels.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd and Lundin Oil jointly made the discovery under a production sharing contract at Block PM 307 of the Bertam oilfield.

The Prime Minister added that the new oilfield lay 160 kilometres off the shores of Peninsular Malaysia, opposite Pahang, at a depth of 76m.

PM 307 PSC is operated by Lundin Malaysia, which has a 75 per cent interest, with Petronas holding the remaining equity.

News agency Bernama quoted Najib as saying: �œThis (find) is very significant because we have never discovered oil in a commercial quantity at the Penyu Basin. This is a major breakthrough.”

“With the discovery, the Bertam oilfield is estimated to have oil reserves of 64 million barrels,” the PM said after chairing the Biotechnology Implementation Council meeting in Putrajay.

Based on the findings of commercial and technical feasibility studies, Najib said, crude oil production would begin at the oilfield in the third quarter of񎧞 with a projected output of between 17,500 and 20,000 barrels per day.

“This discovery proves there is oil and gas at the southern region of the Malay Basin towards the Penyu Basin,” he added.

“The oilfield is located on the continental shelf which is under the jurisdiction of the federal government.”

Najib said Pahang was expected to receive a special payment of 100 million ringgit (US$32.8 million) a year once production begins.

“This is our policy to distribute oil wealth with 5 per cent cash payment to Pahang,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ramlan A. Malek, Petronas vice-president for exploration and production and petroleum management, said the commercial and technical feasibility studies were expected to be completed in the second quarter of next year.

He also said this was the first oil discovery in Pahang.

In Kuantan, Chief Minister Adnan Yaakob said the 100 million ringgit special payment would be used strictly for development to benefit the people.

��We will use it (the money) to fund small projects for the rakyat and to help needy folk,� Adnan added.

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Download Now: New and Updated Hotel Apps

Posted on 31 October 2012 by admin

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While hotel apps are still generally in the embryonic stage, most offer a mobile way of finding the property, checking in (using reward points if you have them), and having more fun once you get there. Some, like these branded hotel chain apps, are well worth downloading if not just because they’re free and fun to play with. Here are the best (and most useful) hotel apps out right now.

Ritz-Carlton launched their app in May and updated it this month. It makes it easy to use Ritz-Carlton Rewards, while GPS technology notes your arrival and alerts you to special offers, events, and fun things to do in the area. This app has a QR code scanner that offers all kinds of fun, depending where you are. (You can only access it within a property.) Use it to find the recipe for the signature cocktail at the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park or tour the art collection at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.

Available on: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.

SPG: Starwood Hotels Resorts mobile app, redesigned in March and updated last month, and is offering SPG members 500 bonus points on stays booked via the app through December 20. (You can also register here.) Reserve rooms on the fly at any Starwood hotels (including W, Le Meridien, aLoft, Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis, and Element) or access customer service through Facetime.

Available on: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.

W Hotels app, updated last month, is one of the more popular hotel apps, probably due to the hip skew of W guests and the focus on fun hotel experience. You can order room service or drinks at the touch of a button or access a music player that offers hundreds of hours of custom mixes.

Aavailable on: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.

The Marriott International app, updated last week, isn’t as pretty as some of the other hotel apps but it’s well-established and works smoothly, allowing you to make or cancel reservations at more than 3,600 hotels in 70 countries, use reward points, GPS mapping, and city guides.

Available on: Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.

The IHG Priority Club app makes it easy to map every IHG property (including Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and Candlewood Suites) in a 50-mile radius, find the closest and best value, then reserve a room via credit card or reward points. You can also find nearby restaurants that take IHG points.

Available on: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.

Concierge iPad app, a separate offering from InterContinental, offers insider tips and recommendations for various properties. If you’re staying at The Willard in Washington, DC, for example, chef concierge Robert Watson suggests dining at Old Ebbitt Grill, Ceiba, or DC Coast, touring the Spy Museum or taking a trolley tour—depending on whether you choose half-day or full-day itineraries.

Available on: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.

The Hilton Hotels Resorts app is among the most widely-used hotel apps, allowing you to reserve rooms, and use HHonors points, at more than 3,000 properties. But apps designed for individual Hilton chains like Garden Inn, Hampton, and Embassy Suites get higher customer ratings, probably because they’re customized to suit guests’ needs.

Available on: Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.

Hyatt Hotels lets you check in and out on the fly (an April upgrade made this easier), view and cancel reservations from your mobile device, get directions to your hotel, and track your Hyatt Gold Passport points.

Available on: Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.

The Club Carlson app lets you reserve rooms and use your reward points at more than 1,0Ǡ properties worldwide (Radisson, Park Inn, Park Plaza, and Country Inns and Suites), sign up for express booking, and use interactive maps for more than 4 million restaurants and attractions.

Available on: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.

Fodors.com contributor Cathleen McCarthy is rewards expert for CreditCards.com, covers entertainment and travel deals on Save on Cities, and has written for The Washington Post, WSJ, Amtrak ARRIVE, Town Country, and inflight magazines. Follow her @clmccarthy.

Photo credit: App screen grab courtesy of W Hotels Worldwide; Park Hyatt Istanbul courtesy of Hyatt Hotels

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Splurge vs. Save: Maui

Posted on 31 October 2012 by admin

A natural beauty, the Island of Maui caters to a bevy of vacation budgets, at once calling wallet-conscious wayfarers and Louis Vuitton-toting jetsetters to its sandy shores. A true high-low destination with hotels, beaches, and restaurants for every stripe, we have assembled the best spots to save and splurge on the island of Maui.

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Where to Stay

Splurge: Beckoning a brood of international jetsetters, Wailea is Maui’s chicest resort cluster. Manicured with the same attention to detail as a Hollywood celebrity, five-diamond hotels glisten on its cliffside and beachfront shores. At the Southern end, the Fairmont Kea Lani is as international as its guests, mixing white and blue Greek Isles-styling with tropical touches like bouganvilla billowing from every balcony. Stay in one of 413 rooms at the all-suite hotel or go for the ultimate splurge: a villa with private plunge pool. Suites from $499 per night, villas from $1750 per night.

Save: The Paia Inn is one of Maui’s only true boutique hotels, straddling the town’s main action and the bohemian beach. Opened four years ago with five rooms, the intimate and service-oriented escape has expanded to 15 rooms ranging from a petite, city-front standard to a three-bedroom beachfront villa frequented by Hollywood’s elite. Rooms from $189 per night.

Insider Tip: If you really want to save, check out 4500+ vacation rentals (on Maui alone) via VRBO.com. Recently we scored a basic, one-bedroom rental (with kitchen) in Kihei one block from the beach for $75 a night.

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Where to Eat

Splurge: Mix rustling palms, a secluded cove, flickering tiki torches, kitschy ocean finds, vintage Polynesian-print tablecloths, and the day’s fresh catch, and you’ve got Mama’s Fish House, a famous restaurant-slash-institution located just past Paia on the North Shore. Splurge-worthy entrees call out the fishermen by name, like the deep-water ahi caught ten miles offshore from Hana by Matt Smith with Hamakua mushroom sauce and Molokai sweet potato mash, only add to the ocean-to-table, candlelit atmosphere. A dinner for two with drinks, appetizers, entrees, and a dessert will set you back about $200.

Save: Just a 45-minute jaunt from Mama’s Fish House, a toned down version of Wailea connects beachfront towers along a white ribbon of sand. At the center of Ka’anapali, stop by the Hula Grill, a beachy, barefoot gem (literally, the bar sits on sand). Settle in during Aloha Hour (Hawaiian happy hour), which runs from 3 pm – 5 pm daily. Save on drinks starting at $3 and munch on crab and macadamia nut wontons or beer-battered mahi-mahi and chips for a song. Live ukulele-strumming gents included.

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What to Do

Splurge: What splurgy getaway would be complete without a spa day? A 20-minute walk (or one-minute shuttle) from the Fairmont takes you to the largest and most luxurious spa in the state; Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea. Plan ahead and spend the day losing track of time in the East-meets-West escape while dipping into the Japanese-inspired termé hydrotherapy circuit or lounging on the private lanai. When it’s time for a treatment, go local with the Niu Coconut Muscle Relief massage using every part of the coconut to exfoliate and massage the skin into buttery bliss ($225), or go all-in with the 20-Hand Duo Massage using 10 therapists and 100 fingers to perform the “hula wave” on you and your beau ($2000). Ahh-loha!

Save: Rent a car, and the island is your oyster. Maui’s diverse terrain allows for free, island-wide exploration, starting with every beach on the island. Armed with snorkel gear, float over Maui’s coves and reefs, again and again, for free. Some of our favorite spots to ogle sea life include Honolua Bay, Ahihi Bay, and Turtle Town in front the Makena Resort.

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Getting Around

If you’re only going for three or four days and your main priority is umbrella drinks by the pool, don’t bother renting a car, especially if you’re staying in a resort area like Wailea and Ka’anapali where you can walk to restaurants, beaches, and snorkel spots (or easily hail your resort shuttle).

However, if you’re visiting for five days or longer, renting a car is the best way to dip your toes into secret surf and snorkel spots from the North to the South Shores.

Splurge: Maui mavens (usually honeymooners) favor Jeeps, top down of course. Based on a week rental, you can score a Wrangler for as little as $400 in low season. In high season, the splurgy price skyrockets to $1300.

Save: If you’re not picky about the size or make of your vehicle, try an opaque booking service like Priceline or Hotwire. Using both of these booking sites, we secured a week-long “compact car” rental for as little as $10 per day.

Photo credits: Fairmont Kea Lani courtesy of Fairmont Hotels; Hawaiian Mahi Mahi via Shutterstock; Honolua Bay courtesy of Trish Friesen; Road to Hana via Shutterstock

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Never too old to learn

Posted on 31 October 2012 by admin

It’s November. Isn’t it supposed to be the cool season in this part of the world already? Turn off the air-con and you’ll soon be soaked in sweat! Still, despite the scorching sun who can guarantee that it’s not going to rain today?

Well, guess what? While a lot of Bangkok’s mountain bikers and other cyclists are grumbling about the lousy weather, a group of freestyle BMXers just focus on riding.

Rain or shine, this happy bunch of bikers can always enjoy their favourite sport at an extreme park located within the premises of Hua Mak Sports Complex. This indoor venue, the only one in the capital that is protected from the elements by a roofed, wall-less structure and the second of its kind in the country (the other is in Suphan Buri), has been the playground for BMX riders who share it with fixed gear bikers and skaters.

One of the regulars at this place over the past six months since it was opened is Somsak Senglee, a freestyle BMX legend, who has represented Thailand in several Asian X-Games (from 2000 to 2006) as well as the 2005 Asian Indoor Games. Somsak is not only well-known for his riding skill but also for his friendliness and eagerness to pass on his techniques to budding riders.

So the dozens of young BMXers who come to ride here have at least two reasons to feel lucky.

“I also consider myself lucky to be able to keep doing what I love,” said Somsak, 35, who is also known by other BMXers as Sak, Brother Sak or Uncle Sak, depending on the age of the caller. “Most people ride BMX only during their teen years. Once they finish school and get a job, they have no time and have to quit.”

Somsak recalled that he had seen and taught many generations of BMXers during the past two decades. In a way he owed it to them too because many are also his clients. The veteran rider earns a living from selling imported bike parts.

But Somsak is not the only grown-up at the park. One of his new pupils is a friend of mine, a 40-plus biker known among downhillers and dirt jumpers as Ble Redthorn. Ble recently put all his 26-inch-wheeled mountain bikes on sale to focus on the BMX.

“This way, I don’t need to wait for good weather to go out and ride,” he said, adding that he decided to get rid of his larger bikes because they require different styles of handling and he doesn’t want to get confused. Well, you’re never too old to learn. Who knows, I might join them the next rainy season, or sooner depending, of course, on the weather.

See you here again next Thursday. Until then, if you have questions, news or biking insights you wish to share, please feel free to send an email to pongpetm@bangkokpost.co.th or go to “Freewheel Bangkok” community page on Facebook.


Pongpet Mekloy is the Bangkok Post travel editor and a mountain bike freak.


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A year’s worth of travel ideas

Posted on 31 October 2012 by admin

Lonely Planet has launched Best In Travel 2013, covering the top 10 countries, regions and cities to visit next year.

The lists were selected by Lonely Planet staff, writers and the online community. “We present a year’s worth of travel inspiration to take you out of the ordinary and into some unforgettable experiences,” said Lonely Planet’s statement.

- The first of the top 10 countries is Sri Lanka because the island is best for “culture, off the beaten track and value for money”, according to Lonely Planet. Montenegro is second, followed by South Korea, Ecuador, Slovakia, the Solomon Islands, Iceland, Turkey, the Dominican Republic and Madagascar.

- The top 10 regions are Corsica in France followed by the Negev in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Mustang in Nepal, the Yukon in Canada, Chachapoyas and Kuelap in Peru, the Gulf Coast in the United States, Carinthia in Austria, Palawan in the Philippines, the Inland Sea in Japan and Campania in Italy.

- The Top 10 cities are San Francisco, Amsterdam, Hyderabad, Londonderry, Beijing, Christchurch, Hobart, Montreal, Addis Ababa and Puerto Iguazu.

For more details, visit www.lonelyplanet.com

Thailand gets more Google maps

Google has added seven more provinces in Thailand to its Street View service.

“Street View is not only a useful resource when you are planning a route or looking for a destination, but it can also magically transport you to some of the world’s picturesque and culturally significant landmarks,” said Pornthip Kongchun, Google Thailand’s Head of Marketing.

From the recent updates in Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai, the map has added 360-degree panoramas in Chiang Rai, Nakhon Pathom, Nakhon Nayok, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon.

“You can explore many new places directly in Google Maps like Phra Pathom Chedi, the tallest stupa in Nakhon Pathom, or Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai without ever leaving home,” she added.

In addition to Thailand, Street View has also updated its service with new locations in Macau, Singapore, Taiwan, Sweden, Norway, Italy, the United Kingdom and Denmark as well as Canada and the United States.

Visit maps.google.com/streetview for more information.

Sukhoi eyes Thailand

Sukhoi, the Russian aircraft manufacturer, plans to expand its customer base to Thailand.

According to Alexander Klementiev, the company’s deputy director-general, Thailand is a potential market as the aviation business is growing. The Sukhoi Superjet 100, or SSJ-100, its first civilian aircraft, could benefit commercial airlines because Sukhoi uses new aviation technology which can help increase cost efficiency, he said.

The SSJ-100 is a 100-seat plane powered by two new PowerJet engines designed to reduce fuel consumption by up toಏ%, and lower carbon emission and maintenance costs by up to 20%, said Andrey Bakhmurov, deputy vice-president sales. The cabin is 2.11m and 3.23m wide, supporting five passenger seats in a row. The cabin is the largest in the narrow-body aircraft segment, Bakhmurov said. Compared to other popular short-haul planes such as the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 which have six passenger seats in a row, the SSJ-100 is slightly smaller.

“We are an alternative to both market segments,” he added.

The aircraft can be redesigned to serve corporate or VIP customers by offering a soft bed, a lounge, a meeting room fully equipped communications systems or additional fuel tanks, he noted.

Since the company introduced the SSJ뀬 at the beginning of the year, Sukhoi has already delivered 10 aircraft to Aeroflot and one to Armenian Airlines. Although the SSJ-100 suffered a setback after a tragic crash caused by human error during a demonstration tour in Jakarta in May killing all 45 people on board, Sukhoi has still received orders from Indonesian airlines including Kartika Airlines and Sky Aviation.

“We have about 15 customers who have ordered 174 SSJ-100 aircraft,” said Mr Klementiev, adding those customers also include Phongsavanh Airlines in Laos, Pearl Aviation in the United State and Aeroflot, who ordered 30 more units.

Sukhoi also plans to add a new long-range version of the Superjet family to support 130 passengers.

Nuptials auction

Akaryn Hospitality Management Services (AHMS) invites couples to auction for a wedding location in three of its properties _ Aleenta Phuket Phang-Nga, Akyra Chura Samui and Akaryn Samui.

The idea is for those who want to host a private wedding party for up to 20 guests. The auction price will cover a wedding cake, a photographer for four hours, a bridal bouquet and corsage for the groom, make-up and hair styling for the bride, a bottle of champagne and an hour-long couple’s spa treatment. Food and beverage are not included.

For more details, visit www.ahmshotels.com


If you have comments or travel news to share, email karnjanak@bangkokpost.co.th.

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X2 Samui

Posted on 31 October 2012 by admin

442 Moo 1, Ban Hua Thanon, Maret, Koh Samui – Tel: 077-233-033 – Fax: 077-233-034 – Website: www.X2resorts.com – Email: book.ks@X2resorts.com

Located far from the busy beaches of Koh Samui, X2 (pronounced “cross to”) Samui sits on a 2-hectare site next to secluded Hua Thanon strand. Previously the site of some simple holiday bungalows, the new owners incorporated that land-use idea into their designs when planning this resort. X2′s 27 villas are connected by a wooden walkway path and the grounds still give uninterrupted views of the sea and sand. The resort’s guiding philosophy is to blend luxury with nature wherever possible, including building these all-mod-con villas to fit around 50-year-old trees which predate the original bungalow complex. Visitors to X2 Samui will find modernity and tranquility plus a chance to appreciate Samui’s natural beauty.



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Phuket from a historical perspective

Posted on 31 October 2012 by admin

Mention Phuket and you immediately think of its beaches. But, surely, Phuket has other points of interest even if they don’t come to mind as readily. One of them is exploring its history, and for that there’s no better place than the Phuket Thai Hua Museum located in the old quarter of town.

“Our museum completed a major 16 million baht renovation in 2010, undertaken with the aim of making it a model museum representative of the entire southern region of Thailand,” said Kantiya Muttarak, an accountant there who doubles as a guide.

In the first four years of its opening, all the museum had to show visitors was historical pictures of the old town area, but with the renovation it is now able to provide an interactive service where you can touch or play with subjects on exhibit. Thanks to technical support from the National Discovery Museum Institute which manages Museum Siam in Bangkok, the Phuket outlet has in place a play and-learn mechanism to attract visitors.

Comprising 13 exhibition rooms, the museum sits in a two-storey Sino-Portuguese building that used to be the first Chinese-language school in Phuket. The building is also one of the most beautiful in town, and in 2008 it received a citation from the Association of Siamese Architects for outstanding conservation of architectural arts.

Stepping inside the reception hall, you see a piano installed in the memory of Sunpin Sae Sueng (1914-2004), headmaster of the Chinese-language school, to whom an entire room is dedicated, for his tireless service. Then you pass a small inner courtyard in the middle of the museum, a feature typical of Sino-Portuguese buildings in Phuket, the open space created to facilitate ventilation, said the guide.

To explore the museum by its history, visitors are advised to start at a room marked Chinese Migration on the second floor and from there proceed clockwise to other rooms, before moving down and continuing the tour of rooms on the first floor.

The Chinese Migration room is one of the most popular, especially among children, perhaps because visitors can play games and visualise themselves as early Chinese immigrants sailing in wooden boats to Phuket, said the guide. A multimedia presentation shows the routes the immigrants took to reach Phuket, most of them drawn there by the boom in Phuket’s industry around the reign of King Rama III.

The next room shows the beginning of Chinese influence taking hold in Phuket, including one of the most well-known tycoons of his time, Tannniawyee, who was bestowed with the title Luang Bamrungjeenprathet and held the position of district chief. His son Phraya Ratsadanupradit was appointed commissioner of Phuket and he built a small hall, the first Chinese-language school, opening in 1917 under the name Phuket Huabun School. It subsequently expanded and in 1948 was renamed Phuket Thai Hua School.

Another interesting stop is a room labelled The Chinese of Phuket which is a showcase of the Chinese way of life on the island, their intellect, and the works and biographies of three influential Chinese artists _ all accomplished sculptors, puppet masters, and prominent scribes.

All information at the museum is available in both Thai and English, while some multimedia presentations are presented in Chinese.

Overall, the museum is doing a good job explaining the history of Phuket, which it does from early Rattanakosin period to the present day, from different angles such as the way of life, business, traditional ceremonies, local costume, food and eating habits.

It just takes about two hours to admire Phuket from a very different perspective.



TRAVEL TIPS

Located on Krabi Road, the Phuket Thai Hua Museum is run by the local Kuson Songkhroh Foundation, or Lok Xian Kok in Chinese. It opens daily from 9am to 5pm. The admission fee is 50 baht for Thais and 200 baht for foreigners. For more, visit its website at www.thaihuamuseum.com or call 076-211-224.

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Chak Phra in Surat Thani

Posted on 31 October 2012 by admin

From now until Sunday, the southern province of Surat Thani is hosting annual religious ceremonies and traditional boat races to mark the end of the Buddhist Lent.

The annual Chak Phra ceremony at the end of the Buddhist Lent in Surat Thani.

The Chak Phra ceremony (towing a Buddha image), the Thod Phapa (presenting trees of religious objects and money to monks) ceremony and boat races on the Tapi River date back centuries and take place over nine days and nights.

A month ahead of the end of Lent, temples and villagers across the province prepare and decorate vehicles with the figures and patterns of mythical creatures for the processions of Buddha statues at the end of the fasting period.

In addition to the procession on land, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Surat Thani office has revived the processions of the Buddha statues along the river by supporting riverside temples to build boats called rua phanom phra for the ceremony.

After the processions, the traditional boat races for royal trophies will take place. The celebrations, cultural activities and the sale of local products will be held on Na Muang Road, Muang district, by the Tapi River.

Contact Tat’s Surat Thani office on 077-288-817-9 or the Tat call centre on 1672 or email tatsurat@tat.or.th.  

Releasing fish in Lop Buri

TAT’s Lop Buri office invites all to give alms to monks and release fish on Sunday at Wat Khiri Sophon, Phatthana Nikhom district, to commemorate the end of Buddhist Lent and the 2,600th anniversary of the Lord Buddha’s enlightenment.

At 9.39am, 49 monks will walk down the hill to receive uncooked rice and dried food from Buddhists. Live fish donated by the participants will be later released into the Pasak River. Phoom phapa will be given to the monks at the temple.

Contact Tambon Kaeng Sua Ten Community on 036-494-2323 ext 15 or TAT’s Lop Buri office on 036-770-096-7 or visit www.tat7.com.

The 썜 Phimai Festival

The evening light and sound show at Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima.

Nakhon Ratchasima province, TAT’s local office, the Fine Arts Department and concerned agencies are organising the annual 2012 Phimai Festival during Nov 7-11 at the Phrommathat Ground of Phimai Historical Park and on the banks of the Chakkarat River in Phimai district.

Highlights will include a light and sound show, Dances Beyond The Moon River, telling of the glorious period of Khmer King Jayavarman VII, during Nov 9-11, as well as traditional long-boat races on the Chakkarat and Moon rivers on Nov 10-11.

In addition, there will be a Korat cat competition, khon masked performance by the Fine Arts Department, local cultural performances and a local food cooking contest.

Visitors will hear the story of the Phimai Monument from Phimai Witthaya School’s students and youth guides, and enjoy shopping for local products and watching fun performances.

Contact Tat’s Nakhon Ratchasima Office on 044-213-030, 044-213-666 or visit www.tourismthailand.org/nakhonratchasima or email tatsima@tat.or.th.


Any comments or news to share, email pichayas@bangkokpost.co.th.

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A route less travelled

Posted on 31 October 2012 by admin

The river breeze blew sprays of water which tickled our skin when a long-tailed boat whisked down the Khlong Dan Canal past our chartered boat. Our boat was travelling down the Chao Phraya River to Khlong Dao Khanong, Khlong Dan and Khlong Bangkok Yai canals to visit religious and cultural sites.

The gable of Wat Nang Ratchaworawihan’s ordination hall is decorated with cotton rose (dok phuttan ) motifs made of colourful mirrors. This is an example of the architecture which was built or renovated by King Rama III and not limited to the plain roof structures and Chinese decoration. The king also built and restored traditional-style temple structures and added Chinese-influenced details, such as floral motifs or sculptures.

Our route is less travelled by tourists and requires the hiring of boats unlike the more popular boat trips to riverside attractions or floating markets.

We boarded our chartered boat at Saphan Taksin pier, from where we travelled downstream to the three canals on the eastern side of the river. About 15 minutes later, we entered the Dao Khanong Canal. Both banks were home to fruit orchards and salt warehouses, however in recent years housing estates have mushroomed on the same land. This canal and the Bang Luang canal were once major routes for transporting fruits and seafood between Samut Sakhon’s Maha Chai and Bangkok. We passed Bang Khun Thian canal, which has three temples _ Wat Bang Khun Thian Nai, Wat Bang Khun Thian Klang and Wat Bang Khun Thian Nok. In the past, monks used boats to receive morning alms. A few of the many fruit orchards and traditional wooden houses that once graced both sides of the waterway remain today.

The doors of Wat Ratcha Orasaram Ratchaworawihan’s ordination hall are adorned with mother of pearl dragon patterns and guarded by Chinese guardian sculptures. The temple is famous for its perfect combination of Thai and Chinese art.

About 20 minutes later, we entered the Khlong Dan canal. Unlike the curvy Khlong Dao Khanong and Khlong Bang Khun Thian waterways, this canal is straight and man-made. In Thailand, minor waterways are called khlongs, which are referred to in English as canals whether or not they are man-made. This canal was called Khlong Dan because there was a security and tariff collection checkpoint there called Dan Phra Khanon Luang during the Ayutthaya period.

“Most temples along these canals date to the late Ayutthaya period, but several of them were restored and rebuilt in a style of art initiated by King Rama III,” culture expert Chulapassorn Panomvan na Ayudhya said.

When we saw the tall white pagoda of Wat Nang Nong, it meant we had arrived in Chom Thong district. The first stop was Wat Ratcha Orasaram Ratchaworawihan (Wat Ratcha Oros in short), King Rama III’s symbolic temple. It was the country’s first temple to adopt Chinese-influenced art, favoured by King Rama III. There are a total of 18 temples built or renovated in in this style.

According to Chulapassorn, the unique features of these temples are that all the structures do not block the views of each other; the roof structures are plain without the traditional decorative details _ chorfah, bai raka and hang hong; and the gables are decorated with colourful Chinese porcelains and ceramics.

Only a few minutes from Wat Ratcha Oros, we stepped off the boat into Wat Nang Nong Worawihan to worship one of the country’s most beautiful royally-attired Buddha statues and watch fine mural paintings created by royal artisans in the Third Reign.

The next destination was Wat Nang Ratchaworawihan. The principal Buddha statue in the ordination hall is an exquisite one in the Sukhothai art style, while the prayer hall boasts statues of the five Lord Buddhas. The temple also has a museum on local lifestyles and fruit farming.

Then we stopped for lunch at Talat Phlu, a business area famous for delicious food and desserts, especially Cheen Lee’s crispy noodles (mee krob). The area was named after betel leaves (phlu in Thai) since it was full of betel orchards in the early Rattanakosin period.

After that, we travelled to the adjacent Bangkok Yai Canal, which was called the Bang Luang Canal in the past. The area has been important for centuries as the location of several major temples, old communities and the houses of several elite Siamese and the US missionary Dr Dan Beach Bradley, who introduced surgery and smallpox vaccinations to Siam and published Thailand’s first newspaper, Siam Recorder, in 1844.

“Many people of Mon descent live along the Bang Luang Canal. The area was also the home of the Bunnag family who were very powerful bureaucrats during the early Rattanakosin period,” Chulapassorn noted.

The next stop was Wat Intharam where King Taksin the Great regularly practiced meditation. The king restored Siam’s independence only seven months after the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese in 1767. Some believe the temple’s two pagodas enshrine the remains of the king and one of his queens.

After that, we visited Wat Hong Rattanaram Ratchaworawihan, a royal temple dating to the Ayutthaya period, to worship Phra Saen, a Lan Xang art-style Buddha statue. Its big nose is an outstanding feature of Buddha images in the art style of Lan Xang, the Lao kingdom that flourished in the 14th century until it was split into two separate kingdoms, Vien Chang and Luang Prabang, in the 18th century.

The temple also boasts a gold Sukhothai-style Buddha statue. A must-see is the shrine of King Taksin the Great, built on the spot where the late king’s body was said to be brought out of the temple after his execution there.

Near dusk, the trip concluded at Kudee Cheen Community, set up by the Portuguese who were rewarded with a plot of land by King Taksin for helping fight the Burmese after the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. There, we enjoyed the beauty of the Santa Cruz church, rebuilt in the Baroque and Neo-Classic art style in 1916. It was designed by Italian architect Mario Tamagno and decorated with stained glass. We also tasted khanom farang kudee cheen, a Portuguese-style dried cake made from flour, sugar and eggs.

In all, the one-day boat trip brought fantastic knowledge about cultural assimilation and unity in Thon Buri.

Bangkok was once called the Venice of the East since it had many canals and travelling by boat was the main mode of transportation. According to the Canal Protection Act of 1941, Bangkok had 64 canals and Thon Buri had 31 canals. However, development led to the construction of roads with many of those canals filled, obstructed or encroached on. Nowadays, fewer canals remain in the capital city and are no longer major routes. However, many people still live along the canals and canal tours have become a popular tourist choice.

Wat Ratcha Orasaram Ratchaworawihan is a first-class royal temple dating to the Ayutthaya period. Its former name, Wat Chom Thong, was changed by King Rama II to Wat Ratcha Oros, meaning the temple renovated by a king’s son who was later King Rama III. At that time, King Rama III held the title of Krommuen Jetsada Bodin and was leading the army to Kanchanaburi to obstruct the approaching Burmese. He passed the Bangkok Yai canal and proceeded to the Dan canal on the first day. He reached the temple and stayed overnight there. He had a Brahmin religious ceremony called Boek Khlon Thawan performed at the temple to seek blessings for himself and his troops. The temple abbot named Thong predicted that the Siamese army would win the war and return safely. The prince kept his promise to renovate the temple as the prediction came true. The temple’s art and mural paintings reflect the harmony of Thai and Chinese styles. For example, the ordination hall has a Chinese-style roof. The Reclining Buddha chapel has windows and doors depicting Thai-style guardians but Chinese floral motifs. The temple boasts Buddha statues in four different postures — standing, sitting, walking and reclining. On the walls of certain structures are stone inscriptions of recipes of herbal medicines.

Wat Nang Nong Worawihan dates back to the Ayutthaya period and was restored by King Rama III probably because it was near the residence of his mother Chao Chom Manda Riam. It boasts a very fine royally-attired bronze Buddha statue, believed to have been built by the king after a wish of Chao Chom Manda Riam was fulfilled. The ordination hall is decorated in Chinese style and with nagas (snakes) made of colourful Chinese ceramics. Inside, there are beautiful mural paintings created by royal artisans in the Third Reign, depicting some stories from Chinese mythology and patterns from tube skirts his mother liked. The doors are embedded with mother of pearl, depicting 108 sacred Chinese icons, such as kirin (a mythical hooved Chinese chimerical creature).

Wat Nang Ratchaworawihan is located along the Dan Canal. It is believed to have been established in the reign of King Thai Sa of Ayutthaya Kingdom or earlier since a bell there contains an inscription saying it was built in 1717 by a group of monks, novices and Buddhists, led by Phra Maha Phuttharakkhit and Muen Phetvijit. The temple was restored in the reign of King Rama III and upgraded to a third-class royal temple. Celebrations took place on Dec 2, 1837, as ordered by the king. A highlight is Wat Nang Museum, started seven years ago by Phra Khru Anurak Paithoon. It displays old fruit farming tools, boats, houseware, kitchenware and religious objects that mirror the intellect and lifestyles of Chom Thong’s people in the past. Visitors should not miss the opportunity to worship the statue of former abbot Luang Phu Iam, highly respected by King Rama V.

Wat Intharam is also called Wat Bang Yi Rua Nok and Wat Bang Yi Rua Tai since it is located in the outermost part of the Bang Yi Rua area. This thirdclass royal temple dates to the Ayutthaya period and was renovated by King Taksin the Great. Here, the king organised a royal cremation for his mother and regularly practiced meditation. Highlights include King Taksin’s bed, now being kept in the prayer hall, two gold-coloured pagodas enshrining the remains of the late king and one of his queens, and a Buddha statue in the attaining enlightenment posture containing the king’s ashes.

Wat Hong Rattanaram Ratchaworawihan is a second-class royal temple dating to the Ayutthaya period. It was originally called Wat Chao Sua Hong or Wat Chao Khrua Hong because a Chinese tycoon named Hai Hong built it. During the Thon Buri period, it served as the centre of religious education since it was located near King Taksin the Great�€™s palace. A major restoration was carried out in the reign of King Rama III. The ordination hall has a veranda (palai in Thai) in King Rama III’s art style. The doors and windows are decorated with fine stucco sculptures, including hongsa (a mythical bird) and floral motifs combining Thai and Chinese art. Tempera paintings depicting the story of Rattana Pimphawong (the story of the Emerald Buddha) are from the reign of King Rama III and King Rama IV. Inside the ordination hall, there is a golden U-Thong-style Buddha image, which dates back to the Sukhothai period and has been covered with lime.

Crispy noodles from Mee Grob Cheen Lee Restaurant at Talat Phlu were among King Rama V’s favourite dishes. This dish has long been sold here since the 19th century. Also at Talat Phlu, a long queue in front of a cart selling khanom buang yuan is a common sight. In the early Rattanakosin period, Talat Phlu had vast betel orchards stretching along the Bang Sai Kai Canal to the Bang Phrom and Bang Waek areas. The collected betel leaves (phlu in Thai), were sold in the area from Wat Ratchakrue to Wat Intharam, which eventually turned into a major wholesale market of betel nuts and leaves. It was then called Talat Phlu or Talat Wat Klang (Wat Chantharam Market). At present, it is well-known for its many shophouses and homes decorated with fine Chinese-style stucco and wooden fretwork.


TRAVEL INFO

To travel on other canals in Thon Buri than the popular routes, you can rent a long-tailed boat at any of the major piers, such as Memorial Bridge, Si Phraya, River City and Tha Chang at the standard price of 400 baht per hour. A medium-sized regular boat capable of accommodating about 20-30 people can be chartered for about 8,000-10,000 baht a day.

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About the author

columnist Writer: Pichaya Svasti
Position: Life Writer


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China bins Japan’s claim of easing tension

Posted on 31 October 2012 by admin

Beijing yesterday hit back at claims by Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba that Tokyo was trying to calm tensions with Beijing over the Diaoyu Islands.

It branded Japan’s “persistent defiance” in the territorial dispute as “self-deception”.

Japan has denied that a territorial dispute exists over the islands, and Gemba said on Tuesday in Tokyo that his government is seeking to calm tensions with China in maintaining its position over the islands.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news conference that Japan’s defiance in the dispute is a total “self-deception”.

He criticised Tokyo for ignoring the previous bilateral consensus that the dispute be shelved.

Hong said that since Japan’s illegal “purchase” of the islands in September, Sino-Japanese relations have witnessed a substantial change, and Beijing urged Tokyo to abandon its illusion of occupying the islands.

China and Russia, both in its territorial row with Japan, on Tuesday held talks on their relations with Japan. Both sides endorsed the importance of safeguarding post-war achievements and international order for sustaining regional and international peace and stability.

Japan illegally stole the islands at the end of 1895 Sino-Japanese War, and key post-war documents have returned the islands to China.

Lu Yaodong, director of the Japanese diplomacy teaching and research section under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Japan’s “flashy language” for diplomacy and “easing tension” are aimed at bluffing the international community, and with little sincerity.

Lu said: “Tokyo’s stance is not as soft as it seems, as hard-line action has been taken to escalate the territorial fray, including it hiking its budget to boost its regional maritime presence.”

Beijing on Monday said there was no plan for Premier Wen Jiabao to meet Japanese leaders during the Asia-Europe Meeting next week in Vientiane.

China’s State Oceanic Administration said that as part of regular patrols to safeguard sovereignty, four Chinese maritime surveillance ships on Tuesday were standing by in territorial waters off the Diaoyu Islands.

Pictures were taken from the vessels as evidence of the illegal actions of Japanese vessels in the waters, and measures were taken to expel the Japanese patrol vessels, it said.

Zhang Haiwen, deputy director of the China Institute for Marine Affairs, said China’s actions were aimed at countering Japan’s illegal entry into the waters, and the Chinese side has been exercising restraint.

The moves to force Japanese ships to withdraw shows Beijing’s determination to guard its sovereignty, and as long as Tokyo refuses to admit its “mistake”, tensions will remain, Zhang said.

Meanwhile, Japan is not losing any chance to publicise its claim to the islands on the international stage, with Japanese media focusing on the issue at the third trilateral dialogue between India, Japan and the United States in New Delhi on Monday.

Tokyo lobbied participants over its stance on the Diaoyu dispute, with Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun saying the desire at the trilateral talks to contain China “seems strong”.

The meeting was held to improve cooperation in combating piracy, maritime security and using the nations’ strengths to shape the Asia-Pacific region, reports said.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said China’s ties with the major world players are stable, and the “imaginary trilateral alliance” among the US, India and Japan will have little chance of becoming reality.

“The trilateral collaboration is a typical, temporary cooperation on key international issues, and each of the three has its own pursuits and demands. Their collaborative ties may vary on specific issues,” Ruan said.

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