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Ramadan: Feeding the spirit by fasting

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Ramadan: Feeding the spirit by fasting | The Thaiger
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Special Report

A silent celebration is under way for Phuket Muslims right now, with no firecrackers, water or festive songs piped over department-store loudspeakers. It’s Ramadan, the fasting month.

The PhuketGazette’s Irfarn Jamdukor examines what Ramadan means to local Muslims.

PHUKET: The quietness of the holiday might seem appropriate to outsiders who equate fasting with deprivation and hardship, but for Muslims, fasting is not about suffering, and Ramadan is ‘the best month of the year’.

During Ramadan, practicing Muslims do not eat, drink, smoke or engage in sexual activity while the sun is up, and it has reached its third week without fanfare, tinsel or explosions.

For the roughly 20 per cent of Phuket’s population that is Muslim, Ramadan is a time to fortify themselves spiritually, to re-evaluate their lives, to practice good habits and to strengthen social ties.

“When you don’t eat, says Dalen Minyee, 38, Sport and Recreation Manager at Trisara, “you understand what it’s like for those who don’t have enough and it makes you a kinder person.”

“It’s not just about fasting,” he says, “it’s about trying to do good things in every way we can. With our eyes, we try to see only good, with our ears, to hear only good, with our minds to think only good, and so on.”

The Arabic word for ‘fast’ is sawm, which means ‘to restrain oneself’.

Eak Missakit, 39, grew up in Sweden with adoptive parents and returned to Thailand two years ago. He converted to Islam, the religion of his birth family, in June. This is his first Ramadan.

“At first, I didn’t understand what Ramadan or Islamic lifestyle meant, I only knew that Muslims had a very restrictive lifestyle and Ramadan was a month for fasting,” he said.

“For the first three days of Ramadan, it was quite difficult for me to adapt – I felt hungry and thirsty the whole time. But fellow Muslims and my family gave me advice for how to deal with those feelings.

“I realized that Ramadan is not only about refraining from drinking and eating, but also about controlling my mind, eyes, mouth, and ears.

“That helped me develop self-control, and I stopped feeling hungry and thirsty because my mind doesn’t focus on food,” he said.

About Ramadan

The Koran says that every Muslim who is ‘sane and mature’ must fast. Children start practicing when they are 7 or 8 years old, and fast in earnest by age 15. Those who are ill, traveling, and women who are menstruating, pregnant, or breastfeeding need not fast. According to the Koran, Muslims are permitted to break the fast when there is danger to their health, but should make up the time later.

Besides fasting, during Ramadan Muslims are encouraged to focus on the religious requirements they may not prioritize in their busy day-to-day lives: to read the Koran, in its entirety if possible, to give charitable donations, to do good deeds and refrain from bad and to pray five times a day with a special prayer at night.

Community Building

One of the most important elements of Ramadan is creating a feeling of family, says Sama-ae Wongna, 83, Imam of Jabalnur Mosque in Koh Kaew.

“It’s a month to make Muslims realize we are part of the same family. People from different places and ages meet each other at the mosque when they pray and have dinner together every evening,” Mr.Sama-ae said.

“We talk about our lives together and give advice, and never feel that we live alone. This builds good relationships and gives us a stronger sense of community” Mr.Sama-ae said.

Volunteers cook dinner at the mosques.

“I really love joining my relatives and other villagers to cook dinner for people at the mosque,” said Wilai Samart, 69, a Koh Kaew resident.

“We’re all supposed to donate to charity, especially this month. Cooking for others is my way of making a donation.

“In my life I can’t be sure that I donated enough or did enough good…volunteering is a way for me to make sure I’ve done my best in this life,” she said.

Government Support

The evening meal, which mosques provide free of charge, is cooked by volunteers and sponsored in part by local government.

“We are aware of the importance of Ramadan for Muslim people in Phuket,” said Soratham Jinda, vice president of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organization (PPAO).

“We have a yearly budget of 300,000 baht for Ramadan donations. This year we gave 96 kilograms of rice and 25 packs of dates to each of the 54 mosques across the island for cooking the evening meal,” he said.

Muslims traditionally break their fast with dates because Mohammad did so, but the fruit is also rich in iron, fiber, B vitamins, and potassium, and its natural sugars provide a quick energy boost.

The Office of Islamic Council this year is spending 200,000 baht on dates for every mosque in Phuket, and plans to visit prisons, shelters, and juvenile detention centers to cook an evening meal, said Secretary Piyadet Chuachalad.

Traditionally, Phuket Governors join the Ramadan celebration by visiting a different mosque each night of the month to share in the fast-breaking meal.

Employer support

Phuket employers are sensitive to the needs of staff during this holy month.

“We prepare two special meals every day for our Muslim staff during Ramadan,” said Rungthiwa Korkong, Director of Human Resources at Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket.

“We offer high energy and nutritious food because they don’t eat anything all day. We serve dates at every meal,” Director Rungthiwa said.

“We also set up a room and facilities for praying. Muslims are trying to do their best this month, so we need to do our best to help them,” Director Rungthiwa said.

Tesco Lotus on the bypass road has 50 Muslim staff. “Our Muslim staff can change their work schedule if necessary in order to fulfill their religious obligations,” said Apinya Moungkew, a human resource officer there.

“We also allow them to take a day off on Eid-al Fitr, the day that celebrates the end of Ramadan,” she said.

Patong Hospital sets up a bigger prayer room for staff and patients’ relatives, and Muslim staff can change their work schedule if necessary,” said hospital Director Dr Sirichai Silapa-acha.

“And we recently built a halal kitchen to prepare foods according to Muslim laws,” he said.

How it ends

Ramadan ends when the new moon appears in the sky, about 29 days after it last appeared. The moon is spotted the old-fashioned way – a representative from each mosque in Phuket is sent out to look for it.

If they see it, they report it to their Imam, who sends word to the Phuket Islamic Council. If the Council confirms the sighting with a second person, word is sent to the Central Islamic Council of Thailand in Bangkok. The Bangkok Council checks the time of the sighting with the Thai Royal Navy Science Department. If the time jibes with Navy records, the fasting period is officially declared over, and Muslims can look forward to the celebration of Eid-al Fitr the next day.

— Irfarn Jamdukor

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Bangkok

Suspected British Coronavirus patient, confirmed NOT to have the virus – UPDATE

The Thaiger

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Suspected British Coronavirus patient, confirmed NOT to have the virus – UPDATE | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Doctors have confirmed Mr Shorley doesn't have the Chinese Coronavirus - Go Fund Me

It’s now been confirmed that a British man, in critical condition in a Thai Hospital, has not contracted the Chinese Coronavirus. Ashley Shorley, who was holidaying on Koh Phi Phi at the time, became seriously ill with a “flu virus” on December 27. He was rushed by boat (reported as a sea plane in other media) to Phuket where his condition worsened. He is now reported to remain in critical condition in a Bangkok hospital.

However, doctors have now confirmed the 32 year old, from Lancashire in the north of England, does not have the Chinese virus. They have confirmed that the virus is “a severe strain of flu”.

It was initially reported that doctors feared he may have contracted the Chinese Coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan and has been contracted by more than 250 people, along with 4 deaths from the new strain of virus.

Ashely’s parents, Chris and Julie, were on holiday in Spain when they received the news about their son being taken ill. They are now in Phuket with their son. While Ashley has medical insurance, his friends and family set up a crowdfunding page to help support the mounting costs during his stay in Thailand.

The mysterious SARS-like virus has so far killed 4 and infected up to 250 confirmed (as of Tuesday afternoon) cases.

Thai Visa reports that Ashley in the intensive care unit at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok.

SOURCE: Thai Visa

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Environment

32 year old British patient recovering in Phuket, suspected Coronavirus victim

The Thaiger

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32 year old British patient recovering in Phuket, suspected Coronavirus victim | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Ash Shorley remains in critical condition in a Phuket Hospital - Go Fund Me

UPDATE HERE.

A British tourist is reported to be fighting for his life in a Phuket hospital. He could be the first Western victim of the coronavirus strain sweeping through China, according to Doctors at the hospital, but is yet to be confirmed. This latest coronavirus, related to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) viruses, is new and was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan last month.

32 year old Ash Shorley remains in critical condition in a Phuket hospital after being infected with a virus while visiting Koh Phi Phi, in the Krabi province. He has been in hospital for nearly a month. His parents, Chris and Julie, who live in Lancashire, are now in Phuket whilst tests are being processed to determine the virus that has attacked Mr Shorley. His parents report that Ash has lost 52 kilograms since contracting the mystery disease.

“He was two days from death. If he wasn’t so fit, he wouldn’t be with us now. We are now waiting on tests. It is very serious.” – Ash Shorley’s father.

Ash was transported to Phuket by seaplane because “his lung had collapsed”, according to the Daily Mail Online. Phuket doctors claim his symptoms are consistent with the Chinese coronavirus but a confirmation on their suspicions is yet to emerge. Experts, speaking to Daily Mail Online, say Mr Shorley’s symptoms are consistent with the new Chinese coronavirus, but could also be a sign of other respiratory infections, as yet, undetermined.

The mysterious SARS-like virus has so far killed 3 and infected up to 220 confirmed (as of Tuesday) cases, although estimates by the WHO speculate that there are as many as 1,700 cases in Wuhan, central China, since December.

The virus is now confirmed to have spread to other parts of China – 5 cases in Beijing, 14 in Shenzhen and one in a province adjacent to Shanghai. Four other confirmed cases have been reported in Thailand, Japan, and South Korea.

The spike in reported cases comes as millions of Chinese are packing their bags to travel overseas for the Chinese New Year holiday. Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains the country has “stuck to a serious, earnest and professional attitude” to prevent and control any further outbreak of the disease.

SOURCE: Daily Mail Online

32 year old British patient recovering in Phuket, suspected Coronavirus victim | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Instagram32 year old British patient recovering in Phuket, suspected Coronavirus victim | News by The Thaiger

GRAPHIC: Daily Mail Online

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Bangkok

The rise of the e-bicycle in Thailand, a bit of motorised assistance

The Thaiger

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The rise of the e-bicycle in Thailand, a bit of motorised assistance | The Thaiger

by Nicole Kash

Cycling tours offer a unique way to explore Thailand. Faster than walking but slower than driving, cycling tours cover plenty of ground while allowing cyclists to immerse themselves in the sights, smells, and culture of Thailand without the boundary of a car window.

Cycling tours can cover up to a heart-pumping 150 kilometre a day. Though exciting for many, some find longer distances daunting, especially newer cyclists or those out of practice. This is where the e-bike has begun filling a unique gap in Thailand’s adventure tourism industry. Thanks to e-bikes, longer distance day tours and challenging multi-day cycling tours are no longer reserved for fitness fanatics. 

Popular in the US and Europe, the e-bike has made its way to Thailand is now thriving within the Kingdom’s tourism industry. These motorised bicycles offer the option to assist cyclists with pedaling, which is especially useful for long distances and tough uphill climbs. Even with the help of the motor, cyclists still get plenty of exercise, as the pedal-assist system requires the rider to put some work in.

Unlike a scooter or motorbike, an e-bike does not run without the pedaling effort of the rider. They feature rechargeable batteries and an and off switch, allowing cyclists to challenge themselves as much as they’d like and get a little extra help when needed. 

The option of swapping our traditional bikes for e-bikes on cycling tours offer more tourists the opportunity to join in on cycling tours than ever before, growing the number of potential clients for Thai adventure tourism companies while fostering a climate of inclusivity.

Looking to join in on the fun? Here’s a look into a few of the single-day and multi-day bicycle tours with e-bike options offered by Bangkok based SpiceRoads Cycling! 

Road Cycling Bangkok to Phuket (10 days)

Starting in bustling Bangkok and ending in along Phuket’s sparkling coastline, this 10-day bicycle tour with e-bike options is the perfect mix of must-see sites and tucked away local spots all on smooth roads. Pedalling toward the scenic south, ride beyond the city lights and explore rural Thailand’s rich culture and welcoming villages while making stops at the east and west coast’s local beach spots along the way.

Rolling hills, golden sunsets, a real taste of local life, and of course serene sea views await you! This trip is fully supported with an air-conditioned van and riders can take a break and cool off while still enjoying the same views as the rest of the group. 

Phuket Highlights (½ day) 

Take a break from beach life to explore Phuket’s unique and often overlooked old town on this ½ day bicycle tour with e-bike options. We start on the town’s peripheral, exploring Koh Sirey’s community of sea gypsies and on to see and smell the fresh catch of the day as locals bid for the best deals at the fishing port.

Then we head downtown to admire Phuket Old Town’s Sino-Portuguese architecture, Jui Tui Shrine museum, and unique shops by bike. This leisurely 27 kilometre tour ends with a drive to stunning Khao Khad viewpoint for a scenic sea view and bird’s eye view over where we have ridden. 

Kanchanaburi Explorer (3 days) 

Immerse yourself in Kanchanaburi’s natural beauty and historic sites on this 3 day bicycle tour with e-bike options. Cycle along country roads and through local villages, enjoying mountain views and the thrill off jungle clad and dirt trails along the way.

Then explore off the bike, boarding a local train for a stunning train ride on Death Railway, visiting the historic and dark Hellfire Pass, and taking an optional boat trip to visit a Mon village. A diverse itinerary combining Kanchanburi’s stunning natural sites with stops at historical must-sees on a mix of tarmac and dirt trails assures you will never get bored on this 102 kilometre bicycle tour!

The rise of the e-bicycle in Thailand, a bit of motorised assistance | News by The Thaiger

To find out more, and see more tours from the Spice Roads team, click HERE.

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