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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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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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Thailand

UPDATE: Confusion over Covid-19 tests for visa extensions

Caitlin Ashworth

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UPDATE: Confusion over Covid-19 tests for visa extensions | The Thaiger

UPDATE: Khaosod English removed a story on Covid-19 tests for those seeking visa extensions and replaced it with the article “Immigration backtracks on plan to require Covid-19 test for visa extensions.” They say the previous report sparked uproar among expats and immigration police spokesperson has since apologised for the misunderstanding.

Original article…

Confusion reigns today over whether Covid-19 tests will be required for visa extensions. While The Phuket News spoke with an immigration official who said “no… you don’t need a Covid-19 test to extend your visa or apply for a work permit”, Khaosod English wrote an article headlined “Covid-19 test will be mandatory for all visa extension”.

The Thaiger also contacted a respected visa agent who said Covid-19 tests are, indeed, now required for applying for both visa extensions and work permits, even renewals.

The Thai Immigration Bureau has not made any official announcement regarding Covid-19 tests. Talk about Covid-19 tests for foreigners was brought up after a rule was published in the Royal Gazette last month, officially adding Covid-19 to a list of dangerous diseases, prohibiting those infected with any of the listed illnesses from entering the country.

Immigration Police Bureau spokesperson Archayon Kraithong told Khaosod English that proof of a negative Covid-19 test will be required for visa extensions, regardless of how long a foreigner has stayed in Thailand. On the other hand, Phuket immigration deputy chief Nareuwat Putthawiro told The Phuket News that Covid-19 tests will not be required for visa extensions or work permit applications.

“We do not require any medical documents for an application to renew a visa, because there are few foreigners’ movements outside Phuket. Most of them live and work in Phuket, and have done so before the new wave of Covid-19… So they do not have to worry about it. Everything is still the same.”

Medical exams are currently already required for most work permit applicants (including tests for Syphilis and Elephantiasis). A visa agent told The Thaiger that Covid-19 tests have been added to the medical examination requirements for work permit applicants. But, on the other hand, Phuket immigration says they DO NOT require Covid-19 tests for work permit applicants.

“We have not received any notices about Covid-19 requirements for processing applications to renew visas. If we do receive any such orders, we will let the public know.”

It isn’t the first time there has been conflicting statements coming out of different officials, in different immigration offices on different days.

SOURCES: Phuket News| Khaosod English

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Visitors to Phuket from “highest risk” areas must show Covid-19 test results

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Visitors to Phuket from “highest risk” areas must show Covid-19 test results | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

People arriving Phuket from the “highest risk” areas are required to take a swab test by the staff at emergency operation centres (EOC) or show the test result document endorsed by the EOC staff made within 72 hours of their arrival. The revised order is effective from now until January 31, according to the Phuket Governor.

Those people who are on a brief business trip to Phuket need to show certificates from their employers describing the reason and necessity of their trips. If they want to leave their accommodations, they have to make a request to the EOC and clearly explain the reason as well as the time and destination. Visitors are also asked to avoid going to the community areas to avoid crowded gatherings.

It is noted that the revised order by the governor has not been officially promoted by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department. However, all visitors are still asked to register online via the Mor Chana contact tracing application and via www.gophuget.com according to the order re-issued on Friday.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Tourism

The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint

The Thaiger

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The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | The Thaiger

There are two well known ways to get from Kathu to Kalim or Kamala – one is across the Patong Hill, and the other is much longer, through Srisoonthorn and along the coastal road from Surin the Kamala (very scenic too).

But there’s also another way. Also very scenic but will take you about 2 hours through dense forest although there is a well-worn walking track. The track will take you from Kathu up to the Kalim Viewpoint. From here you can head back to Kathu along a different path, or down into Kalim, near Patong.

Starting about halfway down Soi Namtok in Kathu, you head up a nondescript road past the Flying Hanuman zipline attraction, although there’s no sign at the entrance to the soi (below). About the first kilometre is paved but then becomes increasingly ‘agricultural’ as you get higher into the hills, heading towards the Kalim Viewpoint. There’s also a small temple on the way up.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: The start of the trek, a small soi off Soi Namtok – Google Maps

It will take around 2 hours to trek up to the Kalim Viewpoint. The walking is quite strenuous and you’ll need to be wearing the right shoes and take plenty of water – there’s no 7/11s on the way! As you get nearer the top, to the viewpoint, the track becomes less drivable although the track is still quite open and easy to follow. If you’re feeling a bit lazy you can take a motorbike about halfway up the road until you’ll need to proceed on foot from there.

From the Kalim Viewpoint you can see across Kalim to Patong Bay and the land that stretches along the bay south of Patong Beach. From the top you can either make your way down to Kalim or another exit along the Kalim-Kamala Road, just near the Iguana Beach Club.

You can also head back another way to Kathu, a longer return track that skirts around the top of the Kathu Waterfall. A lot of that track gets very narrow and parts of it are up and down the hills, some of it very steep.

The views are amazing and you get to see a vast swathe of Phuket, still very close to popular locations like Patong, Kamala and Kathu, but untouched by any civilisation.

You’ll need to be in reasonable health to take on the trip but, just to go up to the Kalim Viewpoint and back, or down into Kalim, should take around 5 hours in total. On a scale of 1 – 5 for difficulty, we’d rate it a 3. An easy trek for experienced people but will need a bit of planning if you’re not an experienced trekker.

Even on a hazy day, as it was today, the views were amazing. But best to start off early morning when the weather is cooler. Well worth the time for the views and the opportunity to see more of Phuket, away from the bars and beaches.

Thanks to BT for the pics and information.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The ThaigerThe road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

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