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Fixie passion gives birth to criterium

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Fixie passion gives birth to criterium | The Thaiger

PHUKET: One man’s love of fixed-gear cycling races gave birth to the Southern Criterium which took place in Saphin Hin, Phuket Town last month.

Vissaves ‘Bon’ Kumphanthong, owner of Cuca Bike, event organizer and director of the Bangkok Criterium, got hooked on cycling only a few years ago.

“It was between 2009 and 2010 that I started looking for a sport that could improve my health, and I settled on cycling,” Bon says. “I wanted a bike that looked awesome and unique, so I ended up settling on a fixed-gear bike.”

A fixed-gear bicycle, commonly known as a ‘fixie’, is a bicycle that has a drivetrain with no freewheel mechanism, and has become increasingly popular over the past 15 years.

There were several major hurdles for Bon after he became a fixie owner. The first was the difficulty of finding a bike shop that could repair, maintain and modify the bike. So, he opened up his own shop – Cuca Bike.

During that time, Bon began establishing his ‘biker gang’ – Fixed Family Thailand – which consisted of 30 to 40 people who zipped around the streets of Bangkok at night.

“The style of the bike and the sensation we caused got a lot of attention. Some people even joined the family,” Bon says.

After a certain point, just riding with ‘the family’ wasn’t enough. Bon wanted to race fixies. “That’s how the Bangkok Criterium was born,” Bon says.

The inaugural event, ‘The Knight Criterium’, was held in December 2011. There were about 30 racers, and the entire event was sponsored by Bon’s friends, who also own bike shops around Bangkok.

“It was a small event, but we received lots of positive feed back. Many cyclists wanted to know what a ‘criterium’ was and wanted to race in the next one,’ Bon says.

After that, the event began to pick up momentum – the kind of thing a fixed-gear cyclist knows exactly how to handle.

“The next event was held in the beginning of 2012. I was pretty prepared, and knew how to organize the event and how to find sponsors for prices,” Bon says. “There were about 200 participants that time and it came together beautifully, with a lot of post-event coverage on social media sites.”

The event was big enough to catch the eye of Cinelli Thailand. The Italian bicycle manufacturing company, based in Milan, mostly produces components for bikes, many of which are widely popular for converting road bikes to fixies.

The company recently teamed up with San Francisco based MashSF to create the popular ‘Cinelli MASH’ frames, which are widely used for fixies.

Cinelli Thailand got on board as a sponsor for the third Bangkok Criterium. The president of Cinelli, Antonio Colombo, took much interest in the event, and stepped in to back the fourth criterium – which had about 400 participants – with the full power of Cinelli.

Singha Corporation later took over as the main sponsor, backing Bon to arrange three events: one in Bangkok, one in Chiang Rai and one somewhere in Southern Thailand.

“I of course chose to hold the Southern Criterium in Phuket,” Bon says.

Comments from the cyclists such as ‘why pay a registration fee for such a short race, when cyclists can pay the same amount for a long race’ made it clear to Bon that the community needed be educated about what a criterium entails.

“Once I started explaining how the race worked and the prize structure, there was a lot of interest and excitement,” Bon says. “I actually couldn’t allow anyone to register the day of the event because we already had so many participants.

“We will be bringing the event back to Phuket next year. It will be bigger and better.”

The Phuket Gazette and PGTV were proud sponsors of the Southern Criterium 2015.

— Pruth Kulprasit

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Thai Life

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers

The Thaiger

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Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Daily News

The answers are in the banana leaves.

Thai people LOVE playing the lottery (and gambling generally). In fact they’re BANANAS about the twice-monthly lottery (it was drawn again today). Daily News has reported about two unusual banana trees growing in front of a shop in Klong 4 Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok. The trees did not have blossom and on one plant two bananas were pointing skywards. On another there was a whole bunch pointing up into the sky.

There was a steady stream of the faithful lighting incense, praying and rubbing powder on the trees to get lottery numbers. One group thought ‘542’ was the magic numbers and a path to riches (we’re not sure how they came to this conclusion). 53 year old Surachai says the trees had been growing for a few months and that he’d never seen anything like it before.

An unnamed agricultural expert suggested that there was probably something wrong with the banana plants. Trees and malformed animals are a favourite source of inspiration to select numbers for the lottery, as are numbers of houses and vehicles involved in events where people experience “miracle” escapes from danger, or even bizarre accidents.

SOURCE: Daily News

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger

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Entertainment

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival

The Thaiger

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The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | The Thaiger

On the streets, in parks and garages, seven Cuban youngsters spent seven months practising K-pop moves to secure a spot on their dream stage: an appearance in South Korea to imitate their idols. 13 final teams from 80 countries are competing in the 2019 event.

At the grandly titled and government-funded Changwon K-pop World Festival contestants from around the globe perform imitation dances or sing cover versions of the genre’s biggest hits, with thousands of fans cheering them on.

In terms of global heft, South Korea is overshadowed by its much larger neighbours China and Japan, but the event is a way for Seoul to derive soft power from one of the country’s biggest cultural exports. In terms of pop-power, South Korea’s K-Pop is now a recognised world-wide music phenomenon with bands like BTS and Blackpink figuring amongst the other big-hitters on the Billboard charts and outselling their western counterparts with millions of albums and downloads.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Finalists for this year

Cuba’s Communist government is one of North Korea’s few remaining allies: when President Miguel Diaz-Canel, successor to the Castro brothers Fidel and Raul, visited Pyongyang last November he was only the third foreign head of state to do so since leader Kim Jong Un inherited power in 2011.

But rather than geopolitics, Havana performer Karel Rodriguez Diaz – whose mannerisms and sleek hairstyle could easily be mistaken for those of a K-pop star – is more motivated by high-tempo beats and superslick dance moves.

“We never had a place with a mirror or a choreographer who could teach us the steps” but they kept on practising, he said.

His team-mate Elio Gonzalez added: “We are so excited to represent not just Cuba but also the whole of Latin America.”

Some 6,400 teams from more than 80 countries entered the competition, according to organisers, with 13 groups from places as diverse as Kuwait and Madagascar winning through to the final in Changwon, where they appeared on stage waving their national flags.

“This is like watching the Olympics, a K-pop Olympics,” said the event’s host Lia, a member of K-pop group ITZY.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

The Korean Wave

K-pop – along with K-drama soap operas – has been one of South Korea’s most successful cultural exports to date. A key part of the “Korean Wave” which has swept Asia and beyond in the last 20 years, the K-pop industry is now estimated to be worth $5 billion, with boyband BTS its latest high-profile exponent, becoming the world’s most successful band in the past 12 months, selling out stadium concerts within minutes, around the world.

The South Korean government has financed a variety of K-pop themed events in what CedarBough Saeji, a visiting professor at Indiana University Bloomington in the US, said was a form of long-term “soft power diplomacy”.

“When you are covering you get to ‘become’ those idols for the three and a half minutes of the song,” she said, adding that performers will go so far as matching their clothing, accessories and hairstyle to their heroes and heroines.

“The cover dancers of today will be diplomats, news reporters, and business leaders in forty years,” she went on.

“And hopefully they’ll still have a soft spot in their heart for Korea. Korea can’t win the world through hard power – armies, economic bullying – but with soft power even a small country like Korea has a chance.”

The music also provides an artistic alternative for overseas fans, especially those in developing countries, Saeji added.

“The West, especially the United States, has been so dominant culturally for so long, and having a different cultural pole to look to provides hope that one’s own country can experience similar success in the future.”

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Be who you want

Beneath its glitz and glamour, the K-pop industry is also known for its cutthroat competition, a lack of privacy, online bullying and relentless public pressure to maintain a wholesome image at all times and at any cost.

Sulli, a popular K-pop star and former child actress who had long been the target of abusive online comments was found dead on Monday, with her death sending shockwaves through fans around the world.

“I think a day where (people) would be ashamed of the K-show business will surely come,” a South Korean online user wrote in the wake of the star’s death.

“I think an industry that makes money by (making people) sing, dance, undergo plastic surgeries and go on a diet to please the gaze of others since they are teenagers should really go bankcrupt.”

But for Kenny Pham, a finalist from the US at last week’s contest, K-pop’s diversity – with some tunes having dark themes, while others were “cute” or sensual – is what gives him a sense of liberation.

“I like how expressive you could be,” the 19 year old told AFP last week.

“I feel like it’s a place where you could show the passion you have for music, dance or fashion. No one is bashing you for what your likes are.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Business

Singha grabs a 90% stake in Thailand’s Santa Fe restaurant chain

May Taylor

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Singha grabs a 90% stake in Thailand’s Santa Fe restaurant chain | The Thaiger

(…or is that a 90% ‘steak’?)

PHOTOS: Wongnai

DealStreetAsia, an investor news site reporting on Asian business, confirms that Singha Corporation has purchased a majority stake in the Thai restaurant chain, Santa Fe. It’s understood that Singha purchased the shares held by Lakeshore Capital for approximately US$50 million or 1.53 billion baht, giving it a 90% stake in the chain seen in most Thai shopping centres.

The Nation reports that Singha will now oversee over 110 restaurants across Thailand in one of the country’s biggest food industry deals of the year. The company first turned its attention to the food industry two years ago, launching Food Factors Company under the Boon Rawd Brewery group.

WongnaiFood Factors aims to make 5 billion baht over 3 years under the stewardship of Piti Bhirombhakdi. The company has an ambitious long-term target of 10 billion baht a year, along with plans to be listed on the stock exchange.

The Santa Fe chain was established in 2003 by Surachai Charn-Anudet’s KT Restaurant Company, with the aim of becoming a major competitor to Sizzler, the American chain brought to Thailand by Minor Food.

SOURCE: The Nation

Singha grabs a 90% stake in Thailand's Santa Fe restaurant chain | News by The Thaiger

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