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On The Menu: Very Versace

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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On The Menu: Very Versace | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Versace is a name synonymous with quality and style and so it is with Le Versace restaurant lounge bar, which is perched high on the northern hills above Patong.

This brand new venue officially opens next month, offering not only fine dining, but one of finest views of Patong available.

Its not often I get to feel like a VIP, but arriving at ‘Le Versace’ was as close as it gets. Walking through the ornate, Gothic-arched entrance you are transported into a sumptuously decorated interior dripping in opulence. There are tables, chairs, tableware and furnishings that are all Versace originals. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling and gold statues and mosaics add to this superbly ornate locale.

Situated on three levels, each with a commanding view over Patong Bay, this is a perfect place to watch the sunset.

The Swiss-born GM and executive chef, Georges Dufresne, explains that it was this same view that caused him to have the epiphany that resulted in the creation of Le Versace.

Georges’ motto is Passion for excellence and it is easy to see that this is an establishment that cherishes quality.

We enjoy a cocktail together and discuss his concept some more. “This is a fun place and apart from fine dining I want to offer a ‘smiley’, happy place for people to hang out,” he says.

“We have a karaoke lounge and what I call ‘The balcony of Patong’ where friends can enjoy the sunset view with one of our four signature cocktails and some ‘French touch’ tapas. I have a passion for fine food and love to look into the eyes of my clients as they taste my creations,” he adds.

Although there is a menu available, I get the impression that Georges has already decided what to prepare for me this evening and he disappears into the kitchen returning with a platter of his famous ‘French touch tapas’.

On the platter are two servings each of beautiful culinary art and we share the tapas together. This really is a case of putting your money where you mouth is as we start with a rich fish soup served in glass to better appreciate the frothy cappuccino-style mousse that he has created on top. This homemade bouillabaisse is the most authentic-tasting French food I have had in Thailand and the same goes for the prawn served with Café de Paris and Champagne sauces and the smoked salmon and cream cheese tapas. Georges looks into my eyes for approval and gets it in bucket loads.

Before coming to Phuket, Georges, who is a member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, worked as executive chef in some of the finest five-star hotels in Switzerland and it shows.

We have moved on to Le foie gras poêlé du Chef (590 baht small/900 baht large) warm, fresh foie gras glazed with tamarind and served with homemade vegetable chips. Divine.

After another affirmative glance from me, Georges returns to the kitchen and the quietly efficient staff clear away the beautiful Versace dishes.

I look around at the intimate, sumptuous setting and, at a nearby table, one of the other guests, also Swiss, catches my eye and we raise our glasses to each other in a silent acknowledgment that we share a love of fine cuisine. The other guest moves over to the white piano and plays us a tune. It’s that kind of place.

There are only five tables available: one table for eight; two tables for six and two for up to four. Georges prefers it this way and as he put it earlier “We are open from 5pm until late – even at midnight I will cook for you. I don’t want too many people as I want to keep the atmosphere and to be able to lavish attention on each customer. If I cant do that well I’d prefer to turn people away.”

In other words reservations are highly recommended, as is the main course that Georges has produced for me tonight: Filet de boeuf, Café de Paris, avec gratin dauphinois au senteur truffe blanche or Beef filet with Café de Paris sauce served with layered potatoes perfumed with white truffle oil. (700 baht small/1,270 baht large).

I am in heaven.

The sauce is divine and Georges explains how he has made it his own. The original Café de Paris sauce is a complex butter-based sauce, the ingredients of which remain a trade secret. Two recipes exist from the original Café de Paris in Geneva which opened in 1907 and Georges was able to obtain one of them. He modified it by removing the heaviness of butter and cream and this has now become his own secret recipe and the press still talk about it. He walks over and drizzles some over my beef.

Menu items comes in two sizes and prices, as Georges wants his guests to leave feeling they have eaten well but are not overfed. He has judged my portion to perfection with just enough fresh vegetables on the side. We wash it down with a New Zealand Pinot Noir from the extensive cellar.

Prices are not excessive but reflect the fact that only the finest imported ingredients are used. Prices are listed without the ten per cent service charge and seven per cent VAT.

There are also set menu options ranging from ‘Silver’ at 1,150 baht, ‘Gold’ at 1,400 baht and ‘Platinum’ at 1,800 baht.

Dessert is a plate of fresh fruit, coconut sorbet and a chocolate covered crunchy cake that was so good I do not even remember what was in it. But I do remember feeling like a VIP.

Le Versace is situated at 206/5-6 Prabaramee Road. There is limited parking in front and valet parking is available. Reservations are recommended at 076 290 492 or 082 448 4887. Visit: leversace.com for more info.

— Marc Mulloy

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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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Bangkok

Professor: Military government too interested in tourism – not people’s welfare

Greeley Pulitzer

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Professor: Military government too interested in tourism – not people’s welfare | The Thaiger

A professor of Rangsit University has criticised the previous military government for focusing too much on tourism and not enough on the welfare of the Thai people. The professor was speaking at Chulalongkorn University at a seminar discussing street stalls and urban development.

She questioned the National Council for Peace and Order’s policy of clearing street vendors in all but a few areas such as Yaowarat and Khao San Road that mainly cater to tourists.

She claimed that the NCPO – in power since the coup of 2014 until this year’s election – was more interested in economic development through tourism than in the welfare of the public.

Having affordable street food options was not just about tourism, she said, it was vital for poor workers who have migrated from the countryside, adding that it was part of an informal rather than a formal economy.

“For years people had earned their living from selling goods and services, including food, on the streets.”

This in turn provided an affordable option to eat for workers who came to Bangkok on for large investment projects. The issue, she said, was not just about tourism but the wider economy that might benefit.

The professor noted that CNN had once called Bangkok the best place in the world for street food but this had changed with the sanitized food trucks that have appeared since stalls and vendors were banned from most areas.

The Thaiger notes that banning street vendors has divided the capital. Many are happy that the sidewalks are easier to navigate, but others – including tourists – have said that the lifeblood and character of the city has suffered.

SOURCE: Naew Na | ThaiVisa Forum

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Chiang Rai

Journey back to Tham Luang in ‘The Cave’ – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Journey back to Tham Luang in ‘The Cave’ – VIDEO | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Tom Waller on site during the filming of The Cave – AFP

Determined divers racing against time. Rising waters threatening lives. 12 teenagers and their soccer coach trapped inside for two weeks. A remote cave that most had never heard of.

The stuff of a Hollywood drama, except that it’s all true and happened in Chiang Rai last year. Now the first of several re-tellings of the story comes to the big screen in The Cave.

The ordeal in late June and early July last year had barely ended when filmmakers began their own race to get the nail-biting drama onto cinema screens. The first of those projects premiered at the start of October, when director Tom Waller’s The Cave showed at the Busan Film Festival in South Korea.

The film was shot over three months earlier this year and has been in post-production since then. The 45 year old Thai-British filmmaker says the epic tale of the Wild Boars (Mu Pa) football team was a story he simply had to tell.

“I took the view that this was going to be a story about the people we didn’t know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet.”

The 13 young men entered the Tham Luang cave complex after soccer practice and were quickly trapped inside by rising floodwater. The boys were forced to spend nine nights lost in the cave, whilst Navy Seal and other diver searched frantically, before they were spotted by a British diver.

It would take another eight days before they were all safe, against all odds, in a risky mission.

Waller was visiting his father in Ireland when he saw television news accounts of the drama.

“I thought this would be an amazing story to tell on screen.”

But putting the parts together after their dramatic rescue proved to be a challenge. Thailand’s government, led by the military NCPO, became very protective of the story, barring unauthorised access to the Mu Pa team or their parents. Waller often feared his production might be shut down.

His good fortune was that the events at the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province had multiple angles and interesting characters. Especially compelling were the stories of the rescuers, particularly the expert divers who rallied from around the world. He decided to make a film “about the volunteer spirit of the rescue.”

Other people proposed telling the story from the point of view of the boys, and Netflix nailed down those rights in a deal brokered by the Thai government.

“I took the view that this was going to be a story about the people we didn’t know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet. They literally dropped everything to go and help, and I just felt that that was more of an exciting story to tell, to find out how these boys were brought out and what they did to get them out.”

Waller even had more than a dozen key rescue personnel play themselves.

Waller said they were natural actors, blending in almost seamlessly with the professionals around them, and helped by the accuracy of the settings and the production’s close attention to detail.

“What you are really doing is asking them to remember what they did and to show us what they were doing and what they were feeling like at the time. That was really very emotional for some of them because it was absolutely real.”

Waller says his film is likely to have a visceral effect on some viewers, evoking a measure of claustrophobia.

“It’s a sort of immersive experience with the sound of the environment, you know, the fact that is very dark and murky, that the water is not clear.”

“In Hollywood films, when they do underwater scenes, everything is crystal clear. But in this film it’s murky and I think that’s the big difference. This film lends itself to being more of a realistic portrayal of what happened.”

Some scenes were filmed on location at the entrance to the actual Tham Luang cave, but most of the action was shot elsewhere.

“We filmed in real water caves that were flooded, all year-round. It is very authentic in terms of real caves, real flooded tunnels, real divers and real creepy-crawlies in there. So it was no mean feat trying to get a crew to go and film in these caves.”

The Cave goes on general release in Thailand on November 28.

ORIGINAL ARTICE: Associated Press | Time.com

Journey back to Tham Luang in 'The Cave' - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Tom Waller – Associated Press/Sakchai Lalit

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Hua Hin

Tale of two cities – Hua Hin vs Pattaya

The Thaiger

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Tale of two cities – Hua Hin vs Pattaya | The Thaiger

by Kornrawee Panyasuppakun

Property buyers looking to buy a seaside villa or condo in a coastal town in Thailand, relatively close to Bangkok, confront one question – should I buy a property in Hua Hin or Pattaya?

And rightly so, because these two choices have similar aspects. Both have kilometres of coastline, good beaches, and are just a couple of hours away from Bangkok – 3 hours for Hua Hin and 2 hours for Pattaya. They also have good year-round weather, large expat populations, and are some of the best places in Asia for water-sports and playing golf.

Yet, each place suits buyers with different lifestyles and goals.

Town or City?

If you want a laid-back beach town feel, Hua Hin is the right choice. If you like to live in the middle of action, with a greater range of things to do, Pattaya is the winner. It is simply more established and has a longer development history in terms of western-style villas and condominiums.

Hua Hin has a population of around 100,000 plus a growing tourist reputation. The lazy town offers long, sandy beaches that run 5 kilometers along the coast and are not fully obstructed by high-story condos on the beach, due to building regulations.

Hua Hin may not be the best place to swim in Thailand, as the sea-bed is a bit rocky, but it makes up for it with clean beaches, dedicated beach cleanup groups consisting of locals and expats, and regulations which, among others, restrict commercial tourism on the beaches on Wednesdays, and town planning which controls high-rise along the coast.

Hua Hin also suits those in search of a peaceful getaway because the town does not have a seedy reputation and is far from any industrial enterprises. This is thanks to a strong tradition of royal patronage and residence in the district, such as Mrigadayavan Palace and Klai Kangwon Palace, the latter is owned by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX).

Nevertheless, the town has a growing reputation for restaurants and new attractions for tourists; it is a favourite resort town for Thai upper-class and Bangkokians who like to go to Hua Hin on weekends.

Check out the largest selection of properties in both towns HERE.

Tale of two cities - Hua Hin vs Pattaya | News by The Thaiger

Pristine beaches of Hua Hin, larger and longer than Pattaya

Pattaya, on the other hand, is home to almost 400,000 people, plus plenty of international tourists. The city is highly developed and has a higher density of high-rise buildings along the coastline and many great sea-view villas on the hillside, both of which are harder to find in Hua Hin due to the tighter building regulations.

During the day, the beaches in Pattaya attract sun worshippers and all different types of water sports, from kitesurfing to waterskiing. At night, Pattaya’s Walking Street is an international adult entertainment playground. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a quiet place in Pattaya. There are less-popular beaches like Jomtien Beach and nearby islands like Koh Larn and Koh Samet.

Pattaya is part of Thailand’s eastern seaboard, the Eastern Economic Corridor, meaning the city is situated close to Thailand’s main industrial facilities and sea ports, as well as airports like Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is around an hour and a half away by car. It also has its own airport about 40 minutes from town called U-tapao International Airport.

Tale of two cities - Hua Hin vs Pattaya | News by The Thaiger

The famous sweeping coastline of Pattaya, a haven for nightlife and entertainment options

Holiday home, Retirement, or Investment?

Hua Hin and Pattaya are both highly qualified for holiday home buyers with an impressive choice of villas and condominiums. But Hua Hin is better known for retirement and Pattaya for investment.

Hua Hin has been named as one of the best retirement locations in Asia by countless surveys. It offers a high standard of living, great golf courses, first-class restaurants, quality medical care, close proximity to Bangkok, as well as “the big foreign community that connects through reading clubs, festivals, cycling clubs, soccer leagues, wine tastings and darts tournaments,” wrote the US News and World Report in 2019.

Foreign property buyers are those who buy a holiday home or a retirement residence. Most are from western countries, especially those from Scandinavia, Germany and England. Many buy in Hua Hin to spend the winter with their families, rent out when they are away, and eventually live there when they retire. Also, a hi-speed railway will soon be built to link Hua Hin with Bangkok, which will make travelling to Bangkok airports even more convenient. It already has a multi-lane highway, train and bus services.

Pattaya is a popular choice for investment. It has a large and growing tourism industry, with over 12 million tourists last year, as well as a healthy mix of nationalities, including Israeli, Russian, European, Indian, and Chinese, making its tourism less susceptible to change from a single demographic.

Additionally, Pattaya is part of the Eastern Economic Corridor, the Eastern seaboard that targets high-tech industries and attracts foreign direct investments, especially from Japan. It is also linked to Bangkok airports, sea ports, and main industrial facilities in Chon Buri and Rayong by the upcoming hi-speed rail. Plus, the city itself is positioned as an international medical hub.

Overall, a stream of foreign tourists and business travellers means a steady source of income for investors. Those who buy the property to rent out short-term and long-term can enjoy a realistic Return On Investment of about 7 – 8% year. In Pattaya you can already see investors from Western countries as well as Asian countries, from China to India and the Middle East.

Tale of two cities - Hua Hin vs Pattaya | News by The Thaiger

There is an excellent selection of international-standard golf courses in Hua Hin

Lifestyle

Both offer a cool selection of eateries, shopping malls, and activities, but if compared by the variety of choices, Pattaya is the hands down winner.

That isn’t to say that Hua Hin doesn’t have plenty of options. Most buyers in Hua Hin like to play golf and enjoy the outdoor spaces – town is one of the best golfing destinations in Asia. There are also first-class Thai and international restaurants, a huge eco-friendly water park, and several night markets that sell fresh seafood and local crafts, like Hua Hin Night Market and Cicada Market.

Furthermore, Hua Hin has stylish shopping malls like Blueport and Market Village, the latter of which offers so-called “you hunt, we cook” options. You can also try the new Latitude Wines at a vineyard in Hua Hin or head to a cool bar that offers familiar labels.

Pattaya may be infamous for its red light areas and nightlife – go-go bars, beer bars and nightclubs – but that is not the only side of Pattaya. In Pattaya you can find quality lifestyle with a burgeoning choice of family options and entertainments.

It offers a range of Thai and international cuisines, from award-winning restaurants with amazing views, sky bars, and Italian wine bars, to family-run restaurants, 100% vegan places, and local seafood. It also has a range of options to entertain people with different budgets.

Pattaya also offers lots of chic shopping centees like Terminal 21 Pattaya, Central Festival Pattaya Beach and Central Marina. There are also lots of family-friendly choices like water parks and museums, in addition to a wide range of extreme sports, such as Muay Thai, kitesurfing, waterskiing, and skydiving. You can also go snorkeling or plan a day trip to nearby islands like Koh Larn and Koh Samet.

In both cities, you can expect to find theatres with international blockbusters and supermarkets that sell western products. And there is a daily ferry between Hua Hin and Pattaya (during high season).

International Education

Expat families can find an excellent international school in both cities.

Hua Hin has a couple of options for expat families. With quality education and great sporting activities, Hua Hin International School, for instance, is one of the choices that follows the national British curriculum and the IB program, and recruits teachers from the UK. There are also several bilingual programs available.

Expats in Pattaya have more choice when it comes to international education. There are several internationally-recognised international schools with excellent facilities like hi-tech campus, drama studios, and a big theatre. Some of the best schools are St Andrews International School, Regents International School, and Tara Pattana International School.

Tale of two cities - Hua Hin vs Pattaya | News by The Thaiger

Health Care

Hua Hin and Pattaya offer high-quality hospitals that cover basic and advanced medical care and cater to patients with different budgets.

Top private hospitals in Hua Hin are, for instance, Sao Paulo Hospital which caters to lower budgets, and Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin which is part of the renowned BDMS group. These hospitals both offer quality specialist care including cardiology, urology, and orthopaedics, to name a few, and English is widely spoken.

For Pattaya, top hospitals are Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, Pattaya International Hospital, and Pattaya Memorial Hospital, with Bangkok Hospital Pattaya charging the highest fees. Also, as Pattaya is recognised as one of the best medical tourism centres in Thailand, and the region, there are tons of tourists flying to the city for medical care, and hospitals employ staff who are fluent in various languages.

Bangkok Hospital Pattaya, for instance, has interpreters in more than 20 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.

The bottom line … It depends on your goals and lifestyle. If you want a peaceful hideaway with grand royal history, or are a golf enthusiast, you may choose a property in Hua Hin. If you want to a city that is always switched on, close to investment areas and airports, and has lots of leading international schools and shopping malls, you may like Pattaya more.

Tale of two cities - Hua Hin vs Pattaya | News by The Thaiger

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