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Phuket Boating: Excellence is served

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET has much to be proud of in terms of excellence provided in the island’s marine and yachting industry, but taking excellence to the personal service level is the Galileo Yachting Superyacht Training Academy in Thalang.

At a secluded high-end villa hidden among rubber trees near Thanyapura Sports and Leisure Club, trainees undergo courses specifically tailored for careers onboard superyachts, whether they have their sights set on being stewards, deckhands or even chefs serving the millionaire and billionaire owners and guests.

Founded in 2012 by Brian Murray, a career chief engineer in the British Royal Navy and a superyacht

imageBed-making, including turning towels into elephants, is part of the magic. Photo: Galileo Superyacht Training

captain for 30 years, Galileo offers courses that twine skill sets from the upper echelon of the hospitality trade with requisite skills needed for working as superyacht crew.

“On superyachts, you need to be able to provide a particular service at the highest level and to be able to perform as an able crewman,” explains Anthony Gould, director of the facility.

“Here, we replicate the conditions of living on a superyacht. The trainees live together in close quarters, and during the course they need to develop their own individual skill set and they must work together as a team in order to be effective.”

The modules of the two main courses available – the Superyacht Deckhand Course and the Superyacht Stewardess Course – run the gamut from flower arrangement, housekeeping and bed making, laundry and garment care to Western and Thai cooking, table setting and silver service, wine and champagne appreciation, barista, bartending and mixology to yacht etiquette, tender driving to ropes and knots and basic navigation and seamanship.

The training is extensive, and even includes “forensic cleaning”.

“That includes Q-Tips around the mirror”, smiles Anthony. “When you step onto a superyacht that might be, say, 12 years old, you look at it and think it’s not more than six months old – that’s the standard set by the captain – that’s the expectation from the owners.

“If the lady of the boat walks into the bathroom and it is not immaculate, heads will roll.”

CAREER PATHS

But those who benefit the most from the courses are those who bring their own skills to the center, and look to develop them further or to hone them to specifically serve superyacht clientele, explains marketing manager Arisara “Sana” Pattaramalai.

“Some people are already skilled in one position on the boat, and want to broaden their skill set in order to redirect their careers or simply make more career opportunities available,” she says.

Anthony points out that already excelling in a chosen field is no guarantee of a position on a superyacht.

“Some people ask, ‘Why would I want to do a course that I am already skilled in?’,” he poses. “We have had Cordon Bleu chefs ask this, and we can give them 18 good reasons why.

imageDriving a large boat is part of the training. Photo: Galileo Superyacht Training

To add to the likelihood of success in placement, course graduates are also vetted before being approved to undertake a course at Galileo, Sana notes.

“Before accepting a candidate for our courses we look carefully at general health, presentation and career background as well as language skills before accepting an applicant for a course,” she adds. “This helps avoid complications later when it comes to finding them a position on a superyacht.”

Placement is key to the future of Galileo, notes Anthony. “There is no point in training superyacht crew if they cannot be placed,” he states plainly.

Bill O’Leary, a long-term leading figure in Phuket’s yachting industry and a shareholder at Galileo, adds that it is word of mouth which is vital to the academy’s success.

“Our reputation of providing the right caliber staff is crucial. Once a captain hires a Galileo graduate, they call us back looking for other crew and make referrals to other superyacht captains,” he explains.

“This is what makes our graduates highly sought-after.”

This is music to the ears of Nirut Matchai, a student who just completed the March course and who hails from Ao Nang, Krabi, where his family lives and where he gained his entry to the hospitality trade.

Nirut plans to take his new skills out into the world.

“I’d like travel around the world. I already have years of experience working front desk at a high-end resort, and so I am pursuing a career as a steward. Ideally, I’d like to find a placement working in the Med,” he explains.

Laureano Enrique Martinez, of Italian-Venezuelan parents and now living in France, is taking the deckhand course, and has his eyes on a career as superyacht captain.

“I work at a hotel in Nice, and I love water sports – jet-skis, boats, kayaks, name it,” he says. “This could be the right start to end up on the bridge.”

imageFirefighting is one of the essential life-saving skills learned. Photo: Galileo Superyacht Training

To that end, the courses at Galileo offer much more than the silver service training guide. The courses include firefighting and security awareness as components of the mandatory Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW95) certification.

The STCW95 requires basic safety training in elementary first aid; fire prevention and firefighting; personal survival techniques; personal safety and social responsibilities; and now ship security awareness.

“You cannot work on any commercial boat without an STCW,” explains Anthony. “Captains will not allow crew to join a ship if they don’t have this. If there is an incident, then insurance would not cover them. You just can’t afford to have anyone on your boat who is not qualified.”

Tony Finlay, who served an entire career as a Royal Naval Petty Officer and now works as a ship security specialist with Princess Cruises, knows this well, and joined the final stages of the Galileo course last week just to acquire his up-to-date UK MCA STCW Certification.

“The firefighting training we did today is as good as you get in the Royal Navy,” he says.

MCA Auditor Capt Tushar Jayvant Bijur, Maritime and Coastguard Agency Examiner of the UK’s Department of Transport, will be the judge of that.

He was in Phuket last month to observe students completing the STCW units. Accreditation compliant with the UK’s MCA will see the STWC95 training provided by Galileo as compliant with IMO standards, which are recognized worldwide.

But to Tony, the course had other benefits. “With accommodation and food included in the course price, it cost me less than renewing my STCW95 in Australia, and I get to have a holiday in Phuket at the same time,” he laughs.

BEYOND THE TRAINING

The Galileo academy has achieved that quintessentially Phuket feat of keeping its locally-born familiarity while having far-reaching effects around the globe.

The center holds its barista training at the Life & Home Foundation center in Phang Nga, offering students at the center skills, career and life opportunity awareness.

“We get to offer world-class training in an elite field, and help people to develop careers to make their lives better, while doing this in Phuket. How good is that?” asks Bill.

Anthony explains that the original idea behind the academy was to develop a pool of Asian people who are talented and well-trained to work on superyachts.

“Thailand was chosen as the base as it is renowned for its culture of compassion and hospitality, the Land of Smiles and so on, and Phuket is the center of the yachting industry in this part of the world,” he says.

“Phuket is where superyachts come to lay up to do their repairs and refits, take on crew, disembark crew and so on. We have four marinas here, and currently there are superyachts at three of them.”

What happened, in practice, was that the attraction reached much farther abroad, he notes.

“We have people coming here from Europe, Australia, Scandinavia… from all over the world – and we’re going to develop that aspect of the business even more.”

For Laureano, connections at Galileo are already working their magic. He heard of a placement open on a superyacht in Antibes through a former graduate.

“I just emailed him, and it might work out,” he smiles. “It’s hard to believe it could be that easy.”

“Yes, it can,” assures Sana.

— Chris Husted

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

Thailand

Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break

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Covid tourism standstill gives Thailand’s southern sea gypsies a break | The Thaiger

Phuket’s sea gypsy communities are getting a much needed break after the Covid tourism standstill have their traditions a break from the tourism onslaught. 42 year old Sanan Changham says now there is an abundance of fish and shellfish to eat. Tourist boats have been docked at the quay, making fishing easier for the Chao Lay, or “people of the sea.“

“We don’t dive as deep as before, so it’s less dangerous.“

More than 9 million visitors came to Phuket in 2019, impacting the sea gypsies and their way of life, mostly located at the southern end of the island. The booming tourism brought a decline in fish stocks, decreasing fishing grounds and loud construction of hotels. And the traffic. Such hotels signal an even bigger threat to the 1,200 Chao Lay in Rawai, as property developers have tried to evict them from their ancestral strip of land that faces the sea.

Ngim Damrongkaset, a Rawai community representative, says he hopes the area where developers have taken a stake is abandoned.

“They want to drive us out of our homes, but also to deny us access to the sea.”

For the Chao Lay people, the fight to keep their land has been unequal as most are illiterate and were unaware of the fact that they could register their land, but the government is trying to help them. One way for authorities to buy the land and entrust it to them.

Narumon Arunotai, an anthropologist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says the government must seize the opportunity provided by the pandemic to rethink their vision on Chao Lay.

“Covid is an opportunity to change mentalities. Mass tourism in Phuket has been a catastrophe for the sea gypsies.“

The land in Rawai was originally claimed by Indonesian ancestors of Sanan, before the island became flooded with international travellers. But since tourism has become more profitable, authorities have cracked down on the sea gypsies unless they are sailing in protected marine reserves.

“Before, we risked being arrested by a patrol or having our boats confiscated.“

For the animist Chao Lay the beach is a vital space where they keep their colourful wooden boats and where they pray and give thanks to their ancestors. But not only their unique cultural heritage has helped them navigate the waters.

The Chao Lay people are experts at detecting any abnormalities in the water, as such they were able to escape before the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami hit, while saving loads of tourists. Furthermore, Children of the Moken have 50% better visual acuity in the water than their European counterparts, according to a 2003 study.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Top 10

Top 10 English-language movies made in Thailand

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Top 10 English-language movies made in Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: tntdrama - Hangover 11 (2011)

Thailand is active in attracting foreign movie makers to the Land of Smiles, and has been for decades. Many well known movies have been either partially or totally filmed in Thailand. From ‘The Killing Fields’ to ‘Around the World in 80 Days’. Here is our list of the Top 10 English-language movies that were at least partly made in Thailand. There’s also some excellent Thai-language films made in Thailand in one of the most prolific film industries in the world. But that’s a list for another day. Lights, camera, ACTION… Su su!

The Railway Man (2013)

A Colin Firth movie made partly in Thailand (also ‘Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason’, 2004), ‘The Railway Man’ is a 2013 British–Australian war film directed by Jonathan Teplitzky. The movie also starred Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine, and Stellan Skarsgård. The movie follows a tortured soul and his traumas as an ex-POW who was interred and tortured by Japanese troops in camps around the Thai Burmese border. He returns later in life to Thailand confront his demons.

From ‘The Telegraph’… “One of the most striking things about the terrain through which the “Death Railway” linking Thailand to Burma passed, is its extraordinary beauty. Much of the scenery is classically south-east Asian: lush and tropical, fringed with rugged, mountainous mystery. It is the stuff of travellers’ dreams. But as ‘The Railway Man’, the latest film to throw light on one of history’s darker chapters reveals, it is also the stuff of nightmares”.

The Hangover II (2011)

Hardly high art but a successful sequel to the original ‘Hangover’ starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong. The film was filmed almost entirely in Bangkok and around Phang Nga Bay including Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton in Krabi. The film gives you the impression that you turn left in Bangkok, travel an hour or so, and arrive in Phang Nga Bay. Also the unlikely situation where you jump on a speedboat in Bangkok and arrive in Krabi on one tank of fuel! The reality is you would have to travel all the way south, around Singapore and then north through the Malaca Straits, a journey of three or four days.

The plot… well, anything and everything goes wrong! Tattoos, ladyboys, drugs, kidnapping, car chases, fingers chopped off. That’s about it.

In 2011 an Australian stuntman who was injured whilst filming in Bangkok sued Warner Bros. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. The film had a budget of US$80 million but returned nearly $600 million.

Good Morning Vietnam (1987)

‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ is a 1987 American military comedy-drama film written by Mitch Markowitz and directed by Barry Levinson. The movie is set in Saigon in 1965, during the Vietnam War. The movie was a major star-vehicle for Robin Williams as radio DJ Adrian Cronauer on Armed Forces Radio Service.

Plot, briefly… man becomes DJ on official military radio station in Saigon. DJ is widely popular with the US troops but very unpopular with some of the military bosses. Man meets woman, man falls for woman, woman’s brother is a Viet Cong pimp.

The film is famous for Williams’ radio broadcast scenes which were largely improvised. It was a critical and commercial success; for his work in the film, Williams won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ was one of the most successful films of the year, becoming the fourth highest-grossing film of 1987.

The film was shot almost entirely in Bangkok.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

We throw these two Bond films into the same posting but extensive sequences in both were filmed in and around Phang Nga Bay in Southern Thailand. Ko Tapu, a limestone monolith standing all by itself, has become a major tourist attraction in the Bay and has even been renamed James Bond Island in honour of it’s backdrop performance in the Roger Moore ‘Man with the Golden Gun’. Probably one of the most boring of the Bond franchises but, hey, it spawned a whole new tourism attraction for the region!

‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ was the 18th James Bond film, this time with Pierce Brosnan with a license to kill. The Ho Chi Minh City scenes were shot in Bangkok and Phang Nga Bay, pretending it was some other asian location.

Heaven and Earth (1993)

Heaven & Earth is a 1993 American biographical war drama film written and directed by Oliver Stone and featuring a stellar cast including cranky Tommy Lee Jones, Haing S. Ngor, Joan Chen and Hiep Thi Le.

It is the third and final film in Stone’s Vietnam War trilogy, which also includes ‘Platoon’ and ‘Born on the Fourth of July’. The film was shot in Thailand as the Vietnamese government had decided Oliver Stone liked to depict their country in a negative light (it took them Stone’s two other films to figure that out). Town shots are filmed around Old Phuket Town and many of the wider shots of open paddocks and fields were filmed around Krabi.

The film was based on the books ‘When Heaven and Earth Changed Places’ and ‘Child of War’, ‘Woman of Peace’, which Le Ly Hayslip wrote about her experiences during and after the Vietnam War.

It was a box office flop earning only $5.9 million on a budget of $33 million.

Air America (1990)

‘Air America’ was a 1990 American action comedy directed by Roger Spottiswoode with Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. as Air America pilots flying missions in Laos during the Vietnam War. All the ‘Laos’ shots were shot in Thailand.

Plot: When the protagonists discover their aircraft is being used by government agents to smuggle heroin, they must avoid being framed as the drug-smugglers.

Budgeted at $35 million, the production involved 500 crew shooting in 49 different locations in Thailand, London, and Los Angeles. Principal photography began on October 3, 1989 and ran for five months but the crew were called back six months later to film a new ending.

The producers rented 26 aircraft from the Thai military, although some of the stunt flyers refused to perform some of the stunts, with 60-year-old veterans being drafted for some of the more nuanced aerial shots. Sidenote: PepsiCo wanted the filmmakers to use a fictional soda rather than show opium being refined at their abandoned factory.

The Killing Fields (1984)

Not only a film made mostly in Thailand but also an Academy Award winner and a fitting story of the so-called Asian holocaust – the reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 where up to 2.5 million citizens were systematically starved, over-worked or killed.

The film focusses on two journalists, Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg. It was directed by Roland Joffé and produced by David Puttnam. Sam Waterston played Schanberg, Haing S. Ngor as Pran, Julian Sands as Jon Swain, and John Malkovich as Al Rockoff.

At the 57th Academy Awards it received eight Oscar nominations; including Best Picture. It won three, most notably Best Supporting Actor for Haing S. Ngor, who had had no previous acting experience. Directer Roland Joffé said, of Haing S. Ngor’s performance… “Haing had been acting his whole life – you had to be a pretty good actor to survive the Khmer Rouge”.

From Roland Joffé… “We shot those scenes in the countryside outside Bangkok. Lots of very realistic looking corpses had been laid out. It was all very disturbing: you’d get a crawling feeling up your back during shooting. And there was a real panic when a farmer’s wife went out early in the morning and got a total shock when she saw them, poor woman”.

The Beach (2000)

The Beach is a 2000 British-American adventure drama film directed by Danny Boyle and based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Alex Garland. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Canet and, Robert Carlyle. It was partly filmed around Phuket Town and Koh Phi Phi Leh.

Producers got a lot of heat for bulldozing and landscaping sections of Ko Phi Phi Leh beach to make it more “paradise-like” including clearing some of the coconut trees and grass. Local environmentalists weren’t going to put up with that!

The lawsuits dragged on for years. In 2006, Thailand’s Supreme Court upheld an appellate court ruling that the filming had harmed the environment and ordered that damage assessments be made. Producers had made an allowance for repairing any damage but the 2004 Asian tsunami did its own ‘alteration’ of the beach.

The crappy old On On Hotel in Phuket Town, depicted in the movie, has had a major make-over since and now a very swish boutique hotel worth visiting anytime.

Did You Know? Ewan McGregor was cast as the main character before leaving due to disputes with the director. It was speculated that Director Danny Boyle was offered additional funding under the condition that DiCaprio be cast and his British character turned into an American (would have been more fun to hear Leonardo doing a British accent).

Around the World in 80 Days (1956 and 2004)

A grand Hollywood epic and a personal passion project for the, then, Mr Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Todd. The epic picture was directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Mike Todd’s company who financed the film by selling his Todd-AO 70mm film format. Admittedly, if you blinked, you’d miss the portions of the movie filmed in Thailand. A 2004 version, starring Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan, had segments also filmed in Thailand, posing as a Chinese village. It was a flop. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia about the original 1956 production…

Filming took place in late 1955, from August 9 to December 20. The crew worked fast (75 actual days of filming). The picture cost just under $6 million to make, employing 112 locations in 13 countries and 140 sets. Todd said he and the crew visited every country portrayed in the picture, including England, France, India, Spain, Thailand and Japan. According to the Time magazine review of the film, the cast including extras totalled 68,894 people; it also featured 7,959 animals, “including four ostriches, six skunks, 15 elephants, 17 fighting bulls, 512 rhesus monkeys, 800 horses, 950 burros, 2,448 American buffalo, 3,800 Rocky Mountain sheep and a sacred cow that eats flowers on cue.” There is also a cat, at the Reform Club. The wardrobe department spent $410,000 to provide 74,685 costumes and 36,092 trinkets.

The Impossible (2012)

Shot in 2012 and directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. Hard to leave out this one out as the story was about Phuket, Khao Lak and the Andaman Sea’s largest natural disaster – the Asian tsunami of 2004. The story revolves around a British family staying in Khao Lak for their Christmas holidays. The movie starred Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. Many Phuket extras were enlisted as extras for the movie. If we had one criticism about this film it would be the focus on the single family whilst the disaster killed up to 250,000 who were never referred to in the film.

Honourable mentions

The ‘Special Thanksgiving’ Award

‘Mechanic: Resurrection’ (2016). One big turkey. Probably better off un-resurrected.

The ‘Blink and you’ll miss it’ Award

‘Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith’ (2005)

Shot in 2005, directed by George Lucas, the finale of the original six Star Wars episodes. There were a few scenes filmed around Krabi Province to represent the Wookie home planet ‘Kaashyyk’. By the time the CGI crew got their hands on the original footage you’d be hard pressed to recognise the scenery.

‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’ (2004)

A 2004 sequel of ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ and directed by Beeban Kidron that reunites the same cast members: Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones, Colin Firth as Mark Darcy, and Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver. This time, the movie’s plot takes them to Bangkok (some scenes were shot along the infamous Soi Cowboy), to Phuket International Airport, Nai Yang Beach, and Panyee Island in Phang Nga Bay.

An exhaustive list of big movies made mostly or partly in Thailand, HERE.

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Drugs

Two die from heroin overdose in Samut Prakan

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Two die from heroin overdose in Samut Prakan | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Rath

Two men have been found dead from a heroin overdose. They were found in a toilet in Samut Prakan Province, south of Bangkok, last night. Police reported that there were no signs of violence on either of the men.

Thai Rath reports that the men were aged 46 and 48. Police reported that they were found in the Samrong Nua Sub-district, and one of the dead men was still holding a syringe in his hand when the police discovered the bodies.

Their families were notified and came to collect the bodies for funeral ceremonies and religious rites.

Earlier this year the Office of the Narcotics Control Board reported that heroin has made a comeback on the Thai drug scene with more young people, mostly unaware of hidden dangers and problems with addiction, were using the narcotic.

A report noted the rising number of young people aged between 15-18 admitted to rehabilitation programs for heroin addiction.

In 2017, 3,744 youths attended rehab for heroin addiction. But that number had increased to 3,980 by 2019. In the 8 months since October last year, the number of young heroin addicts already surpassed 2,900, mostly of new addicts. The report by the ONCB noted that 1 in 3 heroin addicts across Thailand were young users.

Many of the young addicts reported that they were under the impression the substance was not harmful to their health and thought it was some kind of powder that caused a euphoric trance and wasn’t dangerous.

SOURCE: Thai Residents | Thai Rath

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