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Phuket In focus – Dreams do come true

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Terminally sick nine-year-old, Pakjira “Aom” Jamlongpan had never seen Thailand’s Andaman coast before. Now her wish to swim in the sea was finally about to come true.

“Life is precious, so do your best today as you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow,” was the sentence echoing in my head as I waited for her at Chalong Bay pier.


Dreams come true in Phuket and Krabi. Video: Phuket Today
Pakjira was born in Ayuttaya where she’s been undergoing medical treatment at a local hospital since she was one. Her mother, Mrs Somjai Kleedech, disturbed by symptoms – abdominal distention, yellow skin (jaundice), pale eyelids, lips and nails – took her for a check up.

The doctors diagnosed thalassemia – a serious blood disorder. From that day, Aom had to go to the hospital every six months. As she got older, the visits became even more frequent – every three months, every two months, every month. Recently her anemia became so severe that she has to see a doctor every 2-3 weeks. Over time, the symptoms became more visible – growth failure and deformed face bones to name just a few.

Aom and her parents arrived at the pier with the Make-A-Wish Foundation Thailand team. Once everybody was ready for the journey, the speedboat departed the pier and headed for Coral Island, located just three kilometers southeast of Phuket.

Aom was clearly stunned by the beautiful landscape. Her parents told me, she swam in the sea once before, in Bang Saen. But this was the first time she had seen the beautiful Thai Andaman coast.

After a 15 minute boat trip we arrived at the picturesque shore of Coral Island. The most high-tech cameras can’t do this place justice. The water was perfectly clear, the sand powdery-soft under our bare feet, the lush, green mountains and all shades of blue in the sea – all made for a stunning view.

Some of the staff members head for another part of the island to set up a surprise for Aom – a lovely pink sala, a color that she loves like any other little girl. Meanwhile, we played with her on the beach. As I cradled her in my arms, I was shocked to discover how light she was – much lighter than an average 9-year-old girl.

Soon after, a crew member covered her eyes with a blindfold and Aom’s stepfather, Mr Somkuan, carried her to the sala. It was exceptionally charming just like a wedding decoration – the pink cloth billowing in the sea breeze, perfectly matched bouquets of red roses and white orchids lining the entrance, white sand, clear blue sea – it was magical.

The blindfold was finally removed and an adorable flower chaplet was placed on the girl’s head.

“It’s all yours,” someone announced.

Aom was speechless

Aom was speechless.Amazed by the beauty of the scenery, she bowed to show her appreciation and gratitude.

Somebody called for a group photo; everyone beamed at the camera and the flash went off. After a short photo shoot, the team took Aom to the sea where she swam, snorkeled and enjoyed kayaking. The staff also brought her a large bowl with a beautiful clown fish (Nemo) and starfish for her to enjoy. Upon seeing the fish, Aom smiled and then started playing with a hula hoop.

While watching her swim with her parents, I had a chance to talk to Miss Panyada Wongsombat, a nurse from Pranakhon Si Ayuthaya Hospital, who was in charge of Aom’s care during the trip.

“Her blood intensity is just 19-22 per cent, lower than the standard 25 per cent of children with thalassemia. That’s why Aom needs to have a blood transfusion every 2-3 weeks. But the procedure affects the iron levels in her body and has a negative impact on her bones. She cannot grow properly. Normally, children with this type of thalassemia (beta thalassemia Hb/E) live no longer than 10 years and Aom is now 9 years and 10 months old,” Miss Wongsombat said.

Her parents are forced to travel up to 100 kilometers on a motorbike to get their daughter to the hospital.

Before returning to Phuket, I also had a chance to talk to them.

“Today we are happy. We are grateful to all the organizations that made this happen. I am thankful and overwhelmed,” said Mrs. Somjai Kleedech smiling.

“Thank you very much for everybody’s warm welcome and making our daughter’s wish come true,” Mr. Somkuan added.

Aom could enjoy the beauty of the Thai Andaman coast thanks to the support of Make-A-Wish Foundation Thailand – a non-profit organization that grants wishes to children with life threatening medical conditions. Hope, courage and strength are often the only weapons such children have against their sickness.

“What we all expect from this activity is to give Aom more strength. Today, not only Aom is happy, but also everybody who helped make her wish come true,” Natacha Kerdyod, Wish Coordinator from Make-A-Wish Foundation Thailand said.

“I made that wish because I love the sea. I had so much fun and when I go back to school, I will tell all my friends and teachers about this day,” Aom said happily.

Pakjira “Aom Jamlongpan’s wish was granted thanks to the support of Make-A-Wish Foundation Thailand , Blue Energy, Hilton Phuket Acadia, Nikorn Marine Tour and Hello Phuket.

Make-A-Wish Foundation International was founded in 1980. It started in Phoenix, Arizona with a little boy who suffered from leukemia. He had a wish to become a policeman. With the support of the local police department, his wish came true. The boy spent one day as a police officer, flew in a police helicopter, received a custom-tailored police uniform, and was sworn in as the first honorary DPS patrolman (Arizona Department of Public Safety) in the state’s history. Sadly the boy has since passed away, but his wish became the inspiration for the world’s largest wish-granting organization.

Keep checking the Phuket Gazette’s Lifestyle pages for the latest happenings across Phuket. Alternatively, join our Facebook fan page or follow us on Twitter at @phuketgazette.

— Anthika Muangrod

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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

Things that have changed in Thailand in the Covid Era | Top 10 | VIDEO

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Things that have changed in Thailand in the Covid Era | Top 10 | VIDEO | The Thaiger

Top 10 things that have changed in Thailand during the Covid-era

Things have changed. In some cases they’ve changed a lot and may never be the same again. Many people are suffering as a result of the impacts of lockdowns and the border closures. Some people are being forced to re-invent their lives as a result. Here are some of the main things we believe have changed since January this year.

Face Masks

The now every-present face mask is now with us for a long time. In Asia, it was never uncommon to see people wearing face masks, for traffic, air pollution, fears of disease or just to a fashion statement.

In the Covid-era, mask wearing will now just become a normal thing we wear when in public spaces. Even when the government relaxes the actual laws about the wearing of face masks, most people, we predict, will continue to wear them anyway.

Taking Your Temperature

It’s everywhere, it doesn’t appear to be very effective or reliable, but it’s not uncommon to have your temperature taken by someone pointing a gun-thing at your head, numerous times a day. The only people to have benefitted from these temperature checks are the manufacturers of infra-red temperature check machines.

Flying in the Covid-era

While the domestic carriers are all flying again, they’re doing it tough. Planes are sometimes half-empty and there’s certainly less choice of times and destinations, compared to before the Covid travel restrictions set in.

But it hasn’t stopped the budget airlines from making the situation extremely competitive with the fares still very low. The aviation industry will certainly re-emerge with fewer airlines as some will be unable to weather the Covid storm.

Confidence

Many business had to close during the lockdown. Some have re-opened, some tried to re-open but have since closed again, and some are struggling along as best they can. But people, through fear or simply being unable to afford it, are going out and spending less. The impacts of recessions across the reason will have long-lasting, profound effects on consumer confidence.

Eating Out

There’s been few clear winners in all this Covid mess. Delivery companies are just one of them, and the local motorcade delivery services in particular. Grab Food and Food Panda are just two examples of the new way we eat and many restaurants are changing their table service model, and even their take away services, to suit the new normal of food on demand. Some restaurants have even closed their doors forever and turned into virtual restaurants, delivering food exclusively through the convenience of app ordering and delivery.

The Travel Industry

Apart from the obvious lack of international tourism, there’s no doubt we’re simply going to be travelling less in the short to medium term. Many people will be unable to afford the long holidays of the pastand may travel less, or not at all.

For the communities that relied on tourism, the changes in their situation has been profound. Businesses are having to reinvent their model to cater for domestic tourism or simply find other ways to diversify their business plan, or just wait out the situation.

The Economy

Thailand is in recession. So is everywhere else, and the situation, sadly, is likely to get worse as the Covid-era stretches out and restrictions hold back investment. Some previously good businesses are now out of business. Businesses that were struggling before have been proven unsustainable.

Globally, the government stimulus poured into local economies has caused artificial spikes in some stock markets. In other countries, where the government paid salaries for companies that were forced to close up or sack staff, are finding it hard to ween people off the grants and get them back to work.

In Thailand the economy has been hit hard, particularly in the export , tourism and hospitality industries. The downstream effects of all the staff losing their work, will have an effect on the local economy for many years.

Shell shock

Thailand, reliant on international tourism, has found itself exposed once the borders were closed. As the situation extends way past the ‘few months’ people were expecting, the full impact is starting to hit hard, particularly in places like Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Their reliance on tourism has exposed their economies and left thousands wondering what else they can do to sustain themselves.

Whilst Thailand has recovered quickly from past political unrest, tsunamis and past pandemic threats, this time there will be a much longer path to recovery and will force many businesses to re-evaluate their businesses.

The red light industries

The reality has certainly hit home for tens of thousands of Thailand’s sex workers. Although not officially recognised in Thailand, prostitution has been a huge local industry in the past, creating an enormous underground market for locals and international tourists as well.

Without official government acknowledgment, their jobs are not recognised and their salaries vanish once the bars and borders close. No rights, no unemployment pay. The number of prostitutes in Thailand could be upwards of 100,000, and these workers have had to head home, many back to the northern and north east provinces. Thailand’s red light districts were locked down for almost 3 months and bars and clubs, and the bar girls and boys, have been struggling ever since.

The pause button

There are few people that have not been profoundly affected by the impact of the coronavirus. Whilst some have been confronted directly with health issues, and even the deaths caused by Covid-19, of friends or relatives, others have had to put their lives and businesses on hold.

People have been unable to travel, business doors have been closed, many people have lost their job and thousands of events have had to be cancelled or postponed.

Even though many parts of the economy are being to grind back into action, there will be a lingering hang-over for just about everyone as they re-orient their lives to suit the new situation.

In some cases, the pause button may have to be hit again, as the world continues to battle Covid-19, and find new ways to live with it.

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Tourism

Riding and renting a motorbike in Thailand | Top 10 tips | VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Riding and renting a motorbike in Thailand | Top 10 tips | VIDEO | The Thaiger

Motorbikes and scooters are the most popular mode of transport in Thailand, and most of south east Asia. In many cases, they’re the ‘engine’ for the local economies. Most of them just go and go and go, they’re astonishingly reliable. Getting around on a motorbike is easy enough and will get you to your destination faster, whilst the cars and trucks are plodding along in the traffic.

But riding a motorbike in Thailand can also be very dangerous. If you stick to the common sense basics – ride within the speed limits, wear a bike helmet, obey the traffic rules and don’t drink and drive – it remains a perfectly reliable way to get around.

Here’s our Top Ten tips to make your journey on the motorbike safer, and, more comfortable.

Number 1. Wear appropriate clothes. Falling off a motorbike without anything covering your knees or elbows, is going to be painful enough – having at least some fabric between you and the road is going to reduce the painful grazes a bit. Long pants and a long shirt are a good start. Always wear shoes for the same reason. And a motorbike helmet as well – it’s the law and it could save your life.

Number 2. Keep your bike in good condition. As hardy and reliable as the modern motorbikes are, they will run better and for longer if you keep up the service schedule, and change the oil around once a month. Apart from changing the engine oil, keep an eye on the tyres as the road surfaces in much of Thailand, plus the heat and humidity, will wear down your tread quickly. Your brakes will also need checking. Then there’s the lights at the front and back, which are your best way to inform other driver’s what you’re doing in the traffic. Indicators may not be used much by the locals, but YOU should.

Number 3. Make sure you have a proper license. Your car license in your home country isn’t legal in Thailand to ride a motorbike. Your International Drivers License for cars, issued in your home country isn’t going to cut it either. Legally, the only document that will satisfy the Thai legal system, officially, is a Thai motorcycle license. Keep this in mind if you want to rent a motorbike! If you live in Thailand you simply must get a proper motorbike drivers license of you want to ride a motorbike here. And whilst we’re talking about a Thai Motorbike License, we’re talking about the ones you get from the Land Transport Offices, not along Khao San road for 500 baht!

Number 4. Check your travel and health insurance. Every week The Thaiger hears from tourists stuck in a Thai hospital with mounting hospital bills and an insurance company that won’t pay out because they didn’t have a proper drivers license. Or no insurance at all. And even if you have travel or health insurance, check the fine print because most insurance contracts don’t include driving on motorbikes in Thailand.

Number 5. Driving is different in Thailand. Many of the rules are the same as countries that also drive on the left-hand side of the road. But it is a totally different vibe. Apart from the lunatics that drive too fast, drink-drive or ghost ride…. That’s driving against the flow of traffic on the wrong side of the road…. there’s just a different attitude to driving. It’s a bit like swimming with a school of fish… if you just go-with-the-flow, and keep in the stream of traffic, you’ll generally do well. Be extra careful and mindful if you’re not used to the flow of Thai traffic. Number

Number 6. Green lights mean GO. Red lights also mean GO…. sometimes. You’ll see what we mean. Don’t even think about trying it. You’ll either end up fined, or dead.

Number 7. Have a practice. If you’re either new to driving a motorbike or new to driving a motorbike in Thailand don’t thrust yourself into a busy stretch of road immediately. Try something a little calmer and slower to get a feel of the subtle differences in Thai traffic movement. You’re sharing the road with trucks, cars, buses and passenger vans.

You’re meant to stay on the left hand side and you’d be well advised to do so, despite the behaviour of some Thai motorbike drivers that want to mix it with the ‘big boys’. Get some confidence with your motorbike and way it handles, and moving in and around traffic on a quiet road before you tackle the main roads.

Number 8. There’s pot holes, then there’s POT HOLES. The roads around Thailand have really improved in the past decade but you’ll still find pot holes in places there wasn’t one the day before. If you want a really good reason for giving plenty of distance between you and the car in front, it’s to see the pot hole before you end up IN it. Whilst car tyres might glide over these holes in the road, your motorbike is likely to come to an abrupt halt, with you continuing over the front of the handlebars – something to do with Newton’s first law of motion.

Number 9. If you’re not sure, don’t. Never ridden a motorbike? Didn’t ride a motorbike in your own country? There’s two good reasons not to try it for your first time in Thailand.

It can be a bit of a challenge for even experienced motorbike drivers, well different anyway. There’s plenty of other ways to get around and if you want THAT selfie for your Facebook page there’s thousands of bikes parked by the side of the road where you can get a photo. Just because your friends did it when they travelled to Thailand doesn’t mean you have to.

Number 10. Police will often arbitrate on the spot at an accident. If you are in the wrong and damaged someone or someone else’s bike you’re probably going to have to pay up. Now, there’s the ‘official’ way to sort things out in these case and the ‘unofficial’.

The policemen will get to the scene soon enough and, often, decide there and then who was at fault. They’ll often negotiate how much should be paid as well. The urban myth is that Thai police always side with the the locals – that’s not the case although, if you are indeed in the wrong then you’re IN THE WRONG!

If you are concerned that you’re being rolled by the locals in sorting out a simple motorbike accident then call the Tourist Police or your consulate immediately. DON’T agree to pay any money to anyone until you’ve spoken to at least the Tourist Police.
Getting into an argument with the local police will almost certainly guarantee you’ll come off second best. Demanding that you speak to the police chief, etc, will also usually end up in the situation not going well in your favour. Be patient and don’t lose your cool. You are in a foreign country, you’re a guest and they do things differently – end of sentence.

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Bangkok

Khao San Road to reopen for Halloween

Caitlin Ashworth

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Khao San Road to reopen for Halloween | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook: The Club Khaosan

The party is coming back to Khao San Road this Halloween. The once booming backpacker district went through a renovation during the lockdown period and now the Bangkok governor says they’re ready to reopen the street.

Khao San Road has long been a district frequented by foreign backpackers. It’s known for it’s grungy and lively bar scene as well as its eccentric mix of street food, like scorpion on a stick. During the lockdown, 48.4 million baht was put into the streets for major renovations like leveling out the road and footpaths, adding some gutters and designating space for emergency vehicles.

Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang says a Khao San Road Halloween party to help stimulate travel. There was talk about removing street vendors from Khao San Road, but the idea got a lot of backlash. Luckily, street food will stay put and 240 food vendors will be set up along the street from 9am to midnight for the Halloween weekend.

Khao San Road will also run a street market and set a stage for performances on the November 28 and 29 as well as News Years weekend, according to Nation Thailand.

Aswin says events are also planned for Loy Krathong and New Years. The area around the street was so packed during last year’s New Years, that streets and alleyways were more like mosh pits. Phones were stolen, fights broke out. It was a mess.

Loy Krathong happens every year on the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar. People make offerings for the water goddess and ask for forgiveness. A krathong is usually made of banana stems, leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks. It’s then floated down a river.

Khao San Road isn’t known as a place where people ask for forgiveness, but apparently Loy Krathong will be celebrated along with other cultural events, according to Coconuts Bangkok. Loy Krathong happens to fall on Halloween this year.

SOURCES: Coconuts Bangkok | Nation Thailand | Bangkok Post

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