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Phuket Gardening: Egging you on… eggplants and aubergines

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gardening: Egging you on… eggplants and aubergines | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: We expats think we are familiar with aubergines. You know, the large glossy purple ones which look for all the world as though they have been coated with varnish.

But Thailand has so many more varieties, collectively called brinjal, all of them edible and all capable of being cultivated in your kitchen garden.

But let’s start with what we know. The purple aubergine (Solalum melongena) is a herbaceous, perennial bush which produces dense, hard fruits, each of which contain a number of round, flat seeds.

The bush grows, as do all eggplants, almost anywhere, and crops up in unexpected places. To grow your own, simply sow the seeds in pots and within a few days you will have plants ready for transfer to open ground. Another advantage: the purple eggplant is productive all year round.

The only real downside is the plant’s susceptibility to attack from a range of beetles and aphids, and a fungal disease called verticillium. For this reason, it should be planted in ground not previously occupied by other solanaceous species such as tomatoes, peppers or other aubergines.

Although the raw fruit is somewhat bitter, the cooked version is bland in flavor, and is better employed as an addition to other ingredients – in Greek moussaka for example or French ratatouille. Here in Thailand, it is fried with fermented soybean or egg yolk, sometimes hollowed out and stuffed, or added to a soup called ma kheua.

Unlike the pumpkin (click here) and roselle (click here) of recent note, it is not especially rich in nutrients, though it is a useful source of phosphorus and magnesium, and does contain some vitamin B.

If you have already used it in culinary dishes, you will know that the flesh has peculiar properties: one, fried, it can absorb huge amounts of fat or oil: two, it needs to cooked quickly once it is cut open since the flesh oxidizes and quickly turns brown. Moreover, it is one of the very few plants to contain nicotine, though in such small quantities as to be harmless.

If you asked a Thai for his favorite aubergine, he would probably opt for brinjal, another bushy variety which produces smallish (3-4cm) round fruits. As with the purple eggplant, it has pointed sepals at the top of each one. The fruits, normally eaten when unripe and often raw, are green with streaks of white. When mature, they turn yellow.

Although exaggerated claims are sometimes made for it as a health food, it does contain very high levels of anti-oxidants and is rich in vitamin B. Personally, I enjoy it in Thai green curry: without these brinjals, green curry does not taste as it should.

Equally easy to grow is a variety known in Thailand as ma khuea phuang. A small prickly, perennial bush with gray bark, the fruits of solanum torvum grow in clusters and are tiny, almost pea-like, with a very hard exterior.

Propagated, like its larger relatives, by distribution of the brown seeds, it is also eaten as a fresh vegetable, ground up in prik (Thai fiery pepper), or added to various curries. Endowed with massive amounts of vitamin A, ma khuea phuang has been used in folk medicine for eons, and is reputed to assist in the control of diabetes and to reduce high blood pressure.

Known elsewhere as turkey berry or Devil’s fig, the plant is very vigorous; its fruits easily and may reach three meters in height. A perennial, it normally lives for two years and is distributed in the wild by frugivorous (fruit-eating birds).

Here in Phuket, I have seen it thriving, self-sown, on recently disturbed land. The same can be said for ma eok, a species of sour-tasting aubergine with yellow fruit and hairy skin.

So you should have no trouble at all in cultivating these in your garden – and crunching a few turkey berries to keep that blood pressure under control.

— Patrick Campbell

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

Protests

K-Pop fans show their support for the young Thai protesters, donate 3 million+ baht

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K-Pop fans show their support for the young Thai protesters, donate 3 million+ baht | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Fan-funded 'happy birthday' signs around Thailand's BTS and MRT station

Art meets politics again, this time with hundreds of thousands of K-Pop fans raising funds in support of the growing student protest movement in Thailand. So far they’ve raised more than 3 million baht (as of 10am this morning) but the amount is rising quickly as Thai and overseas K-Pop fans respond. The most popular band in Thailand at the moment is BTS, the South Korean septet which is currently the most popular band in the world (as of today BTS commands the Number 1 and Number 2 positions on the US Billboard singles chart).

BTS fans have so far been the largest contributors donating funds to the protest cause.

The BTS Thailand page, not to be confused with the BTS Skytrain, is urging K-pop fans to stop the practice of paying for billboards in support of their favourite idols and to celebrate the birthdays of the 7 members. RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook issued a statement on their fanpage asking fans to stop funding the BTS and MRT “inconvenienced protesters and normal citizens from getting home and putting them in danger”.

Bangkok’s two main rail systems were closed down over the weekend as police and protesters played a cat and mouse game. The protesters were withholding the announcement of protest locations to the last minute whilst police second-guessed their moves, ending up in mass inconvenience for the wider public in shutting down the entire network, including the Airport link.

“We’re calling Armys and other fans to stop buying ad projects with the BTS and MRT.” (“Army” is the name of BTS fans.

Fans of K-pop groups as well as other “idol” groups often pool their resources to purchase display ads in the MRT and BTS stations wishing their stars happy birthday or on other significant anniversaries.

It’s thought that many more millions of baht will be raised by the K-Pop fans in the next few days.

The young Thai protesters are tapping into a strong social media network, and have “weaponised” the social media and messaging platforms. The main App they are now using, to communicate their intentions, is “Telegram”, developed by a young Russian couple but now operating out of Germany. The App features encypted messages, impossible to track, and has 400 million monthly active users.

Telegram is a cloud-based instant messaging, video telephony and voice over IP service with end-to-end encryption for secret chat only, whereas Cloud chat uses client-server/server-client encryption and its messages are stored encrypted in the Telegram Cloud – Wikipedia

Meanwhile, other K-Pop acts that have mobilised their fans win support include Girls’ Generation, GOT7, NCT, WannaOne, Nu’est, X1, Day 6, Red Velvet, MonstaC, Woodz, Shinee, Super Junior and R1se. We’re sure the fans of Black Pink are also contributing but didn’t have their figures available at the time of publishing. Fans of popular Thai actors and celebrities are also donating to the pool.

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Property

Thailand’s property market waits for an end to Covid-19

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Thailand’s property market waits for an end to Covid-19 | The Thaiger

The Coronavirus outbreak poses challenges for Thailand’s property market as potential Chinese condominium buyers remain stranded in China. Meanwhile, some believe that the outbreak may bring opportunities for non-Chinese buyers and in the long-run, the Chinese may be looking for an overseas refuge in the event of these types of emergencies popping up again

Through all this, there will be a certain level of pent up demand for Thai real estate.

Of course, it’s not just the Chinese unable to come and inspect potential buys, the rest of the world is also mostly shut out of Thailand.

Market remains weak

The pandemic is hurting the condominium market as Chinese nationals were accounting for half of the international buyers in Thailand, or 57.6% of the total foreign condo owners in 2018.

Vichai Viratkapan, acting director-general of the Real Estate Information Centre says that 50% of Chinese condo transfers are expected to disappear in the first 2 quarters of this year and the total transfer value by the Chinese will miss the mark of the usual 29 billion baht by about 25% (around 7 billion).

However, since Chinese property buyers only make up 6% of the total international and domestic housing transfers in Thailand, the proportion of total housing transfers in the country is likely to be similar to last year.

Developers looking to sell current stock whilst shelving new projects

CBRE reports that most Thai developers are postponing the launch of new condo projects to focus on clearing existing stock.

“Discounting completed projects to generate quick revenue as a financial lifeboat is the best solution for many of the country’s larger developers whilst the market is in limbo.”

Rathawat Kuvijitrsuwan, head of CBRE Research and Consulting in Thailand believes that, now business is gradually recovering, a few developers have started to launch new condominium projects.

“In the first half of 2020, the Bangkok condominium landscape was gloomy with fewer than 10,000 condominium units launched, which was much lower than the total number of new launches in the past three years of more than 60,000 condominium units per year.”

The Chinese are reluctant to complete transfers

The virus has continued to affect hospitality operators, including hotels and condominiums that service tourists, nationwide. Since China has suspended tours, put restrictions on movement, and locked down cities, home to over millions of people, it also poses a threat to real estate developers as their clients are unable or unwilling to fly.

“Currently multiple off-plan condominium developments are approaching completion, and Chinese clients are unable or unwilling to transfer. Chinese clients who made a reservation in Q4 2019 are requesting a refund and withholding their investment,” said Marciano Bijmohun, Business Development Director at FazWaz Property Group.

He believes every condominium that is in transfer status will see the percentage of non-transfer units rise in the coming months.

“These non-transfer units will cause a big financial hit to developers.”

If a client refuses to transfer, does not comply with the terms and conditions stipulated in the sales and purchase agreement, and decides to release the property, their deposits will be forfeited.

“However, there is some good news, these non-transferred units can be offered with a discount to new clients.”

Also, as China has been susceptible to a few disease outbreaks – from bird flu to the current coronavirus – it may prompt Chinese buyers to look for second homes outside of China.

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Tourism

Top 10 tips to avoid food poisoning in Thailand, and how to recover

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Top 10 tips to avoid food poisoning in Thailand, and how to recover | The Thaiger

NOTICE: The Thaiger are experienced travellers but we’re not doctors. This information is provided as a general guideline if you are confronted with food poisoning. In all cases consider seeking medical attention.

Travelling in foreign locations and trying out the local dishes will always risk a bout of the dreaded food poisoning – Bali belly, Thailand tummy. Thailand has some of the world’s tastiest food but also the potential to put you flat on your back for a few days.

Travelling around Thailand you face a double whammy of exotic new spices along with an equally exotic list of new microbes and bacteria working hard to make your day a bad one. One bit of bad luck and you’ll disrupt the delicate balance found within your digestive system.

Contaminated water? Spoiled meat? Food left out in the open for too long? Whilst the vast majority of Thai food, even the street food, is unlikely to upset your digestive system, the more adventurous your eating, the more likely you are to confront a bout of food poisoning along your journey.

It will start with stomach cramps, nausea and sweating. It will usually kick in in the first four hours after your meal, probably earlier. You’ll know it!

Projectile vomiting and diarrhea are usually the result and the next 10-12 hours of your life will be spent in close proximity to a toilet. You will feel like death-warmed-up… chills, cramps, maybe a fever and lots of sweating. But you WILL get over it.

Here is The Thaiger’s Top Ten ways to avoid, and recover from, a bout of food poisoning.

Top 10 tips to avoid food poisoning in Thailand, and how to recover | News by The Thaiger

Don’t get food poisoning!

The best way to avoid food poisoning, or its lesser partner traveller’s diarrhea, is to not get it in the first place. But even the most cautious tourist can consume something they think is safe… but isn’t.

Avoiding food poisoning is everyone’s obvious aim, but if it does happens it’s not the end of the world. But it is going to put a dent in your plans for a few days. Be cautious, read up about potential problems and turn you brain on before you go ‘full commando’ on food you’ve never experienced.

No fresh leafy greens

Unless you are absolutely sure they have been copiously washed with filtered water it is best to avoid eating anything in this category. Cooked greens are usually ok, especially in boiled soups. Try to also avoid raw unpeeled fruit or vegetables as well.

Salads in a street restaurant, somewhere off the beaten track? Probably not.

Street food

Street food, literally food you can buy on the kerbside or footpaths anywhere in Thailand, often looks and smells amazing, and is usually safe to eat. But avoid anything that looks like it’s been sitting around in the sun and humidity. Stick with bubbling boiling soups, freshly fried Pad Thai, and meat that has been grilled right in front of you.

Ice ice baby

The vast majority of restaurants and bars in tourist areas use ice that comes from frozen purified water and have it delivered daily. Off the beaten track it’s best to ask first if the ice (nam kang) is made from tap water or is fresh that day. When in doubt, leave it out – better a warm beer than half a day leaning over the toilet 🙂

Drinking water

It’s best to observe the golden rule about drinking water in Thailand – never drink the tap water. The down-side is that most of the potable water is going to come to you in a single-use plastic water bottle which we’re all trying to avoid these days. Most hotels, and some restaurants, will have drinking stations where you can top up your water safely.

Drinking water is very cheap in Thailand and is available everywhere, like EVERYWHERE!

All that said, we suspect that in places like Phuket, Chiang Mai, most of inner Bangkok, Pattaya and Hua Hin, the water out of the tap IS safe to drink these days. But don’t take our word for it! As a traveller, you need to err on the side of caution.

The Thaiger has lived in Thailand for a decade and brushes teeth and uses the local supply (in Phuket and Bangkok) and has never had any ‘tummy-rumbles’ from interacting with the local potable water supply. But that’s not a scientific study, just our own experience.

Leftovers

“Mmmm, that pizza was great last night. I’ll have the rest tomorrow.”

Maybe, but you need to refrigerate it before it gets cold and then eat it quickly the next day before it has time to ‘warm up’. If it’s more than a day old, throw it out or feed it to the dog or cat who have cast-iron stomachs compared to humans.

Ditto for any other leftover you think you’d like to save for the next day.

Top 10 tips to avoid food poisoning in Thailand, and how to recover | News by The Thaiger

Rehydration

If you are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting you need to make sure you rehydrate properly. If you are not doing a great job holding water in, go to the nearest pharmacy and pick up Oral Rehydration packets.

If you are suffering from food poisoning in Thailand you will do well to grab some of these packets. They should cost you no more than 5 baht. Use up to 5 a day.

Seek Medical Treatment

If it’s a mild case you are probably going to be able to self-medicate your way back to perfect health. If it’s serious and you’re just flat on your back (between rushing to the toilet) for more than a day, then you’d be advised to seek medical attention. If you have blood in your vomit or stools, or high fever lasting more than an hour or so, seek medical attention quickly.

Thai doctors usually go down the medication route whereas some western doctors would now specify a more natural approach to recovery. If you have medical and travel insurance (you’re insane travelling without both!), and are in places like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya, Samui, Hua Hin or Khon Kaen, then head to a private international hospital, rather than a local hospital.

There’s nothing really wrong with the local hospitals – you will be charged less but you will be charged – but you’re going to have to battle language barriers and waits at a time when you’re not really focussed on anything except how sick you feel.

A better choice would be a local clinic – Google is your best friend here or ask you hotel or someone with some local knowledge.

CAUTION: A lot of people use to take Loperamide aka. ‘Imodium’ when they had diarrhea in the past. Generally medical advice these days is NOT to take these drugs unless you consult a doctor first. Read more HERE.

Rest and time

Your body will use a lot of energy trying to evacuate whatever is making you sick. Sometimes you will wonder where everything coming out of you, is coming from! It’s just a never-ending source of hell. At some stage though it will calm down and your poor body will be exhausted. So rest.

Don’t be afraid to miss out on a couple of days of activities as a result – put your body and recovery ahead of anything. For now you need lots of sleep and rest.

Be a BRAT

For a few days stay off the exotic foods that put you here in the first place. Go bland, go BRAT. The BRAT diet is tried and tested and, whilst not very exciting, will hep the flora of your stomach recover quickly while getting enough nutrients to keep you going.

BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Yeah, bland indeed.

You can add to this fairly palette with other gentle foods… plain biscuits, oatmeal, weak tea, apple juice or flat carbonated drinks (just open them and let them sit for a few hours to lose their ‘fizz’), bland ‘broth’ soups, boiled potatoes.

Here are foods to avoid during your recovery… milk and dairy, anything fried, greasy, fatty, or spicy, steak, pork, salmon, and sardines, raw veggies, including salad greens, carrot sticks, broccoli, and cauliflower, fruits, such as pineapple, orange, grapefruit, apple, and tomato, very hot or cold drinks, alcohol, coffee, or other drinks containing caffeine. Or Thai food generally!

After a few days on BRAT you can start trying things like soft-cooked eggs, cooked fruits and vegetables, and white meat, like chicken or turkey.

Importantly, until your body has finished getting rid of ‘whatever is ailing you’, don’t eat anything. It will just end up, along with everything else, making a quick journey from one end of your body to the other.

Start drinking flat soda (lemonade) or carbonated drinks, or ‘Gatorade’-style electrolyte drinks (you can powders from any Pharmacy) as soon as you can to keep the body hydrated, even fresh coconut water, (although make sure it is fresh, otherwise you’re going to end up in the toilet).

Dehydration is a big problem following a bout of vomiting and diarrhea so focus on getting some fluids back into your system as soon as you can tolerate it.

Top 10 tips to avoid food poisoning in Thailand, and how to recover | News by The Thaiger

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