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Phuket Gardening: From fetid to fragrant

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gardening: From fetid to fragrant | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Shakespeare’s father, John, was fined for digging a “midden” in front of his neighbor’s house. Very unneighborly. Today the word has almost vanished from the English language as modern sanitation systems have replaced the foul cesspits of yesteryear.

But make no mistake, a “midden” is neither pleasant to behold nor smell. Originally a hole in the ground, a dump for household refuse, shells or more likely human feces, the advent of rudimentary plumbing later meant that sewage could flow fitfully down a barely hidden pipe and discharge its fetid effluent in the surrounding soil – away from the house. That arrangement would have allowed Mr Shakespeare to get away with it.

Of course, “middens” are still part and parcel of life in Third World slums, but I was unprepared for one in the middle of an “expat’s” garden here in Phuket. After all, we supposedly live in a world where septic tanks or communal waste water systems are the norm. You would be surprised … there are lots of these cesspits on this paradisal island. And the danger to underground water tables that supply our wells is a very real one.

Raw sewage, like fresh manure, is hostile to plant growth. It is estimated that one gram of human feces contains one trillion bacteria.

But once microorganisms start to degrade and break down this material into less complex compounds, things start to improve. This process is aided by contact with soil; this filters out many pathogens.

Once health hazards diminish, the stench from the midden disappears, and sturdy plants can begin to colonize its borders.

The roots of these plants in turn absorb many toxic elements. Happily, our “expat” friend had done his level best to minimize the impact of this “midden” by planting herbs and especially basil around its edges.

Herbs are part and parcel of any and every Thai garden. They are one of the first things to be planted – as essential to Thai cooking as turmeric is to Spanish paella, garlic to Provençale aioli, or nutmeg to English rice pudding. The only decision is where to grow them – assuming you have a typical garden.

One school of thought favors a kitchen garden or herbarium where all your herbs can flourish together in neat rows.

Unarguably, this is a highly convenient arrangement. However, it has one key drawback, namely that herbs don’t all enjoy the same conditions.

Pepper, for example, does best in shady, moist conditions whereas chili needs plenty of sun to crop heavily. Lemon grass enjoys a dry environment, ginger plenty of water.

My “horses for courses” view takes account of these different cultural requirements, with my herbs dotted around the garden in company with their flowering fellows. In this way, you can select a suitably marshy spot for your ginger, or a dryer one for your lemon grass.

Basil, as my friend’s efforts attest, can be put anywhere. In fact, it may well take the prize for being the easiest of all herbs to grow. It crops up, unannounced in my scruffy lawn, and takes uncomplainingly to life in pots. Ocimum basilicum is an unobtrusive star.

Known as bai horapa in Thailand, it has intensely aromatic, dark green leaves and purplish stems and flower heads. There are other varieties: holy basil (gapow) has narrower leaves and needs to be cooked to release its full panoply of aromas. Lemon basil (bai manglak), which exudes the delicious scent of lemons, has pale green, slightly hairy foliage and generally makes a smaller plant.

All these varieties are both easy to grow and to propagate from cuttings. Simply put some stems in moist soil and within days they will have taken root. After all, if they can put up with a “midden”, they are unlikely to be fazed by much….

Tip of the week: Mulching

IT IS almost two years since we talked in these columns about mulching. Very relevant in today’s rainless conditions when the soil is in danger of drying out completely.

Mulching is the use of material to cover soil surfaces such as flower beds. Spread evenly up to a depth of two inches to allow some air and water through.

The process provides insulation from the full glare of the sun, prevents erosion in downpours, helps the retention of moisture in the earth, and inhibits weed growth.

The best mulches are organic: for example, coconut fiber or coir dust ( the cheapest, and readily available), compost, or shredded bark. Not dead leaves though, which in this climate are rarely utilized by earthworms to create humus.

Moreover, they may harbor disease. Better to use them in a compost heap where the heat will destroy potentially harmful bacteria.

If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured, you can email the author here.

Keep checking our online Phuket Lifestyle pages or join our Facebook fan page for regular gardening features and tips.

— 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.

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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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