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Phuket Gardening: Stating the bleedin’ obvious

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gardening: Stating the bleedin’ obvious | The Thaiger

PHUKET: How often do we overlook the obvious? How many times have you gone shopping in Phuket City, or even to Bangkok, for an essential purchase, then discovered that you could have found exactly what you wanted just down the road? Maybe it’s just me.

I’ve even found myself deciding to take holidays outside my adopted home country of Thailand and spending a week or two elsewhere. The result is that I’m always rather glad to be home.

There are the odd frustrations here, but look at what we get in return. Sometimes that’s overlooked. I know I don’t have much to say about anything serious, but I do feel that I, like many others, take a lot of what we enjoy here on Phuket for granted; we overlook things that new visitors gawp at.

Case in point: I was coming home fairly late from an evening of imbibing, and as I was walking up my driveway I happened to look up into the sky before I turned on the light.

It was like a scene from a hackneyed ’30s black-and-white film – the sort of thing they put up at the end of the film with the words “The End” emblazoned across the middle, in case you weren’t sure.

The coconut palm next door looked as it had never before. I had walked past this particular tree daily without giving it a second thought. It was stunning. Even in my somewhat inebriated state, I went into the house and fetched my camera.

Given the limitations of my point-and-press camera, I had no idea how the pictures would come out, but come out they did. The photograph here isn’t exactly the typical result of a lads’ night out. The other, somewhat brighter picture is exactly the same tree the following morning, after I’d sobered up.

Everyone reading this is presumably either a current or past visitor to Phuket, or is resident here now. Everywhere you go on the island, there is one common feature, something so common that sometimes we don’t see it – the palm tree. If you were asked to name something which represents the island, this could well be it.

Somehow, we seem to ignore them though – there are just so many. There are certainly plenty of varieties – from the inevitable coconut palms which gracefully arch over our numerous beaches, to the majestic Royal Palm, which prevails alongside the roads of Phuket.

The coconut palm shouldn’t be thought of as just another beach bum, though. These things will grow wherever you tell them to on this island. If you find a coconut lying around that has a green shoot poking out of it, stick it in the ground with the shoot pointing up, water it and wait a few weeks. A coconut tree will rise up before your eyes. That’s it. Can gardening get any easier than that?

The Royal Palm is also one of the easier palms to grow, either in the ground or in pots. If you do decide on the potted version, make sure that it’s the biggest pot you can possibly find. I once had a palm that I had to re-pot three times, due to the number of pots that were destroyed by the tree bursting them from the inside.

The last pot was so big it had to be ordered from Bangkok, and took three people to put it in place. Several strong lads were required to lift the tree itself from its shattered former home into its new spot. It actually took a crane to transfer it to its final home, as I gave up on the pot idea and went for terra firma. It’s still there to this day.

There are dozens of other palm species that thrive here. A favorite with the older generation is the betel nut palm, the fruit of which has a mildly narcotic effect. If you’ve ever seen an older Thai lady with a huge, red-toothed grin, this could well be the reason. Nowadays, betelnut chewing isn’t as popular as it used to be, but the tree is still often planted because it grows so quickly.

Many owners of larger gardens favor the oil palm, which is grown commercially in huge plantations for the oil that comes from its fruit. This tree is massive, and not exactly the ideal candidate for the average balcony. A more suitable addition to a small terrace or similar spot would be the Golden Cane Palm.

This is the one that is usually seen in pots, two to three meters tall, multi-tufted in appearance with yellow-green leaves. It’s an ideal big tree for a less-than-motivated gardener, as it’s very forgiving and requires little work – just a little water every now and then.

Palms are pretty obvious on Phuket, but we do seem to overlook them. They’re not the most difficult things in the world to cultivate. Let’s just hope that not everyone needs to be in a drunken haze to appreciate them.

— Blooming Bert

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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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Thai Life

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers

The Thaiger

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Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Daily News

The answers are in the banana leaves.

Thai people LOVE playing the lottery (and gambling generally). In fact they’re BANANAS about the twice-monthly lottery (it was drawn again today). Daily News has reported about two unusual banana trees growing in front of a shop in Klong 4 Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok. The trees did not have blossom and on one plant two bananas were pointing skywards. On another there was a whole bunch pointing up into the sky.

There was a steady stream of the faithful lighting incense, praying and rubbing powder on the trees to get lottery numbers. One group thought ‘542’ was the magic numbers and a path to riches (we’re not sure how they came to this conclusion). 53 year old Surachai says the trees had been growing for a few months and that he’d never seen anything like it before.

An unnamed agricultural expert suggested that there was probably something wrong with the banana plants. Trees and malformed animals are a favourite source of inspiration to select numbers for the lottery, as are numbers of houses and vehicles involved in events where people experience “miracle” escapes from danger, or even bizarre accidents.

SOURCE: Daily News

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger

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Entertainment

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival

The Thaiger

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The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | The Thaiger

On the streets, in parks and garages, seven Cuban youngsters spent seven months practising K-pop moves to secure a spot on their dream stage: an appearance in South Korea to imitate their idols. 13 final teams from 80 countries are competing in the 2019 event.

At the grandly titled and government-funded Changwon K-pop World Festival contestants from around the globe perform imitation dances or sing cover versions of the genre’s biggest hits, with thousands of fans cheering them on.

In terms of global heft, South Korea is overshadowed by its much larger neighbours China and Japan, but the event is a way for Seoul to derive soft power from one of the country’s biggest cultural exports. In terms of pop-power, South Korea’s K-Pop is now a recognised world-wide music phenomenon with bands like BTS and Blackpink figuring amongst the other big-hitters on the Billboard charts and outselling their western counterparts with millions of albums and downloads.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Finalists for this year

Cuba’s Communist government is one of North Korea’s few remaining allies: when President Miguel Diaz-Canel, successor to the Castro brothers Fidel and Raul, visited Pyongyang last November he was only the third foreign head of state to do so since leader Kim Jong Un inherited power in 2011.

But rather than geopolitics, Havana performer Karel Rodriguez Diaz – whose mannerisms and sleek hairstyle could easily be mistaken for those of a K-pop star – is more motivated by high-tempo beats and superslick dance moves.

“We never had a place with a mirror or a choreographer who could teach us the steps” but they kept on practising, he said.

His team-mate Elio Gonzalez added: “We are so excited to represent not just Cuba but also the whole of Latin America.”

Some 6,400 teams from more than 80 countries entered the competition, according to organisers, with 13 groups from places as diverse as Kuwait and Madagascar winning through to the final in Changwon, where they appeared on stage waving their national flags.

“This is like watching the Olympics, a K-pop Olympics,” said the event’s host Lia, a member of K-pop group ITZY.

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

The Korean Wave

K-pop – along with K-drama soap operas – has been one of South Korea’s most successful cultural exports to date. A key part of the “Korean Wave” which has swept Asia and beyond in the last 20 years, the K-pop industry is now estimated to be worth $5 billion, with boyband BTS its latest high-profile exponent, becoming the world’s most successful band in the past 12 months, selling out stadium concerts within minutes, around the world.

The South Korean government has financed a variety of K-pop themed events in what CedarBough Saeji, a visiting professor at Indiana University Bloomington in the US, said was a form of long-term “soft power diplomacy”.

“When you are covering you get to ‘become’ those idols for the three and a half minutes of the song,” she said, adding that performers will go so far as matching their clothing, accessories and hairstyle to their heroes and heroines.

“The cover dancers of today will be diplomats, news reporters, and business leaders in forty years,” she went on.

“And hopefully they’ll still have a soft spot in their heart for Korea. Korea can’t win the world through hard power – armies, economic bullying – but with soft power even a small country like Korea has a chance.”

The music also provides an artistic alternative for overseas fans, especially those in developing countries, Saeji added.

“The West, especially the United States, has been so dominant culturally for so long, and having a different cultural pole to look to provides hope that one’s own country can experience similar success in the future.”

The K-pop Olympics: performers battle in the K-pop festival | News by The Thaiger

Be who you want

Beneath its glitz and glamour, the K-pop industry is also known for its cutthroat competition, a lack of privacy, online bullying and relentless public pressure to maintain a wholesome image at all times and at any cost.

Sulli, a popular K-pop star and former child actress who had long been the target of abusive online comments was found dead on Monday, with her death sending shockwaves through fans around the world.

“I think a day where (people) would be ashamed of the K-show business will surely come,” a South Korean online user wrote in the wake of the star’s death.

“I think an industry that makes money by (making people) sing, dance, undergo plastic surgeries and go on a diet to please the gaze of others since they are teenagers should really go bankcrupt.”

But for Kenny Pham, a finalist from the US at last week’s contest, K-pop’s diversity – with some tunes having dark themes, while others were “cute” or sensual – is what gives him a sense of liberation.

“I like how expressive you could be,” the 19 year old told AFP last week.

“I feel like it’s a place where you could show the passion you have for music, dance or fashion. No one is bashing you for what your likes are.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Business

Singha grabs a 90% stake in Thailand’s Santa Fe restaurant chain

May Taylor

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Singha grabs a 90% stake in Thailand’s Santa Fe restaurant chain | The Thaiger

(…or is that a 90% ‘steak’?)

PHOTOS: Wongnai

DealStreetAsia, an investor news site reporting on Asian business, confirms that Singha Corporation has purchased a majority stake in the Thai restaurant chain, Santa Fe. It’s understood that Singha purchased the shares held by Lakeshore Capital for approximately US$50 million or 1.53 billion baht, giving it a 90% stake in the chain seen in most Thai shopping centres.

The Nation reports that Singha will now oversee over 110 restaurants across Thailand in one of the country’s biggest food industry deals of the year. The company first turned its attention to the food industry two years ago, launching Food Factors Company under the Boon Rawd Brewery group.

WongnaiFood Factors aims to make 5 billion baht over 3 years under the stewardship of Piti Bhirombhakdi. The company has an ambitious long-term target of 10 billion baht a year, along with plans to be listed on the stock exchange.

The Santa Fe chain was established in 2003 by Surachai Charn-Anudet’s KT Restaurant Company, with the aim of becoming a major competitor to Sizzler, the American chain brought to Thailand by Minor Food.

SOURCE: The Nation

Singha grabs a 90% stake in Thailand's Santa Fe restaurant chain | News by The Thaiger

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