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Phuket Lifestyle: From Phuket teacher to London 2012

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Lifestyle: From Phuket teacher to London 2012 | The Thaiger

PHUKET: English judo competitor Sophie Cox has five weeks left until her fight to become Olympic champ – seven years after retiring to Phuket to become a teacher.

Sophie,30, broke the news of her Team GB selection as the under 52-kilogram competitor on Twitter recently, with her official team selection announced by the British Olympic Association on June 16.

She has made a comeback few would have thought possible and praises Phuket for helping her do it.

The two-time European silver medalist competed at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She took up the unforgiving one-on-one martial art when she was six years old and was the British judo champion at the age of 16.

But in 2004 she said farewell to the sport, aged 23.

“I was at the point where I didn’t connect with the sport. I felt like I hadn’t achieved my full potential, but I needed a new challenge,” she recalls, speaking to the Gazette via webcam from her training camp in Seoul, South Korea last week.

She moved to Phuket in 2005 with her partner looking for adventure and a “new challenge”.

Sophie’s first “proper job” was a real challenge – teaching in kindergarten.

“It was very tough. It was a massive learning curve but was very rewarding.”

Sophie then got a job at Chalerm-prakiat School in Phuket Town where she taught for a year-and-a-half.

“I was teaching English, but I was also appointed PE teacher. This was great. I was allowed to teach judo and bought mats for the kids.”

Sophie said teaching the children reignited her passion for the sport. She spent her free time keeping fit, making friends and travelling around Thailand. She also started intense Muay Thai training sessions.

“Training Muay Thai definately helped me as an athlete,” she recalls.

“Without even meaning to, my hand speed – a vital skill in judo – increased by training in Muay Thai.”

Sophie also took yoga and holistic therapy classes, learning how to balance her physical and mental health.

“Today, as an older athlete, it is important that I feel good about myself mentally and physically. My work, training and life in Phuket made me more aware of how my body and mind work. This is unique to me – an edge I feel I have over my competitors.”

Sophie continued to teach judo and impart her skills to students at the British International School Phuket and at evening classes at a center in Phuket Town before she landed a job at Phuket International Academy in 2009.

“All of my jobs in Phuket took me out my comfort zone. Judo is natural to me. Even fighting on the big stage – it’s what I know. Teaching in Thailand took me out of that zone and threw new life challenges at me.”

On a sunny Phuket morning in April 2010, as Sophie pinned photos of herself at the Olympics to a board as part of an “Olympic Day” at her school, she felt a pang of nostalgia.

As she looked at the photographs of her former self competing at the highest level of her sport, she made a decision: “I’m going to compete again.”

A few weeks later she got her chance. A 12-hour bus journey to Bangkok and three fights later at the Thailand National Open and Sophie had a gold medal in-hand.

Sophie called her coach back in England, to see if he was interested in coaching her again.

“Come back. You still have time for the London 2012,” he said.

Sophie made the decision to leave her school, her friends and her life in Phuket and arrived back in England in June 2010.

“I just wanted to train again. I thought I had an outside chance of making it to London 2012.”

Sophie moved in with her parents in Manchester, started training daily with her coach and living off her savings.

Her hard work paid off. Just one month later she competed as an independent competitor in Germany to win bronze.

“The British team was also there and at that point there were no strong competitors at the under-52kg weight level.”

“After winning bronze, people took notice. I was asked to compete again for Britain.”

Three weeks later Sophie competed at the World Championships in Tokyo.

“I didn’t get anywhere. I lost my second fight, but just to have the opportunity to compete on the world stage was a huge boost.”

And Sophie took advantage of her team re-call, winning six medals in 2011, including a bronze at the GB World Cup in Birmingham and at the Olympic test event in London.

“After that Team GB asked me to relocate to London in preparation for London 2012.”

“It all happened so fast. I rented a flat with another girl about five minutes’ drive from the training center and then I was back in the routine: eating, sleeping, training and all over again.”

Sophie said the past six months have been exhausting but exhilarating.

“There’s not much space for anything else. I’ve travelled around the world. I must have been on 50 flights, including a quick trip back to Phuket to see friends in November last year.”

Sophie currently trains seven days a week, with intense strength, conditioning and flexibility sessions. She also meets weekly with a nutritionist, psychologist and has regular video analysis seminars as part of her training.

Most days she’s up at 7.30am, out running and then eating porridge for breakfast, and maintaining a strict diet of vegetables, lean proteins and trying to keep her weight at under 52kg – no easy feat as her “natural weight” is 55kg.

“Every now and then I get an ice cream or a fry up, but not often.”

“I miss the fresh fruit of Phuket, and vendors who slice your fruit for you ready to eat. Here I have to cut fruit myself – I hate that,” Sophie jokes.

Despite the rigorous training, Sophie has one goal in mind – winning gold at London 2012.

“Anyone who steps on that mat in front me is another body I have to get out the way. I know on my day I can beat anyone in my weight in the world.”

Sophie said that a lot will depend on what happens at the games as to what she will do in the future.

“I’m in love with the sport again. In the future I would love to coach, especially children. I want to give something back. That’s my goal.

— Fraser Morton

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Thai Life

Finance Ministry wants to give 1,500 baht to each domestic traveller

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Finance Ministry wants to give 1,500 baht to each domestic traveller | The Thaiger

The Finance Ministry says they are launching a new stimulus package to boost the country’s domestic tourism by giving Thais 1,500 baht each to spend when they travel to 55 provinces under the promotion campaign.

Under the campaign, Thais aged 18 and over can register for the program. The government will then deposit 1,500 baht into their accounts though the e-payment system. They can use the funds to make e-payments the shops that have joined the project.

“We are collaborating with the Tourism and Sport Ministry and Krung Thai Bank for the campaign and have set a budget of up to 15 billion baht. We will now propose the program to the deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak and the cabinet to consider as soon as possible. We aim to launch the campaign before July this year,” a source from the Finance Ministry said.

The ministry expects up to 10 million Thais to register for the program, he added.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Bangkok

Bangkok named most popular city for Japanese tourists

The Thaiger

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Bangkok named most popular city for Japanese tourists | The Thaiger

Thai PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha says he was happy after hearing that Bangkok was named the most popular destination for Japanese tourists during their Golden Week, a five-day long holiday which begins in late April.

The survey was conducted by Agoda, the online booking platform. Pattaya and Phuket were also ranked among the most popular destinations at #4 and #10 respectively.

“Japanese tourists are among the top 5 nationalities of foreign tourists visiting Thailand, particularly Bangkok where there are many beautiful attractions, delicious food, not-too-high cost of living, and friendly Thai people. The two countries’s cultures are also quite similar. They can go along quite well,” said a spokesperson for the PM.

Lt Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak, the deputy spokesman of the Thai government, added that the PM loves to follow the updates on the tourism industry. Thai tourists love to escape the summer heat in Thailand, and visit Japan to experience the Japanese spring, visit popular tourist locations, sample authentic Japanese food and the Japanese people. The PM also invited the Thai people to be a good hosts, making all tourists feel welcome and helping keep them safe.

SOURCE: National News Bureau of Thailand

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Bangkok

Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling

Bill Barnett

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Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling | The Thaiger

by Bill Barnett of c9hotelworks.com

PHOTOS: Rosewood Bangkok

For hotel owners and managers in South East Asia, one of the great mysteries of the past ten years has been the low rate profile of Bangkok’s luxury hotel set. Despite soaring and sustained tourism growth, rising airlift and a strong economy, rates at Bangkok’s top tier properties have remained fairly stagnant.

Have we reached the tipping point?

I had had the opportunity to visit the latest entry to the Bangkok luxury class a few days ago, the Rosewood. With 159 keys which includes a limited number of posh houses with private pools and terraces the property is seeing an exceptional response and already achieving high rates.

What’s impressive about the entry is a take on the design approach that sees hotel developers apply a non-uniform approach with AvroKO coming in to focus on the restaurants and bars, while the rooms and public areas were led by Celia Chu Design and Associates.

While the speakeasy Lennon’s has not be opened yet, the 6,000 record vinyl collection is impressive and the bar will clearly have a strong pull. Taking the approach to designing restaurants and not typical hotel outlets, the Chinese eatery Nan Bei is a breath of fresh air and limited seating provides a bespoke appeal.

Taking a step back, and looking at recent entries like the Waldorf Astoria, and upcoming 101 key Capella, what is clear is luxury properties are shifting in terms of key drivers of the segment of art, fashion, residential vibe, bar and restaurant offerings, wellness and events.

So, what about rates?

On a broad basis Bangkok’s top tier hotels have averaged rates of US$200-240 for the past few years. This set has seen longer serving properties such as the St. Regis, Kempinski, and Okura effectively flatline on rates, though newer entries have come up including the Park Hyatt. On the broader horizon is the return of the Four Seasons and Capella by the river and the Orient Express at the MahaNakhon skyscraper.

With the entry of Rosewood driving rates, my expectation is that a few of the set will follow and at the end of 2019 we will set limited number of hotels crash through the US$300 average room rate barrier and effectively smash the legacy glass ceiling of Bangkok’s luxury hotels.

As in any business there will be winners and losers. Smaller hotels with some rate leading premium key types will be able to push up average daily rates. Segmentation is another key and hotels on the river that lack substantial corporate numbers will remain challenged until transport links to the area improve.

Where in the world are Bangkok luxury hotels heading?

To sum up 2019, size and location matter, the shift on food and beverage and social events along with niches like wellness and  smaller meetings/weddings are the key to the future. As for the quantum leap in rates, it’s about time Bangkok hoteliers be confident and push rates towards a more global norm.

Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling | News by The Thaiger

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