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Phuket Lifestyle: Wake up and drop in

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Lifestyle: Wake up and drop in | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: As the final hours of daylight waned in the sky, I pulled my rusty old BMW up to the ridge of a tin mine-turned-lake, home to Anthem Wake Park, across from Wat Manik in Cherng Talay.

Pausing but for a moment to study the deep blue water, the lake was both tranquil and alive.

However, this tranquil introduction was soon interrupted by a Japanese pro wakeboarder who attempted a massive aerial maneuver on the lake trying to land ‘that big trick’. He smacked the water with a deafening thud.

It was then that I knew cable wakeboarding wasn’t going to be as easy as some people make it look.

Construction on the park began in December of last year and took only a few months to complete. Anthem has six posts erected at 120 degree angles to give the rider a smooth transition from tower to tower and is 11.5 meters tall (the height of a cable line affects its tension and overall feel).

“We’re always gonna have riders coming through,” says Rebecca Lek, Anthem Wake Park’s director of sales. “This is the first cable park in Asia running on a clockwise cable. A lot of [riders] only know their home cable, which is probably counterclockwise.

“That’s the thing about cable rats,” adds Rebecca through a sheepish grin. “If you know that somewhere has one of the best cable parks in the world, you’re gonna go there to say ‘OK, check. Done.’ People who are not used to [the clockwise] direction can improve their overall proficiency as a rider.”

Another unique feature of the new park is its Sesitec 2.0 cable system, which allows beginners to try wakeboarding without fear of being dragged long distances by the cable or having it pull them too quickly.

The 2.0 line is run by an operator who manipulates the line so that you have a chance to gain footing and become comfortable on the board before trying the main line at speed.

Rebecca was kind enough to allow me a test run on the track, starting off on what I call the “kiddy cable” (the 2.0 line) and later graduating to the “big boy cable” after testing my mettle. It was great fun and if you’ve had any experience wakeboarding or water skiing I’m sure it will be a breeze. While I’ve never done either of those things, I do have good balance from surfing for several years, which helped me with the mechanics of the board.

While testing the track, I had the chance to catch up with a current wakeboarding legend, 27-year-old Israeli pro wake boarder Lior Sofer.

“This is my tenth year riding now. I started because when we were young we would take family trips to the North [of Israel] and my friend who used to own a boat would tow us with a boogie board and one day they said, ‘Hey, let’s put the kid on skis’,” says Lior.

The culture of riders at Anthem reminds of my early days learning to surf. The whole crowd is very supportive and cheers loudly whenever you do something right – even if it’s just standing up for the first time. Conversely, is a spectator sport and everyone watches as you go. So, when you wipe out, you can be assured that everyone saw and the collective groan is audible as it’s happening.

I felt fine immediately after wakeboarding but was so sore the next day that I found it hard to lift my arms higher than my chest.

I also experienced something I lovingly call “the walk of shame”. That’s what you have to do if you wipe out on the far side of the lake, where you’ll need to swim to the dock, then walk a few hundred meters back around to the launch. Along the walk you’re surrounded by beautiful nature and given the chance to reflect upon what went wrong (in my case it was hubris).

Rates are two hours for 400 baht, four hours for 600 baht, or an all-day-pass for 750 baht, making it much more affordable than some other parks. The owners of Anthem say it has become a popular attraction for local schoolchildren from schools such as PIA, BIS and Kajonkiet and it is also a hit among professional riders, especially during the low season.

A group of Japanese pro riders have recently made Anthem their temporary home because in Japan they no longer have a cable park. This is also the case in Israel where the only park has been shut down for six months to undergo repairs.

Plans to keep Anthem moving forward include a new clubhouse, to be constructed on the ridge overlooking the park, which the owners say will help contribute to the overall social experience of the park. There are even plans to add on-site bungalows, which would extend riders’ stays sometime in the next few years.

Professionals from the Philippines and the UK will be in training at the park over the next few weeks in anticipation of Anthem’s official grand opening in July.

“It’s a big difference [going clockwise],” says Lior, who is sponsored by Monster energy drinks. “In the US you drive on the right, here you drive on the left. It’s the same thing when riding a board.

Rebecca, along with Khun Yok, the park’s managing director, say having Lior and other pro riders around helps to inspire local kids to reach greater heights.

“We feel that Lior is such a great rider and he has a lot of huge events around the world and for him to come to Phuket to ride. The kids here love him. Every weekend they say ‘Where’s Lior? We want to see him ride’. It’s kind of inspirational for them to see. They learn and see the tricks that he does and think… ‘hmm OK, let’s try this’.”

Asked what advice he would give someone just beginning the sport Lior says: “First of all it’s fun. It’s not scary, you don’t get injured frequently. You look at pro riders who take it to the extreme and you think it’s scary, but that’s just because they took it to an extreme. Anyone can do it, it’s just water. It’s something everybody can do, from age nine to 70.”

Khun Yok adds that Anthem will be the staging ground for wakeboarding competition during the 2015 Asian Beach Games and will also help host water-slalom.

Located three kilometers from the Heroines’ Monument, towards Laguna, turn left into the gate for Wat Manik. Anthem Wake Park is open daily from 9am to 6:30pm. The best time to come is late afternoon, as the weather cools.

For more information visit: anthemwakepark.com or email info@asnthemwakepark.com.

— Chris Hudon

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

Bangkok

The Isan Project honours a hero of Tham Luang cave rescue

The Thaiger

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The Isan Project honours a hero of Tham Luang cave rescue | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Former Thai Sports and Tourism Minister with Vernon Unsworth MBE

The Isan Project has collaborated with the TAT on new marketing campaign featuring music commemorating the Tham Luang cave rescue.

The story of how 13 young men, members of the Mu Pa (Wild Boar) football team, were saved in the caves of Chiang Rai continues to ignites interest in the miraculous internationally-followed rescue in July 2018 from the flooded Tham Luang cave

To honour the safe rescue music video company The Isan Projectrecently launched “Where the Eagles Fly”, video to pay tribute to the British hero of the dramatic saga, Vern Unsworth MBE.

The release of a movie and Netflix mini series shortly will also boost interest globally in Thailand. The series includes the first individual interviews with the boys and they coach.

The launch, in collaboration with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and supported by the Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit and Serenity Wines, was attended by several key persons involved in the rescue mission two years ago, including former Tourism & Sports Minister, Weerasak Kowsurat, who played a major role in flying in special cave divers from the UK as requested by Vernon Unsworth, a recognised cave explorer, who knows virtually every inch of the Tham Luang cave.

“It is absolutely true that without Vernon’s persistence in obtaining the help from the UK cave diving experts to initially spearhead the rescue mission, the boys and their coach would not be alive today.”

“Needless to say, assistance from experienced and skilled cave divers from around the world, who later volunteered to join as well as our own Navy Seals, all contributed to the mission’s ultimate success.”

Vernon Unsworth MBE, his partner Woranan Ratrawiphakkun, and his caving buddy Kamon Kunngamkwamdee, all starred in the “Where the Eagles Fly” fantasy music video, which was set in deep jungle and caves in the mountain of Doi Nang Non in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

“I’m truly honoured to have this song written about me. It was very moving to relive parts of the rescue while making the music video, especially when I think back on how Kamon and I covered over 16 km. on the first day after we knew the boys were missing. We virtually lived in the cave for the first 4 days prior to the arrival of my cave diving colleagues from the UK”.

The story of how the football team were saved in the caves is a heart warming one. For many attending the event it was a privilege and an honour to meet 63 year old Vernon Unsworth in person. An event filled with stories of bravery, emotion and moving music.

Vernon, who has mapped the cave system for 8 years, was the first professional cave diver at the site and realising the enormous danger the boys were in, played a significant rôle in the rescue and earned him the UK’s high honour, an MBE medal.

As the rescue became a race against time ahead of impending monsoon rains, Vernon undertook reconnaissance dives upstream through flooded passages against strong currents.

Weerasak Kowsurat, the former Minister of Tourism and Sports, recalled how a message written on a piece of paper by Vernon and handed to his colleague for safe keeping with instructions that it was to be handed over in case Vernon, fearing the worst, didn’t make it out on an exploratory dive. It was very dangerous work and one Thai diver died during the course of the rescue.

Although Vernon was safe, the message was handed to the Minister who was at the cave site. The message was to contact the British Dive Caving Association and gave names of expert divers and telephone numbers. Within 24 hours the Tourism Minister had managed to get the UK divers on a hastily arranged flight to Thailand to assist in the rescue effort.

The team of UK divers, working under appalling conditions and with time running out, in poor visibility located the team marooned on a ledge above the water about 4 kilometres inside the cave complex.

Writer and executive producer of The Isan Project, Will Robinson says… “Although I had penned and produced “Heroes of Thailand” honouring all those involved in the Tham Luang cave rescue, I felt it was time to pay a special tribute directly to the mastermind of the extremely complex mission.”

“Vernon is such a humble man, I wanted to create a song not only to honour him, but also to establish Tham Luang and what is now known as the ‘Wild Boar Cave’, where the boys were found, as a new tourist attraction for those who love to explore caves.”

At the beginning of the video it reads…

“On June 23, 2018, 12 boys from the Wild Boar football team went exploring the Tham Luang cave with their coach in Chiang Rai. They never returned home that night, next day locals contacted cave explorer Vern Unsworth in nearby Mae Fah Luang. Over the course of the next two weeks Vern put his life on the line for the young football team with a daring rescue engineered by Vern and Elite British cave divers. This song was written in honour of Vern Unsworth M.B.E. and inspired by the above events.”

You can watch the video HERE.

Commenting on the Isan Project Tanes Petsuwan, TAT’s Deputy Governor of Marketing Communications said, “TAT appreciates Will’s love of Thailand, and we are delighted to be supporting this launch. We also believe that this song combined with the newly-published children’s book, “All Thirteen” and the soon-to-be released Hollywood movie, “Thirteen Lives”, will help to dramatically boost tourism in and around Chiang Rai even though we will need to rely mainly on domestic tourists until the end of the year while international travel is still restricted.”

“Where the Eagles Fly”, co-written by Will Robinson and Daniel Ryan, and performed by Daniel himself, is tipped to top the charts when the MGM blockbuster movie, “Thirteen Lives” and the Netflix mini-series about the epic story of the Tham Luang cave rescue are released. The song is now available from all digital music stores including iTunes, Spotify, Apple and Amazon.

The Isan Project honours a hero of Tham Luang cave rescue | News by The Thaiger

From left: Mr. Sobchai (Ford) Kraiyoonsen Singer/composer, Mr. Tanes Petsuwan TAT’s Deputy Governor of Marketing Communications, Senator Weerasak Kowsurat former Minister of Tourism and Sports, Mr. Vern Unsworth British cave explorer, Mr. Will Robinson Writer and Executive Producer of The Isan Project, Mr. Nithee Seeprae TAT’s Executive Director of Advertising & PR Department, Ms. Woranan Ratrawiphakkun Vern’s partner, Mr. Sammy Carolus GM of the Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit

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World

The World’s 50 Best Foods… Thai massaman curry tops the list

Maya Taylor

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The World’s 50 Best Foods… Thai massaman curry tops the list | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Young Sok Yun on Flickr

The humble Thai massaman curry has topped a list of the World’s 50 Best Foods, compiled by the CNN Travel team. Thailand’s smooth coconut milk and potato-based curry (add meat, tofu or vegetables of your choice) comes in at Number 1, with 2 other popular Thai dishes also making it into the World’s Best food list.

The hot and spicy shrimp/prawn soup, Tom Yum Goong, comes in at Number 8, with papaya salad, aka somtam, in 46th place (mai phet please!) Tell us your favourite Thai dish, and why, in the comments section (below).

CNN Travel says its staff conducted extensive research on global cuisine to find the 50 best dishes ever created. Nice work if you can get it…

Italian pizza, Mexican chocolate, Japanese sushi, Chinese Peking duck, Penang Assam laksa, Malaysia and German Hamburger also top the delicious list.

Here’s what the writers had to say about the 3 Thai dishes that made the top taste grade…

First Place, Massaman curryEmphatically the king of curries, and perhaps the king of all foods. Spicy, coconutty, sweet and savoury. Even the packet sauce you buy from the supermarket can make the most delinquent of cooks look like a Michelin potential. Thankfully, someone invented rice, with which diners can mop up the last drizzles of curry sauce. “The Land of Smiles” isn’t just a marketing catch-line. It’s a result of being born in a land where the world’s most delicious food is sold on nearly every street corner.

Eighth Place, Tom Yum Kung

This best food Thai masterpiece teems with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Usually loaded with coconut milk and cream, the hearty soup unifies a host of favourite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet. Best of all is the price: cheap.

The World’s 50 Best Foods... Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Richard Lee on Flickr

46th Place, Som Tam/Papaya salad

To prepare Thailand’s most famous salad, pound garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle. Toss in tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, string beans and a handful of grated green papaya. Grab a side of sticky rice. Variations include those made with crab (som tam pu) and fermented fish sauce (som tam pla ra), but none matches the flavour and simple beauty of the original.

The World’s 50 Best Foods... Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: www.needpix.com

SOURCE: Thai Residents | CNN Travel

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Protests

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

The Thaiger

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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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