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Phuket Travel: Camp like a champ

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Travel: Camp like a champ | Thaiger

PHUKET: In high season everyone is attempting the paradise-island cliche of beating the crowds. So standing on the beach front of Khao Lampi-Hat Thai Mueang National Park it’s time for an umbrella count. Nothing on the right, nothing on the left – that was easy enough. But perhaps it’s unfair to compare a pristine national park beach area with the umbrella-forested beaches of Phuket.

It’s Saturday, two hours before sunset, a person count was unequivocally more fair. A quick estimate of density per estimated 100 meters of beach for the several kilometers of off-white sand stretching out in both directions left a total of zero. With a friend still back at the tent, the beach was mine – all mine!

Despite the stunning, deserted beach landscape that fades into the horizon unobstructed by anyone and water that runs flat to the horizon with only a few lazy boats to break it’s surface, these aren’t the park’s selling points.

Khao Lampi-Hat Thai Mueang National Park is the weekend getaway for a family camping trip – that’s right camping – or just a fresh breath away from Phuket for expats in need.

Broken up into two main sections, the Lam Pi range, which comprises a stretch of mountains composed of mostly igneous rock and Hat Thai Mueang the nearly deserted beach, there is more than enough to explore.


GETTING THERE


Pile into the car, jump on to the motorbike, or take the inter-provincial bus from Terminal 1 towards Khao Lak, and cross the Sarasin Bridge to the mainland. Hold true to Highway 4 when 402 splits off a few kilometers past the bridge and ride it out to Thai Muang – following the signs to KhaoLak.

Anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour later, depending on your observance of speed limits, the road slides into the sleepy little town of Thai Muang and then takes a jagged 90 degree turn toward Khao Lak… let it go. Head straight under the arch. A couple kilometers farther, and you are on the beach front road with nowhere to go but the park.


CAMPING LIKE A PRO


The park’s facilities would make a US National Park Service Ranger chirp like a chipmunk if he ever had a chance to visit. The campground, shaded by large sparely distributed pine trees, stretches out across the road from the beach.

Inside the park headquarters, book one of the tents, which easily fit four people, probably making it a 12-person tent by industry standards. Once you’ve paid, a couple officers come out to set up the tent and hand over your pillow, sleeping bag and bed mat.

Lights (hidden in concrete tree stumps) remain on throughout the night, making it easy for those with small bladders to make it to the bathroom facilities. Though there aren’t hot showers, the facilities are spotless and cleaned regularly.


TURTLE TIME


When the kids, husband or friends start to become a bit of a bore and the sounds of the waves lapping against the beach become too much, pile back in the car.

Halfway down the beach road on your left is a must-see side-show treat: the Phang Nga Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Center.

Though clearly a research center, with it’s concrete tanks of marine life, Director Suparp Pripanapong has left the gates open for curious tourists and hundreds of school children eager to learn about the marine life just over the other side of the road.

The main draw for most people is the sea turtle conservation project. The project offers visitors the chance to see see baby sea turtles and juveniles, as well as full-grown turtles that are being mated in an attempt to have them use an artificial beach at the facility to lay eggs. Additionally, there are giant clams, a variety of reef fish, a few giant groupers and even a two-meter-long freshwater crocodile.

One of Dr Suparp’s many projects is seaweed, which isn’t so fascinating to look at, but is rather tasty. The quick growing variety clusters of pinhead sized “berries”.


EATING THE SEA GREENS


To get a real taste, however, it’s best to leave research center and head back towards Thai Mung. About 200 meters after the road bends away from the beach, there is a small restaurant that is doing some big things with what they are pulling out of the ocean.

I See Seafood Restaurant is hard to miss, as it appears they hired the Easter Bunny to decorate the place. Stripes of pastel pinks, yellows, blues and greens run across the interior of the open air establishment with matching chairs and tables.

The only must-have dish is the seaweed salad, which is the seaweed berry clusters served with the traditional dressings for som tom – warning, don’t put all the dressing on top as it will “melt” the seaweed clusters, just add a little at a time.

The whole-fish dishes are well above standard, with the fish in boiling plum and pork sauce, as well as the fish buried in a forest of fresh herbs, both stand out from the crowd. The shrimp and the softshell crab dishes, well… perhaps it’s best to leave some tasty surprises for those making the trip.

Back from a late lunch at I See Seafood Restaurant, it’s time to drive until the road ends inthe white sands of the 1,000 rai Thung Samet forest (a cajuput forest) to begin a hike, take a trip up to Lampi Waterfall, tackle the 622-meter peak of Yot Khao Khamin or maybe just wander back down to the beach and bask in the glory of having beaten the crowds.


THE TRIP AT A GLANCE


Park fees: Foreigners 100 baht, Thais 20 baht

Food: Cheap: 40 – 150 baht a plate

Tent: 150 baht a night

Sleeping gear (sleeping bag, pillow, bed mat): 60 baht per person

Activities: Beach-going, hiking and bird watching – free

Distance from Phuket: 28 kilometers from Sarasin Bridge

Phone: 076 417206 or 025 62076

Advice: Call ahead to make sure school groups aren’t booked for the same weekend if you want to ensure screaming and shrieking is kept at a minimum.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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

Entertainment

Sex toys popular in Thailand despite conservative laws

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Sex toys popular in Thailand despite conservative laws | Thaiger
PHOTO: In Thailand, sex toys are very popular and very illegal.

While Thailand is a conservative country with conservative laws, the underground sex trade and sex toy economy is a thriving not-so-well-kept secret. Thailand is famous for its LGBTQ acceptance and red-light districts, but many don’t realise that most drugs, gambling, soliciting for prostitution, sex toys, and even vaping are against Thai law.

The customs department confiscated more than 4000 sex toys just last year, and owning or selling these toys carries a 60,000 baht fine or up to 3 years in jail. The strict laws are in place to align with the traditional Buddhist Thai society but seem very contrary to the underground sex industry Thailand is known for.

The need for sexual privacy rights and relaxed laws governing sex has been gaining popularity for years with the juxtaposition of strict laws and hedonism creating a very profitable black market. Bangkok’s red-light district is estimated to be worth US $6.4 billion, and in districts like Soi Cowboy, Nana, Patpong and Silom, sex trade and sex toys are sold openly even though it violates the law. The sex industry is thought to comprise up to 10% of Thailand’s gross domestic product. Then there’s Walking Street in Pattaya, Bangla Road in Phuket, etc, etc.

Still, Thailand is a Buddhist country with traditionally conservative values so laws are unlikely to change anytime soon. Even sex education in Thailand is geared towards the negative consequences of sex and not open to sexual rights or embracing sexuality, according to a UNICEF report in 2016. Those who oppose decriminalising sex toys and the sex industry believe that embracing it legally would lead to a rash of sex-related crimes.

Others argue that decriminalisation would be liberating and empower women by reducing the stigma of being sexually free. It would allow a modernized view on sexual well-being. It would also likely reduce teen pregnancy rates, by removing the negativity towards those who need or use contraceptive.

Nisarat Jongwisan has been fighting for the destigmatisation and legalisation of sex toys since 2018 when she appeared on a TV program speaking out against the Ministry of Culture. She now intends to use the Thai parliamentary mechanism for creating a petition and gathering 50,000 signatures, which would allow her to submit a bill to the parliament for a vote.

With strict laws, the black market will continue to grow. While sex toys and the sex trade can be criminalized, sexual desires are not easily quashed, and people will find ways to satisfy them. Without any regulation, black markets can profit freely, selling sex toys with no concern over fair pricing or quality control. The global sex toy industry sold nearly US $34 billion dollars last year, and with continued lockdown and the closures of entertainment venues, these sales are set to only increase, even in the face of Thailand’s conservative laws.

SOURCE: Vice

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Thai Life

“Mommy, there’s a snake!” – Expat in Phuket shares her story

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“Mommy, there’s a snake!” – Expat in Phuket shares her story | Thaiger
Pope's pit viper / Stock photo by Thai National Parks via Flickr

The following story was written by Amy Sukwan, an American who has been living in Thailand for 7 years.

To share a story with The Thaiger, click HERE.

“Mommy, there’s a snake!” my 8 year old daughter Eliza said, waking me up in the middle of the night.

I came out of our modest bungalow in Phuket at some unholy hour in the middle of the night, to see what my daughter’s whole “snake” thing was about. In the light of our front porch light, about 3 metres from our front door, 3 of our cats were surrounding something that looked at first to me to be a stack of rotting bananas.

“Eliza it’s nothing.” I tried to assure my daughter. Right at that moment the rotting bananas rose up into an aggressive posture as 3 cats circled it, hissing viciously. It was a surreal sight in the porch light.

“Mommy can you kill it!” My daughter begged me, as the thing, about four feet or over a meter long, lashed at one of our cats, who was quick enough to jump away. The snake had a big head that I could see in the porch light. It was distinctively mallet shaped, in what I was pretty sure was the viper class.

As much as I wanted to go back to sleep and pretend that this was all a bad nightmare, I now had a crying, frantic daughter who was terrified for her cats and a situation that I was quickly recognizing was pretty bad. Mai dee.

I needed to call in backup – my Thai husband. Eliza was already screaming his name. “Ka! Loon Ka!” My 8 year old screamed.


There are many venomous snakes in Thailand. Most people know about cobras but the viper class is the most deadly in the world, as vipers are both unpredictable and very difficult to charm. I was looking at a pit viper of some sort, I was pretty sure.

Snakes normally don’t bother you if you don’t bother them. But interactions are most common late in the dry season in Thailand, as it is now, in late March, as the snakes slither around houses in search of water. Thais don’t want them around for obvious reasons. You don’t want venomous snakes to breed and make babies close to your homestead.

If you are not sure if a snake is venomous or not, a good rule of thumb is to look at its head size in proportion to its body size. If the snake head is close to the same size as the rest of its body, and the snake is generally more wormlike in appearance, it is probably not venomous. If the head is large, say two or more times the diameter of the body, it might be poisonous. This does not constitute medical advice. If you get bitten by a snake, you should go to the hospital.


My husband woke up as Eliza was screaming for him. He came out groggily but as soon as my daughter pointed at the snake he saw the problem. “No good! I kill!” Ka said as he grabbed a machete from our kitchen rack. He wasted no time in coming to this decision.

So after being bathed in the surreal sight of three cats circling a hissing, striking, and very likely deadly serpent under our porch light, I got to be treated to an even weirder view. Ka went full Steve Irwin on the snake as he danced around with the machete. The viper sideswiped and tried to strike him. Then, it suddenly backlashed and made contact with his knee. Both me and Eliza cried out from the sidelines.

“She bit me!” Ka said as he macheted the viper’s mid body, and then its neck. Among my many shortcomings is a complete inability to gender snakes. So I will remain with my husband’s classification of the viper as female.

The snake stilled over the course of several minutes as my eight year old screamed in terror. It still seemed to be wiggling even five minutes later, though its body slowly stilled. Ka helped me put it in a plastic bag.

“You go hospital now!” I screamed at him.

“No worries. She don’t bite me with poison.” Ka seemed sure of this. He’d grown up on a 50 rai spread of backwoods in Phuket and was something of a designated snake killer.

My husband had tracked and killed a 5 foot long snake months before, which he had assured me had no poison, but which he had not wanted around the house. I was able to identify that one through Google images and a snake discussion group as an Indochinese Rat snake, which was indeed not venomous.

There was only one bite mark on his knee the viper had come in from an unusual angle and only one fang had punctured through. But I could see from closer inspection of the now dead snake what I had already known. It looked like a dark green Pit Viper. She was about 4 feet long, or maybe 130 centimetres. The poor girl had probably been looking for water.

Symptoms of a poisonous snake bite include pain at the site, swelling, and changes in heart rate or breathing. Needless to say Ka is still alive and well, and probably had enough experiences of snakes to know that this was a dry bite, or one without venom, as about 50% of snake bites are. I wouldn’t have taken my chances on this, though.

The reason that poisonous baby snakes are thought to be more deadly is not because they have more venom, but because they always release venom when they do bite. I prayed in Buddhist style for the snake to have a better life next time, as she had made merit by not killing either our cats or my husband. But for the amateurs out there, I wouldn’t advise going to Steve Irwin about these things. Normally snakes bite you because you bother them.


It turns out that sometimes you chase the story. And sometimes the story chases you.

I’d seen a recent post on The Thaiger asking for guest bloggers to share their stories regarding Thailand. I think I laughed out loud on reading it. After 7 years in the “Land of Smiles,” with 2 Thai husbands and after giving birth to 2 children here, I’d like to think I’ve seen it all. I probably have 10,000 stories.

But what do I want to write about? Should I mention my early days as a farang in Thailand, during the time when I was working as an OPC for a timeshare? Do I want to give advice on making visas, as an American staying in Thailand or for a Thai going to America? Should I talk about going to Thai hospitals? Or maybe I should write something about Thai Buddhist funeral proceedings? I’ve put my first husband and both my mother and father in law in the ground at Wat Prathong. Should I talk about ASQ and travelling during Covid madness? Or should I mention the Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan? I’ve been to five of those, personally.

This weekend I was harvesting cashew fruit with a Thai friend of ours in Phuket who has a large spread of family land. We burnt the cashew nuts, and I thought that this would make a great story, as many farang ask me about growing and harvesting practices in my little outback area. Unfortunately a quick Google search revealed that cashew nuts are dangerous, even to people without allergies, as they contain a chemical close to poison ivy. Only professional processors should deal with cashew nuts, in short. I’ve been eating the fruit and burning the nuts for years. But I gathered that life is too dangerous. So much for that story.

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Food Scene

Thai Airways food landing in 7-Eleven next month

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Thai Airways food landing in 7-Eleven next month | Thaiger
PHOTO: Yum yum, it's airline food 'on the go'

Warning. Some low-altitude turbulence is coming to a 7-Eleven near you. Thai Airways has cooked up a new money-making scheme during Covid-19 to sell its airline food in 7-Eleven. Set to take off on April 15, the mostly grounded and indebted airline will attempt to offset its losses during the pandemic by selling food in the ubiquitous convenience store and other supermarkets throughout Thailand.

It’s a clever strategy for a struggling company, but will customers take the bite? Surely a few crispy pork and rice dishes will knock the edge of that 300 billion baht debt!

Claiming that their busy flight schedule has always previously stood in the way of the airline’s foray into the fast food market, Thai Airways now has the supply (and time) with most flights grounded by the pandemic’s decimation of the travel industry and less hungry mouths to feed in the sky.

The first meals schedule to arrive on the shelves of 7-Eleven just after the Songkran holiday are Thai Airways’ halal chicken biryani dish, and the traditional Thai dish nam phrik long ruea, crispy and fluffy fish and sweet pork served in a fermented shrimp chilli paste. The primary push into the food industry will be more unusual meals to stand out in 7-Eleven’s selection.

The question remains whether the food selection will fly off the shelves, but the airline’s hopes are high after their airline launched pop-up restaurants in September and the public ate it up. It seems that, contrary to a million stand-up comedy jokes about how terrible airline food is, people have really missed it with so much cancelled travel due to border closures and restrictions.

Thai Airways hopes this creative departure from their main business will help bolster the struggling airline, who were previously denied a government bailout after declaring bankruptcy last year. They have tried everything from the pop-up restaurants to jumbo yard sales to renting out flight simulators. Even with the sharp reduction of flights due to the pandemic, flying will still be the company’s main mealticket, but they hope meal sales will make up for low ticket sales until the travel industry recovers.

So stow your tray table and fasten your seat belt as we see if the 7-Eleven offerings of Thai Airways’ food takes off.

(The Thaiger has a better solution. Let 7-Eleven lease Thai Airway’s grounded planes and run the whole business instead)

SOURCE: Coconuts Bangkok

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