PHUKET: Phuket moves forward into the 21st century, striving and struggling to maintain its name and reputation as a world-renowned destination, island and home.
Along with progress have come problems. A sharp rise in population and increased traffic congestion are among the downsides of rapid urbanization.
One of Phuket’s most pressing issues is public mass transport, or lack thereof.
Indeed, the industry remains much the same as it was decades ago – serviced by open air songtaews, converted-pickup trucks that are an icon of Thailand’s rural countryside.
For instant time travel into the past, one only has to take a stroll along Ranong Road near the new municipal fresh market in Phuket Town.
There you will find the island’s songtaew terminal, where you can board one of these contraptions to take you to just about any part of the island for 20 to 40 baht.
“The songtaew queue system at the market has been the same for more than twenty years,” explained Aroon Sinkala, a 59-year-old songtaew driver who has plied Phuket roadways since the early 1970s.
Around 1987, the Transport Company introduced a regular and orderly queuing system for songtaews to accommodate the budding tourism industry.
“Before that, I couldn’t park my songtaew at the market,” he said, explaining that public transport in Phuket at that time was dictated solely by self-proclaimed “territorial rights”.
Aroon doesn’t miss the chaos of the 1970s and 1980s, when the Phuket economy was still based largely on tin mining.
As he recalls the situation songtaew drivers faced back then, what he describes sounds a lot like the dilemma facing present-day tuk-tuk and taxi consortia on the island.
“Since there were no regular queues or [price] regulation back then, fights between drivers over customers were common and could turn quite vicious and bloody,” he said.
“It was every man for himself and you really had to struggle to make ends meet,” he added.
“Today, vehicles depart on schedule every 10 to 15 minutes. We drivers must stick to the schedule because if we’re late, we’ll get penalized,” he said, adding that any dispute between drivers today is settled by a special committee.
“If a problem can’t be settled between drivers, both will get an automatic suspension [from driving]” he explained.
Asked whether he had ever been suspended, he confessed that he had. “Not long after a committee was established [at about the same time the Ranong Road queue started] I had a dispute with another driver because I didn’t stick to the schedule and left late.
“When the other driver caught up with me, he was angry because there were no passengers, since they all boarded my songtaew first. We had a fight and both got suspended for five days. I never had the same problem or got suspended after that,” he said.
“Rules and regulations are necessary in the transport industry and things are much better with them now,” he added.
Aroon admits that some things were better in the old days, however.
“I remember when a liter of fuel cost 2 to 3 baht for diesel and 7 baht for regular petrol. And there was no traffic at all like today, so it was a lot less stressful to drive,” he recalled.
However, he pointed out that the slower-moving traffic and better road conditions make driving much safer than before.
“Luckily I haven’t been involved in any major accidents myself, but I’ve witnessed a lot of fatal accidents. Most of them were caused by people in a rush who are driving too fast,” he said.
“Thepkrasattri Road used to be only two lanes, with no median strip. There were often head-on collisions. When it rained, the road often flooded and it was dangerous and difficult to drive on.”
“Occasionally there are accidents when speeding motorists hit us from behind when we stop to pick up passengers or let them off. Luckily nothing too serious has happened though,” he said.
Like any form of mass transport, commuters are less enthusiastic about using it during rush hours and tend to prefer driving themselves rather than compete for space in a crowded songtaew. But the peak hours are when the drivers can rake in the most money.
“More passengers means more money. The schedule is rotated to keep things fair, so our daily income varies. It’s enough to get by though,” he said.
Aroon went on to talk about a time when songtaew driving alone was not enough to get by.
“The economy was bad and it became difficult to make ends meet. By 2002, I sold my songtaew and got a new job driving a passenger van for Phuket FantaSea in Kamala. I started off earning about 7,500 baht per month, which included health insurance. After several years driving the van I was making nearly 9,000 baht per month. It was good to have a steady income,” he said.
“I decided to take a small house loan for what would be my first and last house. The loan was only for a few hundred thousand baht, and the house was small but simple enough for me, my wife and two sons. However I couldn’t afford to pay the monthly interest on the loan and defaulted within the first year. The house was repossessed. In 2009, I couldn’t continue driving for FantaSea because I was of retirement age.”
Instead of receiving a monthly pension, he chose the option to receive one lump sum payout.
With that money and some other savings, he bought his current songtaew and continued to drive the Sarasin route, just like he did before.
— Steven Layne
Chinese tourists spend big during Chinese New Year holiday
Spending by Chinese tourists during the Chinese New Year holiday around the world was the highest in Thailand.
Alipay, a leading digital payment platform offered by Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba Group has done the sums. The transactions were recorded between February 4-10, and data drawn from the 54 international markets where Alipay is accepted.
The number of transactions in Thailand ranked second worldwide after Hong Kong, and topped the list in Southeast Asia with an average spending of 1,646 yuan (7,650 baht).
The high spending was put down to convenience stores and duty-free shops accepting Alipay and offering special promotions for Alipay users.
King Power Duty Free recorded a 50 per cent increase in transactions thanks to discounts for Alipay users, while transactions at convenience stores also rose by 38 per cent due to their “Alipay corner”.
Chinese visitors are also now able to get tax refunds at 7-Eleven branches in the capital.
Chinese spenders, although spending less time per holiday, spend more per person, per day than other tourist demographics entering the country.
Read a previous story about tourist spending patterns HERE.
Top 10 Phuket fitness options – get fit on a tropical paradise
by Krix Luther
Living and working in Phuket for more than 11 years as a full-time Personal Trainer, I have had the pleasure of watching the island develop and make its mark on the wider Health and Fitness industry. I can comfortably say it is becoming an important Health, fitness and wellness hub of South East Asia.
The island has an incredible amount to offer, so much so, you could get lost if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Knowing what is what, what to do, where to start and which is best for you and your fitness journey, can be a daunting task.
Here’s a snapshot of what the island has to offer, whether you’re a beginner, average gym rat, fitness enthusiast or pro athlete. You will find something that suits you.
So, in no particular order, here are the Top 10 Phuket fitness options.
1. Phuket Detox Centres
Phuket Detox Centre? At first, most people think a Detox centre is some sort of Drug Rehab facility. Although a lot of detox centres in Phuket will state they can aid their clients in overcoming some addictions, their primary objective is to help people cleanse and detoxify the body through different variations of fasting and or dieting.
(The Thaiger recommends you should consult with a medical professional before undertaking any detox treatment)
Phuket detox centres offer similar options. Full fast (which means eating nothing but supplements), Juice cleanse, Raw Food Diet and Healthy Eating. There are plenty of other programs available around the island.
Included in these programs are, yoga, meditation and fitness/movement classes, morning beach walks, wellness talks and a variety of other holistic practices, all tailored to help the body heal itself, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically.
I have worked with pretty much every major detox centre on the island, and they all have their own niche, styles and methods.
2. Phuket Muay Thai Camps
Thai Boxing (Muay Thai) is Thailands national sport and is huge in Phuket. 13 years ago there was only a handful of local Muay Thai Gyms in Phuket. It wasn’t until a gym called Rawai Muay Thai decided to build a professional website, social media presence and advertise Muay Thai training in Phuket to westerners abroad.
Watching its explosive success, it wasn’t long until more gyms popped up doing the same thing. Sinbi Muay Thai, Tiger Muay Thai, Dragon Muay Thai, etc. Then with the growing popularity of UFC, some of these Muay Thai Gyms started hiring MMA coaches along with Brazilian Jujitsu specialists and trainers with wrestling backgrounds. I believe Phuket Top Team were the first to do this followed by Tiger, now you have dedicated MMA gyms like AKA Thailand joining the island.
Muay Thai Gyms in Phuket seem to be popping up as fast as 7 Elevens, some are closing with equal speed as well. But if you are looking to better your Muay Thai game or just would like to get fit by trying something new, then you can check out the list of well established Muay Thai gyms in HERE.
3. Phuket Fitness Centres
There are a lot of gyms now that are just 100% dedicated to fitness classes. Like Phuket Cross Fit, Yoga, TRX, Circuit & HIIT training, correction workouts, workshops and more. They don’t have a regular weightlifting facility or gym membership where you can just rock up and hit the weights whenever you want. It is just a pure class schedule fitness centre.
The main open Phuket fitness centres I would say are Titan Fitness and Unit 27. By “open” I mean you can pop in for 1 class or buy into monthly or block packages. Then there is Phuket Fit, and Phuket Cleanse that is more closed and comprehensive, what I mean by that is they include on-site accommodation and meals, and you can not just walk in for the one-off session, you have to be booked into their program.
All are great facilities. If this is something that’s more of an interest to you, then you can check them out HERE.
4. Phuket Gyms
Phuket has a vast selection of high-end gyms, with top-notch equipment and facilities as well as your old school dirty, rough, broken equipment, no hygiene, Rocky Balboa style gyms. Whichever your preference, Phuket has a gym that suits your needs and budget. So if you are just looking to join a gym on your visit then here is a list of the best gyms in Phuket.
RPM Health Club, Koh Kaew – PHOTO: Phuket Index
5. Phuket Personal Trainers
There are a lot of Personal Trainers in Phuket but only a few freelance ones. Most are attached to a gym or fitness centre and cannot work outside these places. Many people wonder, is a personal trainer worth it? In my biased opinion, the answer would be “Yes… if you can find a good one.”
You can read my article here on “what makes a good trainer.” So you can make your own assessment of the trainer you hired or are about to hire.
6. Phuket Yoga Retreats
Just like personal trainers, there are a lot of yoga instructors in Phuket and few Freelance ones like my friend Kim White. But there are also some great Phuket yoga retreats. These yoga retreats are similar to the detox centres, they are enclosed facilities with accommodation, food, yoga classes along with other holistic heal classes and workshops.
PHOTO: Yoga Health Journal
7. The Great Outdoors
One of the best things about Phuket is that it’s beautiful, the oceans, the beaches, and nature surrounded it. Despite the island’s obsession with getting rid of single-use plastics it still has fantastic places to swim and snorkel.
You can hire a bike and cycle around the mountain roads and be mesmerised by the stunning views, or you can join in the Clean The Beach Boot Camp and have a great workout on the beach once every two weeks, exercising in the sand, the ocean and nature. There is nothing like kicking off the shoes and training in your bare feet. Enjoy the beaches, rainforests, walks and activities around the island. It’s warm and hot all year round (with a bit of rain between May and November). Here’s a list of our Top 10 beaches.
As a last resort, and you’re not a ‘bicycle’ sort of person, rent a motorbike and let the engine do the hard work for you. Make sure you wear a helmet (it’s law), have the appropriate health or travel insurance and appropriate driving license.
In the health and fitness industry, meditation is very much underrated, but there are a lot of physical benefits of meditation, not just mental/psychological ones. And in Phuket, there is a great place to learn how to meditate or take your meditation to the next level at the Phuket Meditation Centre.
If it’s something you were curious about then I would highly recommend trying it out. They have free introductory classes every Tuesday and Thursday.
9. Phuket Free Diving/Scuba Diving
Just like the great outdoors there are some great spots to do a bit of diving in Phuket. Whether you are a hardcore free diver or looking to get your first Scuba Diving certificate, then Phuket has some great options for you. Make sure your divers are accredited and check their experience in diving around the island.
10. Massage, Ice Baths, Sauna
If you going to train hard, then you best recover hard. There is nothing like booking a fitness holiday and overtraining in the first week and getting injured. Phuket has some great relax and recovery facilities, from massages to Sauna and Ice Baths and even float therapy in a sensory deprivation tank. These are great for reducing stress, lowering cortisol levels and preventing you from seeing those classic signs and symptoms of overtraining.
Phuket expat re-invents the way sewing machines work
British inventor creates a new sewing system that eliminates the bobbin.
When you list the worlds top inventions the sewing machine is rarely included, it’s lucky if it makes it into the top 50!
But there are very few moments in our daily life when we are not close to something that’s been produced using a sewing machine.
Now a recent patent, developed by a Phuket expat, is set to bring the sewing machine back into the forefront. Templeton Hancock, a British sewing machine mechanic and former sewing machine demonstrator living in Rawai, has created a new Everlasting Bobbin Sewing (EBS) System that eliminates the need for constantly changing thread bobbins.
A bobbin is a spindle or cylinder, with or without flanges, on which wire, yarn, thread or film is wound. Bobbins are typically found in sewing machines, cameras, and within electronic equipment. In non-electrical applications the bobbin is used for tidy storage without tangles – Wikipedia
“The inception to create the EBS System came to me after a conversation I had with a customer who voiced her frustration with having to continually change the bobbin. It made me question why no one had come up with a satisfactory solution to discard it.”
“The EBS System offers huge benefits not just to manufactures but to everyone who regularly uses a sewing machine; it saves time, improves the quality and finish of garments, reduces waste and make the sewing machine more user-friendly and lessens the impact on the environment.”
The first patented sewing machine was in 1790 to an Englishman, Thomas Saint. Over the next 60 years, the machine was modified and improved to something that is still mechanically recognisable in comparison to today’s machines.
Since the 1980’s there have been significant electronic advancements to the sewing machine, but the need for a refillable bobbin has always harkened back to its introduction in 1853. Over the years, there have been many who have tried to solve this bobbin dilemma. The simple EBS System provides the solution.
So, how does it work?
With current technology, the needle and upper thread pass down into the machine bed. As the needle draws back up, the upper thread is left behind, just slightly, but it is enough that a loop is formed. Machines are timed so that a rotating hook underneath the machine, spinning off a centrally placed drive shaft, can catch this loop and pass it over the bobbin and bobbin case to create a locking stitch.
The EBS System is different. The drive shaft is moved to one side and the hook is placed within a bearing which has drive teeth on its circumference. A void is now created within the bearing which allows for a thread feed tube to supply endless amounts of thread to freely pass without interruption from the rotating hook, eliminating the need for a bobbin.
The bobbin holds, on average for #40 weight thread, around 34.3m of thread. In manufacturing this can equate to the bobbin running out on average, every 9-11 minutes. Methods of turn around to get the machine operational again can vary from 22 seconds to 3 minutes, cutting into the amount of hourly units produced and also increasing wastage/seconds garments for the item in production when the thread ran out.
Analysis of Operation in manufacturing puts aside an average 20% of Standard Allocated Hours (SAH) for changing the bobbin, adjustments and staff rest breaks. By removing the need to refill the bobbin and using the EBS System, manufacturing can be increased by as much as 19%.
Realising the problem with the bobbin, many manufacturers have opted for using a chain stitch instead of a locking thread for seaming. The downside being that the chain stitch uses more thread, creates a bulkier seam and is not as strong as the lock stitch.
By using the EBS System instead of a chain stitch, a factory making jeans (for example) could save an average of 8.9m of thread per unit produced (depending on method of manufacture), and at the same time produce a better quality garment with stronger and less bulky seams. 8.9 metres multiplied by the amount of units produced each day, week and month, equates to being considerable saving even before you add back in the garments that would usually be discarded as wastage/seconds which have now been mostly eliminated.
The EBS System is not just limited to clothing. Footwear, upholstery, luggage and automotive manufacturers are also to benefit from the lack of a bobbin. When the bobbin thread runs out, holes have been made in the material and it takes a short time before the machine operator notices.
The precision of the fit and strength of the material has been compromised and a labour intensive task now begins to reinforce the stitch and try to match the holes already created in the material.
A continuous stream of thread will reduce the amount of wastage of leather and vinyl products in the pursuit of perfection that is expected and demanded by consumers.
The EBS System is not just for industrial use.
The simplicity of the design makes it versatile to be used in the domestic market. The EBS System is a relief to home sewing enthusiasts whose interests are within home decor and quilting. No more will they suffer the frustration when the thread runs out in the middle of a project.
The versatility of the EBS System is that it can also be used with the current refillable bobbin for those small repairs and quick fixes that would require a variety of short lengths of different coloured thread.
The EBS System also looks to the future. A.I. and automation is making advances into the sewing industry, but these machines still need to be carefully monitored as they still rely on the need for a refillable bobbin. Using the EBS System machines will enable manufactures to run for 24 hours with very little supervision, with an endless flow of lower lockstitch thread.
US Patent #10156034 PCT#IB2019/050843
For further information contact Templeton Dean Hancock… [email protected]
Templeton Hancock, Phuket-based seining machine mechanic and inventor
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