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Great southern comforts – Narathiwat

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by Pattarawadee Saengmanee

The southern province of Narathiwat is a great place to chill, unspoilt by mass tourism and full of southern surprises. Narathiwat shares a border with Malaysia.

A stone’s throw from the Narathiwat airport are the white sands of Ban Ton Beach where I stretch out while my media friends tuck into a Southern-style lunch in Chulabhorn marine camp’s Sala Koei Had restaurant. Trepidation at being smack in one of the three southernmost provinces in Thailand where violence has been part of life for more than a decade prevented me for joining them but the tension seeps away as I fall under the charm of the local life and calm beach vibes.

The fishing village of Ban Ton is famous for creating colourfully painted traditional korlae boats in an interesting mix of Thai, Malay and Javanese styles. Veteran craftsman Ahama Salae, 51, has been building the boats for 37 years and beams happily as he welcomes us to his dock to explain the basics of carpentry.

Using takhian sai wood (Shorea gratissima) to ensure durability, Bae Ahama has adapted the designs to resemble a Thai-style long boat so that a fisherman can easily pull his boat up onto shore. The bow and stern are higher than the hull and can hold two to five tons of goods.

Great southern comforts - Narathiwat | News by The Thaiger

“Our young generations are no longer interested in this career so I’m the only korlae boat builder in the village now. I have 10 customised orders on my waiting list and I reckon it will take me about three years to finish the work. The prices start from 400,000 baht including materials and painting,” says Bae Ahama, who also serves as village head.

Korlae boats come in lengths of six to 12 metres and are real workhorses, lasting for seven to 30 years. Bae Ahama says he fumigates all the wood to soften the texture before shaping the pieces into the structure of the boat.

“I use special glue made from amber, chopped hemp sacks and coconut residue to connect all the pieces of wood to give the boat a seamless look. I spend four to eight months creating each vessel based on size and patterns, which I design to suit each customer.”

A short distance from the deck is the house-cum-gallery of artisan Horsee Binda-oh, who crafts model korlae boats ranging in size from 12 centimetres to 2.5 metres and is also happy to show how it’s done. Prices start from 500 baht.

“We use santal wood to produce miniature boats because it’s durable and resistant to termites while the oars are made of bamboo. The design is the same regardless of the size of the model but it’s the colours that catch the eye. They’re painted with unique Javanese Yawo motifs as well as traditional and contemporary Thai graphics,” Bae Horsee says.

Great southern comforts - Narathiwat | News by The Thaiger

We are reminded of Narathiwat’s history of violence by the multitude of checkpoints manned by armed soldiers as we make the one-hour journey along Highway 4084 to Tak Bai district. It’s home to the popular Pa Eng shop, which offers a selection of top-quality fragrant, salted fourfinger threadfin and is run by Prasit, the second generation of the Chaikitwattana family.

Considered as the king of salted fish, Tak Bai’s fourfinger threadfin make their home in the rich mud at the confluence of the Sungai Getting, Bangnara and Golok Rivers. The price starts at 1,600 baht per kilogram.

“Salted fourfinger threadfin fish is a popular Chinese delicacy that tastes great with both steamed and boiled rice. My mother always used her special recipe to cook the salted fish for our family and friends and it became so popular that she set up her own shop,” Prasit says.

After a thorough wash and removal of the offal, the fish is fermented in quality sea salt from Pattani for two nights. Prasit spends two or three weeks drying them in a net dome to protect them from flies and other creatures.

“The secret technique is to thresh the fish with a bottle four or five times while they’re drying to make them tender. We pick only fish measuring about 40 to 60 cm or weighing around 800 grams.”

We cross the Tak Bai River by the way of the iconic 345-metre-long Koi Roi Pee Bridge, a popular place to watch the sunset, and learn that the original one was built with wood to transport villagers from the mainland to Koh Yao.

Great southern comforts - Narathiwat | News by The Thaiger

Spread over nine km, the island houses a Muslim fishing community and a giant Thai flag flutters in the breeze indicating the border of Thailand and Malaysia. As we go further into the island, we’re greeted by friendly young residents and spot a herd of goats munching contentedly on the pastureland. It’s a far cry from the Narathiwat that so often makes the news.

In Su-ngai Kolok district, the highly revered To Mo Shrine is crowded with local residents and pilgrims from Malaysia and Singapore, all of them asking the gods for fortune, business success and good health. Built in 1952, it houses a carved wooden statue of the Goddess of the Ocean along with her old joss stick pot that was moved from the original shrine on To Mo Mountain after World War II, as well as sculptures of other Chinese deities.

The next day starts with a Southern-Chinese-style breakfast of bak kut teh with deep-fried doughsticks and dim sum, hot coffee and Thai tea.

Tummies full, we head to the Pikunthong Royal Development Study Centre in Kaluwo Nuea district and learn about His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s soil aggravation project. Stretching over a 1,740-rai plot of land, the centre was established in 1982 and offers visitors a free 40-minute farm tour conducted by specialists.

Lush with towering local plants, it bills itself as a living museum featuring massive rice fields and demonstration plantations of Nam Hom coconuts, durians, 36 kinds of bananas, palms, citrus tangerines, Hom Kradang-nga rice and torch ginger flowers.

“Acid soil covers 1.7 million-rai of land around Thailand and 40 per cent is in the South. Some 900,00 rai have been developed already. Our centre conducts research to help local farms boost their output of agricultural products like Pattalung and Hom Kradang-nga rice,” says specialist Anurak Buaklekly.

“Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has also set up a botanical garden to research and interbreed 60 kinds of purple plants and flowers as well as economic crops like paco, cucumber, Chinese kale and pak choi.”

Visitors can walk along a long bridge to explore the swamp forest and say hello to the very tame goats at the open farm or check out the soil museum that combines acid soils from around the country. There’s also a unique collection of handicrafts, garments and home furnishings from a local community on show and for sale.

• Thai AirAsia and Thai Smile offer daily flights between Bangkok and Narathiwat.

• Pa Eng shop is in Jehhe Market, Tak Bai district and open daily from 8am to 5pm. Place an order by calling (073) 581 145.

• Pikunthong Royal Development Study Centre is in Kaluwo Nuea district. Admission is free. Call (073) 631 033 or visit Pikunthong.com.a28.readyplanet.net

SOURCES: The Weekend Nation

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Tourism

Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule

The Thaiger

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Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bangkok Airways' ATR72, servicing the re-introduced routes

Some domestic routes are being added as local routes continue to expand. This time Bangkok Airways has announced it’s resuming its Samui-Phuket, Phuket-Hat Yai and Phuket-Pattaya/Rayong (U-Tapao) flights.

The first additions to the schedule will be the Phuket-Samui flights resuming this Sunday, October 25, and the Phuket-Pattaya flights start again next Tuesday, October 27. The Phuket-Samui flights will be operating on Sundays and Wednesdays only on the airlines’ ATR72 turbo prop regional planes, same as before.

A casual search on the Bangkok Airways website, for a return flight from Phuket to Samui on November 1, then back to Phuket on November 8 indicates the cheapest fare (promo) is 2,430 baht. Coming back, the cheapest fare we found, again labelled ‘promo’, was 2,630 baht. Bangkok Airways operate as a “full service” airline and don’t compete with the country’s discount airlines. But they operate these three routes exclusively – like it or leave it.

Bangkok Airways say that the flights will be operated “with the highest preventive measures and standards”. Around the country the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand have eased a few of the onboard restrictions, including the start of catering services which were originally banned under the initial flight rules when domestic routes started flying again at the start of July.

The daily direct services between Phuket and Hat Yai are also being operated on the ATR72 aircraft. The flight to Ha Yai leaves Phuket at 8.40am and arrives at Hat Yai at 9:.45am. The return flights leave Hat Yai back to Phuket at 10.25am each day. The route was very popular for the airline before the ‘disruption’ when airlines had their fleets grounded in April.

The service between Phuket and U-Tapao, linking the party city with the party island, will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, again with the ATR72. Phuket to U-Tapao will leave at 12.10pm and then from U-Tapao to Phuket at 4pm on the three days. U-Tapao is about a 50 minute drive from Pattaya and the airport also serves the greater Rayong area.

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Transport

Thailand’s land bridge plan still floating

Maya Taylor

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Thailand’s land bridge plan still floating | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.skyscrapercity.com

Deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul says the government is still mulling the idea of a land bridge between the southern provinces of Ranong and Chumphon. The project’s aim would be to improve the infrastructure in the region by connecting the Gulf of Thailand directly with the Andaman Sea, “thereby making the Kingdom more competitive”. In a report in the Bangkok Post, she says the idea would be to better connect Middle Eastern and European oil producers with importers and manufacturers in Japan, South Korea and China.

Currently shipping from the two parts of the world needs to detour down the Mallacca Straits and swing around Singapore before continuing their journeys northward again. The land bridge would provide a more direct route but needs infrastructure for cargo to pass across the Malay Peninsula, aka. the Isthmus of Kra.

“Prime Minister Prayut gave us the guideline that we must be prudent and look at financial feasibility, cost-effectiveness, environmental impact and public acceptance. This land bridge project is a strategy to link the Middle East and East Asia via Thailand.”

It’s understood a feasibility study being carried out by the Ministry of Transport will take around a year to complete, followed by 2 more years to get all the necessary approvals and processes lined up prior to construction beginning. The land bridge would consist of a 130 kilometre motorway and a 2-track railway between the provinces of Chumphon and Ranong. These would connect deep-sea ports in both the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, reducing travel time by 2 days.

The government is looking at development that can connect the Southern Economic Corridor region, which includes Chumphon, Ranong, Surat Thani, and Nakhon Si Thammarat, with the Eastern Economic Corridor of Chon Buri and Rayong.

The latest plans replace the much-discussed about Kra Canal project, which would have seen a canal crossing the country just south of Phuket and Krabi, creating a shorter journey time from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. After being discussed for decades, the project has currently been shelved “on environmental grounds”.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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South

Pattani ranger volunteer killed in bomb explosion, 2 others shot in ambush

Caitlin Ashworth

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Pattani ranger volunteer killed in bomb explosion, 2 others shot in ambush | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thaisaeree

A ranger volunteer was killed from a bomb explosion after an ambush in Pattani’s Sai Buri district in Southern Thailand. Gunmen in the ambush shot and injured 2 volunteers.

A team of officers protecting teachers were driving on motorcycles through the district when they were ambushed by gunmen, police say. The alleged gunmen opened fire on the group, shooting 33 year old volunteer Watchara Chaikaew in the cheek and 35 year old volunteer Sutthichai Yawa in the right shin.

The wounded volunteers were admitted to the hospital. The Bangkok Post did not report on their condition.

About 2 hours later, while rangers were combing the site, a ranger volunteer accidently stepped on a bomb that was hidden in the bushes, killing him. 3 other volunteers reported chest pain and ringing ears after the explosion.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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