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Nicki Minaj YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW HER MUSIC, BUT YOU DEFINITELY KNOW HER LOOK

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Travel

CRUISING THE AMAZON

Hansar Samui A ROOM WITH MORE THAN JUST A VIEW


Phuket’s Coolest Resort and Beach Lounge Room Rates from Baht 3,000+++

14 Moo 5 Rawai, Muang, Phuket 83130 Thailand Tel. +66 (0)76 371 900 Fax. +66 (0)76 613831 E-mail: rsvn@serenityphuket.com www.serenityphuket.com


ABSOLUTE THAI CONTENT

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Contents 8 W H AT ’ S O N Upcoming Events in Thailand

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H E A LT H & W E L L- B E I N G The Health Benefits of a Raw Food Diet

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 O V E R F E AT U R E C Nicki Minaj

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HANSAR SAMUI A Room With More Than Just A View

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WA R M S M I L E S & K I N D H O S P I TA L I T Y A Truly Winning Combination

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T R AV E L Cruising the Amazon

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I N VA S I O N O F T H E F R O G L A D I E S That gentle tapping on the shoulder

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N O W T H AT ’ S W H AT I C A L L A CO F F E E G R I N D E R Black Ivory coffee helping Elephants

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T H A I L A N D ’ S CO W B OY S Khao Yai Cowboys

IMAGE: S_BUKLEY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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W ELCO M E TO A BS O LU T E T H A I L I F E S T Y L E M AG A Z I N E F E B R U A R Y/ M A R C H 2 013

Welcome to our spring issue of Absolute Thai. The temperature is still pleasant, and the nights are still cool. If you’re lucky enough to be beachside, enjoy an evening stroll on the cool sand, and if you are upcountry, head to a mountain top for a camping trip. There is a lot to do right now. Check our ‘What’s On’ section to see where the action is. As the caption reads, “You may not know her music, but you definitely know her look,” Nicki Minaj has a style and body that grabs everyone’s attention. Be sure and check out the ‘Invasion of the Frog Ladies’ article. If you have ever met one, you will understand this story perfectly. For coffee connoisseurs, have you tried the new Pachyderm flavored coffee yet? If not, you might want to read about it before you do. The article about the Khao Yai Cowboys is very entertaining.

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IMAGE: FEATUREFLASH / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

So enjoy this wonderful time in Thailand, and enjoy the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations! Prepare for some major fireworks waking you up at 6 a.m.

TIM KNIGHT EDITOR

CREDITS CHAIRMAN: Bryan Lunt Bryan.Lunt@AbsoluteThai.com MANAGING DIRECTOR: Mike Hall MikeHall@Absoluteworld.net EDITOR: James Chanodom Editor@AbsoluteThai.com FEATURE EDITOR: Tim Knight TimKnight@AbsoluteThai.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Jason Hull Advertising@AbsoluteThai.com PUBLISHER: San, Sea and Sand Co. Ltd. PRINTING: Phongwarin Phongwarin@inet.co.th

ADVERTISING SALES GENERAL MANAGER: Callum Mckay Callum@AbsoluteThai.com Mobile: +(66) 083 596 7537 Loran Wanigasooriya: Media Consultant Loran@AbsoluteThai.com Mobile: +(66) 086 267 8235 Vinda Kallayanamitr: Media Consultant Vinda@truemail.co.th Mobile +66 (0)86 355 6218 Paul Eastland: Media Consultant Paul@AbsoluteThai.com Mobile +66 (0)80 826 2315

Absolute Thai is published by San, Sea and Sand Co. Ltd. Registration Number 8837354810366. Registered address 42/11 Taveewong Road, Kathu, Patong, Phuket Tel: 076 342 147. Printed by Phongwarin LTD., Samutprakarn. All material is strictly copyrighted and all rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without prior permission of the copyright holder. While every care has been taken in the production of this publication, the publisher takes no responsibility for an errors, loss or omissions that may occur.


ABSOLUTE THAI WHAT’S ON

What’s On

UPCOMING EVENTS IN THAILAND FEBRUARY - MARCH 2013

such as Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand. People will spend their money to buy presents, decorations, materials, food, and clothing. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck. In Thailand, each year, the visitors can experience the traditional Chinese culture in many areas throughout the country, each unique area attracts thousands of visitors to enjoy the events. China Town Chinese New Year Festival: Yaowarat Road, Bangkok Chinese New Year Festival on Yaowarat road is the most important event for Thai - Chinese people in Bangkok. Here, there are the huge Chinese community, which the visitors will experience the shopping center with variety of goods and the delicious real Chinese food. Also, during the festival, there are many Thai and Chinese cultural performances together with the big cerebration from Chinese people who all wear the red clothes. Moreover, the local Chinese food and goods are prepared for the visitors along the road. Phuket Chinese New Year Festival: Muang District, Phuket Province IMAGE: TOPTEN22PHOTO / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

There are many highlight activities during the festival including the cultural performance with colourful presentations of local culture, tradition and way of life on the tropical island paradise of Phuket. Moreover, the visitors are treated to a rare performance of a Portuguese-style stage and invited to pay homage to the highly revered Goddess Kuan Yin and other Chinese deities and guardian spirits.

CHINESE NEW YEAR FESTIVAL Date: February 08 - 17, 2013 Venue: Bangkok, Suphanburi, Nakhon Sawan, Phuket, Hai Yai

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hinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays, which is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar. Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations

Contact information: TAT Bangkok Office +66 2250 5500 Ext 3485-9 E-mail : eplandiv@tat.or.th

IMPORTANT Event dates and program details may be subject to change. Many of the festivals and events listed on Thailand’s official calendar of annual events are traditional Buddhist or folk festivals, the date of which is either determined by the Buddhist lunar calendar and waxing and waning moon. These are not staged events. The festivals reflect the rhythm of life in rural Thai villages and local traditions as observed in times past. To ensure you have the most updated information, please reconfirm details prior to travel.

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TRANG UNDERWATER WEDDING CEREMONY Date: February 13 - 15, 2013 Venue: Koh Kradan, Trang Province

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rang had been introduced and became well-known to the world as a land full of love, charming blue sky and emerald-green sea. Trang Underwater Wedding is initiated to fulfil the dream of lovers by arranging the traditional Thai wedding ceremony, together with a wedding certificate formally signed under the water. With the annually continuation of the ceremony, the event has gained worldwide popularity, impressed by numerous lovers giving their love to each other among the romantic atmosphere.

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This event attracts so much international interest, that the Guinness Book of Records has awarded this the Largest Underwater Ceremony. Moreover, this event also promotes an exotic traditional Thai wedding culture that can be experienced by wedding couples, divers and tourists from all over the world.

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ABSOLUTE THAI WHAT’S ON

51ST BANGKOK GEMS & JEWELRY FAIR 2013 Date: February 26 - March 2,2013 Venue: Challenger 1-3, IMPACT Arena, Exhibition and Convention Center

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spread over 80,000 square meter in a single-floor layout, BGJF has been a vibrant marketplace where over 1,200 exhibitors from over 35 countries such as UK., Italy, Russia, USA, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Israel and etc. participate in each BGJF which attracts 35,000 international delegates and visitors.

or more than two decades, Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair has continued to establish itself as a professional trade event of choice. Thailand has had a reputation for its craftsmanship and the ability in applying an ancient traditional with modern technology to achieve perfection in the production of impressive jewelry and jewels this easily proves Thailand status to be The World’s Gems & Jewelry Hub. Indeed, the best place to explore the good part of Thailand ‘s distinctiveness is at the bi-annual Bangkok Gems and Jewelry Fair. Yet it is a superb location to see the latest and unique collections, find couture designers and producers in a venue alive with multimedia presentations, dazzling fashion shows, design awards and other special events.

The members of Thai Gem and Jewelry Traders Association have worked closely with the Department of International Trade Promotion towards building the success of the fair and then through a unified effort to increase Thailand’s reputation as The World’s Gems & Jewelry Hub. The Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair organizers are committed to make the 51st edition, scheduled on February 26 - March 2, 20123, even more dazzling than before in order to promote trade and business partnership as well as industry exchange.

Bangkok Gems & Jewelry Fair is a dynamic place to conduct good business and network with over 1,200 exhibitors in 16 key product categories and thousands of international jewelers and traders pursuing supplies. It is organized twice a year, in March and September, at the Impact Challenger, with more than 3,500 stalls

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Contact information: +66 (0) 2630 1390

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IMAGE: ADRIANO CASTELLI / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

IMAGE: WITTAYAMU / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

BANGKOK INTERNATIONAL FASHION FAIR & BANGKOK INTERNATIONAL LEATHER FAIR 2013 Date: March 13 - 15, 2013 (Trade) March 16 - 17, 2013 (Public) Venue: Challenger 2, IMPACT Muang Thong Thani, Bangkok, Thailand IMAGE: ADRIANO CASTELLI / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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IFF & BIL 2013 is bringing together more than 1,000 fashion, textile and leather exhibitors and displays, offering everything from upstream materials to downstream finished products. Indulge in the sights and textures of “ASEAN’s” most distinguished designers and exotic materials, making BIFF & BIL 2013 the place to be for fashion wholesalers, importers, designers, retailers, manufacturers, exporters, and anyone affiliated with the fashion, textiles, and leather industries. Contact information: +66 (0) 2507 8372 +66 (0) 2507 8410

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ABSOLUTE THAI THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF A RAW FOOD DIET

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF A RAW FOOD DIET R WORDS: Steve Field

Thanks to irresponsible commercial farming techniques that depend on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, genetic modification and hormones to grow crops on already overworked land, a large percentage of today’s food supply has become saturated with toxins and has very little nutritional value.

ecently, somebody forwarded me an article which featured the many benefits of following a raw food diet.

The article commented on the fact that if we look at the natural world, we would never find any other living creatures that are overweight (unless it’s our overfed pets). It’s almost hard for our minds to conjure up the image of an overweight plant or an overweight lady bug.

WHY ORGANIC RAW FOODS? In today’s world even the majority of raw foods may contain harmful toxins. If we can’t count on raw fruits and vegetables to be pure sources of nutrition, how are we supposed to obtain the energy necessary for life? The answer lies in choosing organically grown or

This may be due to the fact that all other living creatures consume a steady diet of raw foods, while humans are eating more cooked, processed foods and artificial toxin containing foods.

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locally grown foods. Even better, you should grow your own food organically in a garden provided you don’t live near sources of pollution such as refineries, heavy industry, or freeways. The USDA National Organic Program defines organic food production as: “‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole. Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.”

THE USDA NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM DEFINES ORGANIC FOOD PRODUCTION AS: “‘ORGANIC’ IS A LABELING TERM THAT DENOTES PRODUCTS PRODUCED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE ORGANIC FOODS PRODUCTION ACT. THE PRINCIPAL GUIDELINES FOR ORGANIC PRODUCTION ARE TO USE MATERIALS AND PRACTICES THAT ENHANCE THE ECOLOGICAL BALANCE OF NATURAL SYSTEMS AND THAT INTEGRATE THE PARTS OF THE FARMING SYSTEM INTO AN ECOLOGICAL WHOLE. ORGANIC AGRICULTURE PRACTICES CANNOT ENSURE THAT PRODUCTS ARE COMPLETELY FREE OF RESIDUES; HOWEVER, METHODS ARE USED TO MINIMIZE POLLUTION FROM AIR, SOIL AND WATER.” It’s becoming increasingly common to see organic fruits and vegetables at many grocery stores. Most likely, you can find a locals farmers market in or near your city, especially near rural areas. A farmer’s market is the best place to buy your food because it is grown in your local environment and picked ripe, plus it supports your local, small-production farmers. WHAT IS A RAW FOOD DIET? It is a way of eating that involves a huge dietary increase in the number of unprocessed and uncooked fruits and vegetables, as well as seeds, nuts, grains (mostly sprouted) and beans. A food is considered raw if it is uncooked or “prepared” below 116°F, as above this temperature range, food begins to loose its essential nutrients and enzymes, or its “vital life force.” The more we can eat foods that maintain that aliveness, the more “life force” we ourselves will be able to embody. Remember Life=Life and Death=Death. More than half a century ago in his book Prescription for Energy, Charles de Coti-Marsh explained, “By eating live foods you

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ABSOLUTE THAI THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF A RAW FOOD DIET

THE RAW FOOD DIET EVEN GOES SO FAR AS TO STATE THAT, “COOKED FOOD IS POISON.”

create a live body. Live foods contain essential nutrients the body needs to create and maintain energy. Dead foods advance age, decrease ability, and decrease energy … they are useless when dead…” The best way to approach raw foods is to gradually incorporate more and more raw fruits and vegetables into your diet. A good start is to try to eat 75% raw and 25% lightly cooked (especially in regard to whole grains). Although I personally do not condone eating meat, I have added the safest meats to eat (upon request from consumers) in this general raw food diet plan so some people can make a gradual transition to a 100% raw diet.

colon, which may lead to a whole host of problems, including, cancer, heart-disease, diabetes and many other degenerative diseases. Cooking may actually upset the natural structure of food, robbing it of its essential nutritional value. Ed Douglas, the director of the American living foods Institute, believes that the human body was never meant to eat cooked food. Stephen Arlin, co-author of the book Nature’s First Law: The Raw Food Diet even goes so far as to state that, “Cooked food is poison.” HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING ORGANIC RAW FOODS

THE DOWNSIDES OF COOKING FOOD

If you slowly begin to eat in this fashion, you will be amazed at your increased energy levels, youthful appearance and decreased visits to the doctor’s office. Increasing raw food intake has also been linked to a decreased need for sleep, with many reporting that they

When we cook foods, we inevitably destroy some of the enzymes, vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. If we eat too much overly-cooked, microwaved and processes foods, it can clog our

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A REPORT RECENTLY STATED THAT INCREASED USE OF RAW FOODS IN OUR DIET LOWERS BOTH CHOLESTEROL AND TRIGLYCERIDE LEVELS IN THE BODY, SOME OF THE MAIN INDICATORS FOR HEART DISEASE, OBESITY & HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE.

have more energy when they wake up in the morning, and that they find it easier to get out of bed!

Furthermore, a raw food diet usually involves less packaging and less use of energy sources for cooking, thus making them the near perfect solution for eco-friendly eating. Raw foods also do not usually come in cans or plastics, thus reducing our intake of the harmful chemicals that can be emitted through canned and packaged containers.

Other benefits of following a raw food diet include improved skin appearance, excess weight loss, improved digestion, the reduction of many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as many other health debilitating ailments. Raw foods typically do not have as many trans and saturated fats, as compared to most cooked foods, especially fast food, junk food and any other processed foods.

If you are beginning to eat more raw fruits and vegetables, make sure to buy only organic or locally grown, as many of the toxins present in non-organic foods, such as pesticides, will not be eliminated with raw eating. Also, avoid eating raw meat, as it can be a host to a wide range of bacteria and parasites.

Raw foods are also extremely high in nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, fiber and plant photochemical. A report recently stated that increased use of raw foods in our diet lowers both cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body, some of the main indicators for heart disease, obesity & high blood pressure.

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There is so much information regarding raw foods and personally I believe the best raw food diet is the fruitarian diet. However, everyone is different and you should always do thorough research before radically changing your diet.

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LEadiNg agENT

following a sell out first phase we are proud

Your fir EvEry stunning ocean views, fully furnished in an outstanding peninsula setting on

inTroducing Twin sands much anTicipaTed second phase as a global first, and following a sell-out initial phase, international estate agent Jones Lang LaSalle and award-winning resort developer Absolute World Group have joined forces to bring you the opportunity to own a stunning apartment in the second phase of this spectacular resort on the celebrated island of Phuket, Thailand. Nestled between two white sand beaches and set within a breathtaking peninsula, boasting remarkable views, absolute Twin Sands resort & Spa, on Phuket’s west coast, is the ultimate resort getaway. The resorts sell out first phase makes way for the much-anticipated launch of Phase Two. With Phase One now open, the development team are keen to share this exclusive Phase Two investment opportunity and are inviting qualified Absolute Lifestyle Magazine readers to experience all the resort has to offer with a 3 night stay for just US$199. Thailand has continued to be a global attraction for holidaymakers so there has never been a better time to invest. • Set between two stunning beaches on Phuket’s south west coast • Studio, 1 and 2 bed apartments from THB2.5m (US$80,000) • Fully furnished apartments including the latest audio-visual technology • Exceptional yields, fixed at 6% per annum

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ABSOLUTE THAI COVER FEATURE

Nicki Minaj YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW HER MUSIC, BUT YOU DEFINITELY KNOW HER LOOK WORDS: Tim Knight

IMAGE: S_BUKLEY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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nika Tanya Maraj was born on December 8, 1982 in Saint James, a suburb of Trinidad and Tobago’s capital city Port of Spain to parents Carol and Robert Maraj, an accounting clerk/gospel singer and an employee at American Express, respectively. Her parents are of mixed Indian and Afro-Trinidadian ancestry and she lived in Saint James with her grandmother. Minaj is the middle sister to brothers Makiya and Jelani, as mentioned in her song I’m the Best on her debut album, Pink Friday. Her mother would occasionally visit, and one day, when Minaj was five, her mother picked her up to move to the Queens borough of New York City. According to Minaj, her father drank heavily, took drugs, and once tried to kill her mother by setting the house on fire. Minaj attended Elizabeth Blackwell Middle School 210, where she played the clarinet. She then graduated from LaGuardia High School, which specializes in music and the visual and performing arts. Minaj participated in the drama program and initially planned to sing at LaGuardia, but lost her voice on the day of the audition. Minaj had a passion to become an actress, but failed at attempts to pursue her career due to the lack of roles IMAGE: AMY NICHOLE HARRIS / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

IN AUGUST 2012, SPECULATION EMERGED THAT MINAJ WOULD JOIN THE JUDGING PANEL FOR THE TWELFTH SEASON OF AMERICAN IDOL.

she received. In 2001, she was cast in the Off-Broadway play, In Case You Forget. After her acting career failed to take off, Minaj worked at Red Lobster (a cheap American seafood joint) in the Bronx at the age of 19 as a waitress. Minaj was fired from Red Lobster because of her discourteousness to customers. She stated she had been fired from “at least fifteen jobs” for similar antics. Minaj briefly signed with Brooklyn group Full Force, in which Minaj rapped in a foursome group called Hoodstars. In 2004 the group recorded the entrance song for WWE wrestler Victoria titled Don’t Mess With, it was featured on the compilation album ThemeAddict: WWE The Music, Vol.6. Minaj left the group, unsatisfied with their lack of success. During this time, Minaj uploaded a few songs on her Myspace profile and sent a few of her songs to people in the music industry. She was managed by Debra Antney. Fendi, CEO of the Brooklyn label Dirty Money Entertainment, who also found rapper Gravy, discovered the music and

IMAGE: DEBBY WONG / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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ABSOLUTE THAI COVER FEATURE

contacted Minaj, signing her to his label. Initially, Minaj adopted the pseudonym “Nicki Maraj”, later changing to “Nicki Minaj”, stating “My real name is Maraj. Fendi flipped it when he met me because I had such a nasty flow! I eat bitches!” Under Fendi’s label, Minaj appeared on the popular street DVD The Come Up Volume 11 that featured underground rappers from New York. Minaj revealed the bottle design for her fragrance, “Pink Friday,” through Twitter. The bottle bears a pink wig, a gold-platted bust, and a chain that hangs from the neck, bearing her name, similar to the cover of her debut album, Pink Friday. On August 24, 2012, Minaj premiered the music video for I Am Your Leader through Vevo. She was featured on Lil Wayne’s mixtape, Dedication 4, in September 2012. Minaj won the award for Best Female Video at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, and performed Girl on Fire with Alicia Keys and special guest gymnast Gabby Douglas.

MINAJ WAS NOMINATED FOR THREE AWARDS: BEST HIP-HOP, BEST FEMALE, AND BEST LOOK. MINAJ WON BEST HIP-HOP.

In August 2012, speculation emerged that Minaj would join the judging panel for the twelfth season of American Idol, though Minaj commented at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, “You know what? At this time, I have no comment on that one.” On September 16, 2012, it was confirmed that Minaj would join the panel alongside Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Keith Urban, beginning immediately with the auditions starting the same day. Minaj and Carey have received much media attention for their on-set tension, with a video released of the two in the midst of a heated argument during auditions in Charlotte. The following day, in a statement to Barbara Walters of The View, Carey alleged that Minaj had threatened to “shoot her” during an argument that had occurred earlier that week, though Minaj and producer Nigel Lythgoe denied such claims. Minaj starred in a three-part E! channel documentary special, titled Nicki Minaj: My Truth. It aired from November 4, 2012 until November 18, 2012. At the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards, Minaj was nominated for three awards: Best Hip-Hop, Best Female, and Best Look. Minaj won Best Hip-Hop, but lost to Taylor Swift

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IMAGE: ANTON OPARIN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

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Discover Nature, Discover Yourself...

Peace, Serenity, Solitude. These are the words that come to mind for Pimalai. Add to that luxury, elegance, natural surroundings and genuine friendly service. Be it for a honeymoon, a wedding ceremony, a diving experience, a break from it all or even for a business meeting in Krabi or in Thailand then Pimalai, nestled in a lush tropical forest, is the Andaman luxury destination to set your sights on. This exclusive beach resort combines all the right ingredients - subtle five star comforts, natural beauty, environmental friendliness and lots of space. Located well distant from crowded beaches and other boutique resorts on Koh Lanta and close to Lanta Marine National Park, the only sound is that of the waves sliding in and out and slowly breaking onto the sandy beach. Built within the rainforest as it meets the silver ocean strand, you would hardly know Pimalai was there. This boutique beach resort occupies 100 acres of tropical vegetation with direct access to a 900 meters stretch of pristine sandy beach and offers 121accommodation units - all very elegantly appointed. From Krabi mainland, it takes about 1 hour by the resort boat to reach Koh Lanta and Pimalai but it is worth bearing this “hardship” in order to find such a unique lost boutique paradise in tourist Thailand... Visit once and you will return again and again... PIMALAI RESORT & SPA Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand www.pimalai.com

Tel: +66 2 320 5500 Fax: +66 2 320 5503 E-mail: reservation@pimalai.com


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IMAGE: JOE SEER / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

ON DECEMBER 4, 2012, MAC COSMETICS REVEALED THAT MINAJ, WHO PREVIOUSLY BACKED THE CAMPAIGN ALONGSIDE RICKY MARTIN, WOULD FRONT THE VIVA GLAM 2013 CAMPAIGN, RELEASING A NEW SHADE OF LIPSTICK “NICKI 2” AND MATCHING LIP-GLOSS.

in the other two categories. In November 2012, Minaj announced plans to launch her own record label, and has already signed singer-songwriter and producer Parker Ighile, rapper Brinx, and singer Keisha. The title “Pink Friday Records” was intended, but was scrapped because it was “Not fair 2 the dudes,” Minaj revealed in a press release, clarifying that she would release the new name “very soon.” In November 2012, in response to a Twitter user, Minaj confirmed that her third studio album will be titled Pink Friday: The Pinkprint.

Ricky Martin, would front the Viva Glam 2013 campaign, releasing a new shade of lipstick “Nicki 2” and matching lip-gloss. Minaj has been noted by the media for her curvaceous figure. In an interview with Vibe Minaj discussed her sexual image stating, “When I grew up I saw females doing certain things, and I thought I had to do that exactly. The female rappers of my day spoke about sex a lot, and I thought that to have the success they got I would have to represent the same thing. When in fact I didn’t have to represent the same thing.” Later adding, “I made a conscious decision to try to tone down the

On December 4, 2012, MAC Cosmetics revealed that Minaj, who previously backed the campaign alongside

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IMAGE: DEBBY WONG / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

sexiness, I want people - especially young girls - to know that in life, nothing is going to be based on sex appeal. You got to have something else to go with that.” Minaj has made “signing boobs” part of her movement to empower women. In an interview with The Guardian, Minaj says she is competing with both male and female rappers. “That’s why I say stuff like, ‘Dick in your face’, because I don’t even wanna refer to female genitalia any more. I just feel I have bigger balls than the boys,” Minaj said, referencing the song Come on a Cone from Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.

and interviews, Minaj refers to her fans collectively as “Barbz” and her male hetrosexual and LGBT following as “Boyz” and “Ken Barbz,” respectively, alluding to her “Harajaku Barbie” persona. Minaj deleted her Twitter account for eight days in April 2012, following a dispute between her and fans who wanted to leak snippets of her then-unreleased album. At the time, she possessed 11 million followers and lost over a million followers as a result of the ordeal.

WITH OVER 17,000 TWEETS AND 15

With over 17,000 tweets and 15 million followers, Billboard ranked Minaj the sixth most active user of microblogging website Twitter. In March 2011, Billboard named Minaj the fourth most active musician on social media, through their Social 50 chart. The chart tracks Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and Instagram usage. On Twitter, she is the most followed rapper in the world. Upon Twitter and in public appearances

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MILLION FOLLOWERS, BILLBOARD RANKED MINAJ THE SIXTH MOST ACTIVE USER OF MICROBLOGGING WEBSITE TWITTER.

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ABSOLUTE THAI HANSAR SAMUI

A ROOM WITH MORE THAN JUST A VIEW W O R D S : L a u re n c e C i v i l

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lying with Bangkok Airways to Samui is always a comfortable experience. Checking into the Boutique Lounge I was automatically given my wifi password now had time for quality grazing and last minute e-mails before boarding the aircraft. I find this the best domestic flying experience in Thailand.

the floors are polished concrete with a spaciously comfortable walk in shower is framed by floor to ceiling columns filled with beaded screened glass panels. There is the choice of a ceiling mounted rain shower or a more traditional shower. The floor is black slate stone tiled platform surrounded by a low sunken moat for water to flow away.

Transfer from the airport took just 10 minutes. From the lobby I was guided up bamboo pole lined concrete staircase to my ocean facing room on the second floor. The door opens Access by electronic touch card.

Moving into the sleeping zone the floor surface changes from polished concrete to teak planking . A snuggly comfortable king size bed faces the 50� wall mounted LCD TV. Walking through the sliding panels to the decked terrace lounge are. A large rocking chair,

My room was 50 sqm, sub-divided into three zones offering a wash, sleep relax experience. In the wet area

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low circular coffee table and an over hanging sofa set in the wall facing the wall. The earth tone walls of the outside corridor reappear in this section of the fan. In the ceiling a circular rotating fan. Within minutes of stepping into the room I could feel I was breathing slower and the relaxation process was kicking in. Resort dining isn’t dictated by the watch rather the stomach and when eating just feels the right thing to do. Having unpacked and accustomed myself with how the room works I felt like a bite to eat so I wondered down to H Bistro and took a seat in the open sided with and uninterrupted view of the collection of yachts anchored off shore. There are those who may be willing to dismiss burgers as just fast food but not here, the Hansar Cheese Burger is a comfort gastro delight. It was styled with a de-constructed presentation The Wagyu

MY ROOM WAS 50 SQM, SUB-DIVIDED INTO THREE ZONES OFFERING A WASH, SLEEP RELAX EXPERIENCE. IN THE WET AREA THE FLOORS ARE POLISHED CONCRETE WITH A SPACIOUSLY COMFORTABLE WALK IN SHOWER IS FRAMED BY FLOOR TO CEILING COLUMNS FILLED WITH BEADED SCREENED GLASS PANELS. beef patty thick and juicy was perfectly cooked topped with melted cheeses and crispy bacon on the lower half of the toasted sesame seed bun. On another section of the plate a freestanding pile of crunchy crisp iceberg lettuce, slice of tomato and raw onion rings. Generously cut french fries, a dish of ketchup and another of sour vegetable relish. All the burger elements were on the plate the presentation made eating it easier rather than the traditional stack. I took the tropically light pistachio creme brûlée with chocolate biscotti and strawberry coulis. After my late lunch I took a stroll along the narrow tarmac road that divides the resort from the beach to explore the Fisherman’s Village. It sits in the middle of Bophut beach between the Big Buddha and Maenam beach overlooking Koh Pha NganHere the streets are line with old wooded Chinese shophouses interspersed with a few modern buildings. This is one of the best preserved areas on the island with a distinctly Mediterranean feel which is mostly due to this area having been the island’s French outpost for many years. Every Friday night all transportation is banned as it becomes a walking street. Speed boats leave from to Koh Pha Ngan for the monthly Full Moon Parties.

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ABSOLUTE THAI HANSAR SAMUI

When got back to the room I felt in need of a naughty indulgence so i raided the Dean & Deluca milk chocolate malt balls from the minibar. Truely delicious and tottaly addictive, whoever came up with the idea that indulgence is a sin needs to get a life. As the sunset the passage of day to night is recognised by the silent ceremony of lighting of the oil burning lamps on the sea facing border of the resort. For dinner Canadian born Executive Chef Stephen Dion who describes his cooking style as French Mediterranean, indulged me with his monthly changing Chef’s Dinner Special. A typical menu would start with imported seafood, on this occasion he served grilled Hokkaido Octupus and seared Alaskan scallops. This was followed by a fish course of was a duo of Scottish sea trout. From there I moved onto “Rusticello” white winter truffle flavoured risotto with Iberico pork loin. Unless the customer is vegetarian the main course is a choice between fish and lamb. With this menu fish course was pan seared Dover sole filet with the meat alternative being slow cooked stockyard wagyu tenderloin with a marble score in excess of nine.

FOR DINNER CANADIAN BORN EXECUTIVE CHEF STEPHEN DION WHO DESCRIBES HIS COOKING STYLE AS FRENCH MEDITERRANEAN, INDULGED ME WITH HIS MONTHLY CHANGING

After dinner Stephen joined me for coffee to explain so of the other culinary pampering they offer. “We can arrange a sunset cruise for a minimum of four people. ,” he says, “we charter a 30 foot yacht and stock it with Champagne, oysters and Dean & Deluca chocolates. We have tent like cabanas on the beach where we serve a candlelight dinner. I will discuss with the couple what they would like and its served by their very own barefoot butler.

CHEF’S DINNER SPECIAL.

When I got back to my room I found the bed had been turned down and on my pillow a plate with for chocolates and single, a romantic sleeping experience for one. After a blissful nights sleep my batteries fully charged for the start of the new day. I took my morning tea out onto the terrace balcony. From here I had an unspoilt view of the mirror like infinity pool below, the colour identical to the slightly texture surface of the sea beyond. Total tranquility , furled sun umbrella were stand furled ready for the start of their days duty as the leaves of the palm trees gently sway too and grow. I wondered down for breakfast where all the tables had been laid for couples but when staff discovered I was dining alone the second place was cleared. I ordered perfectly light eggs Benedict with generous coating

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of rich creamy textured Hollandaise sauce dusted with chopped chives. Sausages (I was given a choice of pork or chicken) taste of real meat, crispy bacon. Quality, tasty and simple. Western & Asian buffet available extensive selection of juices and fresh fruit. The hotel has rented a half acre piece of waste land and converted it into a aquoponic fish and vegetable farm to grow chemical free herbs, fruits and vegetables for guests and staff. “We are currently growing are herbs ( 3 different varieties of ginger, galangal, turmeric, lemongrass, rosemary, holy basil, thyme, tarragon, Italian basil – vegetables: morning glory, chinese kale, several varieties of lettuce, green cabbage, bunching onions and green pai tsai . Fruits: Sweet potatoes, sweet corn, baby corn, pea eggplant, cucumber, round egg plant, seedless yellow water melon, seedless red watermelon, Tomatoes ( cherry varieties: yellow, black, purple), bell peppers, chilies, papaya. Other varities will be added at a later date. Dried leaves and refuse are used for compost and harvested back into the ground. This will become a key feature for their cooking classes as guest will be able to pick the ingredients they are going to cook with.”

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101/28 Moo 1, Bophut, Koh Samui, Surat Thani Thailand 84320 T: +66 77 245 511 F: +66 77 245 995 E: reservation@hansarsamui.com W: www.hansarsamui.com

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THE NEW ABSOLUTE THAI APP Download Today Owners of the iPad can now download the Absolute Thai Magazine iPad application FREE to read and enjoy at your leisure.

Absolute Thai iPad app is a user-friendly interactive magazine which contains extra content not found in our printed magazine, so now there are even more stunning photos, articles and even videos!


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ABSOLUTE THAI WARM SMILES & KIND HOSPITALITY

WARM SMILES & KIND HOSPITALITY A Truly Winning Combination WORDS: Steve Bosell

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It is beyond doubt that Thai smiles and hospitality are two of the most resounding aspects of Thailand which attract so many visitors to this sun-filled ancient land. Then, perhaps not quite like back home, Thais’ smiles and hospitality are unmistakably genuine – all coming straight from the heart. So, where do these strikingly positive Thai characteristics originate from?

nyone who has ever been to Thailand will have repeatedly witnessed the reason why the Kingdom has rightly been dubbed the Land of Smiles. A land of warm and friendly folk where visitors will be met with caring beaming smiles the minute they steps off the plane. Many foreigners are perplexed to why a country like Thailand can be so open and hospitable to foreigners and be so delightfully happy to meet and greet and help them.

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It is extremely difficult to define a ‘Thai person’; Thailand, or historically Siam, has over the centuries, been a melting of different peoples, cultures, traditions and languages. Ever since the arrival of the first foreigners to modern Siam, the locals have, regardless of race, color or creed, whole-heartedly welcomed friendly visitors from abroad with open arms; and been accepting of positive foreign ways, ideas and influence. Never having been colonialized, Thailand has kept its own identity while accommodating foreigners to the fullest. Unlike many other Asian countries, the ‘Thai’ people live as one, whether they be Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian or Confuscist; they live together in harmony and peace and are respectful of each other’s beliefs and cultures. That is one of the beauties of Thailand and the essence of Thai people’s hospitality towards foreigners.

UNLIKE MANY OTHER ASIAN COUNTRIES, THE ‘THAI’ PEOPLE LIVE AS ONE, WHETHER THEY BE BUDDHIST, MUSLIM, HINDU, SIKH, CHRISTIAN OR CONFUSCIST; THEY LIVE TOGETHER IN HARMONY AND PEACE AND ARE RESPECTFUL OF EACH OTHER’S BELIEFS AND CULTURES.

As for the ever friendly ‘Thai Smile’ (pronounced yim in Thai), that is obviously one of Thailand’s greatest attributes in promoting people to come to the Kingdom time and time again. Wherever one is, in this lovely land, foreign visitors feel perfectly at home due to the constant smiles they receive from people of all walks of life. This is one heartfelt feature of Thailand which the country does not have to invest a penny to promote. Smiling, like hospitality, is engrained within Thai Wat thana tham (culture) and so, the hearts and souls of the Thai people. One of the most remembered episodes in recent times of just how far the Thais can take their smiles, generosity and warmth was in the aftermath of the horrific Tsunami disaster of 2004. Foreign diplomats and governments heaped immense praise upon Thailand for its huge relief efforts, “I’m amazed. I think without them we would be in a much worse situation than we are,” the Swedish ambassador to Thailand said. Survivors too recount how local Thais, often at their own peril, worked hazardously with their bare hands to help foreign victims escape, while affording well needed comfort and shelter to weary survivors. Ron Bombiger, a

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ABSOLUTE THAI WARM SMILES & KIND HOSPITALITY

SMILING, LIKE HOSPITALITY, IS ENGRAINED WITHIN THAI WAT THANA THAM (CULTURE) AND SO, THE HEARTS AND SOULS OF THE THAI PEOPLE.

tourist from Los Angeles recalled, “The local people rescued me, put me in a blanket, fed me and got me to a hospital.” The whole-hearted Thai smile and hospitality, renowned throughout the world, whether it is in terms of service or humanity, will continue to serve Thailand’s tourism industry enormously while promoting international relations and a remarkably positive image abroad. In the words of Jim, an American ex-professional athlete, who has written lately on a well-known Thai travel website, “I have traveled around 3/4 of the world, and the Thai people are some of the nicest, most polite people I have ever met. I was

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never treated better in Europe, South America, Central America, or North America. No other country in Asia is even close, and I have been to most of them”.

loving, and polite and would give you the shirt off from their backs. We have made a few Thai friends over the years, and we are treated like family when we see them”.

In the west, smiling at total strangers is not a common habit and might even get your motives questioned if you are a man smiling at an unknown woman. In Thailand, however, a man can smile at a totally strange woman and will generally get a beautiful smile in return without any hesitation. Granted, it does not mean she will marry you, but it still makes your heart sing. And people here will just as freely talk to you.

Finally, it is completely obvious that it is the wondrous smile and ever kind hospitality of the Thais that are major key factors in encouraging foreign tourists to come to Thailand again and again and again.

Over on the popular TripAdvisor.com forums, Peter Travels had this to say lately about the local people, “Firstly, the beautiful Thai people, the majority are kind,

WOULD GIVE YOU THE SHIRT OFF FROM

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THE BEAUTIFUL THAI PEOPLE, THE MAJORITY ARE KIND, LOVING, AND POLITE AND THEIR BACKS.

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ABSOLUTE THAI CRUISING THE AMAZON

CRUISING THE AMAZON WORDS: Peter Holthusen

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s our plane begins its descent towards the Amazon rainforest, the only break in the carpet of rich, luscious, green canopy is the occasional glimmer of light from the winding grey river below. It is a timeless scene, unaffected by the passing of the centuries and seemingly unchanged by human interference. And it is from this height that you begin to realize why: the Peruvian corner of the world’s largest rainforest appears vast and impenetrable; one of the Earth’s few remaining unconquered territories.

rudimentary shacks, the lush foliage of the Amazon shimmers in the heat, at once mesmerizingly beautiful and peaceful. The noisy chatter of birds and the buzz of insects are the only clues to our future forays in the jungle as we board our vessel under the cover of night. We arrive exhausted and sweaty. Luckily, there is no roughing it on this expedition and our first night aboard the 5-star MV Aqua is spent enjoying a three-course tasting menu, excellent wine and exotic Amazonian fruits as we sail deeper into the heart of the rainforest.

Luckily, we plan to explore it by water: the only way to make an inroad into the dense jungle to discover the rich concentration of some of the world’s most diverse and exotic flora and fauna hidden in the trees.

This luxury cruise ship is the perfect size to sail along the Amazon, providing an extremely comfortable inboard and outboard lounge, observation deck, luxuriously appointed dining and sleeping accommodation, shopping in the inboard boutique, and modern navigation technologies and standards for cruise ship travel and safety on the water.

The heat embraces us as we step of the plane in the tiny, dusty city of Iquitos, our palms instantly damp in the stifling humidity and blazing sunshine. Beyond the

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The MV Aqua’s twelve oversized Cruise Ship Suites feature intimate en-suite sitting areas and generous outward-facing picture-windows affording panoramic views of the Amazon and its banks. Each of the beautifully decorated, air-conditioned Cruise Ship Suites measure between 230 to 240 sq ft. The next morning we awake to see the trees passing calmly by our bedroom window as we sail towards one of the tributaries we will be exploring more intimately on skiffs – small flat-bottom boats with outboard motors. Then, on our simple but sturdy skiffs, we embark on a series of Indiana Jones-style expeditions deep into the jungle, spurred on by the calls of Howler monkeys and flashes of brilliant colour from exotic birds such as the

THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE AN INROAD INTO THE DENSE JUNGLE TO DISCOVER THE RICH CONCENTRATION OF SOME OF THE WORLD’S MOST DIVERSE AND EXOTIC FLORA AND FAUNA HIDDEN IN THE TREES.

Hyacinth Macaw and Hoatzin. It is the wet season and much of the land is completely flooded as we sail into a tributary known as the Mirrored Forest. So, instead of exploring on foot, we glide under treetop canopies by skiff, watching Spider monkeys dart along the branches above, spectacular iridescent butterflies flutter by and indolent sloths turn their heads in our direction as our naturalist guides impersonate their mating calls. The jungle is noisy and imposing and I am struck by how many different bird, monkey and insect species we spot as we negotiate a black-water stream in the Yanallpa river. The rainforest is home to nearly a third of the world’s species and the sense of being watched unnerves us as we spot tiny eyes glittering from between the trees. Look around quickly and you’ll see nothing. Concentrate, and there are Scarlet Macaws and noisy Night monkeys seemingly oblivious to our boat chugging lazily through the water while the sunlight catches the glint of our Swarovski binoculars. There is also a surprising amount of river traffic: whole communities live along the bank, sustained by the incredible ecosystem. Most have adopted simple lifestyles that complement the natural harmony of the jungle and their lives barely impact upon their surroundings. We do, sadly, also spot loggers and industrial fishermen and see first-hand the damage they do.

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ABSOLUTE THAI CRUISING THE AMAZON

As we explore the 20,000 sq km Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, we watch the locals fishing and they wave at us, proudly holding out their catches for the click-click of our digital cameras. Then we visit them in their villages where we present them with pens, paper and clothes and they sell us necklaces with alternating beads and piranha teeth. The most spectacular moment of our entire trip comes as darkness falls. Night holds a different magic in the rainforest. As the sun drops on the lip of the horizon, the deafening cacophony of Howler monkeys, night birds, tree frogs, and buzzing insects increases to an almost unbearable volume. That night, near the Yanayacu Lake, we watch thousands of fireflies wink in the thick soupy darkness as our skiff negotiates the branches and trees strewn across the river.

THEN, ON OUR SIMPLE BUT STURDY SKIFFS, WE EMBARK ON A SERIES OF INDIANA JONES-STYLE EXPEDITIONS DEEP INTO THE JUNGLE. Night is also the best time to search for Caimans. These creatures, a smaller cousin of the crocodile, are best spotted by their eyes, which glow red in torchlight. We manage to catch a Spectacled caiman and Black caiman, luckily both babies, and the guides hand them to us to gently hold and take pictures with, their glistening reptilian skin reflecting the light from our torches.

unfurled in a dazzle of colour among the greens and greys of the trees and river. We smile as baby Jacanas, tiny moorhen-like birds, dart about the pads, making

Thrilled by our encounter with the baby Caimans, we go in search of a much larger reptile: the mighty Anaconda. The snakes, members of the boa family who kill their prey by constriction, can apparently grow up to five metres long. We find one, just a couple of metres in length, and then sit at a safe distance while our three naturalist guides wrestle with the majestic creature before lowering it carefully back into the water, completely unharmed. The night ends with a glass of champagne onboard the skiffs as the sun sets behind the ancient trees.

high-pitched cheeps. But as our guides start to exchange wary looks, we notice the sky darkening and the clouds thickening and we turn swiftly towards home. Regardless of their efforts we are too far away and get absolutely soaked, despite our heavy-duty anoraks. When we eventually scramble off the skiffs back on to our luxury river cruiser, it is in high spirits, laughing at our adventure. The next day, during the long, hot afternoon, we go piranha fishing in the Carocurahuayte Lake. We hook the vicious creatures with their blood-like reddishorange colouring, and then throw them back alive.

The following evening, we take the skiffs out and cruise between enormous lily pads, their powdery pink flowers

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OUR FOUR-NIGHT CRUISE ENDS WITH AN EVENING TRIP ON THE SKIFFS TO WATCH A STUNNING SUNSET STREAKED WITH RED AND ORANGE.

Our four-night cruise ends with an evening trip on the skiffs to watch a stunning sunset streaked with red and orange. The lake is bordered by imposing trees standing motionless where they have always stood. We sit contentedly as schools of ancient species of pink and grey dolphins breach the placid waters just a couple of arm lengths from our boat. It is a scene that has endured through the centuries, barely touched by the passing of time. But for just one night, its startling beauty is forever etched in my memory as the wonderful, otherworldly Amazon. FURTHER INFORMATION Peru Tourism Bureau www.visitperu.com Aqua Expeditions www.aquaexpeditions.com

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ABSOLUTE THAI INVASION OF THE FROG LADIES

INVASION OF THE FROG LADIES That gentle tapping on the shoulder, the melting friendly eyes. Then the daunting, insistent simulated croaking. The frog ladies are here and you will buy the frog. WORDS: Dan White

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ll over Thailand where tourists gather, visitors will often find themselves playing a part in a very common scenario. There you are sitting in a cafe watching the world go by when you are approached by an orderly queue of ten old ladies wearing brightly coloured clothing, lots of heavy jewellery and elaborate hats resembling metallic Christmas trees. Be aware that you are in the presence of the elite of the elite of the commercial street wandering crowd. They are Asia’s

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finest and most persistent purveyors of things you may just want but most likely it has never occurred to you. They are Bodie and Doyle, Starsky and Hutch and

DESCENDING FROM THE MISTY HILLS OF THE WILD BORDERLANDS NEAR BURMA THEY FAN OUT ACROSS THE COUNTRY IN ORDERLY LINES WALKING QUITE SLOWLY.

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Charlie’s Angels all rolled into one. You have just been confronted by a crack squad of frog ladies.

ONCE THE FROG LADIES FINALLY ARRIVE AT

Descending from the misty hills of the wild borderlands near Burma they fan out across the country in orderly lines walking quite slowly. As they march the characteristic sound of wood scraped against wood echoes across the countryside accurately imitating the mournful cry of the humble frog. This confuses genuine frogs everywhere causing them to mate wildly. Once the frog ladies finally arrive at the front lines of Bangkok, Pattaya and Patong they employ a simple tactic to corner their prey, grind them down and eventually force them, terrorised and confused, to become the proud owner of the noisy wooden replica reptile. This weapon consists of a relentless, never ending repetition. It’s harsh.

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THE FRONT LINES OF BANGKOK, PATTAYA AND PATONG THEY EMPLOY A SIMPLE TACTIC TO CORNER THEIR PREY, GRIND THEM DOWN AND EVENTUALLY FORCE THEM, TERRORISED AND CONFUSED, TO BECOME THE PROUD OWNER OF THE NOISY WOODEN REPLICA REPTILE.

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ABSOLUTE THAI INVASION OF THE FROG LADIES

As the first kindly, smiling old lady walks by you may gently decline her offer. Forget it. This makes no dent at all on the frog lady. She stands beside you for a seeming eternity gently scraping at her frog, and indeed at the fibres of your sanity, using a small wooden stick. Smiling serenely the noise will start to bore into the inner most chambers of your consciousness growing in volume, the sound wafting gently into your future nightmares. Then just as you are about to break the frog lady moves on.

THE SCRAPING, THE GENTLE SMILES, THE FUNNY HATS, MORE SCRAPING. YOUR NERVE ENDINGS EXPOSED, THE WORLD STARTS TO JITTER AROUND YOU.

You may think it’s over. Think again. The nightmare is only starting. As one frog lady drifts off the next in the queue approaches and the routine starts all over again. The scraping, the gentle smiles, the funny hats, more scraping. Your nerve endings exposed, the world starts to jitter around you. It will not end. You will crack. You will buy that frog. The frog ladies know this. They are merciless. The fact that they know it is what gives them their friendly serenity. The only question for them is how long it will take you to crack.You will end up vacantly muttering “The horror, the horror, the horror” over and over again whilst weeping gently and beating your head rhythmically against concrete. Frog ladies hail from the Akha tribe living in the mountains around Chiang Mai. They are famed amongst other hill tribes for their intelligence and commercial prowess. But on Thailand’s urban streets they do have competition. You may not want a noisy frog but this does not prevent you from being presented with the opportunity to wear a hat cunningly disguised as a goldfish. This sartorial delight could be complemented by a Zippo nearly the size of a pick up truck. If that doesn’t appeal try a string of dangling cuddly monkeys, a stuffed squirrel (perfect for the beach), an amorphous splodgy thing that goes splat or the eminently practical model tuk

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tuk made from old beer cans. In fact old beer cans provide the raw material for a plethora of objects that you might not want…. Planes, sailing ships, motorbikes. All seem to have been beamed in from a parallel world of miniatures where all vehicular transportation is sponsored by Singha Beer or Heineken. Of course none of this is a bad thing. The wonderful reality is that Thailand is a country where the cities and villages teem with life and excitement and commerce of all kinds takes place on the street. It’s a country where one half of the nation seems to be in the constant process of feeding the other half. Snacking is a national obsession and it is virtually a government decree that where ever more than three people are gathered together in one place it won’t be long before someone pulls up on an adapted motorcycle or staggers by with an impossibly heavy load suspended from bamboo slung across their shoulders. From these mobile cooking contraptions will emerge delicious steaming bowls of noodle soup, grilled fish balls, omelettes and a hundred other tasty, pungent delicacies. Going hungry in Thailand would take quite some effort.

THE WONDERFUL REALITY IS THAT THAILAND IS A COUNTRY WHERE THE CITIES AND VILLAGES TEEM WITH LIFE AND EXCITEMENT AND COMMERCE OF ALL KINDS TAKES PLACE ON THE STREET. Hungry or not, going into a culinary trance will not help save you from the gentle persistence of the frog ladies (no one has ever seen them eat). They will interrupt your reverie….. Why not save yourself the bother and just buy the frog at the outset…… and the hat made of car parts, the bracelets made of sea shells. In fact invest in the giant Zippo and festoon yourself with cuddly monkeys. Admire your fleet of thousands of small vehicles made of used beer cans. Embrace the void.

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ABSOLUTE THAI JLL REVIEW

YANGON HOTEL MARKET OFFERS PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR EARLY MOVERS

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ince began economic and social reforms, there has been tremendous growth in visitors to Yangon in the past year. While this has resulted in significant growth in demand for hotel accommodation, the hotel market in Yagon is suffering a severe shortage of international quality hotel supply, and thus opening tremendous opportunities for both hotel investors and operators.

given the continued growth in visitor arrivals and construction lag. The expected supply and demand dynamics over the next few years will also give operators the opportunity to substantially increase room rates. Having said that the market is not without challenges: land acquisition is difficult; sources of funding remain opaque; and political and economic uncertainties remain high.

There are currently approx. 1,500 – 2,500 hotel rooms of international standard in Yagon. Most hotels have been running at full capacity during weekdays throughout the year and also at weekends during the high leisure season. Due to strong demand and shortage of supply, the average daily rate will have grown 350% from 2007 to end 2012.

Despite the challenges, Yangon is positioned to grow much faster than many other emerging markets in Asia. The opportunities in all sectors of real estate are particularly attractive with a severe shortage of supply in the office, hotel, residential and retail sectors. In the hotels sector, even if international hotel supply triples in the next several years, the Yangon market still offers plenty of opportunities for early movers, given the severe lack of current capacity.

In response to very strong prospects, there have been a number of new hotel development projects launched in Yagon. We estimate that international quality hotel supply in the former capital is expected to grow by 36.7 percent per annum from 2012 to 2016, assuming all projects which are underway or in the pipeline are completed.

Andrew Langdon is Senior Vice President of Hotels & Hospitality at Jones Lang LaSalle.

Despite this new supply, Yangon will continue to experience a major shortage of hotel rooms for the next five to ten years until substantial room supply enters the market,

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ABSOLUTE THAI NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL A COFFEE GRINDER

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL A COFFEE GRINDER Black Ivory Coffee Helping Elephants WORDS: John Roberts

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ome years ago, up in North-East India, the harried coffee planters noticed that elephants had started to come out of the ever-decreasing forest, well, they’d been noticing that for many years (elephants outside a forest can be hard to miss) but they noticed something else, the elephants had begun to eat the coffee plants.

dung; dreaming of the fortunes that had inadvertently fallen into their laps (or onto their boots) they roasted then brewed the beans.

WHILE LEGEND HAS IT THAT THE CIVETS EAT ONLY THE CHOICEST BEANS

Originally this was thought to be a pain, damaged crops are what leads to the majority of Human Elephant Conflict around the world, however, these were well informed coffee planters and knew of a gourmet coffee sold from the jungles of Indonesia that has passed through the gut of a civet and fetches a pretty penny. So, before they ran to scold the elephants they took to following them around and picking the beans out of the

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ELEPHANTS, OF COURSE EAT THE CHOICEST BEANS BUT THEY ALSO EAT THE WHOLE COFFEE TREE AND THE TREE NEXT TO THAT AND, YOU GUESSED IT, THE TREE NEXT TO THAT ONE TOO.

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Lo and behold, the coffee tasted exactly as you’d expect something that has passed through an elephant to, it tasted of elephant dung and smelt pretty much the same. While legend has it that the civets eat ONLY the choicest beans elephants, of course eat the choicest beans but they also eat the whole coffee tree and the tree next to that and, you guessed it, the tree next to that one too. The coffee planters reported their findings and went back to trying to keep the elephants in the forest. The idea would have been lost but for a young Canadian coffee wallah working, at the time, in Ethiopia with a community that traditionally kept civets and was researching ways in which the village might work it’s way out of poverty (and, being an animal lover, improve the conditions for their civets) by producing an Ethiopian version of what was then known as the world’s best coffee.

WHAT ON EARTH ARE WE GOING TO DO

However, being an expert on coffee production (in the end, the Ethiopian village didn’t cotton to coffee) he figured that the enzymes in an elephant’s stomach would do the same thing to the coffee that the enzymes in a civet’s stomach (something to do with breaking down proteins that gives the civet coffee a unique smooth taste) and, unlike civets, he knew that there were places in the world where traditional communities of people lived with captive elephants and needed to work themselves out of poverty without working their elephants into the ground.

WITH 26 WIRED ELEPHANTS (OR, ON THE FLIP SIDE, LIKE ME BEFORE THE OLD RISTRETTO EACH MORNING, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH 26 EXTREMELY BAD TEMPERED ELEPHANTS WHO HAVEN’T HAD THEIR COFFEE ON THE DAYS WHEN THERE IS NONE)?

BLAKE SET ABOUT BECOMING AN ELEPHANT EXPERT Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘cause I thought it too. What on earth are we going to do with 26 wired elephants (or, on the flip side, like me before the old ristretto each morning, what are we going to do with 26 extremely bad tempered elephants who haven’t had their coffee on the days when there is none)? Well, I learned (as you will too if you stop shouting and listen) that for caffeine to be bought out of a coffee bean you need to heat it to above 70 something celcius, which answers one of the questions that has been bugging me ever since I came to Thailand - why, when I order an iced coffee from a street stall, do they make a hot coffee and then put it on ice? Wasting all that energy. Blake, of course, knew this but being a conscientious kind of guy found some elephants in Canada and fed

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ABSOLUTE THAI NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL A COFFEE GRINDER

them beans while asking vets to check their blood levels and general health for any sign that anything untoward was happening. NOTHING HAPPENED The coffee still tasted of a cross between a stomach and the elephant’s last meal but Blake knew the gentle taste and aroma of the world’s best coffee was in there somewhere, he believed, and he set about finding it.

BEFORE LEAVING CANADA THE TESTS WERE DONE TO ENSURE NOTHING HARMFUL THAT MAY LIVE IN THE ELEPHANT’S GUT WAS TRANSFERRED TO THE COFFEE EVEN BEFORE THE ROASTING AND BREWING PROCESS. How he does it he won’t even tell me, he’s put ten years of his life into perfecting the process (even discovering a coffee brewing machine that runs on alcohol and was last seen in a Viennese coffee shop/ bordello in 1862 that means none of the flavour is lost to the brewing process). Before leaving Canada with his, now smooth tasting, very light, coffee whose aroma puts you in mind of returning to a proper jungle after a long absence; for me, sitting in the back of an open topped Land Rover as we crossed the Rapti for the first time in a season and entering the cover of Chitwan National Park - those who have done it will know what I mean - the sense of steam and vegetation that a well inhabited jungle just has. Before leaving Canada the tests were done to ensure nothing harmful that may live in the elephant’s gut was transferred to the coffee even before the roasting and brewing process, he also fed it to coffee experts, he came to Thailand and purchased Thai coffee beans, fed it to Thai elephants, processed and fed it to Thai coffee experts (and me). THUMBS WERE RAISED He also took in the Thai ele scene and realised that, until you all rush out and buy it, there’s no way he can rescue every elephant in Thailand, what he decided was to find a thinking elephant charity that not only had access to elephants, but was registered and chartered to help beyond the boundaries of it’s

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BLACK IVORY WAS CHOSEN AS A NAME AS IT IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THE WHITE IVORY - THIS IS SET UP TO BE A own little borders (and who had vets on site that continually measure the elephants’ well being so anything, however unlikely, going untoward can be spotted before it goes anywhere and the process can be stopped).

SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS THAT HELPS ELEPHANTS.

In short, he found us! So, we set it up so the Black Ivory Coffee Company (as it now is, or will be soon) not only pays for supplemental feeding of our elephants, they pay the mahouts and wives for the collection of the beans, an important financial incentive to persuade people to stay with us - our little herd is under threat from another camp in South that has found the wherewithal to pay the same as we do (since 2006 we have been the best paying camp in Thailand) but have fewer rules about elephant welfare and the way a mahout must behave toward his elephant. Those who have bought our message will stay, the few who were in it for the money have asked to leave.

compromise the amount of movement we give to the eles nor, of course, would we, so we may well be planting coffee trees in the Golden Triangle bush - not every bean that makes it into the mouth, gets past the teeth, comes out the other end is ever found. Oh, on top of that, 8% of all wholesale sales will come back to the Foundation and will help us fund our ever increasing veterinary department who, as you know, are committed to, with the help of the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, helping every Thai elephant. A NICE ROUNDED STORY TO A WELL ROUNDED CUP OF COFFEE

Now, a cup of Black Ivory coffee doesn’t come cheap, as unique things shouldn’t, but just in case you think we’re taking advantage you ought to know that the ‘elephant refining process’ is bean heavy, we, of course do not force feed the elephants so many beans never even make it to the mouth, then the beans have to get past the massive grinding molars and once they’ve passed through the elephants they can be hard to find (Blake has been seen in tears watching, through blurred vision, as a bolus of precious beans floats away down to the Mekong) as Black Ivory have not asked us to

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P.S. In case you were wondering, Black Ivory was chosen as a name as it is the exact opposite of the white ivory - this is set up to be a sustainable business that helps elephants. P.P.S. No-one else has tried this yet, but if you’re getting funny ideas, or if someone who is not Black Ivory coffee tries to sell you Elephant Coffee remember the warning up the top, without the secret post-ele-refining-process and the special Austrian antique boiler the coffee really does taste like, well, you know... Accept no substitutes!

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ABSOLUTE THAI PEACE REOSRT

PEACE RESORT Where time stops WORDS: Ewelina Kawczynska

Peace Resort on Koh Samui has it all: amazing food, friendly staff, beautiful rooms and affordable prices. It’s located along Bophut Beach on the northeast side of the island. The resort’s restaurant, Sea Wrap, overlooks the neighboring island of Koh Phangan. The amazing scenery is perfect for an extraordinary romantic dinner. On request, you can have your meal on a private beach with lanterns, music, and special dishes made just for you.

At Sea Wrap, you can enjoy the food while listening to live music in the evenings. Every Wednesday they host a Thai BBQ with a big selection of seafood at very reasonable prices. The restaurant also offers sizzling cocktails you can enjoy at sunset from a luxurious beanbag chair. Starting in April, you can sign up for a cooking class with the Sea Wrap Chef and bring wonderful memories and some yummy recipes back to your country.

The daily menu at Sea Wrap offers something delicious for everyone. The pad Thai is served with tiger prawns, and the sticky rice with mango comes with ice cream. If you’re not a big fan of Thai food, Sea Wrap’s international menu provides amazing alternatives, with a twist. Even a simple pizza tastes like it does in Rome, and the smoked salmon with avocado evokes the essence of the French Riviera. For seafood lovers, the restaurant serves one of the best fish dishes in Koh Samui: a white snapper with spicy seafood sauce or a fried local-caught fish with vegetables, served in a hot pan.

Apart from tasting delicious food and swimming in the big pool, guests can get a traditional Thai massage, work out in the gym, and then relax with a glass of champagne in the Jacuzzi.

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Peace Resort has been a family-run resort for more than 30 years. Stylish accommodations attract families and honeymooners. The resort offers environmentally friendly bungalows at the beachfront or in the garden. Soap is made only from natural extracts, and the furniture is handmade from wood. The hotel’s welcome letter is delivered elegantly on a leaf. You can choose

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between a bungalow or a beachfront room. They are reasonably priced so hurry and make that reservation before they sell out.

PEACE RESORT HAS BEEN A FAMILY-RUN RESORT FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS. STYLISH ACCOMMODATIONS ATTRACT

The Peace Resort is centrally located near Fisherman’s Village and only ten minutes away from Chaweng Beach. Recently, it has became a much-desired hotspot for destination weddings and ceremonies because the view is so spectacular, the food is exquisite, and the couple’s friends and family can stay in the resort bungalows and have an unforgettable time. Weddings here are truly romantic, joining hands and hearts on the beach at sunset in the Land of Smiles.

FAMILIES AND HONEYMOONERS.

Even the name “Peace Resort” suggests a very serene and idyllic place where you simply forget about the whole world. During the day you can relax on the beach and at night you can enjoy the food and listen to the waves from your beanbag chair, sipping a cocktail. You might think you can’t afford it, but don’t let yourself be misled by the fairytale picture I’ve painted. The prices are affordable. But be careful, because once you get here you may never want to leave.

178 MOO 1, Bophut Beach, Koh Samui Suratthani 84320 Thailand +66 77 425 357 www.peaceresort.com info@peaceresort.com

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ABSOLUTE THAI THAILAND’S KHAO YAI COWBOYS

THAILAND’S KHAO YAI COWBOYS S WORDS: Tim Knight

araburi province’s Muak Lek district surprises visitors with its own version of country and western culture. The “Cowboy festivals” come to town in January, and everyone has a whoop and holler!

of the famous Khao Yai National Park in the distance, dairy meadows nestle between hills on both sides of the highway. Not surprisingly, this undulating country is the home of the National Dairy Cows Festival that runs from mid to

Dairy farming has been associated with the rolling hills of Saraburi since the 50s when pioneering farmers experimented with imported cattle. Today it is an important industry that supplies most of the popular milk products that are sold in supermarkets across the country. Farms are concentrated mainly northeast of Saraburi town in Muak Lek district all the way to the Pak Chong intersection on Highway 2 heading towards Nakhon Ratchashimap province. With the mountains

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DAIRY FARMING HAS BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH THE ROLLING HILLS OF SARABURI SINCE THE 50S WHEN PIONEERING FARMERS EXPERIMENTED WITH IMPORTED CATTLE.

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late January. All of the celebrations and activities that will interest visitors will take place at the foot of Tapan Hill in Muak Lek district, approximately 39 km northeast of Saraburi, or 145 km south of Bangkok. There are plenty of signs everywhere pointing the way, you cannot miss it. Festivities begin with a royal visit from HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who will graciously open the event which will feature seminars, a fair and numerous concerts. Visitors are probably most familiar with Chok Chai Farm which is one of the pioneers of the cowboy culture in Thailand. Today the farm has expanded to offer farm tours with various attractions including a zoo that appeals to families and groups. In the grand tradition of the cowboy the ranch is proud of its rustic timber restaurant serving up tender T-bone steaks.

VISITORS ARE PROBABLY MOST FAMILIAR WITH CHOK CHAI FARM WHICH IS ONE OF THE PIONEERS OF THE COWBOY CULTURE IN THAILAND.

With more than 5,000 head of cattle ranging for over 8,000 acres, Farm Chok Chai is Thailand’s largest dairy farm and one of the largest in Asia. Established in 1957 by Thai cowboy Khun Chok Chai Bulakul on 100 acres, the farm has grown during its 55 year history. It has had a colorful history experimenting with many different businesses ranging from selling machinery and construction materials, raising beef cattle and exporting beef, operating steakhouses, and selling dairy products. Its current iteration is as a dairy farm and tourist attraction. Farm Chok Chai went through some setbacks during the mid-1990s Asian financial crisis but bounced back in the next decade. It is now one of Thailand’s major dairy brands with a variety of milk products, including its Umm…Milk line. Farm Chok Chai is a tourist attraction for those who want to see how a dairy farm and ranch operates. A two-hour drive from Bangkok, it gives those who have limited knowledge of western-style farms the opportunity to get away from the city and “experience” a farm with a “Wild West” flavor emphasized by its owners, the Farm Chok Chai Group. The wood false front stores reminiscent of the American West, souvenir shops with assortments of dairy products and plush farm animal toys, and carnival games give the place a theme park atmosphere. The farm offers a daily tour geared to children as well as “Farm Chok Chai Camp,” a facility where visitors can stay overnight and enjoy the countryside.

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ABSOLUTE THAI THAILAND’S KHAO YAI COWBOYS

While individual farms in Saraburi run fine restaurants and adopt country and western themes, come the 20th of January they unite to host the annual Cowboy Night at the Tapan Hill venue in Muak Lek district. The event is launched with dairy cow contests, but then quickly takes on a carnival atmosphere with light hearted rivalry to declare who is sporting the best cowboy or cowgirl costume. According to Saraburi province’s tourism office, the cowboy festival evolves into an amazing scene as hundreds of “Thai cowboys” travel from different parts of the country to enjoy country and western music, an exhibition of dairy and beef cow farming, cow contests, whip-cracking, roping and a lariat show, and fancy gun handling. The festival venue even uses haystacks instead of tables and chairs.

“THAI COWBOYS” TRAVEL FROM DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE COUNTRY TO ENJOY COUNTRY AND WESTERN MUSIC, AN EXHIBITION OF DAIRY AND BEEF COW FARMING, COW CONTESTS, WHIP-CRACKING, ROPING AND A LARIAT SHOW, AND FANCY GUN HANDLING. Muak Lek district has three resorts, a health spa and a couple of campsites catering to international visitors. The district is best known for its picturesque landscape, vineyards, river rafting, ATV expeditions, hot air ballooning, mountain bike trails and even a farm where children can learn to ride horses. Most of the resorts are in Muak Lek district on the rural road 2089 that winds around 300-metre high hills from the intersection on Highway 2. One Thai Khoa Yai cowboy had this to say about the life of being a cowboy: “Cowboys live in a world of their own. It’s a special place. In it lives a special breed. Men who know hard work, harsh conditions, long hours and little pay. They don’t endure because of the romance, aura or glamour of which movies, novelists and dreamers have glorified it to be. To them, it’s a trade-off. In exchange for a sore shoulder, cracked hands, blistered lips, worn out boots and old pickup trucks, being a cowboys means being able to charge at local stores, borrow money on your name alone, know everybody at the high school games, answer to no one and take success or

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KHAO YAI SERVES AS AN IDEAL PLACE TO ESCAPE FROM THE ORDINARY EVERYDAY LIFE.

failure as a product of one’s own initiative or lack of it. It’s small fraternity with many wishing to get in, but few willing to pay the price.” MORE ABOUT KHOA YAI From cowboy theme parks to mountain-hugged vineyards and Khao Yai National Park’s endless carpets of green, Khao Yai serves as an ideal place to escape from the ordinary everyday life. Day trippers can enjoy a range of sight-seeing opportunities along the Saraburi-Pakchong route, then head back to the city at the end of the day without feeling too tired from the journey. To really appreciate Khao Yai’s diversity and natural beauty, however, an overnight trip is necessary and highly recommended. This can be combined with a stay inside the national park, where you can explore its verdant landscape and scenic waterfalls on foot, or enjoy several encounters with wildlife and rare tropical birds. Coming from the Wang Nam Kheo side, dubbed the ‘Switzerland of Isan’, the highlights include endless fruit and vegetable orchards as well as Khao Paeng Ma, one of the last few places in Southeast Asia to spot roaming wild gaurs. Established in 1962, Khao Yai was Thailand’s first national park. Today it is the second largest national park in Thailand and, in 2005, the area along with the surrounding Dong Phaya Yen mountains was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Better yet, you can drive around the entire Saraburi-Khao Yai National Park-Wang Nam Kheo loop and experience it all in one go. HOW TO GET THERE The easiest way is by a tour operator. If you want to go on your own there are frequent busses from Bangkok leaving from the northern bus station to Pak Chong, from where you can take a song thaew to the park gates. From Korat, take a Bangkok bound bus and get off in Pak Chong. Trains leave from Bangkok or Aythaya. The ordinary train takes around four and half hours from Bangkok. Some people even prefer hitchhiking (if you dare!)

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ABSOLUTE THAI TRANG

TRANG WORDS: Dan White

T

he beautiful beaches and islands of southern Thailand are justifiably famous. Both the Andaman side and the Gulf of Thailand side are dotted with some of the most sought after vacation spots in the world. The delightful islands of Phuket and Koh Samui are world contenders for most beautiful place on earth. So is Krabi, although it is less well known. There are, however, other areas of southern Thailand that also have an astounding amount to offer tourists. One such place is the province of Trang about 300 km from Phuket and 150 kilometers south of Krabi. It is a place with amazing history and traditions, wonderful unspoiled

beaches, craggy mountains, waterfalls, caves and most of all, seemingly endless forests of rubber trees. It is the production of rubber that defines the affluent province of Trang. Originally it was part of the Malay Kedah Tuah Kingdom and after that was, until 1098, subsumed by the neighboring provinces of Nakhon Si Thammerat and Phattalung. It was an important maritime trading post serving as the main port of the Penang-Phuket land route. There were two main routes of transportation for these five coastal towns at that time: the land route and the sea route. Kantang used to be one of the main seaports in the south and it was for this reason Kantang was the capital of the province for many years. In 1890 King Rama V visited Trang ordering the appointment of a new governor, Phraya Rasdanupradit Mahissaraphakdi, who had previously been tasked with the development of Phuket. In 1899 it was he who bought the first rubber trees to the province thereby setting in motion and industry that would define Trang ever after and ensure it would remain one of the most prosperous territories in the kingdom.

IT IS A PLACE WITH AMAZING HISTORY AND TRADITIONS, WONDERFUL UNSPOILED BEACHES, CRAGGY MOUNTAINS, WATERFALLS, CAVES AND MOST OF ALL, SEEMINGLY ENDLESS FORESTS OF RUBBER TREES.

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It is still rubber that defines this province. Driving through the interior one passes through endless tracts of pleasantly wooded land, where the sun glimmers between the thin shafts of the trees, each one expertly sliced to tap the rubber with a half a coconut shell strategically placed to trap the precious produce. It gives Trang a scenic, leafy and relaxed atmosphere of almost Grimm’s Fairy Tale woodland and forest. Apart from beautiful interior it is the coastline and what it offers that is of real interest to the visitor. For many, chief among the attractions is snorkeling and diving. From Choamai National Park to Pakmeng Beach, around 20 kms in all, are some of the best diving areas in the world. Among 40 nearby islands, Koh Kradan is the

THE BEACHES OF TRANG ARE ALSO SUPERB. WHAT SETS THEM APART FROM PHUKET OR KRABI IS THE DISTINCT LACK OF DEVELOPMENT.

most beautiful. Its charms are exquisite offering white sandy beaches and clear water - so clear in fact that the coral under the sea can be clearly seen from the surface. It is a five star diving site as are Koh Chueak, Koh Ma, Koh Ngai and Koh Wan. Haad Toob on Juhoy Cape is an interesting place during the months of November and December. Thousands of birds from Siberia and the frozen North Pole stop here on their migratory routes south. In parts the clear waters are dotted with huge white jellyfish that are completely harmless and the locals eat in salad. As a snorkeler one can move from rock formation to rock formation through clear waters festooned with fish of purple, tiger print and green. The other wonderful thing is that there are always great stops along the way to rest, sunbathe or read a book. The beaches of Trang are also superb. What sets them apart from Phuket or Krabi is the distinct lack of development. They consist of the simple and well warn formula of beautiful clear water progressing to beautiful white sand (although not as pure white as the beaches of provinces further north), fringed by pine trees and palm trees. You might find the odd resort or restaurant dotted around but they are very few and far between (except for Pakmeng beach which is busy).

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ABSOLUTE THAI TRANG

Near Takam is the long sandy beach at Palien. It is a place that also features strangely shopped rocks dotted with holes. About 30km from there is Samran Beach (Had Samran). A place fringed with pine trees. Nearby are the islands of Koh Mu, Koh Petra, Laorieng and Libong. If you are lucky, you will see dolphins powering through the ocean and performing the occasional aquatic leap. At Petra and Laorieng steep cliffs and mountains rear from clear blue water. On the left is Petra Island, and on the right is Laorieng. At the western end of each island along the steep cliffs one can find colonies of swallows. The beaches of all three islands face to the east so they are lined with coral and shallow water – perfect for snorkeling. Koh Mu is about one hour from the mainland. The beaches are of powdery white sand and it is another good location for diving and snorkeling. The busiest beach in Trang is Pakmeng. The sand is darker than in other locations and the seaside road is lined with restaurants, resorts and hotels. Never the less, even with the crowds, it is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon eating seafood and pondering the dramatic rock formations out to sea. About 5 km down from Pakmeng is Chao Mai beach, with the Anantara resort at the northern end. It is simply beautiful and unspoilt - kilometres of deserted white sand facing beautiful clear seas, backed by pine trees. One can walk down Chao Mai in the evening and be the only person on the beach. This almost total lack of development in a place of such breathtaking natural beauty is incredibly refreshing. Heading north from Pakmeng beach and backed by protected University grounds is Rachamongkol beach. Bookended by dramatic limestone mini-mountains and with a great view of the nearby islands with Koh Lanta in the distance, the water here is shallow until very far out leaving isolated pools at low tide. It is a popular place for a weekend picnic although it never gets very crowded.

IF YOU ARE LUCKY, YOU WILL SEE DOLPHINS POWERING THROUGH THE OCEAN AND PERFORMING THE OCCASIONAL AQUATIC LEAP.

A nearby highlight of the waters around Trang is Morakot Cave. One enters a rocky dark tunnel swimming in a cattapillar line with everyone holding on to the life jacket of the person in front of them. As the cave progresses into darkness people’s laughter and playful screams echo in the rocky interior. After

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80 meters one emerges into the light to find oneself in a steep sided rocky amphitheatre on the floor of which is a pristine little white sand beach. Like some fantasy set from Pirates of the Caribbean, Morakot cave resembles a buccaneer’s secret hideaway – something that, in the past, it might well have been.

A FEW DAYS SPENT IN TRANG IS REWARDING ON EVERY LEVEL. IT IS UNLIKE ANYWHERE ELSE IN THAILAND WITH ITS VERY OWN CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL MIX.

Trang is not all about beaches. It is also about mountains and densely jungled natural parks. Heading east from Trang town, a ridge of mountains rears from the rubber plantations. It is a place of cascading waterfalls - Roi Chan Pan Wang Waterfall, Nam Tok Pak-Jaem, Praisawan Waterfall, Chong Banpot and Choaopa, Sairung (Rainbow) Waterfall are all places of fast moving, cleansing mountain water and verdant green forest. Tone Teh, King of Waterfalls, is perhaps the most dramatic, but all are worth a visit and often a refreshing dip.

that one has to lie flat in the boat as the rocks almost scrapes one’s nose. For some this ride through the ‘belly of the dragon’ is an exhilarating exercise in fostering good luck… For anyone with a hint of claustrophobia it is your worst nightmares made real. A few days spent in Trang is rewarding on every level. It is unlike anywhere else in Thailand with its very own cultural and historical mix. It is a province with a very distinct identity and Trang people are justifiably proud of it and all it has to offer. Above all, as a tourist there, you will be one of the few and not one of the many. If ‘off the beaten track’ fires your enthusiasm head down Highway 4 and enjoy a little deep southern hospitality and some very beautiful places.

The mountains are also home to a number of caves, some with a great deal of religious significance. Tham Kao kob (Kao Kob Cave) or Tham Le (Sea Cave) is important to ethnic Chinese since it’s shape resembles that of the dragon – a mythically benevolent beast. A journey through this place dripping with stalactites culminates in a 350km ride through a tunnel so narrow

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ABSOLUTE THAI THE SCENT HOTEL

THE SCENT HOTEL A Fairy Story Come to Life

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.G. Wells once wrote a fairy story called “The Door in the Wall” – how a magic world lay beyond a simple door and how, when you opened it, you’d step through into a beautiful garden where you’d always feel at home.

The lobby doesn’t appear to be such, not really. It’s a little like stepping into some old-time apothecary; you’ll see lots of tiny bottles on display in glass cabinets. The Scent Hotel gets its name from, yes, the fragrances that are almost everywhere on the property. (Guests, when signing in, are asked to choose one of three scents. Whichever one they choose will grace their room for as long as they stay.) The lobby walls are decorated with murals showing colonial days, with merchants standing on shores, ships leaving port and the sense of a world slowly opening up, as it did long ago.

The experience of stepping directly from one world into a totally different one isn’t just confined to stories though. On Koh Samui, if you’re driving up the Bangrak beach road, you’ll pass a wall, forgettably bland, except for the antique door that sits recessed in the center. A simple sign – gone in a flash, even if you are on the lookout – announces that this is The Scent Hotel.

You might wonder, then, exactly how old the hotel is. The murals appear to be ancient. It turns out they aren’t and the hotel is just three years old. But as you walk through you’ll doubt that. Though it’s modern, there’s something teasing about the atmosphere here that suggests it’s been here a much longer time. Perhaps it’s the antique phones in the rooms. (They all work, by the way.) Or the escritoires or the fact that the bathroom taps and fittings are all fine antiques in their own rights.

The door beckons. It leads, indeed, into another world, that of a remarkable hotel, one that’s quite different from most you’ve probably been in. Think back to fairy stories again and you’ll probably have some idea of what to expect: surprises, a sense of mystery; something that lifts the heart and calls for exploration.

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The rooms come in three varieties: Thai, Chinese and European. Don’t expect any bland ‘hotel’-style fittings in either of them. Antiques abound, and so does comfort and a homely sense of stylishness. Floors are pleasant on the feet; beds are just right; TV and minibar are there if you need them. When it comes to food, hotel guests and visitors from outside are in for some real treats at Le Jaroen, the resort’s restaurant. Chef Jutamas Theantae has taught cooking at one of Thailand’s leading universities and the restaurant that she used to own in the north of the country was once voted one of Thailand Tatler’s best of the year. Her dishes are beautifully presented and are packed with taste. Asked to define her style, she’ll tell you it’s French, but with Thai ingredients, wherever possible. She uses many locally-produced ingredients so that everything’s as fresh as possible. Not to be confused with fusion food, her dishes are recognizable and classic, but are dependably delicious. The Scent Hotel belongs to the prestigious group, Relais & Chateaux. They’re basically a collection of very independent hotels. To quote from their guide book, the group describes itself as focusing on ‘a celebration of the individual and each one’s quest for happiness in an increasingly standardized world.’

THE SCENT HOTEL BELONGS TO THE PRESTIGIOUS GROUP, RELAIS & CHATEAUX. THEY’RE BASICALLY A COLLECTION OF VERY INDEPENDENT HOTELS.

That’s not hype; they mean it. There are just 6 hotels that have made the grade in Thailand, and The Scent Hotel is proud to be one of them. If you’re looking for a unique experience, where you will be extremely well-looked after, and find a hotel that’s original, then first look for the door in the wall.

The Scent Hotel, member of Relais & Chateaux 58/1 Moo 4, Bangrak Beach, Bophut, Koh Samui, Suratthani 84320 Thailand Tel: +66 (0)77 962198 960123 Fax: +66 (0)77 962199 Email: info@thescenthotel.com Website: www.thescenthotel.com

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TUI TARGETS THAILAND T

UI Travel is aiming to drive more business to Thailand this year, following the roll-out of its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Europe’s largest leisure travel company revealed today that it will launch the first ever direct flights between London and Phuket later this year, using the new B787. It will also commence Dreamliner flights to Phuket from two Scandinavian cities – Stockholm and Copenhagen – as TUI Nordic aims to boost its presence in the Thai market. Speaking at a press conference at the Centara Grand Bangkok at CentralWorld, TUI’s top executives, led by CEO Peter Long, outlined the company’s plans for Thailand.“We are very excited by the opportunities we have in bringing more guests to Thailand,” Long said, adding that as a destination, Thailand offers broad appeal “to couples, groups and families alike”.Henrik Norlin, CEO of TUI Nordic, which takes 110,000 holidaymakers from Scandinavia to Thailand each year, expanded on Thailand’s changing demographics. “We have changed perceptions of Thailand on the Nordic region from a backpacker destination to a place for families. We have also turned it into a destination for repeat business,” Norlin said.

B767 to the new B787 from late October 2013. Then the following month, TUI will commence its first direct services to Phuket from London’s Gatwick airport. Garry Wilson, TUI’s managing director of purchasing, revealed that the company already has 7,000 bookings for the first year and added that his company would consider direct charters from other UK airports in the future, including Manchester.“We always look for multiple departure points and the next obvious choice would be Manchester,” Wilson told Travel Daily. Meanwhile, Christian Clemens, CEO of TUI Germany, said he was looking into the possibility of launching direct flights between Germany and Thailand “within two years”. TUI currently sends 90,000 German tourists to Thailand each year. TUI Travel will take delivery of its first four Dreamliners in 2013, with a further nine arriving by 2015. Other destinations being served by the new aircraft will include Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean.

As a result, TUI Nordic will upgrade its direct CopenhagenPhuket and Stockholm-Phuket charter flights from a

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CHEF LUKE’S TUK TUK TOUR OF THAI ORGANIC MARKETS

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uests at InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort can now partake on a culinary tour with the resort’s Executive Chef Luke MacLeod, as he guides a personal tour of Koh Samui’s organic farms to cherry-pick the very best of fresh ingredients - on a Tuk Tuk!

From here, guests board the customised Tuk Tuk and are taken to Kasem organic chicken farm, located just 250 metres from the resort. Guests are able to select the fresh free-range eggs, and poultry also can be bought at the farm, depending on the chosen recipes. Other stops on the tour include roadside fruit supplier with fruits harvested from a local garden, an organic salad and herb farm, and a local Gardner’s pick at a road verge, followed by a stop at Lipa Noi just 10 minutes from the resort for the fresh catch of the day.

The half-day experience includes visits to some of the resort’s leading purveyors on a traditional Thai “Tuk Tuk” auto-rickshaw, followed by a specially prepared lunch by Chef Luke, using the freshly bought ingredients. Guests also have the opportunity to get behind the professional open-plan kitchen at the resort’s Amber restaurant for an exclusive cooking class with the Chef followed by a sumptuous lunch to sample the fresh wholesome dishes which is Chef Luke’s signature cooking style.

Chef Luke’s Organic Tuk Tuk Tour and Cooking Class is priced at THB 3900++ per person for a minimum number of 2 persons, and a maximum number of 4 persons for a half day experience from 10am - 1.30pm inclusive of lunch.

The day starts with a consultation with the Chef over coffee to discuss what the guests would like to see, and cook. To the surprise of many of the guests, the organic tour begins right on the resort’s doorstep where they are shown around the organic herb and aromatics garden by the resort’s resident Gardner, Khun Pravit.

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ABSOLUTE THAI NEWS

KIRIMAYA BALLOONING ADVENTURE 15 JANUARY 2013 – 28 FEBRUARY 2013 The Ultimate Valentine’s Experience Awaits You

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The KIRIMAYA BALLOONING ADVENTURE is available from 15 January to 28 February 2013 and is priced at THB15,500 nett per person (USD 517 nett per person).

et in 800 acres of lush greenery bordering a UNESCO world heritage rainforest and majestic mountains, is Kirimaya – an idyllic 64 room resort that combines natural beauty with the chic elegance of contemporary living. Khao Yai is a two hour drive north east of Bangkok and enjoys invigorating fresh cool, crisp mountain air all year round.

Package rates inclusive of luxurious accommodation, breakfast and complimentary Wi-fi are also available starting from THB 26,500 nett for Plantation View (USD 833 nett) per night.

Kirimaya offers a choice of luxurious, spacious accommodation including four romantic Tented Villas (180 square meters) with indoor private spa pool and outdoor sundeck; as well as a variety of rooms and suites with private terraces, spacious finely appointed interiors and majestic views of the Khao Yai National Park mountain range. Exquisite Pool Villas are available at neighboring MUTHI MAYA (comprising 64 exquisite pool villas).

Reservations Reservations can be made through the hotel’s reservations offices direct as follows:

This magical setting is perfect for an early morning hot air balloon flight – floating above the beautiful scenic area dotted with wineries. Tea, Coffee and juices will be served prior to the fight and on landing, you will enjoy a sumptuous champagne breakfast complete with a live jazz band to entertain you. Each couple will be presented with a certificate souvenir of their balloon flight from the Pilot.

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Bangkok Khao Yai Tel: +66 2257 0455-7 Tel: +66 4442 6000 Fax: +66 2257 0459 Fax: +66 4492 9888 Email: reservation@kirimaya.com www.kirimaya.com

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NEW YEAR’S PARTY, 70s - 80s THEME AT EAST 88 BEACH LOUNGE WITHIN SERENITY RESORT & RESIDENCES, PHUKET

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Absolute Thai Magazine issue32  

Absolute Thai Magazine issue32