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THE NATION ASIANEWS December 14-20, 2008

TRAVEL, FOOD & DRINK, STYLE, ARTS AND TRENDS IN ASIA

Sanook Season!


TRAVEL, FOOD & DRINK, STYLE, ARTS AND TRENDS IN ASIA THE NATION ASIANEWS

PHOTO/ LAT-WP

December 14-20, 2008

P8JUST be ’Cos!

Cover

HAPPY HOSTING SHED your shell

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p9-11

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COVER PHOTO/ EKKARAT SUKPETCH

Around asia SHOP Japan

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team

HQ FOR r&r

WORTH the trek

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editor: Phatarawadee Phataranawik | deputy editor: Khetsirin Pholdhampalit | Photo editor: Kriangsak Tangjerdjarad | Photographers: Ekkarat Sukpetch, Anant Chantarasut, Thanis Sudto, Supakit Kumkun, Nanthasit Nitmatha and Daranat Denkiriyadeelerd | Writers: Pattarawadee Saengmanee | contributor: JC Eversole and Pawit Mahasarinand | designers: Nibhon Appakarn, PraditPhulsarikij and Ekkapob Preechasilp | copy editors: Luci Standley and Rod Borrowman| sub editor: Paul Dorsey | contact: www.nationmultimedia.com, e-mail: ace@nationgroup.com, (02) 338 3461-2. ACE is published by NMG News Co lTD at 1854 Bangna-Trat Road, Bangkok


What’s Hot

Unbelievable lightness of being

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es Passagers, a troupe of multi-discipline vertical performers from France, make their Southeast Asian debut in Bangkok on Friday with their spectacular acrobatic choreography at Morakot Park in front of Central Chidlom. Hosted by Central Department Stores, the 20member troupe will perform a 360-degree ballet high above the ground against colourful tableaux

and accompanied by a light-and-sound presentation. The show combines aerial dance, acrobatics and street theatre with painting and light design. French Ambassador Laurent Bili and Madame Bili will preside over the opening event on Friday evening at 6.30 (by invitation). Everyone is invited to experience this rare show on Saturday at the same time.

Wrapped in print A jacket can be stuffed with newspapers.

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sed newspapers are useful. A Toronto advertising agency called Taxi has come up with an innovative idea for helping homeless people survive Canada’s sub-zero winter season with the special “15 Below Jackets”. The jacket can be stuffed with newspapers, folded and signed by celebrities. The modest scheme has exploded to become a major celebrity fundraiser. Jackets signed by celebrities including singer Nelly Furtado, cellist Yo Yo Ma, former Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant and members of the rock group R.E.M. The name 15 Below represents the temperature at which Canada issues a cold weather warning. That’s plenty cold, but the jacket has gone above and beyond that mark with successful tests at temperatures of up to -20 Fahrenheit. When the weather is warm, the whole jacket can be converted into a backpack and the plentiful pockets become useful for storing personal items. They are being auctioned until tomorrow on eBay.ca. Fo r m o r e d e t a i l s , v i s i t www.15BelowProject.org.

When seeing is doing

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haweesak “Lolay” Srithongdee returns to J Gallery on Thonglor Soi 15 for “XKIN 6”, teaming up with five pals for a conceptual show that focuses on the process of making an exhibition rather than highlighting individual work. On display are figurative paintings, drawings, photography, video installation and multimedia pieces by graffiti artist P7, Boonchai Apinthanapong, aka Giam EEE, Chayaporn “Musetew” Maneesutham, designer Thanomkhwan Chutithanawong, and musician/painter Hathairat “OH+” Charoenchichana. The show runs through December 27. For more details, call (02) 660 9403 or (081) 577 2777. December 14-20, 2008


Trends

All the fun of the fair

ThE STARS TuRN OuT ON SATuRDAY FOR cLIcK RADIO’S ANNuAL ‘gIFT FAIR’ Tote

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ooking for unique presents for the festive season? Then head to the former Dan Niramit amusement park on Phaholyothin Road this coming Saturday and shop till you drop at a colourful Gift Fair. Hosted by Click Radio’s FM One channel, the one-day carnival will be home to more than 100 stalls packed with innovative handmade gifts and will also be featuring lots of live street performances and mini-concerts by leading artists from all labels. You’ll find everything from chic printed tees and knitted dolls to pop-up greeting cards, portraits and picture frames, as well as printed cloth bags, hand-made books, diaries, papier mache and ceramic products, fashion items and fun and funky accessories for the home. The gifts have mostly been created by local

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celebrities and designers as well as art and design students, while some have been imported directly specially for the occasion. Great buys include actor Assadawut Luengsunthorn’s signature printed T-shirts, actress Sakawjai Poolsawat’s cute fashion accessories, DJ Nopporn Udomsak’s cookies and actor Krisada “Pon” Wittayakajorndej’s ceramic accessories. More than 100 celebs from the entertainment world are donating personal items for the charity raffle. Proceeds go to needy students at Baan Huey Ku School in Chiang Rai, with some of the funds being set aside to repair the remote school. Highlights include entertainment by the Sincharoen Brothers, music from the Silpakorn University orchestra, a pantomime and clowns. Also taking to the stage at various times throughout the day are Big Ass, Black Vanilla, Zeal, Soul Out, Potato and Saksit “Tor” Vejsupaporn.

The fair runs from noon to midnight on December 20. Tickets cost Bt50 at the doors. Visit www.ThisIsClick.com or call (02) 641 5234 extension 303-4.

December 14-20, 2008


PHOTO/ANANT CHANTARASOOT

Bursting onto the stage

Nophand Boonyai, centre, directs and stars in his latest play, ‘Sunflower’. PHOTO/ NANTHASIT NITMATHA

NOphAND BOONYAI’S pLAYS hAVE BEEN cALLED ‘pOp’, BuT FANS ARE huDDLINg ROuND ThE NEw BuBBLE hE’S cREATINg AT cREScENT mOON SpAcE Pawit Mahasarinand

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ophand Boonyai lived on Shakespeare’s home turf for 13 years, but his passion for plays only kicked in when he left England and returned

to Thailand. “I saw Theatre 8X8’s ‘Mouth’ and thought ‘Wow! They can do this in theatre?!’ “I took a couple of three-day workshops led by Nikorn Saetang [of Theatre 8X8], and that was my introduction to acting.” After lurking anonymously in the wings, Nophand has leapt out centre stage over the past year, writing and directing the plays “Sunflower”, “Welcome to Nothing” and “The Adventures of Captain Dan”, and starring in the first two. Audiences have been flocking to the Crescent Moon Space for the playful, original and witty stories spiced up with multimedia effects and outrageous dance. While Nophand admits he’s “not a big fan of dialogueheavy plays”, his productions are far from silent. “I spend long hours helping my actors to speak naturally,” he says. That attention to details — comes from his influences — music of the ’60s and ’70s, authors like Chart Kobjitti, Rong December 14-20, 2008

Nophand, left, in ‘Welcome to Nothing’, which he also directed.

Wongsawan, Tennessee Williams and Haruki Murakami, and Japanese comics. “My favourite is ‘Cromatie High School’: it’s hilarious, wild and clever. Too bad it ended.” His addiction to movies shows through, too. “I like Wong Kar Wai’s as much as Jim Jarmusch’s, both of which you have to watch carefully for hidden significance. But I’m happy to soak up whatever’s available.” This sponge of influences explains how he can squeeze so many unique ideas and new techniques into his plays. “My works have been called pop art,” he says, “and I’m not objecting to that.” Before creating his next play, Nophand is returning to pay homage to Shakespeare. “I’ll be performing ‘Hamlet’ solo at the Crescent Moon Space in March. I’m quite scared. I’m bad at memorising lines, and the script runs to more than 20 pages!” |7|


Go SHOPPING

Playfully punk A new shop in Siam Square offers the widest range of cosplay gear outside Tokyo’s famed Harajuku area Pattarawadee Saengmanee

P hoto / A nant C hantarasoot

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t’s party season and that means throwing caution to the wind and spending your spare cash on a strange and bold look that will have your friends exclaiming, “Wow!” You’ll find the trendy threads at Hip Hero in Siam Square, the new downtown branch of the shop that’s received so much positive feedback from customers at Chatuchak Weekend Market. Opened just a few month, it’s quickly becoming the headquarters for fashionistas crazy about the exotic gear found around Tokyo’s Harajuku station, the centre of extreme teen culture. Set up by young designer Ravee Sae-Lee and his friends, the shop offers hundreds of f u n k y, w i l d o u t f i t s a n d accessories inspired by punk rock and Harajuku. “We are proud to be another choice for cosplay fans,” says Ravee. “I’ve long been passionate about Japanese punk rock and cosplay and I know how difficult it is to find outfits here in Bangkok. ||

“Now, our clothes are being snapped up by shops in Europe, Australia and Japan.” A cute Ravee emphasises different teddy-bearpatterns and playful details. Red shaped bag and black T-shirts feature from Body Line for graphic designs and silver Bt1,780. riggings, while a check miniskirt is adorned with glittering pins, and a removable bag and a longsleeved shirt is finished with the finest lace. All products feature tartan, stripes and polka dots and come in red, black, purple, pink and bright blue. On offer are dresses, skirts, pants, shorts, T-shirts, jackets, pinafore dresses and colourful tube dresses. Shoppers can also rummage through a corner piled high with genuine leather belts with spikes, handbags, necklaces, bracelets, handkerchiefs, Go dotty with this scarves and neckties. polka-dot dress

This red necktie can be yours for Bt380.

A black-and-white T-shirt with a skull design (Bt480) goes perfectly with white pants (Bt980).

A polka-dot belt costs Bt580.

for Bt880.

We can be heroes Hip Hero is at A38 Siam Theatre on the ground floor in Siam Square and open daily from 11 to 9. There’s also a branch at Chatuchak Weekend Market. Call (081) 382 6530 or (081) 640 6131.

Match this vivid red-black tee (Bt680) with a tartan red skirt (Bt780).

Go for the punk look in this black jacket with a cross, and a black miniskirt adorned with lace, Bt780 apiece.

December 14-20, 2008


Cover

Party faithful, dude! Deck out your house and fill it up with goodies, ’cause the Sanook Santa is coming Phatarawadee Phataranawik

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December 14-20, 2008

Thailand Post: www.ThailandPost.com Karb Studio: (081) 612 8853, www.KarbStyle.com White Cafe Catering: (02) 734 0514. www.WhiteCafeCatering.com Ido Catering: (087) 679 5588, www.Ido-Catering.com I am catering: (086) 553 8305, (089) 061 6678 Im Un Catering: (02) 939 5196, katikala.com@gmail.com Terrace 61: (081) 646 8266 Tam Sua Tam Suan: (081) 843 9626 Ban Mae Yui Restaurant: (02) 619 9952, www.MaeYui.com S&P: 1344, www.SNPFood.com/delivery MK Home Delivery: (02) 248 5555, www.MKRestaurant.com Satima Suppipat: (086) 611 4106 Party Lovers Paradise: (02) 662 4827

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orget about the economy – at least until midJanuary – and go for a whopping big sanook bailout instead. We shall begin by decorating your home ready for a massive injection of fun. First, choose a theme, and the timelier, crazier or more populist, the better. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on the makeover: For one thing, I suggest pulling guests’ legs by revamping different items around the house or apartment so they serve a completely different function. That teapot in the kitchen (and the kitchen has to be open for the party) would actually make a terrific flower vase. Grab a scarf or sarong from your wardrobe to use as a tablecloth, or drape them over a lamp to really alter the room lighting. What’s that? You want something fancier on view than your old clothes? Then best head to Party Lovers Paradise, a one-stop shop a little way down Sukhumvit Soi 49 that sells costumes, balloons, candles, banners, plastic and paper tableware and pinatas, those Mexican sculptures you bash with a stick to get at the treats inside. About 90 per cent of the merchandise is imported from the US, and it’s stuff that will match any theme, any time of year. Back to your place: When the guests arrive, get them warmed up in the garage or garden with barbecued delectables and

whatever dishes they brought along after you talked everyone into whipping up their secret recipes. If your guests don’t fall for it, call a caterer or a delivery service. The most popular dishes from all four corners of the Kingdom can be delivered to your door via Thailand Post. Order a day in advance – nam nueng Isaan salad from Nongkai, sai ua, the northern-style spicy sausage from Chiang Mai, moo yang, the southern grilled pork from Trang ... you name it. S&P delivers another wide variety of Thai treats, ranging from the rare sweet-and-sour rice noodle snack mee grob to gaengped ped yang, the roasted duck curry. If you like hotpot, MK Suki offers different sets too. For dessert lovers, Cordon Bleu alumnus Satima Suppipat whips up amazing cakes for the restaurant Sofa So Good on Soi Aree. Her pumpkin cheesecake and double chocolate are so smooth they just melt in the mouth. Stylish parties get that way because professional caterers are involved. Celebrity food expert Suthipong Suriya – he’s the “Karb” in Karb Studio – can customise a bash to fit any taste and pocketbook. The experienced staff at White Café Catering is always busy this season, due to the huge choice in party packages. You need to book at least two weeks in advance and have to be entertaining at least 50 guests, but if you’ve got fewer than 200, the fee is Bt3,500. A delightful finger-food menu is Ido Catering’s main attraction. This is another one-stop service that’ll take care everything, from planning to cleaning. Ready, group? Let’s party!

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PHOTO/ LAT-WP

COVER

Countdown to P-Day

hERE’S A chEcKLIST FROm pARTY LOVERS pARADISE ThAT hOpEFuLLY ISN’T TOO LATE TO hELp YOu ThROw A pERFEcT hOLIDAY BASh. three weeks before the party

Choose a theme. Create the guest list, starting with the family but not forgetting your friends, co-workers and neighbours. Pick the date and time. Buy your decorations, party favours and game prizes – and enough tableware for every adult guests.

two weeks before

Send the invitations. It’s best to ask people to reply to give you an approximate head count. Decide on the games to play and other activities. Consider the age of the children and plan activities accordingly. Plan more games than you expect to need, in case everyone plays fast. Plan your menu. Arrange for extra help from friends or relatives on the party day.

one week before

Order a cake from a bakery if you’re not making your own. If you are, make it and freeze it. Make any other dishes that can be prepared ahead of time and store them

in the freezer too. Write out a final schedule of activities. Confirm any orders placed for the cake or entertainment. Let your children invite a special friend over for the day so they won’t feel left out. They can either play apart from the party or they can be helpers.

two to three days before

Buy the remaining food you need. Buy film or videotape, and check the camera batteries. Get an exact guest count – call those who haven’t responded. Arrange to have balloons filled with helium to pick up the day of the party. It’s fun to have each guest go home with a balloon.

Finish decorating the cake, or pick it up from the bakery. Make sure you have plenty of candles and matches. Childproof the party area. Decorate any indoor areas, saving

Christmas spirit in seconds mmm... SIX ‘LAZY’ cOcKTAILS TO ShARE wITh FRIENDS AT FESTIVE gET-TOgEThERS | 10 |

one day before

the outdoor decorating for the day of the party. Prepare food that can be made ahead of time.

Party day

Pick up helium-filled balloons. Prepare foods and beverages that couldn’t be made ahead of time. Take plenty of pictures and videos to commemorate this special day.

remember: Young guests will be excited and mishaps may occur. Keep your sense of humour, and even if not every aspect of the party goes off as planned, the most important thing is to enjoy the occasion!

Della Mela 1 serving

E-Z Paloma 1 serving

• Ice • 1 ounce apple brandy or applejack • 3 to 4 ounces chinotto soda, preferably San Pellegrino brand • 1 round, thin orange slice, for garnish

• Kosher salt • Ice • 1 ounce blanco tequila • 3 to 4 ounces pink grapefruit soda • 1 lime wedge, for garnish

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the apple brandy and chinotto soda; stir gently. Garnish with the orange slice.

Salt the rim of a highball glass, then fill the glass with ice. Add the tequila and grapefruit soda; stir gently. Garnish with the lime wedge.

December 14-20, 2008


PHOTO/ THANIS SUDTO

A very merry massage FOR A hOLIDAY BASh wITh A DIFFERENcE, ThE LuLLABY SpA wILL gIVE ALL YOuR guESTS A BOOST Khetsirin Pholdhampalit

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ou’re not really going to have your Christmas get-together at a karaoke bar again this year, are you? Think fresh, Scrooge – book your friends a spa party!

Yes, you can still have a few drinks at the spa. Calm down. Think about it: Chatter and chuckles while everyone’s getting a foot massage; your choice of tunes wafting over the tables where your loved ones are enjoying a back rub with glasses of bubbly close to hand.

Black Velvet 1 serving • 3 to 4 ounces stout beer, preferably Guinness • 3 to 4 ounces champagne Fill a champagne flute halfway full with the stout so that it has a foamy head. Gently add the champagne by pouring it over the back of a spoon and through the foam; this will create a visually pleasing effect as the champagne and beer mingle gradually in the flute.

Welcome to the Lullaby Spa on South Sathorn Road, and, “Ho, ho, ho!” Pick a date, pick a theme, send out the invitations. “This concept is becoming popular in the US,” says owner Alisa Asavabhokhin. “Lots of people want to host private parties that are relaxed and healthy at the same time. And having a party at someone’s home isn’t always convenient.” The Lullaby has 324 square metres, high ceilings and an all-white decor that can be customised to suit any theme – not just the Yuletide but New Year’s, birthdays, baby showers, graduation parties and bachelorette bashes, as well as corporate events. “The emphasis is on health,” says Alisa. “So we avoid serving hard liquor and DJs playing deafening music. Guests just leave their stress at the door, put on robes and slippers and mingle, sampling our different treatments.”

Campari Aranciata 1 serving • Ice • 2 to 3 ounces Campari • 3 ounces orange soda • 1 round, thin orange slice, for garnish Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the Campari and orange soda; stir gently. Garnish with the slice of orange.

What’s on the menu? Neck and shoulder rubs, traditional Thai massage, reflexology, hot-stone and therapeutic four-hand massage and more, and the spa will mix in any other feel-good options you can think up. You might want a certain kind of food and drinks served, offer hairstyling, maybe a yoga class, a makeup demonstration – or what about some henna tattoos or tarot readings? “We can also provide goodie bags with the hosts’ names printed on them, to give your friends at the end of the party,” Alisa says. “It’s fun and different, and it’s not limited to women either. Men love to relax too, and they’re also concerned about their health and appearance!”

Have fun and relax Lullaby Spa is on the second floor of the Life Centre in the Q House Lumpini Building, next to Lumpini subway station. Call (02) 677 7261-2 or visit www.Lullaby-Spa. com.

Vertigo 1 serving • Ice • 2 ounces Averna • 4 ounces ginger beer • 1 lemon half • 1 round, thin slice of lime, for garnish Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the ginger beer, then place a fine-mesh strainer over the glass and squeeze in the lemon juice (this should be about ounce). Pour the Averna on top. Garnish with the slice of lime. — T H E WA S H I N G T O N P O S T

December 14-20, 2008

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Hip Hangout

INSPIRATION WITH CREAM If the terrific coffee at the Ubuntu Cafe doesn’t spark your plugs, the owners’ art will Pattarawadee Saengmanee

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P hoto / S upakit K humkan

he coffee is traditional Italian coffee and the decor rustically African at Ubuntu, a great place for snacks that doubles as an art gallery. Architect Pakoran Rattanasupeeranon and his friends went for an earthy ambience when they opened the two-storey coffeehouse with a name that means “helping each other”. The allusion is to giving each other a spot to show off their latest creations. Among the curved wooden furniture and decorative items from Aarde is a row of framed, funky T-shirts from Love Bite. On the walls are colourful paintings and photographs by Nattapong Udomkit and Piyapat Chicovanich. “We wanted a gallery look and a good atmosphere, someplace that could be a hub for friends,” says comanager Voratida Vitayathanagorn. “If visitors see something they really like, they can buy it and take it home.” Admiring the surroundings is made utterly pleasant

when you’ve got a cup of coffee in your hand made from quality Kenyan or Arabica beans. The choice runs to hot and iced espresso macchiato, espresso con Panna, Americano, latte macchiato and caffe mocha. You should definitely try the matcha milk or the chocolate frappe with whipped cream, either one for Bt70, or the caffe latte or Affogato di ice cream, which cost Bt60. “We serve traditional Italian java that uses blends imported from Kenya,” Voratida says. “Italian coffee has an intense flavour, whereas the typical Thai coffee puts the emphasis on sweetness, from the condensed milk.” For lighter tastes, there’s steamed milk, assorted teas, iced sweet milk and chocolate, along with a variety of homemade cakes and other snacks. Sip and savour Ubuntu Cafe is on the ground floor of Silom Grand Terrace on Soi Saladaeng 2. It’s open weekdays from 7am to 10pm and weekends from 10 to 8. Call (02) 632 2529.

RHONE WINES TO THE RESCUE

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utting a happy face on less-than-happy times was the aim of the Dusit Thani Hotel last week at another highly successful monthly wine event – and it took more than a little doing to assure its success. The totally unexpected airport closures dealt a punishing blow to a publicised dinner showcasing California’s Robert Mondavi wines at the hotel’s Il Cielo restaurant. Not only were special wines waylaid, the guest speaker was forced to cancel his trip. A quick rescue effort by food-andbeverage director Mohamed El Sayeh resulted in Ekachai Mahaguna, general manager of Canpac Beverages Co, graciously providing substitute wines. For the already established menu, | 12 |

Eckachai opted for wines from his prestigious Rhone Valley supplier E Guigal. While the imaginative five-course dinner offered something for nearly every taste, it was hard not to speculate on how the Mondavi wines might have fared compared to those of Guigal. Opening with a big-bodied ’05 Condrieu Blanc viognier, paired with a superb king scallop, it was easy to imagine Mondavi’s subtly citrus-tang fume blanc in its place. Following two excellent courses – rabbit tortellini and pan-fried blue cod – the piece de resistance was a perfectly presented braised veal shank with spinach and pumpkin roulade. Guigal’s ’02 Hermitage, which is 100 per cent syrah from 40-year-old vines, showed

powerful body, intense ripe blackberry fruit and extended finish, almost too much for the delicate veal. Mondavi’s seductive reserve cabernet might have been a smoother marriage, but who can really complain about Hermitage? Exuding his usual smile and optimistic nature hotel manager Danny McCafferty thanked his guests. “We need some good cheer in our lives when things are a bit difficult, so we’ll do our share by continuing to offer events like this.” The latest of many additions to the hotel, backing McCafferty’s promise, is a new refreshment gazebo in the Benjarong Terrace atrium where patrons can unwind with their favourite beverages and a Havana cigar from the accompanying humidor. Call the Dusit Thani about its next “good cheer” event at (02) 200 9000. December 14-20, 2008


TREASURES ON THE HALF-SHELL The Colonnade shares its ‘Passion for Oysters’ at the Sukhothai, and you can keep any pearls you find K he t sirin Pholdhampalit Don’t tell the waiter you want yours cooked “well done”. For an oyster, raw is well done. If you grumble, a drop of lemon juice or shallot vinegar won’t infuriate them. But if you really don’t care about the oysters’ feelings, you can have them whipped into fritters in a Champagne batter, or in a gratinée with sauce (l’Americaine) or with sauteed spinach (Florentine). Bill Marinelli, the expert in charge of importing the molluscs to Thailand, is guiding diners in their selection and the fine art of shucking. He’ll prod you to start with the smallest in the family, from Kumamoto. It’s mild and slightly sweet, and raised in water so fresh that you never get that “muddy” texture. The Eld Inlet oyster is on the crunchy side and mildly salty, while the Totten Virginica is firm and creamy. Clam Cove oysters are plump and a bit salty, and those from Nootka Sound have a strong but sweet taste. “Some people avoid oysters because they think they’re high

in cholesterol,” says Marinelli, who’ll open his own oyster bar early next year. “Actually they’re not, as a lot of research has proved. They’re rich in zinc, iron, calcium and Vitamin A.” For washing them down, he recommends white wine, Champagne or beer to offset the intrinsic fattiness. “Coffee, cocoa or anything sweet doesn’t go well with oysters,” he says.

T h e r e ’s also an a la carte menu, of which the favourite is the Bt4,000 Fruits de Mer platter for two: crab, periwinkles, white shrimps, jumbo prawns, crayfish and Alaskan king crab legs. Pick that, though, and you’ll really tick off the oysters.

Slurping details Tuck into the buffet at the Colonnade restaurant Tuesday to Friday from 6 to 10.30pm. It costs Bt1,099, but if you want your oysters cooked, it’s Bt200 extra. Call (02) 344 8725. December 14-20, 2008

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photo / ekkarat sukpetch

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our basic raw oyster is like a fine wine, all complex flavours and textures that vary quite a bit depending on how salty the seawater they grew up in was, and what other minerals and nutrients were part of the environment. But never mind that – how many can you eat in one evening? Actually, the Colonnade’s “A Passion for Oysters” promotion at the Sukhothai Hotel – an allyou-can-eat buffet – is as much an education as sheer gourmet fun. Oysters imported from the US relax on beds of ice, and they’re all shouting, “Taste me first!” Some have the sweet tang of melon, others are as briny as an ocean wave. You may need a scorecard to remember all the players. Waiting to be shucked are Kumamoto, Totten Virginica, Nootka Sound, Eld Inlet and Calm Cove, all carrying the names of the places they call home.


Laid-back

The place they called Hellfire A lush green trail in Kanchanaburi seems an impossible place to have witnessed one of World War II’s worst atrocities

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December 14-20, 2008


Pattarawadee Saengmanee mountain showing the route of the fourkilometre railway that Japan forced its prisoners to construct. Visitors come to terms with the rows of wartime photos of battered and abused prisoners, and the other artefacts, ranging from their letters and clothing to medicine and construction tools. T h e r e ’s a s m a l l theatre screening a s e ve n - m i n u t e fi l m about the construction of the railway and 1997 photographs of the survivors. These are the men who endured the hardships long enough to see the defeat of the Japanese army. They were rehabilitated and sent home, while the less fortunate were buried in cemeteries specially created in Kanchanaburi and Burma for allied soldiers.

The museum tour is just the warm-up for a trek along the historic tracks just below it, the scene of one of the war’s worst crimes. Museum staff built a 300-metre wooden bridge to Hellfire Pass, which the prisoners cut from rock at the cost of many lives. The museum provides MP3 players with commentaries – in English, Dutch, Japanese and Thai – that guide visitors along the way and explain what happened. It’s a haunting 15-minute walk along the 600 metres of track, surrounded by natural beauty that denies such a vicious past. Given more time, you can keep strolling among the bamboo groves the full four kilometres to the three-tier “pack of cards” bridge and the trestle’s end at Hintok Station. Lest we forget The Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum is at 207 Royal Thai Armed Forces Agricultural & Cooperative Division Development Command, Saiyok district in Kanchanaburi. It’s open daily from 9 to 4. Admission is free. Call (081) 308 2300 or (081) 754 2098 or visit www.HellfirePass.com.

December 14-20, 2008

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ph o t o / da r a n at de n ki r i y adee l e r d

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n a cliff in Kanchanaburi i s t h e He l l fi r e Pa s s Memorial Museum, home to an exhibition about the World War II prisoners and Asian labourers who struggled, and often died, right here. The museum was established by the Australian government in 1998 to commemorate the Australian and British prisoners-of-war who died building the Thailand-Burma r a i l w a y through what b e c a m e known as Hellfire Pass. T he 200-square-me tre museum traces the global war’s shift to Asia after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in 1 9 4 1 . T h e r e ’s a m o d e l


Laid-back

Hang your hat

at HQ

A friendly hostel off Silom offers budget accommodation for backpackers

K he t sirin Pholdhampalit

P h o t o / A n a n t C ha n ta r as u t

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ust 100 metres down Silom’s Soi Pipat in downtown Bangkok, the new HQ Hostel offers clean and comfortable dorms and rooms at prices that won’t break the bank for the budget traveller. The sleek five-storey hostel is minimalist in design with plenty of bare but polished cement. HQ is not owned by a big-name hotel brand that’s branched into budget tourism, but is owned and run by four young entrepreneurs who are themselves avid backpackers. “This place is inbetween a high-end hotel and a guesthouse. Real travellers d o n’ t n e e d a n y t h i n g e l s e b u t convenience, cleanliness, comfort and safety,” says partner Sasikan Chinruksa. “Our prime location is our strong point. We’re five minutes from the Skytrain and the subway and a minute from hundreds of restaurants, bars, street | 16 |

stalls and shopping attractions.” or have fun at the foosball table. Free The dormitories have beds for four, wireless internet is also offered in the six, eight and 10 with personal lockers. lobby for those with their own laptops. Each room is decorated simply with An LCD TV and DVD player are white beds and white linen and duvets. available at the lobby and on the fifth The communal bathrooms are clean floor. DVDs can be borrowed and and the shower and toilet zones are guests are encouraged to leave their old separate and equipped with lashings of discs behind for other viewers. Laundry hot water. If you need privacy, opt for a service can be arranged and, while queen-size bed with en-suite, bare- there’s no communal kitchen, the Silom cement bathroom with no door but a area is one great eatery, with food curtain. available with cheap prices round the Although there’s no ladies-only dorm clock. as such, Sasikan tries to group female “Our clients are young adventure travellers in the fourth-floor dorms if -seekers, most of them from Europe. possible. The Bangkok is a mezzanine is a Southeast Asian hub Until December 30, the rates are relaxing space to sit on and a stopover for Bt380/bed for 10-people dorm, comfy beanbags and many multiBt400 for eight, Bt490 for six and read, chat with mates destination travellers. Bt555 for four. The double room costs Bt1,550. online via two We offer friendly staff Call (02) 233 1598 or visit computers with free and hospitality,” says www.HQHostel.com. Internet connection, Sasikan. December 14-20, 2008


Wellness

So long, ‘red’ and ‘yellow’

Get a move on, Scrooge!

Let some German psychologists help with your Christmas shopping

Simple meditation techniques from Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, yoga and New Age theory for healing the body and mind are being taught in both English and Thai at the Kathmandu Photo Gallery. Today, there will be a special session on dealing with feelings stirred up by the political crisis. The workshop is held monthly from 10 to 11.30am and suitable for beginners and open-minded meditators. Admission is free but donation is welcome. Advanced booking is required: call (02) 234 6700, or Morakot at (081) 835 7559. Recommended for people with cancer.

Drifting in tuneful Lumpini Janne Ter fruechte Deutsche Presse-Agentur

P h o t o / L AT-W P

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he list of Christmas presents you have to buy is as long as the Bible, and admit it, you’re stuck for ideas. You need to make a statement about your relationship with every single person on that list, give them each a thrill and avoid choosing something, uh, awkward. For acquaintances and relatives who don’t live with you, says social psychologist Fritz Strack of the University of Wuerzburg, “The best gifts are standards such as wine, a tie or socks – to avoid making a mistake.” You could always try making a deal with some of the people on the list, promising that no one will buy a gift this year, says Karin Joder, a psychologist in Kiel, Germany, who’s worried about the stress factor in gift exchanges. For friends, family or partners, she says, “the actual meaning of a gift is important. The gift should express one’s love.” Step into their shoes and decide what they’d really want. Kids are a snap – if they haven’t actually spelled out their wishes in a December 14-20, 2008

letter to Santa, they’ll tell you exactly what they want. Too bad it’s not so easy buying gifts for your spouse or partner. Often they drop hints, and Joder thinks you should be picking up gifts all year long, stashing them away someplace secret. What about when you’ve left gift purchases until the last minute? “People will be able to tell whether it was a quick buy or lovingly selected,” says Joder. Good luck explaining why you didn’t put more time and thought into it, but a clever alternative is to make something creative yourself. If you’re really stuck, says Annelie Dott, a child psychotherapist in Cologne, “Why not call a family meeting? Then each member of the family can make their wishes known.” In the case of children, of course, you have to make sure there’s still a surprise element. Offering your service is another alternative. A busy mother would be happy with a gift of a thorough housecleaning, Dott says.

Take a break from stress every Sunday by finding a patch of grass in Lumpini Park and letting the melodies of “Music in the Park” float over you. From 5pm today, the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra will perform soothing tunes with guests including Radklao Amaradit, Saowanit Nawaphan and Saran Klungbanphot. The concert series continues until February 8 at the Bhirombhakdi Sala.

100 Christmas wishes made The Amari Watergate Hotel has got together with the Foundation for Rehabilitation and Development of Children and Families to make the dreams of 100 orphanage children come true. The children have written their wishes on cards that have been placed on the hotel’s Christmas tree. Just donate Bt1,000 per card and the hotel will have the gift it names bought and presented to the child on your behalf. All gifts will be handed out on Children’s Day in early January. Call (02) 653 9000, extension 5020-1. | 17 |


PHOTO ESSAY

Bubbly Balloons TEXT BY AS I A N EWS N E T WO R K P H OTOS BY NI P H O N A P PA K A R N/AS I A NEWS NETWO RK

N

ot even an airport closure can stop the International Balloon Festival in Thailand. In fact, participants this year had to use an alternative route to get their giant balloons up and flying in the fields of Khao Yai in Nakhon Ratchasima province, from December 3 to 7. More than 60 pilots took their flights of fancy and there was even a concert on air. Onlookers also had a chance to ride the ballooons and on the ground, there were plenty of activities to keep everyone amused.

| 18 |

December 14-20, 2008


December 14-20, 2008

| 19 |


LIFESTYLE

New Wave Many Chinese have started taking a fancy to surfing BEIJING

Patrick Whiteley and Dania Karina China Daily

D

ahai grips the edge of his surfboard for a split second before jumping to his feet and gliding his board across a rolling mass of blue water. He drops down the face of the wave then races to the top, flicking his board off the wave’s peeling lip, and splashing saltwater into the air with delight. Dahai is the only surfer paddling around on this Hainan beach break, in south China, but he won’t be alone too long. The 35-year-old is leading a small band of enthusiasts who are considered to be China’s first surfers. Before the arrival of the Westerners, surfing on Hainan Island had been mostly pioneered by Japanese tourists, who would sometimes surf between golf games. China’s coastline does not have abundance of surfing spots because of the position of its coastline, which does not catch the full brunt of the Pacific Ocean swell. However, Taiwan does attract surf and the South China Sea generates waves off the coast of Hong Kong and Hainan. The sport, which is hugely popular around the world, never really caught on with the Chinese, until recently. | 20 |

Zhang Yinhai, 35, also known as Dahai, was a former diving instructor and became intrigued when he first saw surfers in Dadonghai, Sanya, three years ago. Now, the Harbin local has made surfing his life. “When you go out and surf, when you catch a wave, the feeling is always different,” he says. “Also when you’re on the board, the moment you stand up, you feel like you’ve achieved something. A natural high. The world ceases to exist. It’s just you and the wave.” This year, Santa Cruz Surfboards organised what it claims to be the first ever surf event held along the coast of China. Robert ‘Wingnut’ Weaver, star of the classic surf movie Endless Summer II led an assembled group of American and Chinese surfers from all walks of life. There was a barbecue by the beach, drinking, music, fun and of course plenty of surfing. More than 90 per cent of the participants were Chinese. “It was great. A lot of people were brought together by surfing. It was the first here in China, and it felt like a sign of the good things to come for the surf community here in Hainan and for China in general,” Dahai gushes. Fu Rong, 31, has been called the first Chinese female surfer, and is tanned—a rare trait among Chinese women, who generally prefer to keep their complexion white. “When I am standing on the surf board, I don’t think about being a female surfer or even that I might be the first female surfer in China,” she says. “I’m not thinking of anything like December 14-20, 2008


that. I just see other great surfers around me. Watching their skills really inspires me to surf more,” she declares. Veteran American surfer Elijah Kislevitz, who lives in Beijing, has surfed in Hainan many times and also surfs in Hong Kong. He points out that China’s coastlines stretch for thousands of kilometres so “there is no way that there’s no surf in China”. Hainan is almost the same latitude as Hawaii but legions of surfers from stereotypical surf nations mostly dismiss the idea of surfing in China. The water in Hainan is warm, and a surfer can get by without a wetsuit for nearly the whole year. There are several good surf spots in the island. One of them is Shi Mei Bay where surfers can get decent point and beach breaks. The biggest waves, up to 4m, come from typhoons, which hit the coastline up to five times a year. However, 1m waves are the norm. The empty beaches also promise surfers the luxury of crowd-free fun and locals say there has never been any case of shark attacks. “Not many people here have seen surfing,” Dahai says. “They think it’s a very dangerous or extreme sport. But they don’t have the right concept. “They have probably only seen short videos on the Internet of people surfing huge waves. “That’s really a different sport and very different from the kind of surfing that I do. But once people have seen us surf here in Hainan, they see it’s not so difficult.” Those who have surfed are bursting with exhilaration. December 14-20, 2008

Software developer Zhao Dongwei was profoundly touched after he surfed for the first time in his life this year. “This surfing is extremely, extremely exciting,” he says. “When I managed to stand up on the board I got a real feeling of freedom. I felt like a bird flying in the ocean breeze.” Kislevitz, who promotes Santa Cruz surfboards on the mainland, says the sport is in its infancy in China, but sees huge potential. “Surfing is one of those things where it doesn’t matter where in the world you’re from. Once you do it and you get into it, you’re hooked.” Another American preaching the surfing message is Brendan Sheridan, who set up a surf shop in Hainan. He says 99 per cent of Americans don’t have the slightest inkling about China’s tropical surfing paradise. “I grew up in Hong Kong before I went back to the United States. But honestly, I always thought that it would be interesting to start a surf business in China.” Sheridan says. Surfing Hainan has grown from humble beginnings as a surfboards rental place outside a beachfront restaurant barely a year ago. According to Sheridan, about 70 per cent of Hainan surfers are expats from Guangdong province but more Chinese surfers are becoming hooked. “Before China opened up in the 1990s, there were no Westerners to really bring surfing into China,” he says. “Now though, the Chinese are starting to catch on to it. And it’s even better because now surfing is not just that thing that the crazy laowai do. The

Chinese are doing it too.” With the surfing scene in China still in its infancy, both hands-on experience and communication skills are crucial in stimulating a surf revolution among the Chinese. Kilevitz highlights the importance of basic environmental knowledge to a new surfer. “They ought to know how to respect the environment, respect the water, pick up the trash and how to understand the waves. Then they can pick up the board to surf.” “The idea is to let the Chinese understand beach culture,” adds Sheridan, “I’ve seen Chinese tour buses pulling up by the beach, and the Chinese start walking around on the sand with their pants and leather shoes. That’s not it. “The idea is to let people understand how great it is on the beach when you can just walk around in shorts and flip-flops.” Sheridan thinks that the current infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired for Hainan to be the future Hawaii. But, as China keeps improving, he has no doubt that Hainan will follow too. Dahai shares his co-founder’s belief. “China is developing—it has caught up with the rest of the world,” Dahai says. “Surfing has been around a hundred years, but it’s only just started in China. “We’re not lacking for anything here—surfboards, sea, waves, people, brave ones and not so brave ones. “I think it will get really big here. More and more Chinese are starting to surf and it will really start to gather speed.” | 21 |


DES MOND W EE/T h e St rai ts T i mes

LIFESTYLE

Mobile Office

In-car computers are breathing life on the wheels SINGAPORE

Tan Weizhen The Straits Times

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n-car MP3 or DVD players are so yesterday. Car buffs who also happen to be fans of all things tech are spiffing up their wheels with multimedia players, in-car computers on either the PC or Mac platforms and even game consoles. These ‘carputers’ can cost a pretty penny—tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. But price tags are not stopping a small but growing band of motorists from installing car-ready small PCs or Mac Minis, complete with touchscreen monitors, in their vehicles. These enable motorists to store and play thousands of songs, surf the Internet, check e-mail, work on documents and even print them out in the car. One such group of local ‘carputer’ enthusiasts even meets regularly to create a wireless network and swop music files. Bluetooth-enabled multimedia devices which come with USB ports are getting popular. Drivers use them to play DVDs or music with their iPods and to transfer songs using portable disks or Bluetooth. Some watch television in their cars by planting tuners to receive channels such as MobileTV and | 22 |

AT HOME: Eugene Ng surfing the Internet in his BMW, which he souped up with three amplifiers and seven speakers, a powerful car PC and 11 USB ports.

Channels 5 and 8. A check with six local workshops in Singapore has found that sales of these devices have grown at least 30 per cent from last year. One such workshop, MobyCar, which customises car computers running on Windows Mobile or Mac OS, said its business has doubled from a year ago. It has also seen more customers buying parts and assembling them. Another company, Innovasia, said sales of its car multimedia devices have climbed 20 per cent since it started selling them just six months ago. For some, traditional MP3 or DVD players are not selling as well any more. Jackson Tan of Pin Liang Enterprises said that with more car-makers already kitting their cars with DVD players and iPod docks, customers hardly need to buy those devices now. Sellers of the new lines of gadgets offer several reasons for the increased demand. Eric Sim of Innovasia said the pervasiveness of media such as iPods, USB drives, Bluetooth and broadband in people’s everyday lives is spilling over into demand for them on the go. Franklin Tang of MobyCar said technology has evolved to be more carfriendly and attractive. Even car makers are cottoning on to the demand for car-ready devices. Next year, Performance Motors will launch a BMW 7-series that comes

equipped with a hard disk to store thousands of songs; new models of this German car will also come fitted with massage chairs. Kah Motors will be offering Hondas wired with USB ports. Eugene Ng, 28, has blown close to $10,000 (US$6,558) on souping up his BMW 3-series. Besides revving up the sound system with three amplifiers and seven speakers, he has installed a powerful car PC; 11 USB ports are scattered throughout the cabin. He uses the system to listen to his 2,000 songs, play games and check email. He accesses the Internet by connecting his phone and using its 3G function. Ng, who works in his family’s business, said: “When I need to access documents, which I can’t do on my phone, it saves me from running back to the office. My car has become my mobile entertainment and office all at once.” Another motorist, Paul Cheong, 31, installed digital television in his car four months ago. The civil servant said: “It is one of my best purchases - my wife catches her fave dramas while on the move and I can watch the news as well.” Edwin Swee, 26, has gone further— gaming with his in-car PlayStation 2. “About 15 minutes each time, three times a week, I will play Street Fighter while waiting for my wife,” said the IT specialist, who hastens to give the assurance that he never plays while driving. December 14-20, 2008


Living On A I Prayer

KOLKATA

Mathures Paul The Statesman

Submit a prayer online and request somebody else to pray for you. E-prayers are here December 14-20, 2008

n times of trouble most turn to God, hoping every prayer would get answered. Some prefer posting prayers online, urging others with similar concerns to join in. Do e-prayer websites make it easier for God to answer our prayers? Does God log on to the Internet often? Leaving these questions unanswered, let’s look at the popular trend of posting prayers. There are numerous websites dedicated to the task. Logging on to www.ourprayer. org, The Statesman’s geek team found a request to pray for the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. We decided to pray. On submitting the prayer, a message appeared: “We have received your prayer request and have entrusted it to a dedicated volunteer, who will pray for every need you submitted. Always remember, whatever your concern, whatever your anxiety or fear, trust that God has you in His Almighty care and will answer your prayer according to His compassion.” Some prayers are for issues that are too personal. In the ‘answered prayers’ section, there was a post that read: “I requested a prayer last week for my daughter who was having a big exam

and praise God! She passed.” Prayers submitted can be kept private or be seen by friends and group members. There are also ‘prayer events’ that take into consideration ‘special’ days like Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, etc. While signing up, one has the option to disclose his/her religion and set privacy levels, barring intruders. The website is part of the Ruth Stafford Peale Prayer Power Network and is promoted as “the most technologically advanced and accessible prayer ministry in history”. Then there is www.prayabout. com, where “thousands join with you in prayer, no matter what you’re praying about today. Feel the love and support of people worldwide as you pray for healing, love, peace, children… anything that you want to make a request for.” A website with a difference is www. sendmyprayer.com which, on receiving prayers, gets somebody to write it on a postcard which is then dispatched to a destination of your choice—Ajmer Sharif, Golden Temple, for instance. The service, it is promised online, is free and the e-mail address you share will not be sold or spammed. The question is why should anybody submit prayers online when temples, churches and mosques are found in everybody’s neighbourhood? Are prayers answered quicker? Try (at your risk) and find out. | 23 |


SHOPPING

Wellness giFt instead of giving a gift CertifiCate for a buffet, why not buy a wellness saMpler gift paCk MANILA

Heart rate monitor

Mitch Felipe Philippine Daily Inquirer

A basic unit that records calories burned and checks heart rate, this costs about $60 to $161. It consists of a chest strap and a watch/receiver. Units with more advanced features like speed and distance cost from $202 to $605. This makes a great gift to someone you want to motivate to do more physical activities, since it counts the number of calories burned while also showing if he or she is doing the right exercise intensity.

I

nstead of giving pastries to those with health and weight problems, buy something that helps them manage their lifestyle and encourages them to burn calories, improves endurance, strength and stamina.

Take these gift ideas: Exercise videos

For those who can’t find time to go to the gym, there are lots of videos in video stores, bookstores and TV shopping networks. Choose the latest home exercise videos so that they have up-to-date movements, compared to those released 10 years ago. You can choose among dance workouts, yoga, Pilates, cardio boxing, sculpt-and-tone and belly dancing. Find out what your loved ones prefer.

Pedometer

The perfect gift for someone who lacks physical activity and who wants to lose weight. You can get this for less than US$10 in sports stores and electronic shops. A pedometer tracks the number of steps one takes, encouraging him or her to find ways to walk more. 10,000 accumulated steps daily can help burn 300 to 500 calories. So if one completes at least 35,000 steps a week, with proper food intake, he or she can still lose half a pound a week from walking alone. | 24 |

Wellness books

Health and fitness books make great gifts for those who love to read and learn. Don’t get fad diet books that will teach your friend unhealthy eating practices like eliminating carbohydrates from diet or following a very strict diet plan.

Choose books that answer a specific need. Give fitness books to those with complete fitness equipment at home but do not know how to do basic exercises correctly. They can go with an exercise mat and a pair of dumbbells. Buy cookbooks with healthy recipes for moms who love to prepare foods for the family. December 14-20, 2008


ts Measuring cups and containers

If you want to help someone control his or her food intake, give a set of measuring cups and spoons. It helps him or her monitor the serving size of rice, cooking oil, jams and spreads for breads. A set of small containers for packed lunch at work is also a great gift idea for someone who wants healthy packed lunch, instead of buying fastfood stuff.

Weighing scale

We don’t need to wait for the annual physical exam to learn about our weight. Portable digital weighing scales go for as low as $10 to $20, in electronic shops, or home section of department stores. Weekly weigh-ins help you track your weight-loss progress and can help you get back on track in case you gain unwanted pounds.

Lifestyle journal

Studies show that monitoring food intake is very effective in any weight management programme. It makes you aware of what you really eat during the day, your eating patterns and triggers for overeating. Any fancy handy notebook can turn into a lifestyle journal for someone who wants to be healthy and lose weight.

Apparel and sporting goods

We need to wear proper apparel during exercise. There are specific fabrics for a particular activity or sports like running and tennis, which absorb sweat and help you move comfortably. Sports apparel can also be matched with sporting goods - a golf set for dads, badminton racquets for your best friend or a basketball for your brother.

Gym membership and wellness gift certificates Water bottles or hydration packs

A hydration belt is an ideal gift for someone into brisk walking or running. It’s available in sport shops, in various sizes, costing about $20. For those into indoor workouts, just buy a water bottle. This will always remind him or her about proper hydration during exercise. We need to drink before workout, and every 15 minutes during workout and after. December 14-20, 2008

Give someone a one-month to one-year gym membership. Choose the most convenient gym location so he or she can maximise its use. Instead of giving a gift certificate for a buffet, why not buy a wellness sampler gift pack that includes a couple of gym visits, a massage, fitness check and a session with a personal trainer to help someone get started on the road to wellness? You can get this from health clubs and fitness studios of your choice. | 25 |


SHOPPING

JaPan’s toP PicKs TOKyO

Daily Yomiuri

S

o, it’s that time of the year again – the time when you try to find the perfect holiday gift for that loved one or friend, only to give up and buy a gift card instead. While there are far fewer crowds to contend with during winter holiday shopping season in Japan than in Western countries, the overabundance of products available in every category can make shopping difficult. Each year, though, a variety of companies and organisations release lists of bestsellers and most-talked about items and trends.

| 26 |

O

ne of the standout items of the past year is the children’s book Gallop! by Rufus Butler Seder (Workman Publishing Co, 1,522 yen or US$16). Featuring images of animals that become animated as you open each page, the technique – dubbed scanimation – has found the book a home on the New York Times Best Seller List for more than a year. It also is on Kinokuniya bookstore’s recommendation list, along with Swing! (1,522 yen), by the same author.

A

new line of ant farms made of colourful gel – the Antquarium – offer both an educational experience and modern objet d’art for the living room. Watch the ants as they eat the gel (specially developed by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and dig tunnels.

December 14-20, 2008


T

oys R Us Japan, meanwhile, has placed a number of educational toys at the top of their list this year, including the Eyeclops digital microscope, which can be hooked up to a television; a globe that tells you the name of a country when you touch it with a special pen; and an advent calendar from Lego, which gives children the fun of opening it every morning – without the sugary treats.

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recent survey of the year’s trends by Dentsu Communication Institute Inc, a thinktank run by advertising giant Dentsu Inc, says that one of the most popular things of the past year was director Hayao Miyazaki’s Gake no Ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea). Though a DVD release is still off in the future, Ponyo dolls and other items will be a sure hit with small children.

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ccording to the Dentsu survey, the top item for the year was Nintendo’s Wii game console. The unique controlling method has proven popular both with families and adults using the Wii Fit to get in shape. The seemingly ubiquitous Nintendo DS handheld game system came at No 5, according to the survey. SMBC Consulting Co, a business consulting firm under Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, also recently compiled its 2008 trends list, as always in the form of the sumo ranking. Wii Fit, a balance-boardlike controller for the Wii, was named komusubi in the SMBC ranking. With no yokozuna titles this year, Wii Fit is effectively ranked fifth or sixth.

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here’s also fun to be had with a personal video karaoke system – one of the smallest in the world – and a selection of tiny remote-controlled cars, helicopters and race sets, uniquely Japanese train sets, doughnut-making toys and the Giga Pudding, which allows kids to make a flan 20 times the normal size to share with friends.

December 14-20, 2008

| 27 |


K AMARU L A K HIR /A FP

People Andy Lau To Wed IPOH

Sylvia Looi The Star

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PHIL I PPE LOPEZ/AF P

fter 23 years of keeping their romance under wraps, Hong Kong heartthrob Andy Lau Tak Wah and his Malaysian girlfriend Carol Chu will walk down the aisle next year. The couple, who got to know each other in 1985, has chosen Pulau Redang in Terengganu, Malaysia as the site for their lavish wedding ceremony to avoid the paparazzi. Hong Kong magazine Three Weekly reported that the 47-yearold Lau got the idea of getting married on a faraway resort island from his buddy Tony Leung Chiu Wai, who recently tied the knot with Chinese beauty Carina Lau Kar Ling. The magazine reported that the star had been vehemently denying his relationship with Chu for fear of losing the support of his fans but Chu’s appearance at Lau’s concert early this year had sent the rumour mill into overdrive. Lau also set tongues wagging when he asked his fans if idols could have girlfriends and get married as a way of testing his fans’ response to his marriage plans. Fans responded that he should be open about his love for Chu. Chu’s romance with Lau is believed to have started not long after she was named second runnerup in a beauty contest in 1985. In May this year, he was spotted at the wedding ceremony of Chu’s sister in Kuala Lumpur. When contacted by press, his former girlfriend Yu Ke Xin said: “I am very happy for him. It is time he settled down.”

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Datuk Shah Rukh Khan MALACCA

Martin Carvalho The Star

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ollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan is now a Datuk (a Malaysian title akin to the British’s ‘Sir’). He received his Datukship from Malacca governor Mohd Khalil Yaakob at a ceremony in Ayer Keroh in Malacca on December 6. On how he felt about his Datukship, the actor said that it was an honour not only for him but also for all actors from India. “I am very happy that I have found a big space in the hearts of people here,” he added. Shah Rukh Khan announced that he has agreed to assist the state in developing the Malaysian film industry including shooting one of his movies here later next year. Shah Rukh said that a team from Mumbai, India, would visit Malacca some time between August and September next year to scout for possible locations for the movie. “There is a film I am planning some time in August and September and will send a team down to look around,” he said, adding that the tentative title for the proposed movie is ‘Happy New Year’. The actor noted that Malacca is a beautiful state that possesses many locations ideal for moviemaking. He suggested the state set up at least one or two floor studios and labs in order to attract moviemakers. December 14-20, 2008


I am Sam

weeks. I got four days. We were on the beach and then it rained. Travelling is one thing I love about the job. I love travelling and seeing different cultures.

The golden boy of today’s Philippine show biz came at a right time, at a right place MANILA

Oliver Pulumbarit Philippine Daily Inquirer

T

hree years after Sam Milby left the Pinoy (Filipino) Big Brother house, the actor-model-singer still sizzles, enjoying fame and fortune long after the proverbial 15 minutes. Samuel Lloyd Milby grew up in Ohio and never expected to make it big in Philippine show business. But make it big, he did. He continues to adorn ads of all forms and sizes, act in soap operas and star in movies. The 24-year-old’s future in his profitable career is so bright that, as the old clich? goes, he’s got to wear shades. Well, he does. Sam is the new endorser of i2i eyewear. It was a rainy afternoon launch, but Sam spoke candidly to Philippine Daily Inquirer—in Taglish (Tagalog and English)—about eyewear, controversy and his life a few years after 49 days in Pinoy Big Brother, the Philippine version of Big Brother, among other things. You’ve mentioned that you never expected this kind of success. What are you learning about show business and being a celebrity?

Well, the job isn’t as easy as a lot of people portray it to be. When I think about it now, I feel myself more blessed, because there are many people in

December 14-20, 2008

Name some show biz friends you’re learning from.

We have a small group, actually, that really helps me out. Every Sunday, after (noontime show) ‘ASAP’ . We’re Christians. They help you out and they pray for you if you’re having a problem.

Do you and your friends share acting or singing tips when you hang out?

show biz who have been in it for how many years. Normally, you earn your way up. Pero ako (but me), it was given to me just like that. I feel like I have a lot to learn. I just want to show improvement. Before PBB, I was never an actor. I wasn’t even a singer, really, so I just don’t wanna stop learning. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning. This is the kind of job I really want to do. Which among those things do you prefer doing?

I love singing. It’s my first passion. I play guitar. I miss jamming. One thing I love about music is jamming with a full band, but I don’t have a band right now . I have stage fright, though. But I love acting, I love singing. I don’t see myself doing anything else, really.

Did you ever hesitate about pursuing a career in show biz?

I has not occurred to me. There are times I just want to rest. I want to sleep, to have a vacation because I have been working all the time. At times, i just go home to take a bath then I leave the house again. Sometimes, I find it difficult to sleep at night. Bakasyon (vacation), that’s one thing I really want.

Where would you spend it?

Earlier this year, I went on a vacation. First time, actually, I went on vacation. I went to Thailand. Filipinos there recognised me. I wanted two

They don’t really talk about show biz too much. It’s more about helping each other grow as Christians. But they do give me advice. Especially Piolo (Pascual), he’s a very great actor: “Your face is too distorted when you cry. You need to...” Mga ganyan (those sorts). Speaking of Piolo, you both decided to drop the libel suit against show biz columnist Lolit Solis. When you filed it, did you consider that you may be alienating gay fans, and that your strong denial might be construed as “being gay is wrong”?

No. I wasn’t thinking that. It’s nothing against homosexuality at all. It’s more about writing something that was completely false. There was no truth to it at all. When you write something like that and you use the names, that’s what people believe. It’s nothing about being against homosexuality. It’s more about just having the truth come out because people are thinking the wrong thing.

So officially, what is your stance on gay people?

Well, I do work with them. When I was skating, my figure-skating coach was even gay. So I have no problem with it at all. I have friends that are. Would you get naked in a movie now if the role calls for it?

I’m a naturally shy person. But at the same time, some roles require some things. It really depends on what the role calls for. If that’s required, we’ll see. I want to mature as an actor. | 29 |


Explore

The Island That Time Forgot

Pulau Derawan is hard to reach but easy to love

| 30 |

PULAU DERAWAN

Muhammad Cohen The Jakarta Post

F

or some travellers, the ideal tropical island getaway includes plush designer décor, exotic spa treatments, celebrity chef dining with a cultural side dish of native dancing, broadband Wi-Fi, 100-plus television channels and discoing until dawn. Those travellers will steer clear of Pulau Derawan. But if you’re looking for a taste of village life with turtles crossing paths en route to your room and fresh food served family style amid some of best diving on the planet, then make the trip to Derawan. Situated about 20km off the coast of Indonesia’s East Kalimantan, Derawan attracts enterprising tourists as gateway to the Sangalaki archipelago, a chain of 30-something islands and atolls renowned for its marine life. Further offshore, Pulau Karaban is the home to an ecologically significant lake nurturing a unique species of jellyfish that has lost its sting due to lack of predators, limestone caves populated by swiftlets that make nests for bird’s nest soup, and huge coconut crabs. December 14-20, 2008


Pulau Sangalaki and its surrounding waters are famous for manta rays and endangered green turtles. Many top dive sites here are at moderate depths of 15–20 metres. Even snorkellers stand a good chance of catching rays gently beating their wings to glide like birds through the brine. Scuba divers can fly right along with the mantas, with the bonus of extra long dive times. This heavy breathing reporter, usually lucky to get beyond 25 minutes on a tank, enjoyed nearly an hour of bottom time on each of two dives with a great sampling of the hundreds of species of brilliantly coloured reef fish and coral along with a dozen rays. Formerly host to an international diving resort, Sangalaki now accommodates a Turtle Foundation antipoaching monitoring station staffed by local and international conservation groups, backed by special maritime police patrols. Pulau Nabucco and Pulau Maratua have fancy dive resorts out in the archipelago. But if you stay there, you miss the charms of Pulau Derawan and its villagers. Using Derawan as your base carries the additional bonus of fishing for dinner off the back of your boat on the way home. The journey doesn’t stop once you land. Derawan’s fishing village of about 300 families transports visitors back to simpler times. The island is only lightly touched by the 21st century, or even the 20th for that matter. It’s also lightly touched by transport, so getting there poses a major challenge. But that degree of difficulty helps Derawan maintain its charm. A teardrop-shaped island of 45 December 14-20, 2008

hectares that can be circled on foot in less than an hour, Derawan has electricity from dusk to dawn only. (Accommodations that run generators during daylight hours violate the spirit of the island.) Without TV or air con to distract them, Derawan islanders spend their time on the front porches inside their wooden plank houses on stilts above the sand. They talk to their neighbours and to visitors who happen by. With just two paths, one following the coast and the other leading to the coconut plantation at the centre of the island, both lined with houses, not much goes unnoticed. Kids easily find playmates and invent games. A few warung sell snacks and sundries (and maybe beer out the back door), but best to bring your own fruits and potables. If all you’re looking for is a chill, follow the path out of town to a white sand beach. Days are marked less by the clock or the prayer calls—Derawan’s Bajau population traces its roots to the Sulu sultanate; Muslims for sure, but more defined by their other label: Sea Gypsies—than by local rituals. In the early morning, boats return from a night of fishing, reserve some of the catch, most likely tuna, for the island and send the rest to Berau, the closest city on the Borneo ‘mainland’. By mid-afternoon, the boats return, and a couple of wooden carts soon roll around the village, laden with newly arrived fruits, vegetables and market news. The island has no cars and only a few motorcycles, which, like generators, run against the spirit of the place. Once the afternoon sun drops, young women come out to play volleyball where the two roads meet, and compete with a surprisingly high

level of talent and competition. Young men follow with games that are more skillful but less spirited. If you’re lodging at Losmen Danakan, a homestay with rooms on a pier stretching 50 metres out into the sea, you can watch turtles and seahorses slipping between dock pilings. You can walk down the steps and into the water to swim right along with them. Emerge on the adjacent sliver of beach and join youngsters catching (and releasing) crabs. Off in the distance, you may be lucky enough to see a dolphin leap into a glorious sunset vista of fishing boats bobbing off shore as crews prepare for another night of work at sea. Danakan means ‘family’ in the sea patois that arose between traders and fishing crews in these waters, and that’s the spirit at this simple guesthouse. Staff at Danakan specialise in making guests feel welcome as part of the extended clan. Rooms and furnishings are simple: It’s a place for sitting outside and relishing the setting. When the electricity is switched on, a room fan supplements the sea breeze, with the slosh of the surf below a gentle lullaby. If Ernest Hemingway came back as a sensitive, new age guy, he’d come to Danakan to fish by day and write (and recharge his laptop) at night. Like other tourists, he’d be lured by the marine life but get hooked on the village’s charm. For tourists, at least, the living is awfully easy here. In today’s world, it’s increasingly difficult to find places as beguilingly simple as Derawan. Muhammad Cohen is the author of Lonely Planet Borneo and Hong Kong On Air. | 31 |


Explore

Asia’s Latin City A cultural melting pot better than zamboanga city probably does not exist anywhere else in the Philippines

zamboanga city

Augusto Villalon Philippine Daily Inquirer

“B

ienvenidos, buenas dias contigo (Welcome, good morning to you),” my host said, her eyes lighting up in a radiant smile as I walked into the Zamboanga airport terminal. It was my first time there, but with a welcome like that, I knew this was one of those special places in the Philippines that was going to be an experience to remember. Filipinos imagine Zamboanga as the gracious city in the southern tip of Mindanao; a seaside city profuse with flowers whose residents have long been a mix of religions and cultures; an old settlement upgraded by the Spanish conquerors whose fortifications remained long after the city became the leading American colonial strong| 32 |

hold in the far south. The city is one of the few in the country where heritage survives intact, evidenced in so many historic structures still in use today. Church and mosque spires mark the skyline despite rapid construction of commercial structures that are now beginning to change the traditional low-rise profile of the city. On weekends, crowds of people picnic and swim on city beaches along the tree-lined boulevards which arc to follow the shoreline. In the foreground of the pristine blue water is Santa Rosa Island, famous for its pink-sand beaches. Just behind it looms Basilan island, about an hour by boat from Zamboanga. Zamboanga bills itself ‘Asia’s Latin City’. Absolutely Latino-based is its spoken language Chabacano, a Spanish-Bisaya patois of “60-per-cent Español and 40-per-cent native words”, says the city brochure, a living language unique to the place and its people that continues to evolve

today by absorbing words from the vocabularies of the different cultural communities who inhabit the city. Zamboanga’s edge over other Asian cities of Latin heritage—Goa, Malacca, Macau—is language. While those Asian cities may have retained some practices and landmarks of shared Latin heritage, they have pretty much lost their Latin languages. Chabacano remains the lingua franca uniting the fusion of diverse

December 14-20, 2008


Fort Pilar

Paseo del Mar

cultures coexisting in the city for generations. A cultural melting pot better than Zamboanga probably does not exist anywhere else in the Philippines. Their spoken language is the definite Zamboangueño identifying mark. It perfectly encapsulates the city’s multiculturalism. With a lifestyle as charming as their native language, Zamboanga is enchantingly different from anywhere else in the Philippines. Vinta

December 14-20, 2008

Enchantingly different is the city centre, radiating from the former city wharf with the city hall as its centerpiece, which was originally constructed by the American colonial government in early 20th century as the provincial capitol. Plaza Pershing, named in memory of the American Gen ‘Black Jack’ Pershing, who figured prominently in establishing American colonial rule in Mindanao, is another small plaza close to the city hall. Although modern construction threatens to engulf Plaza Pershing, heritage trees continue to shade the open area. Compact and walkable, downtown streets lead to a maze of shops and businesses punctuated by some architectural gems. The Art Deco-style police station, built during the Japanese occupation of Zamboanga in the 1940s, stands out. Another unrecognised gem is the Art Deco Philippine National Bank building, dating back to the ‘50s. Outstanding are the houses on this street that maintain their heritage architecture that are now used as banks, restaurants and commercial offices in the 21st century. More outstanding than anything I saw in Zamboanga is the main building of Western Mindanao State

University. An undiscovered gem of American colonial architecture from the early 20th century, it is a wonderful example of Beaux Arts favoured by the American colonial government, which was adapted to tropical conditions with large window openings, high ceilings with floor-through interior ventilation and excellent architectural craftsmanship in its moldings, doors and wrought-iron grillwork. In the Yakan Village, some textiles are still woven on the spot, more or less still following the traditional manner, and sold as tourist souvenirs. At the Barter Trade market are all sorts of merchandise, from cheap souvenirs to traditional craft by local tribes, Indonesian textiles and Chinese food. Zamboanga has a lot going for it, and people are aware of it. Its cultural mix sets it apart from other cities in the country, showcased by a rich urban heritage that continues to survive. Most importantly, Chabacano says it all for Zamboanga. How amazing it is that a city’s spoken language not only reflects its heritage and lifestyle but also establishes the city’s image, which Zamboangueños are determined to keep as their edge against globalisation. | 33 |


DATE BOOK ay u t t h aya

World Heritage Fair

T

he annual Ayutthaya World Heritage Fair at the Unesco World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya Historical Park includes son et lumière shows, displays of traditional culture and other forms of entertainment. The original kingdom of Ayutthaya dominated the region for about 400 years. The city was officially founded in 1350 BC by King Ramathibodi I, although the area had been settled long before then. In the years of its ascendancy, Ayutthaya was a powerful city-state which traded extensively with the Chinese, the Dutch and the French. Its rulers built a magnificent town, filled with monasteries, canals and monuments, bearing comparison with the greatest cities in Europe of the time. When: Dec 13 - 19

SINGAP O RE

Nutcracker

S

ingapore Dance Theatre presents a Christmas performance of the well-known ballet, Nutcracker, at the Esplanade Theatre. This tale of young Clara’s adventure and courage after receiving a nutcracker doll from Dr Drosselmeyer is a favourite of young and old alike. When: Dec 12 - 13 Where: Esplanade

COTABATO C I TY

Shariff Kabunsuan Festival

T

his celebration commemorates the arrival of Shariff Kabunsuan, an Arab-Malay missionary from Malaysia, who brought the islamic faith to Mindanao, Philippines . It was faith that leads to the establishment of the Sultanates of Maguindanao, Rajah Buayan and Kabuntalan. With its golden age ushered in by Sultan Dipatuan Qudarat during 17th century, Cotabato developed as the first capital of Mindanao. Activities include the Guinakit Fluvial Parade and Cultural Presentation, and traditional games & sports such as bangka (boat) racing. The Inaul Fashion Show will present the different designs of attire using the Inaul Malong

considered as the main product of Cotabato City. Capping the festival is the ‘Pagana Maguindanao’, a traditional way of dining among Maranaos and Maguindanaons in honour of special guests. When: Dec 17-19

l ada kh

Galdan Namchot

G

aldan Namchot in Leh celebrates the birthday and Buddhahood of Tsongkhapa, the Tibetan saint-scholar who founded the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism during the 14th century. The colourful Galdan Namchot festival features the illumination of all monastic, public and residential buildings throughout Ladakh in India and the preparation of the traditional Thukpa dish, to be served to friends and relatives. When: Dec 21

n a ra

Kasuga Wakamiya On-Matsuri

T

raditional performing arts have continuously been passed down since the 12th century at this elegant festival at the Kasuga Taisha Grand Shrine in Nara, Japan. Kasuga Wakamiya On-Matsuri highlights the fashion changes over the centuries, music of the gods and Japanese folk dances. The first festival took place in the 12th century when there was an epidemic. Prayers were offered to be rid of the plague and a blessing was made for a rich harvest. When: Dec 15 - 18


FASTER TRANSFER TIMES We’ve developed a concept where all our member airlines come together at one terminal, under one roof: we call them Co-Location airports. It means much faster connections between flights. For instance, at Terminal One at Narita in Japan, we’ve cut the waiting times by over 50%. There’ll be six more by the end of 2008, in Bangkok, Miami, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore and Seoul. That’s one more innovation from the Star Alliance network to make your journey easier. To find out more, visit www.staralliance.com

www.staralliance.com

Information correct as at 02/2007


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THE NATION ASIANEWS December 14-20, 2008 TRAVEL, FOOD & DRINK, STYLE, ARTS AND TRENDS IN ASIA P13 P13 SHED your shell SHED your shell WO...

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