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THE NATION ASIANEWS February 1-7, 2009

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

Broadway babes from


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

February 1-7, 2009

PHI PHI CRUISING

P14-15

P7 SIAMESE OASIS

VEGAN POWER

P13

Around Asia

COVER

Musical murder p9-11

P32-33 BORACAY BECKONS

LUNAR LINENS

P22-23 team

Editor: Phatarawadee Phataranawik | Deputy Editor: Khetsirin Pholdhampalit | Photo Editor: Kriangsak Tangjerdjarad | Photographers: Ekkarat Sukpetch | Writers: Pattarawadee Saengmanee | Contributor: Pawit Mahasarinand and JC Eversole | Designers: Nibhon Appakarn, Pradit Phulsarikij, 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

Digital design

Photo/ AP

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Portable architecture

ed up of sacrificing glamour for digital updates? If so, then make sure you’re at Central; Chidlom this Wednesday at 6 when Hewlett-Packard launches its limit-edition notebook computer s p e c i a l l y c r e at e d b y designer Vivienne Tam as t h e m u s t - h av e t e c h accessory for fashionistas. The purse-sized notebook at Bt39,999 comes with a red cover and floral design, and just 100 of the 1,000 produced for worldwide distribution will be sold in Thailand. The event also features a mini fashion show by Tam on the same theme. For more information, visit www.HP.com.

Man Ray’s vision

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n January 21, London-based fashion designer Hussein Chalayan opened the biggest UK exhibition of his work to date at London’s Design Museum. The creative director of the German sporting-goods maker Puma, uses mannequins for the show, with each clad in tulle, pleats, flickering LED lights or laser beams. Outside is a giant glass tank by the Thames, containing mannequins gathered around olive trees. The eclectic approach of Chalayan, who is of Turkish Cypriot origin, was highlighted in his video submission for the 2005 Venice Biennale, where he represented Turkey. “Fashion is about sex and glamour, but it’s also about the way that we live, our memories, the way that we relate to technology, the way that we move,” Deyan Sudjic, Design Museum director, said at the presentation. “Hussein Chalayan is an unusually cerebral designer.” - Bloomberg ||

Photo/ AFP

Photo/ AP

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an Ray’s retrospective “Unconcerned, but not indifferent”, showing at The Hague Museum of Photography through April, is the first exhibition to reveal his complete creative process: from observations, ideas and sketches right through to the final works of art. Ray, who died in 1976 at the age of 86, used his camera to turn photography into an art - no mean feat for a man who tried almost all his life to avoid being described as a ‘photographer’. On display are hundreds of paintings, drawings and photographs to personal objects, images, and documents drawn from his estate that paint a picture of a passionate artist and - whatever his own feelings about the description - a great photographer. Some have not been exhibited since his death, while others are on show for the first time ever. For more, go to www.FotoMuseumDenHaag. nl.

F e b r u a r y 1 - 7, 2 0 0 9


ASIA NEWS NETWORK

W e

K n o w

A s i a

B e t t e r


Trends

Battle of the buddy sites MySpace flogs films in its footrace with Facebook for fans Michael White

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ews Corp’s MySpace, the world’s second-largest social networking website, is trying to expand partnerships with filmmakers to gain an edge against fastergrowing Facebook Inc. MySpace wants advertisers to buy sponsorships to cover the cost of featuring artist’s projects on the site,

says chief executive Chris DeWolfe, making the rounds at the Sundance Film Festival. The company may also offer movies once technology makes it easier to see downloads on TV screens. MySpace lost the top spot in social networking to Facebook last year. To try and regain ground, the Beverly Hills-based MySpace began selling music in September. But a company-commissioned study found that many MySpace users want movie information, DeWolfe says. Unique visitors to Palo Alto, Califor|6|

nia-based Facebook more than doubled to 221.8 million in December from a year earlier. MySpace, which leads in US visitors, ended the year with 124.9 million, up 17 per cent. Fox Interactive, the News Corp division that includes MySpace, has announced it will eliminate jobs to cope with slumping advertising sales. MySpace launched its movie page in 2006 with a contest inviting Beastie Boys fans to remix the band’s music videos and post them on the site. The winners got to attend a party with the band. Facebook has stressed other video features, including one that lets users watch clips on sites such as CNN.com, while communicating

said he was interested in movies like “We Live in Public”. The film presents an around-theclock look at the daily lives of Jupiter Communications Inc co-founder Josh Harris and his girlfriend, Tanya. They set out to broadcast every aspect of their activities for six months. “That’s an example of the kind of person, company, film we may work with if they don’t get distribution,” DeWolfe says. “Or if they do, we may do something with the distributor.” An agreement might involve approaching advertisers to sponsor the actor or director’s project on the MySpace main page, DeWolfe says. The artist would still be free to sell the movie to a studio, he adds. The company already works with studios to promote films. DreamWorks’ “I Love You Man” was featured on January 23. Director Ari Sandel was the first filmmaker to post work on MySpace Film, a short called “West Bank Story”, about rival falafel stands, one owned by a Jew and the other by a Palestinian. The film won an Os“West Bank Story” car in 2007. Selling movies and through a pop-up window with Fa- television shows for download will have cebook friends. to wait until it’s easier to move the conIn September DeWolfe signed a tent to TV. deal with Ashton Kutcher to show “We think it’s three to four years away the actor’s animated “Blah Girls” at least,” DeWolfe says. “It’s just too videos on MySpace. complicated to connect a device to the The CEO was looking for similar op- current television sets that are out portunities at the Sundance festival. He there.” declined to say what happened. But - Bloomberg F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9


Garden Design Option

Green Plaza State in the Park

A greener world Thailand’s landscape architects DREAM OF downtown Bangkok AS a refreshing oasis Phatarawadee Phataranawik

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F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9

|7|

P hoto courtesy of A rt 4 d magazine

veryone has heard about global warming, but how many people are really taking action that will save the world? This month, the Thai Association of Landscape Architects (Tala) adds clout to the campaign by transforming the 4,000-square-metrespace in front of CentralWorld into a green oasis for the Tala Landscape Fair 09. “I believe developing a green conscience is important,” Tala president

Chairatana Surajaras writes in the fair’s catalogue. “Landscape 09 isn’t just focusing on landscape architecture, but also emphasising good environmental principles and practice, like how to stop global warming and increase the harmonious co-existence of people Beijing’s Olympic Forest Park and nature,” he adds. The fair, which runs from Wednes- will demonstrate innovative plantday through February 15 and has as its growing techniques, such as using a theme “Green Heart Society”, features tiny bit of topsoil and concrete blocks. everything from DIY sus- There’s also a playground for children. tainable gardening to the latGrassland with a raised platform sets est in energy-saving technol- the scene for Zone 3, “Stage in the ogy. It’s divided into three Park”, which is under the supervision of main zones. Young architect chief designer Pongsak LaomanachaJaipim Iwanoto will set up roen. Innovative landscape designs his “Green Plaza” in Zone 1, ranging from shading, tree supports which has an urban park and and “breathing walls” will be displayed personal environment theme, here. along with May-T The global urban landscape moveo f M o d e r n d o g ment will be a key issue at the seminars. and ecofriendly Professor Hu Jie, the man behind Beidesigner Singh jing’s Olympic Forest Park, will talk I n t r a c h o o t o , about his remarkable landscape project who’ll be show- on Friday at 5. Hu Jie is an instructor at casing their cool the Faculty of Landscape Planning & ideas. Design Department, Beijing Tsinghua Water-features Urban Planning & Design Institution. are highlighted in Zone 2, which is Tala Landscape 09 runs from dubbed the “GarWednesday through February 15 in den Design Opfront of CentralWorld. Admission is tion”. Here, Yosfree. Call (02) 204 2437. sapon Boonsom


Go SHOPPING

Comfy foot headquarters

Here’s a chicken on a basket for Bt95 and a mobile-phone holder for Bt89. Cute orange slippers with a sunburst for Bt199.

Slip your toes into Ar-Diow at Chatuchak and you walk into dreamtime Pattarawadee Saengmanee

p h o t o / ekkara t sukpe t c h

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e t n o f e e t go through life naked and unpampered: Ar-Diow is the little shop of slippers in C h a t u c h a k We e ke n d Market. There are hundreds of slippers, in every catchy design imaginable. If they don’t actually look like cows, they probably have a picture of a cow stamped on them. Fashion accessories and home décor round out the appeal of this eight-year-old store that’s small in size but a big platform for Tanakilt “Ar-Diow” Gaysorn and Kittipat Thammarach. Yearning for freedom and a chance to use their own creativity, the talented pair packed in their jobs at a clothing company and started hawking slippers at the night market opposite Ramkhamhaeng University. Students love slippers for some reason. They were a hit. “I designed and sewed my own slippers to wear

at home for a long time,” says Ar-Diow “It was great that I could turn my hobby into a m o n e y - m a k e r, and now I’m exporting our products to Taiwan and South Korea.” Playful and detailed but made of good-quality cotton and guaranteed functional, t h e footwear has animals and c a r t o o n designs. The slippers, sized for all ages, come in sweet shades of pink, blue, red, orange, purple, green and yellow. You can also stock up on tissue holders, eye masks for sleeping, hand towels, gloves, pillows, mobile-phone holders, baskets, diaries, pencils, magnets, key rings and belt covers. And if that’s still not good enough, you can ask for something to be custom-made.

Soothing eye masks with cats and cows, each Bt55.

Cosy slippers in sweet shades, decorated with strawberries and horns for Bt199.

Colourful tissue holders ranging in price from Bt89 to Bt150.

The yellow cushion costs Bt220 and the blue pillow Bt150.

Lovely pencils and a diary dolled up with the sun, a cow and pig for Bt150 and Bt39.

Tootsie rolls Ar-Diow is on Soi 49, Section 4 at the Chatuchak market and open both Saturday and Sunday from 9.30 to 6. Call (081) 842 2875 or (085) 448 9788. ||

Januar y 25-31, 2009


Cover

All that jazz ‘Chicago the Musical’ dances into Bangkok with its killer cabaret next month. Ace scooped a preview from two of its Broadway stars

January 25-31, 2009

Pawit Mahasarinand

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t was tricky, but with BEC Tero’s help we got two Broadway performers currently being tried for murder on the line for a chat. Michelle DeJean and Terra C MacLeod are being released from their US tour along with the rest of the cast of “Chicago the Musical” to perform in Bangkok next month. DeJean takes the role of chorus girl Roxie Hart who’s murdered her lover, while MacLeod plays cabaret singer Velma Kelly, who has killed her husband and sister after finding them in bed together. Killer tunes like “All That Jazz”, “Funny Honey” and “When You’re Good to Mama” spice up a tale based on the 1924 trials of real-life murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. |9|


P hoto courtesy of B E C T ero E ntertainment

COVER

Michelle De Jean (L) as Roxie Hart and Terr C MacLeod (R) as Velma Kelly

Both actors trained initially as dancers, a handy skill for a show whose choreography has kept audiences around the globe on the edge of their seats. “Having ballet experience gives me a deep appreciation for the choreography, because it requires the same kind of strength, stamina and drive,” says MacLeod, who studied and performed with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Before Broadway and tours with “Chicago”, MacLeod starred in the show’s first French-language production, in Montreal and Paris. “I’ve done it in a few countries where there’s a language barrier, and, you know what? People get it. People get that the story is about manipulation and corruption, and how the media has such a strong influence on people and decisions. ‘Chicago’ is about these women who got away with murder and how they | 10 |

became celebrities out of it because of their brilliant lawyer [Billy Flynn].” “Therapeutic” is one of the words DeJean uses to describe acting the emotionally multifaceted Roxi Hart, a role that has won Best Actress in a Musical for Ute Lemper (Olivier Award) and Bebe Neuwirth (Tony): “But, as long as you know your character and keep her real, there is no chance of going overboard. “Our directors Scott Farris and Walter Bobbie [a Tony Award-winner

for the show] really encourage the actors to put their own spin on the role. ‘Chicago’ is truly rare in that respect. Even though the show is in its 12th year [on Broadway] it’s never become a machine.” MacLeod describes Velma, the role that brought Catherine Zeta Jones an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2002’s film adaptation: “Everyone thinks she’s as hard as nails, but the more I play her, I find that inside she’s really protecting something in herself. For two hours every night, it’s about her trying to get back on top, because this is her life, her livelihood and her second chance. So I find how high the stakes are for this woman.” While most film adaptations of Broadway musicals aren’t successful, “Chicago”, in which Zeta Jones was joined by Renee Zellweger as Roxie, and Richard Gere as Billy Flynn, bagged the Oscar for Best Picture. “I think that people who loved the film are drawn to see the live show because of just that — it’s live,” says DeJean. “You can’t beat seeing something live, whether it’s a concert, F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9


This way for Broadway

“Chicago the Musical” runs from February 12 to 22 at Muangthai Rachadalai Theatre (MRT: Thailand Cultural Centre). Showtimes are 7.30pm daily, with 2pm matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are Bt1,000 to Bt4,000 (30 per cent discount for groups of 30 or more), available at Thaiticketmajor. The website for the show is www. ChicagotheMusical.com. Special thanks to BEC Tero’s Atita Ducci who helped arrange these interviews.

Tom Wopat (C) star as Billy Flynn

a sports game, etc. It just has electricity that can’t be felt on screen.” Having performed with DeJean in “Chicago” for, on and off, almost two and a half years, MacLeod says, “Michelle gives 150 per cent to every single performance. Working with her, I feel I’m alongside someone whose standards are very high and that inspires me.” DeJean agrees: “Terra and I are really good friends on and offstage. I think the bottom line F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9

for chemistry onstage is respect for your fellow actor.” On a last note, MacLeod says, “I’m excited about coming to Bangkok — it’ll be my first time. I’ve always wanted to visit Thailand. My sister’s then-fiancé, now husband, proposed to her on an elephant in Thailand.” One of the most highly acclaimed aspects of the show is its pulsating lighting design, which syncs with the dance movements and the music and creates a

kaleidoscope of atmospheres on a simple set. Step forward lighting designer Ken Billington, who won a Tony Award for this magic. “I always say, jokingly, that a lighting designer is the most important person in the theatre,” he told Playbill last month. “I can make you cry. I can make you get excited — maybe even make you jump to your feet. By doing a light cue in the right way, I can change the emotions of what the audience sees.” | 11 |


Great news

in tough times JC Eversole

T Hip Hangout

Zuk au naturel

The Sukhothai Hotel’s popular bar adds an outdoor deck atop a pond, the better to wet your whistle K he t sirin Pholdhampalit

p hotos / e k k a r at s u k p e tch

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sharp contrast to its classy and elegant interior, the new outdoor lounge at the Sukhothai Hotel’s Zuk Bar is all modern delight with a heaping helping of leisure on the side. The 32-seat lounge has a wood floor and comfy white divans upholstered in jags of orange, green and brown. Inside there are twice as many places to nestle amid after-dinner drinks and business chatter, but outside you’re floating above a pond facing a beautiful garden. It’s a wonderfully relaxing place to socialise with an aperitif in one hand and maybe a cigar in the other. If not an aperitif, then any of many premium cocktails and whiskies, or something from the extensive list of wines, gins, vodkas and cognacs. The signature cocktail is the Berry Caipirinha for Bt350, in which a raspberry puree and the Brazilian rum Cachaca are served with a sugar stick and lime slices. Then there’s the Zuk Fizz champagne cocktail for Bt680, where the bubbly is | 12 |

joined by the blackcurrant-flavoured liqueur creme de cassis, calvados brandy and peach liqueur. Just so you don’t float away, the light snacks are terrific. You can get six American oysters on crushed ice with lemon, shallots, redwine vinaigrette and Tabasco for Bt980. Or try the Tex Mex Chicken for Bt400, grilled drumsticks stuffed with cheddar and chorizo sausage. Back to the sauce, then: The Zuk has a “Free Flow Wine” deal every evening from 5.30 to 8. For Bt1,000++ you get unchallenged access to selected wines. Chill-out tunes start to thaw nightly around 9, courtesy of three female DJs. End of the alphabet Zuk Bar on the ground floor of the Sukhothai and open daily except Sunday from 4pm to 1am and Sunday from noon to midnight. Call (02) 344 8888 or visit www. Sukhothai.com.

imes may be tough but, as in keeping with pithy saying, this is when the tough get going. Hotels and restaurants across the country have countered diminished tourism with deals on rooms and meals to tempt even the most miserly. The Dusit Thani Bangkok dangled a wine dinner carrot in front of gourmands last week and they responded with a zeal that caught the usually optimistic manager Danny McCafferty by surprise. “I invited some of my friends just to be sure we had a good showing, but as everyone can see it wasn’t necessary,” mused McCafferty as he surveyed the packed Hamilton Steak House. More than 70 guests packed into every available space, including the entryway, for the five-course dinner featuring wines from Anakena, one of Chile’s most popular wineries. It wasn’t only the crisis-fighting price of Bt2,200 a head that generated the enthusiastic response. Dusit group executive chef Irwin Eberharter assembled a gourmet’s delight tailored to five of Anakena’s critically acclaimed wines. “We want to keep our traditional high quality for our wine dinners but also provide an incentive to our loyal customers through lower prices when the economy is struggling,” said Eberharter. No one could dispute the quality of an evening that opened with a reception featuring appetisers of Serrano ham, fresh sea shrimp and multiple glasses of a refreshing, bone-dry Villa Sandi Prosecco. If doubts persisted, they were quickly erased on sitting down to Maine lobster sashimi and scallop tartar topped with Sevruga caviar, complemented seamlessly by Anakena’s premium Ona sauvignon blanc. Following courses of steamed Nordic halibut with a lightly oaked ’07 reserve chardonnay, roasted duck breast with a soft ’07 merlot and Australian lamb loin and herbed French toast, paired with a big-bodied single vineyard ’06 syrah, guests unanimously proclaimed the event best of the young new year. And we were not finished yet! Individual apricot souffles and lemon mascarpone with Anakena’s late-harvest viognier-muscat left everyone asking when the next event was scheduled. Call Dusit Thani at (02) 200 9000 to find out. F e b r u a r y 1 - 7, 2 0 0 9


Salad BALLAD The raw vegan diet moves out from the fringe into the mainstream with a new restaurant at MBK mall

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iving life in the fast lane with only time to grab a snack for lunch? You may not be able to change your working hours, but you can introduce more nutrition into your life at the newly opened Ariya Organic Cafe at the MBK shopping mall. It’s the new home of chef Sumana Meissner, a committed vegan and a glowing example of the healthy effect raw foods have on the body. The raw vegan diet consists of naturally or organically grown plants that have not been processed or heated beyond 46 degrees Celsius, thus maintaining their enzymes and nutrients. Vegan food doesn’t use animal products of any kind. It’s a diet that’s yet to become popular among Thais, so Ariya’s fresh fruit smoothies, juices and soups serve as the magnet. The rule is no ice, sugar or syrup. “Increasing the amount of raw foods in your diet brings benefits to your F e b r u a r y 1 - 7, 2 0 0 9

body,” says Sumana, a vegan of 10 years’ standing. “Start by including more fresh vegetables, such as salad, and eating fresh fruits or fruit smoothies

every day. It’s best to avoid fried foods, but if you must eat them, use safflower oil for cooking.” Sumana recommends starting the day with a smoothie made with any fresh greens blended with fruit. “I blend lettuce and parsley with orange and banana. The secret is to use one citrus and one sweet fruit. The

fruits should be ripe and you should drink it within 15 minutes to get the full benefit.” Fo r a l i g h t m e a l , S u m a n a recommends avocado soup (Bt169), which is high in fibre and monounsaturated fat and can decrease bad cholesterol. Follow up with a seaweed salad (Bt139) served with curry-powder crackers. The Bt139 mixed sushi with pickled mushrooms, mushroom stems and artificial crabmeat, served with a blended carrot, lime and cane sugar dressing, is a tempting dish, as is pad thai, made with strips of young coconut, bean sprouts, celery, carrot, red cabbage, green oak leaves and almonds. Ariya Organic Cafe is on the second floor of MBK (Tokyo zone) and is open daily from 10 to 8.30. Call (02) 626 0188.

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p hoto / e k k a r at s u k p e tch

K he t sirin Pholdhampalit


Laid-back

Phi Phi

keeps its

promise

Day cruises arranged by the Phuket Laguna leap among the lagoons at a pace that mixes ease with awe | 14 |

F e b r u a r y 1 - 7, 2 0 0 9


Phatarawadee Phataranawik

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p hotos / Phata r awad e e Phata r anawi k and co u r t e sy of Ph u k e t L ag u na T o u r s

was seeing the Phi Phi islands two decades and a devastating tsunami after my first visit, and witnessing a scene of paradise lost and regained. There are fewer visitors these days, between the soured economy and the lingering impact of the great waves, but recovery is everywhere in evidence. I was there on one of the single-day cruises that the Phuket Laguna has recently launched. With seven tourists I spent a lovely, lazy day snorkelling, swimming, reading and eating, zipping here and there by speedboat. “We try to avoid the places that are packed with tourists, but we make sure everyone visits the must-see spots,” said guide Sinlapachai Kammoon as we set off from the Boat Lagoon Marina. In an hour we were landing on Phi Phi Don, and heading out to see Loh Dalum, a sea-gypsy village that was hammered hard by the tsunami. Four years on there are more guesthouses and hotels open. We carried on to Monkey Beach for some snorkelling. The waters were a bit silted by the recent rains, but the underwater world was wonderful nevertheless, teeming with fish that God made when he was young and thinking about becoming a cartoonist. We had lunch on Bamboo Island, enjoyed amid relaxing quiet from the temperature-controlled boxes that each of us was provided. My fried chicken with rice, chicken lasagne and a brownie were piping hot, my Coke and water chilled, and the meal was decidedly unhurried, with time afterward to laze on the white sand and read. Viking Cave on Phi Phi La was our next stop, and we got to see the daring young men on their shaky bamboo scaffolds collecting swifts’ nests for someone’s rich Chinese soup. His Majesty the King renamed Viking Cave when he visited in 1972. He called it Tahm Phraya Nak, after the resemblance of a particular boulder to the head of the great serpent of Buddhist legend, the Naga. Then we jumped to Li Pae Cave, a hole in limestone cliffs whose colourful layers contrasted with the deep blue of the sea to form huge abstract paintings. Finally we found ourselves at Maya Cave, celebrated in the world divesite atlas and for good reason: The submarine scenery was even more breathtaking, with huge creatures drifting among the gaily-lit coral. Back at the boat, afternoon snacks awaited - soft drinks, brownies and fruit. The cost for the day was Bt3,360, and that covers shuttles between the hotel and pier, your guide, the fee to enter the national park, all the food, all the snorkelling equipment, and insurance too. Australians Nicole and Daniel Urah, both 25, were honeymooning in Thailand, staying at the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket and keen to see Phi Phi on the side. “Taking the one-day trip with Laguna Tour turned out to be really convenient,” Nicole said as we headed back to the pier with the sun beginning to set. “The service is very good and price is quite reasonable.”

What’s your pleasure? Laguna Tours has all kinds of ideas on how to see Phuket town, the island and the surroundings. Priority is given to Phuket Laguna guests, but anyone can sign up at www.LagunaPhuket.com.

F e b r u a r y 1 - 7, 2 0 0 9

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Laid-back

Get very

away

In Krabi are peaceful twin resorts, light-years from the malls – any shops at all, in fact

K he t sirin Pholdhampalit

The Beach

Vanishing act The Beach and Nantra are at Had Yao in Krabi’s Nua Khlong district. Call (086) 471 3693-4 or visit www. TheBeachKrabi.com or www.NantraDeDeluxe.com. | 16 |

clean design done up in wooden furniture. There are 17 villas, and upon entering your suite the first thing you see is your bed. The Nantra has 23 villas, more like huts in your ideal tropical jungle. Between the rows of villas is a long pond edged by dense flora bunda. Upon entering your shanty the first thing you see is your bathtub. The Internet is free and accessible all over the place, and there are DVDs you can borrow in the magazine library, which also has a pair of computer terminals. If the hermit in you finally wants out of its shell and you positively have to do some shopping, there’s a grocery two kilometres away. Alternatively, a free shuttle bus will take you into Krabi town and to Ao Nang, the emerald pool or Wat Tham Suea. Otherwise the resorts’ restaurants are fine, and you’ll get plenty of social interaction if you sign up for jaunts to Phi Phi, Thub and Gai islands. Families with children?

This place is for recluses, so no playground or kiddie pool. Best take little ones elsewhere. If you have a sweetheart, on the other hand ...

P h o t o s / T h apak o rn P h o ld h ampali t and c o ur t esy o f t h e res o r t s

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f you want a place to stay on a quiet beach – and we mean absolutely hermit-quiet here – there’s a pair of resorts at Had Yao in Krabi where Sherlock Holmes couldn’t find you, let alone the tourist hordes. An appealingly long way from the airport, the Beach and Nantra slumber in coconut orchards off Long Beach with nowhere to shop – unless you want to buy a coconut. The focus is religiously on sea, sand and sun, so it’s curious that one of the owners is Nantrapat Suprapannachat, the founder of the Apex skin centre. She and Tom Poonsin run the twin resorts for Unique Collection, offering beachfront villas at prices ranging from Bt5,800 to Bt12,000, the costlier ones complete with their own pools. All the rooms have single king-sized beds, private bathrooms with tubs, separate rain-shower rooms, LCD TVs and DVD players. Beyond that, the resorts are quite different. The Beach has a simple,

Nantra

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Wellness

Harmony and Zen

The big

stretch

Get rid of all those nasty toxins and feel renewed with a few days at a new Chiang Mai spa

Phatarawadee Phataranawik

F e b r u a r y 1 - 7, 2 0 0 9

painful back and shoulders carefully and recommended a one-hour treatment that reduced both the pain and stress. A 40-minute herbal steam bath helped relax me even further and put me in the right mind for my one-hour meditation session with Briton Nel Campbell. The sound of small cupshaped cymbals signalled the end of the session and another Briton, Louise Mary Thomas, led to my yoga lesson. Thomas gently but firmly put me through my paces in a two-hour session that saw me stretching the muscles in my legs, neck, hip and back.

steam room raw phad thai

The Spa Resort Chiang Mai is at 165 Moo 4, Mae Rim. Call (053) 920 888 or (087) 282 1320 or visit www.SpaChiangMai.net.

P h o t o c o ur t esy o f S pa R es o r t

A

fter just a couple of days at the Spa Resort in Chiang Mai, I felt healthier both in mind and body. Sadly, I didn’t have time to sign up for either of the new health resort’s threeor seven-day detox and fasting programmes, but two days of delicious raw food, traditional Thai massage, steam baths and meditation and yoga were enough to work their magic. The resort is the brainchild of retired British businessman Guy Hopkins and his Thai wife Siriporn Boonharn, who met on Samui where Siriporn was working as a therapist. They launched the first of their spas 20 years ago and the Chiang Mai branch is their fourth. Designed in contemporary Lanna style, the resort offers 56 rooms and 15 resident houses on 100 rai, with much of the land devoted to growing the organic veggies for the restaurant Radiance. Many people don’t like raw food, but here it’s served in tasty dishes that range from phad thai made with sliced zucchini sweet red, yellow and green peppers, and crushed walnuts to apple pie. If raw food is not your cup of tea, there’s cooked Lanna sausage with green chilli paste. The spa has no doctor, but German nutritionist Rainer Johanmes Oawlitski consults with guests on cleansing programmes. Before my massage, therapist Kanokkwan Saensunon checked my

Reverend Shunan Noritake, president of the International Zen Exchange Friendship Association in Japan and head priest of Myoshinji, leads a Zen meditation retreat today from 2 to 4 at the World Fellowship of Buddhists near Benjasiri Park on Sukhumvit Soi 24. Noritake will help participants balance and regulate body, breath and mind into a state of deep inner tranquillity. Admission is free. Call (02) 661 1284-7.

Holistic healing The International Research Centre of Natural Sciences is hosting the Worldwide Holistic Healing Seminar from February 20 to 22 in Chiang Mai. More than 40 speakers will address a range of topics including aromatherapy, vedic astrology, yoga, meditation, music therapy, brain spotting, meridians, acupuncture, homeopathy and spiritual exercise. Workshops include anti-ageing, the dimensions of wellness, gemology, emotional freedom techniques, laughter therapy, managing change and transforming stress into vitality. Call (053) 128 425-6 or visit www.IRCNS.org.

Spa sensations Sivara Spa at the Amari Orchid Resort & Tower in Pattaya is offering Sweet Blossom Package throughout February. The three-hour treatment begins with a scented rose footbath and is followed by the ultimate in indulgence, a delicious rejuvenating chocolate body scrub and wrap. The treatment finished with strawberry facial. It costs Bt3,590 for singles and Bt6,990 for a couple. Call (038) 418 418 or visit www.SivaraSpa.com. | 17 |


PHOTO ESSAY

P H ON PAN U G EERATAYAP ORN /nic kkez z a. multiply.com

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P HOTOS AN D T EXT BY P H O N PA NU G E E RATAYA PO RN

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t’s not only the crystal clear waters that make Jed-Khot Waterfalls in Saraburi near Ayutthaya, Thailand so alluring. So quiet and largely untouched by humans, its surroundings are also home to a variety of animal species like snakes, spiders, bugs, mantises and more. You will be able to see right in front of your eyes how they attract their mate, hunt for food and some of the most amazing facts of animal life.

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Fate And Luck

There’s a perception that the Chinese are obsessed with luck and prosperity MANILA

Michael Tan Philippine Daily Inquirer

E

very Chinese New Year, you’ll find a flurry of ‘magical’ activities that the local Chinese busy themselves with, some of which have been adapted even by the non-Chinese. The general perception is that the Chinese are obsessed with bringing in good luck, as in a healthy life and prosperity. Let’s put the Chinese view of luck and fortune in perspective. It’s all summarised in a saying that roughly translates to: first, ming; second, yun; third, feng shui; fourth, dao de; fifth, du shu. Ming, loosely translated, means “fate”, which also means “life”, and an “order or decree”. Bringing all those meanings together, the Chinese believe we are born with a certain ming, an allocation decreed by heaven. It could be a certain skill (the gift of gab, for example) or circumstances (like the type of family you’re | 20 |

ILLU STRATION BY CH INA DAILY

LIFESTYLE

born into), all of which present potentials and limitations to what you could become. But there’s more to life than ming. The second variable that comes in is yun, which again, loosely translated, means “fortune”. Interestingly, the word also means “to move, to carry, to transport”. Imagine a wheel used in transport. Also imagine how one moves up and down, which is the way life is supposed to be. This is where the Chinese New Year figures prominently—some of the activities done around this time are supposed to reduce the ‘bad’ yun and enhance the ‘good’. Many Chinese believe you can predict, and manipulate yun. The Year of the Ox, for example, may be a bit difficult for those born in the year of the tiger, horse, sheep. Those born in the year of the dog, monkey and pig are warned to be careful as well, while the remaining signs—the rat, rabbit, dragon, snake and rooster—will have a good year. Given these predictions (they’re really more of a prognosis)— someone born in the year of the tiger

might be extra careful, or could even go to a temple to have some gai yun (fortune-correcting) rituals performed. Besides ming and yun, there’s feng shui, literally translated as wind and water and referring to the physical environment we’re in. You may have good ming and yun but if you have the wrong combination of wind and water in your home or office, you might not do as well. The English word for a feng shui practitioner is a geomancer (someone who looks at the ‘geography’ of a place), who almost always deals as well with ming and yun, suggesting not just changes in architecture but other gai yun measures: changing one’s name for example. The Chinese do recognise it’s not just the heavens (ming, yun) and the earth (feng shui) that are important. Our F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9


Happy

‘Niu’ Year BEIJING

Raymond Zhou China Daily

H outcomes in life are drawn too from human action. One is dao de or good deeds. Time and time again, I’ve heard in family reunions people shaking their heads and talking about how some Chinese tycoon’s business has been failing and inevitably, they’ll say: “Ah, he’s amassed too much wealth and not enough good things for others.” Finally, there’s du shu, which literally means “read books” and which originally referred to getting an education. I’d propose a 21st century redefinition: how well we do in our profession, in our business, depends on how open we are to continuing learning, through books, through seminars and workshops, through the Internet, or the advice of relatives and friends. Put simply, no one’s too old, or too wise, to learn something new. . . and to take our fate into our own hands. F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9

appy Niu Year! No, it’s not a typo. As a matter of fact, this has been the most popular text message zapping through the Chinese airspace this month. It is a pun playing on a pair of homonyms: Niu is the phonetic spelling for ox, and the year of the ox starts on January 26 on the lunar calendar. However, in Chinese, the ox has no connotation whatsoever with being new. The first attribute that comes to mind is hard-working and stubborn, qualities often associated with Chinese farmers. If you look up a zodiac guide, you’ll find all kinds of great things heaped on any given year. The Ox is supposed to be the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. Honestly, it is ludicrous to believe everybody born under one sign will share the same attributes. But people all over the world play this game, just various versions of it. So, why not play along? Niu in Chinese is equivalent to not only the ox, but the bull, the cow, the buffalo and cattle in general. While America has its cowboys, who populate numerous Westerns, the quintessential image associated with niu in Chinese culture is a much younger boy, around 10 years old, riding a water buffalo and playing a flute. It is a leitmotif in many traditional watercolours and poems. Cowboys conquer, or at least manage, the cattle, while a Chinese cowboy harbours no such ambition. He just rides along, oblivious to the turbulences of

the world. He inhabits a Taoist cosmos of inner peace. The tranquility is conveyed not just by the tender age of the rider, but by the plodding of the animal. Niu is not a horse. It does not gallop. Both Ma (horse) and Niu are popular surnames in Chinese, but you don’t see a lot of fast-moving heroes named Niu in Chinese movies. When I first heard of Niu Gensheng, I thought it was a stage name. The chairman of Mengniu, the dairy giant, happens to share his name with his source of wealth. What a coincidence! In the aftermath of the melamine scandal, Niu the person put up a letter of contrition and vowed to make amends. Some were moved by his sincerity, others deemed it an act of crisis management. He used to be praised for “being a cow but having the speed of a rocket”; now he was seen more or less as a crocodile. Thank God there’s no crocodile in the Chinese zodiac and the scandal was not delayed to the year of the cow. Niu as an adjective can be an exclamation of eulogy. When you are “niu!” you’re not just great, you’re freaking great. Unfortunately, this connotation is more often found in certain northern dialects and still carries a whiff of arrogance. If someone was born in a year of the Ox and is surnamed Niu, he should probably not become a butcher. Instead, his status would automatically rise if he entered the financial world. Business owners would love to have a bull (niu) around as a blessing. Now, if only he could make the market go north again. That would be incredibly niu. To all you stock market players, happy year of the bull! | 21 |


Fashion Eyelet lace cotton top with soft rose print collar

Cheongsam With A Twist

Slinky stretch knit Japanese print tunic with crisp organdy collar and sleeves

Fashion rules for the Lunar New Year to take the starch out of Chinese wear

KUALA LUMPUR

Patsy Kam The Star

C

ome Chinese New Year, the Chinese dress takes centrestage once again. However, there are so many dos and don’ts concerning Chinese traditional wear that most people can’t seem to look past the Mandarin collar. Even the simple pairing of a Chinese cheongsam top with jeans can break the monotony and give a fresh take to an otherwise staid and predictable fashion statement. Of course, the simplified take on Chinese wear — | 22 |

modernised collar, chopped-up cheongsam and pared down design — is not for every woman. A minority still want the full romance of the Chinese costume: the formal collar, the embellished ‘kum’ or side closure, the hand-stitched buttons, the butterflies and peonies. In fact, it’s often the hip young woman in the urban sassy get-up who wants to step out in full retro. Designer Leung Thong Ping of Mayfair Designs suggests three golden rules to break this Chinese new year.

respectable. Unbutton it and you look like a slut. But then, who wants to look respectable when you can get away with being fashionable? To overcome the resistance to conventional collars from the younger customer, Leung has lowered it to just about 1cm high. However, some still complain that it’s sitting too high, so for such women, there’s an innovative version modelled on the shirt collar: close it if you like or show off the colourful lining inside for a dash of difference.

Rule One: The Mandarin collar, says the diehard conventional, has to be high and firmly buttoned down to look

Rule Two: The cheongsam has to be figure-hugging so it’s tough luck if you haven’t got the curves to carry it F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9


Ultra comfy stretch knit cheongsam with Japanese print detailing

Viscose Mandarin shirt with richly embellished collar and cuffs

photos

courtesy

of May fa

ir Des igns

Coral cotton jacket with squiggly ribbonwork and generous candy striped cuffs

off. In the movie In The Mood for Love, Maggie Cheung perpetuated the unfortunate myth that there’s only one right shape for the cheongsam. Women in real life, however, can have their own take on the garment. Leung believes that one should be able to breathe, eat and even squat in the costume. Her stylishly loose cheongsam has long been the mainstay of her label. For this New Year, Leung has chosen to stretch the imagination with the stretch knit cheongsam that drops from the shoulders in one flattering sheath. What can be more seductively comfortable? If that’s still too demanding, consider the next best thing—a F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9

Mandarin top.

Rule Three: Chinese clothes must be in loud colours. Most people are more familiar with the vulgar, in-your-face interpretations of Chinese wear and anything less than red is not good enough. Fact is, classy Chinese clothes should never be loud or pretentious. Leung’s designs come in refined and subtle shades that can take you anywhere, be it the formal function at the office or the casual affair with friends. Advice for breaking all the rules this Chinese New Year is handed out with a word of caution. One can easily

go over the top and come up with the most eye-popping variations in the name of fashion. You could be remembered for what you wore even when Christmas arrives and it’s certainly not going to be the most flattering of compliments! Generally, Mayfair’s collection this festive season is pragmatic and versatile: colours are softer, the fabric lightweight and the use of prints subdued. The relaxed tops, mostly in cotton, are styled to look cool with jeans for everyday use. There are also many intricate pieces with Mayfair’s signature touch to offer a choice to both the purist and the experimental. | 23 |


Life

Voucher Fever Taiwan’s US$100 shopping gifts have brought cheer to the people and the economy TAIPEI

China Post

A

t least three women, with ages ranging from 27 to 74 years, fainted the moment they received the NT$3,600 (US$106)-voucher that the Taiwanese government distributed starting January 18. The women have either been standing for too long in the queue or simply emotionally overwhelmed. Across Taiwan, people lined up for their vouchers, which President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration believes will spur domestic spending as the small island—together with the rest of the world—copes with the impact of the financial crisis. The government has set aside approximately NT$87 billion (US$2.60 billion) in vouchers to distribute to the public. And with Chinese New Year on January 26, the vouchers were like the traditional red hongbaos that the Chinese give away during the holiday. Ma himself took the lead in spending the vouchers. After picking up the vouchers for all four members of his family in Taipei amounting to NT$14,400 (US$427), the president went to southern Taiwan to spend the money. | 24 |

Ma went on a shopping tour in Kaohshiung and Pingtung County. He used two vouchers of NT$500 (US$15) denomination, topped with cash, to purchase a total of NT$16,888 (US$500) worth of products before bringing them to a welfare institution as New Year’s gifts. A 41-member family in Lukang town, Changhua, in central Taiwan, received the largest amount of shopping vouchers valued at NT$147,600 (US$4,375). Family head Liu Ho-mu, has eight wives and 32 children. An extended family in Tainan, with 30 people registered under one household, received NT$108,000 (US$3,200) in shopping vouchers. The big Wu family from Jiangjyun town had one representative pick up the big stack of vouchers. The family was actually entitled to receive vouchers worth NT$158,400 (US$4,700), if the vouchers for the family’s 14 other members registered in separate households were included, said family head Wu Chun-hui. Wu added that the family will obtain two more sets of the vouchers, worth NT$7,200 (US$213), when two newborn babies arrive next month. How to spend the vouchers has been a hot topic for family discussions; most people preferred spending them for

food, clothes and basic daily needs. The budget-conscious also used them as hongbaos for the new year. Businesses also hitched on the vouchers, including China Airlines, Taiwan’s largest carrier, which launched a promotion campaign offering up to 85 per cent for 100 flight tickets each day until end of January. The promo allows consumers to purchase the tickets using shopping vouchers. Immediately after the online booking system was opened on January 18, as many as 1.7 million people tried to scramble for the 100 tickets. Tickets were sold out within seconds with over 70 per cent of lucky consumers reserving flights for Hokkaido, Tokyo and Bali. Travel agencies also offered special sales like a 6-day trip to Thailand for only NT$3,600. People swarmed various traditional markets, supermarkets, department stores and wholesa l e stores for buying sprees, with most people purchasing food or utensils F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9


AFP

for the new year. Industry insiders said Taiwan’s two major wholesale store chains—Geant and Carrefour—are likely to capture a large slice, of around NT$10 billion (US$296 million), of the voucher pie. Even renowned Chinese brush painting artist Chang Chieh, famous for his paintings of lotus flowers, was caught in the voucher fever, offering his works at a discount. Chang decided to sell 30cm x 30cm lotus paintings that could usually fetch NT$30,000 (US$889) for NT$3,600. The 88-year-old artist painted on the spot at a Taipei art studio where people lined up to meet and watch him at his craft. A man surnamed Hsiao said he felt lucky to be the first buyer of one of Chang’s lotus works at a price barely more than 10 per cent of what it would normally cost. But not all were happy spending stories; Su, a 30-year-old woman from Taitung, was swindled NT$13,500 (US$400) when she auctioned for F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9

vouchers online. Police, meanwhile, found the perfect opportunity to arrest wanted criminals who showed up at distribution centres. There were also bizarre stories including a a man from Lukang town using a NT$200 voucher to gamble and a fugitive, Huang, who was arrested for failing to pay gambling fines of NT$3,000 to the court. Huang asked the police whether he can pay the fines with the vouchers he received but was turned down. The vouchers became a saving grace for Taiwan Fund for Children and Families, a nonprofit organisation, which days earlier was asked to return NT$120,000 (US$3,557). It recovered the loss in two days after donors gave up their shopping vouchers. First lady Christine Chou has also launched a campaign urging those with higher incomes to donate their coupons to needy families and children. Chou, chief executive officer of the Mega Foundation, urged staff

members at the Mega Financial Group to donate their vouchers to help underprivileged children. Animal rescuers have also called on generous donors to help feed stray dogs and cats. A NT$3,600 voucher can help 60 dogs and cats get their vaccines, 12 canines and felines get micro chipped, one female and one male dog get neutered, and buy nine outfits to keep the animals warm during the winter, according to Animal Rescue Team Taiwan. “Because we are a nonprofit organisation, it is often difficult to fund our efforts to help stray dogs and cats in Taiwan,” said Antony Ni, a volunteer of the Kaohsiung-based rescue team. “Just last year, we spent about NT$8 million (US$237,107) in rescue efforts, medical fees, neutering and other services for stray animals.” “We want to encourage people to use their vouchers for a good cause and consider donating them to animal rescue organisations like ours so we can in turn help more stray animals in Taiwan,” he said. “People can rest assured that all the money they donate to us will go to helping the animals.” In the end, not only people benefited from shopping vouchers, even dogs and cats too. | 25 |


Sports

A League Of Our Own Will basketball flourish in a region whose population is crazy over football? Or maybe it’s just about branding and marketing KUALA LUMPUR

ing when he says he can do something and will make it happen. His company AirAsia, the region’s biggest budget airline, is a testament that impossible things happen everyday. Asia’s Cinderella man may not be a sports buff but he knows where and how to put his money and make more money. He is so convinced that in two years, he will get

Jofelle P Tesorio Asia News Network

I

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JOFELLE P TESORIO/ASIA N EWS N ET WORK

n clay, mud or cement, a basketball court is a permanent fixture in the Philippines. The streets also serve as alternative courts when there are no cars passing and politicians score points when they donate a basketball court or sponsor a match. It is no small wonder why Filipinos dominate the game in Southeast Asia. They love to say whose businesses range they inherited this game from airlines to hotels to from their American colfinancial services to onisers. But the Amerisports management— cans and Europeans explains why he has a would often mock them— strong belief in the sucFilipinos are relatively cess of basketball in the short people to play a region. game designed for tall “The best way of unitpeople. Probably the ing Asean is through MR BASKETBALL: AirAsia’s CEO Tony Fernandes believes that basketball will be Southeast Asia’s biggest game. height factor is the reason sports... Basketball can why basketball has not reach across all counflourished much around Southeast a return of investment and will make tries and can be a very popular sport,” Asia. We’d rather be good at sports that basketball the biggest game in South- he says. do not give emphasis on height like east Asia. “It has been a long time dream of badminton, boxing or sepak takraw. So what’s the game plan? mine to unite Asean under a single Now, here comes a guy who doesn’t Funding, high-quality teams, adver- banner of sports and with the ABL, I even know the difference between a tisement support and a fan base that feel it will bring a new era on how sports three-point and a two-point shot, who will follow the games wherever are is organised and marketed in this reonly played hoops once and who jokes some factors to consider. Even popular gion... It would be great to create somethat he looks like a basketball himself, games in Southeast Asia like football thing closer to home... We will make singing all praises about the future of and badminton are not huge earners Asean a much smaller place,” he says. basketball in Southeast Asia. Are you and the players are still not considered ABL, which Fernandes chairs, has kidding us? rich, say, by NBA standards. the support of the Southeast Asian But Tony Fernandes, the man who During the launch of the Asean Bas- Basketball Association (Seaba) and only played basketball once, is not jok- ketball League (ABL), Fernandes— the International Basketball FederaF e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9


ture to the music industry. “When I started in the music business, we were only selling American and English music so I suggested to invest in local talents. Who wants to buy a Malay or Indonesian artist when you have Madonna, etc? But now, 60 per cent is local,” he recalls. ABL will put a restriction to only two Asean and two non-Asean imports for each team. To provide balance, there will be a salary cap for each player and teams will be strictly monitored if they try to circumvent the rules. Fernandes and his friends from FIBA and Seaba may be convinced that the time is ripe to launch the regional league but the skeptics are doubtful especially when the world is entering the worst crisis since the Great Depression. “There is skepticism out there but if you don’t try, you never know.” “This is the best time to launch a league. People need entertainment. People need to be together for twoand-a-half hours of basketball entertainment. The best time to advertise is during economic crisis because you know who your friends are,” Fernandes says, adding that he has tripled AirAsia’s advertising in response to the economic crisis. RIVALRY: The Philippines’ Ginebra team (white) during an exhibition game against the SingaAsean provides a regional platform of pore Slingers (red) on January 17 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. The Singapore Slingers, a population base of 600 million people which is chaired by AirAsia’s Tony Fernandes, is expected to join the Asean Basketball League. that always crave for tion FIBA. Teams will consist of innew forms of enterternational players from the United tainment. States, Australia, Europe and Asean Being a businessmember nations—Brunei, Cambodia, man that he is, FerIndonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, nandes believes they the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand have the right prodand Viet Nam. uct to market. It will be made up of professional “We provide a viafranchise teams hosted by cities in each ble platform, a wonAsean member country. The teams will derful platform for be privately owned, with each franchise sports, a wonderful holder resorting to its own revenue time for companies streams to generate fund. to build an Asean The league will initially consist of brand.” HOME ENTERTAINMENT: Asean provides a regional platform of eight teams that will play on a home Maybe it’s gut feel, a population base of 600 million people. and away basis, leading to a knock-out, experience and the playoff round. It is scheduled to start in willingness to take a September 2009, with games to be held tainability of the game. risk, Fernandes believes in dreaming until February 2010. “It’s really about local stuff.” says big. “Not in a million years would I Choosing franchisees in each country Fernandes. imagine that I would be chairman of a is quite tricky. ABL has to make sure Bob Elphinston of FIBA agrees. “We basketball league. But then not in a that the applicant has a strong financial really do not need foreigners to ensure million years would I imagine I would backing with the ability to attract ad- the success of the game... As long as the own an airline.” vertisers and commitment to tap local game is exciting and well presented, the With this, he has committed to shed talents. ABL has stressed the develop- public will come.” some sweat, build a basketball court at ment of local talents to ensure the susFernandes compares this new ven- his house and play the hoops, seriously. F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9

| 27 |


People

Defender Of Bali’s Culture

He believes culture can only survive when there is a demand—where it can give spiritual and physical protection and security in people’s daily life GIANYAR

Trisha Sertori The Jakarta Post

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JB D JWAN/TH E JAKARTA P OST

T

he mantle of royalty sits lightly on the shoulders of Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa. Born into Ubud’s royal family, the blood of ancient kings runs through his veins in a line dating back to the Majapahit Empire: a line broken last century when Dutch colonisation reduced kingdoms to regencies. Now just a regular man like any other, Pak Cok as he is familiarly known, is witty, insightful and deeply spiritual, but can be blunt when required—the very qualities that characterise great leaders whatever the political system. Cok has no desire for a return to monarchy—any return to the past, except to learn from history, is a “dangerous fantasy”: “The system we have now is right for this time—it’s a system for the people.” He fulfills his own obligations in a cultural and social context, through his involvement in politics, his religious and cultural activism, and his roles as president of The Bali Heritage Trust, patron of the Ubud Writer’s and Reader’s Festival and Rotarian. “I’m descended from that ancient way of life. To be born into the palace is to follow social structures; one of these is to preserve, maintain and innovate

the physical and nonphysical—or the material and spiritual—culture of our society,” Cok says. “Keep to those obligations and they earn the respect from the community— a title alone is not enough to earn that respect; respect comes rather from what you do.” Cok stepped outside the confines of his Balinese upbringing early, shocking his family by marrying an Australian girl, Asri, in 1978. His family quickly grew to love his bride, who is now mother to his three children and grandmother to their six-year-old grandson. The young couple moved to Sydney, where they lived for 12 years. Cok studied art and helped with the Australian

Museum’s Pacific and Asian collection as a volunteer, “building bridges of culture between Bali and Australia”. His work with the Australian Museum sat well with his lifelong dedication to conserving traditional Balinese culture, a dedication now manifest in his role with The Bali Heritage Trust, an organisation established in 2003 by former Bali governor Dewa Beratha. Cok says that while it may appear that little is happening to achieve heritage goals, a mass movement taking place at the grassroots, the very place where Balinese culture lives and breathes. Equally important is Bali’s literary history, says Cok, which is being supported by the writing of village and family histories. “A lot of our literature has been lost due to volcanic eruptions and colonisation, so many villages are rewriting those histories from sources that are still here. These are combined with legends and facts from archaeologists to give the stories of the past.” Cok agrees that as Bali develops— tourism is flourishing, building is feverish, farmland is swallowed up—it can become difficult to see tradition as a living, breathing expression of the island’s society, particularly in the southern regions. “The difficulty is in how to maintain a cultural system with the outside influence of many different cultures and religions.” Heavily tourist-oriented regions therefore need help maintaining that culture. “That’s something you have to actively do. Make a political commitment to that, especially when Bali is promoted as a tourist area because of that culture.” When that culture is threatened— such as by Indonesia’s pornography law—Cok’s rare bluntness comes into play, as he flatly and emphatically rejects the law. “Not in the aspect of protecting children and women—all need to be protected, including men—but in terms of culture. On moral ethics, we have so much diversity in Indonesia: In one place that code will be different to another. “Culture can only survive when there is a demand—where it can give spiritual and physical protection and security in people’s daily life.” F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9


T H E ST RAI TS T IM ES

She Beckons Indian actress and now director Nandita Das wants to make over social issues with her films

SINGAPORE

Deepika Shetty The Straits Times

S

he may be an established Indian actress. But Nandita Das does not behave like a diva. The actress was dressed simply in a cream sari with minimal gold jewellery during her interview. Apart from the kajal lining her eyes and a hint of lipstick, she had no makeup on. Before the photo shoot, she took a quick look in her pocket mirror and said: “This is it. I guess this is alright.” She is known to reject stylists wanting “to do her up and change her look”. “Whatever for?” the 39-year-old asked testily, arching her right eyebrow. When she showed up for jury duty at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005, she famously shocked everyone by bringing along just two suitcases. She recalled, laughing: “They told me Penelope Cruz came with 16 suitcases and left with 20, as did Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie—all the big stars. I can’t imagine. How much clothes can you wear in a week? When they told me they wanted to do a make-over, I shocked them even more by telling them I was happy in my crinkled cotton skirts and my saris. Wearing Chanel, Chopard—all these big brands—is just not my style.”

F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9

She also surprised other jury members with her argumentative streak. “Sarajevo-born director Emir Kusturica, who headed the jury, later told me he was expecting a nice, quiet, pretty Indian girl and I proved to be otherwise. I took that as a compliment,” she admitted, a smile lighting up her face. The actress, who has been married and divorced twice, certainly does not shy away from controversial issues. Her directorial debut, Firaaq (Urdu for Separation And Quest), is set in the aftermath of the 2002 riots between Hindus and Muslims in the western Indian state of Gujarat which killed about 3,000 Muslims. The film, which tackles the thorny issue of sectarian violence, won three top awards, including Best Film, at the Asian Festival Of First Films in Singapore last month. It has also bagged awards at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in Greece, the Dubai International Film Festival and the Kerala International Film Festival. The movie tells the stories of ordinary people who become victims caught up in the ethnic violence. It is told over a 24-hour period. Her film, she said, “traces the emotional journeys of ordinary people— some victims, some perpetrators, and some who chose to watch silently”. The message she hopes the film will relay is that violence cuts across bound-

aries and borders and spares nobody. The actress, who has a master’s degree in social work, is deeply concerned about social justice. She has worked for non-governmental organisations committed to educating children from under-privileged homes. The daughter of acclaimed Indian painter Jatin Das and writer Varsha Das said: “I was taught to ask questions. My parents never put pressure on me to excel. Words like career and money were rarely mentioned in our house. My parents always told me two things. The first is to enjoy what one is doing and the second is to be passionate about it. These lessons have worked well for me.” Her upbringing did not expose her to mainstream Hindi films. She said: “That has had an important impact on my life as an actress. If I have not gone after commercial films, it is not because I look down on them. It is because I have never been part of them, even as an audience, and I just do not understand that world.” So she picked controversial films such as director Deepa Mehta’s Fire (1996), where she played a closet lesbian who has an affair with her sister-in-law (Shabana Azmi), and Bawandar (Sandstorm, 2000), inspired by the real-life story of Bhanwari Devi, a social activist gang-raped in her village for trying to stop a child marriage. | 29 |


Travel Sleeping Beauties

Move over, big boys. Small boutique hotels with special design themes and heritage values are becoming attractions SINGAPORE

Tan Yi Hui The Straits Times

H

otels are the one place abroad you spend the most time in but probably show up the least in your holiday snapshots. Enter the boutique hotel. Unique for their design themes, personalised services and sometimes heritage values, boutique hotels are attractions in themselves. Best of all, you do not have to bust your budget to get an experience that rivals the five-star establishments. Sonia Khaira, 26, who has stayed at the Granbell Hotel in Shibuya, Tokyo, and Cross Hotel in Osaka, says: “I try to stay in a boutique hotel every time I travel.” Prices at these hotels start from US$100 per night. Khaira says the rates are reasonable and adds: “The usual faux luxury of international chain hotels is a turn-off for me. I will trade that for chic design elements and a cosier, more intimate atmosphere anytime.” She also likes boutique hotels for their locations. Given their small size, they tend to be situated right in the hub of activity. “You really feel like you are living in the thick of action because the moment you step out of the lobby, you are out in the street. There is no im| 30 |

posing driveway to distance you from the local streetscape,” she says. According to Associate Professor T C Chang, a tourism researcher in the Department of Geography at the National University of Singapore, the boutique hotel craze started in the West during the 1970s and 1980s and carried over to Asia in the 1990s “when tourists grew tired of the Hiltons, the Hyatts and the Holiday Inns”. He says: “Just like how a fashion department store is different from a fashion boutique, boutique hotels differ from mainstream hotels.” Adds Fong Kah Seng, general manager of The Scarlet, an award-winning boutique hotel in Singapore: “The appeal of boutique hotels lies in the character of their buildings, which usually boast unique decor styles.” There is also the heritage factor. Vikas Gulati, Asia-Pacific vice-president of travel site Sprice.com, says: “For example, at Mansion Hotel in Shanghai, China, travellers get fivestar amenities while enjoying the oldworld charm of an era gone by, when the city was the Paris of the Orient.” Another traveller who has been to boutique hotels such as Siam@ Siam in Bangkok is postgraduate student Sin Harng Luh, 26. She agrees that the unique design and experience is what justifies the boutique hotel buzz. She says: “It makes even the accommodation an attraction in your holiday.”

The Straits Times recommends boutique hotels in the region that will not burn a hole in your pocket.

Burasari, Phuket

www.burasari.com Where: Patong Beach, Phuket What: 186 rooms. There are nine design themes, from romantic to artistic, from elegant northern Thai Lanna style with antiques and wood carvings to minimalist, airy contemporary style. Also, check out Floyd’s Brasserie, a restaurant owned by famous television chef Keith Floyd. How much: From $170

Old Bangkok Inn

www.oldbangkokinn.com Where: Bangkok, Thailand What: Combines Bangkok’s oldworld charms with modern amenities. Personalised service is guaranteed, since there are only 10 rooms—four guest rooms, four loft rooms and two suites. Furnished with Thai golden teak, rooms boast heirloom furniture, some of which are even decorated with hand-painted porcelain. Located in Bangkok’s Rattanakosin Island, the historical and cultural quarters. How much: From $90

F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9


Ambience Hotel, Taipei

Golden Buddha Beach Resort

www.goldenbuddharesort.com Where: Koh Phra Thong, Thailand What: An eco-resort by the Andaman Sea, located on an uninhabited 10km stretch of beach, a private bay on the island of Koh Phra Thong (Golden Buddha Island). Accommodation is in 25 beach houses that can take two to five people. They vary from simple one-bedroom beachfront houses to luxurious canopied lodges with beautiful views of the sea. Nature lovers can check out one of the few remaining nesting sites for giant leatherback turtles in Thailand. How much: From $105

www.ambiencehotel.com.tw Where: Taipei, Taiwan What: Ideal for those who want to stay away from the metropolitan bustle yet have easy access to the city. Located 10 to 15 minutes from the nearest subway, the all-white, 10-storey hotel has 60 avant-garde rooms decked out in designer furniture. How much: From $82 (promotional rate)

Andon Ryokan

The Tides, Boracay

www.tidesboracay.com Where: Boracay, Philippines What: A designer resort with a rooftop pool and sun-deck, it is the only one of its kind in Boracay. Rooms are spacious and designed in clean lines and dark colours. How much: From $140

Mansion Hotel

www.chinamansionhotel.com Where: Shanghai, China What: It is one of Shanghai’s major historical villas, nestled in the heart of the old French Concession district. Designed by French architect Lafayette in 1932, the building boasts a graceful fusion of classic French and Asian architecture. It has 32 lavishly decorated rooms, each with its own individual design and layout. How much: From $156

F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9

Hotel Puri Melaka

www.hotelpuri.com Where: Malacca, Malaysia What: Located in the heart of the old city of Malacca, it is surrounded by antique and bric-a-brac shops and only a stroll away from the historical precinct. The beautiful hotel with an intricate facade is a restored Peranakan house, which once belonged to the family of philanthropist and rubber plantation owner Tan Kim Seng. How much: From $33

www.andon.co.jp Where: Tokyo, Japan What: A backpackers’ joint with a designer twist. This stylish five-storey steel building is modelled after a traditional Japanese lantern, with accommodation on the first to third floors. How much: From $90

Lan Kwai Fong Hotel

www.lankwaifonghotel.com.hk Where: Kau U Fong, Hong Kong What: An award-winning, Orientalthemed hotel occupying 33 floors of a building in a carefully conserved commercial and residential area. The hotel boasts 162 bedrooms and individually designed harbour view suites. Its location in the central business district means guests are minutes away from dining and entertainment hangouts. How much: From $190

The Quay

www.thequayhotel.com Where: Phnom Penh, Cambodia What: An eco-friendly hotel that cuts back on carbon emissions. Features a futuristic decor and a great view of the Tonle Sap. How much: From $80 (promotional rate)

| 31 |


Explore

Beautiful

Boracay P H OTOS BY RU BY CI ELO SYJON GTIAN

Find pleasures galore on the philippine island of Boracay BORACAY

Christina Chin The Star

O

n the Philippine island of Boracay, one place stands out the most—White Beach—a 4km-long tourism attraction lined with pubs, five-star resorts, budget chalets, restaurants, tattoo parlours, souvenir shops, professional hair-braiders and just about anything a tourist could want. This stretch of beach may just boast the softest, whitest sand in all of Asia. The water is clear and welcoming, but the main lure of White Beach is its breathtaking sunset, which takes place between 5:30pm and 6:30pm, depending on the time of year. And, yes, let’s not forget the shopping. I was surprised to discover that Boracay is a great hunting ground for funky tees, ultra-cool souvenirs, trendy beachwear, handmade picture frames and notebooks, lamps and totes of every shade and size, silver jewellery, pewter, carvings, leather bags adorned with | 32 |

puka shells, beads, bells and more, native rugs, paintings etc. My favourites are the shops selling custom-designed sandals and apparel, and the witty ‘attitude tees’ with such catchy slogans as ‘Miss You-Can’t-Afford-Me’ printed right across the chest—brilliant! For some reason, dream catchers are

exceptionally popular here even though they are an American Indian artifact. Interestingly, the Tourist Centre is a nice place to browse in. Basically, it’s a convenience store, mini market, pharmacy, bookstore, money-changer, ATM and information counter all rolled into one.

At the Plazoleta, a small native-style shopping plaza, you’ll find original handicraft. But if you are going for broke, then D’Mall is the place to be. It’s a maze of fashion, food and specialty shops that will keep you occupied for hours. The best thing about shopping at White Beach is that almost every stall is different. There are hundreds along the beach, and, at first glance, it may seem as if they are all the same, but take a closer look and you will be pleasantly surprised. Oh, and if you get thirsty from all that shopping, note that the official ‘Happy Hour’ is from 5pm to 7pm, when prices for alcoholic beverages get very enticing. But then again, drinks are relatively cheap even outside of happy hours, so no hour need be an unhappy hour. As far as food options go, it’s a bit of a problem since everything looks good, the portions are huge and the prices are reasonable, especially the fresh seafood. The small attap-and-bamboo outfits hiding in the shadows of the bigger outlets tend to serve reasonably-priced F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9


Boracay is located in Aklan province, 345km south of Manila, a dumbbell-shaped island in a nation of some 7,000 islands. It is accessible by air from Manila or Cebu through two principal gateways: Caticlan airport or Kalibo airport. Boracay generally has two seasons: wet (Habagat) and dry (Amihan). The showers are usually from June to September, so the best time to visit is from October to May. The Christmas and New Year season is a particularly exciting time because most Filipinos are Roman Catholics and, be they rich or poor, will celebrate in a big way with lots of parties by the beach. White Beach is ‘divided’ into Stations 1, 2 and 3—the first being the cleanest and most beautiful.

during the peak seasons because the government wants tourists to feel safe. You may want to skip the typical activities like jet skiing, windsurfing and snorkelling, but kite boarding at Bulabog Beach, on the eastern side of the island, is apparently worth a try. My friend says it is much more of a challenge than surfing. Island hopping is another option to consider. You could take a boat-ride to the north of the island at sunset for a spectacular sight of hundreds of fruit bats flying over to the mainland to feed. Or why not sail into the sunset on a beautiful yacht. A massage by the beach is a must, since White Beach is one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Now, if your entire holiday plan is to just laze by the beach sipping piña coladas from dusk till dawn, and you can only make time for one water activity, then try parasailing. The price per per-

Accommodation is quite expensive in Station 1 and 2, so my merry friends and I did what any budget traveller would do—we bunked together in a cheap chalet on the ‘outskirts’ of Station 3 (no view of the beach, I’m afraid) and blew our hard-earned money stuffing our faces, shopping and getting wet! Like all island holiday destinations, Boracay has more than enough water activities to keep you occupied. There doesn’t appear to be any lifeguards here but security is tight. Every few metres or so you will find armed security guards and police personnel. A local said that security is very tight

son is 2,500 pesos (US$53), which is, admittedly, pretty steep but worth every penny. Trust me, you haven’t fully appreciated the beauty of Boracay until you’ve hovered above it. It’s only then that you can really see the contrast between the crystal blue water and pristine white beach. I was lucky because I managed to bargain the price down to 1,500 pesos ($31)—apparently, because I look like a Filipina! But, you know what? I would’ve gladly paid the full price. If you like beautiful beaches and beautiful people, you are sure to feel right at home in Boracay.

Fun in the sun

local food like rice and a variety of dishes, while the classier joints are more cosmopolitan, serving everything from Italian and Moroccan, to Spanish and Thai. For something light, you can always drop into one of the many bakeries for their freshly-made cakes, bread and desserts. They make for great snacks while you shop. Meanwhile, fruit shakes made from any tropical fruit you can possibly think of are widely available. These are great energy boosters for the shopper-on-the-go. After gobbling down some ‘light’ fare, we made for the award-winning Lemon Café for lunch. I absolutely loved this restaurant, which reminded me of our very own Secret Recipe. Located at the heart of D’ Mall, Lemon Café offers cheese and chocolate desserts that are worth piling on the pounds for. And the main courses are absolutely lovely. Its airy ambience with walls of lime green and sunny yellow makes the café a great place in which to sit back and people-watch. Having eaten my fill, I didn’t check out The Hobbit House, a bar cum restaurant with an extensive American, Filipino and Asian menu, staffed by— as the name suggests—friendly ‘little people’. No matter how full you are, though, you must make some room for one of Asia’s most famous exotic delicacies— the balut, a boiled duck egg containing a three-week-old embryo. Having heard so much about it, my friends and I just had to try it. A taxi driver told us it’s best to either eat it in the dark or with our eyes closed tightly! Eaten with vinegar or salt, the yummy yolk, the half-formed embryo and some hard white stuff we couldn’t make out, turned out to be quite nice— if you can get past how it looks. F e b r u a r y 1 -7 , 2 0 0 9

| 33 |


DATE BOOK OWAS E

Owase Ya-ya Matsuri

I

n the evenings of the 2nd to the 4th, young Japanese men dressed only in loincloths, parade around the streets, jostling each other before diving into the sea to purify themselves. Lively parades, archery events and street dancing add to the excitement. When: February 1-5 Where: Mie Prefecture

HA NOI

Mai Dong Festival CL ARK

International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

T

he Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in 2009 is expected to draw participants from 25 countries and over 100,000 spectators during the five days of fun in the skies. This year’s balloon festival is lining-up to be the greatest ever with the myriad of balloons and other demonstration aircraft and exhibits.

T

his annual festival honours Trieu Tam Trinh, a fearless female war general who fought the Chinese Han invaders in the first century AD. The festival is a fitting commemoration of the bravery and resilience of the Vietnamese people, and always falls on the fourth to the sixth day of the first lunar month. The main attractions include a parade, wrestling matches and other traditional sports. When: February 1 Where: Hai Ba Trung District

When: February 12-15 Where: Clark Freeport Zone

CHENGDU

Lantern Festival

C JA ISALMER

Desert Festival

T

he golden city of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, India comes alive each February for the annual Desert Festival. The event kicks off with an incredible parade of camels and locals dressed in fine Rajasthani mirrored clothes, with accompanying musicians. Indian acrobatic troupes, puppeteers, fakirs and jugglers of all sorts scamper through

the massive red sandstone fort and perform in the desert surrounding the town. Camel races and polo matches on camels take place at the Dedansar Polo Ground. There are also competitions on turban-tying and even a moustache competition for the Rajasthani with the finest and longest facial hair. When: February 7-9

hina celebrates the first full moon of the year by stringing up rows of delicate orbshaped lanterns. The festival boasts of impressive light displays—including a dragonshaped lantern with fireworks sparking from its mouth! Over a million visitors flock to the festival, held each year on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Under the glowing canopy of lanterns, visitors also enjoy performances of folk music and acrobatics. When: February 9 Where: Chengdu Cultural Park


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