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THE NATION ASIANEWS February 15-21, 2009

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

Come play with me Hot!

Sit hue down

Stress is out!

Hello, Hanoi


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

February 15-21, 2009 A P P h o t o / C h rist o f S tac h e

COVER

WHO’S THE DOLL? p9-11

C o v er P h o t o : A F P P HO T O / T I M M S C H A M B E R G E R

Around Asia

DEVIL IN A MASK

P7

MAKING CURRY SAFE

P25

TEMPLES FOR TIPPLERS

P12

KING’S FOR ALL SEASONS

P16

NEW MODEL ASIA

P31

team

Editor: Phatarawadee Phataranawik | Deputy Editor: Khetsirin Pholdhampalit | Photo Editor: Kriangsak Tangjerdjarad | Photographers: Ekkarat Sukpetch | Writers: Manta Klangboonklong, Pattarawadee Saengmanee | Contributor: Pawit Mahasarinand, 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

Wit and Pratchaya make ‘Some Room’ in Hong Kong

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oung T hai ar tists W i t Pimkanchanapong and Pratchaya Phinthong are busy preparing for exhibitions overseas. Next stop is Hong Kong, where Wit and Pratchaya will display their installation at the Osage gallery’s group show “Some Room” alongside works by artists from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. Curated by Kate Kittiya, the exhibition focuses on collaborations between artists and curators. The show runs from February 27 to May 7 before moving on to China’s Osage Shanghai gallery from March 7 to May 24. Visit www.OsageGallery.com.

Pratchaya’s ‘Demonstration’

faster, has longer battery life and crisper tones than its predecessor and is capable of holding hundreds more books. The new Kindle costs US$359(about Bt12,600) at Amazon. com. The first units will arrive here on February 24.

Chocaholics drool on the catwalk

P hoto / E P A

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est-selling author Stephen King read an extract from his upcoming novel “Ur” to unveil the Kindle 2 - the latest version of A m a z o n’s p o p u l a r electronic reader – in New York, on Monday. The Kindle 2 will read a book aloud, is thinner,

P hoto / afp

Keep a library in your pocket

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reek chef Virginia Anastasiadou Levi is famous for her chocolate confections but now she’s gone sweet on fashion. She presented a collection made of chocolate and candies at a fashion show in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. Among the 18 garments for men, women and children made of sugar and spice and all things nice (including chocolate), there was one decorated with little sweet hearts – dedicated, of course, to Valentine’s Day.

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Trends

Slump-proof Hirst grows on

“For the Love of God”

Scott Reyburn

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amien Hirst has defied the slump in British consumer spending by opening a second shop in London. Other Criteria, the artist’s publishing and merchandising company, opened the store on Hinde Street to sells works including some by Hirst himself, ranging from his keyrings at 3.50 pounds (Bt177) to limited-edition prints showing pills on mirror-glass shelves, at 4,000 pounds each.

“Lullaby Spring” EPA

The first branch of Other Criteria opened in October on Bond Street next to Sotheby’s. The previous month, the auction house staged Hirst’s 112-million-pound sale “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever”. Since then, British retailers have suffered in the economic slump. “Other Criteria makes objects and books created by artists to an exceptional standard,” says Hirst. “I |6|

collaborated to produce “The Mug”, a 365-page indexed book that explores the artists’ “ideas, thoughts and amusing familiar ways”. Meanwhile the Stuckists, a group of anti-conceptual artist-activists that is the scourge of the UK’s Turner Prize exhibitions and award ceremonies, has opened its own online store, www.RedRagToABull.com, selling objects inspired by Hirst works. Stuckists Jamie Reid, who designed graphics for the Sex Pistols, James Cauty and Billy Childish have produced a range of prints “re-created from random pixels found on the Interweb” and other products satirising Hirst’s diamond skull and works by the Chapman Brothers and the urban artist D*Face. “An exact copy of an image similar to an image of Hirst’s ‘For the Love of God’” is priced at 13 pounds on the website. - Bloomberg B l o o m B erg

P h o t o / B l o o mbergs

“Arrested Development”

don’t think art has ever been as popular as it is today, and Other Criteria aims to sell affordable art of the highest quality to everyone who wants it.” Next week the new store will be launching a limited-edition resin sculpture by Britain’s Sarah Lucas and France’s Olivier Garbay. “Love is a Bird, Love is a Burden” is made in 10 colours in an edition of 15 and costs 3,000 pounds. The Anglo-French pair has also

February 15-21, 2009


Demonising

Khon Pichet Klunchuen fires up his world-acclaimed contemporary take on classical masked drama Pawit Mahasarinand

I

Five baht, please

“I Am a Demon” performs at Chang Theatre (Pracha Uthit 61, Rajburana) from Thursday to Sunday (February 19 to 22) at 7pm, with post-show talks with the artist. Tickets are five (yes, five) baht, bookable by e-mailing Contact@ PKLifeWork.com. For more, call (02) 427 2734.

February 15-21, 2009

am a Demon: traditional khon performers will nod vigorously at Pichet Klunchuen’s verdict on himself. With naked face and bare chest his Demon unmasks the ancient mysteries of the classical dance drama and stirs its depths for relevance to this day and age. Scandalous. Dressed in only a pair of short grey pants to accentuate his movements, Pichet begins his solo show with a ballet-style warm-up before flowing into ten sao, a physically demanding training exercise compulsory for all khon dancers. The focus shifts to video footage of Pichet and his master, the late Kru Chaiyot Khummanee, and the audience begins to understand the suffering an apprentice khon performer must undergo for his art. Pichet was initially trained as a demon (Yak) character in khon, which has four major character types-Phra (male), Nang (female), Yak (demon),

P h o t o c o urtes y o f E dmund L o w

and Ling (monkey). But mixing in other genres of dance and theatre has made him an outcast among fellow khon performers. So have his demonic utterences: “Khon is no longer part of the contemporary life. The art has become static, so we must present something deep inside that can really connect to contemporary society.” Since its December 2005 debut at Chang Theatre, then in Soi Nai Lert off Wireless Road, “I Am a Demon” has had no problem connecting with audiences in Vienna, Brussels, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Istanbul, Taipei, and Singapore. “It’s something more than a performing art. When you train as a khon artist, you also learn how to relax-physically and emotionally-amid all the current social, economic and political upheavals. To me, it’s not very different from yoga and meditation.” The press release for “I Am a Demon” shows a ticket price of five baht for all seats. A typo? A joke? Talking to the Demon himself, we found that he isn’t kidding. “Many have said they can’t afford the Bt500 I usually charge, so this should mean everyone can see the show.” |7|


Go SHOPPING

No, we mean REALLY CUTE

The florally enhanced furniture at So Cute is also top quality and inexpensive

A key-ring cabinet trimmed with blossoms is Bt750.

Pattarawadee Saengmanee

photo / ekkarat sukpetch

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he little shop comes by its name honestly. When people first queued up to buy the beautiful, hand-painted wooden furniture at a fair in Ayutthaya, the typical rave was “so cute!” So that’s what creative buddies Thiradech Thepchuay and Napapat Sansomrod named the store they opened in Bangkok, first at JJ Mall and, since last year, on Kaset-Nawamintr Road. The slogan at So Cute is “Cheap and well”, which brings up the other attribute of the furniture and décor items. They’re all well made, using inexpensive pine, or often Thai-grown hardwoods. “We emphasise good quality and reasonable prices,” says Napapat. The strength of the material is disarmingly offset, though, by the sweet designs – cartoons, teddy bears and sunflowers and other blossoms in bright pastel hues, white and brown. “Our designs are a mix of modern and vintage styles and tend to be inspired by the beauty of nature.” You can find whatever you need – wardrobes, coffee tables, dining tables, TV cabinets, dressing tables, stools and chairs, spirit houses, mailboxes, mirrors and all kinds of small items. And Thiradech and Napapat gladly accept custom orders as well. ||

Tissue holders with flower motifs cost Bt690.

Mailboxes with teddies and sunflowers for Bt690.

But a cupboard with a rose pattern for Bt2,900.

As a button So Cute is at 88/47 KasetNawamintr Road and open daily from 9 to 8.30. Call (089) 071 1205 or (089) 500 3368.

This great, roomy table costs Bt1,500. A black and white stool with floral details for Bt650. Fe b r u a r y 1 5 - 2 1 , 2 0 0 9


A P P h o t o / M ark L enni h an

Cover

Barbie: Still a babe

Top fashion designers celebrate a doll’s 50th birthday with 50 new frocks Samantha Critchell

February 15-21, 2009

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A P P h o t o / M ark L enni h an

A F P P HO T O / T I M M S C H A M B E R G E R

A F P P HO T O / E mmanuel D unand

COVER

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A F P P HO T O / T I M M S C H A M B E R G E R

Y

ou’ve got to be at the top of your game to be a one-name model: There’s Iman, Naomi, Gisele -

Barbie. The 29-centimetre plastic doll is still on top as a high-fashion muse as she approaches her 50th birthday, and will make her New York Fashion Week catwalk debut on Saturday in 50 outfits by the country’s top designers. Barbie’s life-size stand-ins will strut in a red carpet-worthy gown by Marchesa, a hot-pink wrap dress by Diane von Furstenberg and an outrageous green party dress by Betsey Johnson. The fact that Barbie is just shy of her 50th birthday — officially marked on March 9 — doesn’t seem to matter in a fashion industry that worships youth. “There’s been an epic display of unity around Barbie as a muse,” says Richard Dickson, general manager of the Barbie February 15-21, 2009


EPA/MARCUS FUEHRER

brand at Mattel. “Barbie is 50. What’s the next chapter?” Hello Kitty is also getting her own Fashion Week party, but there’s little doubt about who’s top doll. Barbie even knocked down the Bratz girls last year, resulting in a legal decision that essentially will end sales of the edgier tween dolls. “A majority of designers

Vera Wang’s dress

A F P P HO T O / E mmanuel D unand

February 15-21, 2009

have had some run-in with Barbie,” says Carmen Marc Valvo. “She’s an American icon, and there has to be an interesting association between play and Barbie, and creativity and fashion.” Valvo insists he’s never had his own Barbie, but he was surrounded by his sisters’ as a kid, and his very first design was a Barbie dress — a Renaissance gown for a school project. It’s proudly displayed in his office, even though the dress is lacking properly cut armholes, a skill he did not yet have. Valvo’s new life-size Barbie dress is a frothy black strapless cocktail number with pleats that reminds him of Barbie’s early wardrobe of gowns. This one will be worn with hot-pink Christian Louboutin shoes: “It looks like a Bon Bon.” Nicole Miller’s checkerboard trapeze dress and swing coat is the third outfit she has done for Barbie, filling a childhood void from a time when her French-born mother wouldn’t let her have one of the dolls. “I always envision Barbie in

that ’60s mode — I made her mid- to late-’60s mod,” says Miller. It’s a version of a dress Miller put in her very first runway show, worn by Linda Evangelista. “It was the season she was a blonde. I immediately thought of that outfit.” Tommy Hilfiger, who will put Barbie in a hand-beaded white mini-dress, sees her Barbie as an American pop-culture icon that translates to other cultures and countries. There have been countless Barbies produced in the traditional dress of faraway lands, including a Korean bride in a hanbok and a Kenyan doll wearing wooden bead necklaces. The dark-skinned Barbie even boosted the self-esteem of a young Rachel Roy, a designer with mixed Dutch and Indian heritage. “It helped me understand that brown was beautiful,” she says. Many of the Barbie styles are headed straight for Bloomingdale’s flagship store — but they’ll be on display, not for sale. - Associated Press | 11 |


By JC Eversole

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aking lemonade out of lemons may be the mantra of more than a few five-star hotel GMs these days. Fresh on the job at Shangri-La from the corporation’s Sydney hotel, Michael Cottan hasn’t missed a step in making the best of a less than perfect situation. Cottan, who is also regional vice president responsible for several of the hotel’s other Asian properties, recently hosted a handful of Bangkok-based writers at the newly renovated Angelini restaurant and explained how he is dealing with the economic and political crises that have hit the Thai hospitality industry hard over these past five months. “We are in the middle of an extensive two-year renovation project that will be completed early next year,” said Cottan in an effort to put a positive spin on a serious problem. The Shangri-La is pumping US$60 million (Bt2.1 billion) into the massive remodelling project, which includes everything from a brand new main swimming pool featuring large shallow areas for sunbathing while soaking, to refitting all 690 rooms in the main wing of the twostructure property. All restaurants will have river views, if not actual riverside dining patios. Cottan’s dinner gathering mirrored the new look and attitude the hotel wants to project. Creative cocktails influenced by Thai additions, such as galangal in a Moscow mule and vanilla and sage in a mojito, were accompanied by a delicious menu of scallops, lamb shank tortellini, wagyu beef tenderloin and snow fish. Wine fanciers weren’t left out, with options for a Rocca delle Macie Chianti and a Nautilus sauvignon blanc from New Zealand. “When we put the finishing touches on our renovation work, we hope everyone will refer to us as the New ShangriLa,” said Cottan. Angelini and the just reopened and reset Next2 riverside venue are functioning fine as construction proceeds elsewhere, and each is well worth trying in this more relaxed atmosphere. | 12 |

Hip Hangout

Worshipping at Temples

Consult the Melonious Monk before St Patrick’s Day gets here Manta K langboonkrong

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lubs and bars come and go on fast-paced Sukhumvit Soi 11 — the key to longevity, the folks at the new Temples Irish Bar believe, is t a k i n g go o d c a r e a n d maintaining top standards. Hardly your average, green Irish pub, Temples is compact and colourful. It ’s modern on the outside but the Celtic mood filters through the indoors in the comfortable wooden seating, long bar, sports on the TV, low-key music and, of course, Guinness and Irish stew. It’s right next to the Citadines Hotel, in a superb location, halfway between the top of Soi 11 and the cluster of popular clubs within — the perfect pit stop for pre-party food and drinks. Sitting outside watching the street come to life is fun, and you can have a puff or even a shisha for Bt300. Drinks-wise, besides the standard cocktails and beers, they serve wild designer cocktails starting from Bt200. Try the Chocolate Martini with chocolate liqueur, Khalua and milk, or

get a little sassy with the Melonious Monk, a fusion of vodka, melon liqueur and lime juice. The Guinness meets anyone’s top standards for Irish suds, and it starts to flow at 6am for breakfast. Yes, there’s plenty of full-meal platters — Thai and Japanese as well as Irish. When it comes to music, don’t expect the usual murk of old-school tunes normally heard in pubs. They play funky, trendy tracks from the late ’80s to recent, with an occasional live DJ set. But they keep the volume down, so you don’t have to shout at your friends. Haunted by spirits Temples Irish Bar is on Sukhumvit Soi 11 near the Nana Skytrain stop and open daily from 6am to 2am. Phone ‘em up at (02) 253 1057 or visit online at www.TemplesBkk.com. Fe b r u a r y 1 5 - 2 1 , 2 0 0 9

p h o t o s / N u t ta p o n e T i p vat e e a m o r n

A look on the bright side


The boldest

buffet in town Way up in the Baiyoke you can ride the Stella Palace gustatory caravan Pattarawadee Saengmanee

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Then things get healthy and light with organic vegetables served with a tempting choice of salad dressings. Too light? Try the Hong Kong salad, which has fried beef and pork cooked in the Chinese style called yao. Next up, a big cup of shark’s-fin and lobster soup with a hot plate of pad thai, hoi tod fried mussels and rad nar pla tao see — Chinese fried noodles with fish. Meanwhile Japanese chef Masaru Toyada is whipping up a trolley full of fresh sushi and sashimi. Not to be outdone, chef Vichai Sukkhi shows up with main-course dishes prepared in the traditional Hong Kong fashion. And the fifth and sixth caravans involve unnecessarily big plates of Peking duck, roast suckling pig, baked jumbo New Zealand mussels and steamed crabs and king prawns. You really should be leaving now, but here comes French chef Julien Maury with several offers than cannot be

refused: beef strip loin and tenderloin, lamb chops, salmon and sea bass. Thank God Chinese desserts lean to the lighter side. On offer are si see ron — which is water chestnuts, kidney beans, gingko nuts and lotus seeds served in a hot syrup — plus sago and cantaloupe in coconut milk. Unfortunately for your digestive system, another waiter is lurking nearby with a tray of crepe suzettes, chocolate-dipped fruit and mousse with ice cream. This is putting the hog back in “living high on the hog”. HAPPILY HIGH The Baiyoke Sky Hotel is on Rajprarop Road. Walk up all 79 storeys to the Stella Palace to make sure you’re good and hungry. It’s open from 6 to 11pm daily. The Caravan costs Bt920, but if you somehow manage to eat absolutely everything on your table, they’ll give you back Bt200 cash and the phone number of a decent gym. Call (02) 656 3000, extension 4, or visit www.BaiyokeHotel.com.

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p h o t o / e kk a r a t s u k p e t c h

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eople in Hong Kong make delicious use of their skyscrapers by opening restaurants on top of them, and that’s the idea with the Chinese dining at the Stella Palace, 79 floors up in the Baiyoke Sky Hotel. The Stella’s new Luxury Caravan Buffet is a tummy-challenging tour of the world, featuring more than 60 of the most popular dishes from the hotel’s other restaurants — Hong Kong Chinese, Japanese, Thai and European. It’s a buffet, yes, but it’s first-class, meaning you just sit there and relax and the waiters will do all the travelling, bringing the buffet to you on a flotilla of golden pushcarts. There are 200 seats and eight private rooms for family dining and karaoke get-togethers. A typical Caravan evening begins with a mammoth tray of fusion appetisers — spicy crispy salmon, rice noodles with mixed vegetable and deep-fried spring rolls. From Europe arrive yummy cheeses, a terrine parma, honeyed ham and smoked salmon.


Laid-back Hidden

Hanoi Not every city is best seen through the lens of a Lonely Planet guidebook

Aviva We s t

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p h o t o s /A F P

ou might think that after living and working in Hanoi for two years, I would know all the places to go. The truth is, there are some cities that can only be learned and relearned over time — the capital of Vietnam is one. After being away for two months, I flew into Hanoi’s unassuming Noi Bai International Airport ready for a weekend in what’s probably the most relaxing big city in Asia. First stop is my favourite part of the city and the place I called home for two years, the small community on the shores of Truc Bach, one of the smaller lakes that dot Hanoi. The bronze works of the sculptors this “village” was once famous for can still be seen in the den (temples) and chua (pagodas) of the capital. Nowadays, Truc Bach is a community of families and expats,

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Like most Vietnamese places of worship, Kim Lien is a small and almost decrepit Buddhist shrine with a pond full of lotus flowers dappled by tree shade. The only other souls on my whistle-stop pilgrimage were two young Vietnamese artists sketching beside the pond and a single Buddhist nun arranging stacks of “spirit

fantastic food and laid-back feel make your way to 60 Hang Trong Street and up the narrow staircase. Then head for an empty sofa or a lush balcony to sip delicious coffee and drool over the menu. Hanoi’s nightlife happens in some pretty unusual locations too. With bars and clubs often closing at midnight, young Vietnamese get their kicks driving motorcycles around the city’s lakes. Or there’s the Megastar Cineplex, at Ba Tr i e u S t r e e t ’ s Vincom City To w e r s . T h e capital’s only major cinema, it plays recent releases in English with Vietnamese subtitles. Between shopping in the Old Quarter and taking in the typical tourist sites (the Temple of Literature, the Water Puppet Show, Uncle Ho’s Mausoleum), I always make sure to visit at least one chua. My favourite is Chua Kim Lien, nestled on the banks of West Lake.

money” for sale. The silence makes for a wonderfully relaxing afternoon. But if you’re hungry for the bustle of the streets, head to a market. The Quang An night flower market in West Lake District is probably the city’s most enthralling. Late at night when most people are asleep, flower growers from surrounding provinces ride into the capital with their m o t o r b i ke s overflowing with fresh blooms. Everything from orchids to kumquat trees to marigolds and poinsettias are for sale for about 10,000 VND (Bt21) a bunch. During the day, young women on bikes wearing conical hats peddle throughout the city hawking their blooms. Take in these scenes of daily life, and you’ll find the real Hanoi quietly budding before your eyes.

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ANN

ANN

with a healthy dose of tea stands and food vendors — try the pho cuon, thinly sliced beef wrapped in rice paper with fragrant herbs. After a night snuggled in warm, thick blankets (Hanoi temperatures can drop to 10 degrees C in the winter), the perfect place for breakfast is a tiny little cafe called Puku. For its

— Asia News Network | 15 |


Laid-back

Reborn to its glory The venerable King’s Hotel has been lovingly renewed as the All Seasons Sathorn, losing none of its charm

K he t sirin Pholdhampalit

P hoto / E kkarat S ukpetch

W

ith five storeys, the new All Seasons S a t h o r n d o e s n’ t t h r e a t e n i t s neighbouring towers in scale, but it brings to South Sathorn Road the charm of an earlier era and freshly modern delights too. It’s a completely revamped incarnation of the 1955-vintage King’s Hotel, which was among Bangkok’s most modern inns in its day, hosting celebrities like Hollywood star Kirk Douglas. That’s Catherine Zeta Jones’ father-in-law to young people like entrepreneur Pamongkol Chayavichitsilp, who looked at the King’s long-faded glory and came up with two words for its rebirth: budget and boutique. “I love the classic design, so I was eager to refurbish it as a new lifestyle-and-design hotel for young executives and budget travellers,” says Pamongkol, 24. His father Manat founded the Meko beauty clinic, and his mother Wannapar subsidised his 30-year lease on the King’s property. The Accor hotels chain is managing the new All Seasons Sathorn. Pamongkol recruited architect Kongsak Yuktasevi of the Leo International Design Group to restore the building’s lustre. | 16 |

Isn’t that Kirk Douglas? The hotel’s all-inclusive prices are Bt1,861 for a superior room, Bt2,161 for a deluxe and Bt2,450 for an executive. Call (02) 343 6333 or visit www.AllSeasonsSathorn.com

Kongsak retained some of the grand old flourishes to honour the building’s long history, including the extensive corridors with mosaic tiling and louvered windows, and the wooden stairs with wood-turned railings. The cosy lobby and Bar 31 on the first floor are warmly lit and decorated with eccentric rattan chairs, ceiling lamps made from bark and paintings of tree trunks. In sharp contrast, the superior and deluxe rooms have been given playful and dynamic touches, with splashes of citrus yellow and lime green set against vivid-red armchairs and black-and-white graphics. All the rooms have open closets, flat-screen TVs, free wireless Internet and bathrooms with rain showers. While the superiors and deluxes share a lively urban spirit, the executive rooms are classy and natural, with wooden furniture and trimmings (and you don’t have to check out until 6pm). The fifth floor is dedicated to leisure, with a fitness centre, pool table and even a golfputting course. Local and international cuisine is served in the hotel restaurant, Baan Sathorn, which is decorated in minimalist sombre black. Diners can view old photos of the King’s Hotel or browse through a large selection of magazines. Fe b r u a r y 1 5 - 2 1 , 2 0 0 9


Wellness photo / ekkarat sukpetch

Life itself restored

Tune up the Olympic way Swim your way to health and fitness at the Olympic Club, the lifestyle centre on the eighth floor of the Pathumwan Princess Hotel. The indoor gym is fitted with state-of-the art equipment, and the 25-metre outdoor pool is ideal for destressing laps. Get a classy sport bag and a coupon for a makeover by joining now at (02) 216 3700, extension 20805, or www.TheOlympic-Club.com.

Once unscrewed from the desk, take your crippled bones to Spa Botanica, where stress doesn’t stand a chance K he t sirin Pholdhampalit

T

he digital age isn’t as dull down a bit with rough on our digits thick layers of mineras it is on our shoulal-rich algae, which ders and arms, which will get busy detoxifydesk-dwellers tend to jerk ing your skin. back and forth so many And now you’re gotimes in the course of a day ing to be mummified. that they suffer the aches Relax, it’s only 20 minof “repetitive stress injuutes in a cosy, selfFeels good, is good ry”. heated pack that bolThe revitalising back and Well, take those aches sters deep cleansing. shoulders treatment costs to Spa Botanica at the You wash off with Bt3,900+ all this month. Spa Sukhothai Hotel, where warm water, getting Botanica is open daily from they’ll hammer out the those pores open, and 9am to 10pm. Call (02) 344 dents and, while they’re at finally it’s time for an 8900, extension 5910 or 5911. it, purify your skin too. invigorating deep-tisNo dim rooms at the su e m as sa ge w i th Botanica. The seven treatment rooms warm oil, a smoothing extract of lemonhave big windows onto an intensely trop- grass, geranium and lavender. ical garden and the daylight pours in the Here’s where the therapist’s gentle yet natural freshness. firm pressure on each part of the back With wooden floors and furniture, the leaves no stress standing. rooms have their own appeal as the therThe spa has done its part – now it’s apists – male or female, your choice – get your job to stay healthy. You absolutely to work with the seaweed extract and have to remind yourself to sit up straight other goodies. at your desk and make sure the desk and It’s a 90-minute revitalisation regime chair are properly aligned to your hands, that begins with a gentle marine-life body forearms and back. scrub of the back and shoulders. This gets And you have to take occasional breaks, rid of the dead skin cells. away from the computer. Even if it’s just Next, Plasmalg gel is layered on to en- for a minute here and there, get up and courage blood circulation and perspira- stretch a bit. tion and to get some more minerals into You have to do this repeatedly so that your skin. the stress doesn’t repeat its nasty little By now you’re starting to glow, so you crimes. Fe b r u a r y 1 5 - 2 1 , 2 0 0 9

Spa Cenvaree has it all Pop into the Centara Grand’s Spa Cenvaree at Lifestyle on 26 any afternoon between 1 and 6 before March 31 and enjoy treatments at discounted prices. Hour-long Royal Thai, hai muea and Swedish massages cost Bt900, and there are gym classes, tennis and Lotus foot massages as well. Call (02) 100 1234, extension 6513.

Up front about autism Autism Spectrum Disorder will be discussed at the ASD conference being hosted on Saturday by TRIA – the Integrative Wellness Spa at Piyavate Hospital on Rama IX Road. Experts will explain topics ranging from the implications for environmental toxicity to biomedical approaches, and individual consultations can be arranged. Call (02) 660 2602 or visit www.TriaIntegrativeWellness.com. | 17 |


PHOTO ESSAY

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February 15-21, 2009


Off To Sea TEXT A N D P H OTOS BY RO B E RT DAV I S CON T R I B U TO R

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record number of boats joined this year’s Phang Nga Bay Regatta despite the economic crisis and sponsorship cutbacks. Yachts and crew from as far away as Darwin, Australia; Bali, Indonesia and even Vienna, Austria all sailed into Phuket for the 12th annual regatta. Stunning scenery, fair weather and beautiful tropical hideaways have helped to make the Phang Na Bay Regatta one of the most popular in Asia.

February 15-21, 2009

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ARTS & CULTURE

When Faith Takes Form

Temples have been built across cultures since there have been human settlements, from the massive Egyptian temples, to the ornate examples in the Indian sub-continent, to the palatial edifices in the Far East

KUALA LUMPUR

Kee Hua Chee The Star

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emples are not just places of worship, but also an enduring testimony to humanity’s faith in the sublime and the infinite. Some temples are humble structures, but others are humbling. Here are 10 spectacular temples that take the breath away and inspire in us a sense of wonder.

Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Bhutan)

Perched precariously on a 3,000m high cliff above Paro Valley, Tiger’s Nest Monastery is one of the holiest places in Bhutan and its most spectacular. Tiger’s Nest appears to float in midair, especially on a misty day. Its Shangrila-like setting makes it look like a surreal dream palace rather than a place of worship. Amazingly, it was completed in 1692 without the aid of modern technology. Even today the place is accessible only by foot.

Wat Rong Khun (Thailand)

Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Mai is unlike any Buddhist temple in the world. It is pristine white, as opposed to the riot of colour that is the traditional Thai temple with its signature red, gold and green roofs, multi-coloured deities and guardians. | 20 |

This relatively new temple was initiated by one of Thailand’s most famous artists, Chalermchai Kositpipat, in honour of the King of Thailand.

Prambanan (Indonesia)

Prambanan is the biggest Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva in central Java. Built in 850AD, it has eight main shrines and many smaller ones that reportedly make up a grand total of 1,000.

Shwedagon Pagoda (Burma)

Shwedagon was first built in the 6th century when Rangoon was still known as Dagon. Its name ‘shwe dagon’ means “Golden Dagon”, and this is due to the fact that the temple is filled with thousands of statues of the Buddha in solid and plated gold. Still in use, Shwedagon is the holiest temple in all of Burma. The main stupa reached its present height of 98m in the 15th century. Its tip glitters gloriously from 5,448 diamonds (totaling 1,800 carats) and 2,317 Burmese rubies. The pinnacle is crowned by a flawless, 76-carat diamond and the entire edifice is plated with 24-carat gold. Shwedagon is said to be the only temple to contain relics from all the four known Buddhas, including eight strands of hair from Gautama Buddha. The last and fifth enlightened being, the Buddha of the future, is called Maitreya and will appear to save humanity

in its darkest hour.

Temple of Heaven (China)

The Temple of Heaven is a Taoist temple in Beijing. It was the most important temple for the emperors of yore because it was here that he came twice a year to commune with heaven. The temple was constructed in the 14th century by Emperor Yongle during the Ming Dynasty. In keeping with the yin-yang concept, there is also a Temple of Earth — a clone of Temple of Heaven. At 2.7 million sq m, the temple’s overall area is bigger than the Forbidden City’s, and this was because the Son of Heaven dared not live in premises larger than the heavenly realm.

Chion-in Temple (Japan)

Chion-in Temple was built in 1234 to honour the priest Honen, founder of Jodo (Pure Land) Buddhism, who fasted until death here in 1212. This famous temple in Kyoto is considered one of the most important in Japan. Honen taught that everyone could be reborn into the Pure Land and escape February 15-21, 2009


AFP P H OTO

The Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China.

is open 24/7.

Sri Ranganathaswany Temple (India)

the cycle of rebirth. His simple teachings and practical advice made the Jodo branch of Buddhism one of the most popular in the Land of the Rising Sun. The bell in Chion-in is Japan’s heaviest at 74 tons, and requires 17 priests to ring it during the New Year ceremony.

Borobudur (Indonesia)

One of the wonders of the world, Borobudur was built with 55,000 cubic metres of stone and boasts 504 Buddha statues and 2,700 relief panels that tell a story as they are viewed in clockwise direction as you walk towards the top. The main dome at the apex of this nine-tier monument has 72 life-sized Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa. However, the central stupa is empty, denoting the state of nirvana when everything is one and all is nothing. Built in the 9th century when Mahayana Buddhism was at its peak, Borobudur fell into disrepair in the 14th century when Java embraced IsFebruary 15-21, 2009

lam. The temple was reclaimed from the jungles in 1814 when Sir Stamford Raffles was notified of its existence. This Unesco World Heritage site is still used as the focal point of a pilgrimage route once a year during Wesak Day. Borobudur is Indonesia’s single biggest tourist attraction and requires at least four hours to explore.

The Golden Temple of Amritsar (India)

Shimmering like a golden dream on a lake, the Harmandir Sahib (Abode of God) or simply the Golden Temple of Amritsar in Punjab, India, is the most sacred shrine of Sikhism. The Adi Granth or Holy Book of the Sikhs is kept here and constantly recited within its walls. Also known as Temple of God or Divine Court, the Golden Temple, conceived by Guru Arjan Sahib, the 5th Guru Nanak, was completed in 1601. The temple has four main doors that are always open. They represent the four compass directions and welcome everyone from everywhere regardless of caste, creed, religion or sex. The temple

Sri Ranganathaswany Temple in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, encompasses 156 acres and is the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world. Dedicated to Lord Raganatha, a manifestation of Vishnu, the temple is considered the first and most important of the 108 holy abodes of Vishnu. It is enclosed by seven concentric walls stretching over six miles and guarded by 21 towers. The celebrated Hall of 1,000 Pillars actually has only 953 and is considered a masterpiece of Hindu architecture. Non-Hindus can visit up to the sixth wall but may not enter the goldtopped inner sanctum. Devotees believe Lord Narayana actually resides here.

Angkor Wat (Cambodia)

Last but not least is the largest and perhaps most breathtaking temple in history — Angkor Wat. Its architecture is simply amazing. Unlike other Khmer temples, Angkor Wat faces west instead of east, giving rise to speculation that it was also meant as a tomb for its builder, King Suryavarman II, who ruled from 1113 to 1150. Angkor was originally meant as a capital city, palace and state temple dedicated to Vishnu. It is meant to represent Mt Meru, the celestial abode of the gods in Buddhism and Hinduism. By the 15th century, it had become a Theravada Buddhist temple. Angkor is the most spectacular of among more than 100 temples here but the famous, enigmatic smiling faces of Suryavarman II carved in stone are at the nearby Bayon Temple. Angkor’s fame lies in its graceful architecture and its elaborate stone friezes which detail | 21 |


ARTS & CULTURE

Viet Nam’s Historic Battle They shot footage of one of Viet Nam’s most famous victories, Dien Bien Phu. Now the film crew tell the story from behind the scenes HA NOI

Thanh Trung and Ngoc Tuan Viet Nam News

C

ountless pieces of literature, music and art have captured the memory of the battle in 1954 that marked the end of the French occupation of Viet Nam. But few know the story of the artists who were actually in the fray—the two film crews who crossed the thin red line to bring people at home a piece of the action.

War epic

Over half a century later, People’s Artist (highest honour accorded to an artist) Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, who worked as an assistant cameraman in one of the crews, tells his story. “There were four people in our team, mobilised from different establishments. I was a photo correspondent from the political affairs department. In my crew there was the principal | 22 |

Defining moment: A soldier waves the Vietnamese flag from the top of a captured De Castries’ bunker, putting an end to the nine-year long resistance war against the French colonialists.

cameraman Nguyen Tien Loi, who had been a self-employed photographer, but joined the revolution to become the official photographer of the 308 brigade. There was Quy Luc, an officer at the Yen Bai Province People’s Committee, and an assistant like myself. Nguyen Sinh, a Thai youth, was responsible for transporting the equipment and taking care of the logistics. All of us went through a quick intensive training course before we went to the front,” he says. “We all knew we were going to record an important moment in history for our country. As soon as we joined the crew, we received the order to get ready to join the campaign.” The campaign in question ended up being one of the biggest victories in the country’s history, and one that ended the French occupation in Viet Nam. Of course, none of the crew knew that at the time, says Loi, principal cameraman at Dien Bien Phu, who later became deputy director of the Viet Nam Feature Film Company. “We had no idea

what was going to happen, let alone that we were going to Dien Bien Phu.” Finding the right tools for the job was a challenge though, says Loi. “The best camera we could find in Ha Noi in those days was the Swiss-made Paya Bolex 16mm. We knew the model was only used for home use in the West though, and what we really needed was a professional 35mm lens.” But to the newly-founded film crew, during war-time even a 16mm lens camera could make history. The whole crew had only about 900m of celluloid film, which Loi says they had to smuggle from Frenchoccupied areas like Ha Noi, Hai Phong and Sai Gon. The crew lived with the soldiers for nearly a month, but they dared not hit the record button because all the purchased film had to be saved for the upcoming campaign. Then it was time to march north. The crew accompanied the soldiers through the mountains and jungle, past lines of troops and volunteers supplying February 15-21, 2009


VNA File P hoto

ammunition and stores. “There was this unstoppable festive atmosphere,” says Loi. “Unfortunately, we didn’t record much footage at that time.” The crew helped entertain the soldiers when they had time to rest, says Loi. “We used to sit and tell the soldiers about the latest feature films we’d seen. Cinematic art was very new to the people then, so the soldiers and volunteers sat around in grand circles to listen to us.” In June 1953, the film crew departed from Viet Bac, passing Au Lau Wharf in Yen Bai, and climbed through 30km of mountain passes. Then, they joined the 308 Brigade to walk to Tuan Giao in Lai Chau Province—they had finally entered Dien Bien Phu Valley. The crew had to dig trenches in the mountain, bathe in the rain and share balls of rice with the soldiers. “Like any soldier, we prayed to each other that none of us would die in the fighting,” then assistant cameraman Quynh said.

Blood and smoke

At 5pm on March 13, 1954, Vietnamese troops opened fire on Him Lam Hill. It was the first of 56-days of fierce fighting. Loi says he was pumped with

February 15-21, 2009

adrenalin. “We filmed our troops advancing to capture the enemy’s posts, and enemy planes dropping bombs on the battlefield. We lived the hardship and brutality of war and followed the frontline soldiers into battle.” Sometimes the crew came as close as 100m to the enemy, Loi says. “We hid in newlycaptured posts and pointed our cameras out to the battlefield to film in the smoke.” Quynh nods: “When we were filming from the post, Quy Luc and I had to take turns crawling out to clear away the broken tree branches that were in front of the lens. It was the only way to spare our limited amount of film. “I could feel the camera shaking amid the chaotic sounds of the bombing and exploding ammunition. The thin line between life and death was so slim, a cameraman could easily become a target.” This was particularly dangerous on the frontline, Quynh says. “Areas of land were changing hands so quickly. One night a peak might belong to us, the next day the enemy would take it. There were many hidden dangers for us.” One particularly hairy moment came when the crew headed back to one of their posts after filming on a hill. “Suddenly, we heard artillery fire aimed at us,” Quynh says. “We rushed to a shelter, which was as small as a table. There were many times we lost consciousness. When we woke up, there was dirt in our mouths, eyes and noses. “As soon as we woke up, we rushed back to work. We made shelters with earth, branches and leaves. We didn’t have enough water and had to fetch from very far away, because the nearby Nam Rom River was filled with bodies. We were covered from head to toe with red dust. “During low days, we went back to the rear to edit our film and buy new rolls. We crossed the empty fields, crawled under the barbed wire fences. We went back and forth twice and gathered 1,000m of

celluloid. In all we had 2,000m for the whole campaign,” says Quynh.

Landmines

The second film crew was made up of Nguyen Thu, director Nguyen Hong Nghi, cameramen Nguyen Phu Can, Nhu Ai and Nguyen Dang Bay. It was their job to enter the field once the battle was drawing to a close. They worked mostly on routes leading to Dien Bien Phu and filmed the work of soldiers, volunteers transporting foods, rice, drugs and ammunition to the front. During a trip to film a prisoner of war exchange in a Thai hamlet, the crew had to walk through a grassy field. It was eerily quiet. Suddenly, a blast shot out, Thu had stepped on a landmine. The crew had to take Thu to a French doctor, who was treating wounded enemy soldiers nearby. There was no anaesthetic available, so the doctor had to clean the wound with surgical alcohol and saw off his foot. Thu didn’t utter a word.

Time to heal

When Ha Noi was finally liberated, Thu had to be hospitalised three more times until his foot fully healed. He received visits from the prominent Soviet documentary film-maker Roman Karmen. Touched by Thu’s loss, Karmen encouraged him to pursue further film studies in the then Soviet Union. In 1959, Thu returned to Dien Bien with his crew to make the documentary Return to Dien Bien. It had been only four years since Dien Bien was liberated, but the town was changing fast. Many soldiers who fought in the battle had stayed on to rebuild the town in peace. Thu’s film was a great success, bursting with intense emotion, love of life and joy to see the land, which he had shed blood for, now growing in peace. The documentary won the Lumumba Grand Prix at the Asian and African Film Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1964. Thu died in 2002 from illness. Today, more than half a century has passed and Victory in Dien Bien Phu is broadcast every year in May to commemorate the milestone in Viet Nam’s modern history. | 23 |


Food

Japanese Curry Flavours

Singaporeans are won over by its less spicy and milky taste

| 24 |

SINGAPORE

Huang Lijie The Straits Times

J

apanese curry is finding favour with Singaporean diners, even if it is not as spicy as Indian curry or as lemak (milky) as the Malay version. The dish has made its way onto the menus of more Japanese restaurants here, and at least three eateries specialising in the curry dish have opened in the last two years. To widen its appeal, some restaurants are even pairing it with pizza and pasta instead of the more traditional rice and noodles. One of the new speciality curry shops is Mr Curry in The Central. The 58-seat eatery by the Waraku group of Japanese restaurants opened last December. A Waraku spokesman says: “We noticed that there is a market for restaurants selling Japanese curry because the curry dishes at our Waraku restaurants, such as curry udon, have always been a hit with our customers.� Indeed, the appetite for Japanese curry here has grown in recent years to allow the 75-seat restaurant Curry Favor, which opened in Stamford Road in 2004, to spawn a larger 100-seat outlet at Novena Square in 2007. Veteran curry eatery Romantic Kobe, which has been selling Japanese curry in the basement of Liang Court since 1995, has also seen its business increase by some 10 per cent every year. It is not just Japanese expatriates who are patronising these curry shops. At Wakashachiya, a curry udon (noodle) restaurant with 64 branches in Japan and an outlet in The Central, Singaporeans make up 70 per cent of its diners here while Japanese expatriates constitute the remaining 30 per cent. Unlike Indian, Malay or Chinese curries, which the Singaporean palate is used to, Japanese curry tends to be less spicy, slightly sweeter and of a thicker consistency. Teaching assistant James Chan, 50, admits February 15-21, 2009


that he found the taste of Japanese curry “a bit weird” when he first tried it 10 years ago while on holiday in Japan. He says: “It wasn’t as spicy and its gravy had a creamier texture than the Chinese-style curry I was used to eating.” However, he has grown to appreciate these qualities of Japanese curry and is now a regular customer at Wakashachiya. For housewife Ellen Lim, 52, who is a fan of the curry tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet) at Japanese chain restaurant Tonkichi, the appeal of Japanese curry lies in the absence of coconut milk in the gravy. She says: “Japanese curry does not use coconut milk so it is not as oily as other Asian-style curries. Not only is it healthier, but it is also less jelat (Malay for overwhelming) to eat.” Curry—the Indian version—was introduced to Japan in the late 1800s and was subsequently modified to suit the Japanese palate. The dish gained popularity in the 1950s with instant curry mixes and roux bricks available for sale on supermarket shelves. Potato, carrot, onion and curry powder are common ingredients used February 15-21, 2009

to make Japanese curry, although variations of the recipe exist. At Mr Curry, mango chutney is used to enhance the taste of its homemade curry sauce, which comes in four flavours: original, cream, tomato and squid ink. For the Shokudo chain of Japanese restaurants, where curry dishes are one of its top sellers, its curry sauce is made from imported curry paste and powder from Japan, as well as tonkatsu sauce, Fuji apples and Japanese soya sauce. And at Wakashachiya, the soup for its curry udon uses wadashi - stock boiled from dried bonito flakes. Japanese curry is traditionally eaten with rice or noodles, and accompanied with sides such as deep-fried meat

cutlets and vegetables. Chefs here, however, have taken to pairing the gravy creatively with pastas and pizzas because it does not have an overpowering flavour. At Shokudo outlets, Japanese curry is paired with omu rice (tomato fried rice wrapped in an omelette) and also used as a topping in its Hokkaido-style Curry Mashed Potato Cheese Pizza. Similarly, Mr Curry offers its Japanese curry with risotto (a creamy Italian rice dish) as well as in its naan bread (an Indian flatbread) pizzas as a pizza sauce base. For fans of Japanese curry, these newfangled variations are much welcomed. Account director Lily Chow, 32, who is a regular at Mr Curry, says: “These different types of Japanese curry and new ways of eating it, in pastas and pizzas, keeps me excited and wanting more. For example, I’ve not eaten the squid ink curry at Mr Curry but I am keen to try it because I like squid ink spaghetti.” | 25 |


Fashion

Ordinariness Is Fashionable

Dressing and looks of Hindi film industry actors were defined by the roles they played, which in turn reflected the concerns of society from time to time KOLKATA

Derek Bose The Statesman

L

ate last year, when the promos of Aditya Chopra’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi started storming the television screens, many fans of Indian superstar Shah Rukh Khan did a double take. How could their hero look so downmarket? Even a corporation clerk would not wear those ill-fitting shirts and loose trousers with double pleats in the front and side pockets. And what were those silly spectacles doing? On top of all that, a wig! Of course, the character had an alterego in the film—a dashing and debonair Raj who (literally) sweeps the heroine off her feet. It can always be argued that Shah Rukh can never go wrong because he enjoys such a large and loyal fan following that no matter what he does or wears on screen, it would always work at the | 26 |

box office. In 2004, he came in as a non-resident Indian wearing a simple checked shirt (when he was not in a vest) and jeans in Swades. He then tied a turban and became a ghost in Paheli. Thereafter, he limped his way through Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna as the bitter footballer retiredhurt. Soon after, he became a disgraced coach of a women’s hockey team in Chak De India. And then he turned into a struggling actor of the ‘70s (who becomes a superstar in afterlife) in O m Shanti Om.

Barring a fast and furious crime thriller, Don in 2006, all his screen appearances during these last five years have been a far cry from the slick and suave Shah Rukh Khan we have seen from his younger days of Baazigar, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Dil Se, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Josh and so on. Now, Shah Rukh is not the only top star to have mellowed down on his looks. Take Aamir Khan, before he became a vengeful beast with that bizarre tennis ball haircut in Ghajini last December. In Taare Zameen Par, he was as cool and casual as any young school teacher can be in jeans and a non-descript T-shirt. Before that, there were films like Fanaa, Rang De Basanti and Dil Chahta Hai in which he could easily have been another face in the crowd. The reasons for his understated dressing were of course, dictated by the roles Aamir had to play in those films. But then, this is one Bollywood star known to be extremely fastidious about his screen image—

February 15-21, 2009


whether it was with his fierce twirledup moustache in Mangal Pandey, or that famous bare-torso look in Lagaan or the spiky hair and beard-let he sports in Dil Chahta Hai. Now, all too suddenly, he seems to have lost interest in making a style statement. The same can be said of the four other Bollywood biggies: Akshay Kumar (Namastey London, Heyy Baby, Welcome, Singh Is Kingg), Salman Khan (Partner, Hello, God Tussi Great Ho, Yuvvraaj), Saif Ali Khan ( Tara Rum Pum, Race, Tashan, Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic) and Hrithik Roshan (Dhoom 2). There is nothing distinctive about their dressing styles, let alone sartorial eloquence, to leave a lasting impression. From all appearances, they would much rather copy the common man in everyday clothes than look larger-than-life or become trendsetters in fashion like some of their predecessors had. (Exceptions are costume dramas like Jodhaa Akbar and Chandni Chowk To China in parts, as well as superhero films like Krishh, Drona and Love 2050.) Second and third rung heroes, from Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgan to Abhishek Bachchan and Shahid Kapoor are similarly swimming with the tide, more out of compulsion than choice. Quite clearly, the days of our heroes wanting to be seen as role models of dressing are over. It is however, a misconception that yesteryear heroes were, in any manner, at the cutting edge of contemporary fashion. That distinction rested with the villains, right from the days of KN Singh, Ajit, Jeevan, Pran and Prem Chopra. In their well-cut Western suits and fancy cars, they were the most stylish of screen characters. Their look always spoke of wealth and (consequently) power, whereas the hero appeared as February 15-21, 2009

an idealistic and vulnerable sort, typically in dhoti-kurta or as a country bumpkin. Some like Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor who specialised in playing romantic city slickers, managed to come up with a distinctive trendsetting style once in a while but their dressing and looks were defined by the roles they played in films, which in turn reflected the concerns of society from time to time. And it is that tradition that has been carried forward by Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar today. The only ones to buck this trend are our leading ladies. They are the ones expected to infuse all the glamour and glitz to a film, though style-wise, their clothes have not always been the true barometers of contemporary fashion. There were some defining moments in Bollywood styling during in the early ‘90s when Urmila Matondkar pranced about in those skimpy designer outfits in Rangeela or say, when Madhuri Dixit flaunted her backless choli in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. But today, barring some item numbers and party scenes (where those very outfits are still being recycled with minor variations), the style statement of heroines is being spoken of in terms of size zero figure, attitude and get-up. At the most, a reference to ‘casual chic’ could raise a buzz, as in the recent case of Kareena Kapoor pulling off a loose, outsized T-shirt and a mismatched Patiala salwar with conviction in Jab We Met. Likewise, Shilpa Shetty’s deglamourised look in Life. In a metro with long skirts and muffler around her neck had become a talking point in fashion circles last year. The popularity of ordinariness can be attributed to three crucial factors. One, films are hardly made on extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances these days. Ever since the multiplex revolution began a decade ago, the approach to story-telling and the nature of key characters in a narrative have changed. The hero is no longer the idealistic, self-righteous, handsome hunk he used to be. Instead, he is a regular guy with normal habits, strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, the heroine has ceased to play the archetypal virgin-inwhite, self-sacrificing and beautiful.

She is today like any other girl next door, intelligent and approachable, and with as many shades of grey as the male lead. Nobody is holier-than-thou, exceptionally gifted or extra-special. And they all dress the part. This has contributed immensely to Hindi cinema coming across as closer to reality. Audiences have no difficulty identifying with the characters they see on screen. The second reason for Indian actors to be dressing down is the advent of several high profile couturiers like Manish Malhotra, Ritu Beri, Neeta Lulla and Aki Narula in films. Over the past decade or so, these trained professionals have not only replaced the dress makers of yore, they are increasingly calling the shots in every department of filmmaking. They understand cinema and with their background in fashion design (most of them have their own designer labels) are able to decide on the look of an actor in keeping with the spirit of a film. The third important reason for understated chic in Hindi cinema is the rising popularity of the so-called ‘nonheroic heroes like Vinay Pathak (Bheja Fry, Dasvidaniya, Oh My God), Rajat Kapoor (Monsoon Wedding, Krazzy 4, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na) and Ranvir Shorey (Khosla Ka Ghosla, Traffic Signal, Ugly Aur Pagli). It is in their ordinariness that they have found an appreciative audience, something established stars like Shah Rukh, Akshay and Aamir are now waking up to.

Style Statements Here are some unforgettable fashion fads from the past directly associated with film stars: Full-sleeve shirt with buttoned-up collar: Dev Anand Guru kurta and bell bottom trousers: Rajesh Khanna Loose shirt knotted in the front: Amitabh Bachchan Neck-scarf and pipe: Raaj Kumar White trousers and white shoes: Jeetendra Body-hugging churidar-kameez and bouffant: Sadhana Madhuri Dixit: Backless choli | 27 |


ST P H OTO/DES MOND LI M

People INSTANT SUCCESS: No one believed that Singaporeans would pay cafe prices for instant noodles but Ivan lee proved his detractors wrong.

Young Man In A Hurry The Thai Express founder is fiercely driven to succeed— only on his own terms—and he has SINGAPORE

John Lui The Straits Times

T

he business bug bit Ivan Lee, 33, CEO of the Thai Express group of restaurants, early in life. At 11, to be exact. That was when the boy, then the owner of the only Nintendo game console in his neighbourhood, began renting out the unit to other children. He charged $1 an hour. “People kept coming, so I bought an organiser. After a while, my book was full. Business was good.” He made about $10 (US$6.63) a day, but his profits were literally being eaten away. “The kids started to ransack my fridge. I was making a | 28 |

loss.” So the lad sold instant noodles at $1 (66 US cents) a bowl. A slice of luncheon meat was 50 cents. It is fitting that the same dish is now raking in the dollars at his Xin Wang Hong Kong Cafés. Now it costs $8.90 (US$5.90)—though, to be fair, it includes service charge and a fried egg. His latest Xin Wang opened in the Northpoint Mall in Singapore last November. It is a fact that he likes to mention to friends and family who had told him that Singaporeans would never pay café prices for instant noodles. “I love rubbing it in,” he says, with a grin. The Thai Express group’s seven restaurant brands now have 76 outlets in the Asia-Pacific region--including Mongolia, Australia and China--and a

sales turnover of $100 million (US$66.3 million) last year. His achievements earned him the fourth spot last year in the annual lifestyle power list compiled by Straits Times’ Life! Dressed in a simple white office shirt and dark slacks, he spoke to Life! at the Thai Express headquarters in the spartan Delta House industrial building on Alexandra Road. His personal space, like the rest of the premises, is spare with beige walls, simple furniture and computers. The business, which employs about 1,800 staff in the region, needs loading and warehouse space that is close to the central area, which the building provides. In the six years since the company’s first Thai Express outlet in Holland Village, he has built the largest Thai casual-dining chain in the world. With nine branches, Xin Wang is the largest Hong Kong cafe chain in Singapore. Another brand, Shokudo, in Raffles City and in The Heeren, offers two of the island’s largest Japanese cuisine dining areas. The New York New York cafe and deli outlets grew at the rate of nine outlets in just over two years. February 15-21, 2009


And there is the strange patriotic pleasure of seeing a Singaporebased company running a Thai eatery in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. A New York New York is also planned to open there. But it is the Xin Wang chain which holds a special place in Lee’s heart. He had a hunch that Singaporeans would pay double or triple hawker centre rates for no-frills fare such as French toast, shaved ice desserts and, yes, instant noodles. But no one believed it would work. Among the critics was his father-in-law. Self-made millionaire Tommie Goh, 60, is former executive chairman of electronics firm JIT Holdings, and now chairman of investment company 2G Capital. He recalls: “I said, Why do people want to eat instant noodles and luncheon meat at a cafe? They can jolly well buy them from the NTUC supermart.” But Lee bet on his hunch and opened the first Xin Wang in Hougang’s Heartland Mall in late 2005. The outlet was swamped from day one. Its success proved that Lee could trust his instincts, even if no one else did. Goh today says he is very happy to have been proven wrong by his son-in-aw, whom he describes as ‘a strong character’. Goh first laid eyes on the brash young man when he showed up one day with his daughter, Grace. The couple met while taking the honours philosophy course at NUS. His daughter was zipping around campus in a Porsche Boxster convertible while Lee was riding a Honda 400 cc racer motorcycle. Goh’s first impression of him was that he was ‘a young man in a hurry’. Fearing for his daughter’s safety, he offered to subsidise the purchase of a car if Lee would give up the bike. To his dismay, Lee declined the offer. Today, Grace Goh, 31, laughs at the memory. She says that she would never have dared to ride a bike, not even one handled by her then boyfriend. Lee used his own family’s car instead February 15-21, 2009

when they went out on dates. He later bought a car with his own money. The couple now have two girls, aged 14 months and three years. When the couple first met as first-year students, the sparks that flew were far from romantic. “I thought he was this loud, arrogant fella in colourful, tight T-shirts and he thought I was this snobbish rich girl,” she says, laughing. He had an ‘annoying’ habit of getting on the dean’s list without studying. He seemed to prefer hanging out with a group of male friends and was not shy about teasing girls, she says.

It was only three years later when they were in the same small honours class that they had their first proper conversation. That led to their first date. Goh knew how hard it must have been for a boy from Ang Mo Kio estate to date a girl with her own sports car, especially for someone as driven to succeed as her husband.

He paid for their dates which were simple affairs. For example, he says with a laugh that for their first date, they ate at the Wee Nam Kee chicken rice eatery near Novena MRT station. Lee’s own parents were also entrepreneurs. His mother, Lenice Cheng, 60, is a retired beautician who ran her own parlours and his father, Lee Hock Seng, 57, runs a stevedore firm. When he was in Primary 6, his parents divorced. Cheng hired a maid to help her look after Lee and his younger brother and sister. Lee did well enough to go from Anderson Secondary School to Anderson Junior College and then to NUS, where he took up economics and philosophy. On the side, he set up a mortgage broking and insurance sales business with a friend, which gave him some pocket money. He and Grace came out of university with plans to marry but also to test a somewhat offbeat cafe-cum-nail bar concept with his mother. The three pooled their money and the Onyx Café in Siglap opened in 2000. The eatery limped along but created the cash flow to help fund their second venture in 2002, the first Thai Express in Holland Village. This was an instant hit and Onyx was turned into the second Thai Express outlet, which is still open today. “We were just surviving. With a few small changes, we could turn Onyx into a Thai Express,” he says. The idea for Thai Express came to him when he saw that while there were Japanese casual dining chains such as Sakae Sushi and Western chains such as Swenson’s, there was no such outlets for Thai food despite its popularity here. The profits from the first few restaurants were put back into expansion. “I had this strong, overwhelming sense that I could turn things around,” he says, following the dismal performance of Onyx. At the current rate of expansion, he has more than turned things around, but he says he is far from done. At 33, Ivan Lee is still a young man in a hurry, though one who has travelled very far in a very short time. | 29 |


People

A Walk Down 40 Years

Be prepared for a night of memories, Hong Kong diva Liza Wang tells fans going for her concert this month SINGAPORE

Jocelyn Lee The Straits Times

A

s perhaps befits a diva who has been in showbusiness for 40 years, Hong Kong star Liza Wang has little patience with the media. She gave short, crisp answers and sounded like she was in a rush to end the phone interview with Life! where she talked about her upcoming concert in Singapore on February 21. When it comes to pleasing her fans, however, the Shanghai-born singer and actress is much more patient, never mind if she has to sing her old hits which she has probably performed ad nauseam. Without revealing details, she says: “I will definitely be singing many of my classic songs from the past four decades.” Evening Primrose and Rose, I Love You are two of her famous tunes. At her concert here celebrating her four decades in the entertainment scene, she plans to surprise her fans with a few medleys of her evergreen songs and dance sets. Fans can also look forward to eye-catching costumes, a trademark of hers at concerts. Enhancing the nostalgic mood, Wang, 61, who has been acting in movies and on TV since 1967, will screen snippets of her most well-known shows | 30 |

during the concert. “The excerpts of my shows, together with my songs, will bring back a lot of old memories for the fans.” Her special guest, as at many of her other concerts, will be long-time boyfriend Law Kar Ying, 59, an actor and opera singer.

They will be performing duets. Wang, who last performed here with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra in 2007, has a good impression of her fans here. She remembers them as being attentive and not rowdy. As an actress, she is still going strong. Her most recent TV show, period drama When Easterly Showers Fall On The Sunny West, was aired last year in Hong Kong. In 2005, she won a best actress award for playing a shrewish, unreasonable mother-in-law in the period drama War Of In-laws. Some viewers have observed that this dragon lady role

seemed like a case of art imitating life, because she has a reputation for not being the easiest person to work with. But Wang says she is fine with trying out all kinds of roles. “As an actor, I must play many different roles and not be picky. If my company gives me the role, I will just accept it without complaints.” She has also been busy preparing to headline a new musical comedy, which is about her attitude towards life. The musical will debut in Hong Kong in April. Apart from entertainment, the diva has ventured into politics. She was a delegate to China’s National People’s Congress from 1988 to 1998 and is currently a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Nevertheless, there is no doubt where her heart ultimately belongs. Given the chance to live her life all over again, she says she would still want to be an entertainer. “I get to experience things that other people cannot do. Over the years, I have acted in many different roles and pretended to be different people, and that has been fun.”

Liza Wang 40th Anniversary Concert

When: February 21, 7:30pm Where: The Max Pavilion, Singapore Expo Admission: $68 (US$45), $98 (US$65), $128 (US$85) and $148 (US$98) from Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg, tel: 65 6348-5555) February 15-21, 2009


Singapore’s Kate Moss

SHE blazes a trail for local artistes in the way that music stars elsewhere now double aS trendsetters

AFP

and pop achievements. Case in point: Who can forget a heavily pregnant Gwen Stefani rocking the red carpet in a leopard print empirewaist toga dress in 2006? No wonder, then, that Sun, with her fresh-faced look, sparkling eyes and clothes hanger frame, has been dubbed the Kate Moss of Singapore by some in the fashion circles. Insiders love the occasionally edgy, always individualistic take she gives to a look. Grace Lee, 42, editor of Chineselanguage fashion title Nuyou, cites as an example: “She would wear adidas sneakers with a very pretty dress or girly blouse.” She adds: “There are so many singers out there who don’t realise that looking dressed up doesn’t necessarily mean you have style.” Veteran stylist Johnny Khoo, who is in his late 30s and has worked with Sun since 2006, adds that she is a versatile model, in part because she has ‘very good’ body proportion. He says: “When I throw in little surprises into a look for her, such as a leather jacket over what is supposed to be a very girly outfit, she carries it off just as well. “That’s something I can’t do with a lot of other celebrities.” Sun’s star style has, without doubt, lent a shine to SK Jewellery, says the company’s senior brand manager Hor Su-Ann, 29. The singer has shot four campaigns for the brand—two set here and the others in Prague and Melbourne—each costing a six-figure sum. Says Hor: “Stefanie is a Singapore artiste who is wellrecognised in the region, in particular Malaysia, China and Hong Kong where we also have a presence. She is also very stylish and has a youthful energy— all traits of our brand.” She adds that the brand has seen its customer profile expand from the target group of those aged 28 to 45 to include those under 25, especially after the launch of the 2008 Prague campaign which featured Sun with a refreshing new image.

SINGAPORE

Noelle Loh The Straits Times

S

ingapore’s top pop export is hitting the right notes on the fashion front too. The pixiefaced Stefanie Sun— Singapore’s first recording artiste to crack the regional market in a huge way, selling over 10 million albums in Asia since her 2000 debut—has been snapped up as a cover girl on magazines because of her looks and style. Sun has graced at least 50 magazine covers in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China since her debut album Yan Zi in 2000. This includes a fashion spread in the April 2005 issue of influential British design magazine i-D. She has graced the cover of local Chinese fashion title Nuyou five times—the latest in December. An advertiser’s darling who has sold brands ranging from sportswear label adidas to food brand New Moon, she currently stars in SK Jewellery’s 2009 ad campaign, which was shot in Melbourne last October. She has been the face of the homegrown jewellery brand since 2006.

February 15-21, 2009

With all that under her slender 25inch belt, the 30-year-old Singaporebased star blazes a trail for local artistes in the way that music stars elsewhere now double as trendsetters. For example, the music industry’s Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday are as much watched for what the stars wear as for their rock

| 31 |


Explore

Indonesia’s Forbidden Province A journey through North Aceh where crab and asparagus soup is as commonplace as machine gun TYPICAL: Two Acehnese women pass Indonesian soldiers patrolling in an armoured personnel carrier in Banda Aceh.

LHOKSEUMAWE

Trisha Sertori The Jakarta Post

A

ceh—the word alone fires the imagination. Its history of wars, a tsunami that killed more than 150,000, Islamic law and multi-cultural roots from which blue-eyed, dark skinned beauties have sprung forth make for an extraordinary social mix. Add to that lot the many years the province was closed to outsiders—as a sort of Indonesian Forbidden City— and the opportunity to visit the region becomes irresistible. This writer recently had the opportunity and grabbed it with both hands—the only problem was I had not heard about the latest flare up of the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) or Free Aceh Movement—machine guns included. I was unwittingly heading into GAM heartland, Lhokseumawe, in North Aceh, about half-way between Medan and Banda Aceh; I | 32 |

also knew nothing about the dodol. Dodol is a sweet made from jackfruit and is common throughout Indonesia— the Acehnese variety has an unexpected kick from the addition of a special herb not used in the rest of the country. As a Special Region, Aceh has its own laws that reflect its culture and includes a ban on alcohol; however, other products banned in the rest of the country are acceptable here. As for the GAM, despite a laying down of arms under the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding in 2005, tensions are still high. The first night of my stay in the region was heralded by a machine gun attack on a political candidate’s office, just down the road. No one was injured in the attack, but people on the street warned that with the upcoming national elections, emotions will be strained and random violence will escalate. During the six-hour drive from Medan, our driver, who plies the route to Lhokseumawe regularly, filled us in on the dangers we would face in North Aceh. He didn’t think it necessary to

mention that travelling on the roads here is a near death experience; we were sandwiched between a bus and a truck and traveling at a high speed— time literally stopped as our car slipped between the two Goliaths with just a few centimetres between us and the grave. “We have to get to Lhokseumawe before dark. The roads are way too dangerous at night. Kidnappings might start again. Last week a car in another city was blown up with a grenade,” the driver informed us. When asked if it was safe to visit small villages, he shook his head and said: “I hope so.” Residents of these small villages in the former separatist heartland aren’t shy about expressing disappointment in the current system and, given the history of machine gun diplomacy, say that the region grows more dangerous daily. These same villagers are also unfailingly friendly and welcoming. It was a sort of back-handed comfort when a respected villager, possibly with former GAM associations, pointed out that I was perfectly February 15-21, 2009


H OT LI S IMANJU NTAK/afp

safe, “because GAM knows you are here and is happy about it”. This got me thinking about being born in the province. To say it has been a tough ride for the Acehenese is an understatement of massive proportions: For more than three decades the fiercely independent Acehenese fought Dutch colonialism in the 1900s; post 1945 they were on a collision course with Indonesia’s central government. Fighting for an equitable share of the region’s priceless natural resources and, for some, the formation of a sovereign nation separate from the unitary state of Indonesia erupted in 1976. During those long and heart breaking years many thousands disappeared, their fates still unknown. “That’s the bridge where the bodies were dumped. Victims from both sides in the conflict,” our driver said two hours outside of Lhokseumawe. One young teacher, who was a daily witness to the conflict and sorry fate of her pupils, bares her compassion like an open wound. “After the tsunami I was working February 15-21, 2009

in West Aceh. I was a new teacher - it was 2005. One day I dropped my pen and the students fled; the sound of a pen dropping was enough to terrify them. Here in Lhokseumawe I had one boy whose father disappeared during the conflict. He still does not know if his dad is alive or dead,” the teacher, who requested anonymity, said. Her words echo the abyss of horror suffered by locals and the impossibility of it easing, except with time and tenderness. “As teachers all we can do is give our students space to grieve when they must.” Like the people of so many other war-torn regions around the world, the people of Lhokseumawe make the best of what they have. Land-mine ridden Mozambique in Africa is famous for its joyous music that blasts from drums and speakers, thumbing its nose at death and disfigurement. Lhokseumawe celebrates life with food—meals in this most dangerous province are well worth risking life and limb to discover. Come evening the streets of Lhokseu-

mawe bustle with stoves, tables and plastic chairs set up as makeshift restaurants for the night’s feasting. This is street food that would knock many a French chef off his pedestal. We settled on Kota Intan on Jalan Sukaramai, which locals say is one of the best warung (stall) in the small city. For starters we had the crab and asparagus soup—the crab was so fresh you could break a tooth on fragments of its carapace, delightful evidence that this as crab from the sea, not from a can. Next up was calamari with batter as light and crisp as a wafer. The deep-fried gourami fish shone like gold, its white flesh as moist as a kiss. To get the oil to a temperature that transmutes this base batter into gold, the street-chef rolled the gas bottle with his foot to bump up the gas-pressure to an almost explosive level. The oil flashed into life as the battered fish was submerged into this cauldron of burning oil—an exciting and terrifying vision of a master chef at work. Fresh from the jungle is the main course of Mongolian venison or rusa. At US$3.50 for a meal like no other; the venison slices are as soft as butter and flash jungle scents across the palate as the slight gamey flavors mix with capsicum and greens. In most countries a meal of venison will set you back a month’s wages, but here in Lhokseumawe its common fare. A dining companion, at first loathe to nibble on Bambi, is wonder struck at the taste and tosses up the idea of quitting Jakarta and going bush in North Aceh so she can hunt down an inexhaustible supply of the delicacy. Around the corner, another street chef was cooking up Roti Canai (flatbread) with curry. The Roti Canai here is as good as in Padang on Sumatra’s southwest coast—well known as the best in the country. Despite elections, GAM and machine gun diplomacy, life goes on here in Aceh, celebrated daily over a fine meal with friends. | 33 |


DATE BOOK S I N GA P O R E

Music for Valentine’s Day

T

he Singapore Symphony Orchestra will serenade couples at the Esplanade Concert Hall with the Music for Valentine’s Day concert. Pieces by Wagner, Liszt, Ravel and Strauss will all be featured on the programme. When: February 14 Where: Esplanade

INDIA SAIDAIJI

Saidaiji Eyo

T

his is a spectacular naked festival in Japan dating back to the 14th century. Wearing only loincloth, up to 10,000 men battle in the middle of the night during midwinter to get hold of the sacred wooden sticks (shingi) which are tossed into the crowd by priests. The men who successfully clutch the sticks are the lucky men of the year and their happiness is promised for the whole year. When: February 21 Where: Okayama Prefecture

BAGO CITY

Babaylan Festival

T

he Babaylan Festival is celebrated during the Philippine city’s Charter Anniversary and is based on the rituals performed by the Babaylans, like rituals on marriage, baptism, healing, harvest and others. Babaylans get their healing powers from unseen spirits. During the festival, the public gets a rare view into the simulated rituals of mystics, ancient healers and priests in various ceremonies. The festival was conceived to highlight a unique brand of Filipino heritage, one that dates back to the pre-Spanish period. This unique festival aims to rediscover the region’s indigenous music, literature, dances, rituals and other artistic endeavors. It explores the Babaylan folktales and other artistic endeavors of the early Bagonhons. When: February 19

LANG KAWI

Ironman Malaysia Triathlon

M

ore than 300 participants head for Langkawi for the gruelling Ironman Malaysia Triathlon. The race is made up of a 3.8km swim, 180.3km cycle and 42.2km marathon. Temperatures can reach 43 degrees celsius, so be prepared to sweat it out! When: February 28

Maha Shivaratri

M

aha Shivaratri is celebrated all over India on the night when the Lord Shiva is said to have performed the Tandava, or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. Sri Maha Shivaratri literally means ‘The Night of Shiva’. Thus, the ceremonies are held chiefly at night. Shiva was married to Parvati on this day. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra as it is said that anyone who utters the names of Shiva during Shivaratri, with perfect devotion and concentration, is freed from all sins. One reaches the abode of Shiva and lives there happily. One is liberated from the wheel of births and deaths. During this festival many pilgrims flock to Shiva temples. When: February 23

PHUKET

International Blues Rock Festival

T

he 2009 Phuket International Blues Rock Festival promises to be bigger than ever with at least 12 acts performing on stage during the two-night event. The festival attracts top blues bands from around Thailand, Australia and the US. Ricky Zen will again emcee the event. Main headliner is Eric Bibb, one of the greatest contemporary folk blues artists. Also on the list is California’s Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88s, Sweden’s top rated blues duo Bert Deivert & Janne Zander and KNIKI from Australia. Rich Harper will return along with The Blues Machine and Bangkok’s Cannonball. Thailand’s Groove Doctors fronted by Tony ‘Hacksaw’ Wilson will also be back. The 2009 festival will see a tribute act for the first time: “Chasing Jimi” - a Tribute to Jimi Hendrix featuring Jimmy Fame of the US. When: February 19-22 Where: Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa


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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