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THE NATION ASIANEWS March 29- April 4, 2009


Rayong revival! Hot!

Art of the car

Fair games

Dress Code


March 29-April 4, 2009

Around Asia




Time-travel p9-11






P14-15 team



Editor: Phatarawadee Phataranawik | Deputy Editor: Khetsirin Pholdhampalit | Photo Editor: Kriangsak Tangjerdjarad | Photographers: Ekkarat Sukpetch, Nanthasit Nitmatha, Pakdee Sukpern | Writers: Lisnaree Vichitsorasatra and 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:, e-mail: (02) 338 3461 ACE is published by NMG News Co LTD at 1854 Bangna-Trat Road, Bangkok

What’s Hot Krazy for Karan P h o t o c o u r t e s y o f D K N Y ( T hai l and )


esigner Donna Karan feted her 20th anniversary last month in New York and 10 days ago it was the turn of DKNY (Thailand) to kick off its own celebrations in the company of Thai celebs and loyal customers with a exhibition Fashion photographer Wasan Peungprasert at its Siam Discovery boutique. They show actress Sinjai Plengphanich with her son, business tycoon Chanadda Jirathiwat and teenage daughter, jetsetter Rawiwan Tanaka holding her little girl, and Waleerat Singkivibul all attired in their favourite DKNY togs. The photos are now at the store’s Emporium branch where they’ll be on display until later this week.

Sinjai Plengphanich and her son

Motors on the move


The world in 3D

Toyata 1/X


P h o t o / afp / P OR N C H A I K I T T I W O N G S A K UL

ilmmakers can now have fun playing Fuji’s new digital 3D camera the “FinePix Real 3D”, the prototype for which was launched at the Photo Imaging Expo in Tokyo on Thursday. The camera has two lenses and two CCD camera system enabling it to shoot 3D or 2D images, Fujifilm is expecting to put the 3D camera and its digital photo viewer on sale later this year.

P h o t o / e pa

oll up, roll up! Auto enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the 30th Bangkok International Motor Show, which continues at Bitec on Bangna-Trat Highway until April 6. The spotlight this year is on concept vehicles, among them the BMW M1 Homage, the Toyota 1/X and the Toyota A-Bat. Visitors can also admire mini cars like the Chinese manufactured Chery Faira and the new Volkswagen’s Beetle.

New Volkswagen’s Beetle

BMW “M1 Homage



P h o t o / afp

Chery Faira

March 29-April 4, 2009

Trends P hoto / B loomberg

Moscow scores a Koons coup

Cindy Sherman

Christie’s owner puts his artworks on view at the new gallery Garage

the cradle of modernist utopias, from Malevich to Mondrian - is a unique opportunity,” he says in the show’s catalogue. On display at Garage are five works by Koons, including the chromium stainless steel “Hanging Heart (Red/ Gold)”. Sotheby’s sold a version for $23.6 million in 2007, Maurizio which at the time was the Cattelan most ever paid for a work by a living artist. John Varoli Viola’s video-and-sound installation orks by Jeff Koons and “Going Forth by Day” is on view along Bill Viola are starring with four untitled photographs by Cinin a Moscow dy Sherman. exhibition of Garage will serve as the cenart owned by tral space for the Moscow BienFrench bilnale of Contemporary Art openlionaire Francois Pinault until ing on September 24. June 14. Zhukova, who grew up and was The 53 pieces are in “A Cereducated in California, says her tain State of the World” at the own art collection “is a private Garage Centre for Contemmatter”, but allows that her porary Culture, opened last last purchases were photoautumn by Dasha Zhukova, graphs by young and littlepartner to another billionknown artists in New York. aire, Roman Abramovich. Zhukova, who owns the The exhibition also fashion line Kova & T, was includes works by recently named chief editor American Dan Flavin, of the British fashion magTakashi Murakami of azine Pop. Japan, Shirin Neshat of “While I remain an invesIran and Subodh Gupta of Intor at Kova & T, my day-to-day india. volvement there will be limited,” Pinault, the sole owner of said Zhukova. “Garage and Pop auction house Christie’s Intermagazine are my priorities.” national, will open his own arts Here’s the Garage Takashi centre in June in Venice. website: www.GarageCMurakami “For an art lover to present —Bloomberg his collection in Moscow -

Subodh Gupta



March 29-April 4, 2009

Jeff Koons

Tim Noble and Sue Webster


Trends Code 10 by T-RA Chantasawasdee

P hoto / N anthasit N itmatha

Code10 sounds like an emergency alert. No need to panic, but the fashion collective does have a mission


Code 10 by Pravit Sawadviphachai


very fashion designer wants to shine on his own, but Code10 has taken the group approach - not that it’s curbed the competitiveness of any of the 10 stylists involved, who may no longer be the close friends they once were. Eight of them hit the catwalk for Siam Paragon Bangkok International Fashion Week last week with modern and wearable eveningwear for the same brand, but with distinctive looks. T-RA Chantasawasdee explained that bringing his own brand, T-RA, into the Code10 fold gives him more chances to compete and boosts the maturity in his designs as a result. “Usually we have our own show and that’s it,” he said, “but when we’re all together we have to keep active, and we bring out the

best in each other.” They work separately, he said, but they do “spy” on one another. His colleagues would have had a first peek at his latest, carefully draped clothes, with even the sleeves of a T-shirt at Fashion Week puffed out with the technique, adding a glamorous touch. Pravit Sawadviphachai continues to garner raves with his exquisite embroidery, as well as his practicality, neat details and choice of colours. A beach-perfect dress worn by Yoswadee Hasadeevijit had a swirl of embroidered shells and sequins. The price tag of Bt68,900 reflected the amount of work that went into it. “It might look too extravagant, but I wanted to make it stand out,” he said. He knows that few people would wear his outfits, but he believes fashion-savvy folks can mix and match the components. Too fancy? T-RA, who calls himself Code10’s “bitchy friend”, says his gear March 29-April 4, 2009

P hoto / P akdee S ukpern

Lisnaree Vichitsorasatra

Code 10 by Sanchai Subpisankul

sells the best among the group thanks to its simple yet modern austerity. “Sometimes the most beautiful dress can kill the wearer,” he said. “It can hide the wearer’s own beauty.” Pravit in turn points out that a lot of designers go for “wearability” - otherwise the clothes just get “left on the

hangers”. Sanchai Subpisankul’s blue shirt with a Victorian “origami” ruffle to the sleeves was another stand. He’s got a loyal following of celebrities, but he looks forward to making a splash abroad. T-RA has had fresh calls from old clients in France and New York, and Pravit also has a big foreign contract pending. Don’t expect to see a Code10 show overseas, though - the gang will be going solo. The rest of Code10: Vatit Virashpanth, Itthi Metanee, Chai Jeamamornrat, Patsarun Sriluansoi, Maruwut Buranasilpin and Tipanan Krairiksh.

Flights too fancy

U Flynow

March 29-April 4, 2009

nswayed in his pursuit of glamour and determined to make daring statements, Chamnan Pakdeesuk of Flynow opened his Fashion Week show with a massive black dog that soaked onlookers with a shake of its wet head. Models glared at the camera. Evening gowns took flight with feathers and even whole birds. Flynow is rock, glamour, razzle-dazzle. Even if the feathers were over your head, though, the real standouts of the collection were the polka-dot togs, sometimes with white-on-black on the bottom contrasted against back-on-white on the top. These were wearable for people. Let the birds wear the feathers.


Go SHOPPING School’s out, and the Central Toys & Games Fair is one good reason why

Time to play!

Remote-controlled F1 race cars sell for Bt1,500 and 3D helicopters for Bt3,190.

Pattarawadee Saengmanee

P h o t o s c o u r t e s y o f C e nt r a l


entral Chidlom will brighten every kid’s school holidays with its Central Toys & Games Fair next Wednesday through April 19. Expect every plaything imaginable – all the latest, all the brands from around the world – massed around a red Ferrari made of 146,000 Lego bricks. Pretty Blythe will be there, in all her limited-edition glory from Japan. Check out the Neo Blythe “Art Attack”, “Princess a la Mode”, “Denizen of the Lake”, “Christina the Bride”, “Darling Diva” and Nike’s “Courtey Tez”. And Barbie won’t be ignored. She’ll be on hand, dolled up in her new outfits by Christian Dior, DKNY, Vivienne Westwood, Givenchy, Vera Wang and Calvin Klein. Models of Japanese superheroes including the Bt65,000 Tamashi by Bandai will be on view too, along with Sanrio’s cute wooden houses for Hello Kitty. Techdeck will show off remote-control cars and skateboards, Q-Steer its amphibious toy automobile, and Bandai its mascot from “Amor Hero”. Chidlom is Fun Central The Central Toys & Games Fair from April 1 to 19 is open daily from 10 to 10. Call (02) 793 7900 for details. ||

Pretty Barbie in a beautiful pink evening dress for Bt2,550.

Youthful imaginations will be inspired in the Bt890 castle and the Bt595 Froggy Comes Home sets from Wonder World.

Lovely houses for Melody’s cute cartoon family cost Bt350.

Youngsters can glide around on a scooter for Bt4,900.

Here’s the Neo Blythe ‘Country Tez’ Miss Second Anniversary, priced at Bt84,990.

The Neo Blythe ‘Art Attack’ Miss Third Anniversary is worth Bt74,990.

March 29-April 4, 2009


P hoto / E kkarat S ukpetch

Recalling Rayong Residents who remember the eastern city before it became factory-friendly have reopened a road to the past

March 29-April 4, 2009



Rayong Coffee House Sata-Udom Local Gallery and Museum

Patta rawadee Saengmanee and Khetsirin Pholdhampalit


ayong can’t be blamed if its charms are hidden behind industrial prosperity, and anyway they’re easy enough to find. Apart from the welcoming beaches of the Gulf, they’re mostly along a kilometre’s stretch of Yomjinda Road, a place where the “good old days” never really ended. Abutting the Rayong River, the residential neighbourhood is a perfect stroll, with a museum, an art gallery and more than 20 shops, most of which seem ready any time to be the location for a film crew shooting a period movie. The area’s venerable wooden townhouses share a rich history with the concrete buildings erected by the Chinese and Portuguese a century ago. “This road has been the city’s main commercial area since the reign of King Rama V,” says Rayong-born Boonanan Madchiew. “Most of the buildings and houses here belonged to former governors and other high-ranking officials.” The industrial boom of the 1970s required four-lane roads to feed it, and Yomjinda was all but forgotten in the hurry. | 10 |

Six years ago, though, the citizens who remembered formed the Rayong Conservation Group. Much of what had become run-down is now fixed up again, and a whole generation is discovering what it missed. “The older residents have kept up their original businesses – the som tam and dessert and barber shops,” says Boon-anan, who runs the Rayong Coffee Shop and Rayong Art Centre. “When newcomers rent a building, we encourage them to start a business

Plaques on some of the buildings, in Thai and English, indicate their historical significance. In 1913 the Kee Pong Building, also known as Tuek Singha Krai, arose as the province’s first concrete structure. The Tien Building, four years younger, was the first Sino-Portuguese edifice. The Conservation Group has added the Sata-Udom Local Gallery and Museum as a place to exchange wisdom and ideas. It takes up two renovated units of an 89-year-old wooden house

Niwat Pao-in, owner of Da Vinci Studio

that won’t clash with the flavour of the old community. “A motorcycle repair shop or a bar wouldn’t fit in. You can’t even buy alcohol in the coffeeshops or restaurants here. We want to keep the sense of community intact.”

Klong Nguen Shop

that belongs to the prominent SudyaUdom family. The museum bulges with glittering showcases of antiques – bamboo tiffin carriers, century-old schoolbooks, ceramics from the Ayutthaya period, even the official licence for March 29-April 4, 2009

Old dolls at Klong Nguen Shop Photographs of the old town at Sata-Udom Local Gallery and Museum

a buffalo-cart driver. The walls are filled with photographs of the old town, ceremonies and beautiful garments. A mock-up of a traditional wooden house is furnished with rice-milling machinery and farm and home implements that tell fond tales of times gone by. A 50-seat theatre will open soon, where visitors can watch performances of old-style dancing. As authentic as the museum feels, it

kinds of books, magazines and comics – and a tea-and-coffee corner where the beverages are free. For tasty Thai food, drop by Baan Khru Muu, the one-time residence of Phra Srisamutpoke, known as Im Yomjinda, a former Antiques at Rayong Coffee House governor. ligious books. The Isaan dishes are terrific at Grandma Malee can always be found Somtam Anamai, run by Treeraphan perched in her chair, greeting her Pamphongsand, whose motto is “clean neighbours and passers-by. and good”. Try the hot-and-spicy paDirectly opposite is another old paya and fruit salads, the grilled chickReligious books at Leewanich House wooden house, Klong Nguen, en, the spider-crab salad or the roasted which is owned by avid collector catfish. Napaporn Nantawichai. He welOtherwise, for drinks (non-alcoholcomes visitors to see his “younger” ic!) and light snacks, the Rayong Coffee antiques, dating from the 1960s, House and Chuey both appeal with including quaint electronic appli- their reasonable prices and wonderful ances and toys. displays of antiques. Award-winning photographer Niwat Pao-in’s Da Vinci Studio occupies the 92-year-old former home of Khun Panichalasinth. “I want to build a community of artists,” he says. “My studio is a reNext Thursday and Friday is a laxing place where everyone comes perfect time to see just how to share ideas about art or whatevsplendid the Yomjinda community can’t beat the 86-year-old Leewanich er they’re interested in.” remains. shophouse nearby, run by elderly Malee Along with his beautiful photoThe Rayong Conservation Group is presenting Cultural Conservation Sawadvanich. graphs, drawings by both Niwat and Days, both days starting at 4pm. For Believed to be the first house in his daughter, and paintings by local details, call Boon-anan at (084) Rayong to have a floor of ceramic tiles artists, the gallery is adorned with col945 3939. from Italy, the house is now a shop sell- lectible items. ing bedding stuffed with kapok and reNiwat also has a small library – all


March 29-April 4, 2009

| 11 |

Hip Hangout

Will wine prices crash too?



by the cupful

Never mind ‘the way things were’. The Rayong Coffee House suggests the way they should have stayed K he t sirin Pholdh ampalit

p hotos / E k k arat S u k p etch


ayong’s Yomjinda Road is rich in history, and the Rayong Coffee House has some pretty rich java, making it a popular rendezvous and hangout for students and other locals. The coffeehouse occupies an old wooden townhouse, one of Yomjinda’s most charming buildings, which belongs to the family of the city’s exgovernor. Forge t about booze, and forget about airconditioning too. Owner Boon-anan “ D a z ” Ma d c h i e w wants to keep everything original, the better to maintain the street’s sense of community. Rayong-born Boon-anan was one of the founders of the Rayong Conservation Group, which tries to preser ve the local architectural splendours and the living history of this amicable and unhurried residential area. He also runs the nearby Sata-Udom Local Gallery and Museum that the group set up. It’s filled with old photos and other artefacts. Antiques from Boon-anan’s own collection are scattered around the coffeeshop. Televisions, film projectors, radios, lamps, cameras and sewing machines testify to a pre-digital world | 12 |

that lingers in fond memories. You can ponder the old ways with a hot and cold drink for Bt10 to Bt30, which says something itself about modern prices. Light snacks cost no more than Bt40. Boon-anan started out just selling coffee, toast and roti, but business has increased dramatically over the past five years, and so has the menu. Now you can get an Indian-style salad, fried fishballs and a chicken shao mai you might know better as khanom jeeb. Chicken is the only meat served. Next door is the Rayong Art Centre, another Boon-anan enterprise. He opened it last year as a gathering place for local artists and art students. Anyone can show off their creations at n o c o s t , a n d p a i n t i n g a n d photography classes are also conducted.

Exactly one branch The Rayong Coffee House on Yomjinda Road is open daily from 10.30am to 10pm. Call (084) 945 3939.

ith stock markets, property and equity funds continuing to plummet, one would expect some good values to start appearing in the world of wine. In fact, more than a few producers, wholesalers and retailers are wearing worried looks as inventories, particularly in the upper-premium range, start stacking up. In Bordeaux even the most revered topgrowth wineries expect prices for the ’08 vintage to drop substantially after the orbital levels reached between 2000 and 2005. Smaller wineries everywhere are facing payment problems as their higher-priced wines remain unsold. Major beverage corporations like the Fosters Group, which snapped up entire wine companies a few years ago, are trying to shed their nonperforming wine holdings. British-based beverage giant Diageo is in the process of reducing its operating staff by as much as 40 per cent to allow it to weather what could be a two- or three-year economic downturn. As consumers around the globe scale back on luxury purchases, vintage varietal wines are among the first to go. If you’re among the fewer than 5 per cent of the wine-consuming public that regularly enjoys collector-quality wines, and still have the monetary liquidity to indulge your habit, you are definitely going to find some real bargains in the months ahead. Keep an eye on websites like WineBid. com, and stay in touch with local distributors for special deals. Unfortunately, for those of us limited to the usual supermarket fare priced between Bt500 and Bt1,000, not much change is likely, although quality may improve as wineries limit their higher-end production to increase cash flow. Speaking of special deals, Central Department Store’s wine division held its annual “Celebration of Wine” last week at the Dusit Thani, where some 50 wineries poured and sold their products at wholesale prices. Of particular note were several brands being closed out of Central’s list, including some choice Burgundy from Louis Jadot which, at under Bt1,000 per bottle, were outstanding buys, even in tax-mad Thailand. Hopefully more special sales like this will be organised by other distributors in the near future. March 29-April 4, 2009

Mussels and


For excellent Italian dining down east, choose 43 – no more, no less


ayong’s bounty of fresh seafood doesn’t mean you can’t get great Italian food as well. No 43 Italian Bistro at the Kantary Bay Hotel is, in fact, one of the province’s top restaurants for authentic, homemade pastas, cakes, gelato and, yes, pizza. No 43’s second branch, after the one on Bangkok’s Soi Lang Suan, also offers chef Claudio Viale’s culinary idealism. The Rayong outlet is certainly cosier than the one in the big city, but breezier too with wide spaces between the beige, upholstered chairs and glass-topped tables. At lunchtime the place is packed with expatriates and executives on “shore leave” from their Eastern Seaboard jobs. In the evening it’s a warmly lit, relaxed and romantic spot for couples as well as families.

March 29-April 4, 2009

Chamaiporn Charnvithee is in charge of the kitchen in Rayong, and she heartily recommends the Bt340 mixed Italian cold cuts as a starter. You get

thin slices of Parma ham, coppa, salami and mortadella and buffalo mozzarella cheese with grilled carrots and red and yellow peppers. “We have our own garden for growing chemical-free rocket lettuce, Italian sweet basil and parsley and Thai herbs like lemongrass and coriander,” says Chamaiporn.

“We guarantee the freshness and safety and all the other vegetables, too – they come from other chemical-free farms in the area.” A must-order, for just Bt200, are the big, roasted Ne w Z e a l a n d m u s s e l s , perfectly married to a sweet tomato sauce and fresh cherry tomatoes, with basil and parsley adding more liveliness. The pan-fried lamp chops in a red-wine sauce with sauteed vegetables and crispy pizza bread costs Bt450. The mint gel is terrific – aromatic with a cool aftertaste. There are more than 15 kinds of pastries and cakes a v a i l a b l e e v e r y d a y. Unavoidable are the Berry Princess, a strawberry mousse ice cream, and the chocolate fondant. Each is Bt120. The Bistro beckons No 43 Italian Bistro is open daily from 6am to midnight. Call (038) 804 844. It has a buffet night every Wednesday from 7 to 10 for Bt490++ per person.

| 13 |

Photos / E k k arat S u k p etch

K he t sirin Pholdhampalit


Follow the turtles

Koh Mun Nai is where they prefer to lay their eggs. Point your luxury yacht that way and find out why

| 14 |

March 29-April 4, 2009

Pattarawadee Saengmanee


ayong waves to us this early morning as we stand on the deck of the Kantary Bay Hotel’s luxurious Panwa Princess II. It’s my hometown, but this will be my first time exploring the underwater world around beautiful Mun Klang and Mun Nai islands offshore. The recently launched yacht has brought us from the hotel along with a huge container of delectable food and beverages from its Italian kitchen, just for the day’s cruise. It’s a relaxing three-hour hop, skirting the white beaches living the cerulean Gulf of Thailand. En route we take full advantage of the ship’s elegance and convenience. It’s large enough to boast two spacious passenger rooms with separate living areas furnished with long sofas and wooden dining tables. At any hint of seasickness you can climb to the roof-deck for the cool breeze. The hale and hearty are up there too, lounging on sofa beds with comfy pillows. A little girl cavorts in the Jacuzzi. During lunch, the much-celebrated Koh Samet looms into view, along with a string of no-name isles. We anchor at Koh Mun Nai in the afternoon and make our

way to the headquarters of the Eastern Marine and Coastal Resources Centre, part of Her Majesty the Queen’s sea-turtle conservation project. Established in 1979, the 130-rai facility is ringed with white sand and tropical trees and plants. Simple wooden houses accommodate its officials. Someone’s made a mountain of fascinating shells and coral in different shapes. We marvel at a gang of more than 100 green turtles swimming in nursery tanks. In other tanks are older specimens, up to 19 years of age. As we look around, specialist Somchai Mon-Anunsap and his team explain the project’s history and policies. We even get to see a demonstration of how microchips are attached to turtles’ legs, and browse around the egg hatchery. There’s an exhibition hall with stuffed sea turtles and a bottlenose dolphin’s skeleton. “Our island is one of the primary places where sea turtles lay their eggs, mostly in the rainy season in June and July,” says Somchai. Our trip ends up with snorkelling amid strong waves off neighbouring Koh Mun Klang.

Photos / E k k arat S u k p etch

Now boarding You can sign up for a cruise via (038) 804 844 or (038) 619 025. Get 20 people together and the price is Bt28,000, including soft drinks, snacks and fruit. Contact the Eastern Marine and Coastal Resources Centre at (038) 657 699 or through

March 29-April 4, 2009

| 15 |


Oasis on the Bay Kantary’s other hotel-apartment property on the eastern shore is missing absolutely nothing

K he t sirin Pholdhampalit

P h o t o / Ekka r at S u kp e tch


ith a private yacht for rent, Rayong’s Kantary Bay Hotel and Serviced Apartments put you in the lap of luxury by the lapping of the sea, whether you’re there for the short or the long term. Surrounded by seafood restaurants on the city’s Beach Road, the hotel’s U-shaped buildings offer 190 rooms, two outdoor pools, a fitness centre, a snooker hall, squash and tennis courts and conference rooms. There are three types of rooms, with wood predominant in the decor: studios, single bedrooms of 70 square metres and double bedrooms at 115sqm, the latter two with separate living areas. All are designed with comfort and elegance in mind, and make the most of the cool sea breezes and soul-stirring views. The long-established Kantary Group has serviced apartments and hotels in Bangkok, Chon Buri, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya, catering mostly to expatriates and executives working in industrial estates. As with every Kantary location, the Rayong property pampers with all the comforts of home. Each room has an LCD TV, stereo with | 16 |

DVD player and, importantly, a fully stocked pantry. The en-suite restrooms have separate bathtubs and showers and plenty of toiletries. The wardrobes are big, with plenty of room for luggage and clothes. The two-room suite is very spacious, suitable for families or a crowd of friends. In the living room, a set of comfortable sofas and a six-seat dining table make a great space for fun gatherings. The extra in the two-bedroom type is a washing machine. If you want to iron your own clothes, there’s a common area set aside for that on the second floor. Also shared – and magnificently so – is the reading room, as bright as a greenhouse and serving complimentary tea, coffee, snacks and fruit with your books and newspapers. There’s a free wi-fi Internet connection in the public area.

What’s this cost? Until December 31 you pay Bt2,350 a month for a studio, Bt2,800 for a onebedroom and Bt5,100 for a two-bedroom. The hotel is on Beach Road in Rayong’s Muang district. Call (038) 804 844 or visit

March 29-April 4, 2009


Good morning

sunshine W

hile sun exposure has long been linked to skin cancer, a new Swedish study shows it also dramatically reduces the risk of suffering blood clots, one of the report’s authors said this week. “We found that women with a suntan had about 30 per cent lower risk of suffering blood clots,” noted Pelle Lindqvist, an associate professor at the obstetrics and gynaecology department at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. “There is also a 50-per cent higher risk of blood clots in December, January and February in Sweden, when there is the least sun here,” he added. Lindqvist and two colleagues at Lund University in southern Sweden studied the sunning habits of 40,000 Swedish women surveyed in 1990 about their habits, including whether they suntanned in the summer, the winter, used a sun bed or travelled south to catch the golden rays. The researchers then followed the women’s medical development for the next 12 years, and found that 312 had developed thrombosis, or blood clots. Even adjusted for factors like exercise, smoking and alcohol habits and weight, the research showed

March 29-April 4, 2009

that any amount of suntanning helped lower the risk of blood clots. “By sunning, you avoid a shortage of Vitamin D in the winter when people here in Sweden very often suffer a deficiency of that vitamin. It is only during the summer that we really have enough Vitamin D,” said Lindqvist. As for balancing the benefits of sun exposure against the risks of contracting skin cancer, he stressed that people should always avoid sunburn. “But you should go out a bit every day, and it’s not true that it’s enough to go out late in the afternoon. You really should go out in the middle of the day, because that is when the production of Vitamin D occurs,” he said. - Agence France-Presse

P h o t o / afp

Exposure to the rays slashes risk of blood clots says Swedish study

Waking up to mindfulness Thai Plum Village – the local branch of Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s centre in France – is hosting a series of events next month. April 8, 6 to 8.30: a free talk titled “Wake up to the Buddhism Society” will be given by Thich’s students from France at Chalernprommas in Chulalongkorn University’s Or Por Ror Building. April 11 to 15: A meditation retreat “Wake up to the Happiness” is being held at Wangree Resort in Nakhon Nayok and is open to all. April 22, 9 to noon: a free talk “Wake up to Justice World” takes place on the seventh floor of the Justice Court. April 25 to 29: “Wake up to the Future”, a meditation retreat for young people ages 15 to 25 is being held at Petcharat Camp in Saraburi. For more information, call (085) 318 2939 or (086) 688 4984 for English, e-mail or visit

All the fun of the fair The annual Red Cross Fair gets underway tomorrow at Suan Amporn on Sri Ayuthaya Road. Running until April 7, the fair will feature charity activities hosted by 200 organisations, an exhibition of Red Cross activities and medical services. Tickets cost Bt20. Call (02) 256 4440 or (02) 251 1218, extension 124. | 17 |




intage Vespas, souped-up in every colour and every style, are becoming trendy scooters in Viet Nam, which has now more than 20 clubs for those bikes’ owners across the country. The vintage bike enthusiasts come from different backgrounds but join the clubs for sharing passion and

| 18 |

love for Vespa. Every year, the Vespa aficionados go to Da Lat, which has the second-largest concentration in the country after HCM City, for a festival where they can show off their painted and accessorised scooters. The festival, featuring bikes made before 1975, is the first one to be staged outside of Italy, the birthplace of Vespa.

March 29-April 4, 2009

March 29-April 4, 2009

| 19 |


The Rise And Fall Of The Hemline Women’s hemlines rose in good times and fell in bad. Do you see the miniskirt now? MANILA

Amando Doronila Philippine Daily Inquirer

| 20 |




he global financial crisis, now upgraded by the International Monetary Fund into a ‘Great Recession’, has been linked to a great shift in the fashion world: the plunge of the women’s hemline. Bernard Salt, a noted demographer, has said in a lecture in Melbourne that a ‘Great Hemline Shift’ is taking place amid the recession, reviving theories on the link between fashion and severe economic circumstances. The most famous of these theories was advanced by US economist George Taylor in 1926 (prior to the Great Crash of 1929), who posited that women’s hemlines rose in good times and fell in bad. Do you see the miniskirt now? There are other theories associated with bad economic times. He points out that more recently the US chair of Estée Lauder argued that lipstick sales rose in a recession, the argument being that “when women cannot justify spending money on big-ticket fashion items they indulge themselves in a range of quality lipsticks”. (This theory awaits confirmation from impressionistic observation.) Another recession myth is under the spotlight. Writing March 29-April 4, 2009

March 29-April 4, 2009

even jagged. I can remember at the time of this Great Hemline Shift being greatly puzzled as to why a woman would have a “deliberately crooked hem”. “The deeply subliminal answer was that the design had already achieved its end: The wearer was being noticed. She stood apart from the crowd. It could even be argued that the use of gel to spike hair is part of a broader fashion conspiracy to showcase the individual, since no two spiked hairdos are exactly the same. “But with the recession comes a different set of driving forces. No longer is there an inherent desire to stand apart. Instead the driving need is quite the opposite: it is to fit in. “In a threatening world we want to retreat to the safety of the herd, the tribe, the family, the community. How many times have you heard world community this year? And during the boom, how often did you hear about the need to celebrate our wonderful individuality? “In a scary world, those making the case for individuality would be viewed as being a tad frivolous, what matters is unity and community.” In another part of the world, in Tanzania, these thoughts of an international community all hooked up in the recession were echoed in a grimmer platform. Speaking at an anti-crisis meeting, IMF managing director Dominique Strauss Kahn told delegates that “the IMF expects global growth to slow below zero this year, the worst performance of our lifetimes.” He urged wealthy Western countries to maintain financial support for low-income nations. He warned that there was now “a real risk that millions will be thrown back into poverty” across the African continent and that the economic crisis FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP


for the Australian newspaper, Salt says that last June Britain’s Independent newspaper carried a report that Japanese social researches had found “a positive correlation between women’s hairstyles and economic performance.” He adds: “The logic is that when women can’t spend money on clothes, they choose a hairstyle that offers greater scope for variety and you can do much more with short hair than long hair... The point is that there is an expectation that recessions drive different consumer behaviour... There is a different psychology for consumer behaviour in a recession that I think would very much play out in the fashion business. “During the economic boom the fashion industry was geared around the notion of the individual as celebrity. “The reason is that in a boom we are confident in who we are, in our employability, and perhaps even in our desirability. As a consequence, we look for fashion that enables us to stand out in the crowd.” Design and designers quickly evolved during the boom to emphasise the quirky and the individualistic, Salt noted. “Regardless of whether hemlines went up or down in the late 1990s, they mysteriously shifted from horizontal to daringly angled. Some hemlines were

raises “the real threat of civil unrest, perhaps even war”. In Melbourne, Salt said that if his assessment was correct, the hottest fashion colours of the recession are likely to be those that offer the greatest range of hues on a single theme: some black, brown, grey (or should that be ‘midnight’, ‘earth’ and ‘slate’). In Manila a few months ago, I observed that the dominant colours of women’s dress were black and white, brown and grey. Could this be a reflection of the grim mood that has engulfed the world as the recession deepened? “In such a world, garment structure would cease to signal the quirky and the off beat, but rather it would reinforce the inherent value and strength of conformity,” Salt wrote. “A return to traditional design should do the trick. Recession hemlines, on the other hand, would be different, ramrod straight and neatly tucked into their right position. “Perhaps the recession-inspired need for conformity goes further than the possible use of traditional lines in garment design... I believe that ripped and torn jeans have been a powerful symbol of the boom: ‘I stand apart because my jeans do not conform.”... Perhaps during the recession, designer ripped jeans will subside in favour of traditional styles. The reason is this: In a boom a designer rip is your connection to artful bohemia, whereas in a recession it just looks poor. “If you put all of this together you have the recession driving new consumer behaviour in fashion, with women wearing bright lipstick, short hair and long straight hemlines in a traditional couture constructed in earthy hues.” | 21 |


Spa Struck It’s trendy now to have sparties at spas in India | 22 |

Th e Nation (Th ailan d)


Neeta Lal The Star


arties in India these days are as likely to be held in spas as in banquet halls. Spas are places you go to only when you need to rejuvenate mind and body, right? Wrong. In India, the good old spa is now being re-invented as a sizzling social venue as well. So from hosting parties with family, friends and associates to celebrating birthdays, pre-wedding celebrations, book-reading sessions, it’s all happening at the friendly neighbourhood spa! In fact, for spa-struck Indians, a spa party — or ‘sparty’ as it’s called — is the latest buzz in their social lexicon. In major cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune, spa parties are achieving the double March 29-April 4, 2009

whammy of helping time-scrunched people bond over relaxing massages, manicures, pedicures and facials, even as they enjoy low-cal, organic food, fruit juices and beverages. Smita Thakkar, a Delhi-based entrepreneur, says she recently hosted a fun sparty for friends. “My hectic schedule leaves me little time to socialise. But since I love visiting spas, I thought, why not combine the two? I invited my cousins, friends and business associates for a spa party. “And it turned out to be a great way to catch up with them. We got treatments done and enjoyed delicious snacks. We’re now planning to make this a monthly affair.” Sva Spa and Salon in India’s financial capital of Mumbai is a popular sparty joint for Bollywood stars. According to a Sva staffer, film stars regularly congregate there for healthy food and relaxing massages. “Unlike starchy hotels, the setting at spas is informal, which is conducive to unwinding and bonding,” she says. John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra, Bipasha Basu, Shamita Shetty and many others have held parties here, not to mention many others from the Bollywood brigade who host birthday bashes here. According to Jesper Houggard, managing director of the Bangalorebased Serena Spa, “A spa party, with close friends, is an intimate affair which encourages social bonding. We also have intimate get-togethers for couples so that they can reconnect with each other. We offer them a special Adam & Eve Massage for such occasions.” Serena Spa, elaborates Houggard, has been one of the pioneers in hosting sparties. The outfit takes pride in not limiting its sparties to massages and food. They go the extra mile in adding elements of well-being like macrobiotic menus, hypnosis, Reiki (Japanese technique for stress reduction), Pranic healing sessions and even organise sparties for kids! Sparty packages can include any combination of massages, facial or scalp treatments, skincare, hand therapy, foot therapy, manicure and March 29-April 4, 2009

pedicure for groups of any size. There are no party minimums either. You can have a party with four guests or 40. In a quintessential spa party, the guests are served welcome drinks before being guided to the juice bar. After selecting their treatments from the spa menu, the group enjoys some healthy, light food. Fun activities are organised on request. Mayar Health Resorts’ Amatrra Spa at Hotel Ashok, New Delhi, for instance, is a popular joint with the diplomatic crowd. Nazia Quadri, Amatrra Spa manager, says their establishment also offers Coffee Mornings for ladies where they congregate over beverages and relaxing therapies. “The host and guests can have a leisurely swim in the pool or gather in the jacuzzi. Then there are steam and sauna treatments and massages. We

tenacious roots in Indian society, even kitty parties have moved to the spa. Asian Roots, a day spa for women, hosts ladies’ get-togethers though they don’t quite call them ‘parties’. “It gets too noisy for other spa members for us to host parties,” says Kamayani Kanwar, the spa owner. “The whole essence of a spa is to have tranquil surroundings which gets disrupted with noisy groups. So what we do is take bulk bookings from ladies, and while they are getting treatments done, we serve snacks and beverages.” VLCC Spa is also a popular joint for sparties in New Delhi. It costs between 3,000 rupees and 5,000 rupees (US$58 to $100) per head, and the food is catered by VLCC’s Alive Eating Restaurant, says Vidya Bhandary, spa manager at VLCC, Vasant Vihar. Recently, renowned cricketer Kapil

also offer a choice of herbal tea or health drinks,” says Quadri. While the broad sparty theme remains the same, there are a few spas who spice up the proceedings with a dash of novelty. Like the Gurgaonbased Fitplaza which offers Turkish hammam or common bathing areas for guests. “Many of our sparty guests don’t mind paying extra to avail of our hammam facility, as very few local spas offer it,” says a spa official. With the spa culture having gained

Dev’s wife held a sparty at VLCC for about 25 of her lady guests. If the mums are doing it, can the kids be far behind? Increasingly, kids’ spa parties — primarily for girls, though — are also becoming quite popular in India. In this case, the spa sends a sparty specialist to the client’s home to transform it into an extraordinary kids’ sparty experience. So even as the little girls enjoy relaxing beauty treatments, they are served party snacks and later dabble in sparty games. | 23 |


Deco d i n Food g L Labe ls


Poon Chian Hui The Straits Times

Food nutri labels ca all is tional clarry many the inas percei ims but n usefugredientved. Still ot a hea l clues to list can p, lthie r chohelp you rovide make ice

| 24 |

ow-fat. Sugar-free. Zero trans-fats. No additives. Made with whole grains. Sounds promising--but do not put that food product in your shopping cart just yet. Turn over the box and take a closer look at the ingredient list. You just might get a surprise or two. With the growing number of products making impressive health and nutritional claims, the shopper’s job has become increasingly tricky. What you can do to spot misleading claims is to learn how to read and decipher ingredient lists. “The ingredient list can be used to identify hidden ingredients,” said Natalie Goh, a consultant dietitian at Peaches & Pear Nutrition Consultancy. Start by looking out for a few keywords, she said. For example, words like ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ means that the product contains trans-fat which is an unsaturated fat made by the chemical process of hydrogenation (liquid oil is turned into solid fat by the addition of hydrogen). Studies have shown that trans-fat is linked to a higher risk of heart disease as it increases bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. ‘Sodium’ is another important word to look out for. “Ingredients with the chemical name ‘sodium’ contribute to the overall salt content of the product,” said Goh. March 29-April 4, 2009

As for hidden sugar, the giveaway words are those ending with the letters -ose. Sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose and maltose are all sugar. Always check the ingredient list to determine if the sugar is natural or added, said Jeannie Tay, a dietitian at Alexandra Hospital. For example, a cereal that contains dried fruit is likely to contain more natural sugar than one without added fruit, said Tay. If both have the same sugar content, the one with fruit may be a healthier choice as it probably has less added sugar. Sounds simple enough—but there is more to know. Ingredients may be disguised under alternative names, said Nehal Kamdar, a dietitian at Raffles Hospital. For instance, fat may be listed as shortening, milk solids, nuts or chocolate, she said. Innocuous-sounding names like yeast extracts, hydrolised proteins and baking powder actually indicate hidden salt. Sugar too can be masked by descriptions such as modified carbohydrate, polysaccharides, molasses, sorbitol, syrup, icing and fruit juice concentrate. Said Kamdar: “If you see some of these names in the first three items in the ingredient list, the product may contain unhealthy levels of fat, salt or sugar.” Also, do not be fooled into thinking that if an ingredient is not listed, it is completely absent from the food, warned Kamdar. This is because the United States Food and Drug Administration March 29-April 4, 2009

(FDA), an international food regulatory body, allows food manufacturers to exclude ingredients that are present in very small amounts. Local food regulations set by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the Health Promotion Board (HPB) follow FDA standards very closely. For instance, trans-fat does not have to be listed if the total fat content of the food product is less than 0.5g per serving, and it does not claim to be free of fat, fatty acids or cholesterol. However, there is a way to detect such products that do not list trans-fat but contain traces of it, said Kamdar. “If trans-fat is not listed, a footnote will be added stating that the food is ‘not a significant source of trans-fat’,” she said. There are times when nutritional values cannot be verified. Items are required to only carry a nutritional information panel when there are nutritional claims made. Hence, the only clues you can get are from the ingredient list. Take a bread product made with 70 per cent wholegrains. If the first item listed has the word ‘whole’, it is likely that the bread is indeed mostly wholegrain. This is because ingredients are listed in order of decreasing weight. “But if there are several grain ingredients and the first ingredient is not a wholegrain, the situation gets more complex,” said Kamdar. For example, the ingredient list may read: enriched white flour, wholewheat, whole oat flour and whole cornmeal. “From this list, you won’t be able to tell if the product is 70 per cent or 7 per cent wholegrain,” she said.


ot sure if a food product has too much sugar, salt or fat? Here is a simple guide to help you choose healthier food. Products that fulfil the requirements listed are healthier choices.


Less than 10g per 100g serving.

Drinks: Less than 2.5g per 100ml serving.

Dietary fibre

More than 6g per 100g serving.

Sodium (salt)

Excellent choice: Less than 120mg per 100g serving. Good choice: Less than 450mg per 100g serving.

Total fat

Less than 10g per 100g serving.

Exceptions: Less than 2g per 100g serving for milk and yogurt. Less than 5g per 100g serving for ice cream.

Saturated fat

Less than 1.5g per 100g serving.


Less than 0.05g per serving.

Source: Alexandra Hospital (Singapore)

| 25 |


Silla’s S Treasures SEOUL

The Korea Herald

These three remnants of the Silla kingdom showcase the influence of Buddhism during that period | 26 |

illa (57 B.C. – 935 A.D.) was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and the longest sustaining dynasty in Asian history. The period marked the start of Korea’s cultural development. Buddhism expanded and furled the construction of numerous temples and art works. There are three must-see Silla treasures in Korea that reflect the art and culture of that period.


‘Buddha Land’ is the literal translation of Bulguksa, which houses seven of South Korea’s national treasures, including Dabotap and Seokgatap stone March 29-April 4, 2009

pagodas, and two giltbronze statues of Buddha. In 1995, Unesco added Bulguksa to its World Heritage List. The temple, which was built in 528 A.D., is located in the southwest of Mt Toham. It is the palace considered to be the centre of Buddhism during the unified Silla period (668-935). The temple boasts an array of architectural wonGirimsa

ders which best represent designs from that period of ancient Korea. The temple has gone through a turbulent history when it was destroyed by fire during Imjin Waeran, or the Japanese invasion of 1593. Prior to its destruction, the temple had existed and served as the main venue of Buddhist worship for more than 1,000 years. The best time to visit is during auMarch 29-April 4, 2009

Dae-sung, a chief minister of Silla during the reign of King Seongdeok, and completed under the rule of King Seokguram Grotto Hyegong in 744 A.D. In 1995, Seokguram tumn when the leaves—turned vermil- was added to the Unesco World Heritlion red—enhance the scenic temple age list together with Bulguksa. The carved stones that make up the and its architecture. The imagery is structural foundations of the grotto stunning. were stacked up into a dome-shaped Girimsa cave bonded together from soil and Another temple in Gyeongju worth a clay. At the time of its conception, the definite look is the Girimsa at the foot temple carried the name Seokbulsa of Mt Hamwol. This shrine to Bud- Temple. According to historical records, dhism was built in the 12th year of “the shrine was built like weaving silk Queen Sundeok of Silla and served as out of stone”. one of the 31 head temples during the One of the most breathtaking BudJoseon Dynasty. It was initially called dha statues on display at the temple is Imjeongsa but the name was changed Bonjonbul. It is 3.5m in height and sits to Girimsa after its expansion by the on a 1.34m tall lotus pedestal. The Budmonk, Wonhyo. dha is known to represent the SeokgaWithin the precincts of the temple, moni Buddha, or the historic Buddha various structures and stone carvings at the moment of enlightenment. The remain intact, including the famous detail in the white granite sculpture Moktapji, which is a three-tier stone with its intricately carved delicate lines pagoda along with the Gunchil Buddha and carefully crafted engravings makes statue and Daejukgwangjeon. For it a brilliantly crafted sculpture. those interested in ancient East Asian Other notable stone wall engravings literature, Maewoldang might be of and sculptures on display inside the great interest. It is a shrine dedicated to grotto are the eleven-faced AvalokitesKim Si-seup who wrote Geumosin- vara that rests behind the Bonjonbul, hwa, the first novel written in Chinese Gamsil Jogaksang which is another characters. variation of Buddha in a seated posiGirimsa is also famous for the five tion which resembles Rodan’s thinking types of drinking water labeled Gam- man sculpture, and the Statues of Deva rosu, Hwajeongsu, Janggunsu, Myeon- Kings, which is also called Geumgansu and the Otaksu. gangyeoksa and serves as a fierce guardian protecting the temple. The statue is Seokguram Grotto situated on each side of the tower at the The Seokguram Grotto, which is temple’s entrance gate. The guardian considered part of the Bulguksa com- portrayed in the sculpture looks vicious plex, stands 4km west of the temple on with his flared eyebrows and open Mt Toham. mouth with his fist clenched tightly in Located 750 metres above sea level, the air as if about to strike the evil spirthe stone cave was first built by Kim its that try to enter the temple. | 27 |


Who Needs

Another Chair?

Filipino furniture designers are taking the challenge of coming up with imaginative pieces to survive the recession CEBU

Alex Vergara Philippine Daily Inquirer



he world doesn’t need (just) another chair or table because there are (already) enough out there,” says renowned Filipino designer Kenneth Cobonpue. The native of Cebu province in central Philippines has gained world fame thanks to Brad Pitt who has his bed and chair, among other designs. But Cobonpue knows only too well what the Cebu furniture/home industry is up against and what must be done. “It’s time for all of us to look and see how we can make something more unique and essentially Filipino that appeals to a global market,” he said. Cebu’s furniture export industry is bracing for the world economic downturn. At the recent Cebu X, or the the annual four-day Cebu International | 28 |

Furniture and Furnishings Exhibition, the country’s biggest design-driven companies displayed their best furniture and accent pieces. How to produce recession-proof pieces was the main challenge for exhibitors. Some presented design-statement pieces made, for instance, of “techno” fibers; others had smaller, one-of-akind gift items fashioned from an unusual mix of materials — fossilised wood, resin, galvanised iron.

Lost year

“Our company has been in business for 35 years, and it doesn’t get any worse than this. It’s terrible,” said Charles Streegan, president of Pacific Traders Corp and external vice president of Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation. “The current situation is a challenge as well as an opportunity for companies and designers to reinvent themselves, both in design and operations. For many of us, however, this year is already lost.” Furniture and accent pieces generated a total of US$304 million in export earnings for the country last year. The 300 Cebu furniture manufacturers and exporters comprise only March 29-April 4, 2009

20 per cent of the country’s total, but they account for 40 per cent of export earnings generated from these items. The industry provides direct employment to 80,000 Cebuanos, while another 140,000 individuals benefit indirectly from it. “From July 2007 to December 2008, the industry has already laid off 12,000 workers, and we’re still counting,” said Ruby Salutan, executive director of Cebu X. One exhibitor, Janice Minor, had to trim her workforce from 300 to 90. She did so “in tears”, as some of her employees have been with the company for more than two decades. “I had to make some of them undergo counselling,” she said.

Best pieces

Instead of presenting boring pieces, however, many participants displayed their most imaginative pieces to date. It was optimism and survival that led them to do so. “We hope to experience a turnaround late this year or early next year,” said Salutan. As the furniture market gets tighter, exporters such as Noreen Hazel Yu, general manager of APY Cane Inc, have deemed it wise to invest more on

March 29-April 4, 2009

expensive “occasional” pieces by design stalwarts Carlo Tanseco and Moroccobased Joseph Crisanto. “If you can hardly afford to pay for your house, chances are you can’t afford to buy an entire set of furniture,” said Yu, referring to the US market. “You might as well limit yourself to one or two items to inject something new into your living room.” One of APY Cane’s newest designs is a woven rattan chair in black and white, for the lanai. Another, in red and white, is made of plastic strips. The ‘Mombasa’ showcase includes accent pieces made of contrasting dark wood and laminated shell to liven up a small corner. Minor Inc used locally sourced fossilised wood (which, after millions of years, has turned to stone) for benches, chairs, console tables and coffee tables. “The collection conforms with the market’s demand for modern-looking yet organic pieces,” a company official said. Since the main material has distinct patterns produced by nature itself, no two pieces are alike. Minor also has smaller, less expensive, but unique gift items — jewelry boxes, lampshades and candleholders. “People may not be buying too many chairs anymore, but they can’t do without gifts to give their loved ones,” she said.

Untried areas

Designer Debbie Palao of Design Ventures Inc said that creativity need not be limited to designing. “Designers are looking into other forms of creativity, like how to sell on the Internet and improve their image,” she said. “We have enough good products. Maybe some people don’t know these products exist.” Although the world may have had enough of new chairs, the challenge for designers and furniture makers to create something different will always be there. “A client may say he doesn’t need another chair. Our challenge is to produce something so unique that he’s got to have it,” said Palao. | 29 |

S upach ai Petch tewee /THE NAT ION (T HAILAN D)


Chilling Out In Bhutan The erstwhile kingdom is like one slow, endless drink of cool, refreshing water THIMPHU

Alya Honasan Philippine Daily Inquirer


ne of the most unforgettable memories I have of my trip to Bhutan, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen on God’s earth, is speeding down the smooth road that hugs the mountains, surrounded by mist, while Beethoven’s Ode to Joy played on my iPod. Then, after a few minutes in the mist, | 30 |

we turned a bend, and I held my breath. In front of us stretched a gorgeous green expanse, framed by clouds and embraced by green mountains. This was Phobjikha Valley in western Bhutan, an important wildlife preserve and home of the rare black-necked crane that flew in from China in the winter. It was indescribably beautiful, like a postcard from heaven, a sight so breathtaking it moved one of my friends to tears. The erstwhile kingdom of Bhutan (which recently became a democracy, after the much-loved king Jigme Singye Wangchuck stepped down in favour of his son) is like one slow, endless drink of cool, refreshing water—it’s all quiet,

dignified monasteries, impossibly green mountains, cool and clean air, gentle people, and calming landscapes as far as the eye can see. It is such a tranquil place that within a few hours of arrival you find yourself slowing down, smiling more, and moving more deliberately and in less of a frenzy. Even after a challenging threehour trek to Taktshang Goemba, the Tiger’s Nest, one of Bhutan’s most famous monasteries sitting some 900m above Paro Valley, we remained quiet and unruffled. This dream-like state of mind was shattered, however, when I had my first taste of Bhutanese cuisine. No, it wasn’t inedible; after the aforementioned three-hour climb, you’ll eat pretty much anything. But the fact is, compared to its next door neighbours, India and China, Bhutan has pretty

March 29-April 4, 2009

ho-hum food. That is, the flavours are neither rich nor interesting and the food generally devoid of any of the exotic spices that Indians make wonderful use of. Except for one: chillies. Lots and lots of large, green, extremely hot chillies. In fact, the Bhutanese don’t use chillies as a spice; they’re treated as vegetable, eaten as a viand, and sometimes, to my horror, picked on by the locals without batting an eyelash. This, after my tongue feels like it’s been to Dante’s Inferno, or is paying for the sins committed by my other body parts. Fortunately, the setting wasn’t so terrible when we had our first taste of the national dish, ema datse, or chillies slathered (or is it disguised?) in a cheese sauce—think good old macaroni and cheese, but rated XXX. By the way, there are other versions of this, like kewa datse (potatoes in cheese sauce) and shamu datse (mushrooms in cheese sauce), but the chillies are the alltime favourite. I should have gotten the hint when, sitting in the dining room of our beautiful lodge in Phobjikha Valley, with a fire keeping us warm on that cold, rainy night, our amiable Bhutanese guide Tshering ordered some ema datse)— with three platters of rice. Now there were three of us hungry travellers with very unladylike appetites, plus our guide and driver, but the platters were huge ones, and Tshering March 29-April 4, 2009

had the frame of a teenager barely out of high school, so we wondered about the disproportion. Tshering replied with a twinkle in his eye that he wanted us to sample three varieties of rice, in three different colours, including a deliciously nutty red version. Thankfully, Tshering had the best antidote—a bottle of the locally made beer, Red Panda, cool and flavourful and brewed in the traditional way, so you can almost taste the barley grains. There would be more encounters with ema datse, and when there was nothing else I could eat, having sworn off meat, I managed to eventually enjoy it. I would later learn that lots of carbohydrates, chillies, and even animal fats were essential to the Bhutanese diet, to keep Signature Bhutanese them warm in the wincuisine ter. Somehow, with the ema datse Bhutanese’s straightforward ways, the radical cuisine made sense. We had another sublime taste one day, visiting Cheri Goemba, another monastery on a hill outside the city of Thimpu. Here, Tshering ran into an old schoolmate, now a monk in this Buddhist country where every family still gives up one son or daughter to the religious life. The monk invited us into his room, a small, simple wooden space with a bed, and a window with a fantastic view— how easy to contemplate the divine, I thought, when waking up to this sight each day. There he served us stale biscuits and the Bhutanese tea called sudja, laced with butter and salt. It tasted oily, more like a soup than a tea, and absolutely delicious—a drink that warmed the body, in a place that soothed the soul. It was the taste of Bhutan itself.

Five Ways To Enjoy Bhutan Planning a trip to Bhutan is not simple since you must course arrangements through an overseas travel agency with direct links, or directly through a government-accredited tour agency. You can do the latter through e-mail—check out Lonely Planet Bhutan or www. for a list of agencies—and they will arrange visas, hotels, itineraries, plane tickets, meals, everything for you. No backpacking allowed, as Bhutan controls the number of tourists who come in each year, so plan at least three months ahead. We had an excellent experience with Yu Druk Tours and Treks ( Only one airline flies into Paro, the national carrier Druk Air, and it goes via Bangkok, Delhi or Kathmandu. Don’t worry, though; the planes are new and clean and the flight crew efficient, although flights can be delayed. Tip: If you’re flying in via Kathmandu, get a seat on the left side of the plane; on a clear day, you can see Mount Everest, close enough to touch. If you feel light-headed after you land, it might be altitude sickness. Take it easy, rest, and drink lots of water, and it will pass. If you go trekking and it feels worse, the only cure is to descend. The essentials: a jacket/raincoat, an umbrella and good trekking shoes. Oh, and if you don’t bring a camera, you might as well bonk yourself on the head with a rock. Don’t be scandalised to find wooden or brass phalluses being sold as souvenirs, or hanging from the roofs of houses, sometimes crossed with a sword (ouch). It’s a favourite Bhutanese symbol to ward off evil, so when a monk in a monastery blesses you with one during a religious ceremony, try to be respectful and keep a straight face. | 31 |



LAO-STYLE: Buddha at Phuphra Wanchang across Mekong.

Secrets Of The Forest Discoveries on either side of the Lao border suggest Buddhism has been in Thailand far longer than thought UDON THANI

Phoowadon Duangmee The Nation (Thailand)


nyone flying over the little Udon Thani district of Ban Phue can see the rice fields stretching endlessly in all directions, with occasional cattle gnawing on stalks left over from

| 32 |

the harvest. Further north, along a canal snaking its way through the paddies, is Phu Phan, a sandstone ridge that reaches into Laos. The lifeless Ban Phue landscape is hardly breathtaking, but Srisak Vallibhotama, the archaeologist leading our expedition, wants to convince us that, for people in his line of work, this area is as exciting as an amusement park is for kids. “It’s so interesting!” he says. “The Fine Arts Department has exca-

vated several sites around here and found many artefacts that suggest Phu Phan hill was a forest-temple hub for centuries. “The boundary stones, Buddha images and other remnants date back to the late Dvaravati Period, around the 10th century.” Surely Buddhism hasn’t been around that long in Thailand, but we’re learning. Our excursion is a lesson in “animism, Buddhism and forest temples on both sides of Mekong River”. Siam Michelin made the arrangements, the latest in a decades-long commitment by the French tyremaker to the Kingdom’s cultural heritage. A mixed bag of culture buffs spends days on the bus, people like SEAWrite Award winner Wanich Jarungidanan, artist Sangkhom Thongmee and political activist Thirayuth Boonmee. We first explore little Wat Nonsilaard in the village of Nong Kaleum. Here are some of the boundary stones Srisak mentioned. They’re not your typical markers, but clearly ancient, three metres high and made of pinkish sandstone, with fine carvings on the lower parts of horses and people who are reminiscent of March 29-April 4, 2009

lapped, from the gloom of prehistory to Dvaravati times. Strolling around the archaeological sites you can witness the fascinating transition from caveman to devout monk. In one cave is a prehistoric painting of a white elephant and her calf; walk a little further and there are Buddha images set against the walls. “Such a serene setting—among the megaliths and rock chambers—made Phu Phrabat an ideal place for a forest temple,” Srisak says. “The forest monks left their mark at every turn—the boundary stones, the Buddha images, the prayer grounds and so on.” The trail crosses the Mekong to Phuphra Wangchang, a sandstone hill that’s only about two Angkor’s dancing apsara. Right in the midst of hours’ drive from Vien“The Nong Kaleum artisans might the forest we’re amazed tiane. have used the same bas-relief tech- to find another group of Again, the hill looks nique of those who built Angkor Wat,” boundary stones. mundane, but it holds says Srisak, “but don’t let the carving This has been called another important clue style fool you. ‘Thailand’s Stonehenge’. in the saga of the forest “This isn’t a Hindu monastery, even The description is temples, another link in if the artwork suggests that. This is a quite apt. Looming like a the chain that begins in Buddhist temple—a forest temple, to long-lost twin of the faUdon Thani. be precise.” mous prehistoric site in Overlooking the river, Monks who pursue their faith in the England’s Wiltshire, carved in the rock wall, woods usually come from a small fac- there are three rings of are two large depictions tion of Theravada Buddhism popular tall stones. Each ring of the seated Buddha. MARKER: A boundary marker at among the Lao speaking communities forms an octagon. Phutthabat Buaban, part of the Nearby is a flat area the of Northeast Thailand. “One standing stone so-called ‘Thailand’s Stonehenge’. size of tennis court. This Orthodox and conservative, they after the other two— was another forest tembring scant possessions to the forests in forming the three-layer circle,” Srisak ple, I can now tell. search of nirvana points out. “The com“The two Buddha images are often through unfettered position is as unique overlooked, or at least mistaken for meditation. as it is mysterious.” recently made images,” says Srisak, “The Buddha’s So far, much less is peering into their hands. “But the wisdom was continknown about the ru- posture and style convinces us that uously passed on in ined monastery than they were probably made in the late the folklore, stories scientists have pried Dvaravati Period.” based on his earlier from Stonehenge. The Three days into the journey and we’re incarnations,” Srisak remains seem to hark still encountering surprises. So often explains. “What back to the Dvaravati we’ve been told that Buddhism arrived we’re seeing on the and Lop Buri eras, in what is now Thailand in the 13th carved boundary suggesting the forest century, when King Ramkhamhaeng stones are illustratemple also originated invited Sri Lankan monks to visit. tions of the Jataka in the 10th century. Having seen the hundreds of boundtales about the Lord A 30-minute drive ary markers, strange megaliths and Buddha.” away is Phu Phrabat sculptures of the Buddha that are three We follow the Historical Park, nota- centuries older than that, it’s time to monks’ trail between ble for its caves and correct our perspective. the trees to Phutbizarre rock formaClearly the Buddha’s teachings arthabat Buaban, an TRACING BUDDHISM: Archaeologist tions with names like rived much earlier than those Sri historical park five Srisak Vallibhotama with Tower of Usa ‘Tower of Usa’ and Lankan preachers who braved the Bay (‘Thailand’s Stonehenge’) in the backminutes by foot from ground at Phu Phrabat. ‘Turtle’. Here different of Bengal. The sutras were here a full the village. civilisations over- millennium ago. INTRICATE ART: The stunning Buddha carvings at Phu Phrabat Historical Park.

March 29-April 4, 2009

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DATE BOOK Parade of the God of Medicine


he spectacular celebrations to honour the God of Medicine are spread throughout more than 160 temples in Taiwan, in particular those of Pao Sheng in Taipei and the Temple of Ching Tzu in Hseuhchia. The incredible procession at Ching Tzu Temple is more than 3km long and is composed of a huge number of dancing troupes, priests, pilgrims and costumed musicians. There are around 2 1 t ra d i t i o n a l floats decorated with flowers, each containing a figure from the legend, as well as huge statues of the medicine god himself, carried on sedan chairs on the shoulders of pilgrims. When: April 2009 Info:


Formula One: Malaysian Grand Prix


he second race of the Formula One season goes to the fabulous Sepang International Circuit in

www. formula 1 .com



Cherry Blossoms


dmiring the Hanami cherry blossoms at Yoshinoyama is a Japanese tradition that goes back centuries. With about 30,000 cherry trees covering the entire mountain, the vista is breathtaking. Visit in

Malaysia. Over 100,000 fans cheer the teams at one of the noisiest and most colourful sporting occasions anywhere in the world. Formula One is the king of motor sports. Since its inauguration in 1950, it has attracted the best talents in the world of motor racing, hungry for riches and unrivalled prestige it offers.

When: April 5, 3pm Where: Sepang International Circuit Info:

April or early May for a good chance of some action. The season here is also longer than usual, as the 1,000 trees at the foot of the mountain bloom first. The blossoming gradually progresses upwards, reaching the last 1,000 or so trees nearly a month later. When: March 30-April 13 Info:


Sinhala & Tamil FestivaL





angaur is one of the most important festivals in Rajasthan, held each spring in honour of Gauri, the goddess of purity and patron of unmarried girls. Expect colourful processions and noisy celebrations—especially from the women. Colourful decorated images of Gauri are taken out in processions with huge fanfare. Traditionally, the youth grabbed this opportunity of meeting each other freely, and some would select partners and marry by eloping! When: March 29-30 Info:

hen the sun moves from Pisces to Aries, the Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka join forces to celebrate Aluth Avurudda—their mutual New Year. This also coincides with the time when the harvest ends, so the colourful fruit from the trees is collected in bulk to fuel the week-long celebrations. The rituals begin with the cleaning of the house and lighting of an oil lamp, and women congregate to bash on the raban (drum) to

warn others of the incipient change in the year. Families indulge in a variety of rituals which includes lighting the fire to making the kiri (milk rice) bath, to entering into the first business transaction and eating the first morsels. Once these are done, the partying really begins as families mingle in the streets, homes are thrown open and children are let out to play. When: April 2009 Info:


Entertainment Expo


sia’s multimedia extravaganza, Entertainment Expo Hong Kong, returns for its fourth year. The expo will again amalgamate film, digital entertainment, music and TV un-

der one roof, attracting the very best international film stars, directors and industry professionals. When: March 23-April 19 Info:

Want more from business travel? 805 lounges Alliance-wide. You’ve earned it. As a Star Alliance Gold member, you’ll have access to 805 airport lounges across the alliance to relax in before you fly. To find out more about our rewards visit Information correct as at 09/2008

THE NATION ASIANEWS March 29- April 4, 2009  


THE NATION ASIANEWS March 29- April 4, 2009