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resort & spa c h i a n g

m a i

Mi n df ul Living in a Tranq u il Tro p ica l R e s o r t

RAINY SEASON PROMOTIONAL PACKAGE: 2 day & 1 night stay at our Superior Resort THB 4,400

The package is available for 2 persons and includes: - Accommodations at our Superior Resort, including breakfast daily for 2 persons - One complimentary High Tea set at Pont CafĂŠ, and 10% discount on any other purchases from the cafĂŠ - Round trip transfer from Chiang Mai International Airport to the Rawee Waree Resort & Spa The above rates are inclusive of 10% service charge and 7% applicable government tax Promotion available from September 1st to October 31st, 2012


offee lovers will be lured to the cozy Pont Café by the sweet smell of our fresh brewed beverages. The word “pont” translates to “bridge” in French, and visitors will no doubt be charmed by the wooden bridge that crosses the Mea Taeng River in front of the Meathaman mountains. The sound of the river flowing over the rocks provides a soothing backdrop as the coffee warms your hands and the aromas entice your senses. Decorated in traditional Lanna style, the café’s wooden house architecture blends perfectly with the natural surroundings and evokes the tranquil lifestyle of the traditional hill tribe peoples. Pont Café is not only a coffee house, but also a bridge connecting the past to the present.

resort & spa c h i a n g

m a i

Rawee Waree Resort & Spa ,Chiang Mai

168 Moo. 2 T. Keudchang, Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai 50150 Thailand Tel: 66 53 317539-40, 081-9809070-4 Fax: 66 53 317541-2

E d i t o r ’s N o t e


t’s not very often that we run a destination out of Thailand as a cover story, but in this issue we have a long feature on one of the oldest countries in the world – Morocco. Despite having modernized being so close to Europe, it is still rich in historical heritage, beautiful landscapes, and travel activities. The country is a melting pot of cultures made diverse by being a crossroads of Africa and Europe while maintaining its longstanding Arabian traditions. The cuisine is rich in flavors, aromas, and colors. The landscapes are incredible – from the summits of the Atlas Mountains to the fertile plains, from the greenest vegetation to the extreme aridity of the Sahara Desert. In Morocco, you can find it all. Enjoy reading. Suwida Boonyatistarn Editor

COntrI BUTORS TropicaL 91

Chief Executive Officer Wisith Chawalitanon Managing Director Manachai Inkaew Editorial Director Gaid Phitthayakornsilp


Editor Suwida Boonyatistarn

P. KornsilApA Gaid has been in the media industry since he graduated from the Theatrical Art Faculty at Silpakorn University in Bangkok. He was a part of the film making crew in several household name movies, a screen writer for several documentary programs and a columnist for Thailand Times daily newspaper. He is now a travel writer/photographer, the editorial director for our magazine and Sabaidee Magazine.

Editorial team

Publisher Tropical Hospitality Management Co., Ltd. (THM)

Sub-editor Bruce Scott Craig Stevenson

Trainee Chanathip Moraratana Online Editor Kanittha Attamate

Sales & Marketing Director Ruchuda Pokabal +66 (0) 89 224 5234

Bruce Scott Canadian born Bruce Scott has twice bid aideu to his beloved frigid north and started a new life on more tropical shores. While working for 3 years in the travel and tourism industry in Nassau, Bahamas he began an illustrated blog about his experiences, and created for himself a new niche as travel writer and photographer.

Sales RepresentativeS Mullika Puttaruksa Arisra Putsorn Sirirak Wannasomboon Photo Editor Nipon Riabriang Layout Editor Nutnaree Mathong

Graphic Designer Ekasith Theppitak Thanawatt Khongseankhum Sales & Marketing Manager (THM) Chonmapats (Big) Dechoprasoet Asst. Sales & Marketing Manager (THM) Nanthana Inkaew

Asst. Marketing Communications Manager Puenjai Potepanao Accounting Supervisor Kannika Suebkhamkaew


Administrative Supervisor Kanchana Yeyaphan

Stamboulis Dave Stamboulis is a Greek-American photographer and writer living in Bangkok. His articles and photos have appeared in publications throughout the world, and his travels have taken him to the remotest regions of Asia, Africa, and S. America. His book, Odysseus’ Last Stand, received the Silver Rottem Medal for Travel Book of the Year from the Boaz uses his camera as a medium, not Society of Amerionly to capture and interact with his surcan Travel Writers roundings, but to transcendthe borders in 2006. of language, time, space and political boundaries. Raw, undefined and superbly Hongchan human, he strives to capture the moments Residing in Italy, Panitda is a freelance that highlight the commonalities of our hutravel writer, an art exhibition producman existence, the beauty of the physical tion manager, and a pr coordinator for world that surrounds us. He sees, through Thai Embassy in Italy. Also a columnist for his camera, using the eye of his heart. Born motorbike magazines, she has traveled with in the UnitedStates and raised in the USA her motorbike since 2009 in South East Asia as & Mid East, he is now a full time photogwell as Europe to promote tourism in the regions rapher and focuses his career documenting through her photos and videos. the lives of people in Asia and Africa.



Editorial Supports Sukanlaya Buaporn Sujitra Yeyaphan

Editorial & Sales Office 8, Soi Phahonyothin 29, Phahonyothin Rd, Ladyao, Jatujak, Bangkok, Thailand 10900 Phone +66 (0) 2939 5512-3, 2939 5488 Fax 66 (0) 2939 5477 Email Color Separated & Prepress Vr Film Co., Ltd. Print Compact Print Co., Ltd.

Local Distributor Asia Books Co., Ltd. | World Of Distribution Co., Ltd. Regional Distributor Market Asia Distributors PTE, LTD Singapore Phone +65 (0) 6744 8483 Fax +65 (0) 6744 8497 Email | Hong Kong Phone +852 (0) 2756 8193 Fax +852 (0) 2799 8840

Advertising Enquiries Visit us on website at No part of this publication can be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. Views expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.

Phangan Bayshore Resort

Give us a try and enjoy some days you may never forget...

141 Moo 6, Haad Rin, Bantai Koh Phangan, Suratthani 84280 Thailand Reservation: Website:

Tel: 66 77 375224, 375227 Fax: 66 77 375226




SAHARA DREAMING Adventures in Moroccan Paradise

page 18

• Beach Escape SUSTAINABLE vs. ATTAINABLE The Eco-nomics of Ecotourism in Koh Yao Noi

page 40

• Traveler’s Journal EASY RIDER 2-Wheeled Travel from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur

page 56



• Affordable Indulgence • Artropical ​

• Asian’s Favorites VIENTIANE From Street eatables to Modern Dining

page 80


Tropi c al GU IDE


• Travel Asia

TRINCOMALEE The Virgin Beauty of Eastern Sri Lanka

page 46

• Photo Gallery


The Spirit of Travel and Culture Vol.10 Issue 91 2012

page 66

On cover: Marrakech, Morocco

• Movie Digest

GLOBAL DIGEST Hard Hitting Docs at Bangkok’s EU Eco Film Festival

page 76

46 76 66

Affordable Indulgence

Sky Promotions


Singapore Airlines

launches the new mobile website,, for more convenient accessing of online services on your smart phone. Also, the mobile App for iPhone and Android phones is available for download. Now, you can easily check flight schedules, make and retrieve bookings, check-in multiple passengers within the same booking, track status of selected flights and more.

invites travelers to take a journey to Myanmar with its newest route and direct flights between Bangkok and Mandalay starting from October 4, 2012, 4 times per week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). Apart from its new route to Mandalay, the airline is adding convenience for travelers looking to get to the heart of Myanmar by increasing its Bangkok-Yangon flights from 2 to 3 daily flights per day. +66 (0)2 515 9999


will launch more daily flights to many destinations in Thailand in August and September. Now, 4 Bangkok - UbonRatchathani flights are available daily. From September 1 onwards, 5 Bangkok Phisanulok flights, 3 Chiang Mai – Mae Hong Son flights, 3 Chiang Mai – UdonThani flights, 3 Bangkok – Sakon Nakhon flights, and 2 Bangkok – Roi Et flights will be available daily. +66(0)2 900 9955

Etihad Airways

will launch daily flights to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s commercial capital and most populated city, on October 1, 2013.It will be Etihad Airways’ sixth online destination within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, joining Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur,Manila, andSingapore. Flights will be served by a two-class A330-200 aircraft. +66 (0)2 253 0099



Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG)

introduces a snazzy retrofitted digital application for iPhone and iPod Touch users. New options include the ability to find hotels by airport code or map and a streamlined home screen with “tiles” that are easily tapped or swiped to access frequent requests, such as SPG account information, upcoming stays, customer support and special offers. A transportation button provides exact directions on how to get there via railway, airport bus or car. Other information available are local and emergency phone numbers, weather, room type, restaurant information and destination information with suggestions for recreation, arts & culture, or entertainment. Seamless social integration also lets users access Foursquare and Facebook to read or share experiences.


Hotel Muse Bangkok

Banyan Tree Bangkok

12 +66 (0)2 679 1200

Burgers & Beers are simple pleasures served daily: five mini gourmet burgers and two beers for 680 THB during August and September. Match and mix between five choice burgers including Wagyu beef with truffle oil, succulent lamb burger and mint, tangy Italian pork sausage burger with spicy tomato, Teriyaki salmon burger served with wasabi mayonnaise, and chicken tikka masala burger with yoghurt sauce – good things come in small packages, here’s proof.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is the most celebrated harvest festival of the Chinese people, and the traditional food for this celebration are Moon Cakes.Commemorate this timeless Chinese tradition with Banyan Tree Bangkok’s legendary Moon Cakes. Made fresh daily from Bai Yun’s kitchen, their preservative-free Moon Cakes come in an assortment of flavours including durian, assorted nuts, lotus seed,red bean and custard.155 THB per piece, or 680 THB for a box of four. The cakes are available from now to September 30 at Bai Yun Restaurant, Romsai Restaurant and Goodies Deli Shop at Banyan Tree Bangkok, and at Siam Paragon Mall.

Save Great Deal



Do you spend too much on meals, shopping and entertainment during your holidays? Let us introduce the Welcome to Thailand Card. This new concept in savings has just been launched, and the first city to be included is Hua Hin. Purchase your Welcome to Thailand Card today, and present it at participating stores to receive instant discounts at all participating venues in Hua Hin. To order your card, simply send a request email to You can also purchase a card by visiting our office in Hua Hin Soi 55, opposite the Jail House Restaurant. Cards are valid for 1 year, and are subject to an annual fee of 1,500 THB.

Discounts offered are subject to participants

and promotions at time of using the card. Typical savings would be 12 – 30% off normal prices at participating stores, restaurants and businesses.

Spas Chen Sea Resort & Spa Phu Quoc, Centara Boutique Collection in Vietnam is offering the Tropical Detox Retreat package from now until September 30, 2012. The offer is for a minimum of four consecutive nights in either a Sea View Villa or a Beachfront Villa, and enjoy a 60-minute Vietnamese massage for two persons per stay, with the choice of aromatherapy or skin detox. Prices start from USD 120 per night in a Sea View Villa. Also included is daily breakfast for two, including one breakfast served in the villa, and one three-course tailor-made lunch or dinner for two. +84 (0)773 995 895

Stay Novotel Saigon Centre,

a newlybuilt hotel located in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is a new upper mid-scale hotel which promises new experiences and convenience for both business and leisure travelers. The 247 guest rooms and suites have been thoughtfully designed to present guests with spacious, modern and efficient room functionalities, while maintaining the full sense of relaxation and comfort. The hotel features four distinguished food and beverage outlets - The Square, The Premier Lounge, Bar 167 Faubourg, and The Pool Bar. In Balance includes a swimming pool, a fitness centre, a sauna and spa. Located in the heart of the city’s business and entertainment area, the hotel is just a short 20-minute drive from HCMC’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport and merely 1.5 km away from Saigon Railway Station. +84 (0)838 224 866


the legend Maeklong

A Retro

Escape by River For more information, please visit Reservations: +66 (0) 34 701121, +66 (0) 2939 5512-3, +66 (0) 2939 5488

In Focus


DREAMING Adventures in Moroccan Paradise Words & photos by Dave Stamboulis

When I first came to Morocco some 25 years ago, I was transported into some Arabian Nights fantasy from a childhood book; replete with snake charmers, camels drifting over Saharan sand dunes with mud brick kasbahs tended over by Berbers in flowing djellaba robes and turbans. In Marrakech and Fes, a labyrinth of alleys and narrow lanes full of donkey carts and mint tea proffering merchants enticed one to get lost through the ancient medinas, where the various scents of the olive, spice, argan oil and henna souks wafted through the air. Of course along with this fantasy came the brutal awakening of bumpy roads full of dust, back breaking transport, plumbing prior to the Middle Ages, and a living definition of travelling rough.




hat was more than two decades ago, and while the snake charmers, sand dunes, and spices still remain, the Saharan fantasy now comes along with some of the world’s best and most unique luxury accommodation, good roads and transportation, along with some of the world’s top gastronomy. More simply put, Morocco is one excellent place for a holiday. Now accessible by multiple budget airlines, with its fantastic accommodation and restaurant deals, not to mention an abundance of sights and activities to do in a climate with over 300 days of sunshine per year, Morocco has become the darling of Europe. However in Asia it still flies under the radar, often getting erroneously lumped in with those unsafe Middle East or Arab countries, which could be nothing further from the truth, as Morocco is the crossroads of Africa, Europe, and the Arab world, a colorful spice bazaar whose scents and flavors wow visitors time and time again.



:: a horse carriage in the ancient medina


:: mint and sugar tea glasses en masse at the

Djemma el Fna


arrakech remains one of the most exotic other worldly cities on the planet, a former desert caravanserai which lured the Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, hippies, models, and Yves St. Laurent amongst others to its open air public square, the Djemma al Fnaa, where Gnawa musicians compete with snake charmers, acrobats, orange juice and date sellers, and horse carriages for audience attention. Over the past decade, hundreds of old merchant mansions have been restored and refurbished and converted into boutique riads for visitors, matching the city’s rise to fame as a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site.

:: a snake charmer at the Djemma el Fna



:: a midget violinist at the Djemma el Fna Square in Marrakech 25

:: leather babouche slippers for sale in the souks of the ancient medina



urther north, the same is happening in Fes and its ancient medina, a labyrinthine tangle of alleyways and passages and world’s largest car free maze, where life goes on more or less as it did a thousand years ago. Here one can see (and smell!) one of the world’s oldest and hardest professions, the leather tanneries, where workers stand waist deep in chemicals, dyes, pigeon poop, and cow urine in order to create durable high end leather to be turned into shoes, jackets, and bags for boutiques around the globe. Everything in Fes comes from the ground up, as the goats are slaughtered, the skins carried on donkey back through the medina, processed in the tanneries, and then sent to the thousands of master craftsmen throughout the old city, who turn the skins into some of the top leather products in the world.

:: the thousand year old leather tanneries in the ancient medina 26


:: a worker in the thousand year old leather tannery in the ancient medina of Fes





outh of Marrakech, the often snowbound Atlas Mountains rise up to 4000 meters and separate the rest of the country from the start of the real desert, where the Dades and Draa Valleys drift down into the Sahara proper. The land here is desolate and barren, but every so often hits river tributaries flowing from the Atlas, giving rise to dramatic gorges and canyons which surround fertile green oases, where Berbers earn a living growing roses and dates.

This for many visitors is the quintessential Morocco, where ancient ksour (castles) and kasbahs dot the landscape, made of mud brick and glowing orange brown to fit in with the desert sun. Many of these, such as the UNESCO preserved one at Ait Benhaddou, hail from the 11th Century and are commonly used as backdrops to major Hollywood releases these days, such as Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, The English Patient, and Babel to name but a few. Add a few hooded figures in djellaba robes, and it comes as no surprise that much of the original Star Wars was filmed here.


:: a woman carrying brush for firewood




urther south, the real Sahara begins. Sand dunes dominate the landscape, the heat intensifies, and if you head any further south, well Timbuktu is only 52 days away by camel, as a popular signboard in the outpost of Zagora states. There are several sets of dunes to choose from here, south to the oasis of M’Hamid, where the Erg Chigaga sand hills are set far from the road, accessible only via 4WD and camel, where space, silence, and the biggest sky full of stars you will ever see are your only companions. Further west, along the Algerian border, the Erg Chebbi dunes are closer to the road and thus more touristy, but the sand dunes are higher here, and offer great opportunities to go on camel safaris into the sands, where one can experience Berber hospitality under the magical desert skies. Even in this hot desolate land one doesn’t have to suffer like Lawrence or have thirst like a dromedary. There are plenty of comfortable tour operators to offer smooth rides, and even a 5 star luxury camp located in the middle of Erg Chigaga, where tents are outfitted with palatial beds, eco-friendly bathrooms, and service to rival a sultan, where a cold beer or glass of champagne awaits after dismounting from ones camel!






oming from the Arabian word for garden, riads are traditional merchant homes which emphasized interior beauty and privacy, with rooms clustered around a beautiful central courtyard and fountain. Somewhere during Morocco’s tourist boom, people realized that these exquisitely crafted properties were worth restoring and turning into boutique accommodations, and they have now become all the rage in Marrakech and elsewhere. No visit to Morocco is complete without a stay in one, and for many visitors, a riad holiday is often a reason in and of itself for making a Saharan pilgrimage. Celebrities, such as U2’s Bono, have often ensconced themselves for months at a time in these gorgeous fit for a king palaces, and they is no reason why you shouldn’t as well. Riad Enija


• Riad Enija : a fabulous restored 280 year old building that belonged to a silk merchant located in the heart of Marrakech’s medina. Full of Berber carpets, artwork, and truly a place to experience a 1001 Arabian nights fantasy. • Dar de Cigognes : a boutique designer set of riads with private courtyards filled with fruit trees and fountains, and whose terrace overlooks the daily spectacle of storks nesting on the neighboring Badi Palace, as well as a complete escape from the chaos of the medina outside. • Angsana Riads : a collection of six chic heritage riad lodgings offering one of Morocco’s best hamman spa treatments. • Riad Dyor : Well known European fashion designer Alberto Cortes has brought his Ibiza chic style to Morocco, creating a luxury riad with amosaic-tiled courtyard with six suites, overlooking the ancient medina and Atlas Mountains on clear days.


Dar de Cigognes

Angsana Riads

Riad Dyor

Palais Amani

• Palais Amani : A gorgeous and opulent riad with Art Deco design and garden courtyard set around a mosaic fountain inside the Fes medina, with the best restaurant in town. www. • Sofitel Palais Jamai : not a riad but a 5 star hotel featuring stylish Moorish and Arabic architecture set overlooking the labyrinth of the medina and a fantastic place to unwind

Desert Camp Morocco

Blue Men of Morocco

Sofitel Palais Jamai


• For the ultimate in desert pampering, Erg Chigaga Luxury Camp offers 5 star pampering amidst the dunes, and if one is pressed for time, is even reachable via helicopter! • For desert and other travel, Blue Men of Morocco can arrange camels, guides, vehicles, and just about anything else a traveler might want, and have a hotel and camel safari camp in the dunes of Erg Chebbi


HOW TO GET THERE Egypt Air flies daily from Bangkok to Casablanca as does Qatar Air.


Morocco has plenty of sunshine, over 300 days a year of it, and there is always somewhere that is in the right season, but plan accordingly. The desert area and Marrakech is baking hot in the summer (June-September), with temperatures reaching 50, whereas the Mediterranean and Atlantic beach resorts are at their most crowded then. Spring and fall offer the best of all worlds, with warm days and cool nights, plus plenty of blooming flowers or changing leaves in the mountains. Winters in the Atlas are cold and snowy, and while desert temperatures decent, you’ll need a very warm jacket come nightfall. 39

Beach Escape


vs Attainable The Eco-nomics of Eco-tourism in

Koh Yao Noi Words and photos by Bruce Scott


Khun Dusit Buttree, known all over the 50 sq. k m . i s l a n d o f K o h Ya o N o i a s s i m p l y “ M r B a o ” , i s a former crab and shrimp fisherman who worked t i r e l e s s l y t o b a n d h i s i s l a n d ’s c o m m u n i t y g r o u p s together and force commercial fishing vessels to restrict their catches further offshore so that the i s l a n d ’s l o c a l f i s h e r m e n c o u l d s t i l l m a k e a l i v i n g . I t w a s n ’ t e a s y, b u t t h e e f f o r t f i n a l l y p a i d o f f , a n d the local people won a 3 km fishing limit all around their idyllic tropical island.



ow this political victory translated itself into a new career for Bao is the second part of this remarkable tale. So impressed were various NGOs – from the United States and elsewhere – with the work Bao had done, that they started coming to Koh Yao Noi to meet with him and learn more about the ways of these fishermen he was protecting. The island’s few hotels were not enough to accommodate all these new visitors, and so to meet the demand Bao set up a “home stay” program, which proved to be more popular than anyone had anticipated. Now Bao, who recently turned 50, runs the program full time, with 25 families in the 7 island communities taking part. The noteriety of the program, now named The Koh Yao Noi EcoTourism Club and operated by Community Based Tourism Initiative (CBT-I), a Thai NGO, got a tremendous boost several years ago when it was mentioned in the Lonely Planet Thailand guide book. Since then Bao has seen his workload increase, but with a guest book that has comments, kudos and congratulations from visitors as far flung as Japan, Mexico, Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden and England, he seems to be still giving the people what they want. I caught up with Mr. Bao in January of this year when I made the journey to his tiny island. Set against the majestic backdrop of limestone karsts jutting out of an endless expanse of emerald green water, Koh Yao Noi is one smack dab in the middle of one of the most beautiful stretches of ocean in Thailand. When I arrive at Bao’s place – a short drive from the pier - I am shown to my tiny private wooden cabin, which is one of two he has built beside his own home. As it turns out I will not be staying with a fishing family but will instead be getting the grand tour by the head honcho himself. After a hearty dinner – prepared by Bao’s wife Aoy – and after the final Muslim call to prayer – about 2 hours after sunset – there’s not much else to disturb my first night in this quiet Muslim village. Soon it’s just sound of the crickets, and me on the front porch where I sit and read. After the endless din of Bangkok, silences like these are truly golden, and although a nice cold beer would be a welcome thirst quencher at a moment like this, Mr Bao does request that all homestay visitors respect the Islamic traditions and so no alcohol is to be brought into the community. 42

batik cloth painting process

The next morning, after a breakfast prepared once again by Aoy, I get on my rented motorbike and follow Bao on a tour of the island. We visit rice plantations, fishing huts, and one of a huge number of rubber plantations. The sapping of rubber trees is a big part of the local economy, and seeing this milky white liquid go from tree, to bowl, to hand cranked pressed rubber mat is quite fascinating. Later on we visit a batik workshop where an incredibly talented artist creates wax pattern outlines that are then painted in by local artisan women. The artist is mute, it turns out, but he certainly can express himself in his art. My second day on the island is spent visiting a fish farm and going “crabbing” with 2 local fishermen. The floating fish farm we visit houses an array of fish species including catfish, grouper, pilot fish, snapper and even lobsters. Farmed fish represent a substantial investment for these local fisherman as an enormous mature grouper (about 6 years old) can fetch about 30,000 THB, while a mature catfish can snag a further 6,000 THB. After the fish farm we take out the longtail boat and start dragging in the 300 sq. m. net that these two lads had put out the day before. I get my hands wet taking a turn at hauling in the line, and the men raise a cheer when my third pull nets a nice big blue crab. Unfortunately only 4 crabs have found their way into the net since yesterday, and that translates into a very meager earning (about 100 THB or so). It’s humbling to imagine so much work for so little reward. After the hard work we make our way over to Koh Kai Nok for some swimming, some relaxing and some lunch. This tiny white sand jewel of an island is located just a short boat ride from Koh Yao Noi and is uninhabited except for large blue coloured monitor lizard who doesn’t stick around long to greet visitors. Unfortunately there is also a lot of garbage that has been left on the island, piled up just behind the beach, which ruins the unspoilt feel of this otherwise pristine little patch of land.

drying rubber mats

a rubber tree 43

a floating crab farm

Bao points to the offending pile and explains it away with just a word. “Tourism� he says. Sadly this simple comment is all too accurate. Regular tourism in countries like Thailand seem to always end up with large multinational corporations taking over the best beaches, or whatever is in demand, and the residents in turn see their pristine landscapes overrun with tourists and trash in equal amounts. What Bao has sought to achieve with his home stay program is a way for travellers to contribute money directly to the communities they visit, and hopefully learn that respecting local traditions should be as much a part of their travel plans as afternoons spent snorkeling off a white sand beach. And although Bao has had to increase his prices significantly over the years, his unique program still offers the genuinely curious a unique way to experience island life without destroying island life.

How to get there: Boats travel all day to Koh Yao Noi from the Bang Rong Pier on Phuket island (a short drive from the Phuket airport). There is also a daily speedboat leaving Ao Nang in Krabi province and stopping at Koh Yao Noi in the early afternoon.

Cost: 500 THB per night for accommodation 200 THB for lunches and dinners / 70 THB for breakfast 350 THB p/day scooter rental Daily excursions to various local sites and nearby islands differ significantly in price (approx. 1,500 to 4,000 THB each). See the website for details. All visitors are required to make a 100 THB one-time donation to the homestay project collective.

Contact: Tel: +66 (0)86 942 7999 E:


228 Moo 4 Dolphin Bay, Sam-roi-yod District, Prachuabkirikhan 77120 Thailand

Tel : +66 (0) 2-5161 574-8 Fax : +66 (0) 2-5168 363 Mobile : +66 (0) 86-3407 879

Tr a v e l A s i a


Trincomalee The Virgin Beauty of Eastern Sri Lanka Words & photos by Boaz Rottem

As a tropical paradise, which continues to capture the imagination of travelers, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is growing rapidly. It boasts pristine, lengthy coastlines, jungles and mountains, ancient ruins, and sacred Buddhist sites. However, if you would like to explore a lesser known side of Sri Lanka and get off the beaten track, Trinco (short for Trincomalee) is where you should head. Mostly off-limits for the past 25 years, due to a civil war raging between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE (the Tamil Tigers – an army fighting for independence in the Tamil regions in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country), Trico now enjoys more peaceful times. The future is looking much brighter than before



rinco is the right choice if you wish to immerse yourself in a laidback, village-style atmosphere, enjoy untouched beaches, and bypass the mass tourism that other parts of Sri Lanka experience during the winter months. There are a number of pristine beaches to be explored around the city of Trinco, and travelling between these beaches is easy – just hop on an auto rickshaw to find your next sandy shoreline. Uppuveli, located 4 km north of Trinco, is one such locale. It’s a sleepy little village with a beach that stretches for miles. Uppuveli is a sensible base for exploring both Trinco, and the beaches to the north and south. Renting a bicycle for a day is perhaps the easiest way to begin your exploration of this area.

Of course, a half-day visit to the town of Trinco is equally recommended. Hike up to the 17th century Fort Fredrick (mostly used by the Sri Lankan military nowadays) and onwards to the Koneswaram Hindu temple, which is located on the top of the hill. Stunning views of Trinco and the coastline surrounding the city can be seen from this vantage point. Meanwhile, a couple of kilometers north of Uppuveli, the well-maintained Commonwealth War Cemetery holds the graves of 600 servicemen that died during WWII, most of them during a Japanese raid in April of 1942. Accommodation options in Uppuveli include mostly guesthouses, but a few mid-range hotels and resorts – such as the pleasant and well-maintained Uppuveli Beach Resort – are available as well. A few restaurants & cafés scattered along the beach are also to be found, and these provide great spots for relaxing and taking it easy for a day or two.


There are a number of pristine beaches to be explored around the city of Trinco, and travelling between these beaches is easy


Some consider Nilaveli to be one of the purest white sand beaches in Asia. Though many army bases and posts are visible, the beach itself is great for sunbathing or taking long walks during the afternoon hours.


Continuing further north, Nilaveli Beach offers a peaceful and quiet holiday option. Some consider Nilaveli to be one of the purest white sand beaches in Asia. Though many army bases and posts are visible, the beach itself is great for sunbathing or taking long walks during the afternoon hours. An early morning or late afternoon trip to the nearby Pigeon Island National Park is well worth the time and effort, and although the island is small, the reefs around the island are fantastic for snorkeling. As for accommodation, The Nilaveli Beach Hotel offers nice rooms, a swimming pool and a bar. Traveling approximately 14km south of Uppuveli, along the so-called “China Bay”, leads to one of Trinco’s best-kept secrets: Marble Beach. Breathtaking turquoise waters, framed by rocky cliffs and a tropical forest inhabited by deer, monkeys and other animals, beckons and entrances first time visitors. Marble Beach Resort, operated by the Sri Lankan air force, is the only resort here, and travelers can choose between simple but gorgeous cabanas on the beach, or delightful little chalets in the tropical forest a few meters inland. Staying here offers a great escape from the hectic life in the city.


Practical Information:

MONEY: Banks and ATMs are widely available. If the banks are closed, try one of the gold/jewelry shops in the town center for money exchange. FOOD: Trinco has a choice of many simple local restaurants serving both Tamil (mostly vegetarian) and Muslim (non-vegetarian) cuisine. HEALTHCARE: Trinco has a general hospital and a few clinics with English-speaking staff.

Getting There:

Trinco is linked to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, by public and private buses that leave from the main bus stand in the morning and the evening. As roads are fast improving in Sri Lanka, this is the arguably the easiest way to travel. On the way to Colombo it is also possible to stop at “the cultural triangle� of Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Dambulla to see relics from the ancient past. Trinco is connected to Batticaloa by coastal highway A15 (travel time: 4-5 hours), and to Jaffna via Vavuniya (travel time: 7 hours). Sri Lankan Air Taxis fly from Colombo to Trincomalee once a day, but the schedule changes quite often so check details in advance. The Rail-Express train 81 leaves Colombo at 6:15 am, and the journey to Trinco takes 8 hours. There is also a slower night train, but make sure to get your tickets in advance.


On November 28, 2012, celebrate the most beautiful

and the picturesque Chao Praya River’s view during the Thai . Gran

“Loy Krathong” festival with …

d Pearl Cruis e.

Cruise in the lap of luxury with Grand Pearl Cruise while enjoying a superb international buffet dinner and be entertained by our jazz-pop live band. You will be surrounded by the river’s natural beauty while passing attractions such as Wat Arun, the Grand Palace and Rama IIIV Bridge. You will be able to witness the electric float procession. Each customer will receive a complimentary Krathong to float on the Chao Phraya River and enjoy some of the most beautiful firew

November 28, 2012: 7.30pm – 11.30pm At River City Shopping Complex (Soi Charoenkrung 30), Pier 2 ** Free banana leave vessel for all customers

Someone to Everyone

When good

work combine

life AND the good

Vachira Lelavongtaeva, the Marketing Communication Manager at The AETAS Hotels & Residences, not only knows what he’s doing like the back of his hand, but he also does it with true passion. However, as the man himself also says: “Life is not about worrying what has happened in the past or what the future will bring. It is about enjoying those moments that take your breath away”. 54

Tell us a little bit about your job? What aspect of the job is your favorite? Marketing and Communications is a very creative career position. It allows me to invent beautiful scenarios in accordance with the brand standard. I supervise on hotel photo shoots, conduct media photo shoots, get TV, magazines, and other media to do exclusive stories about the hotel, entertain local and international celebrities, and publish ads in world’s most famous magazines. My favorite part of the job has to be the creative side of directing the artistic aspects. In a way, this aspect of my job is truly derived from who I really am, and essentially the outcome represents not only the brand, but it partially represents who I am as a person – symbolically of course.

Can you share with us your favorite restaurants in Bangkok or abroad? I have a great passion for good food. I actually do not mind whether it is on the street, or at a fine dining restaurant in a Five-Star Hotel. Quality matters most for me. I usually spend my Saturday nights in Bangkok’s finest restaurants. It is a custom that I have grown up with, and has been a must for me ever since my parents took me to all these great restaurants and educated me about the good life. I cannot ever thank them enough for giving me such profound knowledge and experience of the culinary world. Name some favorites?... If there is an occasion for high gastronomy, Le Normandie is the place, it also holds a very special place in my heart as I’ve been going to the restaurant for almost 20 years now, and they have not lost their charm one bit. Tables is also another notably excellent restaurant that really gives off the nostalgic feel of European cuisine at its very finest. Lord Jim’s, The Reflexions and Fireplace Grill are also on my ‘culinary sensations’ list for their true passion in culinary excellence. Convent Duck Noodle is quite possibly the best duck noodle in the city, and the old one-storey house restaurant has been operating for almost 4 decades.

We also know a little bit about your love for the cinema. Can you tell us the story behind it? Older films appeal to me the most, but I do not restrict myself to liking a film just because of the year it was made. What I look for most in a film is the true quality of the film itself. It is a real shame that we are seeing a gradual decline of great films, with so much junk being released in modern era. Although there are still rare gems out there. I thought the Batman franchise directed by Christopher Nolan was nothing short of spectacular, and the recent works by David Fincher – like Zodiac and The Social Network – deserve true recognition.

My favorite director though remains Woody Allen. I truly love his sophisticated tone of comedy, it is very classy indeed. His works are truly profound and have touched my hearts in the most compelling ways. Though arguably his best works are in the 70s and 80s era, it has to be said that it is simply quite remarkable that he’s still making quality films today. He will always be the best in my mind, a true teacher of motion pictures. Let’s hope for a better decade for cinema though. This generation needs to wake up and create another modern classic. Like, seriously!

Can you also share with us your passion in sport cars? I drive a Porsche Cayman R, a car in which I consider as one of the best Porsche has ever engineered. It is, in my opinion, one of the sexiest cars ever assembled. This car turns corners so smoothly you could boil an egg on the engine without the pot tipping over. I have always loved Porsche since I was a young kid, and to own such a wonderful car at such a young age is absolutely phenomenal.

What is the main philosophy of The AETAS Hotels & Residences? In my humble opinion, I think you can find good, or even excellent service anywhere in the world, but how genuine is it? I think it’s a very noble thing to offer services that are genuinely derived from our hearts and souls. From my experience in the hospitality business, guests are most appreciative when they can feel that the service has been carried out genuinely. It is only then that I truly believe we have accomplished the ultimate task in the hospitality business.

What aspect of life do you think is most important for you? What is your philosophy? Personally, I think that family comes first; family is the most important aspect of life. I think taking care of your family enables you to surpass evils that are cast upon you, and in my humble opinion, only those who truly love their family can be successful in life.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years? As for my career path, within the next five years I definitely aim for a Director of Marketing and Communications position. In ten years time I am probably going to be in Maranello (Northern Italy) driving the latest V8 Ferrari down a long road, listening to the roaring sound of the world’s finest piece of machinery. I hope, I hope…


Inspiring Bangkok

Tr a v e l e r ’s J o u r n a l



Words and photos by Panitda Hongchan



I’m always on the road. Traveling is like an outdoor university for me. It’s also a fun way to learn about the world and it’s people, both through meeting them and being a part of their culture. In school we are given situations and questions, and are then asked to discuss and find possible solutions. It’s the same with traveling as there are almost always unexpected problems arising that require our experience and ingenuity to resolve them. Not knowing how much of either would be required, I begin my trip, as I always do, the minute I hop on my motorbike and leave my house in Bangkok. This time the destination is Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia.



and my friend leave Bangkok around 2pm on a sunny afternoon. Safe in our bags are 2 laptops, a DSLR 450 camera, a Sony DCR-SR68E video camera, and just a few clothes. We’ve packed light, as the weight of these items, plus 2 persons on the one motorbike, is more than enough. We ride along Rama 2 Road (HW 35) and continue on Phetsakem Road (HW 4). We aren’t using any maps or a GPS. We just studied the Google Map before we left, and now we follow the sun as our natural compass. The rest of the journey will rely on asking directions from people along the way. Although they will no doubt send us off the wrong way sometimes, we’ll appreciate them trying to be helpful. Along HW 4, which inclines and then and disappears into the horizon, the white and grey crop fields come into view when we enter Maeklong area of Sumut Songkhram province. As night falls we arrive at the beachside Chumphon Cabana Resort in Chumphon province. Exhausted from the day’s ride, we fall asleep immediately after uttering our goodnights. The resort we’ve chosen is also a diving center, but we opt for mainland activities instead. After breakfast we take a small walking tour around the nearby paddy fields and fruit farms, and watch a demonstration of the ‘sunbathing water’ process. Introduced by SODIS (NGO) researchers, who specialize in solar water disinfection, the process has been effectively and widely used by the local population, who make use of Southern Thailand’s extreme heat to prepare drinking water using natural methods. Water must be acquired from clean sources, such as waterfalls, but the rest of the method is simple. Although boiling water or using a purifier might seem simpler, the locals would simply say this new method cuts down electricity bills, and they enjoy passing their time conversing with each other while doing these simple tasks.


Known primarily for its white sand beaches, Phuket also has a rich historical background, which is not so widely known. Translated as the “town of glowing glass�, Phuket has appeared on maps as far back as 1750. It was well known to the ocean cruisers who commuted between China and India through the Malacca Straight. Modern day Phuket Town, which is far removed from the beaches and other tourist-congested areas, still possesses aspects of the culture local to the Malay Peninsula, as evidenced by the architecture of the well-preserved Sino-Portuguese buildings and the Sino-Portuguese cuisine. 59


fter lunch we leave Chumphon and head down to Phuket for the annual Phuket Bike Week Festival. We check in at La Flora Resort Patong, which is located right on the road where the festival takes place. Before hitting the party we decide to relax at the resort’s roof top restaurant. With a bottle of wine in hand, we enjoy cool evening breezes while watching the water’s surface flicker in the twilight. Then, it’s time for the party! The festival, which grows bigger every year, attracts hundreds of bikers from around the world. It’s a great place to exchange engine tips, and to get to know and trade stories with like-minded bikers, some of whom spend more time on the road than in their own homes. In fact one of the people we meet is an Italian girl doing an around the world journey on her Kawasaki KLX 500 cc. The 3-day festival speeds by quickly, as we feast on great food, enjoy cold beer, and check out rock concerts, beauty pageants, and even goodwill activities like forest replanting. After the festival we head to Sadao district, Thailand’s last territory before crossing the border to Malaysia. We’re traveling this next stretch with a Malaysian girl biker friend who not only drives long distances, but also is able to drive at night – a rarity in her nation when it comes to female riders. By the time we arrive at the border (about 9pm), the custom is closed so we check in at Firatel, a biker-friendly hotel.



rising early, we cross the border at 8am, have breakfast, buy a local SIM card, and exchange our Thai baht for Malaysian ringgit. Before hopping on our bike and continuing for another 444 km to KL, we bid goodbye to our Malaysian friend whose house is on the way to this capital city. It’s early evening when we enter the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur. We can feel the cool of the drizzle on our jackets as we drive along a winding road that leads us through forests, and a cut through a hill where we can see the sheer cliffs lit up on either side by yellow streetlights. We finally come to a halt on Bukit Bintang Rd., KL’s epicenter of trendy shopping malls, entertainment, bars and restaurants. Accommodations on Bukit Bintang range from 4-star boutique hotels to 5-star spots like the Anggun Kuala Lumpur, but we opt to stay in a smaller, and much quieter, boutique guesthouse. From our room we can see the 452 m. high Petronas Twin Towers, the icon of KL. Designed by Argentine architect César Pelli, they were the tallest buildings in the world until Taiwan’s Taipei 101 building surpassed them. The Bukit Bintang area is full of cafés and restaurants, and is a tourists’ paradise, just like Khao San Rd. in Bangkok. However Bukit Bintang is a lot tidier, and much more high-end, and the majority of population is Muslim. I’m surprised when I notice the locals, especially the teens, are still hanging around outside their homes well after dark. It quickly becomes clear why, when we see a football match is being projected on big screens in several restaurants and bars. Curious to see if the teens are drinking alcohol as well, we move up close to tables and see most are

You may want to know:

1. Malaysian currency is the ringgit (MYR). 1 MYR is about 10 THB. 2. Digi offers the best rate SIM card in case you want to call locally or internationally.*** 3. Avoid ice if you’re eating on a street side restaurant, as the water is not filtered or treated.


What you need to bring your bike across Thailand-Malaysia border: 1. Thai car registration translated in English: This must be done by a translator recognized and authorized by Thai government. 2. Translated license plate sticker: Thai scripts must be translated to the Roman alphabet to be understood in Malaysia. Before customs, there are several shops where you can hire people to make these stickers for you. The cost is 60 – 100 THB, depending on the size of the sticker. 3. Vehicle insurance: Once you pass Malaysian Immigration and Customs, local insurance can be bought from a duty free shop, or one of the small insurance offices you’ll see on the right (they charge less than the ones on the Thailand side, and prices vary upon the age of the engine and it’s CC rating). 4. ICP sticker or a temporary Malaysian registration: You will receive this after presenting all the documents above to the Land and Transport Department of Malaysia (JPJ), which is located on your right once you cross the Malaysian Immigration and Customs.



ext morning we wake up to rain, but the drizzle doesn’t dampen our curiosity to explore the city. There are lots of vehicles on roads, and the traffic jams are as bad as in Bangkok, but nevertheless KL makes for a very pleasant city to walk around in, as the footpaths are wide, allowing more space for walkers as well as the coffee shops that arrange their tables and chairs on these sidewalks. Restaurants here are international, but a heavy portion of each menu is given over to Malay and Chinese food. We choose a Thai restaurant for lunch, as we think it will be fun to try Thai food in a foreign land. Once inside, we are presented with the menu and greeted by a staff member who doesn’t look very Thai. We start talking to her in Thai, but she just stares at us blankly. As if my friend and I can read each other’s minds, we apologize and walk out of the restaurant. Outside, my friend wonders if the chef is also a Myanmar national. Knowing she’s probably right, I still ask her jokingly how she can be so sure. “I could see the bethel leaf stain on her teeth from a mile away,” she says. Next morning we take a drive to see the twin towers up close before we bid goodbye to the city and head back up Malaysia’s East Coast. Even though I travel a lot, it’s still sad when a trip comes to an end, and once we put our helmets on and hop on our motorbike, we know we are bidding goodbye for good. But the end of one trip, always mean the beginning of another.



“U nd er t h e Com p assion of H is Maj esty th e K i n g an d H er Maj est y th e Queen ” P h ot o E xh ibit ions To c o m m e m o r a t e H i s M a j e s t y t h e K i n g ’s 7 c i r c l e , o r 8 4 th, b i r t h d a y a n n i v e r s a r y o n D e c e m b e r 5 th, 2 0 1 1 a n d H e r M a j e s t y t h e Q u e e n ’s 8 0 t h b i r t h d a y a n n i v e r s a r y o n A u g u s t 1 2 t h , 2 0 1 2 , P u b l i c R e l a t i o n a n d To u r i s t Service Division, State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is hosting photo exhibitions at 4 main stations in the kingdom which are Hua Lamphong, Chiang Mai, Khon K a e n , a n d H u a H i n s t a t i o n s i n A u g u s t a n d S e p t e m b e r, 2012. The exhibitions, called Under the Compassion of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen, display 99 art photos of the king, the queen, and t h e i r c h i l d r e n ’s p o r t r a i t p h o t o s t a k e n a t d i f f e r e n t p a r t s o f S R T ’s b u i l d i n g s .

Interested persons may sign their names to send benevolent wishes and blessings to the royal family and enjoy the exhibitions during the certain periods:

August 10th – 19th, 2012 August 24th – 27th, 2012 August 31st – September 3rd, 2012 September 7th – 10th, 2012

at Hua Lamphong station at Khon Kaen station at Chiang Mai station at Hua Hin station, Prachuapkhirikhan province

For more information, please call SRT Call Center at 1690.


Photo Gallery






A photo selection by Boaz Rottem


Qixia Temple, Nanjing, China 66


Idka mosque, Kashgar, Silk Road, Xinjiang, China



A small temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia



Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal



A monolithic rock-cut church, Lalibela Town, Amhara, Ethiopia 70


An old church on an island near Lake Tana, Amhara, Ethiopia



Extant and Otherwise by Jiri Kobos August 30 – September 30 The exhibition is a series of richly layered paintings which are rooted in the artist’s study of historical art traditions in non-objective expression. Kobos explores the spatial capacities of color to heightened emotional effect, inviting us to feel part of the spaces he creates. H Gallery Bangkok + 66 (0)85 021 5508 Opening hours: 10am – 6pm, Wednesday - Monday

Portraits of Light by Jirapat Pitpreecha until September 1 “Portraits of Light” is his 10th solo exhibition, showing over 30 selected paintings to tell his journey as an artist and an individual during his past four years. His artworks are inspired by both the cityscape and the countryside, his colorful canvases of different sizes reflect his emotions and imagination drawn from the atmosphere, light and colors he came to experience. The Art Center, 7th fl., Center of Academic Resources, Chulalongkorn University +66(0)2 218 2965 Opening hours: 9am-7pm, weekdays; 9am – 4pm, weekends

In Search of Love Painting

by Attasit Aniwatchon

until August 31 Attasit Aniwatchon is an artist who sees depth as not only a psychological illusion of colour or perspective but he also sees it reflected in the stylistic features he explores. Attasit has brought depth and his experiences to the challenging topic of love in his collection of works called “In Search of Love Painting”. Num Thong Gallery, Aree, Bangkok +66 (0)2 617 2794, (0)81 918 5067,(0)81 909 4907 Opening hours: 11am – 6pm, Monday - Saturday


Nuova {Arte} Povera by Krit Ngamsom, Boonsri Tangtongsin, Dusadee Huntrakul, Prateep Suthathongthai, Pisitakun Kuantalaeng, Lek Kiatsirikajorn, and Kentaro Hiroki

until September 8 “Jon DuayKlao” or “Nuova{Arte} Povera” is a part of ‘Living Crisis’, an exhibition that reflects the idea of “New Poverty” in the today’s globalized world. “Nuova {Arte} Povera” reveals how human thoughts are blocked off, while the information is contrarily propagandised through the world of IT networks that cause people to receive non-factual information. The 7 artists subjectively illustrate ideas within their different experiences and backgrounds. Bangkok University Art Gallery +66 (0)2 350 3626 Opening hours: 10am – 7pm, Tuesday - Saturday

Art in the Ninth Reign: Thai Trends from Localism to Internationalism by Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and BACC August 31 – October 28 This exhibition reflects turning points, defining moments and artistic watersheds by the nation’s renowned and emerging artists, presenting the breadth and depth of Thai art’s presence throughout the Reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thematic sections highlight recurring subjects such as Thai identity, celebration of royal cycles, social status, art patronage, dissident art, marginality, gender, taboo, experimentation and thrive for international Bangkok Art and Culture Centre +66(0)2 214 6630-8 Opening hours: 10am – 9pm, daily

Hair for Hope: the New Beginning

by Imhathai Suwatthanasilp

until September 30 The artist’s faith to art, passion for the beauty of crochet, inspiration from a bond between her and her father and the strong determination to help cancer victims are all the reasons to create these pieces of art. She created her artworks by weaving a number of hairs into various shapes. All the processes convey the meaning of dedication.Fallen hair from cancer sufferers who had chemotherapy and donated hair for cancer sufferers have a meaning of repair and rebuild, loss and compensation. ARDEL Gallery of Modern Art +66 (0)2 422 2092 Opening hours: 10.30am -7pm, Tuesday – Sunday


by Wait Group

September 7 - 30 The exhibition is by a group of 5 artists who realize the significance of the moments one has to wait or desire for something. The artists want their audience and spectators to take a break from this busy and ever-changing world, and ponder on desire. They try to point out that even for the most desirable things take time and patience before one can attain them. Waiting is not avoidable as long as one cannot live without desire. Koi Art Gallery +66 (0)2 662 3218 Opening hours: 11am – 7pm, Tuesday – Sunday


Movie Digest


- Hard Hitting Docs at Bangkok’s EU Eco Film Festival Words by Bruce Scott


n the wake of Thailand’s 2011 flood disaster, a film festival showcasing eco-minded documentaries from around the world seems terribly appropriate. Although small in size (only 8 full length features were screened), this EU Eco Film Festival was large in scope and focused primarily on the 4 key concerns: what we eat, what we drink, what we leave behind, and why don’t we do something about this mess we’re in?


SF Cinemas at Terminal 21 hosted the festival, which was organized by the European Union Environmental Commission as a tie-in to the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro. The festival overall was well attended, but it’s an unfortunate truism that festivals like this are only “preaching to the converted”. What would be much more entertaining would be to show these films to a Thai audience of key government officials, resource industrialists and over-zealous property developers, and then ask them if they have any second thoughts about their actions (or inactions). Ahhh, if only…

The Age of Stupid

2009, United Kingdom - Directed by Franny Armstrong Set in a fictitious future, this pseudo sci-fi doc poses the question: what will we think when we look back on ourselves in 50 years? By combing real-life news footage and original interviews, the film’s fictitious narrator, earth’s sole surviving archivist (played by Peter Postlehwaite), reviews the first 10 years of the 21st century and wonders why we let it all go wrong.

Recipes For Disaster

2008, Finland - Directed by John Webster

An average family of 4, living in suburban Finland, attempt to live for one year without using or consuming any oil-based products. But the challenge turns out to be nearly impossible. Filmmaker John Webster puts his own family under the microscope in this ultra-low budget but entertaining doc which paints a realistic picture of what people are and are NOT willing to sacrifice.

Above Water

2007, Austria/Luxembourg - Directed by Udo Maurer

Three stories, from three far-reaching corners of the globe, illustrate how upsetting the balance of nature can cause water supplies to threaten life – sometimes by disappearing, and sometimes by arriving in uncontrollable abundance. This bleak but sobering documentary espouses voice-over narration, and simply lets the people and the images do the talking.


Tropical’s Pick

Think Global Act Rural 2010, France - Directed by Colline Serreau

Synopsis: Through interviews with a large number of farmers, microbiologists, agricultural engineers, and even a few political philosophers, a portrait of modern day agricultural emerges and it turns out to be a grim one. But revolutionary thinking, and the incorporation of traditional farming methods, could save the day. Director Coline Serreau, who also made the commercially successful French comedy Three Men and a Baby back in the 1980s, turns her camera this time towards the problem of industrialized agriculture. By quizzing farmers and philosophers alike, from regions across the globe, Serreau delivers a comprehensive, muckraking overview of the modern food industry. The film begins by tracing the rise of chemically enhanced farming back to the end of the 2nd World War. Large corporations that had developed chemical weapons, now found they had massive stockpiles of the stuff, and needed somewhere to get rid of it. And they got rid of it by selling it. These substances became chemical fertilizers and pesticides, 78

and although they increased farm productivity in the short run, the filmmaker leaves no doubt that their long lasting effects have been nothing short of catastrophic. In no time farmers were forced to become reliant on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as well as the use of heavy machinery. This type of agriculture is focused on monoculture farming, and not only has it caused the loss of biodiversity, but it strips the soil of nutrients at an alarming rate. Meanwhile companies like agro-giants Monsanto use lawyers, lobbyists and government influence to actually outlaw organically produced seeds that compete with their own genetically modified seed varieties – the ones that farmers are coerced into purchasing. And since these seeds are non-regenerative (Monsanto’s “terminator technology” ensures that all new seeds from these crops are sterile), farmers are forced to buy new seeds year after year. Interviews with such notables as Vandana Shiva, a renowned physicist and philosopher from India, emphasize the crucial importance of restoring our soil and taking back our human right to save and distribute seeds.

The film also examines large-scale farming from an economic viewpoint, and the situation here is doubly exploitative. Brazilian agronomist Ana Primavesi, puts the problem into layman’s terms by describing how agriculture is forced to buy everything from industry, and in turn industry pockets the profits. And when agriculture then loses money – due to debt, commodity price fluctuations and natural disasters – it must be bailed out by governments using public funds. It’s a win-win situation for the big corporations, but a total loss for the average farmer. And in some countries, such as India, suicide rates among farmers are at an all time high. It’s sad to watch how the historical livelihoods of these people are being totally undermined. Luckily there do appear to be solutions to these problems, and implementing them on a large scale is fundamentally the only obstacle advocates need to overcome. A sizeable portion of the film focuses on Claude and Lydia Bourguignon, founders of LAMS France (Laboratory for the Analysis of Soil Microbiology), who are developing methods of soil rehabilitation that will allow farmers to resettle on previously abandoned land. And surprisingly there are vast areas of depleted (dead) soil both in Europe and around the world. The interviews with Claude, an affable scientist who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty and doles out advice to hobby gardeners and large-scale farmers alike, are both entertaining and remarkably informative. The film also follows the success of a traditional method farm operating out of the Ukraine, and in a slightly nauseating

sequence a rice paddy in India is rehabilitated using a homemade fertilizer made from manure, butter and cow urine. Seeing the results are wonderful, but seeing this concoction being made is not for the faint of heart (or stomach). “Films full of warnings and disasters have been made and have served their purpose, but now it is time to show that solutions do exist,” explains Serreau in an interview available on the film’s website. “It is time to hear what farmers, philosophers and economists have to say.” With a running time 113 minutes, the film is a highly informative, well-produced, well-researched documentary that not only rings the alarm bells but also points to a few solutions as well. It’s unlikely that the entire food fiasco situation will resolve itself overnight, considering how much money is at stake for the major players in the industrialized agriculture business, but pointing the finger of blame is as good a start as any in getting people to realize that food is a human right and not a luxury. As Vandana Shiva explains near the conclusion of the film: “We are not at war against technical inventions and modern communications. It is not about returning to the Stone Age. It is about asserting our right to feed ourselves, our right to be healthy, and our freedom via self-sufficiency. We can no longer depend on the goodwill of businessmen and politicians when it comes to our survival. It is not about going backwards, but changing the paradigm to ensure our future.”


A s i a n’s F a v o r i t e s

Vientiane From Street Eatables to Modern Dining

Words by Malissa Richter and

Alan Wass photos by Sabaide

e Magazine

Food and restaurants are an intricate part of South East Asian culture. This part of the world has always prided itself on its top-notch local cuisine, where zesty and exuberant tastes are the key to its success.

“Sticky rice”



aotian food has yet to garner the same attention on the world stage as some other Asian countries such as Thailand, Japan or China; but this oversight simply allows one to discover new food experiences that captivate the imagination and stimulate the palate. Lao’s capital city - Vientiane is now also becoming a great venue for food connoisseurs with lots of eating options that really propel the city into a new and fascinating epoch. Lao is famous for its tasty street food and vendors that have become a part of Laotian culture. The quickest way to peel back the layers and discover the soul of any city is to dive headfirst into its cuisine. “What we eat� is intimately linked with our history, environment, passions and traditions; and is ultimately a visceral reflection of our cultural identity.


Vientiane is no exception, and it is the street food found throughout the city that tells the most compelling story. Nestled along the mighty Mekong River and sharing a border with Thailand, Vientiane is a city of contrast with an easy going small town feel and an eclectic and vibrant food scene. The adventure truly begins as you wander the dusty streets of Vientiane and explore the many food stalls that emerge along balmy river banks in the evening. Here you will find a kaleidoscope of brilliant food options such as smoky and moist barbecued chicken (Ping Gai) on a stick, marinated grilled pork (Ping Moo), sweet sticky rice steamed in bamboo, spicy papaya salads and a plethora of aromatic curries and stir-fry’s. One of the first things you will notice about Laotian food is that Sticky Rice is the centerpiece that all meals revolve around. It is quintessentially Laotian and it is not uncommon to hear locals refer to themselves as “Luk Khao Niaow”, which means “children or descendants of sticky rice”. Most Laotian meals consist of a soup dish such as Keng No May, a clear soup made from bamboo shoots, or Keng Het Bot made with mushrooms. This is traditionally served with a grilled dish, a sauce, fresh greens, and a mixed dish such as Laap. Fish, chicken, duck, pork, beef, buffalo or some other type of local game is used in making Laap. The meat and innards are finely chopped and spiced

“ Tam Make Hoong” or Papaya salads


“Keng Het”


“Ping Gai”

with onion, chilies, lime juice, fish sauce, mint, coriander, spring onion and crushed uncooked rice grains. There is another version called Laap Seua, or “Tiger Laap”, that is made from raw chopped meat or fish and is a “must try” for those who are a bit more adventurous. Both versions are usually served with fresh raw vegetables such as eggplants, chilies, mustard leaves and lettuce. Few things are as satisfying as a spicy bowl of Tam Make Hoong, also known a green papaya salad. Popularized by Thailand, this dish originally hails from Laos and it is all about finding the perfect balance between sour, spicy, salty, and sweet elements. It’s a heady mix of raw green papaya, chilies, lime, tomatoes, fish sauce, peanut, shrimp paste, palm sugar, garlic, yard green beans and often times crushed and brined raw field crabs. This can be eaten as a snack but is more commonly served as an accompaniment to a larger meal. Fresh seafood is also an integral part of the diet in Vientiane and locals consider it a birthright. Hawkers proudly showcase grilled salt-encrusted and lemongrass stuffed tilapia alongside bowls of slowly melting ice that boast giant prawns and fresh squid that you can have cooked to order. They will grill it, steam it, or stir fry it in giant woks 83


with chilies and fresh herbs of your choosing. Locally sourced fish and frogs also swim in aerated bins of water until they are unceremoniously selected to be the main course on someone’s dinner plate for the night. Another popular dish is a noodle soup called Feu. Similar to Vietnamese Pho, it is a hearty soup that is commonly sold on the streets and is usually eaten as a complete meal in its self. It is a combination of vermicelli noodles in a hot soup filled with meat or meatballs. It is served with vegetables leaves which you tear up and stir into your feu according to your personal taste; and it additionally comes with a choice of condiments such as fish sauce, chili sauce and sugar. There are countless vendors and makeshift restaurants that appear along the Mekong River each evening where you can explore countless varieties of these delectable delights.



If you want to avoid smoke and dust, there are modern dining options in Vientiane which are not just reserved for western food styles, but also Asian, such as the Café Indochine Restaurant located on Setthathirath Road in the Chanthabouly District, specializing in modern Vietnamese cuisine, or Rashmi’s Indian Fusion also based opposite from the Lao Plaza Hotel on Samsenthai Road. Benoni Cafe is centrally located a few blocks from the Mekong Riverfront. There’s a rush around lunchtime on most days at this busy cafe. Small portions of well prepared and tasty foods await you at this modern styled Italian/ Asian cafe. Xayoh Grill House is another modern dining choice, situated right in front of the National Cultural Hall, on Samsenthai Rd, right in the heart of Vientiane. If you are seeking out one of the best steaks in Vientiane, Xayoh Grill House is the place to visit. When it comes to modern western food and bakeries, Joma Bakery is the first-choice lunch stop for many expatriate workers in Vientiane, partly because the large and stylish café is a good place for meetings but mainly because it does a brisk trade in delicious pastries, sandwiches, quiche, muesli, fruit, shakes and coffee. The bakery is situated Setthathirat Road and is highly recommended.

Benoni Cafe


Xayoh grill house

Joma Bakery

Vientiane has become a city of vast choice, which is in stark contrast to the limited dining options of just five years ago. The new and modern Vientiane is a different place than before, now proving cuisine styles from the four corners of the globe, which is excellent for those visiting the city from many countries across the world. Everywhere you look; anytime of the day, there are people eating something wonderful in Vientiane. While this city allows you to enjoy diversity of international cuisine; at its heart, Laotian food is the lifeblood in which all great meals in Vientiane are built upon. Fresh, bold, and harmoniously balanced, it’s a fantasy of chili, lime and exotic herbs. Laotian cuisine is fundamentally simple food that surprises and delights you at every turn. There is no need to think about it… “it’s love at first bite” and it’s hard to deny how instinctually satisfying it is. 87


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