Memories of Thailand

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Celebrating Thai Vegetarian Festival at SALA
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Anantara’s Elephant Parade coming to Bangkok
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Walking with giants at Anantara Golden Triangle
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Celebrating Mother’s Day at Dusit
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Six Senses Yao Noi’s week-long culinary and wine events
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The hell of Hell Fire Pass
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Greetings from 1936 at Centara Hua Hin

Celebrating Thai Vegetarian Festival at SALA

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SEVERAL SALA HOSPITALITY GROUP resorts will be highlighting a vegetarian option to their menus during this year’s Vegetarian Festival, which runs from Oct. 13-21.

The Thai Vegetarian Festival begins on the 15th day of the waning of the 10th month of the Thai lunar calendar.

Many Thais observe the Vegetarian Festival, even if they do not practice Vegetarianism throughout the year. The festival is popular throughout Thailand, but most especially in areas with large populations of Chinese immigrants, such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.

During this festival, Thai people practice jay, taken from Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, it means eight precepts observance.

These include the avoidance of eating any animal meat is one of the eight precepts. To hold the precepts (or teu sil gin jay) you must keep their body clean, keep your eating utensils clean, and make sure you do not share utensils with people not observing the festival.

They must also wear white clothing whenever possible, inflict no harm on animals, and be mindful of their thoughts and actions. Devotees also abstain from sex and alcohol during the festival. 

SALA Phuket will be providing special vegetarian lunch dishes during the festival period that will feature vegetarian fare, such as crispy quinoa dumplings in mild green coconut curry with Thai basil and pea eggplant. For more information, call +66 (0) 7633 8888

sala lanna Chiang Mai will be offering a vegetarian dining option at its italia restaurant, with dishes like yellow tofu with three-mushroom in soya sesame glaze, at its riverside setting. For more information, call +66 (0) 5324 2588.

sala rattanakosin is offering Bangkok devotees a vegetarian special menu throughout the festival, ensuring practising diners do not have to compromise on taste. For more information, call +66 (0) 2622 1388.

 

 

Anantara’s Elephant Parade coming to Bangkok

Elephant Parade S. Bishop

ANANTARA HOTELS RESORTS & SPAS is partnering with Elephant Parade and top local and international celebrities and artists to bring the world’s largest open air art exhibition, Elephant Parade, to Bangkok.

The exhibition will see a herd of almost 100, 1.5 metre brightly coloured elephants, which have been specially decorated and hand painted and will be exhibited as a herd in key locations throughout Bangkok, starting Dec. 1, 2015 and ending on Jan. 29, 2016.

The first major Elephant Parade was held in Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 2007 and has since been exhibited in cities across the world including London, Singapore, Amsterdam, Milan and Hong Kong.

Elephant Parade Bangkok will be a first for Thailand and the only one for the city.

The event was originally created after founder Marc Spits and his son Mike visited the Friends of the Asian Elephant hospital in Lampang, Thailand, which treats sick and injured elephants. There they saw Mosha, a baby elephant who lost her leg after stepping on a landmine when only seven months old and was the first elephant to receive a prosthetic limb. She is fitted with a new leg every year, and each time must learn to walk all over again.

Mosha features in each Elephant Parade exhibition and will have a specially Thai-themed painted prosthetic leg for the Bangkok Parade.

Artists from all walks of life have been busy designing their elephants, each an original piece of art to help paint a brighter future for Thailand’s national animal.

Famous supporters of Elephant Parade Bangkok include: Hangover 2 star Nirut Sirichanya; Furious 7 star Tony Jaa; Designer Paul Smith; World Number One DJ, Hardwell; Miss Thailand World, Sirinya Bishop; Artists Elizabeth Romhild, Elsie Evans and Nancy Chandler, Sculptor Gavin Fifield and a wide range of Thai celebrities and artists.

Anantara Elephant Parade 2“In my life I have spent a lot of quality time with elephants. I grew up in a mahout family and started my movie career with an elephant as a co-star,” said Furious 7 star and Elephant Parade Ambassador Tony Jaa.

“I want to thank all the people and organizations who take the time and resources to ensure the safety of these intelligent creatures in Thailand and around the world.”

In February 2016 a selection of elephants from the parade will be auctioned off at a charity gala dinner at Anantara Siam Bangkok, with the proceeds going to the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which, in turn, will select and fund a range of sustainable programs that benefit the elephants of Thailand, including Wildlife Alliance, Freeland, WildAid, Think Elephants and Thai Elephant Therapy Project.

The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) was set up in 2006 to improve the plight of Thailand’s elephants, and has since been diversified to include welfare projects that incorporate broader philanthropic and cultural objectives with unprecedented success.

“As a company, we are always looking for like-minded partners who share our true passion in saving the Asian elephant and Elephant Parade has long been known for its elephant conservation efforts in Thailand, which is why we feel this partnership is the ideal fit,” said William E. Heinecke, Chairman and CEO of Minor International, the parent company of Anantara Hotels Resorts & Spas.

“The more awareness that is raised on the plight of domestic and wild elephants in Thailand the better the chances we have for their survival. I can’t think of a better way to raise awareness than bringing the largest open air art exhibition in support of Asian Elephants to Bangkok in 2015.”

“Elephant Parade is very proud and excited to team up with such a great company as Anantara and The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. We share the same commitment and values in helping save the Asian elephant, ultimately from extinction.

“We’ve travelled all over the world with Elephant Parade and now it feels like we are coming home, with our upcoming event in Bangkok. I am sure this exposition will be our most exciting and colourful one to date,” Mike Spits, Elephant Parade founder.

For more information on Elephant Parade, visit http://www.elephantparadebangkok.com

 

 

 

Walking with giants at Anantara Golden Triangle

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A NEW TWO-HOUR Walking with Giants experience has been introduced at Anantara Golden Triangle, offering a more personal and enriching encounter.

Walking with Giants was devised as an optimum way of getting to know the elephants better and develop a deeper emotional connection. It’s more than a simple walk.

It enables guests to experience the natural joy of the elephants’ daily free roaming time, and also to gain enlightening insights from scientifically qualified experts about how these intelligent creatures think and behave.

Guests who sign up for Walking with Giants join the elephants on their daily stroll, accompanied by their mahout caregivers and either the Camp’s resident vet or biologist.

After walking from the Elephant Camp out to the grasslands or forest, depending on the season, the antics of either river bath time or playtime in the mud illustrates just how cheeky these graceful animals can be.

Guests can help to prepare snacks for the elephants, as well as activities for their behavioural enrichment.

Meandering back to the camp, the scientific expert explains about elephant biology and behaviour, and also reveals fascinating facts and insights about the past, present and hopeful future for all of Thailand’s elephants.

“One of the most inspiring and heartwarming aspects of the camp is when we can give the elephants freedom to roam in their native jungle habitat, and creating this new activity provides guests with a prime opportunity to experience the pure joy of simply being with elephants as they socialize and behave completely naturally,” said John Roberts, Anantara’s Director of Elephants and Conservation Efforts.

“It is also a fantastic experience for enthusiasts who are interested in learning about these majestic mammals from a scientific perspective.”

Under the guidance and expertise of John Roberts, guests can rest assured that all activities are ethical at the award winning Elephant Camp of Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort.

Anantara_Golden_Triangle_three_country_viewSet up in 2003 as a traditional mahout village, the Elephant Camp works alongside Anantara’s Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.

To date more than 40 elephants have been rescued from Thailand’s city streets, of which 20 now live in the jungle environment of Anantara’s Elephant Camp, along with their entire mahout family, who receive English lessons, education for their children, and 100% of the profits from the sale of garments from a traditional silk worm business.

The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation also co-operates with the Thai government and other organizations in bigger picture projects. It has helped to fund research and clinics using elephants in therapy sessions for children living with autism.

It equipped the first elephant hospital in Krabi, southern Thailand, with an ATV, and has also donated to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang, including, a purpose-built elephant ambulance and a gantry to help lame elephants stand.

The foundation also built the world’s only facility to scientifically research elephant intelligence and behavior, and runs the world’s only program to teach scientific Positive Reinforcement training methods to traditional mahouts.

Along with its parent company, Minor International, the foundation is working with international partners and the Cambodian Government to fund the protection of an 18,000 hectare elephant corridor of standing forest in the Cardamom Mountains and funding wild elephant preservation projects in Kui Buri, Thap Lan & Khao Yai National Parks in Thailand.

Walking with Giants, along with the Mahout Experience and Elephant Learning Experience, is offered as part of the resort’s luxurious all-inclusive Discovery Package, while a range of additional elephant activities (Elephant Yoga, Sunset Elephant Trek, Dining by Design at the Baby Elephant Camp and Elephant Picnic) are available at an extra charge.

For more information about Walking with Giants and the other ethical elephant experiences available at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, visit www.anantara.com

 

 

Celebrating Mother’s Day at Dusit

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AUGUST 12TH HOLDS a special significance in Thailand. Since 1976, this is the day Thais celebrate Mother’s Day, as it is the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the ‘mother’ of the nation.

Traditionally, the day begins with the family giving alms to monks at the temple. Children kneel before their mothers to express their love and gratitude and present her with Jasmine flowers, the Thai symbol of maternal love.

Celebrate your beloved Mum for the entire month of August.  Treat her to a staycation she deserves and enjoy a load of perks, including free room upgrade, ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free’ dinner and spa treatments.

Privileges: Potted Jasmine plant or hand garland as a symbol of Thai Mother’s Day love; daily breakfast for two; guaranteed room upgrade (accorded upon check in); and ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free’ buffet dinner and spa treatments for Mum.

 

 

 

 

Six Senses Yao Noi’s week-long culinary and wine events

 Six Senses Yao Noi wine 1SIX SENSES YAO NOI is introducing its third private labeled wine, the Syrah Red, on Aug. 11, 2015.

The event, to be held at the resort’s Hilltop Reserve restaurant, will be attended by winemaker Nikki Lohitnavy of GranMonte Estate, who will personally introduce the Syrah Red to guests and resort team.

The launch starts at 5:30 pm as a highlight of the General Manager’s Cocktail Reception.

The next evening, Aug. 12, a Thai wine and barbecue dinner will be held on the beach beneath the stars. Guests are encouraged to dress casually and comfortably to join Executive Chef Anthony Reynolds and Nikki on the beach as they cook and pair seven Gran Monte wines with freshly caught seafood.

The event starts at 6:30 pm with sparkling wine at sundown and is priced at 3,000 THB.  Later in the week Executive Sommelier Christian Maier will present a unique Champagne tasting set on a deserted island accompanied by delicious nibbles. Guests will be guided by the resorts’ wine expert in one of the most unforgettable surroundings at sunset.

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Several informative wine-tasting events paired with Thai food plus a wine game dinner will also be held at the Hilltop Reserve. They feature great wines and delicious food set against the dramatic backdrop of Phang Nga Bay.

The Master Thai Wine is priced at THB 1,500 per person; Champagne Tasting event is 1,800 THB per person; and the Wine Game Dinner is 4,000 THB per person.

Winemaker Nikki Lohitnavy is one of the youngest and most dynamic oenologist in Thailand. She studied her craft at Adelaide University in Australia, where she was the first Thai student to take the intensive four-year course, which involves both viticulture and winemaking. She graduated with honors and received several awards including the Fosters Wine Estates Prize for excellence in winemaking.

The Syrah Red is produced solely for Six Senses Yao Noi, and has resulted from collaboration between Six Senses Yao Noi and Nikki. The sustainably-produced wine is crafted from estate grown fruit of the Asoke Valley, and aged in French oak barrels for eight months.

It shows blackberries and blackcurrant fruit with a hint of pepper spice and is perfect with Thai food. Its freshness blends perfectly with the natural lifestyle of Six Senses Yao Noi.

 

The hell of Hell Fire Pass

Hell Fire Pass steps

IF YOU HAVE A BAD HEART OR HIP PROBLEMS, don’t even think about it.

Walking from the Information and Display Centre to Hell Fire Pass, about an hour’s drive from the River Kwai in Thailand, is a nightmare of steep, unforgiving concrete steps that seem to go up forever. From the Information Pavilion, the walk takes 10 or 15 minutes – if you’re in good shape.

If you’re not, take the alternative route that requires the services of a van and driver. But if you want to stick it out, be prepared for some pretty challenging climbs. In the toughest areas, you’ll find metal railings on both sides of the steps to help you along before reaching a rocky level path and then, another wall of stairs before descending finally down a long twisted flight to the pass, itself.

Voices cry out from the past as you walk through the pass – a rose inserted in a drill hole by relatives of POWs, a broken compressor drill still stuck in the rock where it was left 65 years ago, and here and there, a wooden tie peeps up from the gravel. In the middle of the pass a tree has taken root and grown up in the middle of the rocky railway bed.

That’s when you find out that there are only two ways to get back – by the way you came or by van. “Walking back is easier,” I was assured by one of the tour guides. Unfortunately, I believed him and was barely able to stagger back on my own.

On the way back, I kept thinking of the prisoners-of-war who had to make their way back to camp after an exhausting shift under brutal conditions day after day. If you pause along the way, as I did, you can hear the birds and cicadas in the bamboo grove that has grown up around sections of the pathway. Hell Fire Pass was the longest – and deepest – along the entire length of the Thai-Burma Railway.

It was also notorious as one of the worst places of suffering and cruelty faced by the POWs. The cutting was planned by Japanese engineers and carried out by the prisoners. It became known as the Hammer and Tap, because of the constant sound of hammering by the POW crews. who kept working long into the night by light from torches and fires, reminding more than one POW of a scene out of Dante’s Inferno.

Their suffering is retold in a series of display panels in the Information Pavilion, built by the Australians after the war to document the sufferings of their servicemen who toiled at Hell Fire Pass. As you enter the pavilion, you are asked to take your shoes off. This is customary in Thai homes and temples.

This is how one of the panels describes the work of the POWs: “If you stood at the top of the cutting, you could see fires at intervals of about 20 feet and the shadows of the Japanese, wearing Foreign Legion caps, moving around and beating the POWs with sticks.

Many of the POWs were almost naked under their slouch hats, moving rocks around and hammering. The shouting and bellowing went on all night ….

” Work gangs were divided into three groups: Moving gangs, who cleared the earth; tap men, who drilled deep holes into the rock for blasting and explosives; and rock rollers, who cleared the rubble after each blast. Men worked all day, even through Monsoon rains, stopping only at midday for lunch. And later, when the Japanese decided to speed up the process, the gangs were required to work through the night.

“Each morning, as the POWs arrived on the job, the Silent Basher, a guard, went down their lines, never uttering a word, punching the POWs in the head and face to make sure they were suitably motivated for the day’s work,” Gunner Keith Harrison, 4th Anti-Tank Regiment of Australia, was to write later.

Work on the pass started on April 15, 1943 – ANZAC – the day Australians remember their war dead. Many of the POWs fell sick and died. Reinforcements had to be brought in, continuing to work under “Speedo” conditions until the cutting was completed and rail-laying teams took over. Hundreds of men were working at the site at any given time.

Interestingly, the Japanese paid the POWs working on the railway. Hourly rates were low and payment at the whim of the Japanese. The POWs used the pay to buy extra food and contribute to camp funds to buy medicine and food for the sick.

The POWS were led to believe they were going to rest camps. Even sick POWs were asked to fill their quotas. By the time they reached their camps, most of the POWs were in poor shape and their possessions stolen from them. In fact, they had to build the camp and start work on the railway almost immediately.

“All we knew was that they want a work party to go to Thailand. It was supposed to be a land of milk and honey – with plenty of food and very little to do,” wrote Geoff O’Connor, D Force.

 

Greetings from 1936 at Centara Hua Hin

The Railway Hotel as it was in 1936

A POSTCARD DATED JAN. 15, 1936, depicting the Railway Hotel in Hua Hin recently come to light in the records of Centara Hotels & Resorts, which now owns and operates the hotel as Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin.

The hotel is about to celebrate its 90th birthday, having opened in October 1922 and had its grand opening on Jan. 1, 1923.

Regarded as one of the classic hotels of the East, and earlier this year enlisted as a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, the property dates back to the time when Hua Hin itself was evolving into Thailand’s first beach resort.

“The railway era brought great changes to Siam, as Thailand was then known,” says Thirayuth Chirathivat, Centara Hotels & Resorts’ CEO. “There were very few roads into the provincial areas, and places such as Hua Hin were known only to the local population.

“When the railway was built from Bangkok down to Malaysia, it suddenly became possible for the aristocracy of the day to travel to Hua Hin, and to enjoy the beach and the ocean.”

The beauty of Hua Hin was realized by the engineers surveying the southern railway route in 1909.  Land was set aside for a station, and when the first section of the line opened in 1911, Hua Hin became a destination where wealthy Bangkok residents built their holiday homes. The southern line to Malaysia was completed in 1921, making it possible to travel between Bangkok, Malaysia and Singapore by train.

Royal Siamese Railways (RSR) directed Italian architect A. Rigazzi to build a hotel, and at the same time commissioned a Scottish engineer named A. O. Robins to layout a golf course.

The Railway Hotel initially had only 14 guestrooms, but it was very well appointed and furnished and had an excellent standard of service to cater for its wealthy Thai and foreign guests. By 1928 the hotel’s reputation was international and to accommodate the growing number of visitors to Hua Hin, RSR added a new wing of 13 rooms, which were built to the exact same design as its existing building.

After the Second World War more guestrooms were added, along with three restaurants, a downstairs bar, and a lobby with a panoramic view of Hua Hin’s bay.

The value of the Railway Hotel as a building of architectural and historic interest was fully acknowledged by the Thai Government when in 1986 Central Group, the parent company of Centara Hotels & Resorts, acquired the property, with the preservation of the old buildings and extensive gardens an important condition of the contract.

The historical building has been meticulously preserved, with all the subsequent additions designed to blend with the existing structure and to maintain the air of elegance and leisure into which the hotel was born.

Hua Hin meanwhile has developed into a royal town, a resort known worldwide for its quiet charm, the old golf course now known as Royal Hua Hin Golf Course, the Hua Hin Railway Station regarded as an architectural design marvel, and Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin, which has become the centre of the town’s social life — as it was in the 1920s — and all the way through the subsequent decades.

“We regard ourselves as the custodians of this important part of Thailand’s history, and consider it our privilege to be able to present the best of Thai service tradition to the world,” says Mr Thirayuth.  “Having this lovely old hotel included as one of the Leading Hotels of the World is a great delight and honour for us, and our promise is that this heritage property will be maintained for the generations to come.”

Postcards featuring the hotel were very popular, said Mr Thirayuth , who also noted that the 1936 card was found among a collection of memorabilia, some of which can now be seen in The Museum Coffee & Tea Corner, which is set in the original hotel lobby.

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