Sunday, 26 December 2010

Isaree's balancing act ...

Taking long-tail boat ride on Kok River in Chiang Rai
You'd expect that someone who used to be a regional manager for the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau would really know her country inside out. And Khun Isaree sure does, so fasten your seatbelt for this exciting mini-tour of the Kingdom with her ... 

"I would like to help Thailand as much as I could to promote and develop tourism in Thailand," the 29-year-old says. 

 Born and bred in Bangkok, she grew up in the centre of the city, went to school in the centre of the city, and studied two degrees, including an MBA, at Chulalongkorn University in -- you guessed it -- the centre of the city. So she knows every square inch of it.

"It is such a big city that you can find anything you like. There are so many things going on over there. However, it was too busy working there ... like running marathon." She headed off to China where she worked for a year and a half in Kunming. Being half-Chinese it took her closer to her roots and studied Mandarin. Then she took the opportunity to move to Chiang Mai where she runs Ideology Asia (www.ideology.asia), a business creativity and innovation consultancy. "But I always love to go back to Bangkok to see family, friends, shopping, food, and business." 

She has found more balance in Chiang Mai.  "I don’t need to be stuck in the traffic every morning and evening for 2-3 hours. I have more time to sleep and exercise." Her other hobbies include painting, reading business and travel magazines, and meeting people from around the world.

"I always travel around Thailand -- North, East, South, West -- now mostly in the north since I am now living in Chiang Mai. Also lot’s of chance to travel to Chiang Rai, Maehongsorn, etc.Chiang Mai is now having the best weather, nice breeze in the lovely town."  

Isaree's top 5 picks from Bangkok and the north:


1/ Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Hotel, Chiang Mai: www.mandarinoriental.com/chiangmai/ "Fantastic moments, like a magical town. Amazing architecture which is rare to find."

2/ Palad Tawan Ron Restaurant, Chiang Mai: www.palaadtawanron.com "Romantic hill top restaurant on Doi Suthep with quality food and service. Cool breeze with live band that plays at your table."

3/ Sirocco Bar, Bangkok: www.lebua.com/en/the-dome-dining/sirocco-restaurant/ "The best rooftop view of Bangkok. I love the design and concept of this bar."

4/ Long-tail boat cruise on Mae Kok River, Chiang Rai: "We went from Chiang Rai town to Thatorn Chiangmai in about 3 hours. Great mountain view on the private long tail boat. Peaceful, very close to the nature with elephants and water buffalo and last long in memory."

5/ Anantasamakom Throne Hall, Bangkok: www.tripsthailand.com/places_national_assembly.php "Neo Renaissance and Neo classic architecture since Rama V. Thailand has kings. If you love Thailand, you should know about our king dynasty and their dedication to the country."

Friday, 24 December 2010

Chalit finds bliss behind the camera

As a photographer, Chalit Chawalitangkun is kept busy in the northern city of Chiang Rai snapping feature stories for glossy lifestyle magazines. Often this is of local artists, given the burgeoning artistic community up there.

Other than people there's a lot of nature, history and architecture to photograph. "Chiang Rai has a very long history and traditions that can be traced back into hundred of years. Its border connects  with Laos and Myanmar. Geographically, we have lots of hills and mountains," he says with a slight American accent, picked up from studying photography in Tennessee, USA. 

His birthplace, Chiang Saen on the Mae Khong (Mekong) River, has even more visible history, with chedis and city walls dating back to the 1200s. It's a popular place for tourists to take boats across to Laos or just sightseeing up and down the mighty river.

When not behind the camera, Chalit -- who farangs often mistakenly call Charlie -- tinkers with building valve amplifiers (he studied engineering before realising it wasn't what he really wanted to do), listens to music, watches movies or reads books.

"Life here is leaning toward slow going pace," he says, understatedly. Maybe that's why his studio is called Bliss.But he loves northern Thailand ...

"I prefer it over others because I evolved around this part and there's nowhere like home. The climate of this area has a lot to offer. The air is cleaner compared to bigger cities, there are more trees here for you to feel getting close to mother nature. Most important of all, I think the real beauty of the north lies within the people. People are kind and friendly. There's smile every where you go."

Chalit captures his Northern Thailand Top 5 travel tips: 

1/ Doi Tung: www.doitung.org "Started off as a development project of Royal Forest Department, now Doi Tung is a very famous attraction point for tourists. It has a big floral garden which changes every season. It has a museum for educating those interested about Doi Tung."

2/ Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai: "A beautiful and unique white temple, worth checking it out. It also has a gallery showing Chalermchai Kositpipat's works. He's a painting artist and a builder/designer of this temple."

3/ Golden Triangle, Chiang Saen: "Used to be known for opium producing area. This area is adjacent to Myanmar and Laos and separated by Mae Khong river and form a triangle, hence the name."

4/Hall of Opium, Chiang Saen: "For deeper understanding of the Golden Triangle during its peak, this museum offers in-depth knowledge about drugs in this area. Incorporated with knowledge about opium traced back to China, makes this museum worth visiting."

5/ Slung Kham restaurant, Chiang Rai: "The name means 'golden bowl' in English. This restaurant is famous for their authentic Northern Thai food." No English sign. 834/3 Phahonyothin Road, Amphoe Mueang, Chiang Rai.  053-71-7192

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Nok finds her island paradise ... and perfect pizza!

Khun Nok poolside at her resort, Villa Nalinnada

It's much easier to call business owner Naddapen Toommanon by her nickname Nok. And in a way, she matches her name which means 'bird' in Thai as she's always on the fly, from here to there, doing things, arranging things, managing things, enjoying things. Never in one spot for too long.
This Bangkok-born businesswoman studied in the USA before returning to her busy life of work and sports (mainly golf and tennis) in Bangkok.  

"My first visit to Koh Samui was about 10 years ago for my holiday and an escape from busy Bangkok and hard working. I don't know why I just fell in love with the island immediately and had an idea to have a home here. Maybe it is because firstly, I love the sea. The sea around the island is clean and clear with the emerald green color."  

So she moved to Koh Samui, just like that. Rather than slipping into island time she kept herself buzzing at Bangkok speed. "It is difficult to find girl friends who love to play sports regularly here. I have less chance to play sport then and need to change to ballet dancing as a kind of exercise and meditation practice." Oh, she also set up a series of villas and resorts (see www.nalinnadda.com) where she gets to indulge her other hobby of decoration.

"I love to go Jatujak market, China market (Sampeng) and Central Chidlom to find decorative items, table ware, bathroom accessories and etc for my little hotels. I do the decoration by myself in all parts of the hotels including the breakfast basket that we serve in the bed."

She sees Bangkok as a shopper's paradise. "One of the best shopping place in the world if you love the idea of "mix and match". I love to go shopping at Central Chidlom for any designer and fashionable items but when I feel that the expense is over my budget, I will move to Jatujak Market especially for tablewares to find something with the same concept of design to mix and match with the items I bought from Central Chidlom or Paragon." 

She also takes advantage of Bangkok's 24-hour foodie culture when she's back there. 
 
But despite being a city girl, Samui has captured her heart. "There are some chic places to enjoy the high tea time and fine-dining in Bo Phut Fisherman Village. For lazy Sunday, I love to wear nice bikinis and enjoy sunbathing on the beach in Cheongmon village. When it is the time for shopping, I can find my favorite designer's cloth in some shops in Chaweng and in Hua Thanon area. Koh Samui is my paradise to live."   
Nok's top 5 Thailand attractions:

1/ Twin Palm hotel, Phuket: "My favourite hotel. What makes me crazy and convince me to stay at Twin Palm every time when I visit Phuket is all about the bed and breakfast. The mattress is very, very soft and comfortable. Pillows and duvet are made from feather. The bedsheet and duvet cover is very smooth as a silk. I feel like I am sleeping on the cloud. As for breakfast, everything in the buffet line is very fresh, natural and delicious."

2/ Sampeng China Market, Bangkok: "I always have lots of fun when I go shopping here since there are lots of varieties of products to buy at the cheap price and lots of good food to eat from street food to very expensive one."

3/ Emerald Buddha, Grand Palace, Bangkok: "For any birthday of our family members, we always go to Emerald Temple to pay respect to Emerald Buddha. Mural painting in the temple is amazing too."

4/ Doi Tung stores: "My favorite shop to buy decorative items. The products in the shop are well designed from the local material in the north and matches to foreigners taste especially for the western tourists."

5/ Juzz a Pizza, Koh Samui: "My favorite restaurant is Juzz a Pizza in Koh Samui. The restaurant serves Italian food but the taste of the food really matches to Thai tongue and cannot find this kind of taste anywhere else."   

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Chomchada's beautiful but vicious relationship ...

Chomchada and her bestie chiiling at a cafe ...
"She is like a beautiful vicious lady whom I fall so much in love with. Sometimes she can be a sweetheart while in some random hot days, she can be morally wicked. And the strange thing is, I just can’t stop loving the vile side of her, I just fail."

So says marketing manager Chomchada. But who could she possibly be talking about? Actually, Bangkok, her hometown.

"I was born in Bangkok. Grew up in Bangkok. Bangkok all the way. Been to almost every corner of Bangkok. Bangkok's chaos is a true charm. We are crowded, polluted, our traffic is hell to mankind but what Bangkok keeps behind is a loving peace of mind like clouds hid the moon," she continues poetically.

And it's no wonder the 30-something senior marketing manager waxes so lyrical -- she's a real bookworm at heart. "I read a lot. Mostly about designs, lifestyle, hotels, and brand identity. I spend a lot of time in a bookstore, sometimes just to flip through the beautiful books and I'm happy already."

She's heavily involved in branding with her job with Aquarius Estate (www.aquariusestate.com)  which offers a range of property services to investors.

"If I were not a marketer like today, the next career I would choose would be a professional globe trotter," she says with a wistful smile. "I love traveling."

So what's her favourite part of Thailand? "I love the south. Thailand’s beaches in the south are one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I love an open freedom the blue ocean gives you. During the right season, the water will become very clear; the skies will be bright and blue. You can hardly distinguish the line where the skies and the ocean meet."

Chomchada's also a keen scuba-diver. "So once or twice a year, I would find time to jump on a boat, turn off my phone, leave the shore and live aboard in a diving boat for a few days. My favourite time of the year!"

Chomchada's Top 5 Thailand travel tips:

1/ ShaSa Resort & Residences, Koh Samui:  www.shasahotels.com "I work there. Every time I go there, I would sit outside at the big balcony and work. Perfect space with great views."

2/ Baan Ekamai, Ekamai 21, Bangkok: www.BaanEkamai.blogspot.com "This new complex in Ekamai area attracts their fans with a 'House' concept. There're 3 clothing, 1 furniture, 1 record shops and 1 cafe in one house. Very hip." 

3/ Cabin Creek, Chantaburi: www.CabinCreekThailand.com. "This lovely home stay is located in a very rich environment of Chantaburi. The lovely owner of this homestay would cook you a super delicious meal everyday plus tropical fruits fresh from the home garden."   

4/ Sampeng, Bangkok: "I feel adventurous strolling down Sampeng and the area around. This huge wholesale market sells everything you need for your home decorating, clothing, gifts, stationery, EVERYTHING!" 

5/ River Resort & Spa, Srakaew: http://river-resort.com "I love the homey, cozy, close-to-nature atmosphere of this resort. Well, my friend owns this place, so it's like an only 2-hour-drive safe house for me when things in Bangkok get out of hand. Plus a shopping therapy at the border market (Talad Rong Klue)."

Yindee's search for Nirvana on Samui ...

Yindee (Noi) and Varinda (Oil) at work.
Somewhat surprisingly, and to my delight, I find myself talking motorbikes with Yindee (Noi), who worked for UNESCO for 14 years. She's an avid collector, and eagerly discusses a Ducati currently for sale, and a Harley she's interested in.

In her tie-dyed tee, sarong, and wildly coloured bandanna, you immediately realise she's a rather free spirited individual. Noi sees herself as a hippie and dresses like this everyday ... even when on corporate roadshows promoting Varinda Resort (www.varindasamui.com).

"It is very humble but this is our house and your home too," says Noi of their popular backpacker resort.

Family is a recurring theme with the artistic Noi. She's a painter, and so's her niece Oil (her sister Chanida's daughter), hence the primary-coloured splashes on every surface in, on and around the main buildings and the villas.

From the poolside sala overlooking the emerald waters of Lamai Bay, nirvana seems somewhere just over the horizon.

"Samui is great because there's no low season," she says with those eyes sparkling again, laughing. "Great, isn't it? Amazing! You can go to Bali and the beaches are great, too, but in Thailand ... it's the people," she says, touching her heart. "Next time come, and we'll go crazy, have a BBQ ..."

Yindee's Top 5 on Samui and around Surat Thani: 

"I am a simple person. I hope this also you are interesting ..."

1/ Motorcycle to top of mountain behind Lamai: "Go Moto-cross or just ride the road to the top. From there you can watch the ocean away from the tourist places." 

2/ Motorcycle around the dam in Surat Thani.

3/ Visit fruit farm: "Here they grow durian, mangosteen, rambutan, longan and jackfruit."

4/ See dolphins at Khanom Beach: "This is close to Donsak Pier so you can get there by ferry."

5/ Meditation: "Make meditation for relaxed mind, and follow the leader by monk."

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Bhuritt: Great Southern Land ...

Bhuritt -- with his two daughters -- relax in Kanchanaburi.
You'd have to go far to find a bigger fan of southern Thailand than Khun Bhuritt Maswongssa. 

He was born and raised in Yala province (deep south near Malaysian border) and has fond memories of being a schoolboy at Khanarasadornbamrung Secondary School.

"I love the southern part of Thailand as I think that we have more peaceful here specially in Phuket," says the 49-year-old hotelier who's been living on that island now for 20 years, after a stint in Bangkok. "I love the foods and way of life here in the south. People still count you as a cousin where ever you go and you have to pay the respect to them, too. Then you will get back ten times more than you have given."

Respect is a word the gentle family man uses a lot. When not flat-out running the large Patong Resort (www.patongresorthotel.com) he loves to cook -- or more accurately says he's "interested" in cooking -- and loves to slip away for a game of golf.

Phuket, being in the south too, has found its way into his heart. "Surrounded by the Andaman Sea, most people call Phuket the 'Pearl of the Andaman'. Phuket has many activities to offer such as jungle adventure, marine activity, beach resort, health care, all kind of sports, shopping and dining, etc. Life on the island is very easy move and you will fall into that part if you were to stay longer than one year." So, after 2 decades he's really fallen into it!
"People from all over the world dream of coming to Phuket at least once in there life but I am living here," he says enthusiastically.

The best of Khun Bhuritt's Thailand:
1/    Bangkok: "As an ancient city, and the Royal Palace of the great king Bhumibhol of Thailand that the world pays respect to him here."

2/    Phuket: "As I mentioned before, it's a world-class tourist destination."

3/    Thai food: "Our recipes have become world famous, especially if you eat Thai foods with Thai jasmine rice. The most favorite place for my family and friends is Kan Eang 2 restaurant. The reason being that the staff are friendly, good location, variety of food and seafoods ... and most important things are easy parking and reasonable price."
  
4/    Thai culture and fine arts: "Represent one of the most beautiful arts in the world." 

5/    Thai way of life: "Filled with respect, forgiveness, smiling faces, and lend a hand for helping each other. I believe this still exists inside most of Thais' hearts."

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

BimBim the busy Bangkok gal ...

BimBim enjoying Nangyuan Island, Gulf of Thailand.
I sense a real energy and passion for life with 27-year-old media relations and client executive, Jittrarat ‘BimBim’ Likhitkiatikul.

She's a busy, busy, busy Bangkok gal, putting in long hours at ScottAsia Communications (www.scottasia.net). But then, when work's done for the day, it's off to the movies, or shopping, or maybe just home (which is located near the Chaopraya River) to read a good book.

Bangkok has always been Bim's life. "I was born in Bangkok, one of the busiest cities in the world," she says. "But for me, Bangkok has its own charms. You will never have the same feeling everyday you wake up in this city. You can find and enjoy almost everything you want for your life here."

She's noticed a lot of changes in Bangkok in the past 20 years. "However, you can always find places to escape here. You can always feel the peace of Bangkok along the river-side."  

Her favourite part of Thailand, though, is the southern part. " I love it, especially the Andaman side like Phuket and Krabi. There are plenty of fantastic islands, beaches, cheap seafood, etc. People there are kind and have good heart. Every time I go there, I feel like I have escaped to another part of the world. I like to jump from the speedboat and snorkel with little fish around me. It is an awesome experience."

BimBim's top 5 from Bangkok and beyond ...

1/ Jatujak (JJ) market: "The biggest market in Thailand. I’m always happy when I can get stuff from fashion to pet snacks at very best price."
2/ Samsara Café & Meal, Bangkok: "A stylish wooden house decorated with painting and sculpture created by Thai artists. It is located at the river side at the back of Wat Pathumkongka, Song Wat Rd. This is the place where you can enjoy cups of tea or coffee in the afternoon. Or get some beers or wines after the sunset."

3/ Nangyuan Island: www.nangyuan.com "A tranquil island in the southern part, located between Chumporn and Suratthani. There are only you, sea, and sand. A great place to escape from the world and freshen up your mind. 

4/ Baan Som Tum, Bangkok: "If you want to get the real taste of Som Tum and other E-Sarn dishes but not dare enough to try the street side kiosk, this is the place where you should go. On Sathorn Rd., in soi Pra Mual (next to Bangkok Christian School). Another branch in on Rama 5 Rd.You must try it!"

5/ Fisherman's Village, Koh Samui: "You won’t feel that you live on an island when you are in Samui. Samui is an island where you can have everything you need to make a perfect holiday. Go to Fisherman's Village if you like to get the feeling of islander. There are plenty of stylish boutique hotels and theme restaurants. A beachfront villa or bungalow would be a great choice for accommodation."

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Panit: I Do Love To Be Beside the Seaside ...

Panit with his then-pregnant wife on a ferry to Phi Phi Island.
As someone who loves spending time near or in water, sailing, diving, fishing or just swimming, Khun Panit Boonyaratvej has chosen a great place to work ... Cha-Am, adjacent Hua Hin on the coast just a couple of hours south of Bangkok, with its quaint seaside atmosphere and really affordable seafood restaurants right on the sand.

There, he is now the General Manager of the Veranda Resort and Spa (www.verandaresortandspa.com), which made it to the Conde Nast Hot List last year. 

"Hua Hin reminds me of our family holidays to the beach when I was a boy," reminisces the very young-at-heart 49-year-old. "Even though with all the recent developments in the town, it still holds its charm as a Thai seaside family retreat with a great choice of restaurants and markets." 

His story is an interesting one, starting from the very day he was born. Listen to this ...

"I was born in Dad’s police car on a bridge crossing the Chao Pra Ya River in Bangkok, going from the Thonburi side where our family home was then located." Of mixed Thai-English parentage, he grew up in the small coastal town of Sheringham, North Norfolk, UK, where he "attended high school, fell in love for the first time and discovered my calling for hospitality."

Panit's favourite part of Thailand is Trang Province. "Quiet beautiful beaches and islands to visit, small family run resorts and the best Thai southern cuisine. Trang spit roast suckling pig and traditionally made coffee is a must for breakfast in Trang city."


Panit's Thailand Top 5 travel tips:


1/  Phi Phi Island Village Resort: www.ppisland.com "I try to visit every year with my wife for our get away from it all retreat. Private beach, choice of diving sites, no cars."   

2/ Khao Sok National Park, Surat Thani Province: "The largest national park in Thailand with reservoir, rain forest, waterfalls, lots of trekking trails and good fresh water fishing. We stay in a National Park lodge deep in the jungle and located next to a waterfall. No WIFI, no mobile phone services and off the grid."

3/ Rom Mai Restaurant, Hua Hin: "Located near to Hyatt Regency Hua Hin, it serves excellent local food and cold beers at very reasonable prices. Run by a Thai Chef who has worked in 5 hotels in Thailand and overseas. Steaks are popular order items for many overseas visitors, very tender and inexpensive."


4/ Cicada Art Market, Hua Hin: "Also located near to Hyatt Regency Hua Hin. Local artist and crafts men and women sell hand-made wares at reasonable prices. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 6 pm to 11 pm."

5/Ampawa Floating Market, Samut Songkram Province: "This is not the more famous Floating Market usually visited by bus loads of tourist. Ampawa Floating Market is an evening floating market held weekends only. Very authentic and still very cheap -- bowl of Boat noodles for just 10 Baht. Canal side eateries, bars with jazz bands and waterfront family-run home stays."

Monday, 13 December 2010

Jaffee: Take me to the River ...

Jaffee Yee is all about the Mekong River. Or the Greater Mekong Subregion to be exact. The publisher is passionate about that whole stretch of the world which encompasses the countries contiguous to the Mekong, starting from Yunnan (southwest China) and following its course along through Indochina.

As such, the Malaysian-born Chinese has made Thailand his home since 1985, choosing Chiang Rai as his home base. "It's a full cycle," explains the dapper man about town. "When I was a kid in Penang my environment was exactly like that -- green environment and mountains. Having lived in Hongkong and Bangkok when I got older I found a place I'd like to retire."

He regards Chiang Rai as being the real centre of the Greater Mekong. "I can see the river by driving less than one hour. It's an ideal base to promote the GMS with my new magazine, Yunnan Mekong Travel (www,knowledgemediagroup.com). And I can go to the beach, just 5 minutes away."

A beach in land-locked Chiang Rai??? Please explain. "Chiang Rai beach is a river beach, of course, the Kok River."

When not at home tending to his garden -- his lawn parties are well-renowned -- curating art exhibitions for the Le Meridien Hotel, or cycling on his US-made Trek bike, he's on the road. "I travel quite a bit, maybe 10-14 days each month travelling in the region."

His favourite part of Thailand is Northern Thailand, the Lanna region. "This whole place is cool, nice culture. In the south you have nice beaches but what else? The rice culture is here, the Lanna influence."

He's seen changes in the country over the last 25 years, too. "You can see change in Bangkok, Pattaya and the south, especially Phi Phi island." He shares some photos from his first project, Thailand From the Air, published in the mid 80s which show swathes of green even in the City of Angels, the tallest building being the medium-scale Bangkok Bank building. "Chiang Mai has changed a lot too, very fast, in the space of two decades."

Jaffee Yee's top 5 tips for travellers in northern Thailand:

1/ Sbun-NGA Textile Museum, Chiang Mai. "A lot of people coming to Thailand miss our museums ... insects, textiles, many unique ones you can't find elsewhere in the world. The Textile Museum is inside the bank, it's owned by the bank,"  he laughs. Tel: 053 200 655


2/ Phan Waterfall, Chiang Rai province. "A lot of places of nature that are not on the tourist trail. This one at Phan, nobody goes there: you can pack a picnic sandwich, a book, and spend half a day there.


3/ Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden and Doi Tung. "We have a lot of parks and gardens in the north that people can explore, but these two are the best." www.qsbg.org ; www.doitung.org

4/ Mekong River. "Hire a boat for the day from Chieng Saen and go anywhere you want ... just make sure you don't end up on the Laos side," he laughs.

5/ Ban Suan Thai Restaurant and La Crystal, Chiang Mai. "Ban Suan Thai is fantastic for Thai food by the Ping River, and La Crystal for European food for well-heeled tourists." www.lecrystalrestaurant.com

Yuth: Great balls of fire ...


Wonderful Cha-Am Beach near where Yuth works.
Yongyuth Singnon (Yuth to his friends) has been in the hospitality industry since the age of 12. "I started my hotelier career at age 12 helping my aunt to run a bungalow in Koh Samui," he explains. 

Yuth was born in, and grew up in, Nongkhai Province in north-eastern Thailand on the border to Laos (known mostly to travellers for the Friendship Bridge that links the two countries). "It was a very peaceful community with an eclectic mix of people, cultures and food."

He's still a huge fan of the place. "Nongkhai is a city that should not be missed. It is unlike other Thai cities with a wonderful IndoChina cultural mix." 

Renowned as peaceful and charming, Nongkhai City is a blend of people, cultures, cuisines and architecture drawn from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China. "There is even a French influence in architecture resulting from the Second World War. Visitors can find a good baguette amongst the market of fresh produce grown along the banks of the Mekong River.” 

"My home in the northeastern part of Thailand is my favorite. There are many beautiful places in Thailand, but home is where my heart is. To me, Isan people are pure and joyful with no attitude. Visitors are welcomed with a genuine sense of hospitality that emanates from the heart – without any ulterior motives. Perhaps this is partly because the cities and towns of Isan have not had very much outside influence," says the keen traveller who enjoys learning more about tourism, and understanding tourist requirements, from each trip he makes.

Now, with 19 years' experience under his belt he's working at the Alila Cha Am (www.alilahotels.com/chaam). Cha Am beach  is adjacent its more famous sister beach, Hua Hin, just a couple of hours south of Bangkok.

In his spare time, all too rare for the busy 31-year old now, he enjoys reading and people watching.

Yongyuth shares his Top 5 must-dos around Thailand:

1/  Arun Residence and Restaurant:  http://www.arunresidence.com  "Wat Arun Templehas  become a trademark of Thailand nowadays. This place is the most beautiful view point to enjoy night view of Wat Arun Temple and life of Chao Praya  River. The resort with signature bar and restaurant in same place where tourists cannot miss it."

2/ Nongkhai province: "Thai & Laos Friendship Bridge/ Indochina market and yearly Naga Fireballs event. The Mekong River is home to a strange, beautiful and baffling phenomenon -- the Naga Fireballs. On the full moon night of October, coinciding with the end of the Buddhist Rains Retreat, hundreds of colourful fireballs rise out of the river."

Famous khao chae
3/ The refreshing Thai delicacy Khao Chae  at Phetchaburi: "This is chilled rice in jasmine-scented water with condiments. A small street shop near 7-11 convenience shop in Phetchaburi fresh market is run by an old kind man, price only 15 Baht per dish. Khaow Chae has its origins in the legends of the people of Mon, who created this special dish as a gift for the gods during Songkran. Under King Chulalongkorn’s rule Khao Chae flavoured with jasmine-scented water became a favourite in the palace, and by 1910 the Thai delicacy was enjoyed throughout the country."

4/ JJ Market, Bangkok: "This Weekend Market is the perfect place for bargain hunting ... there are all products from all of Thailand.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Khun Woropot Nimsakul suggests an island I've never heard of ...

Khun Woropot lives in a large, airy house he built himself on his father's former longan farm with grandstand views of Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai. Gardeners busy themselves preening the plants on the rambling lawn, and squirrels dart from tree to tree.

Born and raised in Chiang Mai, this thirty-something guy's a fan of the northern capital: "It has a combination of local style and modern style; you can find Bangkok lifestyle in Nimminheiman, and local traditional lifestyle there. It is perfect to have both."

Not that he spends much time there; he always seems to be on the road travelling."The most exciting thing I do is travel," says the quiet-spoken construction industry executive, who enjoys reading books he buys at Suriwong Bookstore in his spare time.

His favourite destination is Koh Tarutao (www.kohtarutao.com). "It is nice and quiet, not like Phi Phi. I knew this island about 20 years ago when it was hard to get to. Now it's easier fly to Had Yai, then minibus to the pier at Stoon, then across by speedboat. I think they also have a ferry. It's become popular in just a few years, especially Lipe Island, but it's changed only a little."

Woropot has been there three times already.

The rest of the year he enjoys the festivals and ceremonies. "The exciting thing in Thailand is the ceremony ... New Year, Loy Krathong, Songkhran ... everyone is happy for the festival.Thai people celebrate everything, including Christmas," he laughs.

What he likes most about Thailand is the people and the lifestyle. "Almost all the people are nice and easy, and welcome to everyone whether you are from Europe or Middle East or wherever. The weather is nice ... but a little hot in the afternoon sometimes," he smiles.

Khun Woropot's top 5 Chiang Mai tips are:

1. Huen Jai Yong restaurant, San Kampaeng. "Real local food, good taste, clean. It's in an old-style Lanna house so the atmosphere is great."

2. Tan Tong Waterfall, Doi Saket. "Nice area, many resorts, it's quiet and green, and just 30 minutes from Chiang Mai."

3. Chez Marco, Loi Kroh. "Nice home-cooking by Marco who is French. My favourites are the slow-cooked beef and the salmon carpaccio."

4. Ban Tawai village. "I always go there for furniture and decorations made from teak and other materials such as mango wood and coconut. Yuang Kum store has good antiques and reproductions," he laughs.

5. Sunday Walking Street, Rachadamnoern Road. "It has many, many things, and food, but I like paintings from the artist at a reasonable price. Almost everything is hand-made so I love it. Not mass-produced like at Night Bazaar."

Monday, 29 November 2010

Stu Lloyd interviews Stu Lloyd. Yes, really!

Faces & Places: Sawasdee krub, and welcome to Thailand:Faces & Places.

Stu Lloyd: Thank you.

F&P: So what can readers expect from this blog?

SL: It's about the people, Kon Thai, that make Thailand really special to me. So here, I will feature a few different, fascinating and interesting people from Thailand each week. Talk about their life, what they love about their country, and, more importantly, sneakily get them to share some of their own insider secrets about travelling in the Kingdom with us. So readers get a good feeling for the locals, and real local knowledge and travel tips.


F&P: You're not different, fascinating nor interesting -- you're not even Thai -- so why are you the first person to be featured here?

SL: Haha. I'm kicking off this blog with a little overview of me so you know who you're dealing with ... and there will be other farangs, typically long-termers, featured now and again.

I am actually fourth-generation Rhodesian (Zimbabwean) by birth, Australian by citizenship, and have since wandered through 55 countries, living in seven others, and spending 15 years in Southeast Asia, along the way to calling Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand home.

F&P: So what's your occupation, because you're too young and handsome to be retired?

SL: I am a travel writer by profession, and have written for the likes of National Geographic Traveler, Sydney Morning Herald, South China Morning Post and a million in-flight magazines, as well as having had six books published. The Telegraph in the UK called me 'The perfect storyteller' which just goes to show you can't believe everything you read in the newspapers!

F&P: So, in all the world, why did you choose Chiang Mai?


SL: I'd been travelling to Thailand for around 20 years, and even had a home on the beach in Koh Samui for a few years, before I ever set foot in Chiang Mai. I came here for three days and that was it -- I decided immediately I would live in Chiang Mai. It's a really cool place that's big enough but small enough, lots of cultural dimensions, has easy access to many other parts of Thailand and Indochina (the Greater Mekong Subregion), and of course the soft culture of the Lanna people.

F&P: So nothing to do with pretty girls and motorcycles?

SL: Well, now that you mention it ... haha. That's true, it's a motorcyclist's paradise with some of the most amazing roads through incredible mountain scenery. And if your bum gets sore after a long day in the saddle -- not that it does when you ride a BMW of course -- you can stop just about anywhere for a great massage which costs only about 150-200 baht per hour.

 F&P: So, Stu, please give us your top 5 Northern Thailand insider's tips.


SL: Wow, difficult to narrow it down to just five. Can I do five for Chiang Mai and five for the rest of Northern Thailand?

F&P: That's an even better idea, thank you.


SL: So, my top 5 things to see and do in Chiang Mai would be:

1/ Huen Phen Restaurant. 112 Ratchamanka Road, in the old city. Some consider it the best northern food here, and the setting at night is magical, more like a small Thai antique shop than a restaurant. And the bill is always a pleasant surprise.

2/ North Gate Jazz Co-op. Sripoom Road, inside the moat, northern side near Chang Pueak Gate. Chiang Mai has an amazing jazz scene, so much talent among the locals, as well as touring and visiting musicians who drop in. Tuesdays is a blast, literally, with a free-for-all jam. No cover charge, and enjoy the indoor/outdoor setting with the backdrop of the old city wall. Super cool!


3/Bookshops. There are at least half a dozen seriously good second-hand bookstores here, including Gecko Books and Backstreet Books clustered just outside Thapae Gate area (opposite the Art Cafe). Enjoy a browse and find your favourite titles at giveaway prices.



4/ The Yellow Bird Cafe. Run by bohemian lass Santia, the bar/cafe is in an old teak house, and feels like a chilled evening lolling around in her living room with Thai cushions and throw rugs. It can only fit a dozen people in it, but sometimes there are only 1 or 2 others there. A great place to swap tales of the road with whoever drops by. Often spontaneous jams break out. Every night's different -- It's sometimes not even open, depending on Santia's mood! Ratchmanka Soi 3 in the old town.


5/ Galleries of Charoenrajd Road. Spend half a day dropping in and out of dozens of art, artifact and furniture galleries along this strip on the far side of the Ping River. Engage the owners in a chat, and find out lots about local culture, and that of the hill-tribes and neighbouring countries, as the art and artists of the the region gravitate here. Finish off with tea at the Vieng Joom On teahouse, amid garden atmosphere on the Ping River. Civilised!


F&P: Sounds great. Now tell us your Northern Thailand top 5.


SL: My Northern Thailand top 5 attractions would be:

1/ Doi Mae Salong, Chiang Rai province.  A fascinating place with a strong Chinese flavour because it is where a regiment of China's Kuomintang Army defected to in the early 1950s (the others fled to Taiwan). Awesome tea terraces, tea-houses, Yunnanese food. Just 3.5 hours north of Chiang Mai.



2/ Sweet Mae Salong. A cool cafe run by a lovely Thai couple, Mee and Ton, who do a brilliant western-style breakfast and AMAZING European desserts like creme brulee, raspberry tarts etc. And all the while you can enjoy breathtaking views from their balcony of an amazing valley. Worth going to Mae Salong just to eat here.


3/ The Sunflower Hill-tribe festival, Doi Hua Mae Kum. Held each November when the Bua Tong Mexican sunflowers carpet the hillsides, this is a must-see festival when all the hill-tribes of the area -- who used to cultivate opium in Khun Sa's heyday -- gather and share their song and dances. There are at least half a dozen distinctly different ethnic minorities here, at the end of the road, 100km northwest of Chiang Rai town near the Burma border. A fun and friendly spectacle.


4/ Route 1148, eastern Chiang Rai province. If you get car-sick you'll hate this suggestion. But if you're an avid motorcyclist this comes close to perfection. A snaking winding road which goes on and on and on, up and down, up and down, perfectly sealed, perfectly cambered even. You don't want it to ever end. A pity you have to concentrate on the road so much, as the scenery is spectacular too.

5/ San Sai Yee Peng festival. Ok, this one's a bit mainstream, but despite the crowds, it must be done ONCE in a lifetime. Held at a temple near Maejo University, the sight of hundreds of chanting monks sitting in concentric circles, leading up to the simultaneous release of thousands of glowing paper lanterns, is truly awe-inspiring. One of the most breath-taking experiences of my life. Then to see the sky filled with thousands of sparkling lights as they drift into the stratosphere ...

F&P: Wow! Well, thank you, Stu for kicking off Thailand: Faces & Places in such an exciting manner.


SL: You're welcome. My pleasure ... look forward to seeing more people enjoying these delights. It'd be great to hear from others on what they consider their favourite attractions. It's all about sharing, so tell your friends about Thailand: Faces and Places and drop me a line, eh?