Monday, May 27, 2013

Discovering the Cultural Side of Phuket Town

The Phuket Walk Rally was organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and a number of other local businesses to promote cultural tourism in Phuket.

I decided to sign up because it was advertised as an ‘investigative tour of Phuket Old Town’, so I thought it would be interesting to see a different side of Phuket, beyond the white sandy beaches. Oh, and plus there was also a bunch of prizes promised to be won at the event. Winning prizes and learning more about beautiful Phuket? Sounded like a great way to spend my Saturday! 

Upon registration, we were supplied with orange t-shirts, shoulder bags, three sets of question sheets and a pen, and once we collected our ‘detective gear’, we set off to explore the old town at our own pace. 

Our first task was to answer a few questions on the sheet by interviewing TAT staff dressed in traditional Phuket costumes stationed along Thalang road. Most of the questions were quite cultural, for example, one of the questions was “what is the word used to describe the 19th Century Chinese immigrants to Phuket?” The answer was “Peranakan”, literally meaning ‘descendants of’; we also found out later that the term was also used in 15th-16th century describing Chinese immigrants in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. 

The next set of questions were more of a ‘Treasure Hunt’ – there were photographs of things on the side of the road and you simply had to find them – it sounded easy, but it was harder than I had imagined! There was a lot of patience involved when you’re trying to find a painted inscription on a random wall or a small sign written in Chinese somewhere in Phuket Town. 

The third sheet took us to the Thai Hua Museum where we were able to investigate the traditional foods of Phuket. This was tough because I was having too much fun ‘sampling’ the foods in the nearby market, which made the investigation a lot longer than it probably would’ve been.  Along with the locals, my favourite was the ‘o-ew’, a bright-pink jelly made with bananas and Chinese herbs, served with shaved ice, red beans, grass jelly and red syrup. It was just the refreshment I needed after a morning of treasure hunting.

By the time we reached the fourth set of questions, we were tired. Instead of powering through, we succumbed to the attraction of the coffee and cake shops that are scattered around Phuket Town.

Obviously, our team didn’t win, but I had a great time being a cultural Sherlock Holmes for the day! The experience gave me an excellent idea for future guests. I think I will make my own version of a Phuket ‘Treasure Hunt’ for my friends; it’s a great way to discover the city and learn some of the interesting history behind this beautiful place!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

An Ancient Game - Played with Beer Tops

As I was waiting at Phuket Aquarium for the local bus to take me into town I noticed something high up in the tree. 

It was a full plastic bag, a big wooden board and a baseball hat. I was curious as to what it was, but the bus had arrived so I had to go before I could walk up to take a peek.

As I entered into Phuket Old Town I noticed that a bunch of motorcycle taxi drivers were grouped around a couple of men huddled next to a similar wooden board as the one I saw in front of the aquarium. This time I had to find out what it was so I walked closer to see what all the fuss was about. 

The big wooden board was actually a make-shift chessboard that had its lines drawn with a marker, and instead of chess pieces, they were playing with colourful recycled beer bottle tops! I watched and realised that they were playing Makruk – an Asian version of chess that is apparently the closest “living” chess variant to the earliest known form of chess, the Chaturanga. The Cape Panwa Hotel also has a Makruk set, although a little nicer with proper pieces and a proper board. 

The board spread looks a lot like the Western variant, and as I was told, the only major difference is in the strategy since the chess pieces have different movement rules. 

Ever since that one encounter, I see this game played everywhere. In tuk-tuks, on the sidewalk, in cafes, or even people playing the game on the trees! I love how the best games are usually the least expensive. An ancient game of chess now played with recycled waste on the streets of Thailand – good for the environment, and a great excuse to have a beer and catch up with friends. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Absolute Suite – Part Two

After the previous visit and subsequent posting of my experience at the Absolute Suite, this time I decided that I was going to do a little more than sip cocktails around that beautiful infinity pool.

My friend and I checked into The Absolute Suite in the early afternoon and felt that it was a good time for a relaxing massage – after all, The Absolute Suite was right next to the Cape Spa. Just as I was about to head to spa paradise, my friend reminded me that there was a private double treatment spa room located in the suite! 

After preparing myself in the adjacent steam room, my muscles were warm and ready for my massage. I ordered the Siamese Touch – a simple Thai traditional massage that uses yoga stretches and pressure point massage techniques to stimulate blood circulation, relieve tension, and help you find your “inner balance”; so the pamphlet says. 

Just like how it was promised, the massage worked like magic and my body was so relaxed that it felt like blubber. 

I was now ready for a drink, so I left the massage room and walked a few steps to get a cocktail around the pool whilst the sun set over the Big Buddha in the distance… It was so mesmerising that I had completely forgotten that I was supposed to investigate all the attributes of The Absolute Suite… Maybe it’s the energy in the suite or maybe it’s just me, but I can’t seem to get any work done in that place.

 Maybe next time I’ll come up with a better strategy... 


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Foot etiquette when visiting a Thai home

Many of you probably recall how your mother would tell you to take your feet off the furniture because your shoes were dirty,  though she probably didn’t ask you to remove your shoes when entering the house.

If you visit a Thai home in Thailand or anywhere else in the world the latter is customary, hence the array of shoes at the door of any house.  Not to take off your shoes is a sign of disrespect to the owner of the house.

Also please avoid stepping on the threshold because some Thai people believe that the spirit of the home lives in and around their home and treading on the threshold will bring its residents bad luck.

Lastly, the “lowest” part of your body in terms of status is your feet – so to put them on furniture or use them to point is a very real insult.

Or just remember what your mother told you!!!


Friday, May 3, 2013

Buffets at Cape Panwa Hotel

Now that the frenetic excitement of the Vegetarian Festival is behind us and then the cultured beauty of Loy Krathong Festival.

Meanwhile the days are getting dryer and the rain bursts are getting shorter. This time of year also brings along something special from our Chef.

On Monday evenings we have a traditional Thai Food Buffet on the lawns outside Panwa House whilst listening to the waves of the Andaman Sea and the strains of classical Thai music.

On Wednesday evenings we feature a Seafood Buffet at the Café Andaman where you are able to choose from an array of fresh fish, crabs, prawns, rock lobster and many other cooked seafood specialities.

Friday evenings offer the opportunity to eat any number of steaks from the barbecue – prepared to your liking, plus an assortment of salads and other hot dishes.

Personally, I love being sent to Cape Panwa Hotel on a Friday the most!