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Friday 23 December 2011, 10:30AM
Jolly fellow with white beard and large girth stuffed into red suit. Need we say more? HOW ARE YOUR CHRISTMAS PREPARATIONS GOING AT THE SOUTH POLE THIS YEAR? South Pole? My place is at the North Pole! But things are going fine except for my head elf who is feeling a bit tired and emotional. A bit too much of the Christmas spirits a bit much but I am sure he’ll recover in time. HOW DO YOU SURVIVE THE HEAT IN PHUKET WHEN YOU’RE DRESSED IN YOUR SANTA SUIT? I’ve got these new solar-powered, climate-controlled long johns. And when I’m working indoors I can plug them into the mains power. They work great so long as no one trips over the power cord! ARE WHITE CHRISTMAS COCKTAILS OVERRATED? WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS DRINK? I have to admit I am not particularly fond of “White Christmas”, or eggnog in general. I much prefer the fruitier “Sex on the Beach”. But don't tell the Mums add Dads that. They might get the wrong idea about me. HOW DOES SANTA DELIVER THE PRESENTS TO CHILDREN IN PHUKET WHEN THEY HAVE NO FIREPLACES? Magic, my friend! Seriously, take a look at my picture. I could never come down a chimney anyway. Even if you had a really big chimney, I wouldn’t want to get my suit all covered in soot. I don’t know who started this myth about chimneys. But you know, people believe what they want to believe. WHAT SORT OF TREATS DO YOU LIKE THE CHILDREN OF PHUKET TO LEAVE OUT FOR YOU? Anything from Dad’s special cabinet will do. The cabinet with all those bottles in it. ARE YOU WORRIED THAT YOUR RED SUIT MAY GIVE THAIS THE WRONG IMPRESSION ABOUT YOUR POLITICS? Not at all. Santa is beyond politics. Besides, this is a suit, not a shirt. DO YOU HAVE ELVES TO HELP YOU IN PHUKET, OR BURMESE WORKERS? It will be elves this year. Last year I had a nightmare at immigration and ended up having to leave all my helpers there and hand over half of all my presents in lieu of some kind of fee I never understood… WHAT DO THE TUK-TUK AND TAXI DRIVERS SAY ABOUT YOU PARKING YOUR SLEIGH IN THEIR TERRITORY? Oh, I don’t have any problems because I had my sleigh manufactured by Harley Davidson... Respect! Plus Rudolf bites. Believe me, you don’t want to get bitten by a reindeer. Worse than a pit bull. WHY IS RUDOLPH’S NOSE REALLY SO RED? Poor Rudolph suffers from really bad eyesight. He’s always running nose-first into things. I’m thinking of having him go through that popular laser treatment while we are here. I saw they have a Christmas special. DO YOU EVER COME BACK TO PHUKET ON HOLIDAY ONCE YOUR CHRISTMAS WORK IS DONE? I do. But you won’t see me. With this belly I blend in nicely with the other tourists from cold countries. THANKS VERY MUCH FOR TAKING TIME OUT OF YOUR BUSY SCHEDULE TO TALK TO US. My pleasure. Now, have you been naughty or nice this year? Let me have a look in my bag… • Our thanks to Teddy Fagerstrom for the introduction to Santa
Friday 25 November 2011, 05:13PM
  Paul Gibson is the owner of the Yorkshire Hotel & Spa (, in central Patong Beach, a 68-room hotel and leisure centre. He also owns and operates Phuket Catering, which is a high end external catering business, mainly providing for weddings, parties and charter boats.   WHAT WERE YOU DOING 35 YEARS AGO? I was the youngest PGA professional in the UK. After five years qualifying for the European tour, I realised that I was not good enough as a player and long-term saw no real future as a golf pro. I therefore applied for my amateur status again, and embarked on a career in the world of business. I started a golf club manufacturing and repair customising business, based in Leeds. This quickly snowballed and I was invited by The Royal & Ancient to repair and customise at the annual Open Championship. This brought me in close contact with many of the world’s top players,which resulted in me doing work and making clubs for many of them. I specialised in making persimmon (wooden) drivers. I had the pleasure and honour of meeting and working with some of the greats, including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros, Ben Crenshaw and many more.   WHY DID YOU MOVE HERE? I moved to Phuket seven years ago. The first reason was a bad divorce. The second was the land of the smiling face and the small bottom. I just love beautiful women.   WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT LIVING HERE? The humbleness of the people, the weather, the beaches and the smiling faces.   WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? I play golf, but to be truthful as I get older this sometimes becomes frustrating. My favourite for relaxation must be sitting on my 17th floor balcony over looking Patong bay with a glass of Chilean red wine and a crossword, which I normally do not finish as I cannot spell.   WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY? Leaving school, which I hated. Also the first time I beat my dad at golf, who was a three handicap at the time.   FAVOURITE FOOD? Food and wine are what I live for. Favourite food has to be Spanish so a good paella has to be way up on the list, followed by a great fish casserole. Fruity new world red wines are my favourite.   WHAT KIND OF MUSIC ARE YOU INTO? Soul, blues, and jazz, but the new British singer-songwriter Adele has really caught my attention.   BEST TIP YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE MOVING TO PHUKET? Stay away from Bangla, don’t get into a tuk-tuk, and take the time to see the whole island. I have been here seven years and am still finding hidden gems like Laem Singh beach. Living in Thailand has changed my life completely. In the UK, I had big houses, big cars and top holidays. Phuket has humbled me and changed my outlook on life. Now I have very few material things. I have realised that it is far better to give than receive. I now spend a lot of my time raising money for children. I sponsor various children through the Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation in Kamala, as well as helping a small orphanage in Cambodia with 50 children. If children in Thailand get a proper education and learn to speak English this impacts on their entire family.   FUNNIEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU ON THE ISLAND? This happened shortly after my arrival in Phuket. I bought a house in Anapus golf villas in Kathu. Inside the development there is a large common grassed area, for children to play and parents to walk their dogs. The Thai manager erected a large sign and wrote on it: “Please do not let you dog Chit on the glass.”   THE PERSON YOU ADMIRE THE MOST AND WHY? Peter Hamilton, the co-developer of The Yamu on the east coast. He has helped me greatly and is a very kind and generous man. He one of a handful that have inspired me throughout life’s short journey.   WHERE IN PHUKET WOULD YOU TAKE SOMEONE ON A FIRST DATE? It depends who this would be, but a favorite place is the El Natural Restaurant in Phuket Town.   IF YOU COULD COME BACK AS ANY OTHER PERSON WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY? Frank Sinatra as I love to live life to the full.   FAVOURITE PLACE ON THE ISLAND? Laem Singh beach next to Surin Beach. Why? It’s peaceful, quiet and I love Papa’s seafood restaurant.  
PHUKET EXPOSED: Paul Moorhouse
Friday 18 November 2011, 05:52PM
  Owner and founder of Andaman Tropical Development Co. Ltd Since 1999 Paul Moorhouse has been designing and developing ‘highend’gated communities of villas and apartments in the Laguna and Layan area, as well as restaurants, bars and stand alone ‘bespoke’ villas. He is now just about retired and planning to get plenty of rest over the next few years.   WHAT WERE YOU DOING 10 YEARS AGO? Up until June 1995 I was the Global Chief Operating Officer for TNT Ltd, a major, multinational logistics company, based in Singapore and Amsterdam. WHY DID YOU MOVE HERE? I bought my first home here in 1994 but had been visiting since 1982, very different days then and a wonderful, totally unspoilt island. Somewhat different now in many, many ways… some better, some not! But still a wonderful place to live. WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT LIVING HERE? I love the ease of doing most of the things I want to do like playing golf, going out on my boat and drinking and eating in some super bars and restaurants. Above all though I love the climate and most of the Thai ‘way of life’!   WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? Swim, golf, go out on my boat, walk my dogs on the beach at Layan or Cape Panwa, ride my bike and enjoy the company of some good mates and my family over a few cold beers.   WHAT HOBBIES OR SPORTS ARE YOU INTERESTED IN? Apart from those I have already talked about I love watching International Rugby and the EPL, in fact just about any sport except beach football which I think is a joke! I also enjoy sitting and practising my new acoustic bass guitar.   WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY? Playing football and cricket and going swimming in the nearby lakes with my young mates in Yorkshire during the long, hot school summer holidays, which seemed to go on forever!   FAVOURITE FOOD OR DISH? I love just about everything. Having lived in Asia for 28 years I adore Asian and particularly Chinese and Thai and also Japanese. I also love pie and mash or fish and chips with mushy peas. Quite frankly I’ll eat almost anything if it’s good and cooked properly.   WHAT KIND OF MUSIC ARE YOU INTO? I have 1450 different artists and 35,000 tracks on my iPod so I am into just about everything from Sinatra to Led Zeppelin and from Fairport Convention to Kasabian, but if push comes to shove I always resort to Paul Rodgers and Free, early ‘70s rock! Funnily enough though I love chill out and ambient beach grooves also.   WHAT IS THE BEST TIP YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE MOVING TO PHUKET? Don’t expect everything to happen at once, and don’t expect Phuket to be a sunnier version of where you just came from! Take your time with everything and have an open mind to absorb what’s going on and how to enjoy it to the fullest.   WHAT IS THE FUNNIEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU WHILE LIVING ON THE ISLAND? There are hundreds of things that have amused me over the last 20 years or so here, but the most amusing was arriving home drunk one night and breaking into my neighbours house because I thought my wife had locked me out of mine, which was next door! It wasn’t funny at the time though but I laughed about it after... when I had sobered up.   THE PERSON YOU ADMIRE THE MOST AND WHY? There are many people I admire tremendously but I guess Paul McCartney has to be up there for many reasons including changing my life and making millions of people very happy, all over the world, both with The Beatles and since. Top man, great singer/songwriter and a very accomplished musician.   WHERE IN PHUKET WOULD YOU TAKE SOMEONE ON A FIRST DATE? Joe’s Downstairs or the Reggae Bar at Layan Beach at 6pm on a beautiful evening. Stunning sunsets, great cocktails and the food’s damn good as well.   IF YOU COULD COME BACK AS ANY OTHER PERSON WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY? It would definitely be a musician and would probably be either Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Nathan East or John Paul Jones, all tremendous players who literally live to play music.   FAVOURITE PLACE ON THE ISLAND, AND WHY? The beaches at Layan and the west side of Cape Panwa. They have beautiful sand, lovely breezes all year round, are nearly deserted and have wonderful views. Both remind me of ‘old’ Phuket as they are virtually unspoilt.   WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE NIGHT OUT? Not a big ‘night out’ person anymore but I do like a good meal in a top restaurant with good wine and good company of friends and preferably some live music. Failing that a walk down Soi Bangla about 11.30pm is always good for a laugh.  
PHUKET EXPOSED: Sharon Biddell
Friday 11 November 2011, 04:37PM
  Founder and Director of SHE(Self Help and Empowerment) WHAT WERE YOU DOING 10 YEARS AGO? Myself, my husband Mark and our four children were volunteers working for Mercy Ships, a hospital ship that serves the poorest of the poor in West Africa. As a family we would live in an African community and host volunteer teams from overseas to build orphanages, schools, and medical clinics. Mark was head of the community development department, and I was the women’s programmes manager. I would put together programmes that would enable families to have a sustainable food and income resource so that they would not need to be dependent upon others for their survival and health. We worked with Mercy Ships for nearly seven years before coming to Thailand. WHY DID YOU MOVE HERE? We have lived in Phuket for six years now. We originally came to help with building up communities after the tsunami hit Thailand, and then during our stay we visited Patong. We started asking the young women in the bars questions about what their work involved and we were shocked by their answers. Repeatedly we were told how they travelled from the poorer communities of northern Thailand so they could provide for their families. They could not get decent jobs as they were pulled out of school at a young age to help their parents work on the farms and so had very little education. In the end, via one way or another, they eventually ended up selling their bodies to Thai and foreign men. This was a sacrifice they were willing to make for their family’s welfare. TELL US ABOUT THE FOUNDATION. After hearing their stories, my husband and I then decided to offer women alternative employment making jewellery which we would then sell overseas to pay their salaries. We named our foundation SHE, which stands for Self Help and Empowerment and has now grown into giving free bakery lessons, English classes and hotel training. This is all part of our prevention programme. If an uneducated Thai woman travels to Phuket looking for work in the hotels, only to be told she needs a higher education or work experience, then instead of them being turned away and seeking work in bars, we tell hotels to send them to us. The women then receive free accommodation, food and hotel training and when ready, they are sent back to the hotel. WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT LIVING HERE? Thai people and Thai food.   WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? Oil painting, I find it’s the only way to switch off from my busy family and work life.   FAVOURITE FOOD? UK-style fish and chips – because I can’t get it here I am yearning for it.   WHAT KIND OF MUSIC ARE YOU INTO? I like to listen to Paul Baloche he is a Christian song writer in the States.   WHAT IS THE BEST TIP YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE MOVING TO PHUKET? Don’t expect anything to happen in a hurry, whether it’s setting up your home with things like internet and cable, or for your new environment to feel like home.   WHAT IS THE FUNNIEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU WHILE LIVING ON THE ISLAND? Language learning. I spent my first week of language learning being sniggered at by staff at coffee shops as (unknown to me) I was asking for coffee with breast milk. I only found out when a Thai lady replied whilst squeezing her breast, “one squirt or two”?   IF YOU COULD COME BACK AS ANY OTHER PERSON WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY? Myself as I am perfectly content with the hand that God has dealt me.   FAVOURITE PLACE ON THE ISLAND? The SHE centre in Kathu as it has my family there.   FAVOURITE NIGHT OUT? Date night with my husband at a nice restaurant.   WHERE YOU TAKE SOMEONE ON A FIRST DATE? Friendship Beach is a nice place to go on a date.   WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE YOUR FINAL MEAL? Fish and chips or chicken tikka masala and a naan.