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PATA Annual Conference 2012 in Malaysia
Wednesday 18 April 2012, 05:28PM
The Minister of Tourism, Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen, officially announced today Malaysia’s role as the host of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Annual Conference 2012 in Malaysia. The conference will be held in Kuala Lumpur from 21 to 22 April 2012 at The Royale Chulan. Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Haji Mohd. Yassinis scheduled to declare the conference open on 21 April. This is the fourth time that Malaysia is hosting the event after the first three in 1972, 1986 and 2001. This year’s conference, themed “Building the Business Beyond Profits,” will focus on corporate social responsibility in the tourism industry. The logo for the event is an image of a sea turtle, depicted with sunglasses, exuding a casual and carefree mood in line with the spirit of holiday-making. The green shell of the turtle denotes fresh new ideas and innovations that stimulate the growth of the industry. The orange circular background, which resembles the sunrise and sunset, reflects Malaysia’s tropical climate and year-round sunshine which provides the ideal setting for a wide range of tourist activities. Malaysia’s iconic landmarks such as the Petronas Twin Towers and KL Tower reflect the nation’s dynamic growth and progress in the 21stcentury. The development is perfectly complemented by Malaysia’s lush greenery, which is portrayed by the patch of grass in the background. It also signifies the tourism industry’s commitment to sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices. The turtle shell bears the words, “PATA Annual Conference 2012 Malaysia” and the theme of this year’s conference, “Building the Business Beyond Profits.” This design is inspired by the logo of the 1986 PATA Annual Conference which captured the hearts of people all over. The new logo takes a nostalgic look at the past, while outlining the dynamic growth and development that Malaysia has achieved in the ensuing years. Dato’ Sri Ng later distributed several PATA collaterals to industry members including taxi drivers, tour bus coaches and retail outlets nearby, in efforts to increase the awareness of the conference. A total of 532 delegates from more than 30 countries are expected to take part in this year’s conference, with more than 50 foreign media including BBC, Time, CNN, among them. Tourism Malaysia has been an active Government member of PATA since 1965 alongside 80 member organisations in Malaysia.   More information: Website: www.tourism.gov.myFacebook: www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysiaTwitter: twitter.com/tourismmalaysia
JAMIE'S PHUKET: Tha Sai Seafood, Phang Nga
Friday 23 March 2012, 11:09AM
Sometimes we eat at a restaurant for the first time, and instantly add it to our list of favourites. Places such as Tha Sai Seafood, which we visited on March 3 for a late lunch, feeling hungry and thirsty after spending half a day exploring caves, a very odd temple, and a forest park with waterfalls. We parked hesitantly by the restaurant while the local village idiot tried to suggest we park in a different spot. It looked rather quiet, and from the road did not look like anything amazing really. Then we walked through the entrance, and suddenly we were wowed. Not obvious from the road, the restaurant is actually right next to a wide mangrove river. There are several levels of seating, and we chose a table lower down. What a beautiful spot. “We're coming here again, so long as the food is good!” I said. We had not even ordered, and a return visit was already being planned! As we pondered the menu, a longtail boat chugged its way past the restaurant out into Phang Nga Bay. Being a late lunch, there were only a few tables occupied, though I saw plenty of staff around, which indicates that is is a popular place. And a popular place in the middle of nowhere has to mean that people are willing to drive a bit for good food. And yes, the food was good.We ordered all kinds of dishes. One of my favourites was a dish called yam pla dook foo, or fluffy fried catfish salad. Another one of my new favourites – thanks to my wife who insisted I try it – was poo nim – soft shelled crab fried with garlic. And it goes just perfectly with a cold beer, served with ice of course. It was one of those happy afternoons: find a new restaurant, enjoy great food and views. While Thai Sai Seafood is a bit far to drive from Phuket just for lunch (about 1.5 hours), it’s worth visiting if you’re already exploring Phang Nga. Days like this remind me how lucky we are to live here...   Jamie Monk works at liveaboard dive specialists Sunrise Divers. For more information call: 084 626 4646 or visit: sunrise-divers.com You can read more about Phuket on Jamie's Phuket Blog or follow Jamie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Flickr.
Burmese dreams: Young chefs aim to be ingredient of nation’s success
Friday 23 March 2012, 10:45AM
As Myanmar (Burma) opens up to the world, one cooking school is giving chefs a chance to shine in the bustling kitchens of Yangon as the city prepares for an influx of foreign visitors. Trainees at the Shwe Sa Bwe, or “Golden Table”, cookery school are learning how to whip up a gazpacho soup, flip crèpes and perfectly grill juicy chunks of chicken – all on the menu du jour for paying guests. The centre, in a quiet upmarket area just north of Yangon’s Inya Lake, offers free courses to underprivileged young Burmese, giving them the chance to learn French-based cuisine or restaurant hospitality. François Stoupan, the Frenchman behind the project, says his aim is for the trainees “to be part of the economy and the growth of the country” after their nine months of training. “Before I only knew about Myanmar’s food but now I’m learning about European food, which is very different,” said 26-year-old Win Mu. “It’s a little bit difficult, especially making the sauces. It takes time.” Set up in November and now with 14 students, the project has come at an apposite time for Myanmar’s underdeveloped commercial hub, which is struggling to accommodate a visitor boom. After decades of outright military rule, dramatic changes over the past year have encouraged foreign tourists, diplomats and business people to pile into the city’s hotels, where Shwe Sa Bwe’s students hope eventually to work. “It’s corresponding to a moment in Myanmar’s history and a period of opening up,” said Stoupan. Tourist arrivals hit a record high for a second year running in 2011, rising more than 20 per cent, the Myanmar Times weekly said in January, quoting figures from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. The trend is set to continue as it becomes ever easier to obtain an entry visa, and with Myanmar ranked as a top travel destination for 2012 by publications including the New York Times and Condé Nast Traveller. Such attention is highlighting the culinary potential of Yangon. “There are fresh ingredients – very fresh – local ingredients. If you go to the market early at six in the morning, the fish are still alive, still moving,” said Jeoffrey Offer, the French head chef at Shwe Sa Bwe. Experiments with locally-sourced produce are already thriving in the former colonial capital, as wealthy Burmese become more adventurous in their tastes.Sharky’s, a delicatessen and restaurant business, initially targeted wealthy expatriates but is seeing its clientèle diversify “because of the changing situation, the economy, everything,” said operations director Thaw Tar. “We want to be like Bangkok or more than Bangkok. This is our dream, but who knows if it can happen?” said Thaw Tar, whose eatery sells foods grown, farmed and prepared in Myanmar, from air-dried meats and artisan cheeses to gourmet burgers and ice-cream. Traditional dishes, which have long languished in the shadows of neighbouring Thailand and India’s world-renowned flavours, are also getting their time in the sun.The unofficial national dish, mohinga, featured highly in a new Lonely Planet guide to the world’s best street food. “This comforting noodle soup exemplifies the earthy flavours of the country’s cuisine,” Lonely Planet said of the dish. All in all, say local restaurateurs, there is plenty to excite the taste buds. “Everybody knows Thai dishes, so we think we should come out more so the world knows Myanmar’s food,” said Phyu Phyu Tin, owner of Monsoon, one of a handful of restaurants in the city that combine a chic dining experience with Burmese dishes such as wether acho chet, a sweet and rich pork curry. The restaurant’s manager, Aung Moe Winn, says that Myanmar has historically lost many of its energetic young workers to overseas cities with booming service sectors – a trend he hopes will now change. “We want them to use their qualities and skills to develop our country,” he said.At Shwe Sa Bwe, the students were chosen partly for their willingness to stay in Myanmar, and already they are devising ambitious plans to develop their country’s cuisine. After a stint in a Yangon hotel, Win Mu hopes to set up a fusion restaurant near her family home in northeastern Shan state, serving a blend of European and Burmese dishes. It is perhaps the ideal recipe to match Myanmar’s growing interaction with the outside world – even if Gallic cuisine sometimes baffles the Burmese. “Myanmar people eat their beef well-done but the French eat it raw. That’s how foreigners like it! For me, that’s really strange,” said Win Mu. –AFP
Phi Phi on the horizon
Thursday 15 March 2012, 03:01PM
It’s only 8.30am on a Thursday morning, but already the five large ferries, docked three abreast at Rassada Pier in Phuket Town, are full with passengers. Hundreds of expectant tourists form this formidable friendly invasion force, heading for the two islands of Phi Phi, those small and fragile natural jewels all on their own in the pristine Andaman Sea. Judging by the languages I hear around me on the boat ride over, today hordes of Chinese, Russian and French visitors, all in assorted beach gear, are ready for sun and sea. They all disembark en masse onto the narrow jetty at Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two islands, before streaming into the narrow lanes of the holiday village already packed with tourists. The beach is lined by longtail boats; a couple of them are already noisily reversing with their passengers on board, escaping to a less-crowded stretch of sand on the other side of the island. Meanwhile, sleek speedboats power in with more visitors, their row of large outboard engines revving. Blond Scandinavian men sit, somewhat bored, in the many dive shops near the beach, ready to teach people how to dive down to see the richness of the coral reefs under the crystal clear water. Signs on almost all hotels and guesthouses read “FULL.” It is after all high-season on Phi Phi. In the fierce afternoon heat, the many air-conditioned convenience stores offer cool respite for passersby. On a rough field, against a striking backdrop of lush green hills, teams of young men compete in a football championship, with much laughter and cheering. Village life goes on after work is done. Just offshore, a particularly eye-catching longtail wooden boat, built of thick old exposed timber, waits to take other villagers home. It’s has been a long day for them too, catering to the international tourists who bring in a daily baht bonanza for the islanders. Back onshore, a troupe of wiry young men limber up and twine cotton strips around their hoops and twirling sticks ready to be lit for their fire dancing and juggling, once the sun dips below the horizon. In the glow of sunset, viewed from the deserted curving end of the beach I find myself in, the bright lights and flags of the throbbing tourist village in the near distance sit in contrast with the blue-green steep timbered cliffs. A couple of swimmers float in the warm sea, now turned bright red by the sunset.I wonder, what was this island like before it was developed? Why in the world have visitors come here in such numbers? And have they all found what they were seeking? So many questions to answer. Meanwhile, Phi Phi settles down to relax for the evening. It needs its rest, for tomorrow is another busy day.Getting there: Passenger ferries leave at 8.30am and at 1.30pm for Phi Phi from Rassada Pier southeast of Phuket Town. Costs vary but expect to pay about B600 for a return ticket. While good accommodation can be found on arrival, it’s best to book ahead during high season.
JAMIE'S PHUKET: Rang Hill temple
Sunday 4 March 2012, 08:50AM
Imagine a bright, sunny morning and I’m driving through Phuket Town with my wife. The kids have been dropped off at school, and we’ve put in a broken laptop for repairs. We’re driving on familiar roads, heading north near the Vachira hospital. There is a little-used side road by the hospital that heads up to the top of Rang Hill. My wife asks – do you know the temple up this road? Indeed I do not. I’m sure I’ve driven this way before, but seem to have missed Rang Hill Temple (Wat Khao Rang) every single time. It’s a shame, as hidden from view up the small side road by the hospital is something quite impressive – there’s more than one Big Buddha in Phuket. We arrived at the temple late morning, but I did not have my camera with me (we hadn’t planned to stop anywhere that day), so instead we had a quick look, bumped into a local photographer I know, then dashed home, picked up the kids, and told them we were going to a temple. Hooray, they said! Well, perhaps not quite, but at least this temple was one they’d never seen before.Rang Hill Temple was founded by a monk called Luang Pu Supha, who some claim to be the world’s oldest man (a fact not ratified by Guinness World Records). His image can be found on amulets for sale at the temple, though the supposed 115-year-old now lives at the temple named after him, Wat Luang Pu Supha, also located in Phuket. Beyond the Big Buddha there is a new temple building, which looks to have been recently completed and is reached by a separate staircase lined by Naga snakes guarding the entrance. Unfortunately I didn’t enter as the rest of the family had seen enough and were already waiting in the car. In any case I will return sometime soon.   Jamie Monk works at liveaboard dive specialists Sunrise Divers. For more information call: 084 626 4646 or visit: sunrise-divers.com You can read more about Phuket on Jamie's Phuket Blog or follow Jamie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Flickr.
Mobile café on a roll
Sunday 4 March 2012, 08:46AM
Malisa & Me mobile café owners Dan and Malisa Shults have found a niche market in Phuket, delivering a tasty variety of food and drink to customers around the island from the comfort of their travelling food truck. Their unique food truck was specially made in Bangkok. Dan says the trucks are incredibly popular in the United States, so when looking to start up a business, they figured the same idea might work here. Malisa has worked in the tourism industry, and Dan is a student at Prince of Songkla University studying hospitality management, but the couple were looking for a new business venture. The simple but great-tasting sandwiches are reasonably priced, with the pair offering vegetable or chicken quesadillas, grilled sandwiches (including pizza, mexican, tuna and bacon, barbecued pork), plus s’mores (B85) and the famous American peanut butter and jelly sandwich (B70). Malisa and Dan also make great iced drinks – all created using homemade syrup –including the unique pumpkin flavoured ice latte. The couple have big plans for the business, including perhaps a franchise over the next few years. But for the meantime they are happy driving around the streets of Naiharn and wider Phuket, ready to deliver fresh, home-made food to eager customers. Disclaimer: the mobile café is on its way to becoming an institution at The Phuket News’ Kathu office, where Dan and Malisa arrive to feed the hungry staff twice a week.Malisa & Me: 081-956-8635, malisaandme@mail.com; facebook.com/malisaandme