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Fah Thai Magazine Jul-Aug 2018

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OVERTURES ARTS & CULTURAL MATTERS Lure of the Local Words Jeremie Schatz, Sarita Urupongsa Photos Jeremie Schatz, Dolnapa Ram-Indra PHUKET Siow Jung Sin A bowl of sandalwood is kept burning out front at all times. Stepping through the fragrant veil of smoke, you realise you’ve stumbled across something special. It’s one part dimly-lit antique shop, one part hustling restaurant, but it’s much more than the sum of its parts. With no sign and an unassuming façade, Siow Jung Sin need not rely on glitz and glam to lure in customers. This humble Phuket Town favourite has a loyal following whose stomachs and senses lead them back. Despite the random décor of antique mining lanterns, table tops displaying old cassette tapes and dangling birds’ nests creating a sense of timelessness, they first fired up their woks only six years ago. A labour of love for Bank and Ingo Siyangsanaw, they are a constant presence with Bank working his magic over the fire and Ing liaising between guests and staff. The steaming dishes slide onto the table astonishingly fast while the ever-moving staff literally run to fetch customers’ requests. Want a nearby and authentic experience that can also be part of your beach vacation? For a well-rounded trip, enjoying natural scenery to tasting the culinary feat of a local wok offers a lasting connection to a place. Don’t expect phad thai or green curry on this menu — Siow Jung Sin churns out the fused flavours of Chinese and Thai cooking traditions. Case-inpoint is the signature dish, super teen gai, with extra-tender stewed chicken’s feet in a thick, searing red sweet and spicy broth. The finest fried rice you’ve ever had comes out of their open-air kitchen along with rarely found flavours like fermented soy bean and chilli paste (phad tao hoo yee) and pan-fried young coconut shoots with fresh shrimp (goong phad yod maphrao). “Our food is not very good, but it comes from the heart. It’s heart food,” says Bank modestly. However, the full tables of content diners beg to differ. What comes from the wok is only part of the equation. With a third generation recipe, Bank produces homemade spiced rice whiskey (ya dong). The smooth, sweet brew is aged with fresh herbs for two and a half months. It’s meant to drink before eating, but typically continues throughout the meal and into the night. Bank has colloquially named it “the swan that never meets the target,” the meaning of which is open to interpretation. If you have an empty stomach and are on the prowl for a uniquely authentic Phuket experience, find your way to Siow Jung Sin. Siow Jung Sin, Wirat Hong Yok Rd, Tambon Talat Nuea, Amphur Muang, Phuket, Phuket KRABI Wat Tham Suea Travellers looking to nurture their inner adventurer will want lace up their walking shoes and explore Wat Tham Suea, also referred to as the Tiger Cave Temple. Nestled in the shadow of a towering limestone peak on the edge of a verdant valley 10km outside Krabi Town, this temple complex attracts a diverse group of visitors. Established in 1975 by Buddhist monks, there are several versions of an origin story including tiger paw prints being discovered on the cave wall, an enormous tiger residing in the cave, and most plausible, a healthy population of tigers roaming the surrounding jungle. Although named for the limestone cave, the leading attraction is undoubtedly the mountaintop Buddha and Chedi (Stupa). To reach the summit one must climb a precipitous staircase of 1,260 steps. Although mostly shaded, it is quite strenuous and an early start is recommended. A comfortable pair of shoes and a generous supply of drinking water are mandatory. You are unlikely to be alone as troops of monkeys loiter around the steps and bathe in the cistern at the top. Beware of your unattached belongings as daring, naughty monkeys just might want to rid you of them. However, it’s all worth it as those who brave the primates and muscle through the arduous ascent are rewarded with a jaw-dropping 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape. After a much-deserved rest and descent from the mountain, be sure to locate the other staircase further back in the complex which leads over a small ridge and into an isolated, jungle-filled area where the resident monks live. A trail leads past a sprawling altar, along the foot of a cliff where the monks’ humble abodes perch in indentations in the rock. It continues in a loop through a prehistoric-feeling jungle. One can easily spend the better part of a day at Wat Tham Suea climbing the mountain, hanging out with monkeys, and exploring all of the temples. Who said you have to be lazy on vacation! 36 37