Vol. XI No. 40
Friday October 3 - October 9 , 2003

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]: 

Bruno’s 7th anniversary dinner marks the end of an era

The Dancing Plants

A day at the races ... the buffalo races that is

BCCT reaches for the Sky with St. Andrews

Bruno’s 7th anniversary dinner marks the end of an era

by Miss Terry Diner

There was an aura of closing an era when the packed house at Bruno’s Restaurant came to celebrate the 7th anniversary of this Pattaya icon in the culinary field, and the final anniversary at the North Pattaya address. However, when the feast was over, everyone in the room left looking forward to trying out the new Bruno’s Restaurant, opening in Jomtien on October 15.

Chef and owner, Fredi Schaub, looked as busy as a one armed paper-hanger as he flitted from table to kitchen to table to kitchen and back to the tables, but the staff were their usual unflappable selves as they delivered the five courses to the awaiting diners.

We began with a beautiful tartar of smoked Norwegian salmon and crabmeat on a cucumber rose to cleanse and uplift any jaded palates. This was important, as there were taste sensations to come.

The next course was a broccoli cream soup, but one with a difference, having a surprise in the form of pan-fried duck liver cubes as an addition that home cooks, no matter how adventurous, wouldn’t have thought of.

By now, the assorted ‘foodies’ of Pattaya, including the Chaine des Rotisseurs supremo Louis Noll (the ebullient) from Mata Hari Restaurant, Charge de Missions Hugh Millar and Charge de Press Peter Malhotra; were into their favourite wines and ready for the ragout of wild mushrooms and spring chicken in a crispy potato basket. This was delightful, with a subtle taste (and I ate the potato basket as well).

The main course suited the carnivores, with Shenanigans landlord Kim Fletcher and Walter Thenisch (Royal Cliff Beach Resort executive chef) and wife Oy seen smiling broadly, enjoying an Australian beef tenderloin on potato-leek tart served with a red wine-rosemary sauce. This was a magnificent steak and a testimonial to the consummate skills of Fredi and his team of chefs.

Other restaurateurs and well known Pattaya gourmets that were there to help Fredi celebrate the 7th anniversary included Ib and Kannikar Ottesen (Captain’s Corner and The Jomtien Boathouse) and Dorli and Erich Piller. In fact, the numbers were too great for Miss Terry to remember them all by the end of the evening.

It was a fitting end to another year for Bruno’s Restaurant at the old location. Bruno himself was remembered and toasts drunk in his name, followed by congratulations to Fredi and the staff. Miss Terry looks forward to trying out the ‘new’ Bruno’s and Bruno’s eighth anniversary!

The Dancing Plants

Kathryn Brimacombe

As my friend and I walk through the greenhouse at the Udorn Sunshine Orchid nursery just outside of the city of Udorn Thani in north-eastern Thailand, the scent of wet soil, rain, and the sweet subtle perfume of orchids hangs heavily in the humid air. Passing by rows and rows of delicate and exotic yellow and purple orchids, we stop at a rather dull-looking plant with long, thin, pale-green leaves, dotted with drops of water from the rain storm that just passed. I look at it closely and think that this nondescript plant doesn’t look like anything special, that it would typically be found by the side of a road or growing in an empty building lot.

As we I walk through the greenhouse at the Udorn Sunshine Orchid nursery just outside of the city of Udorn Thani in north-eastern Thailand, the scent of wet soil, rain, and the sweet subtle perfume of orchids hangs heavily in the humid air.

Then our guide begins humming a pleasant high-pitched tune.

I blink quickly - did I see one of the leaves move? She brings out a well-used child’s toy from under her arm, a white plastic piano with multi-coloured keys. She presses one of the keys and the tinny sound of a song emanates from it. I watch closely, and suddenly a few of the new baby leaves begin twisting to the music! She tucks the toy under her arm again and begins singing softly to them, and the small leaves wave back and forth, flowing with her gentle words. The leaves are dancing!

She begins singing softly to them, and the small leaves wave back and forth, flowing with her gentle words. The leaves are dancing!

These plants, called Desmodium Gyrants, of the tropical bean family, are the result of years of hard work by orchid breeder, Dr. Pradit Kampermpool. After finding a Thai strain of the Gyrant plant in the jungle, he bred it twice then crossbred it with a variant from China. The result is a plant that responds to certain sounds including singing, chanting, and some musical instruments, by gently swaying and waving its new small leaves. The experience of singing or talking to the plants is said to produce a calming effect, and many local psychotherapists bring their patients to the plants at the Udorn Sunshine Orchid nursery to soothe their troubled minds.

This beautiful yellow and purple flower with a delicate sweet scent has been registered with the World Orchid Society in Great Britain, and is the only known Vanda hybrid that is fragrant between the early morning hours and about 2 p.m. It is also the first orchid in the world to be made into a perfume.

The swaying leaves do have a relaxing effect on me, and I chuckle in amazement as our guide coos and sings to them, love and compassion blossoming in her voice and in the creases of her eyes and her smile. I ask if I can give it a try, and the leaves immediately stop dancing as she ceases singing to tell me to go ahead. I begin humming “Auld Lang Syne,” and sure enough a few of the tiny new leaves starting jerking in tiny movements. I stop my helplessly out-of-tune rendition and our guide starts singing again, much to the delight of the plants whose leaves begin waving frenziedly. Perhaps they not only respond to pleasant sounds but to emotion, as they dance passionately to the sound of her voice. She then asks me if we’d like to look around the rest of the nursery and we accept her invitation.

Dr. Kampermpool founded the Udorn Sunshine Orchid nursery in 1975 as an orchid farm. There he introduced a new hybrid of perfumed orchid called Miss Udorn Sunshine, after cross-breeding V. Josephine Van Berrow orchid with V. Denisonlana Sampoydong orchid, a native of Thailand. This beautiful yellow and purple flower with a delicate sweet scent has been registered with the World Orchid Society in Great Britain, and is the only known Vanda hybrid that is fragrant between the early morning hours and about 2 p.m. It is also the first orchid in the world to be made into a perfume.

We walk along the rows of flower boxes filled with orchids, as rain drops caught in the mesh of the blue tarp overhead fall and splash on our heads and shoulders. The air is heavy and humid, thick with the perfume of these unique orchids and hot moisture steaming up from the dark soil. We pause at one cluster of orchids and I gaze at the graceful petals, their colour that of the reflection of a pale sunset in the sea. I bend down, my nose almost touching the elegant petals, close my eyes, and deeply inhale its sensuous scent.

My guide takes us to where we can sample the perfume, and after spraying Miss Udorn Sunshine on a thin strip of paper for me, I massage it gently into my wrist, the sweet fragrance intoxicating. She also introduces us to another perfume made at the nursery, called “Udorn Toob Moob.” This perfume is made from the bulb of a plant with the same name, a plant that grows locally and sprouts tiny white flowers. This perfume, which has been used for temple ceremonies and weddings to ensure good luck, is also said to calm agitated spirits and cure rifts between lovers.

With wrapped packages in hand we visit the dancing plants one last time, singing softly to them as their tiny budding leaves flicker and sway to our voices. I can see how one could come to love and care for these special plants, as the emotion felt in song and music is reciprocated in their gentle movements.

A day at the races ... the buffalo races that is

Tim Gladwin

As usual, the forthcoming fourteenth full moon night of the eleventh lunar month, or this year simply the 9th of October to those of us who have no idea how the lunar calendar works, will see the annual running of the Chonburi buffalo races, an event that probably has to be seen to be believed.

The basic idea has changed little since the sport’s inception around a hundred years ago, essentially involving farmers jumping atop their beasts before then doing whatever they can, firstly, to make them run and, secondly, to ensure that once they do so, it is in the general direction of the finish line. Of course, this must be achieved without the aid of any kind of saddle making for all sorts of fun and games when a jockey loses his grip, falls off and his mount decides to head for the on-looking crowd of spectators.

One thing that certainly has changed, however, is the size of the event and this year you can expect to see several hundred buffalo racing as part of what is now a fully fledged festival.

So the story goes, the Chonburi races, and thus the sport of buffalo racing itself, have their origins in an argument between two farmers, Chai and Kittipong, in the late nineteenth century. Like many others, they had gone to their local market at Ban Beung, just outside of Chonburi town, at the end of Buddhist Lent to trade their goods. Having travelled there by buffalo cart, and in the spirit of competition that was strong between the various farmers, they got to discussing who had the better animal. One can only guess that they may have had a strong drink or two at the time, because the outcome was that Chai challenged Kittipong to a race on their respective beasts, and of course Kittipong happily accepted.

It may be unlikely, but if you ever find yourself asking how far a man’s pride in his buffalo can go, this is likely the answer. Anyway, the challenge having been laid, a date was set, being one day before they were both due to return home to their villages, and the course agreed, being the square in front of the Chonburi City Hall. Perhaps unsurprisingly amongst a group of competitive men, it turned out that the idea had struck somewhat of a cord with the other local farmers because interest grew quickly and several of them decided to join in with the race.

No-one now seems to know who prevailed between the original protagonists, Chai and Kittipong, nor whether it was one of them or one of the other farmers who ended up winning the race. Of course, it is really neither here nor there, save for the fact that as no-one apparently remembered to tell the complete story there is perhaps even greater reason to believe that, like so many other fun-filled escapades, the whole episode was probably entirely fuelled by a heavy intake of alcohol by all those concerned.

One thing that seems certain, however, is that those who were involved had a good time because the race took place again the year after and has been repeated each year ever since. It was even honoured with a Royal visit in 1912, when King Mongkut (Rama VI) attended the day’s racing.

With the growing number of buffalo involved, there is of course no longer just a single race, but rather a series of heats with five or six animals running in each, followed by finals for those that make it through. Moreover, the buffalo are now divided into four categories by size, namely smallest, small, medium and heavy, although the classification is not necessarily as scientific as it might be in a somewhat more serious sport. The venue remains the same, in the courtyard in front of the Chonburi City Hall, where the competitors race their animals along a track measuring some one hundred and ten metres.

What makes the buffalo races both unusual and amusing is the nature of the animals themselves. One look at a buffalo will tell you that, while they may have all sorts of abilities that come in particularly handy on a farm, they are not exactly built for speed. They are enormously rotund creatures whose swollen bellies tend to hang closer to the floor than can possibly be comfortable.

Nevertheless, once motivated by their jockey, and more particularly by the wooden stick he wields in the manner of a race-horse jockey with a whip, they can reach surprising speeds. And besides, so long as there is doubt about the eventual winner, man’s competitive nature and possibly his innate desire to have a small flutter whenever he can find excuse to do so are more than sated.

However, as alluded to earlier, the event has developed and has now become a full blown festival. Given the time of year, it is treated as part of the celebration of the rice harvest and prior to the start of the races a ceremony is held to give thanks for the rain and the crop as well as to pray for good fortune for the year ahead. In terms of entertainment, nowadays there is far more on offer for attendees to enjoy than simply watching the races and soaking up the atmosphere.

A Thai festival just wouldn’t be the same without a beauty pageant and this one has, to say the least, certainly embraced the idea. In fact, they have two and, dependant upon how widely you want to interpret the definition of “beauty”, arguably three such contests.

However, although the “Miss Buffalo” contest is very much along traditional lines and involves beautiful young women competing for the title, the “Best Decorated Buffalo” and “Most Healthy Buffalo” contests are, as the respective titles suggest, for animals with four legs and a pair of horns.

As to what kind of women actually want to win the title of “Miss Buffalo” I am far from sure. Certainly, back where I come from you would not find attractive young women competing for it. In fact, I seem to recall motivating one particular girlfriend to violence, and suffering the consequences, on more than one occasion for calling her a couple of names that I would have down as being far less offensive.

Continuing the buffalo theme, you can watch men who, dependent upon your point of view, are either awfully brave or terribly stupid “wrestle” the huge animals, although it is not so much a case of two holds or a knock-out as it is them pitting their wits against the raw power of their opponents. Clowns are on hand to fall over, hit each other over the head and get down to whatever other tom foolery is necessary to keep the crowd amused, while there are oily pole climbing and sling-shot shooting contests for those who have somehow acquired the necessary skills.

Particularly bearing in mind Chonburi’s convenient location, around sixty kilometres and therefore usually less than an hour from Pattaya, and the ease with which one can simply jump aboard one of the numerous Sukhumvit Highway buses to get there, the buffalo races provide a superb opportunity to sample the fun, colour and pageantry of a Thai festival. Be sure not to miss it.

BCCT reaches for the Sky with St. Andrews

The British Chamber of Commerce held another Eastern Seaboard networking evening on Friday September 19. A shift in location saw staunch networkers and quite a few new faces attending the evening event at the Hard Rock Cafe’s Sky Bar.

St. Andrews International School Principal David Lowder welcomes everyone to the BCCT networking night.

St. Andrews International School, Rayong, sponsored the evening and their team was out in force talking to anyone and everyone.

David Lowder, St. Andrews principal thanked everyone for attending the event and reminded everyone about St Andrews as a viable facility for education on the Eastern Seaboard.

As with most schools that sponsor events such as this, the emphasis was placed on marketing the school to the community and making the name more familiar.

Everyone well fed and watered, Graham Brain (far right), managing director of Batercard Thailand, always on the job, talks about the new office opening in Pattaya to Noah Shepherd and Sarah Edwards.

St Andrews is located in Rayong nearby the Green Valley Golf Course and has facilities for boarding and regular day students, a wide British based curriculum featuring many sports, such as golf and equestrian, which help set the school apart from many of the international schools in the eastern region.

The Aussie contingent, well, almost, were a force to be reckoned with on the social aspects of networking

It was another successful networking event with many familiar faces and many more new ones at the Hard Rock Cafe’s Sky Bar.

David Davey, managing director of Kiwi Fire Protection, Terry Burkenbine, business development manager for Total Fire Engineering and Lewis Underwood discuss a number of hot topics over a cool drink at the Sky Bar.

The open air venue is fast becoming a popular spot for such functions, as one can watch the sun disappear over the horizon and soak up the fresh sea air, as well as enjoy the excellent service provided by the bubbly staff at the Hard Rock Cafe.

Andrew Khoo (left), Hard Rock Hotel general manager entertains guests and always with a smile!

The next event will be held at the L’Opera Restaurant in the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate on Friday, October 10 beginning at 6.30 p.m.