Culture

Art, history, experiences of a lifetime

Thai Food, A Fabulous Fusion of Flavours

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Food is so central to Thai culture that in Thailand you’re more likely to be greeted with this phrase, which means “Have you eaten yet?” than with a “How are you today?”

In fact, Gin Khao Yung? literally translates to ‘Have you eaten rice yet?’ In Thai cuisine, as in many Asian countries, rice is considered to be such an important part of the diet that it is a synonym for food generally.

Aromatic, full of variety and always beautifully presented, Thai cuisine appeals to all tastes with its harmonious balance of the four fundamental flavours: salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Each region of Thailand has its own food specialties and style, influenced by the country it borders – so northern Thai food will share similarities with Laos and Myanmar, while the rich coconut-flavoured curries of the south borrow from Malaysian dishes. Add to this the culinary heritage of the Chinese, Indian and European settlers who have had their own influences over the centuries, and modern-day Thai cuisine is a true melting pot of flavour and deliciousness.

True Phuket cuisine – which can be hard to seek out among the better-known dishes such as Pad Thai (stir-fried noodles) and Som Tam (green papaya salad) – is possibly one of the most extreme examples of this fusion of styles. Heavily influenced by Chinese Hokkien, Malaysian and Indonesian foods, as well as Khmer cuisine from Cambodia, flavours are rich, complex and fiery, but also light, elegant and restrained.

This curious mix of flavours can take a bit of getting used to, but are certainly worth investigating. In essence, the further south you go, the more predominant ‘spicy’ becomes. In the South, a dish that isn’t spicy will be considered bland ‘Deeruang‘. South Thailand cuisine also has a strong emphasis on seafood with its proximity to the Gulf of Siam and the Andaman Sea.

In Thailand, sharing food is a reason to celebrate. Eating together is incorporated into many social and religious occasions. Indeed, many Thais believe that eating alone is bad luck. And by the end of a meal every last grain of rice should be eaten, as throwing away food is also considered bad luck, likely to enrage Mae Phosop, the Thai Goddess of rice.

Meals in Thailand are generally eaten family-style,

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Concierge Recommends: Seminyak

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While you are cocooned in luxury, cared for by attentive staff and reveling in your own private pool, decadent restaurants, classy cocktail bars and shopping boutiques are right outside your doorstep. Welcome to chic Seminyak, where you will find the choicest of swinging cafés, designer shops and spas. Relax in your designer villa, and when the itch to go out wins, take a leisurely stroll towards Seminyak’s beaches, stopping on the way for a tropical cocktail at one of the many beach clubs in the area. If you like to be in the thick of action, it doesn’t get more central than this. 

We asked our Elite Concierge to pick the best of the best in Seminyak for each category. Here’s the exclusive hand-picked list, with insider tips and information, just for you.

Beach Club

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Iconic is an understatement. #KUDETA

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Ku De Ta. This iconic establishment is known world over and it continues to serve sensational food and cocktails in an outstanding beachfront location, walking distance from many of our Seminyak villas. The music is always peppy, and it has an unmistakable vibe of people having a good time. Ku De Ta’s legendary events and parties never fail to disappoint and our guests can take advantage of Ku Cards – an exclusive privilege offered to Elite Havens.

Cocktail Bar

El Nacional.  Tucked away discreetly, this all-time favourite bar is accessed by walking through a ramen noodle restaurant. Up a flight of stairs and you’re transported to a Cuban-style rum bar serving sensational cocktails served by mixologists who are truly passionate about their craft. Catch groovy tunes mixed by great DJs and look out for Latin Nights coming up on the calendar very soon.

Coffee Shop or Café

Revolver. Indonesians take their coffee very seriously,

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The Mystic Healers of Bali

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The otherworldly powers of Bali’s traditional healers are well documented and are part of daily life for locals and expats.

It is believed that spirits, both good and bad, abound on this Island of the Gods, and they can wreak havoc on one’s physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Everything from a broken bone to a broken heart can invoke a visit to one of more than 8,000 healers practising in Bali.

Traditional Balinese healing shot to fame with the Hollywood film, Eat Pray Love – which shone a light on the late Ubud Balian and priest, Pak Ketut Liyer. He became an instant rock star of the alternative medicine scene and his home a major tourist destination.

Healers reject being called a Balian as it’s too conceited for their spiritual calling, which is delivered through illness or an ancient family line. Balian healers specialise in specific areas such as heart problems, migraine headaches, sports injuries or the removal of spells.

The Four Types of Balian Healers

The first is a Ketakson, usually female, who will channel between the client and God, calling on the spirit of a dead person for guidance, and passing on the information.

The second is a Pica – a medium and not a formal student of traditional medicine, massage or magic. There are stories of physical objects – such as the Balinese dagger called a kris – appearing out of thin air during a session with a Pica.

The third is a Usada who receives divine knowledge during a severe illness that leads them to study the Lontars – ancient, sacred texts written on bamboo. They are a masters’ apprentice while studying anatomy, ethics, traditional herbs, massage, magic, meditation, yoga, and tantra among many subjects. Black and white magic are widely practised in Bali.

The fourth kind of Balian combines all of the above and during a session, the healer may appear mildly psychotic, hearing voices and having visions as the wisdom enters their body.

Etiquettes and Customs

Travellers can visit a Balian or even study for a few days with an expert. Etiquette must be observed, so dress modestly and be patient since locals with real illnesses will also be waiting. Bring an offering of money, but never pass cash directly to the healer.

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Inside Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival

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Festivals provide an interesting peek into the local culture, and Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival is no exception. Also known as Nine Emperor God Festival or Jia Chai, it falls in the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. Thailand and exoticism go hand-in-hand, and this Taoist festival is celebrated with a unique zeal here. Each shrine is extensively cleaned, in anticipation of the festival and giant Go Teng poles are raised on the first day (to be lowered after the last) symbolically to allow the Jade Emperor and other Nine Emperors to come down from the heavens and walk the earth again. 

Rules of the Festival

The name may have you believing that it is a food festival showcasing vegetarian delights. Though the streets are lined on both sides with hawkers selling vegetarian fare, it is not the highlight of the festival. Instead, it marks a period where devotees are expected to follow ten strict rules, and observe abstainance from meat, alcohol, sex, and other stimulants. The locals believe that following these rules allows them to achieve a greater level of spirituality, and is a way of honouring the Gods.

Processions

However, the festival is not celebrated behind closed doors. Like many things Thai, this too is a boisterous public celebration, and one not for the faint-hearted. The Vegetarian Festival in Phuket involves processions wherein devotees perform self mutilation and all other kinds of torture on themselves to shift ill-luck and evil from other worshipers onto themselves. They believe that by doing so, they can bring good luck to the community.

Expect vibrant and chaotic processions, with firecrackers being thrown around, lion dances, and coal-walking. You may find people with their cheeks pierced with spears, knives and other paraphernalia.

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Between Bali and Lombok, The Famous Wallace Line

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Alfred Russel Wallace was a British naturalist who lived from 1823 to 1913. He is recognized for independently forming the theory of evolution through natural selection. In 1858, before Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, Wallace’s paper on the subject was published jointly along with some of Darwin’s writing. Throughout his lifetime of exploration and study, Wallace became the world’s foremost expert on the geographical distribution of animal species.

Wallace was fascinated by the biodiversity in Malaysia and Indonesia, where in 1859 he charted to an exact physical boundary the separation between fauna which is native to Asia and that which is found in Australia. ‘The Wallace Line’ runs between Bali and Lombok and between Borneo and Sulawesi.

It is estimated that as recently as 15,000 years ago, sea levels were more than 110 metres lower than they are today. Most of the islands that comprise present day Indonesia and Malaysia were one landmass, now referred to as Sundaland. Nearby Australia, and Tasmania also comprised a single landmass which is sometimes called SahuI.

That Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali were once connected is commonly accepted among Indonesians without the need for scientific evidence. Ask an Indonesian how Bali came to be its own island; you may hear a tale about how a giant magic dragon isolated a dishonest gambler.

Lombok was not connected to Bali, neither by ancient lands nor legend. Although the distance between Bali and Lombok is only 35 kilometres, the Lombok Strait is so deep that it has been filled by water for millions of years.

Lombok is east of Wallace’s Line, in the region known as Wallacea, consisting of islands which were not connected to either ice age continent. This area shows a history of inhabiting animals which were capable of island-hopping. Present day islands including Lombok and the Lesser Sunda Islands have much of the same Australasian fauna as SahuI, but not the same animals as Sundaland and mainland Asia.

Wallace identified the 250m depth of the Lombok Strait as the single most compelling explanation for the differences between Asian and Australian animals. It caused various species to remain isolated from each other on opposite sides of the Lombok Strait through centuries of migrations and evolution.

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