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In Phuket and Koh Samui, Where Elephants Can Just Be Themselves

in Destinations/Recreation by

Sangduen “Lek” Chailert, Elephant Whisperer and founder of the Save Elephant Foundation has devoted her life to rescuing and rehabilitating working elephants. Having launched the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai to international acclaim in 1996, Lek has now co-founded similar parks in Phuket and Koh Samui. These ethical elephant sanctuaries make a fascinating and educational day out.

The mission of the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary and Samui Elephant Sanctuary is to meet the highest standards in animal welfare and educate elephant camp owners and tourists on how to treat and respect the majestic elephant – Thailand’s national symbol.

Visitors to these sanctuaries won’t be invited to ride on the elephants’ backs, watch them do tricks, hug or bathe them – all activities that are damaging and stressful for the animals. Rather, visitors will be encouraged to simply observe these gentle giants in their natural habitat where they can just be themselves. Observation platforms overlook natural pools where visitors can watch the elephants splashing each other and covering themselves in cooling mud; open fields and jungle-covered hillsides provide plenty of space for elephant play and socializing.  

Both sanctuaries offer morning and afternoon programmes that start with video presentations to inform visitors about what to expect from their elephant encounters and explain a little about the elephants’ stories and why they so badly need protection. You will get up close and personal with the magnificent residents during their breakfast and dinner times, when you can help feed them a healthy diet of fresh fruit. In between, there’s plenty of time just to watch the elephants at play and marvel at their intelligence and grace. Both half-day sessions include a tasty Thai buffet and transfers to and from the sanctuaries. It is important to book your session in advance as neither of the sanctuaries accepts visitors outside the set programme times or who arrive without prior bookings.

 

Introducing the elephants

At Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, where the elephants can roam freely over 30 acres, you’ll make friends with Richy, Tong Kwaw, Baan Yen, Jan Jao, Gaew Ta, Madee, Kannika and Dok Gaew. All of these extraordinary elephants more than deserve their peaceful retirement – some are more than 70 years old!

At Samui Elephant Sanctuary,

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Phuket Old Town: A Colourful, Cultural Melting Pot

in Culture/Destinations/Dining by

With its rainbow of colours, elegantly arched windows, shade-giving covered walkways and ornate facades, the architecture of Phuket Old Town is unique in Thailand. Strolling these bustling streets, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the colonial-influenced trading centres of the Straits settlements of Malacca, Penang or even Singapore.

So how did these candy-coloured shop houses of Phuket Old Town come about? Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Phuket was a hub for the tin-mining industry and the wealth that this brought attracted the attention of both Chinese and Portuguese merchants. Phuket Town grew around the protected natural harbour used by traders from east and west. To house their families and their businesses, buildings were constructed by immigrant workers from China, incorporating elaborate Chinese plaster and paintwork, but designed in a Western architectural style favoured by the Europeans. Thus, the Sino-Portuguese style was born.

As well as building grand mansions for the wealthiest merchant families, many shop houses (so-called because of their dual function as a workplace and a home) were built in long terraces, with a very narrow frontage but often extending up to fifty metres back from the road. The front part of these buildings were used for trading, while the shopkeeper or trader lived with his family in the remaining ground-floor space and on the upper floors.

Exploring these fascinating streets is to step back into Phuket’s rich, multi-cultured past, but extensive restoration work has brought Phuket Old Town back to life in recent years. The spaghetti-like jumble of black cables have been hidden below ground on several of the roads now, and the ornate facades have been brought back to their original vibrancy.

We suggest starting your walking tour in Thalang Road, Phuket Old Town’s main historical artery. Don’t miss two important landmarks near the Phuket City Market: the beautifully renovated Sino-Portugese mansion that now houses the Thai Airways office (not opened to the public), and Jui Tui shrine, a Chinese temple that plays an important role during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, celebrated every year during October.

Make a stop at the unique Lor Rong market to sample some typical Phuket food and sweet treats and then,

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Chef du Jour: Villa Baan Bon Khao

in Dining by
Spilling the beans Baan Bon Khao

One of the highlights of staying at a private villa on your vacation is that you get to sample superb food prepared exclusively for you by skilled in-house chefs – many of whom have trained at internationally renowned restaurants. Elite Havens’ villa menus showcase an extensive range of Asian delights to cater to every guest’s tastes, but of course each chef has his or her own particular specialties that shouldn’t be missed.
 
With much coaxing and cajoling, we’ve persuaded some of our chefs to spill the beans and share their favourite recipes. In the Baan Bon Khao kitchen, Chef Poo cooks up a classic and much-loved Thai dish, Pad Thai with Prawns in an Egg Parcel.
 

Spilling the beans Baan Bon Khao 5

With spectacular sea and sunset views, Baan Bon Khao is an ideal getaway for families or groups.  Luxuriating on a hillside estate near Surin Beach, this four-bedroom villa features an infinity pool and stately living and dining pavilions.  Guests are well cared for by the villa manager, chef and personal driver.

Here’s an exclusive from the  Baan Bon Khao kitchen. 

Egg wrapped Pad Thai with Prawns Recipe
(Serves 2 – 4)

Spilling the beans Baan Bon Khao ingredients

Ingredients :

The sauce

  • 35 grams palm sugar, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp water

Pad Thai

  • 4 ounces dry rice noodles (choose one that is about 2mm wide)
  • 6 – 8 prawns, or as many as you’d like, peeled and deveined.
  • 1 small head shallot, thinly sliced, about 3 tbsp
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried shrimp, chopped
  • 1-piece of pressed tofu, cut into small pieces
  • ½ tsp of chili flakes, or to taste
  • 4 eggs – 2 for Pad Thai, 2 beaten for egg parcel
  • 5 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 cup garlic chives, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts
  • 1 lime

Directions :

The Sauce: Mix all together and set aside.

Step 1: Soak the rice noodles in room temperature water for 1 hour, until the noodles turn from translucent to completely white and are very pliable.

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