Samui Wining & Dining
Samui Holiday Magazine
A WARM WELCOME

A WARM WALCOME

We’re at the warmest part of the year right now, and people’s thoughts are turning just as much towards cooling down as they are towards getting that suntan! But we’re an island. And that means there’s a lot to do that involves water.

          

Why not take yourself out on one of the various snorkelling trips? Or combine this with a lazy boat trip out to one of the islands like Koh Mat Sum off the southern tip of Samui? But make sure you get a trip that includes some variety: an hour’s fishing and a lunch and a snooze on a quiet little beach somewhere make it so much more enjoyable! Or if you fancy staying closer to home, particularly if you’ve got kids, then take a look at one of the water parks that are dotted about.

          

Staying on the water, this is the time of year that Samui is host to the Annual Samui Regatta, which is the last leg of the Asian Yachting Grand Prix. So get yourself over to one of the elevated viewpoints on the steep hills between Chaweng and Lamai!

          

 

 
SAILS AHEAD!
The 16th annual Samui Regatta promises to be more exciting than ever!

 The 16th annual Samui Regatta promises to be more exciting than ever!You may well miss this. Although it would be a shame if you did. If you’re a resident then you’ll probably know. But if you’re here for just a week, then it all might sail right past – it’s not exactly a street parade that will sweep you up! On the other hand there’s a great deal going on, but you’ll need to do a bit of planning first. You’ll need to read this story for the background, then get yourself a cheap pair of binoculars! And clear your social calendar between 22nd and 27th May. The actual event is a little longer than this, but this is when the races are being held.

          

Despite the fact that our island doesn’t yet have a marina, this regatta is actually hugely popular, and for several reasons. Firstly it’s actually the very last event in an extensive series of races that have been going on since last July as part of the Asian Yachting Grand Prix (AYGP). The whole schedule is quite hard to unravel, unless you’re in the know, but that shouldn’t concern you. However, all over the Asia-Pacific region, between Hong Kong and Singapore, and taking in Penang and Langkawi (Malaysia), The Philippines, Vietnam, Phuket for The King’s Cup, Singapore, and finally Samui, competitors have been pitting themselves against the elements and each other for the final outcome.

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SUPER SUPERPRO
We take a look at a Samui getaway that’s breaking barriers and bringing people together in harmony – Superpro Samui.

 We take a look at a Samui getaway that’s breaking barriers and bringing people together in harmony – Superpro Samui.It’s like a lot of things. There are always two sides to it. On the one hand there are the people on the inside – the ones in the know. They’re the folk who know all the jargon and are familiar with the ins-and-outs of it all. And then there are the rest of us, the ‘general public’. Sure, we’ve heard some names and words maybe, but we don’t really know what the details are about. We’ve just got an impression; no more than that. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s car engines, computers, or Muay Thai, we need to know more to feel comfortable.

          

Superpro Samui is generally described as a ‘Muay Thai training camp’. And those who are already inside the inner circles will understand this perfectly. They’ll not only know the name, but will also know what it’s all about too, as this place is internationally famous. It’s quite likely that many of you reading this will have heard of Muay Thai and will be nodding, going “. . . right, that’s Thai boxing.” And then you’ll probably look at the pictures and turn over the page without reading any further. But it would be a great pity if you did!

          

Because Superpro is actually not only one of the best-equipped gyms in the island, but is also probably one of the best family fitness centres in all of Thailand – the programs are extensive, the equipment is plentiful and state-of-the-art (‘Life Fitness’ and ‘Technogym’) and there are more than a dozen resident trainers if you need them. And If you don’t, then you’re welcome to come here and use the facilities anyway – but more about this in a moment.

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HEIGHTENED BLISS
Ascend to the heights and lose yourself for a while in the lovely surroundings of Eranda Herbal Spa.

 Ascend to the heights and lose yourself for a while in the lovely surroundings of Eranda Herbal Spa.In many ways spas are similar to restaurants. Both can look good from outside. Even when you walk into a restaurant, it can still feel great – so far so good. Then you’ll take note of the quality of the attention you get. And, of course, you’ll be shown the menu. Mostly you’ll already have a good idea about what you want. So you’ll pick your dish – and then the cooks get to work on the job. And spa or restaurant, it’s all the same so far. But it’s only when you start to eat your meal, or begin your spa treatment, that you come to realise what things are really like - sometimes a place that looks promising won’t deliver the goods.

          

So how do you decide? How can you really tell what a spa (or a restaurant for that matter) is really going to be like? One way of course is by going online. But often things are way out of date, or have been written by . . . well, anyone at all, really. But here at Samui Holiday (and our sister The Samui Spa Guide) we actually go there and do it, and then report back to you. And this is just what’s happened at Eranda Herbal Spa in Chaweng.

          

It’s well-placed and easy enough to find – right at the very northern stretch of Chaweng Beach Road, just as the road twists uphill and you run out of buildings. But happily there’s no need at all to navigate your way there. If you live anywhere in the region of Chaweng, or as far away as Bophut and the sharp turn in the ring-road with Zazen Resort on your right, then you’ll be offered a pick-up and return service, from your resort to Eranda and back.

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AS SECURE AS AZUR
The Residences at Azur Samui offer unprecedented peace of mind.

 The Residences at Azur Samui offer unprecedented peace of mind.Thailand is at the very top of the list of global tourism destinations. The country offers friendly locals, a relatively low cost of living, stunning natural beauty, year round sun, and a culture that embraces ‘sanuk’ (or ‘fun’ in English) above almost all else. It’s no wonder then that along with an increase in tourist arrivals, Thailand is attracting a record number of expatriates who have chosen to make the country their home. Many of those expats make their way to Koh Samui, which has been sympathetically developed into an idyllic tropical island on which to reside. Koh Samui is now one of the most desired residential locations in Thailand..

          

While many expats initially choose to rent, many ultimately wish to purchase their own home. However, with unfamiliar property laws, a litany of self-proclaimed ‘expert’ real estate agents, varied building standards, and property listings of sometimes questionable accuracy, the path to property ownership as an expat can be fraught with confusion.

          

Fortunately, choosing to work with the right people from the beginning can deliver simplicity and total peace of mind.

          

Azur Samui is ideally located on Soi 2 in Maenam, on the North side of the island, only ten minutes or so from Fisherman’s Village, and 25 minutes to both the airport and the vibrant shopping and nightlife of Chaweng. On offer at Azur are luxurious private pool villas, ranging from 500 SqM to over 800 SqM. Apartments range from 55 SqM studio suites to 270 SqM private pool penthouses. The Clubhouse boasts a 26-metre infinity pool, fitness centre, yoga and Pilates studio, business centre, spa, private massage rooms, herbal steam room, and fully-equipped locker rooms. The entire environment has been carefully planned to maximise privacy, meaning no one unit has a view into or over any other.

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OFF THE TRACK
A look at what’s on offer with those off-road trips to the mountain.

 A look at what’s on offer with those off-road trips to the mountain.Sooner or later, you’ve got to move. You can’t stay by the pool forever! And when the jet lag has gone, you’ve browned up a bit, and it’s time to explore, there’s quite a bit to pick through. In fact, it can get confusing – particularly if you try this on the internet. The biggest problem with the ’net is that there’s no indexing or regulation – you could be looking at stuff posted five years ago which is no longer current. Anyway, you’ll probably do what 95% of our visitors do; pop down to reception and ask what have they got. Which is no bad thing at all.

          

But first of all, a word of warning. This is Thailand. It’s not part of some kind of strictly regulated and monitored Euro-system, with tight laws and inspectors and internationally agreed standards and quality control. It’s a very free and easy-going nation – and that’s its joy. But it also means that you might well come across aspects of life here that will surprise your more sophisticated expectations. Many things, which are quite normal in daily Thai life, can take unwary travellers by surprise. For example, the attitude to working animals may not quite match what you’re accustomed to. You are inside an alien culture, so be prepared for this.

          

Having said that, the best thing you can do (and its enormity is beyond the scope of this story!) is to talk to other people. Check-out their experiences and reactions. And the slickest way to handle this is to pick out a tour operator . . . and head straight for TripAdvisor. Yes, I know; it’s not perfect. But anyone who has done this a few times becomes zippy at reading between the lines and separating the moaning spoiled brats from the genuine grievances – and likewise, the ten glowing reports all from different addresses, but all in the same style and all quite obviously all written by the same person. But the best thing? It seriously worries the dodgy operators. They hate bad reports because it loses them business.

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BRINGING BACK HOME
The best way to bring back something significant from your
Thailand trip is to plan it all out before you come!

The best way to bring back something significant from your Thailand trip is to plan it all out before you come!On the whole, this is probably the most mismanaged aspect of trips abroad. But there are also lots of variables here, too. A holiday abroad? A trip abroad? One week or three months? A gap-year where you’re moving around the world? All these things are vastly different. And yet they’ve all got one thing in common. In every one of these scenarios people will take things back with them at the end. A lot of these will be spontaneous on-the-spot buys. But if you’re wise, it can be a lot more fulfilling. So why not spend as much time planning this aspect, as you’ll no doubt spend online checking out hotels and restaurants before you come?

          

Another element is what age-group you’re in. An Australian friend of mine used to work for the customs department. And it was a source of amusement to her when planes flew in from Bangkok. The first rule here was that absolutely everyone brings things back from Bangkok. And the second guestimate was that 99% of these will be illegal. Bear it in mind that a Thailand trip has virtually become a rite of passage for young Aussie teens. Thus some truisms emerge. The main one was that nobody ever planned what they brought back – everything was bought on impulse. And then it gets silly, as nearly everything that was confiscated at customs could just as well have been bought online via any dodgy internet trader. Top of the list were weapons – flick knives, throwing stars, blowguns, batons, slingshots, and even replicas of military guns. And then there was also a sprinkling of the unregulated pharmaceuticals available here.

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MARITIME MAGNIFICENCE
Samui’s amazing surroundings are all within reach,
and Sa-ard’s Watersport Center enables you to explore them all in affordable style.

 Samui’s amazing surroundings are all within reach, and Sa-ard’s Watersport Center enables you to explore them all in affordable style.Some people come to Samui to learn martial arts, or cooking or how to meditate. They know what they want, and have in mind extremely welldefined pursuits. But what’s your chief holiday objective? It’s probably a little bit vague, especially if you’re here on Samui for the first time. And why not? Holidays are an occasion to get away from all planning and rigorous living. But in all probability, what you’d like from your holiday is simply a great time. And that means many, many happy memories. Even more so if you’ve brought your children with you; you’ll want them to have a store of those memories to look back on in later life.

          

Samui will provide them – the beaches, mountains, the activities and all the things there are to do will all be memorable. But if you’re looking for something that’ll really stand out, a peak amongst the high hills, so to speak, then it’s a bit harder to find something of such excellence. But not too difficult, really. Some of the very best experiences are to be had just offshore. A lot of people don’t think of this; after all, if you’ve travelled thousands of miles to be on an island, why would you then hop on a boat to visit other islands? Fair question.

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REPUBLICAN PLEASURES
We take a look at the culinary side of one of the island’s most refined beach clubs
– Lamai’s Beach Republic.

We take a look at the culinary side of one of the island’s most refined beach clubs – Lamai’s Beach Republic.There’s a lot in a name. Call a place a café and it paints a mental picture. But deem it a bistro and that’s something else. It’s the same with beach clubs. Twenty years ago we all knew what they were: a seething mass of 18-30s, a DJ, the latest loud music and all-night parties on the sand. But things have changed. At the one end of the scale there are restaurants playing non-stop music with beanbags on the beach – they put ‘beach club’ in their name, but they still don’t get the idea. And then at the far end of the spectrum we’ve got the real deal; purpose-built environments with full-service aims and intent. And that’s exactly what you’ll be delighted to discover when you venture into Beach Republic.

          

When it first appeared in 2009, it caused a bit of a stir. Samui is not well known for setting trends. In fact it’s rather traditional, especially when it comes to architectural style. And yet here was an attractive new development, with not just a super beach frontage, but also 39 discreetly tucked away high-end villas and suites, plus an opulent spa and fitness centre, together with an excellent restaurant and a very laid-back pool area. And all of it was simply and plainly styled; clean, bright and almost Mediterranean in feel. But what caught everyone’s eye, and held their attention, was the dramatically-designed main roof.

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INVESTING IN KOH SAMUI PROPERTY?
Meet the man behind of some of the island’s most exciting developments.

 Meet the man behind of some of the island’s most exciting developments.Koh Samui was once a destination for backpackers, who flocked to the island to enjoy their freedom while residing in 100 baht per night bungalows on Chaweng Beach. Twenty-five years later, Samui is one of Asia’s trendiest resort destinations, with an abundance of five star hotels, restaurants run by Michelin starred chefs … and luxury properties.

          

As you drive around the island and look up at the luxury villas nestled in the hillsides, have you ever wondered who might be behind their construction? Well, here you have the chance. We sat down with one of Samui’s property developers to find out what it’s like to build luxury homes on a tropical island, and to get an ‘insider’s perspective’.

          

The developer in question is Rodney Waller. Recent developments under his belt include The Ridge, ‘an exclusive residential development of luxury pool villas in the prime North East’ (www.theridgesamui.com) and Oasis Samui, ‘a signature collection of pool villas set in a tropical oasis overlooking the ocean in Lamai’ (www.oasissamui.com). Indeed, The Ridge has the distinction of winning the prestigious Thailand Property Awards and the title of ‘Best Residential Development (Koh Samui) 2014 – 2015. Renowned for the highest quality construction standards and attention to detail, his current portfolio of villas under construction, or for sale off-plan, ranges from 11 million up to 32 million Thai baht (USD 315,000 – 915,000).

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SOME SOM TAM
One of Thailand’s most popular dishes has several varieties,
here’s the lowdown on this tasty salad.

 One of Thailand’s most popular dishes has several varieties, here’s the lowdown on this tasty salad.What? Never heard of it? Well, if it’s your first time to Thailand, you’re forgiven. But now take note, as you’re unlikely to find a Thai restaurant that doesn’t serve its own version of this tangy, crispy and moreish salad.

          

Som tam is made from raw, grated papaya mixed with small tomatoes, long beans, peanuts, dried shrimp, chilli and garlic, and seasoned with palm sugar, lime juice and fish sauce. Voila – you have som tam! Or at least one version of it.

          

The dish is often served with fresh local vegetables on the side to ease the effect of the chilli, such as long beans, sliced cabbage or cucumber. And to make the meal complete, it goes well with sticky rice. Marinated charcoal-grilled chicken, or maybe some grilled marinated catfish are also popular accompaniments to a satisfying som tam meal.

          

This green papaya salad is particularly popular in in the northeast of Thailand, in Issan, where it originated. The dish was made without any palm sugar as food from Issan was known for its strong spicy flavours, not for sweetness, combining preserved crab, pla ra (fermented fish), tamarind juice, beans, and salt. It wasn’t until som tam gained popularity and spread to Bangkok that sugar, along with other ingredients, were added, as many people from Issan started tomove to the capital city for work.

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KOH KIDS
When it comes to sheer fun, Samui has plenty of treats for children.

When it comes to sheer fun, Samui has plenty of treats for children.Samui’s often called a paradise on earth; an increasingly sought-after holiday destination that attracts visitors from all over the world. But it’s one thing to spend time on Samui as an adult, and quite another to come as a child. Grown-ups may relish lying in hammocks for hours, heading out for a boozy evening in Chaweng or just lingering in a stylish restaurant. But what exactly is there to do on Thailand’s third largest island if you’re still a child? How can families have a happy time, with everyone enjoying themselves?

          

Alas, the popular concept of ‘fun for all the family’ doesn’t work. The few exceptions prove the rule – there aren’t many activities that people of all ages are going to enjoy. No use then believing in the simplistic idea that mum, dad and little ones will all simultaneously be grinning from ear to ear and from dawn till dusk while on holiday.

          

What we’re saying here is that on a typical day, everyone can have some fun – but there’ll have to be some turn-taking. That’s blindingly obvious – but a lot of things get forgotten when the wheels of the plane touch down on sunny Samui. Adults can get so wrapped up in the happy hedonism of the island that they can’t understand it when their children express feelings of boredom.

          

Your little ones will no doubt enjoy the beach, but may tire of it quicker than you hoped. They may struggle to articulate that here, there isn’t the familiar bouncy castle on the promenade (there isn’t even a promenade!) and that the beach here with its incandescent sands and over-heated air is as hot as a toaster. Or maybe that the hotel swimming pool isn’t filled with other children, and the sight of adults lounging on loungers and sipping on strawberry daiquiris just isn’t really, well, fun.

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A DANCE IN TIME
Classical Thai dancing has been charming its audiences for over 500 years.

 Classical Thai dancing has been charming its audiences for over 500 years.Across the nation, from its furthest borders to its heart in Bangkok, modernity seems to be everywhere, with the latest gadgets and trends spreading as fast as a forest fire. But despite all this, ancient Siamese culture lives on, and its traditions are alive and well. One of the nation’s best-known, and oldest of arts, Thai dancing, is still highly popular. Even if you don’t see a performance, you may well be familiar with its most famous symbol – the Khon mask. Though familiar to many, it’s still very mysterious. Brightly coloured, and elaborate down to the last detail, it has significance for every Thai person; it’s a direct link to their heritage and the myths that sprung into being even before the nation was formed.

          

Khon masks come in various forms, and are used in classical Thai dance along with equally elaborate clothing and ornamentation to denote the mythical characters on stage. There are demons, monkeys, royal figures, soldiers and a whole cast of epic characters. Even if you’re fluent in Thai, it’d be hard to know what was going on without the masks. Paradoxically, though they hide the dancer, they nail down the character; these are not masks to disguise, but to identify. They’re as much part of the dance as the dancing itself. The combination of clothing, mask and ornamentation acts as a sort of artistic barcode that safely lets the audience know who’s on stage.

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A NEW DEFINITION OF A FULL SERVICE PHARMACY
Morya Pharmacy carries all the usual medications – but that’s only one of its many functions.

Morya Pharmacy carries all the usual medications – but that’s only one of its many functions.Pharmacies are just about as old as the hills. Well, certainly their products are. The first pharmaceutical products were plants that were prized for their medicinal benefits. They were literally tugged out of the ground, pulled off trees or picked from the stems of plants. The knowledge of medicinal plants was known to the Ancient Egyptians, and grew amongst the Ancient Greeks and Romans, the Chinese and through the Islamic world. The first pharmacies (some are still open today at their original sites) date back almost 1,500 years.

          

Whether the medicine worked or not, pharmacies of yore weren’t particularly attractive places; they were filled with plants, roots and leaves, strange liquids and potions, and everywhere there were the smells of all the botanical products.

          

Fast forward to today’s pharmacies and you’ll see that they’re no longer dusty shops filled with withered and dried plants. They’re bright and modern, and they sell an incredible amount of medicine from all over the world. Even when you venture far afield, you’re likely to come across pharmacies that are very much standardized and keep to international norms that are strictly enforced. This means that you can trust the medicine to be well in date, to be stored correctly and most important, that it will have been dispensed by a pharmacist – a qualified person, in other words, who’s been to university and is trained.

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PARANOID IN PARADISE
Samui’s wildlife – is it out to get you?

Samui’s wildlife – is it out to get you?Some visitors to Samui approach the island with the same trepidation as early Victorian’s exploring blank parts of the map, ready for hostile encounter with unknown predators. It’s a pith helmet and blunderbuss approach, accompanied by enough bags of medicine to stock a small pharmacy. But what’s the truth? Is Samui dangerous? Is the night really filled with giant bugs? Can we hear slithering noises just outside our hotel room? And are fangs, claws and mandibles hurrying our way, eager to ruin our holiday?

          

Samui turns out to be reassuringly low-key when it comes to alarming wildlife. The most commonly seen animals turn out to be cats and dogs. You’ll find plenty of them, and generally they’re cheerful and friendly. Some are wild, some not. A bit of caution is necessary; island hospitals see a fair number of dog bites, so it pays to be careful and not pat Rover on the head until you really know him. Most resorts seem these days to have a placid resident cat who you may find sitting on your porch – hardly feral.

          

To see any wildlife you’ll really need to go deep into the jungle, and adrenaline junkies may end up a bit disappointed. There are a few colourful birds, though not many, and certainly no parrots or macaws to be seen. As for large animals, the only one you’re really likely to come across is a tethered buffalo. You may possibly come across a snake,but unless they’re suddenly disturbed, snakes tend to take the defensive: once they hear the trample of feet coming their way, they’re off. The most commonly reported snake is bright green and about a metre long. It’s not poisonous and tends to live in the tops of coconut trees. Should you see a snake that you think is poisonous, then tell someone as soon as you can. Within minutes you’ll find people coming to look for it and take it away. The Thais are certainly very efficient at getting rid of slithery intruders. Because of the care taken, relatively few people are bitten by snakes here. It’s unlikely that you’ll even see a single live snake in your time here.

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TRIUMPHANT TRIO
New Nordic hits the ground running with three simultaneous developments.

 New Nordic hits the ground running with three simultaneous developments.New landmarks are shortly to appear in the very heart of Lamai, as New Nordic begins a multi-phased, multi-purpose series of linked developments consisting of resort accommodation, condominiums, entertainment and restaurants. Lamai, long-considered Chaweng’s little sister, is ideal for the group. It has just about everything: the sea, an amazing backdrop of mountains and a plethora of eating and drinking opportunities. This means that visitors and residents will be able to enjoy staying and living here, with everything that they need right at hand, usually just minutes away.

          

New Nordic Group is well-known, and has over 40 finished projects just in Thailand. At the time of writing, they have 12 more projects under construction, and more will be launched soon in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bali. They have their headquarters in Hong Kong, but also have offices in Norway, Bangkok, Samui, Pattaya, Cambodia, Bali and The Philippines. New Nordic started about 10 years ago, and ended up constructing some fifty buildings in Pattaya. They realized that what people wanted was a sense of community, and to that end they also decided to include restaurants, bars, shops and various services in the projects. New Nordic was, and is, enormously successful, and part of their recipe is to always make sure projects are finished on time, and to keep his customers well-informed of every step along the way.

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BUDDHISM IN THAILAND
How Thais deal with adversity and aim to find happiness.

Page106-1As we travel around Thailand, we can’t help but see references to Buddhism everywhere; temples, shrines, stupas and then the thousands of Buddha images themselves. Not surprisingly, many of us automatically first think of Thailand when asked to name a Buddhist country. Yet, no matter how long we spend here – or even live here – we may be none the wiser as to what Buddhism is really about. To understand it all requires us to study it in some form or other; we cannot hope to comprehend it simply by living in the proximity of a temple or by being immersed in Buddhist culture. Many people come to Thailand to stay in temples in order to get to grips with Buddhism; they learn to meditate and are taught the precepts for a way of life that’s so different to that in the West.

          

It’s a lofty goal as Buddhism aims to put an end to ‘Dukkha’ or, as it’s often loosely translated, suffering. People may shrug at this limited, old-fashioned word. But Dukkha means a lot more. In fact it covers the entire spectrum of pain and unhappiness. Dukkha is variously anxiety, distress, frustration, unease, dissatisfaction, worry, sadness, and so on.

          

Many translators now use the term ‘unsatisfactoriness’ as a translation. Buddhists divide Dukkha into three extremely broad categories: the sufferings of life, such as birth, aging, sickness and death; the frustration of not getting what we want, due to the changing nature of all things, and finally that basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of life, that sense that things never measure up to how we would like them to be. The aim of Buddhism is to release us from all of that, and the fact that millions of Thais practise Buddhism on a daily basis tells us that this is the nation’s way of dealing with adversity and achieving happiness.

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