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Jay Leshark

Jay Leshark has 19 articles published.

Jay Leshark
Having spent most of his life travelling the world teaching sailing, Jay anchored down in Phuket, Thailand, where he now does creative marketing, events and a radio show.

Paradise on Natai Beach

in Destinations/Families/Recreation by

Natai Beach is a quiet and peaceful 10-kilometre stretch of white sand with an attractive blend of unspoilt nature and stunning luxury villas. Situated in Phang Nga province, only 25 minutes away from Phuket Airport, Natai Beach is the perfect place to escape the crowds and discover the soft sand and lush landscapes of the less-traveled Andaman coast.

There are only a few facilities to be found on Natai Beach – it is not your normal tourist beach. There are no wandering peddlers, no beach chairs or umbrellas – only a random beach massage cabana and some long tailboats. There is nothing except the sun, sea, and sand – and these are the reasons why this destination is perfect for a stay in a beachfront villa.

There are also some fantastic activities and attractions that are within a short distance of Natai Beach if you are willing to put your cocktail down and head out of your villa.

Phang Nga Bay Viewpoint

The sunsets from Natai Beach are great, but the sunrise over the limestone casts of Phang Nga Bay are spectacular. The recently discovered Samet Nangshe viewpoint is 25 minutes away from and it’s well worth an early start to watch the sunrise. It’s not as popular as many of the viewpoints in Phuket so it isn’t crowded. It is becoming a popular place for photographers who want to capture the perfect sunrise. The clear night skies with millions of stars are not too bad either.

Sarasin Bridge

Sarasin Bridge connects the mainland of Phuket and Phang Nga and is known as one of the most beautiful bridges in Thailand. It has a very interesting history: it is named after Pote Sarasin, former Prime Minister of Thailand, but it is best known for an unforgettable tragedy. In 1973, two young lovers, one from a wealthy family and one from a poor family, jumped off the bridge and took their own lives. The story is this: the family of K. Gew, a girl from a wealthy family, forbade her from seeing K.Dam, a local bus driver. They tied themselves together and jumped. A Thai movie about the lovers, The Bridge of Love, was released in 1987.

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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 Amarelo

in Culture/Dining/Families by

At Elite Havens, each villa’s menu showcases an extensive range of Asian and western delights to cater to every guest’s tastes, but of course each chef has his or her own specialties that shouldn’t be missed. 

The stylish six-bedroom escape Villa Amarelo, part of the Sava Beach Villas estate, seamlessly melts into the white sands of Natai Beach, less than half an hour’s drive north of Phuket airport. Featuring a 25-metre pool, a garden gazebo, private chef and large indoor and outdoor living areas, Villa Amarelo makes for a memorable holiday and wedding destination on the shores of the Andaman Sea, the ideal spot for a family holiday, dream wedding or group soiree.

In the kitchen at Villa Amarelo, which has stunning views of the swimming pool and the beautiful Natai Beach, Chef Lek cooks up a traditional Thai starter Goong Sarong, ‘wrapped prawns’. It looks great and tastes even better.

Elite Havens: What is your cooking background?

Chef Lek: I worked as a housekeeping attendant at Villa Saanti, but the villa didn’t provide a chef. Therefore, I needed to learn cooking to help out the owner. Later on, I worked as a comis chef at Akyra Hotel for a year and a half. There, I learnt how to cook many kinds of western dishes.

EH: What do you think makes a good cook?

CL: Ensuring that all the ingredients are fresh and of good quality. A good eye for detail and being able to adapt to different styles and requests from guests.

EH: What did you cook for us today?

CL: Goong Sarong, which is whole prawns wrapped in rice noodles.

EH: Why did you choose to make this dish for us?

CL: Thailand, especially the south, produces amazing fresh seafood, and the prawns are a must-try if you visit Phuket. Local prawns and local Phuket noodles together make a great-tasting and wonderful-looking dish.

EH: What is your specialty dish or the flavors you like to cook with?

CL: I love local Southern Thai food. It has such amazing flavors. I really love to cook Southern Thai Red Curry with beef.

EH: Can you tell us how your cooking adds to the villa?

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Insider’s View: Villa Naam Sawan

in Destinations/Tips by
Naam Sawan - Stunning villa setting

The luxurious, fully staffed four-bedroom Villa Naam Sawan  located on Phuket’s east coast was designed by world-renowned architectural design team, Philippe Starck and Jean-Michel Gathy,  and it is one of my favorite villas.

The modern style of this breathtaking villa and the friendly and helpful staff will exceed all your expectations and will not disappoint you.

Located on what is considered one of Phuket’s most unspoiled areas, this beautiful villa offers fabulous views of Phang Nga Bay, and is surrounded by hills blanketed by lush tropical plants and trees. Something that sets it apart from other villas on the east coast is it’s beachfront.

Villa Naam Sawan - Bedroom Painting

The arrival alone at the huge entrance gives you a sense of grandeur as well as a sense of excitement to see what lies behind the big wooden doors.

Villa Naam Sawan - Dining Room evening

As you enter the villa you will be drawn to the views overlooking Phang Nga bay and, naturally, you will start to walk through the spacious living room with high ceilings and stunning panoramic views.

Villa Naam Sawan - Elegantly designed

The pool area is where you will want to spend most of your time; we did. The sunken pool bar and outdoor space make the outside living area perfect for groups or families. If you need to relax and have a massage, this can be done poolside. A massage and a pina colada at the same time – now if that is not heaven I don’t know what is.

Naam Sawan - Absolute ocean view

A short walk down through the tropical gardens and you get to the almost private beach. The overhanging mangroves and palm trees give the beach enough shade during the heat of the day, and it also gives this east coast beach an idyllic tropical feel.

Naam Sawan - Villa feature

We were able to take the villa’s stand-up paddle boards and the kayaks out and take advantage of the calm waters of Phang Nga Bay. The east coast is tidal so there were times when the tide was out, but if your children are anything like mine, this was a great time to go exploring and looking for hermit crabs and shells.

Naam Sawan - Tropical escape

The major advantage of the east coast is that you are able to swim and play 12 months of the year,

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Thailand’s Sweet Indulgences

in Culture/Dining/News/Shops/Tips by
Chocolate

“What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”

– Katharine Hepburn

Thailand is world-renowned for its amazing street food, exotic tropical fruits, and delicious sweet desserts. But for those visiting Thailand who need their chocolate fix, there is one artisan chef in Phuket who is the go-to guy when it comes to anything dark, milky or white.

Thailand does not have a rich history of chocolate unlike some of its Southeast Asian neighbours such as Indonesia, which grew almost no cocoa before the early 1980s when production took off like a rocket. Now, Indonesia is the world’s third leading producer of cocoa beans. Cocoa production in Thailand fell out of favour decades ago for rubber, but lately there has been a resurgence with a small number of growers and producers emerging in northern and western Thailand.

Thai cocoa is finally getting the recognition it deserves, with two Thai chocolate producers placed high in the 2018 International Chocolate Awards show.

Paradai brand took silver for their Belize dark milk 63% bar in the ‘dark milk chocolate’ category and Kad Kokoa won bronze in the ‘plain dark chocolate bar’ category for their Chiang Mai single origin bar. They also opened Bangkok’s first bean-to-bar café in Sathorn earlier this year, offering all things chocolatey, from desserts and hot chocolate to cocoa butter soap.

English award-winning Pastry Chef Peter Webber trained at School Le Notre in Paris to study pastry and chocolate and started work at The Inn on The Park, London and The Savoy Hotel, where he gained his first Executive Pastry Chef position and was honoured by being sent to do promotions at The Okura Hotel in Tokyo and The Oriental Hotel, Bangkok. He was also involved in many special events and competitions in Europe.

Chef Peter moved to Asia to the famed Oriental Hotel, Bangkok as the Executive Pastry Chef where he would stay for more than a decade, even pleasing the taste buds of the Queen of England during official state visits at The Grand Palace.

Chef Peter now owns and creates chocolate masterpieces at his patisserie, Les Diables, inspiring and serving a loyal clientele with the utmost attention to taste and detail. They specialise in cakes for special occasions,

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