Fiction flows online

A NEW Thai-language website full of literary fiction debuted last Monday – and immediately crashed because fan interest overloaded its server. The founders got the technical glitch resolved and more than 4,000 people could resume reading. It’s a number that’s bound to rise much further.

The key founders of AnOwl are three novelists who were already popular under the pennames Piyaporn Sakkasem, Pongsakorn and Kingchat.

Piyaporn – real name Nantaporn Sarntigasem – is the author of such hit titles as “Tawan Tor Saeng”, “Sai See Plueng” and “Rak Nakara”. The many fiction-friendly magazines that have folded in recent years left writers and readers without a “meeting point”, she says.

“The magazines provided a stage for writers to present their work under the care of professional editors. The readership hasn’t declined, but the consumer’s media-consumption behaviour changed. We want to fill the empty hole with an online community for readers and writers.”

AnOwl aims to fill the folded magazines’ role as meeting points for authors and readers.

They needed a name for the site that was meaningful in both Thai and English. AnOwl fits the bill because the owl in Western culture symbolises wisdom, and AnOwl resembles the Thai for “reading for (a specific purpose)”.

AnOwl is billed as a weekly magazine with novels forming the backbone of the free content. Piyaporn, Kingchat (Parichat Salicupt) and Pongsakorn (Dr Pongsakorn Chindawatana) share the editorial duties. Another five founding members have worked in the publishing business for many years.

“In these days of digital news, more and more people are turning to social media, resulting in a constant decline in readership for conventional newspapers and magazines,” says Kingchat, whose best sellers include “Pornprom Onlawaeng”, “Sera Daran”, “Buag Hong” and “Sood Saneh Ha”.

“The time has come for us to adapt to the interactive digital platform, but we need to retain the high quality of a good magazine. We’ll try to keep our content free as long as possible because we don’t want to burden our readers.”

The inaugural content is 10 novels, free for the reading.

The initial content is 10 novels that have never been published – by both celebrated and emerging writers. More will be added later.

On the computer or phone screen, the pages look like those of a magazine, and there’s a cover and preface as with hard-copy books. There are also articles – trade news, reviews and other items of interest.

“When magazines were flourishing, any author who got his work published earned an automatic guarantee regarding his writing ability,” says Pongsakorn, who has garnered acclaim for the novels “Roi Mai”, “Sab Phusa” and “Kol Kimono”. All three were adapted for television.

Three noted authors are among the site’s founders – by their pennames from left, Pongsakorn, Kingchat and Piyaporn Sakkasem.

“The three of us rose to fame thanks to the editors at the magazines who coached us about suitable content and proper timing,” he says. “From our experience working with them, we can now carefully select the novels and articles appearing at AnOwl. The readers won’t feel that they’re jumping into a sea of content.”

Currently on the site is Pongsakorn’s new novel, “Irrawaddy Kliew Krasip”, inspired by the Burmese sacking of Ayutthaya in 1767, when thousands of citizens were carried off into slavery.

Piyaporn’s latest novel, “Duangjai Rabai See”, is also there, comparing the characters of three men living in New York, Giverny and Auvers-sur-Oise to the colours of red, yellow and blue, based on paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet and Van Gogh.

And Kingchat continues her series about the mythical Himmapan Forest in “Nin Nakin”, this time using a fresh penname, Alina.

Soi Hong Saeng by Mala Kamchan

Pongsakorn says it’s “an honour” to be publishing the new work “Soi Hong Saeng” by SEA Write Award winner Mala Kamchan. “He was writing the novel for Khwan Ruen magazine, but it shut down before he was finished.”

To keep the content free for as long as possible, none of the contributors are asking for remuneration.

“There are many fiction sites open to rookie writers and it’s hard for any one writer to stand out,” says Piyaporn. “One site might be bombarded with 50,000 submissions, so the readers also have difficulty picking one that meets their preferences.

“So, since we were born from magazines like Sakulthai and Khwan Ruen, we want our site to be a platform for emerging writers and we carefully select works that are interesting and touching.”

Among the new faces is the pen-named Parb, whose detective fiction “Kahon Mahorlatueg” was adapted for a TV drama that’s currently airing on One Channel. His new work, “Ling Padkorn”, is a murder mystery.

Also new on the scene is Karn, whose favourite authors are Agatha Christie and Stephen King. His debut novel is “The Never-ending (Love) Story”.

New fiction website AnOwl.co is a digital magazine of carefully selected novels by both celebrated and emerging authors. For now, at least, it’s all free.

Pongsakorn says his personal favourite at the moment is the writer using the penname Nak Hayra, whose work is normally found online. “She graduated in history and has spent more than a decade in South Korea. Her style is very interesting. Her new work with us, ‘Phusa Haeng Racha’, is about the Japanese occupation of Korea during the war.”

Apatsaphorn Supapa, who writes as Pasrasaa, presents her new mystery story at AnOwl, “Game Archa”, with an equestrian theme.

Apatsaphorn, 35, says she’s “a loyal fan” of the site’s founding authors and didn’t hesitate to contribute when they invited her.

“I wasn’t even born during the heyday of magazines, so usually I publish at sites like Dek-d and Fictionlog. There are a lot of fiction websites today, but AnOwl stands out because the works are so well screened.”

Even with so many channels available to writers, says Apatsaphorn – who’s written more than 40 works of fiction in the past 15 years – it’s still not easy to get recognised.

“Older writers had the magazines, but my generation relies mainly on word of mouth. To become famous, we have to be disciplined and determined and write about what we’re really interested in.”

The founders say readership hasn’t declined, but rather consumer behaviour has changed.

An article on AnOwl pays tribute to the late beloved editor Suphat Sawasdirak of Sakulthai weekly magazine, which recently closed after more than 60 years. Sakulthai was the foremost magazine for novelists and gave many noted authors their start, such as Tomyantee and Krisna Asoksin.

Also planned is a series of videos with authors helping chefs prepare dishes mentioned in their books. Ready for posting are demonstrations of how to make the souffle that Kingchat featured in “Sood Saneh Ha” and the oily cooked rice Pongsakorn dreamed up for “Irrawaddy Kliew Krasip”.

Readers will soon find a podcast as well, and an audio series about what’s happening in publishing circles.

Income will be raised through workshops that are being organised on writing fiction, together with the field trips tracking the footsteps of characters in novels.

“I was groomed by Suphat Sawasdirak – such a talented editor,” says Piyaporn. “She once compared a magazine to a meal of dishes cooked with different techniques – boiling, stir-frying, sauteeing, currying, frying, plus desserts and fruit – that satisfies every taste. We want AnOwl to be like that too.”

 

HOMES ON THE NET

Keep up to date at www.AnOwl.co and follow the “anowldotco” page on Facebook.

World’s hottest chilli pepper gives man ‘thunderclap’ headaches

The 34-year-old man’s symptoms began with dry heaves “immediately after participation in a hot pepper contest where he ate one Carolina Reaper,” in 2016, said an article published in medical journal BMJ Case Reports.

The man then developed intense neck and head pain, and for several days experienced brief but intense “thunderclap” headaches. Each lasted several seconds.

After seeking emergency care, tests for various neurological conditions came back negative.

In the end, doctors diagnosed him with a temporary brain condition called “reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome” (RCVS), characterised by the temporary narrowing of blood vessels to the brain.

It was the first reported case of a patient being diagnosed with RCVS after eating a chilli pepper, the authors said.

Often accompanied by “thunderclap” headaches, the condition usually occurs as a reaction to certain prescription medications, or after taking illegal drugs.

“It was a big surprise to everyone,” said doctor Kulothungan Gunasekaran of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, one of the authors of the article that warns of the dangers of playing with chilli fire.

– World’s hottest chilli pepper –

The man’s symptoms cleared up by themselves and a follow-up CT scan five weeks after the event showed that his arteries had returned to their normal width.

Eating cayenne pepper has previously been linked to heart attacks, the study authors said.

“We would recommend the general public be cautious when eating chilli peppers and to seek medical attention straight away if you develop symptoms like this,” Gunasekaran warned.

For those who dare, the Carolina Reaper has a fruity, sweet taste with a hint of cinnamon and chocolate undertones, as well as being extremely hot, according to the website of Guinness World Records.

Last year it named the Carolina Reaper — a cross between Sweet Habanero and Naga Viper chillies — as the hottest pepper on Earth. It is grown by a producer in South Carolina.

It rates at an average of 1,641,183 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), according to tests conducted by Winthrop University in South Carolina in 2017.

A Jalapeno can score anything between 2,500 to 8,000 SHU on the scale, Guinness World Records said.

In November 2016, a new record of 120 grammes (just over four ounces) of Carolina Reaper were eaten in one minute at a competition in Arizona.

Songkran excitement at One Siam

The campaign celebrates Songkran and cultural heritage and offers a chance to pay respect to Buddha images, taste classic Thai dishes and book exciting travel experience.

“Thais and foreign tourists can enjoy the traditional Thai atmosphere and culture,” says Siam Piwat senior executive vice president Mayuree Chaipromprasith.

Siam Paragon will have a “Wonderful Songkran” in its Hall of Fame with nine sacred ancient Buddha statues borrowed from the National Museum.

They are a Standing Buddha in Double Preaching, Phra Buddha Ratta Mahamuni, Medicine Buddha, Buddha Subduing Mara, Buddha Holding a Talapatta, Reclining Buddha, Buddha Calming the Ocean, Buddha Stopping the Relatives from Fighting and Surrounding Buddha (Phra Lom, Phra Haroi).

There’ll be demonstrations on how to make the perfume nam ob and bai toey flowers, an exhibition Thai history and traditions and a food festival in Parc Paragon.

The Songkran Food Fest: Taste of Thai Tradition will have more than 50 famous dishes – rice, noodles, desserts, appetisers and beverages. You can try khao chae Petchaburi, prang nara pork balls, chao wang fried pork, grilled chicken and beef baan kanom thai chao wang, pork sago and much more.

Sea Life Bangkok will present the animated show “Amazing Story from the Deep Sea” on a 10-metre screen, while Paragon Cineplex is encouraging everyone to wear period costumes.

Siam Center’s Ideaopolis has the “Summer Journey Exhibition” of new travel experiences promoted through simulations and hip bistros such Chiang Mai’s RK Cafe by Omnia will be setting up shop.

Siam Discovery’s “Summer Exploratorium” will feature digital art installations where your favourite travel photos posted on Instagram with the hashtags #godiscoversummer and #siamdiscovery can vie for prizes capped by a year’s free travel with AirAsia.

Ten second-place winners will receive Bt5,000 gift vouchers.

Siam Discovery will also be hosting temporary food stalls set up by the likes of Chao Le Crispy Mussel Pancake, Nai Aun Yen Ta Fo Noodle, and Steamed Chives Dumpling Khun Mae.

Find out more at (02) 610 8000.

 

Songkran with a Smile

From Friday to April 17, the bakery run by chef Pongthawat “Ian” Chalermkittichai will serve Muffin with a mango financier from France sprinkled with mango and coconut, Choux Cream Mango with sweet mango, Pandan Chiffon Cake soaked in mango sauce, and Lemon Poppy Seed Cake topped with sesame and lemon glaze. They’ll be available on domestic and international flights, except for WE177, WE333/334, WE335/336, WE343/344, WE426, WE420 WE696/697 and WE288.

Online booking can be made at www.ThaiSmileAir.com.

In full bloom

South Korea’s Goryeosan Mountain is laying out a carpet of flowers to welcome tourists to its annual Azalea Festival running from Saturday to April 22.

This is the biggest floral festival in Ganghwado and a popular picnic spot for lovers and families during spring, while the flowers are in full bloom. Fans of Korean TV series should pay special attention to the mountain, which is said to be the birthplace of General Yeongaesomun.

Find out more at the KTO Thailand page on Facebook.

An offer you can’t refuse

Onyx Hospitality Group will beat the summer heat with a special deal that is limited to a 48-hour booking period on April 28 and 29.

Based on local time of each destination, guests can simply visit www.Onyx-hospitality.com/super-sale” and use the promotional code “SuperSale” to get up to 50-per-cent discounts at more than 30 properties under Amari, Ozo and Shama brands.

Valid for stays from April 28 to November 30, the packages include a minimum of two-night stay with breakfast for two.

Lighting up a velvet night

Travellers looking for a holiday escape can check out the Stars & Sky package at Anantara Kihavah, Maldives that’s available from now until December 22.

Starting at Bt49,860 for a minimum of three-night stay, the promotion offers private stargazing with the Sky guru, the Slumber Guru Massage experience, cinema under the stars, daily breakfast for two, dinner at Salt or Manzaru and round-trip seaplane transfers.

Make a reservation at www.SkyKihavahMaldives.com or email reservations.maldives@anantara.com.

Designer destination

Families spending the long holidays in Milan can take advantage of the Stay with Your Family package being offered by the Armani Hotel Milano.

Starting at 1,138 euros (Bt43,700) for an Armani Deluxe Room, families will be rewarded with American breakfast at the Armani/Ristorante, 25-per-cent discount on a second room with American breakfast, kids welcome gift upon arrival, special in-room amenities, cocktail in the panoramic Armani/Bamboo Bar for all family members, complimentary room upgrade to a superior room and complimentary late check-out subject to availability.

Make your plans by emailing reservations.milan@armanihotels.com.

 

In the spirit of Isaan

Chang Chui, which bills itself as “a hip space offering new-generation artists and designers the opportunity to can unleash their artistic ability without restraint”, is aiming to draw the water-fighting crowds away from such traditional Songkran spots as Royal City Avenue, Silom and and Khao San roads with a festival dubbed “Isaan Spirit, that runs from today through May 6.

“Chang Chui is the first creative park in Thailand, and is located on 21 rai of land here in Thon Buri,” says Chanokporn Thinphangnga, the site’s general manager.

“We’ve been open for nine months and have already become a tourist destination. This month, which incorporates the Thai New Year, we want to preserve and promote the arts, culture and traditions of Isaan and to do this, we have invited three artists born in the Kingdom’s Northeast to display their work. Also joining us is Thai makeup artist Amata “Pearypie” Chittasenee who is not an Isaan native but loves the Northeast. The four will showcase art, photographs, ready-to-wear fashion clothing, and mor lam music.

“Though the Isaan Spirit Festival, we will turn Songkran in Bangkok into an enjoyable, creative and safe holiday. The space is being decorated with several icons symbolising Isaan culture and traditions, and will feature demonstrations of rice farming complete with scarecrows and buffaloes and a giant bamboo chedi next to a sand pit where parents and children can have fun creating sand pagodas. We are hoping to welcome lots of foreign tourists and introduce them to the Isaan culture and have them join with Thai visitors in celebrating Songkran,” she adds.

The festival, which will be open daily from 11 to 9, also supports the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s campaign to promote the Northeast under the slogan “Isaan Saeb Nua” or “Cool Isaan.”

“I personally love the Northeast, which boasts plenty of natural wonders and some of the friendliest people in Thailand. Chang Chui is setting out to bring the mood and tone of Isaan to this tiny part of Bangkok, so we think that it will be a good chance for both Thais and foreigners to experience the Isaan culture and traditions before travelling to the region,” says Noppadon Pakprot, deputy governor for TAT’s tourism products and business.

Live shows will be held throughout the event, with Thai makeup artist Amata showing off her skills on April 21, painter Maitree Siriboon on April 28, morlam singer Rasmee Wayrana on April 29, and designer Apichet “Madaew’” Atirattana on May 5. Other displays include a folk fabric art fair from four Isaan provinces, Maha Sarakham’s Kratib Puppet Show, which is performed with puppets made of bamboo sticky rice containers, as well as Isaan food, buffalo husbandry and traditional plays.

“I’d describe my work as a kind of pop art because I paint buffaloes, changing their identity from black-skinned animals to beasts decorated in bright colours. The paint is non-toxic and makes them look cute, which gives them added value. I will paint three buffaloes as part of a live performance and estimate that will take about three hours. This will be the first time I’ll do it in front of an audience,” says Ubon Ratchathani-born artist Maitree, who will also be putting on his “Save Thai Buffalo” photo exhibition, which debuted back in 2015.

“I would like to encourage Thais to build a brand. My brand is ‘Isaan Boy Dream’. When I was very young, I used to sit on the edge of the paddy field and look up at the sky. The first time I saw a plane, I told myself that one day I would go around the world. When I grew up, I graduated from Silpakorn University and my art led me to see the world,” he continues.

“Branding is important. Now I am looking to build a brand for Nong Bo, the village where I grew up, because I really want to put it on the tourist map and in so doing, generate income for the residents. I hope it will also be an inspiration for the kids attending my academy, encouraging them to speak English and learning how to use social media to their benefit.”

Khon Kaen-born fashion designer Madaew, who rose to fame on YouTube, also likes to decorate buffaloes though he does it with fabric rather than paint.

“When I was young, I picked up a fashion magazine at a barber and couldn’t tear my eyes away from the model’s beautiful clothes. When I went home, I asked my mother to get me a Barbie doll and started sewing clothes for it. We were a poor family and my parents couldn’t afford to pay for good fabrics, so I dressed the doll in materials I found around the house. These days, I enjoy creating fashion to mix and match with the buffalo. We have a saying in Thai that a person is as stupid as a buffalo, but buffaloes are not stupid. I’ve been around them since I was a kid – my parents used to raise them – and now I am creating fashion shows that mix human’s DNA with the buffalo,” says the Madaew, who will stage a fashion show appropriately titled “Human or Buffalo? Which Human? Which Buffalo?”

Bangkok-born chef Thitiwat “Mai” Tantragarn, who runs the insect-oriented restaurant Insects in the Backyard at Chang Chui, will present two new dishes – “Ravioli Kung Chom” (ravioli with fermented shrimp) and “Larb Maeng Sading” (spicy minced house cricket).

“I’m giving the Isaan delicacy kung chom (fermented shrimp) an Italian twist by wrapping it in ravioli pockets, I hoping it will be eaten by both Thai and foreign visitors,” says Thitiwat, who is better known as Chef Mai, and whose restaurant has become internationally known through the BBC and The New York Times.

“We are like a model for the restaurant of the future.”

Nostalgic for the Northeast

– The “Isaan Spirit Festival” runs from today through May 6. It’s open daily from 11am to 9pm.

– Find out more by calling the TAT Call Centre at 1672, Chang Chui at (081) 817 2888, or visit www.ChangChuiBangkok.com and Facebook/changchuibangkok.