This is Thailand
1. What kind of iPhone apps are useful to have living in Thailand?
There are many apps which can make life easier in the Land of Smiles. First and foremost, I would recommend you to download the Citylife free app, for all the latest news and information on events, attractions, activities and recommendations in Chiang Mai. Personally I like to have a Thai dictionary app so I can look up words when I am out and about, there are a few free ones so have a play to see which suits you. There is a range of apps for learning Thai, some are free, but others may be worth paying for, such as ‘First Write Thai’. There are various news and magazine apps such as the Bangkok Post. If you do a search, there are usually apps available which focus on current affairs such as the floods, or the elections. For those who fly a lot Air Asia and other airlines offer apps, where you can check flight times and do a mobile check in. ‘Thailand Radio Player’ allows you to listen to many Thai radio stations on your phone free of charge. There are also currency exchange, weather, pollution, traffic and map apps, as well as apps aimed at tourists such as ‘Amazing Thailand’, which can give you the lowdown on your destination before you arrive. For those interested in cooking there are numerous free apps which give you Thai recipes and cooking tips. ‘Thai Talking Food Menu’ is a speaking menu, so you can learn the names of new Thai dishes on the hop. You can also download travel maps of the transport routes useful for when you go through to the capital. For gamblers ‘Lottery (Thai)’ allows you to check the winning numbers, you can also scan in the number on your ticket to see if you have hit jackpot. TV channels often offer apps so that you can watch their shows through your phone. Simply titled ‘Farang’ this app is a dedicated directory helping foreigners find what they need in Thailand, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, that kind of thing. For more information on using an iPhone in Thailand and apps www.iphone.mythailandblog.com has a comprehensive overview. Phew!
2. Do you know of a school in Chiang Mai where I can go to learn pastry making and icing and cake decorating?
Mmm, the thought of that is making me hungry already. There are a few places which offer sweet cooking lessons such as UFM baking and cooking school. UFM offer a wide range of baking lessons from bread, cake and cookie lessons, icing and cake decorating included, as well as Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai and European cooking courses, which are reasonably priced ( www.ufmeducation.com ). You can even to learn to cook with the flamboyant Thai celebrity chef, Yingsak Junglardjadsadawong, (the gay one off the telly) at his own cooking school in Chiang Mai. Yingsak Food Cooking School offers 30 different baking courses, where you can try your hand at cookies, pies and cakes under the supervision of the Ministry of Education. The certificate from here can also be used to apply for a job in the food industry. The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai, offers a class for children accompanied by adults called ‘Little Fans’, on a Sunday afternoon, you can make, amongst other things, your own marzipan animal farm ( www.mandarinoriental.com/chiangmai/images/oca_program.pdf ). For all baking equipment and supplies check out Baker Mart and Yok Intertrade (www.cmbakermart.com, www.yokinter.com) two great shops in Chiang Mai.
3. The shower gels and deodorants in most supermarkets here all seem to have whitening agents in them. Why is this, and will it actually make me whiter? Because I don’t want to be whiter.
This has bothered me as well. It turns out that while most beauty products sold in Thailand do contain whitening agents they will only lighten your skin a minimal amount, although it depends on the product. Many products contain ingredients that help to remove a layer of skin, revealing the newer, whiter skin underneath. This type of whitening is only temporary, because the new skin will eventually tan. Products that contain ingredients like hydroquinone, however, not only have strong whitening effects but can also have damaging side effects, such as irritation, blistering and extreme darkening of the skin. Most products sold in large supermarkets won’t do any harm and will lighten your only a little or not at all. But I would stay away from cheap no-name market products if you want to avoid strong whitening and possible skin damage. The reason for this ubiquitous whitening label is that, in Thailand, being white is viewed as a desirable quality. It implies greater beauty and a higher social standing. This is because historically only people who could afford to stay (work) out of the sun could keep their skin white. Even now, people who must work outside all day often try to cover themselves from head to toe – wearing long-sleeved shirts, hats with wide brims and even masks that cover the entire face. The whiter your skin, the more you look like a movie star. This is why, nowadays, beauty conglomerates market their products in Thailand by advertising the whitening agents in them.