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The Mermaid is in Koh Samet

Koh Samet is a national park and a place of great beauty. Samet is not that far from Pattaya and Bangkok, but the close distance is probably the only thing this island has in common with the other two destinations.

It is a place rich in legend. Sunthorn Phu (1786 - 1855) is probably one of the most respected Thai poets. In the writing Phra Aphai Mani, a mermaid is saving Prince Aphai Mani from the sea and takes him to Koh Samet. A statue that illustrates this drama is placed on the rocks between Ao Phai and Hat Sai Kaew/Diamond Beach

Getting There
From Bangkok, the most common way to get to the island is by regular bus or minibus (plus ferry). The buses leave from either Ekkamai (Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal), from Suvarnabhumi Airport or from Khao San Road (known as "backpacker-street"). Tickets are available at the bus station and return tickets cost around 800 Baht which also includes fare for the ferry. There is a bus every hour from sunrise to sunset both ways.

When you arrive in Koh Samet, you will have to pay a small fee to enter the island and the National Park. Tourists pay about 200 Baht and Thai citizens pay about 40 baht. If you arrive on the regular ferry you will find a person to collect the money from you on the pier. A word to the cheap -- you can get away if you say that you are a student from ABAC University.

Places to stay
There is no shortage of hotels. In short, there are two kinds of hotels -- bungalow type and the building type. If you want to stay at an economical hotel room you will have to pay between 1000 baht to 1200 baht per night, and if you prefer to stay in a cottage/bungalow it will cost you about 3000 baht per night.

Koh Samet
Koh Samet has fabulous beaches but a minimum of night life, bars and discotheques. The island is located about seven kilometers from main land and the beaches here are among the best in Thailand.

The most well-known beaches in Samet are Hat Sai Kaew, Ao Phai, Ao Vong Duan, Ao Wai and Ao Kui Na Nok on the East coast and Ao Prao on the West.

Samet probably has the finest sand. It's so fine that it can destroy your camera/ipod or any other electronic device. So, enjoy your acoustic time there.

What to do?
Koh Samet is an island that has two sides to it. During the day it is ideal for relaxing and during the night it is best for dancing.

Some of Thailand's whitest beaches, and a limited road network free of heavy traffic makes the island ideal for visitors seeking relaxation in a hammock, in a cozy restaurant, or on the beach and partying till sunrise.

It's easy to rent a bike and travel the island. It's a small 14 km island which can be covered by a bike which costs around 300 baht per day. The roads are in pretty bad shape, so be careful when riding the two-wheelers. Tattoes and massages are very common form of relaxing fun while a night of revelry in bars is for after hours. Don't miss the Ploybar's fire-spinning show.

Water Sports
Diving and snorkeling at the coral reef, or on the south side of the island, can be combined with boat and fishing trips, windsurfing etc. Any hotel manager can get you in touch with a boatman who will take you diving.

Shopping in Koh Samet
To be honest, Samet is not a shopping mecca. Beach hats and flip-flops are very expensive even by Dhaka standards. You will find 7-Elevens and small shops selling sunscreen, mosquito sprays, t-shirts, slippers, jewellery and miscellaneous souvenirs. If you're into shopping we would definitely recommend one or two days in Bangkok.

Boat Trips and Snorkelling
If you get tired of just relaxing on the beach, or in the hammock, you can rent a motorboat (with driver) and get around the island and perhaps also make a snorkelling pause. A trip around the island costs around 600 baht and upwards.

On the west side, the water is suitable for snorkelling. Some boat owners offer private tours to nearby islands such as Plai Tin, Kruai, Kham och Kudi, all situated east of Ko Samet, but the price is normally higher than for a trip around the island.

Spas & Massage
A health centre is located at the very cosy "Paradise Beach". It offers various health courses and health promotion activities such as yoga, painting, dance and meditation. There is a place for massages at every beach and you will also find women with their massage kits walking around on the beach. Half an hour's foot massage costs between 150-180 Baht after some bargain. For me the best time is during dusk. The massage really makes the brilliant sunset look even prettier.

Food Talk
Koh Samet offers a wide range of international favourites as well as authentic Thai cuisine. I especially liked the steamed rice with juicy fishes such as the snapper in lemon and herb or prawn in red or green chilli paste. Besides traditional Thai you can also try the burgers which are of average standard. When you are very hungry the best place to go is 7Eleven where you will get quick bites such as burgers, pizzas, sandwiches and sausages.

By Taskin Rahman
Photo: Taskin Rahman


few thoughts on the

Language Movement

"In the early 50s there was unrest among the people of the then East Pakistan,” said Imdad Hossain, who is a senior artist, and father of well-known painter Nisar Hossain.

“We were greater in population and so we felt that we had more right. The people of East Pakistan said they wanted Bangla as their state language,” said Hossain. “The people in power said that those who thought along those lines were Indian agents. A pir in Barisal even gave a fatwa against the people who wanted Bangla as the state language as kafirs,” he recounts.

“Naturally the people took a stand against this. Nazimuddin said that he would take the matter to the central government but held a public meeting in which he condemned those who wanted Bangla as the state language. Shahid Suhrawardy was removed and Nazimuddin was put in his place. Nurul Amin was then put into power and he was totally against Bangla as the state language.

“At that time,” continued Hossain, “People came out of the Muslim League and formed the Awami League and they took the leadership of the Language Movement. The students took part making paintings, posters, banners illustrating the right to speak in their mother tongue. There were demonstrations in the streets and people were taken to jail,” he said.

The sketches, drawings and posters were for freedom of speech and movement. “We drew a barbed wire against the depiction of free speech and movement,” Hossain explained. He recounted how Murtaja Basir was putting up posters on behalf of the Language Movement at night, and was hauled up by the police and sent to jail for over six months. Among many others who were taken away by the police for breaking Section 144 were fine arts students like Rasul Shirazi.

Imdad Hossain, who belonged to the first batch of the Art College students, was always an energetic cultural activist. In 1949 he took part in a "kobial" competition (poetry recitation) singing against poet Jasimuddin. With him were others like Qayyum Chowdhury and Rashid Chowdhury. This had taken place in Abu Sayed Chowdhury's house.

In 1952 he began the Agrani Shilpa Shongo with many other artists like Abdullah Al Moti Sharafuddin, Ajoey Rao Barman and others. Whenever there was a procession or protest in favour of the Language Movement, it was he who gave the lead. Later that year, in August, he formed the East Pakistan Sangskritik Shyammelon.

“We had certain aims, such as making the Chief Minister's residence the Bangla Academy, which it ultimately became. There was then the Six Points Movement in 1966 in which the Bangladeshi artists had joined,” he said.

Hossain, along with others, painted on walls, on paper and canvas and so promoted the movement. They worked day and night, and against all odds, using their skill and industry to generate feelings among the masses for a rightful claim to the use of their own language.

Asked if he thought that enough was being done to observe 21st February, Hossain said, “We celebrate it on one day only but preparations for it are done throughout the year. UNESCO has declared it the International Mother Language Day and so it has gained momentum. However, many more books were expected to be printed by this day and this has not been done. Thus, if one wants to study medicine or law one has to go by English. What is lacking, I think, is government initiative. The people can't often speak the formal Bangla language and speak the dialects of Chittagong or Noakhali.”

By Fayza Haq
Imdad Hussain passed away on November 13 at the age of 85, and will forever be remembered as a hero of the Language Movement. This interview on the days of the Movement and its intellectual and artistic aspects was conducted in the recent past.


All Silk Yards of the Benarasi

On 24 November, the historic setting of Christ Church, Spitalfields, London will play host to the 'All Silk Yards of the Benarasi' fashion show organised by Paraa, a dazzling showcase of the brilliant Banarashi and Mirpur Silk fabrics in a glamorous and unconventional event.

This catwalk event will focus on the vibrant hand-woven silk produced in Bangladesh. Collaborating with a set of international fashion designers from the UK, India, Germany and Bangladesh, the event aims to create a platform highlighting both the versatility of the fabric and the future of the people who produce them.

The event's international designers, using the stunning silk of the Banarashi Polli Market from Mirpur in Dhaka as their inspiration, will bring artistry and integrity to their collections, challenging out-dated perceptions. Each of the eight designers are tasked with reinterpreting the exquisite silk material, each producing a distinctive collection that will be presented as part of the show. Shahnaz Plamondon (Kuhu), Tootli Rahman and A. B. Walliuddin Ahmed Chowdhury (Sujon) are the three designers from Bangladesh participating in this event.

Paraa is working with Dr Lynne Hammond of London College of Fashion, internationally renowned catwalk producer Deborah Britz and a professional design team to prepare a visual feast. The show will be hosted by a special guest, with music, entertainment, light refreshments and an intimate after party.

The event has been mainly sponsored by Open Visor, Bangladesh Brand Forum UK, HEBA Women's Project, Enamul Haque Photography, the Gandhi Foundation and Thinking Generously.

For more information please contact Paraa's Press Office at 008801817111836 or email at info@paraa.org.uk..

-- LS Desk


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