HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

TAT to promote Nan Province

Surge in US tourists are proof positive of ‘power of the ring’

Air-India announces attractive fares to UK/Europe/USA for senior citizens

Chiang Mai food festivals

TAT to promote Nan Province

Nestled in a glorious setting of rolling hills along the Lao border, Nan Province is off the beaten track and so far, in spite of its beauty and history, foreign tourists are far and few between.

Nan maintained an independent system of government with its own royal family until Bangkok sent a governor in 1892 to help consolidate its power in the face of the threat of British and French colonialism. It became an official province under Rama VII in 1925 and finally abolished its own system of government in 1931, when the last king of Nan died.

These days Nan gives provides the visitor with a sense of peaceful tranquility and diversified culture. The land is fertile and blessed with a lovely river system.

Nan city is small, and lacks the hustle and bustle of Thailand’s bigger cities. The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) tells us that one of the nicest things about Nan is that the locals are friendly, curious about visitors and very hospitable.

Major festivals like the dragon boat races are held in October and November. Children play along the banks of the river and even call out a few words in English.

Morning markets, the river front and quiet back streets have a variety of architecture, and parks provide places to stroll or relax. Wat Phumin, a temple constructed in 1596 is decorated with some of the best murals in the north.

The Nan Museum is housed in the simple palace of the royal family of Nan and presents a varied collection of ceramics, textiles and jewelry, as well as a good selection of Buddha images.

For nature lovers Nan offers Doi Phu Kha National Park, about 50 kilometers east of Pua on a road which winds through the lush forest. The Doi Phu Kha Mountain Range is part of the Himalayas and its highest peak reaches nearly 2,000 meters.

The visitors’ center provides hands-on exhibits and information in Thai and English on rare wildlife and plants of the area. The park also has rented accommodation and tent space. (TNA)

Surge in US tourists are proof positive of ‘power of the ring’

Air New Zealand’s The Lord of the Rings motion picture themed aircraft are taking Middle-earth tourism promotion to new heights around the globe as “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” fever continues to grow.

Motion picture Lord of the Rings lure tourists to Middle-earth

While the US and European markets launched the second film of the movie picture trilogy in December 2002, key markets such as Japan where “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” motion picture has assumed almost cult status are still awaiting the release of The Two Towers.

Meanwhile in New Zealand, tourism operators are reaping the rewards of earlier investment in Middle-earth promotion and eagerly anticipating the impact that high profile initiatives such as Air New Zealand’s flying billboards will have on tourism growth.

New Zealand tourism industry chiefs believe a sharp upturn in tourists from key markets such as the US in the past few months is directly attributable to identification with New Zealand as the backdrop to the motion picture trilogy.

Statistics New Zealand figures point to a 13.1% increase in US visitor arrivals for October, followed by 24.5% increase for November. These figures compare with a 19.6% decline for October 2001 and a 13.3% decline for November 2001. The first week of December shows a 31.5% increase on the same week, a year before.

Chairman of the Tourism Research Council Sean Murray, explained, “New Zealand’s overall tourism profile is stronger than ever right now, but market feedback suggests the huge hype from The Lord of the Rings is the major driver of such large visitor increases from key markets like the US.”

Murray is also the general manager of Tourism Holdings Limited, New Zealand’s largest tourism wholesaler. He said, “I believe The Lord of the Rings is proving a tremendously powerful catalyst in prompting travelers who’ve thought about visiting New Zealand to make that final decision. It’s tapping into the latent desire to travel here and drawing those people towards New Zealand.”

“In that context, Air New Zealand’s The Lord of the Rings-themed planes adds enormous value to the concerted industry effort to promote Middle-earth. These aircraft have huge impact – a really high profile way of getting the message across,” Murray added.

Air-India announces attractive fares to UK/Europe/USA for senior citizens

Senior citizens traveling on Air-India’s westbound flights from India - to London, Paris, Frankfurt, New York, Newark and Chicago, and interior points in the USA - can now look forward to special discounted fares. Men aged 65 or more and women above 60 years will be considered for availing these discounted fares.

The special Senior Citizen fares are up to 25 percent lower than the lowest promotional fare for travel to the UK/Europe/USA. These attractive fares are available from all international airports in India, viz. Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram, from which Air-India operates its services.

Passengers eligible for these fares, which have a validity of 4 months and 6 months, must commence their outbound travel between February 15 and March 31, 2003.

The return travel must be completed by May 31, 2003 or may be undertaken only beyond August 1, 2003 within the validity of the ticket, as there is a blackout period for the return journey during June and July.

While passengers traveling between India and New York/Newark/Chicago will be flown on Air-India’s own flights, their travel within the USA will be on domestic carriers of USA.

Chiang Mai food festivals

Chiang Mai recently held two food festivals. The first one - held outside the Central Airport Plaza - comprised a hundred stalls surrounding a huge spread of tin tables and chairs, where crowds ate their way through the region’s most famous cuisine.

At the entrance to the festival, a small gathering watched a quartet of ice sculptors skillfully carving swans. Two stages set up at opposite ends of the fair presented folk music and modern rock.

Food Festival 2 at was held at Kad Chuang Doi Market and offered a vast variety of grubs and insects. Not just anyone’s idea of an afternoon feast, locals say these creepy-crawlies are full of protein and make great snacks.

Chiang Mai’s loveliest girls promoted energy enhancing drinks and lasagna provided Western tourists with as meal they could recognize. A group of brave backpackers was seen tucking into a plate of fried scorpions. Locals assumed they were fulfilling a dare. (TNA)