HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Public flocks to buy cut-price tour programs

The Ancient City at Samut Prakan

Chanthaburi Fruits and Products Fair showcases Thai tropical fruit

THAI reduces rates on domestic fares

Lak Island new paradise tourist haven

Public flocks to buy cut-price tour programs

The Thai tourism industry celebrated as it became apparent that strategies to boost the domestic tourism industry had paid off, with the four-day Youth Tourism Fair clocking up 250 million baht in sales as members of the public rushed to take advantage of cut-price tour programs announced on May 4th.

Speaking at the close of the fair, Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Juthamas Siriwan said that the fair had attracted over 100,000 visitors each day.

The news could not have come at a better time for Thailandís tourism industry, which has been dealt a major setback due to fears over Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The fair marks an attempt by the tourism industry to boost domestic tourism to compensate for flagging international arrivals, with tour companies, hotels and airlines encouraged to slash their prices by 20-70 percent.

The government has indicated it will support similar promotions in the future. (TNA)

The Ancient City at Samut Prakan

The Ancient City has been carefully constructed to portray the character and appearance of Thailand. Divided into four different regions, each is dotted with regional and architectural icons.

Scaled down, the architectural design is intended to draw visitors into a thumbnail sketch of a miniature depiction of old Siam. The best way to tour this tourist attraction is by bicycle.

The Dusit Maha Prasat palace from the Rattarakosin era is in the south, Ayutthayaís Sanphet Prasat Palace lies a bit further north, while Khunphaen House is on the edge of a moat. Magnificent temples and palaces come into view. The experience is a scene straight from "Gulliverís Travels", a Lilliputian mirage spiced with Siamese history and fantasy.

Covering over 320 acres, itís the worldís largest outdoor museum and features 100 palaces and temples from the early Sukhothai to Rattanakosin eras, along with other unique architecture from all over Thailand.

The northern region, for example, features Mae Hong Sonís Wat Chong Kham, Nanís Wat Phumin and many exotic temples from other northern provinces.

Getting there is easy. From Bangkok take the expressway heading southwest to Samut Prakan. Turn off at the Samrong-Samut Prakan Exit. Drive along Sukhumvit Road and turn left at the Samut Prakan intersection. The Ancient City is on the left of old Sukhumvit Road at the kilometer 33 marker.

The Ancient City is open everyday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Bicycles are available for rent at 300 baht per day.

The Cultural Bicycle Tour package with an English-speaking guide can be arranged by calling the Ancient City at (02) 224 1057.

Chanthaburi Fruits and Products Fair showcases Thai tropical fruit

Held from 24 May - 1 June 2003 at Thung Na Choei, Chanthaburi

Durian, rambutans, lychees, and pineapples may be some of Thailandís best sellers in the international market, but that is only a sampling of the fruits available in the fertile province of Chanthaburi.

A vast variety of tropical and local fruits, from mangosteens and custard apples to jackfruit and mangoes will be featured at the Chantaburi fruit fair. The festival is held to promote Chanthaburiís various products. Special activities held will include agriculture products competitions, agricultural exhibitions, free durians, free gemstones, a mini-marathon, music concert, folk music performances, agricultural products on sale, and a beauty pageant.

How to get there

If you take the bus, both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses leave from Bangkokís Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai). The rare non air-conditioned buses cost 93 baht. Air-conditioned buses leave every hour, starting from 05.00-24.00 hrs. The fare is 130 baht.

The journey takes Highway No. 34 (Bang Na-Trat) or Motorway to Chonburi, then proceeds to Highway No. 344 (Ban Bung-Klaeng) and Highway No. 3 to Chantaburi.

For more information, contact Transport Co. Ltd at 0-2391-2504; Choet Chai Tour at 0-2391-4146; Phonnipha Tour at 0-2391-5179.

THAI reduces rates on domestic fares

Thai Airways International (THAI) cut its domestic fares by 25 percent for the first time, offering the reduced rates at the International Youth and Eco Travel Mart 2003 held at the beginning of the month at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center.

THAI president Kanok Abhiradee said, "The price cut was an unusual measure. But in regard to the current business environment the airline felt it was warranted."

Conceding that Thailandís national carrier stood to lose "billions of baht of revenue" because the SARS outbreak has made people fear flying, Kanok said that THAI has cancelled dozens of flights to SARS-affected destinations, especially China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Leading hotels in Bangkok also cut room rates by 30 to 70 percent at the tourism fair. The Plaza Athenee Hotel on Wireless Road halved the rate of standard rooms to 2,999 baht a night, while Sofitel Central Plaza Hotel cut its price by 70 percent, offering standard rooms at 2,600 baht per night.

Lak Island new paradise tourist haven

As the popular resort island of Phuket increases its commercial development, a new star on the horizon may lure beach lovers and divers away from an environment they say is just too overdeveloped and spoiled.

Foreign diving tourists, sick of the deterioration of a once tropical paradise are forsaking Phuket and its raucous Patong Beach for Khao Lak Island.

Life in Khao Lak is peaceful and relaxing. Some European tourists who visit Phuket find it hard to avoid the mass tourist boom that is now affecting Phuket. They say their visits to Patong Beach are disappointing and leave them itching to find a more soothing place to spend their holidays.

Scandinavian tourists say they come to Thailand to escape the European winter, enjoy the beaches and warm tropical waters, and relax from stressful jobs at home. "We found Phuket crowded and noisy," said one couple from Norway.

Lak Island is getting raves from Western eco-tourists who are searching for a more peaceful destination. The island life is quiet but cozy and is easily reached from Phuket.

Yet, development on the island is on the rise. Rows of shop houses are springing up and a cinema and shopping center is being built. Local authorities estimate the island receives about 100,000 tourists a year.

Some residents know tourist revenue will help Lak Islandís economy but hope commercial growth can be controlled.