Adventure along the Mekong in “Visit Nakhon Phanom Year 2004”
Now daily direct flights with Phuket Air
As part of the “Unseen Thailand” campaign, the
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) organized a familiarization trip to
Isaan, the northeastern part of the kingdom. This was a 6 day - 5 nights
soft adventure tour program along the mighty Mekong River.
Song Khon, the largest Catholic Church in Thailand.
We met at Don Muang Airport to depart from Bangkok to
Udon Thani. We were given a hearty welcome party in the Charoen Hotel by the
governor of the province and visited Phu Phrabat Historical Park near Ban
Phue, where a holy footprint in Wat Phra Buddha Bat Bua Bok is surrounded by
strangely shaped sandstone rock formations.
Phra That Tha U-Then in Nakhon Phanom Province
In the afternoon, we reached Ban Dung District,
surrounded by salt fields, where we visited Ban Kham Chanot. This place is
marked by a special type of palm tree and features a clear water swamp which
is regarded as the gateway to the naga world, where mythical creatures bring
fertility and abundance to the human world.
new immigration office in Laos - Nakhon Panom
In Nongkhai Province we attended a performance of the
town’s dramatic art club and checked in very late at Nongkhai Grand Hotel.
Early the next morning we paid respect to the golden Buddha image of Wat Pho
Chai and visited the weird Sala Keo Kou, where the late Luang Pho Bunluea
had created a Hindu-Buddhist Disneyland.
66 meters high Ho Keo Tower
At Wat Ahong, we were told that this is regarded as the
navel of the Mekong. The river there is 200 meters deep and full of giant
catfish. Late in the afternoon we reached Wat Phra That Tha U-Then in Nakhon
Phanom Province to see a lively Thai Yo dancing group. From there it was a
long drive to Renu Nakhon, where we had an entertaining dinner and watched a
colorful Phu Thai dancing group.
After a quiet night at the River View Hotel at Nakhon
Phanom, we enjoyed a newly established morning cruise on the Mekong. Back on
land, we paid respect to two wooden Buddha images housed in Wat Okat and
visited the celebrated house of Ho Chi Minh, who lived in Ban Nachok between
1923 and 1929.
After lunch in the Mae Nam Khong Grand View Hotel, we
departed on National Road No. 212 to That Phanom, the most important
pilgrimage center in Isaan. It is interesting to note that TAT has just
announced a “Visit Nakhon Phanom Year 2004” to attract more
We left That Phanom for Mukdahan Province and reached Wat
Song Khon which is actually the largest Catholic Church in Thailand. We
passed Wat Mano Phirom in Ban Chanot, a 250 year old temple with an
impressive Buddha image seated under a hooded nine headed naga, a bronze
Laotian Buddha and eight carved ivory Buddhas.
In Mukdahan, there was still enough time to survey the
crowded Indochina Market with goods from as far away as Vietnam, transported
from Savannakhet across the Mekong to Mukdahan.
Next morning, we climbed the city landmark, the 66 meters
high Ho Keo Tower. In the basement, there is a display of Mukdahan cultural
items, while the second floor has exhibits of the costumes of the eight
distinct ethnic groups living in the province.
After visiting Mukdahan National Park, we arrived in
Khemarat District in Ubon Ratchthani Province to have an official welcome in
Wat Pho Chai. In the afternoon, we visited the two waterfalls of Nam Tok
Saeng Chan and Nam Tok Soi Sawan, both belonging to Pha Taem National Park.
We arrived relatively early at Tohsang-Khong Chiam Resort to have a sunset
cruise along the Mun River towards Kaeng Tana. Some of the local fishermen
are living there in completely authentic stone-aged surroundings.
The next morning, we left for Pha Taem National Park to
watch the sunrise over the Mekong Valley to make merit by giving alms to six
waiting monks. We were at the most eastern part of Thailand. Later we went
to the Pha Taem Cliff to study the more than 180 meter long ancient rock
paintings that show a variety of animals, humans and geometric designs. We
lunched at a floating restaurant, where the Mun River flows into the Mekong
and then left for Chong Mek on the Thai-Lao border to go shopping.
Heading 90 kilometers on National Road No.217 to Ubon
Ratchathani, we finally reached the luxurious Lai Thong Hotel. For the last
evening of the educational trip through the eastern provinces of Isaan, we
were invited by the vice-governor to the private compound of Ban Kampun, a
garden palace housing traditional art and handicraft from Ubon. The
highlight of the evening was a sophisticated fashion show.
The next day we went to Wat Nong Pa Pong in Warin Chamrap
District, seven kilometers south of Ubon. The monastery is a peaceful forest
temple built in 1954 to study the practice and discipline of meditation.
Some Westerners have been ordained here as Buddhist monks.
After lunch, we flew back to Bangkok with genuine desire
to promote Isaan with its unique culture and heritage, now made much easier
now with a direct flight from Chiang Mai to Udon Thani with Phuket Air.
For further information, contact Reinhard Hohler, GMS Media Travel
Consultant, email [email protected]
ASEAN Tourism Forum 2004
Catapulting Laos onto the world tourism map
The annual Association of South East Asian Nations
(ASEAN) Tourism Forum (ATF) was held in Vientiane, Lao PDR on January 30 -
February 7, 2004 bringing more than 260 foreign tourism companies as buyers
to the country to explore business opportunities in tourism from the 1000
sellers of the 10 member nations of ASEAN. Each year, the hosting of ATF is
rotated among the member countries and next year’s event will be held on
Langkawi Island in Malaysia.
Somphong Mongkhonvilay, Minister to the Prime Ministers Office, Lao PDR,
announced that ASEAN tourism performance in 2003 decreased only 14% despite
the global travel situation
The theme “ASEAN, the new tourism landscape” was well
chosen to highlight the co-operative effort to promote the whole region as
one tourist destination. With a budget of USD 600,000, the Lao National
Tourism Organization (LNTO) tried its best to welcome the sellers in
organizing 467 tourism booths and the participation of 210 media agencies in
providing coverage of ATF 2004 to the public in the newly built Lao
International Trade Exhibition and Convention Center (Lao-ITECC).
decorated Victory Monument greeted delegates
During the first five days of the forum, there were high
level meetings of the task forces on tourism manpower development, ASEAN
tourism investment and ASEAN tourism marketing. In addition, there were
meetings of the ASEAN tourism ministers plus the tourism ministers of China,
Japan and Korea.
Akha Dancers at the Opening Ceremony
Delegates and the press, who stayed in 76 designated
hotels and guesthouses, were offered complimentary half-day city tours to
visit such places as the golden That Luang stupa, decorated Victory
Monument, Vat Sisaket and Ho Pha Keo Museum. Also on the program were visits
to the Morning Market, Kaysone Phomvihan Museum, Handicraft Promotion Center
and Ban Buathong Weaving Village.
newly built Lao ITEC Convention Center, which was just finished in time
During the press conference, under the chairmanship of
H.E. Somphong Mongkhonvilay, Minister to the Prime Ministers Office, Lao
PDR, it was announced that ASEAN tourism performance in 2003 decreased only
14 percent despite the global travel situation affected by SARS and the war
in Iraq. The bird flu epidemic was also mentioned.
The ministers welcomed the decision of the ASEAN leaders
to establish the ASEAN Community by 2020 to ensure peace, stability and
shared prosperity in the region. Also, there is the plan for inter-ASEAN
visa exemption by 2005. Furthermore, the ministers emphasized the need to
promote closer ties with China, Japan and Korea for a greater tourism
exchange scheme and with India and the European Union (EU) in the long run.
To open the travel exchange (TRAVEX) as the more
practical part of the forum, a flamboyant welcome reception was held at
Lao-ITECC with an address by H.E. Somsavat Lengsavat, Deputy Prime Minister
of Lao PDR, and a keynote address by H.E. Bounnhang Vorachith, Prime
Minister of Lao PDR, who mentioned the two world heritage sites of Luang
Prabang and Wat Phu in Champasak. The Prime Minister also advised on the 20
national protected forested areas as the basis for a thriving eco-tourism
Other highlights of ATF 2004 were the Vietnamese Culture
Night Dinner at the Lao Plaza Hotel and the evening with Malaysia Truly Asia
at the Dansavanh Nam Ngum Resort and Hotel. Besides one luncheon hosted by
the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Indonesia and another by Thai Airways
International, there were exciting late night functions by the Singapore
Tourism Board, Travel Weekly, and the colonial Settha Palace Hotel. The
Tourism Authority of Thailand also held a very special Songkran Night at the
newly opened Golden Bowl Hotel on the outskirts of Vientiane.
Interesting to note was the lively morning event of the
ASEAN Tourism Conference where “responsible tourism” was scrutinized by
David Baffsky, Chairman of ACCOR/Asia Pacific from Sydney, and Robert Hecker
from Singapore, who spoke from the side of the investor’s perspective.
Prithpal Singh from Singapore gave a presentation about the emerging
low-cost carriers (LCC’s) in Europe, Australia, and Asia. Everyone has to
watch AirAsia, which sponsored a special lunch and gave a vivid press
All in all, ATF 2004 was a big success for a small
country like Laos. Unfortunately, most of the delegates were so exhausted
from selling, buying and networking that only a few of them booked the
offered expensive post-forum tours to Luang Prabang, Plain of Jars, or Pakse
in the south. Nevertheless, Laos was certainly catapulted onto the world map
For further information, please contact Reinhard Hohler, GMS Media
email [email protected]
PATA Strategic Intelligence Centre WorldWatch
* Singapore has allocated more than US$1 billion to
expand Changi International Airport in a bid to preserve its status as a
regional hub. Changi’s new Terminal 3, set to be in service by 2008, will
handle the world’s biggest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, designed
to carry more than 550 passengers.
* According to Chinese Customs statistics, China
(PRC)’s trade with Southeast Asian countries hit a record high of US$78.25
billion in 2003, surging 42.8% year-on-year. China (PRC)’s imports jumped
51.7% to US$47.33 billion while exports grew 31.1% to US$30.93 billion.
* Japan, Korea (ROK), Malaysia and Singapore and moved to
suspend poultry imports from the US after bird flu was detected there.
* On February 8, commerce ministers from Bhutan, India,
Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand signed a free-trade agreement (FTA)
in Phuket, Thailand, aimed at enhancing economic integration between South
Asia and Southeast Asia.
* Qantas Airways’ new discount domestic carrier,
Jetstar, aims to grab one-third of Australia’s domestic passenger traffic
when it begins operating in May 2004.
‘Outstanding’ Keynotes at Mekong Forum
Professor Kaye Chon will deliver the Ninth Mekong Tourism
Forum’s opening keynote address. Entitled “GMS in the 21st Century:
Tourism as a Growth Engine”, the address will outline the effects of 21st
Century global economics on Greater Mekong Sub region (GMS) tourism. Prof.
Chon is Chair of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Hotel and
Dynamic American-Thai entrepreneur, William E. Heinecke,
will close out the Forum with a keynote address entitled “Private Sector
Investments in Mekong Tourism”. Mr. Heinecke controls Royal Garden
Resorts, a listed company that owns hotel properties throughout Thailand and
in Vietnam. Click to read the News @PATA breakout interview Heinecke on the
PATA Director-Development, Mr. Stephen Yong, said: “It
demonstrates the importance of the Mekong Tourism Forum in the GMS when we
can attract such outstanding speakers to the event.” For more information
about the Mekong Forum, please contact PATA Director-Development, Stephen
Yong. Tel: (66-2) 658-2000 ext. 122. Fax: (66-2) 658-2010. E-mail: stephen
@pata.th.com. Web site: www.PATA.org