HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Emil Eisenhofer and the German connection

Nick Faldo puts stamp on Angkor

Thailand’s arrival figures up, so are advisories

Public urged to help save fuel during public holidays

More European carriers exit the Philippines

Emil Eisenhofer and the German connection

The men who tunneled their way to the North

Reinhard Hohler

The Foreign Cemetery in Chiang Mai is near the traditional Gymkhana Golf Club on the east side of the Ping River (along the Old Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road) is very well known. Marked by an impressive statue of England’s Queen Victoria, some of the town’s most notable foreigners found their final resting place on the land that was granted by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) in the year 1898.

But less known to the visitors of the Rose of the North is the grave of the German engineer Emil Eisenhofer, who came to Siam in 1903 and died in 1962. His grave is still cared for at the north side of the 1.6 km long Khun Tan railway tunnel in Lamphun Province between Chiang Mai and Lampang.

Part of the train that Queen Victoria presented to King Mongkut Rama IV in 1855 (Bangkok National Museum)

Emil Eisenhofer and other Germans were involved in the construction of the northern railway line, which began in the year 1892, when King Chulalongkorn broke the ground with the first spade cut in Bangkok.

German engineer Karl Bethge (1847-1900) from Krupp Company, was made chief of the new established railway department within the Ministry of Public Works. Under him, the Royal Government started with the construction of the 265 km long railway line to Khorat. Two young German engineers arrived in Bangkok in 1893 to help with the ambitious project through the jungle, Hermann Gehrts (1854-1914) and Luis Weiler (1863-1918).

Wheelbarrow, hoe and spade used by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) in 1892 (Bangkok National Museum)

The northern railway line was constructed as far as kilometer 78 by 1904, when Luis Weiler accepted the job as director general to complete the railway line up to Chiang Mai. In 1908, the railway line reached kilometer 389 in Phitsanulok of the projected 751 km long route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

There was a break until 1912 to continue the northern railway line, as the government concentrated on the southern railway line, which was built under English guidance. As King Chulalongkorn had died in 1910, it was King Vajiravudh (Rama VI), who ordered to continue with the railway line to Chiang Mai. This job was given to Eisenhofer and Goette, two German railway engineers, to dig the tunnel at Khun Tan.

But then destiny struck. With outbreak of the First World War, work on the northern railway line stopped and many German engineers went home. In 1917, Siam declared war on Germany and Luis Weiler was interned together with the remaining German personnel. When Weiler left Siam he was in poor health and died on a Danish ship near the east coast of Africa.

After the war, Siam completed the work done by the German engineers and changed the whole railway network to the English narrow gauge. In 1922, the first rapid trains connected Bangkok with Penang in the south and Chiang Mai in the north.

On New Year’s Day 1930, Emil Eisenhofer came back to Siam with his wife Irmgard and stayed here on and off until his death in 1962. Social life in Old Bangkok was in full swing at that time with daily dinner parties in the Alliance Francaise, the British, Danish and German Clubs.

For three years they lived out in the country at Siracha, where Emil was manager of a timber company. Back in the capital in 1935, Irmgard became a teacher of foreign languages. She even taught swimming to the later kings Rama VIII and Rama IX in Hua Hin. During their years in Siam (and later Thailand), the Eisenhofers had seen three kings, a revolution and a dozen coups d’etat. Much later, they saw the first airplane arrive in Don Muang.

Because of his railway connections, it was decided to locate Emil’s final resting place at the northern end of the Khun Tan railway tunnel. Now, every train passenger who knows the history can see Emil Eisenhofer’s memorial which is taken care of by the German Embassy in Bangkok in collaboration with the German Consulate in Chiang Mai.

For further information, please contact GMS Media Travel Consultant Reinhard Hohler by email [email protected]

Nick Faldo puts stamp on Angkor

An 18-hole, Nick Faldo-designed championship golf course is now under construction in Angkor and is due to be completed and opened for play by mid to late 2005.

The Angkor Golf Resort will cover an area of 140 hectares located six kilometers from Siem Reap and 10 kilometers from the Angkor Wat temple complexes.

Project manager, James Gubricky said the golf course and clubhouse would incorporate traditional Angkor heritage into its design. “Our primary target market is the tourism sector currently interested in Angkor Wat and we believe a significant number of these visitors will appreciate the additional area attraction,” he said.

The golf resort aims to be affiliated with the National Audubon Society’s Golf Course Sanctuary program and become a haven for Cambodia’s indigenous flora and fauna. (TTG Asia)

Thailand’s arrival figures up, so are advisories

Tourist arrivals at Bangkok International Airport for the first week of April showed a 93 percent increase over the same period last year and, more significantly, a 9.2 percent increase over the first seven days of the same month in 2002.

Public sector leaders are taking the figures as an indicator that their target of 12 million visitors this year can be achieved, but private sector operators are worried that adverse travel advisories could seriously damage the country’s prospects.

Thailand’s minister of Tourism, Sonthaya Khunpluem, freely acknowledges that comparisons with 2003 are irrelevant because SARS had set in by April, but he said the comparison between April 2004 and April 2002 was significant.

“The latest figures indicate that despite earlier fears, demand for Thailand is holding up well,” he told TTG Asia, adding that the new figures had boosted his optimism that Thailand would reach its target of 12 million overseas arrivals by the end of this year.

“This month the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) is putting on road shows in Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, UAE (United Arab Emirates), Bahrain and Kuwait. New initiatives in Japan, Korea and the UK will also help to boost demand,” the minister added.

Spokesmen for leading inbound operators from Japan, Germany and UK were upbeat but their optimism was tempered by fears that travel advisories posted on government websites worldwide could damage bookings.

The governments of Germany, UK, Australia, USA, Japan and some Scandinavian countries posted adverse warnings last week following the theft of a large quantity of explosives in southern Thailand which the Thai authorities feared might be used against tourist targets.

The warnings generally advised tourists from travelling to southern Thailand, including Phuket, but also warned of danger in Bangkok and Pattaya. Warnings on the German government’s website were particularly strong and mentioned not only the southern provinces of Yala, Patthani, Narithawat and Phuket, but also Pattaya.

Asian Trails’ managing director, Luzi Matzig, reacted angrily saying it was unfair for European governments to highlight dangers in Thailand unless they also highlighted dangers in countries such as Spain. “Foreign governments must not over-react. Their warnings are totally out of proportion. They must be fair or they lose their credibility,” he said. (TTG Asia)

Public urged to help save fuel during public holidays

Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej conceded that fuel prices in the world market remain on the rise, and has called on the public to help save oil consumption during the upcoming spate of public holidays.

He said the government had already spent 5 billion baht through the Oil Fund capping retail oil prices in a bid to ease people’s hardship; still the general public needs to give full cooperation in the energy-saving drive, he noted.

After the Songkran festivities there remain many consecutive public holidays during which most people usually go to their hometown, or travel to tourist sites by car. To help save oil consumption and ensure safety, he said, the ministry wants to give some tips to travelers.

First, make a travel plan. Study routes thoroughly before traveling to avoid traffic congestion, and to save fuel. Second, check the air and condition of tires before traveling. Tire malfunctions will reduce efficiency, waste fuel and can cause accidents. Third, driving too fast not only causes accidents but increases fuel consumption. Fourth, do not carry unnecessary stuff in your cars because the greater weight the cars bear, the more fuel they consume. Fifth, do not travel alone. Instead, ask relatives or friends whether they want to go with them. Finally, do not ignore checking overall vehicle conditions before traveling. (TNA)

More European carriers exit the Philippines

Swiss Air Lines and Air France have become the latest European carriers to pull out of Manila, following British Airways, Alitalia and KLM.

Air France will now fly to Bangkok instead, while KLM has diverted its flights to Kuala Lumpur.

The National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (NAITAS) chairman, Robert Lim Joseph, blamed the pullouts on stiff competition and a drop in visitor numbers.

The Philippines has increased the flight entitlements of Middle East and Asian carriers to Manila and this has been cited as a major reason for the withdrawal of European carriers because of price dumping by some players.

Joseph said, “We have tourism officers in Europe, but how can our attaches promote the country now that we don’t have direct flights to the biggest tourist market in the world? It would be very difficult and it would mean fewer tourists from Europe and European traffic going to our neighbors in Asia where there are direct flights.” (TTG Asia)