TRAVEL & TOURISM
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Global Positioning Systems for bicycle riders made simple

Yangon on PG’s radar

Indonesia campaign goes down well with Thais

THAI links Chiang Mai to China (PRC)

Teething problems for Air Andaman as aircraft fail to show up

Samui connection for AirAsia

Global Positioning Systems for bicycle riders made simple

Tom Matty

Many of the Top Gear bicycle riders have been using handheld GPS (Global Positioning Systems) units to create maps of bicycle trails around Chiang Mai for sharing and information.

They have recently begun collecting everyone’s track information to make an accurate map of Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand, down to 10m scale.

It’s called the eTrex Vista. No, the name is not misspelled. Higher-end units have color screens and external antennas. All of them can be connected to a computer. You can use it to generate 3D maps, which helps a lot to plan bike rides that won’t kill you too badly.

The group calls itself the Thai Garmin Map Makers, TGMM, and they have formed a yahoo group at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/tgmm/

Members meet monthly at Top Gear Bicycle to discuss mapping and how to best use our GPS units, which will also help novice GPS users to better use this awesome tool.

The maps they produce are available for download off the internet or, for those who aren’t familiar with some of the advanced mapping software, they can go to Top Gear, where a Garmin GPS user can come in and have any of the group’s maps uploaded to their GPS.

Here’s part of a Phuket map done by a group of GPS users down there. It’s created by combining GPS data with Gtopo satellite data to create a wire-frame which is then covered with the map textures.

GPS is old technology that is only now becoming available and affordable to mainstream society. It’s free to use and requires no licensing or fees other than the initial purchase of a GPS. Prices range from 7,000 baht for a basic handheld unit suitable for bicycles, motorcycles, cars, and hiking to advanced units which tell you when and where to turn, for nearly 100,000 baht.

Maps are vector based and as such are zoom-able, from hundreds of kilometers down to only a few meters without any loss in detail at different scales.

Here’s a wire frame. You can rotate, zoom in, and look at these images from any angle. It really helps to visualize the topography of the region.

The TGMM plan to have the Chiang Mai map accurate down to five meters with every little soi and walkway shown. They are also creating points of interest, which include local hotels, restaurants, government offices, which will appear as a searchable, navigable database within a GPS. This means you can ask the GPS to find a particular office or hotel for you and it will guide you to get there.

It can also search by location to show you all the hotels within five kilometers of your current location. All the user has to do is choose and the GPS will guide you there.

GPS units are useable the entire world over at no cost, with maps freely available from various Internet sites. GPS have an incredible range and variety of uses. The most basic user can simply turn one on and watch as they travel the GPS draws a line of where they go. It will also show altitude profiles, and a very wide range of data relevant to cyclists, drivers, parachutists, ultra-light pilots and others.

More advanced users can create their own maps of any place they want, determine the area of lakes or land areas, and a whole lot more.

The success of the Thai mapping project really depends on how many GPS users will get involved. With enough people it’s likely to map the entire country of Thailand to a fantastic degree of detail. And with digital maps a user can see and use as much or as little detail as they need. Ultimately the goal is to provide a free and readily available guidance resource for anyone who needs it.

Interested people can contact Top Gear Bicycle on Chang Mai Road, by email: [email protected] for information or to have some hands-on time with a GPS unit. Phone inquiries can be made to Tom at 01 883-3013 or email Auke at koopmans @loxinfo.co.th


Yangon on PG’s radar

Bangkok Airways (PG) has inaugurated its first-ever scheduled service to the Myanmar capital, Yangon, on April l30 using a Boeing 717 aircraft configured with 120 seats.

The launch is something of a breakthrough for PG which has been trying for years to get into Myanmar but was held back either by lack of aircraft, lack of manpower or because of political problems.

PG’s flight times are likely to find favor among business and leisure travelers. The outbound flight number PG701 departs Bangkok daily at 11.35. The return flight PG702 departs Yangon at 12.50.

Between now and the end of September there will be a promotional roundtrip fare of 6,600 baht (US$165) but the regular fare thereafter will be 4,200 baht one-way and 8,200 baht return.

Other carriers on the route include Thai Airways International with 14 flights weekly and Myanmar Airways with 10 flights weekly. Competition is tough in the summer season but agents report a shortage of seats in the high season which starts in November. (TTG Asia)


Indonesia campaign goes down well with Thais

Indonesia’s new campaign, ‘Indonesia – Ultimate in Diversity’, is getting a good response and will continue to be used for at least three or four years, culture and tourism deputy minister for marketing, Udin Saifuddin said.

He told buyers at a road show in Bangkok the slogan had been well-received at ITB and was now being applauded in Asia. “We needed something new because we have just entered a new phase. We are ready again for tourism; we really do have a new situation now that the monetary and economic crisis is over. Agents like the slogan,” Saifuddin said. Saifuddin was in Bangkok for the second leg of a three part road show that will be concluded in Kuala Lumpur today.

Holiday World Intertrade general manager, Kenny Worachet, who specializes in tours to Indonesia, said the new slogan would definitely boost interest in the destination because it implied variety, something Thais particularly like. But he urged Indonesia to spend much more on promotion. “If they spent even just a fraction of what Malaysia spends they would get a much better response,” Worachet said. (TTG Asia)


THAI links Chiang Mai to China (PRC)

PATA

Thai Airways International has launched a new route between Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and Yunnan province in China (PRC).

Utilizing ATR 72 aircraft, THAI is operating twice weekly flights on Wednesday and Friday.

THAI also flies from Chiang Mai to Rangoon and Mandalay in Myanmar, Luang Prabang in Lao PDR, Chittagong in Bangladesh, Chennai in India, Hanoi in Vietnam and Chengdu in China (PRC).

Other international routes that link Chiang Mai include Tokyo-Chiang Mai-Bangkok, Chinese Taipei-Hong Kong-Chiang Mai-Bangkok, and Chiang Mai-Bangkok-Singapore.

The summer schedule will introduce new routes between Bangkok-Bangalore and Bangkok-Milan. For more information visit: www. thaiairways.com


Teething problems for Air Andaman as aircraft fail to show up

Bangkok-based Air Andaman has postponed its inaugural Singapore-Bangkok and the Singapore-Phuket flights due to a delay in the delivery of its aircraft.

The flight to Bangkok was meant to have left last week and the flight to Phuket was scheduled for Sunday. The aircraft were supposed to have arrived in Bangkok in time for both flights, which were to have taken off with a full load of passengers including members of the media and trade, who were invited to try the airline’s product and services.

The airline is now contemplating suing the aircraft broker company for breach of promise, loss of business and reputation and compensation for losses incurred.

Air Andaman’s country manager, Singapore, Christina Leong, said, “We have put those who want to carry on with their holidays, on Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines and SilkAir. Those who wanted to cancel their trips to Phuket because of the recent unrest in southern Thailand did so without penalty. Or if passengers wanted to postpone their trips, they were not charged extra and we even offered them another free trip.”

The aircraft are now expected to arrive in mid-May and the inaugural flights to both Phuket and Bangkok will take off on June 1. (TTG Asia)


Samui connection for AirAsia

A daily flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani with a bus shuttle to the ferry to Samui Island is next on the list of domestic services to be operated by AirAsia in Thailand. Spokesman Luc Citrinot said details had not been finalized but he was confident the service would be inaugurated in a matter of weeks to give the carrier its eighth domestic destination since starting operations in Thailand in January.

Meanwhile, AirAsia has increased frequencies on its services from Bangkok to Phuket and Udon Thani as a result of higher than expected cabin factors on both routes. The extra flights to Phuket and Udon Thani bring to 84 the total number of domestic flights being operated by AirAsia in Thailand. (TTG Asia)