HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Thai Yai – the Shan of Thailand

Star Alliance CEO Board meets PM

Central plans for Chiang Mai and Koh Chang

AirAsia gives its support to the Habitat for Humanity project in Korat

Winter tourism a money spinner for Chiang Mai

THAI adds extra flights and uses larger planes during New Year 2005

Thai Yai – the Shan of Thailand

Marion Vogt
and editorial staff

Three hours north of Chiang Mai where the temperature can drop to seven degrees at night, is a different world. Visitors who think they have seen everything of our beautiful country, are surprised on the way up when the altitude changes and the world seems to have only two colors.

The ‘money tree’ and other items are carried up the steep hill to Doi Angkhang to make merit in the mountain temple.

The sky has different shades of blue and even more shades of green from the flora of the mountains. Spectacular scenery and an ideal escape can be experienced with a stay at the Angkhang Nature Resort (which recently won the Best Eco Resort award) which was developed as part of the Royal Angkhang Research Station. It is resplendent in teakwood, decorated with local Thai fabrics and has a spacious private balcony from which you can enjoy the view of the surrounding countryside.

The whole family is involved, young and old.

Most of the employees of the Angkhang Nature Resort are hill tribe peoples from surrounding villages and receive on the job training. But their culture is never forgotten, especially the Thai Yai traditions.

Coming back from school in traditional clothes and looking forward to a ‘night out’.

Every year, early in November Thai Yai, who are found in Southern China, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand get together in Doi Angkhang to celebrate a Buddhist festival that is held after the end of the rainy season.

It is a day when old friends meet and new friends are made. In the afternoon football matches are held between the different villages, followed by a procession, when the sun sets, up the steep hill slopes where fathers and sons, mothers and daughters join to pray for a happy year to come. Monks are invited to chant and to remove misfortune. The night ends with music and dance, drinks and games and the promise to meet again next year.

Thai Yai people belong to an ethnic minority group spread around 57 villages and 13 Amphurs, through four provinces of Thailand, according to the 1995 survey, but that might not be too accurate a picture these days.

Locally, they are said to be the Shan of Thailand, and many have slipped silently into Thailand from Myanmar where at least three million Shan still live. Their own language is a mix of Thai and Lao with an even more complicated writing than Thai, but for the children in the mountains, Thai is their first foreign language.

Star Alliance CEO Board meets PM

After meeting in Chiang Mai the chief executives of the Star Alliance aviation group board discussed Suvarnabhumi Airport and Thailand as a regional aviation and tourism hub as well as the Thailand aviation policies.

Pictured are PM Thaksin Shinawatra, Suriya Jungrungreangkit, minister of transport; Somkid Jatusripitak, minister of finance; and Vichet Kasemthongsri, deputy minister of transport, who welcomed the Star Alliance chief executive board, from 15 member carriers, led by Jaan Albrecht, Star Alliance’s chief executive officer and Kanok Abhiradee, THAI’s president.

Central plans for Chiang Mai and Koh Chang

Central Hotels and Resorts (Central) is about to close a deal to take over the management of a major hotel in Chiang Mai and is expecting to close deals in Koh Chang shortly afterwards, a spokesman said. Central’s executive vice president, Gerd Steeb, revealed the property in Chiang Mai had recently been “very extensively” renovated and only needs broader management and re-branding to become a successful and profitable operating unit.

“We are talking in Chiang Mai. We want to take over a large recently renovated hotel that has had a lot of money spent on it but which needs re-branding. We’re very close to doing a deal. It’s one of the city’s largest four-star properties and it has a lot of good MICE facilities,” said Steeb.

A spokesman for the 500-room Duangtawan Hotel in Chiang Mai declined to comment on a possible deal with Central, but did confirm the property would benefit from broader exposure than a single independent hotel could achieve.

Meanwhile, Central is close to close to clinching a management contract for a 150-room new-build hotel on Koh Chang. “Again, we haven’t signed a deal yet but we have an understanding. Plans are being revised and our ideas will cost more money than the owner had envisaged, but I think it will work out,” said Steeb. (TTG Asia)

AirAsia gives its support to the Habitat for Humanity project in Korat

Luc Citrinot

AirAsia is pleased to announce its help for the NGO Habitat for Humanity (HFH) project in Korat. The Singapore-based organization builds and repairs simple houses for poor families throughout the Asian continent.

The buildings are constructed with the help of the homeowner families. They are then sold to partner families at no profit, financed with affordable, no-interest loans.

Habitat for Humanity works thanks to volunteer labor contributions as well as donations of money and materials. Since 1976, Habitat has built more than 150,000 houses in more than 90 countries.

From January 2-9, a group of 15 volunteers will fly from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok. They will then transfer to Korat, 260 km northeast of Bangkok.

Volunteers will start to build houses with concrete block walls, cement floors and steel roof frames with tiles. HFH Thailand houses consist of two bedrooms and have optional electric wiring and plumbing. These houses will replace makeshift structures composed of canvas, cardboard, leaves and wire mesh walls cobbled together with rusty scrap metal and wooden planks.

The AirAsia Group comprised of AirAsia Berhad and Thai AirAsia is pleased to sponsor all seats for the HFH delegation as to support this wonderful project.

Winter tourism a money spinner for Chiang Mai

Saksit Meesubkwang

The winter season saw tourist arrivals at Chiang Mai increase by seven percent, said Junnapong Saranak, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand, Northern Region 1. This would bring in an estimated 100 million baht a day, said Junnapong.

Previously, domestic tourists outnumbered foreign tourists, but this year it is estimated that foreign tourists will double during Christmas and New Year.

Mae Hong Son has also benefited, with approximately 30,000 tourists visiting Mae Hong Son, bringing with them 54 million baht which was left in the region, said Issaret Phusara, head of the Mae Hong Son Tourism Coordination Center. Bua Tong Flower Field, Fish Cave, long neck Karen villages and temples are popular tourist sites.

For those with a mathematical mind, from October 2003 to June 2004, 225,499 tourists visited the province and brought to the city 900 million baht. Of this, 500 million baht was from domestic tourists and 400 million baht came from foreign tourists. With the threatened early closing of the bars, clubs and restaurants, it will be interesting to see if there are enough trading hours for the incoming overseas tourists to spend their money.

THAI adds extra flights and uses larger planes during New Year 2005

Thai Airways International (THAI) will increase its flight frequency to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, and Krabi from December 29, 2004 – January 4, 2005 to accommodate the expected increase in passenger demand for air travel during the New Year period.

Kanok Abhiradee, THAI’s president, said to accommodate passenger demand THAI will add 36 supplementary flights as well as change aircraft to ones with greater passenger carrying capabilities.

For further information, contact 0-2628-2000 or THAI’s 24-hour reservation service at tel. 0-2280-0060.