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

The Laos Guide Map third edition

HK Disneyland extends Christmas

Four Mekong Basin countries plead with China to join association

Lampang ceramics group travels to Xishuangbanna on goodwill tour

The Laos Guide Map third edition

Reinhard Hohler

Looking on a map of mainland SE Asia, Laos is located in the center of Indochina, a vast landmass between India and China. As “Hidden Heart of Southeast Asia” the country is home to 5.5 million people and features an area of 236,000 square kilometers with 70 percent mountainous terrain. Laos borders to China on the north, Myanmar on the northwest, Thailand on the west, Cambodia on the south and Vietnam on the east.

Most of the northern part of the country is rugged mountains with the maximum elevation of 2,800 meters being Phu Bia Mountain in Xieng Khwang Province, however Laos depends on the 4,200 km Mekong River that meanders through the western part of Laos.

This relatively unknown country has been surveyed and researched by David Unkovich by motorcycle, with his third edition of the Laos Guide Map published by The Golden Triangle Rider Company at Chiang Mai in November 2005.

The route to follow is National Route 13 starting at the Chinese border at Boten and ending at Veun Kham in Southern Laos. Completely listed in this updated Laos Guide are the villages along the Luang Namtha-Houei Xai, Oudom Xai-Pak Beng and Xayabouri Route into Loei Province in Thailand. Also very helpful are the clearly indicated international border crossings into Vietnam. Interesting to note is that the border into Dien Bien Phu in Northern Vietnam is still not an international crossing point.

The largest population centers from north to south are Luang Prabang, Vien-tiane, Thakhek, Savan-nakhet and Pakxe. From all these important towns, there are city maps and even the lesser tourist places of Phonsavan, Muang Sing, Ban Muang Ngoi and Vang Vieng are listed accordingly.

In the south of Laos, the rugged mountains extend to the Boloven Plateau, a 10,000 square kilometers area that produces coffee, tea, fruits and spices. With its proximity to Cambodia, the plateau is the center of the Mon-Khmer hill tribes. Further down to the south, the Mekong River reaches the breadth of 14 kilometers and forms Si Phan Don, the area of 4,000 islands. Situated in Champasak Province, the area is home to the elusive freshwater “Irrawaddy” dolphins and the immense waterfalls of Li Phi and Khon Phapheng. A French-built railway once connected the two smaller islands of Don Khon and Don Deth.

The population of Laos consists of 49 ethnic groups, each with their own unique tradition, culture and language. The wet rice growing Lao-Tai linguistic family is called Lao Lum and occupies the river valleys. Buddhist temples and houses on stilts dominate their villages and towns. The Mon-Khmer linguistic family occupies the forested hills and is called Lao Theung. The most numerous are the Khmu, who are the aboriginal people of the country, keeping elephants. The Lao Sung group such as Hmong, Mien and Akha, migrated from China and used to live on top of the mountains and were pure animists.

David Unkovich also precisely lists many tourist attractions, including caves, national parks, the Plain of Jars, Wat Phou and waterfalls. Very useful is the information to support community-based tourism in Laos by eating Lao food, purchasing local crafts, using local guides, staying overnight in villages and visiting the 22 national protected areas.

Compared to the work to produce this, the essential guide map to Laos comes cheap for B. 200. For further information, visit www.GT-Rider.com.


HK Disneyland extends Christmas

eTTR

Hong Kong Disneyland intends to celebrate Christmas for the whole month of December.

A 20 meter Christmas tree is located in Town Square , where each evening at 6 p.m., one lucky guest will be invited to light the tree to signal the start of snowfall on Main Street USA. The official first lighting took place at 6 p.m. on December 1, 2005.

Visitors were serenaded with Christmas music and special performances by the Dapper Dans while many stores at Hong Kong Disneyland will offer goods and gift ideas to fill holiday stockings.

More than 50 percent of the holiday items will be exclusive to Hong Kong Disneyland including a variety of seasonal pins featuring some of the park’s Disney characters.

For the bakery, Disney chefs’ service featured Christmas log cakes, Christmas tree rice crispies and tiramisu in a Mickey Mouse shaped cup including decorated Christmas cookies, crunchy Mickey ginger biscuits and snowmen presented in a holiday gift bag for visitors to the park.

Hong Kong Disneyland is located on Lantau Island. Guests will find a Disneyland-style theme park of shows and attractions, Hong Kong Dis-neyland Hotel with 400 rooms, Disney’s Hollywood Hotel with 600 guestrooms and a lake, which is a public area featuring boat rentals and a 3.5 hectare arboretum.

The park is a joint venture of Walt Disney Company and Hong Kong SAR government. Hong Kong Disneyland Resort employs 5,000 cast members. The HKSAR government estimates the first phase of the project will generate a present economic value of HK$148 billion (US$19 billion) in benefits to Hong Kong over 40-year
period.


Four Mekong Basin countries plead with China to join association

Saksit Meesubkwang

China has once again been asked to join the association that safeguards the development and environment of the Mekong River Basin, at a conference attended by the four participating countries and held in Chiang Rai at the end of November.

Dr. Kitti Limsakul, Deputy Minister of Education, together with Sompong Mongkolwilai, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, represented the Thai government at the international conference on water resource management that was also attended by representatives of the Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam goverments.

The conference, organized by the Mekong River Commission and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and staged at the Dusit Island Resort Hotel in Chiang Rai, was attended by almost 300 delegates.

Dr. Oliver Cogels, administrative head of the office of the secretary general of the Mekong River Commission, said that everyone had different ideas towards Mekong River Basin development but all had a similar vision in which the economy of the region was improved yet the environment was protected and conserved.

Siripong Hangsapleuk, director general of the Department of Water Resources said the four countries would cooperate in developing the river basin and in protecting the environment, while at the same time exercising judicious management to prevent flood and drought.

China is once more being asked to participate in this process as the country has been constructing dams that directly affect the river. China has 18 percent of the area that receives direct benefit from the river, with a substantial border on the northern bank, and the country is being requested to join the association. China has been requested several times, said Siripong, and this conference was once again appealing for China’s membership.

Yongyut Tiyapairat, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, joined the conference on November 30. This was the twelfth international conference among the four countries for developing the Mekong River Basin.


Lampang ceramics group travels to Xishuangbanna on goodwill tour

Chiangmai Mail Reporter

Lampang’s governor headed a group of ceramics manufacturers and local media representatives who traveled to Xishuangbanna, in China, to promote business ideas and survey the tourism attractions.

The group visit, organized by Lampang province over the period November 23 to November 27, numbered about 60 delegates.

Lampang governor Amornthat Nirattisayakul met with his counterpart, Xishuangbanna governor Dao Ling Yin, together with the local mayor, president of the chamber
of commerce, and local businessmen and media.

Governor Dao said that Xishuangbanna is increasingly recognized as an eco-tourist attraction, with the land covered 64 percent with forest. There are 13 ethnic groups, of which Tai Lue forms the majority, and the culture is of great interest and beauty. The people of Xishuangbanna share a common lineage with the Thais and they have long enjoyed a good relationship.

The governor said he hoped the Lampang group’s visit will lead to increased trade and cooperation in the fields of tourism, culture, and education.

Lampang’s governor invited Xishuangbanna representatives to participate in the 1st Thailand Ceramic Fair and the 18th Lampang Ceramic Fair, being staged between December 2 to December 12.


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