HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Princess Ubolratana visits Central Hotels & Resorts Booth at ITB 2006

Chiang Mai Journalist Club to hold 31st Larb Festival

Grand celebration to honor King’s Diamond Jubilee

Receding Mekong River water levels affect tour operators

Indonesian government backs ailing national airlines

Princess Ubolratana visits Central Hotels & Resorts Booth at ITB 2006

Princess Ubolratana recently paid a courtesy visit to Central Hotels & Resorts Booth at ITB 2006 in Berlin, welcomed by the company’s executives, led by Gerd Steeb (standing right) president, Supatra Chirathivat (sitting second left) senior vice president-development, Chris Bailey (standing left) vice president - sales & marketing, Natapong Jantavetsiri (sitting second right), group director of sales & marketing, Wallee Krooprasert (sitting far left) director of sales Sofitel Central Hua Hin Resort, and Malee Rojwiroj (sitting far right) assistant to the director of sales. (Photo by Waratat Kanithasen)

Chiang Mai Journalist Club to hold 31st Larb Festival

Nopniwat Krailerg and Preeyanoot Jittawong

One of the perhaps lesser known aspects of local culture will be celebrated prior to the forthcoming Songkran period when the 31st Larb Festival 2006 and Miss Larb Contest take place in Chiang Mai. There will be many performances and almost 100 teams are expected enter the larb competition scheduled to take place on April 8 at 12 noon at the outdoor courtyard of Kad Suan Kaew Department Store.

Amnat Jongyodying (centre), editor of Pak Nua Newspaper, Manit Khemkham (3rd right), chairman of organizers and committees, Udornpan Chantarawirot, former president of Chiang Mai PAO and Pol. Lt. Suchai Kengkarnkha, MD of Kad Suan Kaew Co. announce the festival.

Manit Khemkham, from Chiang Mai News and chairman of the festival organizers, disclosed that the Larb Festival 2006 and Miss Larb Contest has been held every year for the last 31 years, with the primary objective of promoting larb (mince meat), a local northern food. The other reason, which goes without saying, is to have a lot of fun and to promote tourism in Chiang Mai before the Songkran Festival.

This pretty model samples a dress that will be worn by Miss Larb contestants.

The larb competition will be separated into two categories, professional and amateurs, and will be a contest between chefs from restaurants and bistros. The champions of each category will be awarded the “Golden Trencher” and prize money. Application fee for professional chefs is 500 baht per team, with an entry fee of 300 baht for amateur teams. Two further special awards are to be provided; one for the competitor who puts on the best show and a prize for vegetable decorating.

Entry to the Miss Larb Contest requires no application fee and the winner will receive many valuable prizes from the sponsors. One of the previous Miss Larb Contest winners, On-anong Panyawong, later went on to become Miss Chiang Mai, before eventually being crowned Miss Thailand.

Anyone interested in entering the contests should ask for details from the Chiang Mai Journalists Club at Chiang Mai News Office located on Ratchaingsaen Road, Tambon Hai Ya in Muang, Chiang Mai or by calling 0 5327 9686 # 201, 202.

Grand celebration to honor King’s Diamond Jubilee

The Ministry of Interior and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) are jointly organizing the “Thailand Grand Invitation 2006” to take place throughout the year 2006 to honor His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the auspicious occasion of the 60th anniversary, or the Diamond Jubilee of His Majesty’s ascension to the throne.

Tourists around the world are invited to Thailand’s year-long grand festival of events to be held throughout the country, Air Chief Marshal Kongsak Wanthana said.

The interior ministry has asked all provinces nationwide to cooperate with all parties, including the state and private sector, as well as the local populace, in holding activities in their provinces to celebrate the auspicious occasion. The most appealing landscapes and important tourist attractions in each province need to be revitalized and made more attractive, ACM Kongsak said.

Maps, easy to see and read street numbers, traffic and direction signs and other elements for foreign travelers needing help in finding their way, must be made easily noticeable to visitors, said ACM Kongsak.

In addition, security and general services for visitors must meet international quality assurance standards, the interior minister said.

His Majesty King Bhumibol, now the world’s longest-reigning living monarch, was born on Dec 5, 1927, in Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States.

He became the ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty in June 1946. The kingdom celebrated his Golden Jubilee in 1996. Kings and queens and other royalty worldwide have been invited to the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of his ascension to the throne in June. (TNA)

Receding Mekong River water levels affect tour operators

The declining water levels in the Mekong River has forced many water tour operators in Thailand’s northernmost border district of Chiang Saen to keep their craft at their moorings.

Tour services that are still in operation have halved their passenger loads, resulting in a dramatic drop in revenue, said a local tour operator.

Songchai Suksomjai, managing director of Nava Luk Luang Company, said water tour operators have to bypass certain tourist attractions as their boats could not access the areas as the water in the river has receded to a critical level.

Tourist ferries have risked beaching on sandy riverbeds or have run aground on rocky river bottoms which cause severe damage to their boats.

Songchai’s company is among the major tour operators in the region that provides water journeys throughout the Golden Triangle in Chiang Saen.

He said bigger passenger boats that could not afford to take the risks have remained at their moorings while smaller ferries have halved their loads, reducing profitability. (TNA)

Indonesian government backs ailing national airlines

The Indonesian government is to issue undertaking letters for Garuda Indonesia and Merpati Nusantara Airlines as a short-term move to save the state-owned airline companies.

In a parliamentary hearing with House of Representative’s Commission XI in Jakarta, Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati said: “the undertaking letters are expected to attract creditors to invest in both airlines.

“The amount, period, and use of fund (undertaken) will be determined based on the due diligence the government is taking on the airlines’ operations, financial audit, and business plans.”

The government is planning to set up a special purpose vehicle or to do a debt conversion to save the two airline companies in the mid- and long-term period, according to Minister Indrawati.

In the mean time, State Minister for State-owned Companies, Sugiharto said his office would still continue to invite strategic partners for Garuda. The government will sell up to 49 percent of its shares.

Garuda President, Emirsyah Satar, told the local media the issuance of the undertaking letter was a new option the government had taken to save the airline.

“We will start working on finding creditors (with the undertaking letter), hopefully, we will be able to get one soon,” Satar said. (TTG Asia)