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Skål Yangon to twin with Chiang Mai

Skål guests and members enjoyed the presentation on tourism in Myanmar from the President of Skål Yangon.

By Shana Kongmun
Members of Skål Chiang Mai and the North, the travel and tourism professionals organization, met at the lovely Khum Phaya Resort and Spa on Thursday, January 23, 2014. The event, hosted by General Manager Jerome Sim saw visitors from Skål Yangon; President of Skål Yangon “Sonny” Aung Khin, Skål Yangon Treasurer “Tommy” Min Thein and member Su Su Hlaing.

Most Active Local Skål Member award went to Gill Dobson (center) whose assistance during meetings and the organization of the orphanage trip were invaluable. Special recognition was given to Events Director Tim McGuire as Most Active Committee Member for his hard work and exceptional organization of meetings and the orphanage trip (right)

The evening started out with delicious courtesy of Khum Phaya followed by a lovely traditional Lanna dance performance. Two new Skål active members were introduced to the group; Mr. David Gordon of David’s Kitchen and Mr. Phongkan Channgoen of Rowaco Asia Travel and Tianna Garden Resort.
Awards were given to Skål Best Host; Anantara Chiang Mai and was accepted by acting General Manager Nick Downing, Most Active Local Skål Member award went to Gill Dobson whose assistance during meetings and the organization of the orphanage trip were invaluable. Special recognition was given to Events Director Tim McGuire as Most Active Committee Member for his hard work and exceptional organization of meetings and the orphanage trip.

(From left) General Manager of Khum Phaya Resort and Spa Jerome Sim, President of Skål Chiang Mai and the North Annette Kunigagon, Su Su Hlaing, Skål Yangon; President of Skål Yangon “Sonny” Aung Khin, and Skål Yangon Treasurer “Tommy” Min Thein.

President Sonny Aung Khin, owner of the Padonmar Restaurant, a very fine Yangon restaurant then took the stage where he talked about the state of tourism in Myanmar and his predictions for its future. Sonny started off by noting the name change from Burma to Myanmar, “Burma only covers one ethnic group. The name was changed in 1983 so all ethnic groups feel included”
Sonny told the group that he had lived in Bangkok from 1979 to 1994, adding that Thailand is his second home. He said the changes have been dramatic since Myanmar opened up to the rest of the world in 2011. He added that those changes may be happening too fast; businesses are rushing to open up there, it’s become a “must visit” destination with dynamic and fast growing tourism.

Skål members and guests pose for a group photo behind the pool.

Before 2011 there were 200,00 visitors to Myanmar, that leapt to 1.6 million in 2012, to 2.4 million in 2013 and 2014 is forecast to see 3 million visitors. This in a country that already seriously lacks the infrastructure and accommodation for tourists.
Sonny noted that the good points of such growth are all restaurants are full; all hotels are full and overflowing. Foreign direct investment is growing, there is a free press for the first time in a very long time and there are many direct flights linking Myanmar and Thailand such as Chiang Mai – Yangon and a flight linking Chiang Mai with Mandalay next month. He said many of the new flights are to the new capital as business flows in to the country.
However, he noted the infrastructure could not handle the increase in people, many hoteliers have resorted to price gouging and room rates have risen 400%. Rooms can start at $250 US and it is difficult to book online. The Ministry of Tourism tried to enforce price controls but failed. He said this kind of behavior is a very bad situation for tourists; backpackers often sleep in the temples he added. In three years time President Sonny said the number of hotel rooms are expected to triple. Land prices have shot up to Manhattan levels which discourages investors. Many foreign investors are waiting for new elections next year.
Another downside has been many unemployed youth, often attracted to the flesh trade, and increased crime in tourist areas, especially Bagan. Although President Sonny went on to note that Myanmar is still extremely safe.
Skål Yangon President Sonny Khin then led the Skål toast in English and President of Chiang Mai and the North Annette Kunagigon in Thai before everyone sat down to a delicious dinner.
During dinner the two Presidents agreed to an official twinning between the Skål Clubs of Yangon and Chiang Mai & North Thailand. This announcement was greeted with great applause and it is planned that the two clubs will work on this together and a trip, ex-Chiang Mai, will be arranged to visit the Skål Club of Yangon.
Skål members are reminded again to sign up online for the meeting at Le Meridien Chiang Mai on Thursday, February 27, 2014. http://www.skalchiangmai.com/


Chiang Mai sees biggest classic car event yet

A multitude of Minis attending ranged from the original economy saloons with the starter buttons on the floor to the high performance 1275cc ‘S’ models, one of Britains hottest cars in the swinging sixties.

By Bill Sykes
Although Chiang Mai has at least half a dozen clubs of old car enthusiasts, it took an invitation from the Governor and the Royal Automobile Association of Thailand to assemble the biggest ever collection at Tha Pae Gate on January 25, 2014. Chiang Mai Governor Wichien Puthiwinyoo presided over the opening ceremony for the event.

Making their Chiang Mai public debut were 2 red sports cars, an English Triumph Spitfire (left) and an earlier Porsche 356 Speedster (right) from Germany. Connoisseurs deemed it to be a very accurate replica body placed on a shortened Beetle floor pan, but it was still warmly welcome!

Well over 60 cars from the 1920’s to 1980’s crammed into the arena late afternoon after a parade from Railway Park led by the 2 oldest entrants, immaculate 1920’s Austin and Morris open tourers from England.
A small number of Japanese classics, mainly pick-ups, and enormous American Cadillacs and Chevrolets were outnumbered by the Europeans, with a huge collection of colourful Minis – including 2 rare pick-ups – and almost every style of Volkswagen ‘Beetle’ ever produced. These are still good value buys in Chiang Mai with many specialist workshops restoring and maintaining them, though prices of the much larger VW vans, pick-ups and buses have rocketed in recent years.

Some enthusiasts joke that Chiang Mai has more Beetles than were built in the first place. If you want affordable 50’s or 60’s style together with the famous VW reliability, these are without doubt the ‘entry car’ to this growing and addictive hobby.

The event took place 50 years and 4 days after a Mini Cooper ‘S’ won the most famous rally in the world, the Monte Carlo.
One of the most popular crews in the sport, Irish legend Paddy Hopkirk and his brilliant co-driver Henry Liddon beat vastly more powerful cars as front wheel drive pulled them through the ice and snow to one of motor sports most famous victories.
The gathering was a prelude to the Land Transport auction of desirable number plates, at which some people have been known to spend more on a personal plate than the car to which it’s attached.
The traffic police did a very efficient job supervising the parade around the moat prior to the display.


Benefit for Big Trees in the City

Tree Doctor program at Mae Jo University

Art & Culture Center volunteers man the booth selling local handicrafts.

By Shana Kongmun
The Fuen Baan Yan Wiang Library is a little known place behind 3 Kings Monument and the Art & Culture Center, next to the new museum that saw great live music on Saturday, February 1, 2014. They organized a music concert with North Gate Jazz Co-op and various organizations to raise funds for one of the organizations involved in their network of taking care of Chiang Mai. This network covers various aspects of preserving Chiang Mai, from culture to architecture to the environment.

Jazz musicians took the stage in a lovely tree filled space behind the Art & Culture Center at 3 Kings Monument.

The fundraiser was organized by the Chiang Mai Green Beauty Scented organization with the Northern Development Foundation and the Faculty of Architecture and Environmental Design at Mae Jo University in part to assist the Tree Doctor Volunteer Project. The project works in collaboration with Chiang Mai City Go Green and they are currently working to restore 500 of Chiang Mai City’s big trees to health. Many of these historical trees are currently in a poor state of health and need care to survive and thrive.

Concert goers got lessons in how to properly plant and care for trees.

The concert featured five different bands who performed for the crowd as well as booths from different non-governmental organizations such as Free Bird Café offering food, Art Relief International selling art and others. Participants were invited by tree doctor himself Mae Jo University professor Prasuk Tawornyutikan to learn how to plant and care for trees and to help Chiang Mai preserve its old trees. More info at www.facebook.com/GREEN.BEAUTY.SCENTED


The Year of the Horse gallops in

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Miss Chiang Mai Chinatown leads the parade with Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn other city officials.

By Shana Kongmun
Chiang Mai people joined in wishing everyone a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year on Friday, January 31, 2014. Government officials and business people joined with members of the Thai – Chinese community to celebrate the start of the Year of the Horse with a parade of dragon and lion dancers. The dragons wound their way from Tha Pae Gate to the Chinese temple in Waroros Market, visiting businesses along the way to bestow prosperity and good luck and receive red envelopes or “ang pao” in return.

(From left) Wisut Buachoom of the TAT Chiang Mai, President of the PAO Boonlert Buranupakorn, Chiang Mai Governor Wichien Puthiwinyoo and Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn start the festivities with drums.

The day started early at Tha Pae Gate with many people dressed in their best red Chinese style shirts, many Chinese tourists also joined in the event enjoying the shows. The acrobatic performances by different troupes started the parade off. Led by Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn, the different organizations then headed to Waroros Market where they joined the Mayor and other community leaders in praying at the temple, burning incense and making offerings before making their way through the crowded narrow streets of Kad Luang for the grand opening ceremony with Governor Wichien Puthiwinyoo and President of the Provincial Administration Organization Boonlert Buranupakorn.
The event covered several days with the entire area closed to traffic and filled with residents and tourists enjoying the wares of many different food vendors as well as souvenirs and other items for sale. There were also performances, music and shows as well as beauty shows including Miss Chinatown and the China Doll contest for children.
The Year of the Earth Horse could be a bumpy ride some Hong Kong astrologers have warned, saying that the wood element could fuel conflicts and tense situations, according to some astrologers the wood element makes people stick to their principles more firmly, making them less likely to compromise. The Thai economy could see difficulty in the first half of the year some have predicted, we can only hope that the astrologer who said the second half of the year could see economies improve as the fire element propels the horse upward has the right prediction.

The dragon dancers started from Tha Pae Gate for the Chinese New Year parade.

Winning China Doll contestant Eva won the crowd over with her fabulous costume, well-spoken Chinese and fan dance.

These lion dancers balanced on bamboo poles for their performance at Tha Pae Gate.

Dragon dancers stopped at businesses along the way to bring prosperity and success and were rewarded with red ‘ang pao’ envelopes.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Skål Yangon to twin with Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai sees biggest classic car event yet

Benefit for Big Trees in the City

The Year of the Horse gallops in