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Pakse shines as new star of MTF2011

By Reinhard Hohler

Compared to the well-known World Heritage Site Luang Prabang in Northern Laos, the sleepy provincial town of Pakse in the southern part of the country was far less-known, when some 250 delegates met at the Champasak Grand Hotel on May 27-28 to attend the 12th Mekong Tourism Forum (MTF) in Pakse, Lao PDR. This hopefully changed now for the better, when Pakse and its tourism potential prominently shined as a new star during this year’s event.

Under the theme “Destination Mekong: The Making of a Star” it quickly became clear that the annual MTF presented the best opportunity for those in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) tourism industry to meet and discuss travel and tourism related issues. High-level government officials and representatives of the six National Tourism Organizations (NTO) China, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam mingled with developers, hoteliers, tour operators, tourism suppliers and international media.

The two-day conference featured sessions on tourism marketing strategies, social media trends, human resource development, trans-national overland journeys, thematic route proposals, responsible tourism, public sector participation and destination marketing amongst other important country presentations. Thus, Mr. Luzi Matzig, CEO of Asian Trails, firmly suggested that each government in the GMS should do the funding and marketing, because the private sector already is paying the taxes. In the same tone it was said by others that uncontrolled tourism destroys the environment and should be checked accordingly.

Connectivity is the name of the game. From the Chinese side high speed trains are planned to reach the GMS in the future. For 2015, ASEAN is aggressively promoting open sky policies, while the co-operation of ASEAN+6 is already the reality, including China, Japan and South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India. Furthermore, visa problems in the GMS are still critical and should be addressed, while the proposed and intended single GMS visa is out of question now because of a myriad of political problems.

Mr. Peter Semone, Chief Technical Advisor of the Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality (LANITH), introduced a Lao-Luxembourg initiative that aims to raise the country’s service standards to an international level by focusing on best practices and strengthen human resource capacity. In Nicole Hausler, Mascontour Germany, speaking about the future trends of European tourists, the forum heard an active advocate of sustainable tourism, who mentioned the ambitious plan for no more domestic flights in Germany as one step to save the environment.

Media delegates had a long way to come to reach Pakse, a sleepy town at the Mekong River, either from Phnom Penh by motorcycle or by Bangkok by bicycle on a pre-arranged trip. Other options were by airplane from Vientiane or Ho Chi Minh City.

As I opted to take a bus from Chiang Mai to Pakse, I left the Arcade Bus Terminal on May 25 on 17.15 with a VIP bus from Nakhon Chai Air (843Baht) to reach Ubon Ratchathani at 9.00 in the morning. Only an half hour later, the Thai-Lao International Bus (200Baht) left Ubon Bus Station to Chong Mek, where is the border between the Kingdom of Thailand and Lao PDR. After paying the visa fee of 30USD, the same bus continues from Vang Tao some 50km into Pakse town crossing the Mekong River on the local Lao-Nippon Bridge.

In Pakse I was invited by GM Jerome Letemplier to stay at Pakse Hotel downtown in the heart of the old business district. The multi-storied building of the hotel was first constructed under the supervision of Chao Boon Oum, the last king of Champasak in Southern Laos. In 1962 it opened as a theater-casino and was the centre of all major events in the kingdom. Totally renovated in 2003, the hotel has won the ASEAN Green Hotel Standard Award and was certified as a three-star hotel by the Lao National Tourism Association (LNTA) in 2010.

With its 65 well-equipped comfortable guest rooms, the hotel is famous for its superb rooftop restaurant “Le Panorama” to enjoy wonderful sunsets over the Mekong and Sedon Rivers and party until midnight. Other assets of the hotel are “Le Patioh de Noy” for breakfast, lunch and dinner next to the lobby as well as the Grand Hall Pakse, where the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand hosted its Thailand Night Dinner on May 28 to feature Chiang Rai 750 Years as Gateway to the Mekong and the next venue for MTF2012.

Another highlight of MTF was the Gala Dinner at Champasak Culture Hall on May 27, where the invited delegates could experience the different tastes of Lao cuisine accompanied by dance performances hosted by the LNTA. Last not least, the event successfully ended with four complimentary post-forum tours on May 29, which were open to all MTF delegates.

I opted for the full tour to the nearby Bolaven Plateau, as I have visited the Vat Phou World Heritage Site or Khone Phapheng Waterfall further south of Pakse many times before and the Tree Top Explorer jungle adventure with Green Discovery Laos was limited to 16 guests only.

To the Bolaven Plateau we left Pakse with a big tour bus at 8.00 o’clock from the Champasak Grand Hotel and headed 40km further east to visit the picturesque Tad Yuang Waterfall, which falls more than 200m deep from the volcanic plateau. At 10.00 o’clock we reached Paksong, a town surrounded by pine trees. On the market, we saw banana, pineapple and durian in abundance. From Paksong, we headed north to reach the beautifully landscaped Sinouk Coffee Plantation & Gardens, which is a “must see” place offering a unique experience among Coffee Arabica trees and French-style gardens.

We learned that the world of coffee business began in the ancient city of Mocha on the Arabian Peninsula and included planting, trading, roasting and brewing - in contrast to the tea tree which originated in China. Most of the coffee plantations are nowadays spread throughout Middle and South America, Central Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia. The Lao Bolaven Plateau is well determined to grow coffee because of its height (600-1250m) and volcanic soil. Organic cultivation features since 1920 and includes the provinces of Champasak, Salavan and Sekong.

The owner of the Suan Sinouk Resort offered us a local lunch in the restaurant and we had to leave him at 12.30 to continue our Bolaven Circuit. Actually, he also is the owner of the new boutique hotel in Pakse named Residence Sisouk with its 16 personalized rooms and located only 5km from the new Pakse Golf Course overlooking the Mekong River.

Our next stop was at the Tad Hang Waterfall near the Tad Lo Lodge. At 14.30 we reached the jungle Tadsae Pasuam Waterfall, where it was possible to study some ethnic minority houses of Mon-Khmer tribes such as the Katang, Katou, Laven, and Ta-oy. Villages tend to be circular around a richly carved and painted community house and special bachelor houses are common. At 16.00 o’clock we were back in Pakse after having seen one of the most unexplored and less visited areas in the whole GMS.

Finally, MTF2011 featured a lively travel exhibition at the Champasak Grand Hotel, but most of the exhibitors complained that there were not enough buyers to sell their products except of a horde of school children who took up the brochures and materials very quickly. Some of the most outstanding tourism products exhibited will be mentioned as follows (in alphabetical order):

1. Charming Lao Hotel, Oudomxay/ Lao PDR: Best hotel in town (see

2. E-Visa, Kingdom of Cambodia: Valid at 5 Ports of Entry (see

3. La Folie Lodge: 12 bungalows set in a magnificently landscaped tropical garden located on Don Daeng Island in the Mekong River facing Vat Phou (see

4. Inthar Heritage House: Designed, built and integrated by inspiration of the culture of art & tradition in Shan State, Myanmar (see

5. Pakse Hotel, Pakse/Lao PDR: The Panoramic Boutique Hotel (see

6. Quang Tri Tourism, Viet Nam: Vietnamese province on the East-West Economic Corridor (see

7. Shangri Lao in Luang Prabang: Classic Explorer Camp & Expedition (

8. The Charm of Southern Isan: DVD by Tourism Authority of Thailand (see

9. The Elephant Crossing Hotel, Vang Vieng/Lao PDR: Idyllically located at the Nam Song Riverside (

10. The Savannakhet Historical Trail: Example of Community-Based Tourism in Laos (see

11. The Vat Phou Cruises: A fantastic opportunity to discover the Southern Mekong in Laos up to the “4000 Islands” world (see

12. Villa Muong Khong Hotel, Don Khong Island: 32 comfortable rooms with view of the Mekong River, Tel. (856.31) 21 30 11.

Coming back from Pakse to Chiang Mai on May 31 by the same way as described before, I needed an urgent massage to compensate for the 20 hours of overland travel. Also, I’m looking forward to the next venue of the MTF2012 in Chiang Rai/Thailand.

Reinhard Hohler is a GMS Media Travel Consultant based in Chiang Mai/Thailand and can be reached by e-mail: [email protected]

UK Embassy urges expats to encourage their guests to make travel preparations

Overstaying their welcome? Drinking all your beer? Not paying for meals?

Hosting friends and family from overseas can cause a degree of stress but the good news is that some problems are avoidable with some simple preparation. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is calling on British expats to remind their visitors to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy before their stay. The request comes as new research reveals that young people are more likely to buy a present for their host than take out a travel insurance policy.

The survey commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office shows that a third of people did not take out travel insurance the last time they stayed with family and friends overseas. More than three quarters (77%) of those who stated they were visiting friends and family this year said that saving money is a key factor in this decision. However not taking out comprehensive travel insurance cover is often a false economy as people could face serious financial difficulty if they need medical treatment or lose valuable possessions.

Over a third (39%) of British nationals have relied on their host when things have gone wrong during their trip. British expats hosting visitors have to deal with a range of problems from taking their guests to hospital when they fall ill to providing financial help.

Michael Hancock, head of the consular team in the British Embassy Bangkok said “If friends or family visit you regularly it’s natural for them to feel very at ease with their destination and not prepare in the same way for these trips as they would for other holidays. Things can quickly become stressful if a guest ends up in a tricky situation and doesn’t have travel insurance cover. When you’re reminding your guests to bring out your favourite teabags or newspapers, encourage them to get travel insurance cover and to do some research about the country they’re visiting.”

Remind your guests to visit and

Chiang Mai’s own Moxie restaurant named in Best Restaurants by Thailand Tatler

MOXIE; The stylish Moxie restaurant at the dusit D2 is a relaxing and modern restaurant with friendly, professional service and great food.

Moxie restaurant at dusitD2 chiang mai is named as one of ‘Thailand’s Best Restaurants 2011’ by Thailand Tatler magazine, the leading English-language luxury lifestyle publication.

This is Moxie’s fourth year in the prestigious fine dining guide, which reviews only the best dining venues, as selected by its discerning readers. Moxie is one of just 14 restaurants in Chiang Mai to receive acclaim as one of the region’s best, for its exceptional cuisine and service.

According to Tatler, Moxie “is offering wild and wonderful fusion dishes to match its outgoing decor”. The guide recommends signature dishes including Spaghetti with Chiang Mai Sausage, Baked Baby Pork Ribs and Escabeche of Shrimp Tails. The publication also mentions Moxie’s array of charming desserts - and a must-have chocolate cake in hot sauce.

Committed to supporting sustainable tourism, Moxie recently started serving world-class organic coffee from nearby Doi Chaang in northern Thailand. The selected Arabica blend is 100 per cent natural and offers up to 50 per cent of the daily vitamins and minerals that the body needs. As ever, Moxie strives to offer creative healthy choices for its guests while maintaining its environmentally friendly community credentials.

Located on the lobby floor of dusitD2 chiang mai, Moxie restaurant is open daily from 6.30am to10.30pm. (PR)

New clinic of Ayurveda opened in Chiang Mai

By Reinhard Hohler

It was on a nice sunny morning, when sitting together in the garden of a new clinic in the compound of Regent 3 Village, which is located on the Chiang Mai Airport Road - some 9km out to San Kamphaeng.

There was a cool breeze in the trees and flower bushes, while a lotus pond in the corner of the garden features the ideal surrounding of calm and serenity. I was talking with the owner of the clinic about Ayurveda and holistic healing - a new trend far beyond the common spa treatments which people can experience in the myriad of establishments all over the town of Chiang Mai.

Indian born Dr. Rajeev Marwah is a doctor of holistic medicine, specializing in Ayurveda, acu-pressure, reflexology, gemology and magnet therapy. He is the consultant of the Dheva Spa and Ayurvedic Centre at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai, where he is responsible for conceptualization, planning, implementation and controlling the delivery of all his treatments. He presided over a worldwide holistic healing seminar, which was held in Chiang Mai in 2009. Also, he was the chairman of the successful First World Congress of Holistic Medicine in Thailand, which was held at Chiang Mai in 2004, and worked as consultant for the Department for Traditional Thai and Alternative Medicine, Ministry of Public Health, Bangkok.

So what can Ayurveda offer to visitors and patients alike, who try to consult Dr. Rajeev in all questions about health and individual wellness programs, I wondered. I kindly asked him to give a small introduction and outlook of his health products.

Actually, Ayurveda is the science of self-healing, Dr. Rajeev explained, showing me some collections of medical herbs. Together with his wife Dr. Suchada, he is working to find a diagnosis for diseases which often appear as a consequence of people’s wrong and misguided lifestyles. Besides feeling the pulse of the patient, looking after tongue, face, lips, nails, and eyes is equally important. Treatments follow according to the diagnosis such as face and skin therapies as well as heat and specialized bodyworks.

Throughout the therapy the emphasis is on moderation, whether it is in food, sleep, exercise, or the dosage of medicines. It is outmost vital to stay within the limits of reasonable measure and balance. Also, after the disease therapy is completed, rejuvenation therapy should be given to strengthen the body part that was affected by the illness. Only then it may resist future disorders.

Just to explain the Sanskrit word Ayurveda: meaning the knowledge (veda) for longevity (ayus). To say it more clearly: Ayurveda tells us, which substances, qualities and actions are life-enhancing, and which are not. It consists of valuable practical advice concerning almost every imaginable aspect of life, from cleaning the teeth, to diet, having sex and exercise.

It is because of this pragmatic approach towards diseases that there is nowadays a tremendous growth of interest in alternative therapies, allied with a general disaffection for conventional medicine and pill-swallowing. Thus, there is an undeniable notion throughout the world that the kind of conventional medicine available to the ill today is not adequate to our modern time, and that we must really look to alternatives to meet those of our needs, which are not easily satisfied by pills.

It is here that doctors like Dr. Rajeev Marwah come in. Offering four treatment rooms in his two-storied clinic in the outskirts of Chiang Mai, people have the chance to prolong their lives by getting an early diagnosis for diseases, which will ultimately come with the aging process. In other words it is never too late to live healthy for a long time to come.

Finally, the highly recommended International Research Center of Natural Sciences (IRCNS) is offering to you all its consultancy, wellness programs and health products. When I left the new clinic in the afternoon, I was in a pensive mood and aware that Ayurveda holds the key for keeping a healthy lifestyle.

For more information, please contact Dr. Rajeev Marwah by e-mail: [email protected] or go to the new web-site:

Blooming Krachiao Festival

The Siam Tulip

Chaiyaphum in the North East is the scene of fields of blooming krachiao flowers or Siam tulips from June 1 to August 31 at P Hin Ngam National Park in Ban Rai district.

The unique geographical landscape of Chaiyaphum Province in the northeast of Thailand gives rise to a range of natural attractions of exceptional beauty. The fields of pinkish-purple Siam Tulip, or "Dok Krachiao", come in to full bloom in the early part of the rainy season from June to August.

Also commonly called 'patumma', 'bua sawan' (heaven lotus), or 'bua bok' (the land lotus), the Siam Tulip is a member of the ginger genera — Curcuma or Zingiberaceae.
Tourism Authority of Thailand, Nakhon Ratchasima office: [email protected] (TAT)

New direct bus to Phuket

from left, Pol Col Anu Nernhard, Worakarn Yokying, Somchai Thongkhamkoon, and Ms. Kalyanee Thongkhamkoon, manager of the Green Bus during the opening ceremony at the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Terminal.

By Phitsanu Thepthong
Photos by Phitsanu Thepthong and Jittarporn Charasrum

Last week, the Chiang Mai Mail was invited by Somchai Thongkhamkoon, the Managing Director of Chaipattana Transportation Chiangmai Co., Ltd. to participate in the inaugural trip of the Green Bus between Chiang Mai in the North and Phuket in the South.

Bus passengers pay their respects to the statue of the heroines of Phuket, famous for repelling the invading Burmese Army in 1785.

The 47 years old transportation company based in Chiang Mai organized the Muan Jai Phuket Press Tour for three nights and four days travel covering about 1,558 kilometers each way and about 50 representatives of most local media attended the Press Tour program, held from May 19-22, 2011.

At the “Soft Opening” ceremony held at the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Terminal, Deputy Chiang Mai Governor Worakarn Yokying, Pol Col Anu Nernhard, the Superintendent of Chiang Mai Traffic Police and Somchai Meekhamkoon launched the two 24 seat tour buses. Fitted out with massaging chairs, a personal LCD screen for video, movies, songs and games to entertain the passengers during the trip, there are also four drivers taking turns to ensure safety and two hostesses.

MD Somchai of the Green Corp (Chaipattana Transportation Chiangmai Co., Ltd, said the company has provided transportation to over 60 destinations, with more than 1.5 million passengers, and more than 10,000 trips per year.

“This year, the company was given the license from the Land Transportation Department to launch the first of its kind; linking the North and South with buses. We also aim to further develop our business with modern passenger busses, newly ordered from Shanghai.”

Managing Director Somchai Thongkhamkoon explains the features of the new buses to operate between Chiang Mai and Phuke.

While the inaugural trip was May 19, services are expected to begin June 3. Stops include Lampang, Tak, Nakhon Sawan, Singburi, Petchaburi, Prachuab Khiri Khan, Chumpon, Surat Thani, Phangnga and terminating in Phuket covering a distance of 1,558 km and taking about 22-23 hours for a one way trip.

Promthep Cape in Phuket is one of the famous scenic sights of the island.

The Green Bus MD Somchai remarked that this new route is expected to promote tourism between the two regions and encourage economic development.

In Phuket the bus was met by Phuket’s Deputy Governor, officials, media organizations’ representatives, and mass media. The group toured Wat Chalong, paying respects to the Luang Por Chaem, Luang Por Chuang and Luang Por Chote and then visited Rawai beach, Promthep Cape, Naiharn, Kata, and Karon beaches.

Chaiwat Thepee, Deputy Governor of Phuket said “this is a good news for the travelling industry and transportation business to link Chiang Mai and Phuket. It is the first of its kind with the Green Bus‘s VIP new services. It is a new dimension in promoting travel between the two regions.”

The beaches of Phuket are very popular with foreign and Thai tourists.

He added Phuket province has only 3 districts, Katu, Muang and Thalang districts, located on the island of 17 Tambons, and 103 villages.

During the past 3 months of this year, there were about 800,000 tourists visiting Phuket, which was a 39 percent increase compared to the last year’s figure from the same period. More than 300 hotels now see a 78% occupancy rate, he noted.

The Phuket Governor has been helping to promote Phuket in road shows held in Europe and Thailand. The main magnets include outdoor activities such as parachuting, boating, the Mini Marathon, the well known Vegetarian Festival, walking street, and the commemorative celebration in March each year honoring Phuket heroines Thao Thepkasatree and Thao Srisunthorn.

The new Green Bus to Phuket will link the beaches of Phuket and the mountains of Chiang Mai.

Real estate investment projects have increased with this year’s numbers outperforming last year. In the near future, he added, there will be a large convention hall that could accommodate the ASEAN summit. Additionally there are plans to expand the airport to accommodate the increasing number of direct flights from countries such as Russia, India, and Europe.

“We are glad to hear that Chaipattana Transportation Chiangmai Co, Ltd has launched the tour bus linking Chiang Mai and Phuket and we offer our full support for this venture,” the Deputy Governor added.

The Green Bus will officially begin from June 3 departing Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Terminal at 4 p.m. and departing Phuket at 3 p.m. Tickets will run 1,770 baht a passenger per one way trip.

Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Featured in reality show The Bachelorette

The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai is featured in an upcoming episode of the hit primetime TV reality show The Bachelorette. Viewers of the ABC romance reality series’ seventh edition can view the latest installment in bachelorette Ashley Hebert’s search for love unfold within the resort’s luxurious setting. This series of The Bachelorette, which began in Los Angeles, focuses on exotic locations in Asia. Chiang Mai and Phuket are the only featured destinations in Thailand.

The beautiful scenery of the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi will show reality TV viewers in the US the beauty of Chiang Mai.

Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai and the Tourism Authority of Thailand worked together to help bring The Bachelorette to Thailand and with it, the show’s immense global viewership and following. Ashley and 12 hopeful and eligible men stayed at the resort in April for two weeks, to film Episode Five of The Bachelorette, which ABC will screen in the US this June.

“Hosting such a popular TV show as The Bachelorette is indeed a great honour for us,” noted Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai General Manager Greg Liddell. Set in lush grounds, with luxurious rooms and an award-winning spa, Mandarin Oriental, Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai provides a wonderful romantic retreat for couples. “The filming of the episode allows us to showcase the beauty of the resort to a wide viewership, and we hope this will also do a great deal to promote Chiang Mai and Thailand as a holiday destination,” he added.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Pakse shines as new star of MTF2011

UK Embassy urges expats to encourage their guests to make travel preparations

Chiang Mai’s own Moxie restaurant named in Best Restaurants by Thailand Tatler.

New clinic of Ayurveda opened in Chiang Mai

Blooming Krachiao Festival

New direct bus to Phuket

Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Featured in reality show The Bachelorette