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TRAVEL & TOURISM
 

Father of Skäl in Thailand named Skäl International “Personality of the Year”

Enrique Quesada, Dale Lawrence, Andrew Wood, Gerry Perez and Marco Battistotti present the ‘Personality of the Year’ ward posthumously in honor of Malai Sakolviphak.

The Asia Area Committee of Skal International, the world’s largest and oldest travel industry networking organization, has recognized the outstanding achievements of the late Malai Sakolviphak.

Dale Lawrence (left) and Andrew Wood pose with the award.

At the 41st Skal Asia Congress held in Penang, Malai Sakolviphak was named “Personality of the Year.” Delegates held a minute’s silence in memory of the travel industry legend regarded by many as the “Father of Skal” in Thailand. The award was accepted by Skal Thailand President Andrew Wood and Skal Bangkok President Dale Lawrence.

“Many moving and heartfelt tributes were paid by Skal members around the world when they heard of Khun Malai’s passing. This award is yet another fitting tribute to a travel industry professional, and a real gentleman, whose contribution to Skal will probably never be surpassed,” said Lawrence.

The presentation was made by Skal International worldwide President Enrique Quesada, who was visiting Penang from Mexico, Asia Area President Gerry Perez, and Marco Battistotti - President of Skal International Penang.


Japanese government launches multiple entry visa for Thais

Starting from June 1, 2012 the Japanese government is launching a multiple entry visa targeted specifically for Thai national residing in Thailand who are temporary visitors to Japan. This is the result of an agreement made in Japan on March 7, 2012 between Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Yoshihiko Noda and Thai Prime Minister Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra.

It is hoped that the implementation of the new Multiple Entry Visa will increase the number of Thai visitors to Japan, enhance business convenience and strengthen cooperation between both countries.

Qualifying Thais will receive a visa with validity of up to 3 years with a maximum length of stay for each visit of 90 days. Interested parties can contact the Consulate General of Japan in Chiang Mai’s Consular Division, Visa section at 053-203367.


Baby koalas at the Chiang Mai Zoo

The koala breeding program at the Chiang Mai Zoo produced a female baby on May 21, 2012.

The Assistant Director of Chiang Mai Zoo Nipon Vichairat announced the birth of a new Koala baby at the Zoo at 3:55 p.m. on May 21, 2012. The mother, Chiang Muan is four years old and the newest member of the Chiang Mai Zoo is a result of her natural mating with Fulla. The gestational period was 7 months and mother and baby are both in good health.

The Chiang Mai Zoo now has ten Koalas, native to Australia. The koala program at the Chiang Mai Zoo is the result of cooperation between the Zoological Parks of Thailand under Royal Patronage and the Taronga Zoo in Australia.

The Zoo will hold a naming contest to choose a name for the new female baby koala.


3 and 1 package for Chiang Mai sights

The Chiang Mai TAT head Chalermsak Suranont joins with representatives from the Royal Park Rajapruek, the Chiang Mai Zoo, the Zoo Aquarium and the Night Safari to announce the new tour and stay package.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand Chiang Mai Office in cooperation with the Chiang Mai Zoo, Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium, Chiang Mai Night Safari Royal Flora Park are offering a special package to visit the three zoos and one park in a package that also includes one night hotel stay, 3 meals and bus service throughout the tour The package will be in effect until September 15, 2012.

The package will include stops at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the Chiang Mai Zoo, to see the pandas too, the Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium, the largest aquarium in South East Asia and the 133m long underwater tunnel, the Royal Rajapruek Park to see the outstanding gardens and learn more about horticulture, and a visit to the Chiang Mai Night Safari to ride the tram and see the rare wildlife species at night. For more information please contact Tel. 053-893111. (PR)


Thailand’s tourism income jumps

Despite experiencing major tourism woes, Thailand earned tourism income exceeding Bt770 billion in 2011, an increase of 31 per cent year-on-year, according to Thanitta Savetsila Maneechote, Deputy Permanent Secretary for Tourism and Sports.

Despite problems which shook tourist confidence in travel to Thailand and last year’s devastating flood, she said the country still earned Bt776.2 billion, and recorded 19.2 million tourists, an increase of nearly 21 per cent.

Of this number, 12.2 million visitors – nearly two in three, or 63.7 per cent -- were revisiting Thailand, while the remaining 6.9 million tourists, slightly more than one in three, 36.2 per cent, were newcomers.

Regarding their purpose for travel, 8.9 million or 46.76 per cent were on holiday while about three million -- 15.82 per cent -- came for meetings.

The average stay period for foreign tourists was 9.64 days with an average spending of 4,187 baht per day, an increase of 2.66 per cent.

Meanwhile, last year, over 5.3 million Thai tourists travelled overseas, an increase of 1.11 per cent from the same period in the previous year, with average spending of 4,505 baht per day per person. Total spending for their trips abroad amounted to Bt122 billion, an increase of 0.48 per cent. (MCOT online news)


Influential Burmese monk refuses to be silenced

Buddhist monk Ashin Pyinnyar Thiha has been evicted from his temple for political speech.

Citra Dyah Prastuti, Rangoon, Burma

Evicted from Sadu Pariyatti monastery in Rangoon last December, Buddhist monk Ashin Pyinnyar Thiha now lives in a small, open bamboo house on a deserted rice field several hours from the Burmese capital.

Thiha was evicted after he gave a speech outside a National League for Democracy (NLD) Party office, the opposition party headed by resistance icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

“I will never be silenced for any injustice,” says Thiha. “I now live in a bamboo house, but I never regret any of my actions. My people are in misery. I’m just following what Buddha did – to sacrifice for others,”  he says.

After the 2007 Saffron Revolution, monks must now obtain government permission to give a public speech – including details of its content.

Last September the Ministry of Home Affairs aslo banned Thiha from giving public lectures. He angered the government because he allowed his monastery to hold a ceremony to re-ordinate 40 monks released from prison in the January amnesty.

“It was an ordinary speech,” recalls Thiha, the only Burmese monk to meet US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on her recent visit.

 “I talked about simple things, that young people should stay united. Like bamboo trees, they never should stand alone because then a strong storm cannot destroy them,” he continues.

Despite being lauded for its current embrace of democracy, the Burmese government continues to limit the public, and sometimes political activities, of the country’s Buddhist monks.

Thiha is not the only Burmese monk whose activities are restricted. Abbot Thu Mingala, from Mingala Monastery, was also banned from giving public speeches last December. Local rights groups report that up to 1,000 political prisoners are still behind bars in Burma – including several monks.

 “When the people are suffering, monks must stand for them and speak up. It’s a responsibility of the monks,” declares Thiha. He might be out of the big city now, but Thiha says he is still under police surveillance – and is still continuing his work.

A new one-story brick building is under construction and is being funded by donations from his followers and students. There is also plan to build a bigger monastery in the village to accommodate hundreds of Thiha’s students from Rangoon.

Ashin Eain Daka, 25, is in his second year at the monastery and says he is committed to following his teacher.

 “One of my favourite teachings from Ashin Pyinnyar Thiha is that if you’re a monk, you have to walk for all people, for all beings,” he says.

“He’s still under surveillance, and so are we, his students. I don’t care about the authorities. They’re doing their business and we’re doing our business,” he adds.

Sitting on his chair and chewing betel leaf, Thiha shares his ideas about building the nation with his students. He says the government needs to loosen the restrictions and work together with Aung San Suu Kyi and her party members from the NLD.

“Our people are getting poorer and poorer every day, and our economic situation is very bad. Reform is urgently needed,” he says. “Democracy is the only way to open and develop society, but people have to be patient. The country is now moving to the good side.”

On the wall of his bamboo house, there’s a huge poster of Burma’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

“She’s the hope of all the people in Burma,” says Thiha, studying the picture. “You can see the honesty in her eyes. She will never do anything for her own interest, just like her father,” he says.

Thiha is still banned from giving public speeches, but he hopes to regain his freedom once the Sangha Council is reformed. The Sangha Council – a board of senior monks that some say are in cohorts with the government – recently extended his ban for another year.

Older monks on the council, says Thiha, should not have the authority to rule all the monks in Burma.

“They have to retire and they should be replaced by new monks with fresh minds,” he says purposefully, “The council should be free of government influence so it can be an independent body.”

The three-storey Sadu Pariyatti monastery in Rangoon is now abandoned, but as 37-year-old monk Ashin Thuriya says, there are plenty of young monks ready to join Ashin Pyinnyar Thiha in his new compound.

“He’s a very good in delivering lectures, he’s a great teacher,” explains Thuriya, “He’s also very brave to speak the truth and resist anything that oppresses him.”

This article was first broadcast on Asia Calling, a regional current affairs radio program produced by Indonesia’s independent radio news agency KBR68H and broadcast in local languages in 10 countries across Asia. It is published in conjunction with the Faculty of Mass Communications, Chiang Mai University. You can find more stories from Asia Calling at www.asiacalling.org.


Mawlamyine emerges as a new destination in Myanmar

Reinhard Hohler

For the last 40 years foreign tourists to Burma/Myanmar were normally able to just visit four destinations in the country, namely Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay, and Inlay Lake in Shan State. Nowadays, especially after the recent political changes, it is possible to visit other destinations, such as Mawlamyine in Mon State or places in the west and north of the country far away from the Burmese heartland along the Ayeyarwaddy River.

Luckily, I had the chance in February this year to visit Mawlamyine (former name Moulmein), the capital of Mon State, which is 300km southeast of Yangon. The easiest way to travel to Mawlamyine from Chiang Mai would be via Tak and Mae Sot by road, but the international border there is closed for international tourists until today because of political reasons and it is forbidden to travel through Kayin State to Yangon. Thus, I took Air Bagan to fly from Chiang Mai to Yangon, it flies every Thursday and Sunday at 17.20, arriving in Yangon 17.50 local time on February 19.

After one night in Yangon I decided to take the earliest train from Yangon to Mawlamyine and went straight to Yangon Railway Station to buy an Ordinary Class Ticket for $5 US. The train departed at 7.15 and reached Bago at 9.00, giving view to the golden Shwemawdaw Pagoda, which raises even several meters higher than the famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. The history of Bago goes back to the time of the Buddha and was a very important center of the Mon people.

At 10.30 the train crossed the Sittaung Bridge that marks the entrance gate into Mon State. At 12.15, the train arrived at Kyaik Hto Station. From there, travelers head to Kyaikhtiyo to hike to the Golden Rock, which is located at the top of a mountain range, where pilgrims find accommodation. From the base camp, tourists have to go with the help of a truck and walk the last stretch by foot. There is a small pagoda on top of the rock and its hair relic of Buddha prevents the rock to fall down to the deep valley. The train passed Thaton Station at 14.30 and at 17.00 reached Mottama, which is located at the Thalwin River.

The Thalwin or Salween is one of the longest rivers in Southeast Asia and originates high on the Tibetan Plateau in China still wild and uncontrolled. To reach Mawlamyine, the third largest town in Myanmar, the train has to cross the mighty mouth of the river. Since early 2005, this is now possible via a two-part 3km long river-spanning bridge and makes the entire country accessible to the southern-most part of Myanmar. The bridge is a rail-cum-road facility and the two-lane motor road is built on the rail track. The bridge superstructure is made of steel and reinforced concrete, while the foundations are of reinforced concrete bored piles. It is built near Khaungsay Island, where the river flows in torrents causing giant whirlpools. Actually, Mawlamyine is dominated by the Thanlwin River and some outlying islands, such as Bilu Island, protecting the town from the sea. Last not least, the train pulled into Mawlamyine Railway Station at 17.30.

Since I was planning to take the same way back on February 22, I bought a return ticket from Mawlamyine to Yangon for $7 US and hired a waiting motorcycle driver to bring me to the Breeze Guesthouse at Strand Road, where I settled down in a room for $7 US. Surprisingly, there was a beer garden in walking distance, where I got good Thai food and Tiger Beer from Singapore. The next two days I surveyed the town, which seems to be very cosmopolitan with Buddhist pagodas and monasteries, mosques, Indian and Chinese temples, and churches.

The Strand Road is the show-piece of Mawlamyine, a town at the meeting point of 4 rivers, namely Thanlwin, Jain, Attran, and Lay Myo. At the north end of the wide Strand Road is Zeigyi Market, where tourists can find some good Burmese food stalls. Also, the most popular tourist hotel is located there close to the long Thanlwin Bridge, namely the bungalow-type Attran Hotel offering 20 superior twin-bedded rooms and 10 suites. A newer hotel is the state-owned Mawlamyaing Strand Hotel with a 400-seated reception hall, international restaurant, and modern coffee bar. More economical is the centrally located Ngwe Moe Hotel at the corner of the road to the KyaikThoke Pagoda.

The most famous pagoda is the 50m high Kyaik-Than-Lan Pagoda, which houses a historic tooth and hair relic of Buddha. The golden pagoda tops a small mountain range that dominates the east side of Mawlamyine and is connected to other golden pagodas, such as the Mahamuni, U Khanti and U Zina. In the U Zina Pagoda are enshrined seven sacred hair relics of the Buddha and it is said that you can see the face of the Buddha at the glittering top of the pagoda during sun-down. Less visited is Judson’s Church that functions as First Baptist Church since 1827 for missionary activities with the Kayin or Karen tribes.

Interesting to note is the Mon National Museum and Library, overseen by the Department of Archaeology, Ministry of Culture, where the history and culture of the Mon people is preserved going back to the time of the Buddha. Called the Golden Land or Suvarnabhumi, the Mon culture developed at its outmost level and is in a way closely related to the cultural heritage of the Khmer. A Mon King in the 11th century even built temples in Bagan as a prisoner-of-war of the Burmese King. The highlight of the museum is a replica of Queen Shinsawbu’s crown in gold, which is decorated with gems and jewels, belonging to the 14th and 15th centuries. Furthermore, impressive Martaban jars were produced in Twante, Bago, and Pathein, as Mottama served as port of the trade of jars finding their way to Thailand, Indonesia, as well as the Middle East countries.

Mawlamyine has a modern university and an airport in the southeast of the town. After the recent political changes in Myanmar it is expected that the town will see a boom in developments, investments, and infrastructure projects. Famous places to go around for sightseeing farther south are Kyaik Khami Pagoda and Set Sae Beach, Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery as well as a Death Railway Museum similar to that one in Kanchanaburi in Thailand. So far, travelers cannot continue in the train to Ye because of insurgency. But some brave backpackers already take a bus ride to Hpa-an, the capital of Kayin State.

When I left Mawlamyine with the daily night train at 20.00, I had no doubts to come back to Rudyard Kipling’s best kept secret. As it was dark during the train ride back to Yangon, I missed the beautiful scenes and natural views of the green paddy fields, golden mountain pagodas, and still unchanged lifestyles of the people. When the train pulled at 6.30 into Yangon Railway Station, I was again in a different world and atmosphere.

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


Myanmar set to rejoin UNWTO

The President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, U Thein Sein, has announced the country will initiate the process of restoring its membership of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The decision was confirmed during an official visit of UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. On the occasion, highlighting the role of tourism in the future of Myanmar, President Sein joined the UNWTO/WTTC Global Leaders for Tourism Campaign (Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, May 7, 2012).

“Tourism is a major sector of the economy not only for Myanmar but also for all countries around the world. It brings benefits to a country, boosts its economy, and create employment opportunities,” said President Sein, “We, therefore, request that our membership of UNWTO be restored so that we can obtain the relevant knowledge to further promote and develop our tourism sector.”

Meeting with President Sein, Mr. Rifai assured him that UNWTO stood ready to support Myanmar in taking full advantage of its “tremendous tourism potential.”

“Myanmar is a country abundant in natural and cultural resources, the foundation of any tourism sector,” said Mr. Rifai, “Following talks with the Minister of Hotels, Tourism and Sport, U Tint San, UNWTO will lend its expertise in a number of areas, ranging from capacity-building to sustainable tourism practices and travel facilitation, to responsibly develop tourism for the benefit of all.”

During his visit, Mr. Rifai, presented President Sein with an Open Letter from UNWTO and the World Travel&Tourism Council (WTTC) on the importance of tourism to global growth and development. Accepting the Letter, President Sein stated that “tourism should be considered a ‘smokeless industry’” and one that “boosts growth, creates job opportunities, conserves the environment, and helps to maintain traditional arts and crafts.”

“Given the political support for tourism demonstrated today, Myanmar is set to significantly enhance its tourism sector over the coming years,” said Mr. Rifai, “At the same time, the international community has been greatly encouraged by recent reforms in Myanmar, and this will no doubt be reflected in an increasing numbers of tourists. These tourists will quickly prove a vital source of jobs and economic growth, helping to secure the country’s future prosperity. UNWTO is 100 percent committed to supporting Myanmar, to make sure that its tourism development is a success story.”

David Scowsill, President and CEO, WTTC said: “I am pleased that the significance of the travel and tourism industry is increasingly being recognized by Myanmar. With its rich eco-diversity, natural, and cultural heritage together with a commitment to responsible tourism, Myanmar is increasingly harnessing its travel and tourism potential. In 2011, the industry contributed MMK1435.4 bn to the GDP of the economy and contributed 726,500 jobs. By joining this global movement of heads of state and government through this signing of the Open Letter, the President demonstrates his commitment to support the growth and development of its travel and tourism industry.”

According to UNWTO’s long-term forecast, Tourism Towards 2030, international tourist arrivals to Asia and the Pacific will increase from 204 million in 2010 to 535 million in 2030. South Asia will be the fastest growing sub-region in the world, growing 6 percent a year. “Asia and the Pacific is the future powerhouse of global tourism, and Myanmar is in a strategic position to receive a significant share of these arrivals,” said Mr. Rifai.

MEDIA CONTACT: Principal Media Officer, Marcelo Risi, Tel: (+34) 91 567 81 60, Email: [email protected] , Web: www.UNWTO.org ; UNWTO Communications Program, Tel: +34 91-567-8100, Fax: +34 91-567-8218, Email: [email protected]. (Forimmediaterelease.net)


New Tourist Information Center at the Governor’s House

Chiang Mai Governor M.L. Panadda Diskul chats with a visitor to the new Tourist Information Center in front of the Governor’s House.

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Chiang Mai and the Provincial Tourism and Sports Office have set up a new tourist information center just off Nawarat Bridge in front of the Governor’s Residence. Chiang Mai Governor M. L. Panadda Diskul opened the new center on May 12, 2012 at 10 a.m. and chatted with tourists who stopped by to have a look.

The Governor noted that the new center was in a good location for tourists coming from the Night Bazaar area to Nawarat Bridge. Visitors can pick up information on accommodation, restaurants, shopping, attractions and maps from the Center.

He added the Governor’s Residence is an important symbol of Chiang Mai and that the stunning architecture of the old house is part of the attraction of the area. The new tourist center will be open every weekend from next week.


137 Pillars House makes Travel & Leisure’s 50 best new hotels

Chiang Mai’s own 137 Pillars House made Travel & Leisure magazines “It List” of the 50 best new hotels as selected by their editors. The list covers 29 countries and will be in the June edition of the magazine. The list has six categories; city, rustic, design, resort, beach and renovation and includes not only new properties such as 137 Pillars House but also hotels that underwent renovation in the past year. 137 Pillars House was the only Thailand hotel to be picked and one of 7 in Asia. (Photo courtesy of 137 Pillars House)


Name the new baby white tigers at the Night Safari

Dr. Sarawuth Srisakul of the Night Safari is asking the public for help to name the two baby white female tigers at the Night Safari.

Dr. Sarawuth Srisakul, the CEO of the Chiang Mai Night Safari announced a contest to name the two baby white female tigers at the Night Safari. The two tigers, born to Petch and Ploy, are located in the North Zone. Dr. Sarawuth said that the tiger names should follow Lanna traditions, the winners will receive free admission for one year and a gift voucher worth 5,000 Baht. Please send your name choices on a postcard to the White Tiger Naming Contest, Public Relations Department, Chiang Mai Night Safari, 33 M. 12 Nong Kwai, Hang Dong, Chiang Mai 50230 before June 10, 2012.


Baby albino African Porcupines at the Night Safari

The Chiang Mai Night Safari announced the rare birth of two albino Crested African Porcupines recently, the mother, Taro gave birth to the twins on May 5, the Night Safari staff is keeping an eye on the second twin as it came later and there was some cause for concern over infection as it appears to be a bit smaller and weaker than its sibling. The gestational period was 66 days, the Crested African Porcupine is from Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. The animal is usually dark brown and covered in quills with the crest at the back of the neck which gives them their name. An adult porcupine adult crested porcupine has an average length of about 60 to 83 cm not including the tail and weighs from 13 to 27 kg.


AIRASIA X SHATTERS ANOTHER LOAD FACTOR RECORD WITH 87% IN 1ST QUARTER, 2012

SEPANG, 8 May 2012- AirAsia X, the long haul, low fare affiliate of AirAsia today announced another load factor record in its first quarter of 2012.

AirAsia X carried 0.69 million passengers, a growth of 7.5% over the same quarter in 2011.  This exceeded a capacity increase of 5.5% to 4.5 billion Available-Seat-Kms (ASKs), which was achieved with the same aircraft fleet of 9 Airbus A330s and 2 Airbus A340s, and tempered by the suspension of flights to Mumbai in February, and Delhi, Paris and London at the end of May. 

In terms of passenger traffic, AirAsia X grew by 12.4% to 3.9 billion Revenue-Passenger-Kms (RPKs) for Q1-2012, resulting in a record-breaking quarterly load factor of 87%. This is an increase of 6 percentage-points from the same quarter last year, where it registered a load factor of 81%.

AirAsia X’s core markets in Australia, Greater China, and North Asia continues to deliver strong passenger growth, with continued positive increases in load factor, validating the airline’s strategy of rebalancing its network from Europe and India towards Australia and North Asia.

Azran Osman-Rani, CEO of AirAsia X, said, “Our continued growth points to a clear positive demand trajectory for 2012 compared to 2011, despite the continuous higher and more volatile fuel prices and uncertain global economies and competition. The airline’s strategy is to establish an optimal network where there is scale, focusing on its core markets where AirAsia X is in a position of strength.”

“We are confident we will keep growing into the second half of 2012, where we have new enhanced innovation and ancillary offerings. AirAsia X has improved its  Fly-Thru connecting transfer service to more attractive destinations with better  flight connectivity options  across South East Asia and beyond. The airline recently increased flight frequencies from Kuala Lumpur to popular holiday destinations such as Ho Chi Minh (4X Daily), Bandung (4 X Daily) and Singapore (13 X Daily).”

Cargo operations on the other hand were affected by the discontinued India routes, with AirAsia X carrying 7,407 tonnes of freight for its current quarter, registering a 11% decrease from a year ago. However, due to strong improvement in yields, cargo revenue increased by a double –digit in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter in 2011.

AirAsia X is the long-haul, low-cost affiliate of AirAsia Bhd, Malaysia’s largest airline by market capitalization and passengers.

About AirAsia and AirAsia X

AirAsia, the leading and largest low-cost carrier in Asia, services the most extensive network with 150 routes. Within 10 years of operations, AirAsia has carried over 140 million guests and grown its fleet from just two aircraft to approximately 106. The airline today is proud to be a truly ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) airline with established operations based in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines servicing a network stretching across all ASEAN countries, China, India, Sri Lanka and Australia. This is further complemented by AirAsia X, its low-cost long-haul affiliate carrier that currently flies to destinations in China, Australia, Taiwan¸ Iran, Korea and Japan. AirAsia was named the World’s Best Low Cost Airline in the annual World Airline Survey by Skytrax for three consecutive years (2009, 2010, 2011).


Chiang Mai makes Trip Advisors Top 25 in the world

Chiang Mai made it into travelers top 25 with its beautiful temples and elephant camps.

Trip Advisor, the popular travel website, has just released their top 25 Travellers Choice destinations in the world and Chiang Mai, as the only Thailand destination, ranked 24. The ranking was based on members voting choices and Chiang Mai was picked for its street food trekking, fabulous temples and historic sites, elephant camps and even cooking classes. Strangely they didn’t list highlights such as Loy Krathong, Songkran, the Flower Festival or the nightlife.

London topped the list which was followed by New York, Rome, Paris, and San Francisco rounding out the top 5. Followed by Number 6. Marrakech, 7. Istanbul, 8. Barcelona, 9. Siem Reap, 10. Berlin, 11. Chicago, 12. Florence, 13. Buenos Aires, 14. Sydney, 15. Beijing, 16. Prague, 17. Las Vegas, 18. Bora Bora, 19. Shanghai, 20. Honolulu, 21. Los Angeles, 22. New Orleans, 23. Cape Town Central, 24. Chiang Mai, and 25. Dublin.


Miracle Tourism Forum to be held May 26-29

Chiang Mai Governor M.L. Panadda Diskul and members of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association and Northern Tourism groups announced the upcoming Miracle Tourism Forum at the Holiday Inn.

Nopniwat Krailerg

The Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association in conjunction with the Tourism Association from the provinces of Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, held a press conference announcing the upcoming Miracle Tourism Forum (MTF 2012) which will be held from May 26 –29,2012 at the Holiday Inn Hotel Chiang Mai.

There will be over 150 buyers in the travel business, both inbound and domestic agents to negotiate business with entrepreneurs in the Upper North (Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Mae Hong Son).

Tourism is one of Chiang Mai’s top income earners and ranks fourth in the nation after Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya. Chiang Mai is being developed as the regional aviation hub of the Greater Mekong Sub region and is also being promoted as a major convention city under the Chiang Mai MICE city program, as well as a health tourism destination and choice for long stay foreign residents. However obstacles still remain in developing and promoting these different attractions in Chiang Mai.

The opening ceremony for the Miracle Tourism Forum will be held on May 26 at 1:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn and Chiang Mai Governor M.L. Panadda Diskul will present a special lecture titled “Chiang Mai, Most Splendid City of Culture” and also present awards to individuals who have shown outstanding service in tourism. The reception party will be held at the Siripanna Villa Resort and Spa.

Traditional Lanna performances were held at the press conference.


Royal bathing ceremony for Haripunchai Pagoda in Lamphun

Government officials pay their respect at the Haripunchai Pagoda in Lamphun.

By Nopniwat Krailerg

The procession of the royally blessed water for the Haripunchai Pagoda at Wat Phra That Haripunchai Woramahaviharn moved from Chiang Mai International Airport to Lamphun on April 29, 2012.

Lamphun Governor Surachai Kanaasa and Deputy Governor Chumporn Sangmanee led the procession of the water conferred by HM the King to bathe the Buddha image at the Wat in Lamphun.

Wat Phrathat Haripunchai is one of the holiest and most famous temple complexes in northern Thailand and was founded by Queen Chamathewi on the grounds of her palace in the 8th century. Phra Borommathat Haripunchai, or the pagoda, is the religious center of the temple and is 46 m high and is over a thousand years old. It underwent a major renovation in the 15th century. Lamphun was the capital of the Mon Kingdom of Haripunchai.

The bathing ceremony, held annually for locals to pay respects and worship the Buddha image in the pagoda, is being held from April 29 to May 5, 2012 at Wat Phra That Hariphunchai Woramahaviharn and the procession of bringing the sacred water from Kha Mhor Mountain (Doi Kha Mhor) to Wat Phra That Hariphunchai Woramahaviharn will be held on May 2, 2012.

The procession of the Royally conferred water started from the Chiang Mai International Airport to Lamphun.

The grounds in front of the pagoda were filled with officials and locals as the water was brought in.

The Royally conferred water was carried on a float to Lamphun.

Lamphun Deputy Governor Chumporn Sangmanee carries
the urn holding the water.

Lamphun Governor Surachai Kanaasa speaks in front of the float.


City Pillar Ceremony begins May 17

Devotees fill the courtyard at Wat Chedi Luang to pay respects to the City Pillar spirit in the Tham Boon Kan Dok or Flower Bowl ceremony.

Chiang Mai will hold the annual Inthakin or City Pillar Ceremony beginning May 17 at Wat Chedi Luang.

The City Pillar Festival is unique to Chiang Mai and is held annually to give citizens the chance to venerate the guardian spirits of the city associated with the Pillar. The City Pillar was laid at the founding of Chiang Mai by King Mengrai at the auspicious time of 4 a.m. on April 12, 1296. The Pillar was originally at Wat Inthakin near 3 Kings Monument but was moved to Wat Chedi Luang in 1800 when King Kawila defeated the Burmese and drove them out of the city. The Festival begins on the twelfth day of the waning moon of the sixth lunar month.

The Procession of the Buddha Image known as Phra Fon Saen Haa (the Five Hundred Thousand Raindrop Buddha) is carried by the Mayor at 2 p.m. on May 17, 2012 along Phra Pok Klao Road to Three Kings Monument, Ratchawithi Road, Chang Moi Road, Tha Pae Road, Ratchadamnoen Road and to Wat Chedi Luang. At Wat Chedi Luang it is blessed with lustral water and placed in the courtyard where devotees venerate the Buddha and the City Pillar and place flowers, candles and incense in 28 bowls laid out in the temple in a ceremony called Tham Boon Kan Dok.

The Opening Ceremony for the Festival will be held by Governor M.L. Panadda Diskul at 4 p.m. and at 5 p.m. the Blessing Ceremony for the City Pillar will be held by 9 Buddhist monks. There will be Lanna arts and culture shows at Wat Chedi Luang beginning at 7 p.m.

From May 18 to 23 Buddhist followers will pay homage by giving flower offerings to the City Pillar spirits daily and every evening at 5 p.m. there will be a Blessing Ceremony held by 9 Buddhist monks.

On May 19 the great ceremony for the City Pillar Spirits will be held at the Inthakin at 1p.m.

The Closing Ceremony will be held on May 24 when the Mayor of Chiang Mai prays to the Buddha Image and gives food offerings to 108 monks. For further information contact TAT Chiang Mai at Tel. 66 (0) 5324 8604, 66 (0) 5324 8607 every day from 08.30-16:30.


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