Phitsanulok woos tourists with waterfall route on kayaking trips #SootinClaimon.Com

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Phitsanulok woos tourists with waterfall route on kayaking trips (nationthailand.com)

Phitsanulok woos tourists with waterfall route on kayaking trips

ThailandNov 24. 2020

By The Nation

Entrepreneurs are reaching out to tourists to kayak in Phitsanulok’s Khek River to experience the beauty of the Kaeng Song waterfall.

Resort entrepreneurs are trying to revive their business in the province by introducing kayaking to woo visitors in the winter season.

Visitors will be able to observe various waterfalls along the route, especially the Kaeng Song waterfall, which is the most popular of its kind.

Rainforest Resort, one of the businesses most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, has added the new feature to stimulate its business.

Rumble from the jungle as annual elephant festival shakes Surin #SootinClaimon.Com

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Rumble from the jungle as annual elephant festival shakes Surin (nationthailand.com)

Rumble from the jungle as annual elephant festival shakes Surin

ThailandNov 20. 2020

By The Nation

The earth shook in Surin on Friday morning as the annual Elephant Festival opened with a grand procession of 160 pachyderms through the streets of the city.

Visitors and locals lining the route at 8.45am witnessed Surin governor Suwapong Kitipatpiboon kick off the opening ceremony and launch three days of jumbo jamboree.

Now in its 20th edition, the Surin Elephant Round-up festival is rooted in the ancient practices of the indigenous Kuy people, who have been corralling the giant mammals for centuries.

In 2003 the festival registered a world record with the biggest elephant buffet in history – a 400-metre-long table piled with 50 tonnes of fruit.

The buffet will be back this weekend, along with a jumbo menu of other elephant performances.

City people escape to the simple life in Loei’s Chiang Khan this weekend #SootinClaimon.Com

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City people escape to the simple life in Loei’s Chiang Khan this weekend (nationthailand.com)

City people escape to the simple life in Loei’s Chiang Khan this weekend

Nov 20. 2020

By THE NATION

Loei province’s Chiang Khan district appeared to be the most popular destination during the November 19-22 long weekend, as thousands flocked to this small town to enjoy its old-world charm.

The town is known for its simple wooden houses, many of which have been turned into guest houses, cafes or souvenir shops.

Apart from its natural surroundings, Chiang Khan is also known for its glass skywalk, which had its soft opening in July and will be officially opened next month.

Chiang Khan is also near Pak Chom district, where the beauty of the Phu Lam Duan mountain can be admired.

Hotels in the town were fully booked, and local traders said their business was 50 per cent better than in normal periods. However, the district’s public transport system was unable to deal with the crowds, causing problems for people who did not have their own cars.

Thai train tickets can now be bought online #SootinClaimon.Com

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Thai train tickets can now be bought online

Nov 18. 2020

By The Nation

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) launched an online ticketing and reservation service called the D-Ticket System on Wednesday.

Now, passengers wishing to travel on December 18, can make reservations or purchase train tickets using the D-Ticket system via www.railway.co.th.

Tickets can only be booked 30 days in advance.

Under the new D-Ticket system, passengers can check their seats on the train, manually print out tickets or save their ticket on the phone and scan the QR code on the train. Payments can be made using credit or debit cards as well as the state welfare card.

Bangkok gets ready to burst into bloom soon #SootinClaimon.Com

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Bangkok gets ready to burst into bloom soon

Nov 17. 2020

By The Nation

Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) will hold a Flora Festival in five main parks across the capital from December onwards.

The first floral fest, called the “Miracle of Learning and Smiling Sunflowers”, will be held in the Wachirabenchatat Park in Chatuchak from December 1 to 20. The highlight of the event is a 4-rai field filled with more than 30,000 “smiling” sunflowers.

“Next year, flower fests will be held at Wanapirom Romklao Park from January 12 to 31, at Mahakan Fort Park from April 10 to 20, at Chatuchak Park from June to July, and Lumpini Park from September to October,” a BMA official said.

Apart from floral celebrations, BMA is also looking into improving the landscape and structures of Lumpini Park as the number of visitors has been rising and the area has also been used to hold several public events recently.

“The park’s basic utilities, structures, wastewater treatment system and parking lots have been damaged, and require immediate attention,” the official said.

The Lumpini Park project will be divided into two phases, fixing structural damage and re-landscaping the park. The landscaping will be done by famous landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom.

“We will also conduct a survey, so visitors and the private sector nearby can participate in this improvement project as well,” the official said.

Visitors flock as Chiang Rai mountain turns yellow #SootinClaimon.Com

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Visitors flock as Chiang Rai mountain turns yellow

ThailandNov 17. 2020

By The Nation

Blossoming tree marigolds have turned the slopes of Doi Hua Mae Kham egg-yolk yellow, luring tourists to Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang district. The temperature on the mountain was recorded at 14 degrees on Tuesday morning, as visitors flocked to enjoy the scenic views and refreshingly chilled air.

Local businesses and stallholders have stocked up, eager to serve the seasonal influx of Thai tourists at a time when the country remains practically shut to foreign visitors.

Visitors who climb through the fields of yellow flowers to the peak of Doi Hua Mae Kham can also look down on the sea of mist that swirls around the mountain every winter season.

However, tree marigolds only bloom for a short period, so flower-lovers are advised to visit these slopes before the end of November if they want to catch the spectacular display.

Cool weather, spectacular views draw hundreds of visitors to Chaiyaphum national park #SootinClaimon.Com

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Cool weather, spectacular views draw hundreds of visitors to Chaiyaphum national park

Nov 16. 2020

By THE NATION

Tourists in large numbers from across the nation visited the Phu Laen Kha National Park in Chaiyaphum province, to enjoy the cool winter weather.

The highlights of this national park are Pha Hua Nak viewpoint and Mo Hin Khao. Pha Hua Nak allows visitors a 180 degrees view of the national park. It is famous for the spectacular views of sunrise and sunset, and as a place for clean air.

Mo Hin Khao has huge rocky columns set naturally in the park. Sometimes it is called Thailand’s Stonehenge. Over the weekend, officials reported that several visitors took selfie photos with these rocks.

Though Phu Laen Kha is a forest area, it is located in Muang district, not far from Chaiyaphum city. Therefore, it is very convenient for travellers who drive.

Some 1,000 visitors came over the weekend, and more than 300 decided to camp near the Pha Hua Nak viewpoint, officials said.

Meet the cruise fans vying for a spot on the first test voyages #SootinClaimon.Com

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Meet the cruise fans vying for a spot on the first test voyages

Nov 15. 2020

By The Washington Post · Shannon McMahon · FEATURES, TRAVEL 
Large passenger cruises have been banned in U.S. waters since mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic began, devastating the cruise industry and a loyal community. But both are now thankful that the no-sail order has been lifted, giving cruise lines a path to sailing again.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has new rules before real voyages can begin: ramp up coronavirus protocols and testing; limit capacity onboard; and stage “mock voyages with volunteers who will play the role of passengers.”

Royal Caribbean said Thursday that it received thousands of inquiries from loyal cruisers about that endeavor, so it created an official sign-up page and Facebook group for interested cruisers. Early Thursday, thousands of volunteers began rolling in.

“23 cruises with Royal. 4 canceled by RC this year and we miss our cruises,” wrote Collin Hext, 63, of Tyler, Texas. “This Firefighter and his dear wife are ready to go at any time!!”

“Who else in this group is in Tampa? I cannot wait to get back to cruising!” wrote Susel Rosario, 34, who works for a health-care company and signed up to volunteer with her husband.

The public group had amassed more than 20,000 members by Friday, even as the first cruise in the Caribbean since March was halted after multiple passengers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Avid cruisers posted photos from their favorite past voyages and bragged about their loyalty status on the Facebook page. But not everyone was so sure about the opportunity.

“So if 1 person tests positive on the ship, everyone is quarantined on the ship for 14 days?” one member asked.

“What’s everyone’s thoughts on how much in the way of rights people would be signing away to become a volunteer on one of these cruises?” asked another. “I am thinking insurance would not cover any treatment related to anything caught during these test cruises.”

Royal Caribbean has not clarified the volunteering terms, or what exact onboard health scenarios would be tested on the mock journeys, saying in an email that it is “still reviewing the CDC framework and [does] not have details on our simulated sailings.”

Hext, a 63-year-old retired firefighter, says he has no concerns about he and his wife, Hope, 62, potentially being selected for a mock sailing. “I’m excited more than anything. We are both very active and healthy, and I’m not concerned about contracting anything.”

Hext says he has read all of the new CDC guidelines for cruise ships, which require coronavirus testing of all passengers and crew before voyages depart, as well as enhanced cleanings, revamped air filtration and new onboard medical cabins. He thinks the cruise lines “have gone above and beyond” in terms of the protocols they have said they will implement.

Another volunteer, Clinton Seal, 49, says he is not worried about getting the virus on a cruise ship or anywhere else. “The survival rate is really high, so I think if you get it, most likely you’ll be fine.”

Seal signed up himself and his wife, Julie, 44, to be Royal Caribbean volunteers, and he says they will get a babysitter for their 16-month-old baby if they are selected. The couple visited Disney World in October, and Clinton says they felt safe and had no issues wearing masks for their entire experience, including the flights to and from Florida.

He does hope the cruise lines will clarify if coronavirus testing and other expenses will be paid for, but he notes that he and his wife are “eager” to help out in any way.

Rosario, 34, of Tampa, who volunteered with her husband, Freddy, 37, also has some questions. “My only concern would be to be left onboard a ship like other people [were] when covid first hit,” she said. But “I’m not worried about the cruise lines’ safety measures. Even before covid, they were extremely clean, you would always see the crew cleaning all over the boat. To me, it’s the same thing as going to a store now, wearing a mask,” Rosario says.

All three have extensive cruising experience: Rosario has been on eight cruises with Disney and Carnival. Seal has been on 16 cruises with Royal Caribbean. Hext has been on 36 total cruises – 23 of them with Royal Caribbean.

Hext, Seal and Rosario say their understanding of the word “volunteer” is that they will not be paid by the cruise line. They are willing to give their time for free.

Seal also sees the mock cruises as having a bigger purpose. “What I’m hoping for is just to be part of getting cruising started back up,” he says. “If this is one of the steps for that to happen then it needs to happen. Cruising benefits not just the cruise industry, but the workers, the ports that need the cruises, everybody.”

“I feel like the cruise lines have gotten a bad rap during this whole deal,” Rosario says. “They have always been clean, and thought of their guests, putting them first.

“If the public is not comfortable with sailing again, they should refrain from going,” she says. But as for excited cruisers, “let the ones who feel OK with it take advantage.”

Female-only classes support women in hitting the slopes #SootinClaimon.Com

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Female-only classes support women in hitting the slopes

Nov 15. 2020Instructors and members of the Women of Whitetail program last season. MUST CREDIT: Alex Beard/Whitetail Mountain Resort.Instructors and members of the Women of Whitetail program last season. MUST CREDIT: Alex Beard/Whitetail Mountain Resort. 

By Special To The Washington Post · Rebecca Gale · FEATURES, TRAVEL
Last winter, Kelly Beeland joined the growing number of female skiers who have discovered the benefits of honing their skills in the company of other women.

Dina Cappiello Tilghman and her son Luke Tilghman, 7, ride the chairlift last season. He was in the Whitetail Resort's kid ski program; she was in the Women of Whitetail cohort. MUST CREDIT: Dina Tilghman.

Dina Cappiello Tilghman and her son Luke Tilghman, 7, ride the chairlift last season. He was in the Whitetail Resort’s kid ski program; she was in the Women of Whitetail cohort. MUST CREDIT: Dina Tilghman.

For six weeks, Beeland and about two dozen other students – some novices, some black diamond skiers – participated in Women of Whitetail (WOW), a ski instruction program at Pennsylvania’s Whitetail Resort. Not coincidentally, the start time for the resort’s weekend course was 30 minutes after drop-off time at its ski school for children.

Beeland, 46, a stay-at-home mom from Alexandria, Va., wanted to improve her own skiing so she could keep up with Sam, now 11, and Brynn, 9, when the family traveled from the East Coast to the more challenging skiing of Snowmass, Colo. Though she hadn’t been seeking women-only classes, she found them an ideal fit, because “I think women and men approach learning things differently,” she said.

Emily Spiker, the program manager of Women of Whitetail, concurs. “Learning with other women creates a more supportive group and makes skiing less intimidating,” she said. The resort’s only female instructor with Level 3 certification, Spiker has been skiing for 50 years and teaching it for 20. She estimates that about 70 percent of the Women of Whitetail participants are moms with a child in the ski school program or on the race team. Like Beeland, their goals are modest: improve their skiing, keep up with their kids and make the entire experience of spending the day at Whitetail more fun overall.

Launched 15 years ago, Women of Whitetail has grown so much in recent years that the instructors added a second session in the 2018-2019 season to meet the demand. The popular program reflects a larger industry effort to appeal to women – especially moms like Beeland, whose kids are already skiing – by creating women-specific ski programs. 

Nationally, the number of women participating in downhill skiing is growing, and resorts have taken notice. Between 2009 and 2017, the number of women in skiing increased by 7.2% – to 4.7 million – while the percentage of men in skiing decreased by 13.3% to 6.9 million, according to data from Snowsports Industries America (SIA). 

Getting more women on the slopes is also good for business: Industry surveys indicate that women are often the primary decision-maker on family vacations, and SIA estimates that women control between 70 and 80 percent of all ski-related consumer spending. As part of the outreach to women, Vail Resorts, which owns Whitetail, Roundtop and Liberty in Pennsylvania, began offering women-only lessons at most of its 37 ski resorts.

For example, it started its Women Ultimate 4 ski lessons at four of its Colorado resorts – Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone – in the 2014-2015 season. Other resorts that have provided women-specific instruction include Snowbird in Utah, Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Telluride in Colorado, Killington in Vermont and Jackson Hole in Wyoming. 

Now comes 2020, and a ski season like no other. Among the safety measures being adopted by many U.S. resorts is themodification of group ski instruction. Decisions are still being made but so far Whitetail and Vail canceled large group lessons, though group lessons of up to six adults will be available, and other resorts in the chain were expected to follow. Snowbird was still planning to hold its three-day women’s camps this year and its Wednesday morning women’s group beginning in January.

When Whitetail announced the cancellation in October, the participants immediately began lobbying the resort to reconsider. 

“Women of Whitetail was an outlet for me last year, and I was looking forward to it being even more of one this year because of the challenges covid has placed on working women and working mothers,” wrote editorial director Dina Cappiello Tilghman, of Silver Spring, Md., in an email. Cappiello, 46, credits the program with giving her the confidence to ski with her sons, Eli, 10, and Luke, 8, after tearing her ACL while skiing in high school.

“Looking at the long, dark winter ahead, especially after what we have all been through this year, skiing together week in and week out is perhaps one of the safest family activities to do this year,” Cappiello wrote.

A resort spokesperson said that although Whitetail’s adult group lesson programs are paused – it will still offer a modified kids’ program – individuals at Vail resorts can create their own groups of up to six people for private lessons, which could be a workaround for interested women.

Though WOW and similar programs clearly fill a need, the notion of women-only classes initially met some resistance – even from female ski professionals. Mermer Blakeslee, an instructor at Windham Mountain in New York, balked at the idea when she was approached about teaching a women-only ski seminar. “And then I did one,” she said, “and I could not get over the difference in women skiing with only women.” Her female students encouraged one another in tackling new skiing challenges, Blakeslee said. She also found that they opened up to one another, with conversations on the lifts flowing easily between banal topics and serious ones.

“Skiing is a risk sport. In an environment for risky learning, you have to be vulnerable, you have to risk making a mistake in public,” said Blakeslee, who has been skiing for nearly 60 years and was on the National Alpine Team for the Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI) from 1996 to 2000. “I found that women were more comfortable doing that in an all-female setting.”

One frustration for Blakeslee, who serves as a regional examiner for PSIA-AASI, is the lack of women in the ski instruction world, particularly at the upper levels. The higher the certification level, “the more male-dominated it becomes,” she said. “If so many women are coming into the ski world, why don’t we have more instructors for them?”

Last year, PSIA-AASI created a task force to create opportunities for women in snowsport leadership positions. Its findings, released last month, spotlighted some of the issues holding female instructors back: feeling that they do not belong and have few opportunities for mentorship; ill-suited equipment (many women perform better on lighter, more nimble skis designed for people with a lower center of gravity); and issues with child care.

The task force recommended including women in all levels of the ski experience, from leadership to product design to training ski school instructors. As the industry pivots to develop more offerings geared toward female skiers, neither Blakeslee nor Spiker believes the temporary cessation of women’s programs will affect their continued growth.

“The laptop in the cafe is always an option,” Spiker said. “But as more women see how skiing can work for them, the mountains may be more appealing.”

Phang Nga community offers first-hand experience of a simple life #SootinClaimon.Com

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Phang Nga community offers first-hand experience of a simple life

Nov 09. 2020Photos by Charoon ThongnualPhotos by Charoon Thongnual 

By The Nation

With Thailand’s top destinations left virtually empty due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many places like Ban Sam Chong Nuea in Phang Nga’s Takua Thung district are devising new ways to attract local travellers.

Now tourists can take a longtail boat around Phang Nga Bay and enjoy not just the area’s scenic beauty but also get a close-up view of the simple lives led by the Thai-Muslim population.

“Homestays are available for those who want to stay overnight, and people can feast on seafood sold at affordable prices. There is also a variety of goods people can take back as souvenirs, such as tie-dye cloth and processed seafood,” the community leader said.

It is expected that Thailand’s tourism industry will take at least a year to recover in the fallout of the Covid-19 outbreak.