Udon Thani’s famed Naga temple uncoils after Covid hibernation #SootinClaimon.Com

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Udon Thani’s famed Naga temple uncoils after Covid hibernation

ThailandMar 02. 2021Wat Kham Chanod in Udon ThaniWat Kham Chanod in Udon Thani

By The Nation

Tourists can once again brave the mythical Naga that guards Wat Kham Chanod in Udon Thani from Wednesday, when the temple reopens its doors after more than two months.

The temple is situated on a lake that’s purportedly home to a fireball-breathing snake deity, but has been off-limits to visitors since December 24 due to the new wave of Covid-19.

Tourists can also try out the temple’s new wooden bridge, which stretches more than 100 metres to the lake’s island and offers spectacular views of the local scenery.

Online reservations to visit Wat Kham Chanod can be made at the temple’s website. Temperature checks and limits on the number of visitors are also in place as part of new Covid-19 measures, said Udon Thani’s deputy governor Chamras Kangnoi. Visitors from Covid high-risk areas will also be screened before entering, he added.

Thailand’s tourism sector wants country reopened on July 1 #SootinClaimon.Com

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Thailand’s tourism sector wants country reopened on July 1

Mar 02. 2021


Leading tourism companies in Thailand launched a campaign on Tuesday to reopen the country’s borders from July 1, 2021.

The #OpenThailandSafely campaign was launched by more than 15 major companies including Minor Group, Asian Trails, YAANA Ventures, Capella Hotels and Resorts EXO and many others. Minor Group boss Bill Heinecke is among leading Thai hoteliers pushing for vaccination-based early opening of the tourism industry.

The Open Thailand Safely campaign laid out its arguments in a petition backing a formal request to the government to respond favourably to the rollout of Covid-19 vaccination in Europe, the US and other markets for Thai tourism.

The petition is open to anyone in Thailand or abroad who would like to see the country reopen.

The campaign argues July 1 is an appropriate date for five reasons: the majority of citizens in many source markets will be vaccinated by then, it gives time for Thailand to vaccinate frontline hospitality staff and/or vulnerable citizens, it gives travellers time to make travel plans and bookings, the date gives time to airlines, hotels, tour operators and others to start marketing, sales and preparations for the restart of operations, and it will take Thailand at least a year to restore the number of visitors it had before Covid-19.

Under the July 1 restart plan, tourists could be asked to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination, a negative test with 72 hours of departure, health insurance, etc.

“The July 1 reopening would be a strategic opportunity for Thailand to show a leadership role among Asian countries and prepare the way for a solid recovery of the Thai economy in 2022,” said Willem Niemeijer, CEO of YAANA Ventures.

Open Thailand Safely organisers said they will also send the July 1 request to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, the minister of tourism and sports, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand governor.

Organisers pointed out that tourism destinations such as Seychelles, Maldives, Greece and Sri Lanka have either opened their borders or are considering doing so following successful vaccine rollouts in their key source markets.

Occupancy rate down 51% this Makha Bucha holiday, says TAT #SootinClaimon.Com

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Occupancy rate down 51% this Makha Bucha holiday, says TAT

ThailandFeb 26. 2021

By The Nation

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) expects tourist numbers during the Makha Bucha holiday weekend to drop by almost half from last year due to Covid-19.

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn forecast the number of domestic tourists from February 26-28 would be around 1.09 million, down 44 per cent year on year. He expected tourism revenue of around Bt3.9 billion, down 38 per cent year on year, and an occupancy rate of 16 per cent, down 51 per cent.

“The Covid-19 outbreak, economic slowdown and PM2.5 air pollution are still affecting people’s confidence in travelling,” he said.

He said tourism in the Eastern region was under pressure after the February-March festival of the Buddha’s footprint in Chanthaburi’s Khao Khitchakut National Park was cancelled.

“However, we still believe that Buddhists will participate in events to mark Makha Bucha Day and spend time with their families at tourist attractions near their homes.”

He added that tourism had been lively in Bangkok, Chon Buri, Nakhon Ratchasima, Kanchanaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ayutthaya, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Petchaburi.

“People are also taking trips in Chiang Mai as the temperature is still cool there,” he added.

Betong gets ready for arrivals once flights start landing in April #SootinClaimon.Com

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Betong gets ready for arrivals once flights start landing in April

Feb 25. 2021


Local businesses in Yala’s Betong city are getting ready to greet visitors once flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport start landing in Betong’s new airport from April.

The Betong District Tourism Association said relevant agencies and businesses have discussed plans of opening the city to visitors, as well as putting in Covid-19 curbing measures.

The association also said some 2,000 hotel rooms are being prepared for the influx of tourists and should be ready by April.

The top tourist attraction in Betong is the 61-metre-long skywalk, which gives visitors amazing views of the Ai Yerweng sea of mist from an altitude of over 600 metres. As many as 230,000 visitors have walked down the skywalk between October and December last year.

TAT exploring idea of cryptocurrency use in tourism #SootinClaimon.Com

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TAT exploring idea of cryptocurrency use in tourism

Feb 19. 2021

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn


The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) plans to draw digital asset holders from Japan to Thailand, and allow cryptocurrency to be used in the tourism sector.

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said he had discussed this idea with the Technology Promotion Association (Thailand-Japan). He explained that this strategy would serve the growth of cryptocurrency in the future, as well as the usage of technology in tourism business in the post-coronavirus era.

“If this idea is successful, Thailand will be one of the countries where cryptocurrency can be spent in the tourism sector,” Yuthsak said.

The governor added that Japanese people were the world’s top bitcoin holders with 11 per cent of holdings.

He said cryptocurrency was popular among young people in Japan. Some hotels and restaurants have grown by receiving the digital asset.

Yuthasak also claimed that Elon Musk would visit Thailand in the post-coronavirus era, if cryptocurrency could be used in Thailand.

He added that TAT was now focused on “the big fish in the market”, and cryptocurrency was one of them. The cryptocurrency tourist idea will be discussed with restaurant and hotel entrepreneurs, as well as the Bank of Thailand.

He said there was awareness of malafide elements taking advantage of the use of cryptocurrency in Thailand to act in illegal ways.

Voucher incentive for visitors to Chonburi, Pattaya City #SootinClaimon.Com

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Voucher incentive for visitors to Chonburi, Pattaya City

Feb 13. 2021


The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), together with its allies in Chonburi and Pattaya City, is giving away Bt500 e-vouchers to people visiting the areas, under a campaign “Check in Chonburi Free 500”.

Visitors will receive the vouchers when they check in at hotels participating in this campaign, from February 12 to March 31. The total voucher amount a visitor can receive is Bt1,000.

The vouchers are also available at attractions, spas, cafes and restaurants participating in this campaign. Total quotas are over 3,500.

Pandemic a blessing for coral, marine life #SootinClaimon.Com

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Pandemic a blessing for coral, marine life

ThailandFeb 09. 2021Photo credit: Wachirun ChaisawattPhoto credit: Wachirun Chaisawatt


A Facebook user posted photographs of coral growing on artificial reefs and a bounty of marine creatures captured while diving near Koh Libong and Koh Kradan islands off the coast of Trang.

Photo credit: Wachirun Chaisawatt

Photo credit: Wachirun Chaisawatt

Wachirun Chaisawatt shared the photographs and his experience of the beauty of the Andaman Sea on Monday.

Photo credit: Wachirun Chaisawatt

Photo credit: Wachirun Chaisawatt

The artificial reefs were built more than 15 years ago in a bid to provide a stable growing area for coral and a habitat for marine creatures.

Photo credit: Wachirun Chaisawatt

Photo credit: Wachirun Chaisawatt

Apart from time, the other factor that is helping coral recovery is the Covid-19 pandemic, which has paralysed the tourism sector.

Photo credit: Wachirun Chaisawatt

Photo credit: Wachirun ChaisawattPhoto credit: Wachirun ChaisawattPhoto credit: Wachirun ChaisawattPhoto credit: Wachirun ChaisawattPhoto credit: Wachirun Chaisawatt

Army of starfish spotted feasting on coral off Phi Phi #SootinClaimon.Com

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Army of starfish spotted feasting on coral off Phi Phi

ThailandFeb 05. 2021


The scourge of the sea – crown-of-thorns starfish – is reportedly scavenging coral off the coast of Krabi’s Phi Phi Island.

On Thursday, Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park officials found more than 30 crown-of-thorns starfish off Ko Po Da Nok Island, near Phi Phi.

This high number of starfish will prove to be a blight to the area, officials said.

The park’s chief, Prayoon Pongpan, said officials will speak to related experts on how this scourge can be eradicated to preserve a balance.

The crown-of-thorns is a large starfish, ranging in size from 25 to 30 centimetres with up to 21 arms, that climbs onto the coral to absorb nutrients, reducing the coral down to a skeleton.

Reports say these starfish damaged up to a kilometre of coral a month in Guam. This sort of destruction takes nearly 40 years to recover.

The best way of dealing with the crown-of-thorns starfish is to expose it to sunlight.

National parks ordered to limit entry after visitor tests positive #SootinClaimon.Com

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National parks ordered to limit entry after visitor tests positive

ThailandJan 04. 2021Varawut Silpa-archaVarawut Silpa-archa

By The Nation

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa on Monday ordered national parks nationwide to cut visitors by 40-50 per cent as part of Covid-19 control measures.

The move follows news that a recent visitor to Phu Tub Boek mountain in Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park, Petchabun, later tested positive for Covid-19.

National parks could remain open, said Varawut, but their committees must implement containment measures in line with the severity of the outbreak in their area.

“We have instructed national park chiefs to follow guidance from provincial governors on disinfecting areas such as toilets and crowded places,” he said. “We also instructed them to ask people for cooperation on social distancing.”

John Steinbeck’s classic travelogue showcases man’s best road-trip friend #SootinClaimon.Com

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John Steinbeck’s classic travelogue showcases man’s best road-trip friend

WorldJan 01. 2021Hamilton, the author's beagle, with a much-loved copy of John Steinbeck's Hamilton, the author’s beagle, with a much-loved copy of John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley.” MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Melanie D.G. Kaplan Photo by: Melanie D.G. Kaplan — The Washington Post

By Special to The Washington Post · Melanie D.G. Kaplan 

Fourteen years ago, I decided to drive across the United States. This came after a childhood of cross-country rides in the back seat of my parents’ car, visiting my grandparents in Southern California. But in 2007, when I was a full-fledged grown-up, my grandmother worried about this trip well before my departure. My mother wanted to know where I would sleep. My sister said she couldn’t imagine driving all those miles by myself.

“Don’t you wish you had someone there to share it with?” she asked.

Reminding them about my four-legged travel buddy did nothing to quell their unease. “I’m not alone,” I said, time and again. “Darwin will be with me.”

Perhaps I carried an extra air of confidence when I reiterated that statement about my co-pilot and explained that this trip was wholly different from a solo adventure. I had just read John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley: In Search of America,” and it spoke to me. Loudly.

“I took one companion on my journey – an old French gentleman poodle known as Charley,” Steinbeck wrote. He described Charley as a born diplomat, expert sniffer and poor fighter. He was an early bird, a good watchdog and friend who “would rather travel about than anything he can imagine.” The pair set off on their journey in September 1960.

Darwin was also a good friend – a sassy, independent beagle, occasional growler and regular howler who loved road trips second only to eating. In 2007, we traveled 8,800 miles in 30 days. Since then I’ve made the trip out West every two years, on average, always with a beagle – first Darwin, now Hamilton.

The surge of euphoria and pure bliss I experience on these long trips is unequaled in any other part of my existence. Over the years, when friends in Washington, D.C., bought houses out West and prepared to drive there with their dogs, I could barely contain my excitement. I fell just short of inviting myself to join them. The “blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping,” Steinbeck wrote, and he felt equally impatient to travel when he heard an engine warming or horse hoofs clopping. “I fear the disease is incurable,” he wrote. I feel his pain.

“Travels with Charley” was published in 1962, the same year Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. The book recounts his drive around the country in the autumn of 1960, years after publishing famous titles such as “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”

He lived in New York at the time and considered it “criminal” that an American writer writing about America didn’t know his own country. At 58, he set out to answer the question: “What are Americans like today?” Wanting to avoid recognition, he went to great lengths to remain anonymous and self-contained, “a kind of casual turtle carrying his house on his back.” He ordered a customized vehicle with a camper top – complete with a double bed, four-burner stove and chemical toilet. He named it Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse. Over 10,000 miles through 34 states, he was not recognized once.

Aching for a road trip and grounded at home in December, I reread Steinbeck’s travelogue, slowly. I appreciated it anew, particularly his description of trip planning. He overpacked Rocinante with “tools enough to assemble a submarine,” emergency foods, two rifles and a shotgun (although his hunting days were over by then), fishing rods, canned goods and what he estimated was four times too many clothes, blankets, pillows, shoes and boots. Thinking he might write, he packed a typewriter, paper, pencils, notebooks, dictionaries and a compact encyclopedia, noting, “I suppose our capacity for self-delusion is boundless.”

Before the trip, Charley knew something was afoot – of course. He whined, paced and made a “damned nuisance of himself,” while friends stopped by and spoke of their own hunger to move, no matter the destination.

The reason for my first cross-country trip was clear: a friend’s wedding in Palo Alto, Calif. Subsequently, I cared less about the reason I was driving to the West Coast and found myself concocting motives to satisfy others: helping my grandmother move, covering travel assignments, dog-sitting for friends. Hammy, a trauma survivor who is a more bashful and tentative beagle than his predecessor, has become an equally enthusiastic traveler. He has now visited 44 states. Until the pandemic, when Hammy and I itched for a trip we never missed an opportunity to scratch.

As I reread “Travels With Charley,” I chuckled, recognizing from every one of my trips the hesitation Steinbeck experienced as his departure date approached. “My warm bed and comfortable house grew increasingly desirable and my dear wife incalculably precious,” he wrote. “To give these up for three months for the terrors of the uncomfortable and unknown seemed crazy. I didn’t want to go. Something had to happen to forbid my going, but it didn’t.” He set off and was overwhelmed. “I wondered how in hell I’d got myself mixed up in a project that couldn’t be carried out.”

On my first day of driving in 2007, I left Washington and was overcome by fatigue in the first couple of hours. I stopped in Virginia for a nap, certain that I couldn’t continue. Darwin seemed to understand that when I napped, she would stay alert, which she did from the passenger’s seat. I woke up refreshed and pressed on.

Steinbeck headed north to Maine then turned west. He visited Niagara Falls for the first time and crossed through Minnesota and North Dakota, eventually visiting his sisters in Monterey, Calif., near his hometown of Salinas. Along the way, he fell hard for Montana, a state I’ve come to love. He wrote that if it “had a seacoast, or if I could live away from the sea, I would instantly move there and petition for admission.”

In his travels, Steinbeck struck up conversations everywhere, often enticing strangers with the offer of coffee and a “dollop” of whiskey or applejack at his camper table. He talked to Americans of every stripe – sailor, waitress, veterinarian, student – covering topics as varied as race relations, mobile homes and politics. Steinbeck presented pages of dialogue, leaving some readers wondering how much was fabricated; he was, first and foremost, a novelist.

With his mind free for thinking, Steinbeck said, “I myself have planned houses I will never build, have made gardens I will never plant.” At one point, he wondered how much energy in foot-pounds is expended in driving a truck for six hours. In long, quiet stretches, I’ve pondered similar puzzles, such as the engineering of road curves along a cliff. I’ve imagined utility bills and love letters inside mail trucks. More than once, I have written entire articles in my head.

Like Steinbeck, I drove roughly along the perimeter of the country. We both went through Badlands and Yellowstone national parks, and we both visited California’s redwoods. I relished interactions with strangers – and still do. Darwin and I met a motorcyclist from Toronto, a saloon bartender in Deadwood, S.D., a Nashville-to-Alaska traveler with a leashed cat named Charcoal, and a man named Smooth in Cooke City, Mont., who shared his local recommendations on an index card. In my notebook, I jotted down snippets of conversations that made me laugh. I entertained myself by counting dozens of items and creating a Harper’s Index-style list:

1. Times considered turning around the first day: 4

2. Average nights I slept in each of 21 beds: 1.4

3. Speeding tickets: 0

4. Harley-Davidson showrooms visited: 14

5. D.C. plates previously seen by a 21-year veteran inspector at the California border agricultural station: 0

Some of the best writing in “Travels,” unsurprisingly, is about Steinbeck’s companion, a character whose presence we can easily imagine enjoying on a trip. In Maine, Steinbeck wrote: “The temperature lifted and it rained endlessly and the forests wept. Charley never got dry, and smelled as though he were mildewed.” And in Wisconsin, parked next to cattle trucks being cleaned of manure, “Charley moved about smiling and sniffing ecstatically like an American woman in a French perfume shop.”

As I sat on the couch reading recently, Hammy was curled up next to me in a tiny ball, his nose tucked under his back leg and tail. The book may have inspired me in 2007, but this time, I felt deeply connected to this traveling pair. When Steinbeck wrote about his whole body aching from the road, I suffered with him. When he grumbled about roadside food, I recalled the time I settled on a Chipwich for dinner, the best of several pitiful options. When the miles and fields and faces became a blur at the end, when Steinbeck acknowledged that the journey – which began before he left home – had ended while he was still on the road, the anguish was familiar.

“The road became an endless stone ribbon,” he wrote. “My bed was unmade. . . . My stove was unlighted and a loaf of bread gathered mold in my cupboard. . . . I know it was cold, but I didn’t feel it; I know the countryside must have been beautiful, but I didn’t see it.” Then, at last, Steinbeck was home.

When I return from a trip, it can take months before I want to travel any distance by car. (Hammy is ready much sooner.) Then, bit by bit, the longing returns. I flipped back to the beginning of the book and savored one of my favorite lines. Steinbeck wrote that a trip “has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.”

I contemplated the notion that a new road trip – unlike any other – awaited. The thought was comforting. I closed the book and snuggled closer to my co-pilot for warmth. Hammy sighed. I dreamed.