WorldOct 18. 2020An undated photo shows a queue of climbers making a final push towards Everest summit. Photo courtesy: Kami Rita Sherpa
By Kathmandu Post
In recent years summit hopefuls have been growing since the tragedy on the mountain in 2014 and its closure following the 2015 earthquake.
A total of 6,507 mountaineers have climbed Everest from the Nepal side since Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and New Zealander Edmund Percival Hillary first set foot atop the world’s highest peak in May 1953.
This and other figures are contained in the latest annual mountaineering statistics published by the Tourism Ministry on Tuesday. Among the 6,507 summiteers, 471 are female, with Junko Tabei of Japan being the first to make it to the top in 1975.
The 8,848-metre (29,028 feet) Evereststraddles Nepal and China and the summit can be reached from both countries. It costs less to climb from the Chinese side since the royalty is less than Nepal’s $11,000 per person and also because there is a motorable road up to the base camp.
Nepal’s Tourism Ministry started collecting details of events on Everest dating from 1922 when seven Sherpa climbers died in an avalanche, becoming the first reported deaths on the tallest mountain in the world.
This year, Covid-19 kept all expeditions away, the second time in recent years. There were no expeditions in 2015 following the April earthquake.
Last year was significant in terms of records set on the world’s tallest peak. According to the ministry, there were five record-setting events for 2019.
On May 22 and 23, a total of 223 and 212 climbers reached the summit, which has been recorded as the highest and the second-highest number of climbers on the top of Everest on a particular day.
That year, the government issued a record number of permits, leading to ‘traffic jams’ on the icy route to the top of the world. Also, 10 people died, the highest death toll in four years.
Kami Rita Sherpa climbed Everest twice within a week, on May 15 and 21, giving him the distinction of having made the highest number of Everest ascents in the world–24.
The ministry said that the Sagarmatha Height Measurement Expedition 2019 team, led by chief survey officer Khimlal Gautam of the government of Nepal, climbed Everest on May 22 and installed scientific equipment on the summit. The government is yet to announce the height of Everest.
Nirmal Purja has climbed all 14 mountains above 8,000 metres in the record time of 6 months and 6 days and became the fastest person to do so.
Ministry records show that Mingma Gyabu Sherpa climbed all 14 mountains above 8,000 metres at the age of 31 years, becoming the youngest person to do so.
The success rate of climbers has been improving since 2016. A total of 451 mountaineers, including 197 foreigners, reached the top of Everest in 2016 after the peak saw no climbers in 2015, the year when Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people. Quake-triggered avalanches killed 20 climbers.
On April 18, 2014, there was an avalanche near Everest base camp which killed 16 Nepali guides. Rescuers pulled out 13 bodies and the remaining three were never recovered as search and rescue operations were called off due to too much risk.
The first post-avalanche ascent took place on May 23, 2014, when Chinese climber Wang Jing along with five Nepali climbing guides reached the summit of Everest. However, her ascent was marked by controversy as she flew over the Khumbu Icefall in a helicopter instead of crossing it on foot.
High-altitude climbing guides had cancelled all their planned expeditions to pay respect for their dead colleagues.
But Wang completed her climb with five guides that were arranged privately. The Department of Tourism had also issued the climbing permit as a challenge to the guides who decided to boycott the expedition. The disaster had brought a simmering tension between the government and the climbing guides as the government did not pay heed to their demands.
Following the disaster, the government had promptly announced a payment of Rs40,000 to the victims’ families to cover funeral costs. However, high-altitude guides and workers were angered by the government’s paltry handout offer which led them to intensify their protest.
In 2017, a total of 426 climbers, including 199 foreigners, made it to the top, slightly fewer than in 2016. The number of summiteers rose significantly in 2018 when 560 individuals, including 262 foreigners, reached the top. This record was broken in 2019 when a crowd of 644 mountaineers, including 280 foreigners, stepped on top of the world.
“As the allure of Everest has grown, so have the crowds,” said Ang Tsering Sherpa, former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. According to him, the number of Everest aspirants in Nepal started to swell from 2007 when China started issuing Everest climbing certificates stating the height as 8,844.57 metres while Nepal issued certificates saying 8,848 metres.
The lower height was not recognised by various international organisations, Sherpa said.
“It’s not expensive to climb from the north side, and the process of obtaining a climbing permit is also easy,” said Sherpa, adding that before 2007, the north face used to see a large number of climbers.
Sherpa said that since 2016, China started issuing climbing permits stating the height as 8,848.13 metres.
Nepal and China will be clearing any confusion about the actual elevation soon by jointly announcing the height of Everest.
“However, climbing from Nepal has become more adventurous, and people love it instead of just climbing the peak and going home, making the number of summit hopefuls rise every passing year,” he said.
He was referring to the fact that while on the Chinese side, mountaineers drive up the base camp, on the Nepal side the allure begins as they land at Lukla airport from where they have to trek 10 days to the base camp.
The situation next year, with the climbing season slated to begin in spring 2021, will depend on what turn the Covid-19 pandemic takes.
“There are inquiries,” said Sherpa. “Even though Everest will be open, there won’t be many climbers because of the economic factor. People don’t have money, and climbing Everest is an expensive affair.”
Foreigners pay $11,000 to obtain a permit to climb Everest and spend anywhere between $40,000 and $90,000 for the entire expedition. In 2019, the government earned $5.07 million in royalties from the issuance of climbing permits. Out of the total revenue, Everest accounted for $4.05 million.
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Free entrance to Nong Nooch for residents of 9 provinces, 10 Bangkok districts
Oct 17. 2020
By THE NATION
The Nong Nooch Tropical Garden in Pattaya is offering free entrance to people from nine provinces and 10 districts in Bangkok, the attraction’s president Kampon Tansacha said.
People from the provinces of Khon Kaen, Kalasin, Mukdahan, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Bueng Kan, Nong Khai, Udon Thani and Nong Bua Lamphu will be granted free entrance, as well residents of Bangkok’s Minburi, Khan Na Yow, Khlong Sam Wa, Nong Chok, Lat Krabang, Taling Chan, Thawee Watthana, Phasi Charoen, Bang Khae and Nong Khaem districts.
The 1,700-rai (272 hectare) garden sports more than 19,000 plant species and offers additional services such as boxing camp, Thai massage as well as DIY and cooking classes.
It also has a “dinosaur valley” housing more than 200 12 to 18-metre tall replicas of these fearsome creatures.
Nong Nooch Tropical Garden had to be closed from April 1 due to Covid-19, and though it has reopened recently, more than 90 per cent of its visitors have disappeared. Kampon said he has had to reduce salaries by 20 per cent, but none of his staff have been laid off.
The North of Thailand is becoming popular among tourists as temperatures have started falling and winter appears to be coming closer.
On Monday, Kriangkrai Chaipiset, chief of the Doi Inthanon National Park, said the temperature was 7 degrees Celsius on the peak of Doi Inthanon and 6 degrees Celsius at Kew Mae Pan viewpoint, while the temperature in his office was nearing 14 degrees Celsius.
The temperature in the northern plains touched 20 degrees Celsius this morning.
He said more tourists are coming to the North to make the most of cool temperatures, with many also visiting other mountains in Chiang Mai like Doi Luang Chiang Dao or Doi Ang Khang.
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Waters in Bang Saen stand still, crystal clear
ThailandOct 12. 2020Photo Credit to Shop Jung Bang Saen Facebook page
By The Nation
Recent photographs show that the sea at Bang Saen beach has been crystal clear since October and locals believe it will look even more beautiful in November.
The images were shared on Shop Jung Bang Saen Facebook page, with the caption saying Bang Saen will be at its most beautiful in the cool season, as winds during summer and the rainy season only bring dust and trash to the beach.
Once the storms are over, the water will become placid and clearer, the post said.
The best time to visit Bang Saen beach is between November and January, when the sea is at its best.
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On the road to ancient Srihatta
WorldOct 11. 2020Beyond public knowledge, Panchakhanda Basudeva Angan, a 1,000-year-old temple in Supatala village of Sylhet’s Beanibazar, houses two more statues — one of a Dhyani (meditating left bottom) Buddha and another of a Garudashin Vishnu (Lord Vishnu sitting or riding on Garuda, a mythical bird-like creature) — alongside one Basudeva statue. Photo: Tarun Sarker, Sagar Das Chowdhury
By The Daily Star
Two ages-old statues found in Sylhet temple open new avenue of study
As per the record, Panchakhanda Basudeva Angan, a millennium-old temple in Supatala village of Sylhet’s Beanibazar, housed only a Basudeva statue.
Beyond public knowledge, however, two more unrecorded ancient statues are kept in the historic temple.
During a visit to the temple in late June, the statues of a Dhyani (meditating) Buddha and a Garudashin Vishnu (Lord Vishnu sitting or riding on Garuda, a mythical bird-like creature) were found.
The Basudeva statue, depicting Lord Vishnu in Samapadasthanak posture in which the feet are firmly arid squarely planted, was mentioned in various journals while the two other statues remained unheard of.
In Achyut Charan Choudhury’s book “Srihatter Itibritta”, some publications of Bangladesh Asiatic Society, and a memorandum published by the temple in 2006 state that there is only the Basudeva statue in the temple.
But the expedition found all three statues are kept in the Sri-Mandir of the Panchakhanda Basudeva Angan and being worshiped.
Finding of the Dhyani Buddha proves the existence of Mahayana Buddhist while the Garudashin Vishnu is the only statue of its type to be found in the region.
Two neighbourng villages, Supatala and Nidhanpur, under Panchakhanda Pargana of ancient Srihatta, are very much known to historians and archaeologists. These places are crucial for understanding the ancient time of greater Sylhet.
In Nidhanpur, which is in the vicinity of the temple, seven copperplate inscriptions of early 7th century Kamrupa King Bhaskaravarman were found in 1912.
More than 200 Brahmins were made Jamindars through these copperplates.
Dwarkesh Chandra Nath, president of Basudeva Sebak Sangha, the managing authority of the temple, said, “In the copperplates, seven percent of total land granted was meant for some religious rituals related to idol worship. The temple might have been established Centring the rituals.”
Several ancient idols were found in ponds of Supatala village.
DHYANI BUDDHA STATUE
The Dhyani Buddha statue was found along with the Basudeva and the Mahamaya (Durga) statues in the early 19th century while digging a pond of Durgadalai’s house in Supatala.
In the book “Srihatter Itibritta”, Achyut Charan Choudhury cited that Durgadalai was an employee of the last Jaintia King Rajendra Singha.
Durgadalai gifted the Mahamaya statue to the king while Basudeva statue was restored in the temple. These happened before 1835 as the king died that year in British captivity, the book mentioned.
The miniature statue of Buddha seated and meditating is 4 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide. The face and back are damaged and left hand is broken.
Swadhin Sen, professor of the Department of Archaeology at Jahangirnagar University, and Mosharraf Hossain, former director of the government’s Department of Archaeology, said the statue was one of Panchatathagata — the five Tathagatas or five great Buddhas.
Though the left hand is broken, seeing the pose of right hand, they opine that the hands are posing as a representation of Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Dharma).
According to the Buddhist explanation of Panchatathagata, this pose is the Vairocana, the principal deity or mediator. Other Dhyani Buddhas are Amoghasiddhi, Amitabha, Ratnasambhava and Akshobhya.
Swadhin Sen said it might be of 8th-12th century while Mosharraf Hossain opine of 12th-13th century.
Historian Himadri Das Purkayastha said, “During 9th-10th century, Mahayana Buddhists, particularly of Vajrayana belief, were influential in greater Sylhet. Finding the statue is the archaeological proof of the Mahayana Buddhism’s practice in the region”.
THE GARUDASHIN VISHNU
The Garudashin Vishnu statue was found in 1982 while digging pond of the temple.
According to Hindu Triad or Great Trinity, Vishnu represents goodness and preservation.
In ancient and medieval period, Vishnu statues are found in different forms and names — of different count of hands. His Basudeva forms are common in Bangladesh, while the Garudashin form is rare.
Archaeologist Mosharraf Hossain said, “Among more than six hundred Vishnu statues found in Bangladesh, only seven are of Garudashin Vishnu. It’s a rare antiquity. This particular statue looks older compared to others”.
The statue is of 2.7 feet tall and 1.2 foot in width. The four handed statue clock-wisely holds club, wheel, conch and lotus.
In this statue, Vishnu is seated on the Garuda with his feet on the hands of the mythical creature. The Garuda is posing to start flying with one leg on top of lotus and another in the ground with bended knee.
Niru Shamsun Nahar, former keeper of Bangladesh National Museum, said, “The statue doesn’t look still, but very lively. Carved in stone with excellent efficiency and of exact ratio. It’s a work of a master sculptor”.
“A unique sculpting method flourished in Bangla-Bihar region by 8th-13th century and 10th-11th century as the golden era of sculpting. This statue represents the features of the golden era and I think it’s of that era,” she said.
THE STATUES: IMPORTANCE AND CONSERVATION
As the Panchakhanda Basudeva Angan is dedicated to lord Vishnu, the Garudashin Vishnu statue is being worshipped along with the Basudeva statue.
The Buddha statue is also being worshipped as an idol of Narayana.
Swadhin Sen said, “The idols are very important in terms of their find-spots and location, as the Nidhanpur copperplate inscriptions are found in the area.
“The time of issuance of the inscriptions and the stylistic date on these idols are not same. Two idols of Vishnu belong to a later date, tentatively to 11th-12th century. They, however, points at the continuous occupation of this area of Barak-Surma Valley from 8th-12th century.”
In contrary to the practice of collecting and displaying such religious statues in the museums, he said, “These are an essential part of living religious traditions as they are being worshipped. These valuable archaeological objects must be kept in the temple and their ownership by the local community must be protected.”
[Tarun Sarker is a freelance journalist who writes for The Daily Star. Translated by Dwoha Chowdhury]
By Syndication Washington Post, The Japan News-Yomiuri · No Author · WORLD, ASIA-PACIFIC
TOKYO – The Japanese and Vietnamese governments are set to come to an agreement to allow businesspeople to resume traveling between the two countries for short work-related trips as early as this month, it has been learned.
This will be the third country in which the Japanese government has allowed short-term visitors to travel back-and-forth, following Singapore and South Korea.
The government plans to exempt these travelers from the 14-day quarantine if they meet the following requirements: They are tested for the coronavirus prior to departure and upon arrival; they provide their itinerary in advance; and they only travel to work-related locations.
The two sides are also considering agreeing to a summit meeting when Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga makes his first overseas trip to Vietnam in the middle of the month.
Japan and Vietnam have strong economic ties, and as of 2019, there are 1,943 Japanese companies operating in Vietnam, double what it was 10 years ago. There were also about 40,000 business travelers from Vietnam in 2019, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
The number of coronavirus cases in Vietnam has not exceeded one per day since the beginning of the month, which has led the Japanese government to make its latest decision.
“The environment is ready for the resumption of travel,” a senior government official said.
Mu Koh Similan National Park officials on Friday brought tourism entrepreneurs and the press to witness its natural beauty and readiness to reopen for tourists in the upcoming high season from October 15 onwards.
The Department of National Parks (DNP) had announced the closure of Similan Islands in Phang Nga province since March due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The shutdown has prolonged for seven months this year compared to other years when the islands close during the monsoon season from May-October.
The group of visitors were taken to Island 8 (Ko Similan), Island 4 (Ko Miang), the Kuerk Bay, the Lan Kha Luang scenic point and the Nah Beach or Princess Beach, which is Phang Nga’s longest white beach with crystal clear water.
The park also said that when the islands open on October 15, all visitors would have to maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“Traveling in the new normal could provide a better experience for Thai tourists, as the islands’ natural beauty is now fully restored after seven months’ closure, while there are no foreign tourists allowed, resulting in the areas becoming less crowded,” said the park officials.
A representative of Love Andaman Tour agency, who participated in the trip, said that this year the company would focus on eco-friendly tourism by urging tourists to conserve natural resources and aquatic wildlife. “We will start dispatching our tour-guided boats from October 15. Currently customers are starting to call in to make reservations,” he added.
Sukhothai is planing 10 days of festivities for tourists and locals to experience the beauty of Loy Krathong festival.
The event takes place from October 23 to November 1 at Sukhothai Historical Park, the Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site.
The festival will be held among the 700-year-old ruins of the city’s cultural heritage in keeping with a long-standing tradition, and the stunning setting helps reflect the delights of Thai history, tradition, and cultural values.
Sukhothai is the birthplace of the Loy Krathong festival.
Sukhothai province, in cooperation with The Tourism Authority of Thailand, Sports Authority of Thailand, and the Sukhothai Provincial Administrative Organisation, aims to ensure that the value of arts and culture of the Sukhothai people is understood across the world while helping to stimulate the economy, supplement the income of local communities, and drive recovery of the domestic tourism industry in Thailand, the organisers said.
The highlighted activities would include Ancient Sukhothai Period market to take people back to old times with local products and a variety of food, “The history of Sukhothai” light and sound show, contemporary performances on stage, Nang Nopphamat beauty contests, Phlu, Talai, Fai Phaniang pyrotechnics (fireworks display), at the Wat Sa Si temple (Traphang Trakuan), one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions, and many more activities.