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Sunday, September 23, 2018

It won't burn down: Architect defends vision for #Bangkok airport

Bangkok’s main airport is planning to add a $1.3 billion terminal with extensive wooden cladding and a forested landscape, spurring concern about fire risk. Its designer says there’s no need to worry.

Tropical forests inspired the blueprint for the building and the aim is to give travelers a feeling of Thailand’s uniqueness, 52-year-old architect Duangrit Bunnag said in an interview. He rejected concerns from the Engineering Institute of Thailand that the structure could be a fire hazard.

“Airports tend to have similar features -- they’re white, cold and metallic,” Duangrit said. “I wanted a design that immediately gives travelers the feeling they’ve arrived in Thailand. It will be a metal structure covered with wood. Different treatments can be applied to the timber to ensure fire resistance.”

Airports of Thailand Pcl, the biggest Asian airport operator by market capitalization, announced last month that it was awarding the design contract to a joint bid by Duangrit Bunnag Architect Ltd. and Japan’s Nikken Sekkei Ltd.


 The state-controlled firm expects to boost annual passenger capacity by 30 million by building a second terminal at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi international airport. Construction is due to start next year and finish by 2021.

A tourism boom is straining the country’s infrastructure, putting pressure on officials to tackle bottlenecks. Foreign arrivals could hit 40 million next year -- equivalent to more than half the population.

Duangrit’s design features sweeping arches and giant columns clad in wood. He also proposed an enclosed tropical-forest landscape spanning about 16,000 square meters between two buildings of the terminal. Passengers would be able to see but not to enter the landscape, a symbol for ecological protection.

“The difficulty in designing the terminal is how to make it memorable to travelers from around the world,” Duangrit said. “How do I make it look different to all the other airports?”

Source - TheJakartaPost

Saturday, September 22, 2018

#Vietnam - Da Nang gains stature as a must-go destination

Da Nang should be high on the list of places to visit in Southeast Asia, says Channel News Asia.

The Singaporean pay TV channel has included the Vietnamese city in a list of five under the radar destinations in south and southeast Asian regions.

It says that in Vietnam, the spotlight is mostly trained on the country’s two biggest metropolises - Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but Da Nang, home to Asia’s most beautiful My Khe Beach and neighbor to Hoi An, the ancient town, has plenty to offer.

Intrepid travelers can climb up the famous Marble Mountains, a group of five marble and limestone mountains, to discover “hidden caves, tunnels and Buddhist shrines galore,” it recommends.

The central Vietnamese city has gained greater prominence since its Golden Bridge opened in June this year.


 The visually stunning bridge has been featured in CNN’s best travel photographs of the year, the news channel notes.

Once a sleepy fishing town, Da Nang is now a formidable tourism destination, gaining renown for its long beaches and upscale resorts.

The city received more than five million visitors in the first seven months of this year, up 30 percent over the same period last year, according to the Da Nang tourism department.

Travel magazine Live and Invest Overseas, “the world's savviest source for top opportunities to live better, retire in style, invest for profit, do business,” voted Da Nang among world’s most livable cities earlier this year.

The site also recommends tourists to go on a safari in Colombo, Sri Lanka, swim in a volcanic lake in Indonesia’s Medan, go glamping in India’s Visakhapatnam and visit an island of silk-weavers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Source  - VN


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Chiang Mai bids to become Thailand’s sixth protected site

THE CHIANG MAI World Heritage Working Group has completed its paperwork and is ready to make its submission this month to Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) to make Chiang Mai a world heritage city, Woralun Boonyasurat, head of the Thai Art Department at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, said yesterday.

If it is successful it would be the Kingdom’s sixth location to receive such protected status.
In her capacity as head of the Chiang Mai World Heritage Initiative Project, Woralun said the submission didn’t mean the northern city would automatically obtain the status yet and there was more work to be done. 


 Chiang Mai still has some urban management issues, especially the question of how it will be developed over the next two decades. 

“Chiang Mai City has cultural sites within the old city walls and natural resources to be protected while it is developed,” said Woralun. 

“As we work on proposing it to be a world heritage site, people might wonder if this will push this city backwards into the past or not. I can say that it isn’t the case. We are doing this because we love Chiang Mai City and see the values that should be promoted and developed. 

“The world nowadays is facing a challenge in protecting and managing the cultural and natural resources and such work must be done in an integrating manner, not each group doing its own things separately. What we aim for is for people’s wellbeing and joint happiness in future.”

 Sirikitiya Jensen, an adviser of the Chiang Mai World Heritage Initiative Project, said Chiang Mai City with its ancient history, culture and natural environment – especially the Doi Suthep sacred forest – should be conserved and developed sustainably with all sides’ participation to become a world heritage site, in which cultural and sentimental values can be protected in parallel with the city’s development.
 Their comments were made during the World Heritage International Convention: “Integration of Historic Cities and Their Natural Settings for Sustainable Development”, which is being held at Chiang Mai University from yesterday until Friday.

During the event, deputy director of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)’s South Asia Region Gamini Wijesuriya, along with Thai and international experts and academics, are exchanging their knowledge and experiences of international heritage in relation to historic cities. They are also exploring ways to effect sustainable development to support the “Chiang Mai World” in its bid to attain World Heritage status.

Chiang Mai City has since 2015 been among the six Thailand sites on a tentative list for consideration for World Heritage status. According to the process, the sites must be on that list for at least one year before they can be nominated for full status.
There are currently 1,092 World Heritage Sites in 167 countries and they have all had to prove they have “outstanding universal value”

Thailand’s five world heritage sites are currently: the Ban Chiang Archaeological Site in Udon Thani; the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex; the Historic City of Ayutthaya; the Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns; and the Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Source - TheNation

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

#Vietnam - Ha Long Bay: Nine must-visit places

The Ha Long Bay region in Vietnam comprises nearly 2,000 islands, 59 discovered caves, as well as grottoes, undisturbed beaches and old fishing villages. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a dream come true for nature lovers, photography aficionados or anyone who loves stunning scenery and crystal blue waters.

For those of you who are planning a visit, here are the nine most important landmarks that you should not miss out on seeing:

1. The Chopstick
The Chopstick will certainly be pointed out to you if you are taking a boat trip through the bay.
Possibly Ha Long Bay’s most famous landmark, the Chopstick is a karst peak that protrudes from the water at a height of around 40 meters. Its long, thin shape is what gives it its moniker.
It is worth checking out, if purely for the fact that, in recent times, coastal corrosion has caused its base to shrink dramatically, so who knows how long it will stay upright for.

2. Ti Top Island
Located in the heart of Ha Long Bay, Ti Top Island has been long regarded as one of the premier landmarks of the region. Named after Ghermann Titov, a former Soviet Union hero in the second World War, Ti Top Island boasts a white sandy crescent-shaped beach, as well as a partially paved route up to the top of the karst, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the bay.

Due to its increased fame in recent times, Ti Top is often busy during peak times (summer afternoons). Arriving in the morning will give you a head start on the 400-step ascent to the top of the mountain, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful view without a thousand selfie sticks in the way.


 3. Bai Tu Long Bay
Sitting to the northeast of Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay is its lesser known but equally staggering neighbor. Bia Tu Long has all of the coveted caves, beaches and islands that Ha Long Bay is known for, but without the crowds or congestion.

Highlights of the area include the ancient Thien Canh Son Cave, the colorful houses at Vung Vieng floating village, the untouched paradise of Ban Chan Beach and the Cong Do area.

4. Lan Ha Bay
As with Bai Tu Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay could easily be described as a quieter, lesser-known version of Ha Long. Lan Ha Bay itself boasts nearly 400 limestone karsts, as well as 139 quiet beaches that pepper the landscape. Lan Ha Bay actually belongs to the larger Cat Ba archipelago, and like with everywhere in the region, is best explored via sailboat.

Cat Ba Island is just a stone’s throw away and boasts many vendors that rent out vessels.

5. Co To Island
Co To Island is truly one of Ha Long Bay’s best-kept secrets. You will have to hire your own boat to get there but it is more than worth it. Co To Island district consists of 40 islands varying in size. Three of the largest islands are Co To Island, Thanh Lan Island and Tran Island. They boast white sandy beaches, sparkling azure water and craggy cliffs, all with the peaceful seclusion of an undiscovered paradise.

Cheap, fresh and delicious seafood can be found at seafront restaurants and the district's larger islands offer beach activities, trekking and motorbike road trips.

6. Vung Vieng fishing village
What makes Ha Long Bay such a unique tourist destination are the people that live and work there. Small communities have lived by the waters of the bay for centuries, and four of these floating villages remain today, with its residents predominantly serving the community as fisherfolk. The most famous of these is Vung Vieng village, with its colorful houses that stand against blue waters and towering karst peaks.

The community is happy to open their homes to tourists and offer workshops and displays depicting traditional Ha Long culture. Visitors can try their own hand at traditional fishing techniques, net weaving and even learn a few things about pearl harvesting.

7. Tuan Chau Island
This newly developed area just outside of Ha Long City is perfect for those with children, or those looking for a break from relaxing on a boat or a beach.

At only 2.2 square kilometers, Tuan Chau is tiny, but it is packed full of exciting recreational activities for all ages. Attractions include dolphin, sea lion and seal shows, an animal circus, a golf course, a cultural sports center, a beach, a rural market and an ornamental fish lake, as well as villas and restaurants.

The Ho Chi Minh memorial is one of the island’s most important features, built in honor of the man himself who used to visit Tuan Chau on his holidays.
 8. Ban Chan Beach For those who prefer to travel off the beaten track, Ban Chan Beach rivals any beach in Southeast Asia in terms of beauty and seclusion. Peeking out behind Bi Tu Long Bay, Ban Chan is unlikely to be busy at any time of year, as it sits right off the traditional boat routes of the region.

Although it is isolated and quiet, activities such as snorkeling, kayaking and beach volleyball are still offered.
9. Sung Sot Cave
The Sung Sot Cave complex is home to the most coveted caves and grottoes in Ha Long Bay, and possibly the whole country. There are a total of 59 discovered caves documented on the official registrar; however, experts estimate that the number could be close to eight times that. Sung Sot Cave is the largest cave in the complex, and the most famous.

The cave itself is incredibly wide, tall and lofty, so those with claustrophobia need not worry. Stalactites and stalagmites adorn the cave’s interior, some of which have formed enormous limestone columns of different shapes over the millennia.

Take a guided tour of the cave and you will hear about the legends associated with each of its pillars, from dragons and demons to dwarves and everything in between.

Useful information

When should I go?

Ha Long Bay, much like the rest of northern Vietnam, can get surprisingly cold during winter months. Temperatures regularly drop to below 10 degrees Celsius between the months of December and February, and many homes and businesses do not have central heating.

Summer months, between June and September, can see exceptionally heavy rainfall and thunderstorms, so try to stick to the months of March and April or from late September through to early November for warm temperatures of around 25 degrees Celsius and clear skies.

Lana is a freelance writer from the UK currently residing in Hanoi, Vietnam. She has won several awards for travel writing by National Tourism Board of Vietnam. At the moment she is the editor-in-chief for a travel website about Halong Bay: 

Sourse - TheJakartaPost

Sunday, September 9, 2018

#Phuket looks to build ties with Gold Coast sister city

Australia’s Gold Coast city and Phuket plan to sign a letter of intent to establish themselves as sister cities on September 10.

The intent of the agreement is to explore a stronger relationship between the two municipalities and create international business opportunities.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate will travel to Phuket to sign the agreement with his Phuket counterparts.

The mayor is half Thai, originally from Saraburi, and emigrated to Australia at a very young age. He said that Gold Coast and Phuket share similarities in economic success, year-round sunshine and a cosmopolitan lifestyle.

“I want this sister city partnership to work, because I know that Gold Coast and Phuket are a good match. The two cities share a significant beach culture and we could possibly exchange knowledge on lifeguard procedures and training. We will see what Phuket authorities and other business operators will be interested in, this is the first stage,” said the mayor.

He said Phuket has the potential to become a mid-way destination for European travellers to spend a few weeks before flying on to Gold Coast.

He says that for an interim period of one year, the Gold Coast government will send officials to Phuket to explore areas where they can exchange work ideas and knowledge.

“For instance, if Phuket is looking at developing a better waste management policy, or green energy utilisation, we will see how both parties can work together on the initial high-level studies,” he said. 

Gold Coast is a multicultural city and a hub for Australia’s tourism with its geography and economy similar to  Phuket. 


For Gold Coast, international partnerships of this type are a source of economic growth; provide cultural, educational and professional opportunities, and boost international profiles. These relationships open doors to the world and create real outcomes for Gold Coast residents and businesses.

Traditionally, sister city relationships focus on cultural and education exchanges. It is now recognised that these relationships also have the ability to stimulate economic growth, increase tourism and assist in establishing reliable business contacts, which can create long-term benefits to the local communities in both cities.

They also enable communities to exchange ideas, gain an international perspective and increase their understanding of global issues.

Currently, Gold Coast has eight sister cities and one friendship agreement, all of which have helped shape Gold Coast as a city of global significance by fostering successful business and cultural ties. This is through initiatives that include two-way trade missions, hosting inbound delegations, and offering business and student exchanges.

As for the benefit to Phuket, Andrew Park, the Honorary Consul of Thailand for Queensland, Australia, says that the partnership is important at many levels. Apart from generating government-to-government links between the two cities, it also creates direct links at the people-to-people level. 

 “Prince Songkla University Hospitality and Tourism School in Phuket is well established and well regarded as one of the world best hospitality, hotel management and tourism schools while the Griffith University in the Gold Coast has the same high acclaim globally,” Park said.

“There is a possibility of academic exchanges between the two institutions for the benefit of both,” said Park. 

He also said that in terms of the business linkages, the agreement will be a driver for the government of Gold Coast to express an interest in developing stronger partnerships with Phuket at the business level. 

“Next year, Mayor Tate will be taking business delegations across to Phuket and I believe Phuket will be doing the same. The marine sector, with the wealthy high-end yachting industry, is something Phuket does very well and I believe that is something Gold Coast can learn and benefit from.” 

Park said that he is excited to be part of creating this inaugural relationship between the two cities to set a good example for further relationships between cities in the two countries in the future.

Source - TheNation

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Order threatens #Bangkok’s charm

Singapore has asked Unesco to formally recognise its street-hawker culture, which would help the island-state promote it as yet another tourist attraction. In Thailand, it’s a completely different story.

Prodded by the orderliness-obsessed military-led government, Bangkok authorities are determined to transform the city’s reputation for unsurpassable street food – or extinguish that reputation, as critics charge. The mobile noodle vendors and everyone else informally touting goods on the sidewalks have to clear out.

 The Bangkok Metropolitan Administra-tion (BMA) wants street vendors licensed, registered and contained neatly in designated areas well away from busy footpaths. It’s imposing military-style order in such tourist hotspots as Siam Square, Sukhumvit, Yaowarat, Nana, Khaosan and Chatuchak. 

 The push hasn’t gone down well with many Thais, including academics and urban planners, who regard the sheer chaos of crowded street-hawking scenes and especially the clots of food vendors’ smoky, aromatic carts as being among Bangkok’s premier attractions.

The city is being sanitised, the critics complain, while pointing out that foodies from around the world rave about the tasty yet cheap dishes they can slurp up on any Bangkok sidewalk.

“Bangkok is famous as the city of markets, but now many markets are dead,” said British expatriate Philip Cornwel-Smith, author of “Very Thai”, a well-received book exploring what is unique about the Kingdom. 

“Just to treat the markets with eviction after eviction actually does big damage to parts of Bangkok’s identity and its reputation internationally.”

French tourist David Lago, making his third visit to Khaosan Road recently, found it utterly changed. It was cleaner now, he noticed, but “boring”.

“Khaosan has lost that charm of being chaotically filled with street vendors. It’s empty during the daytime,” he said, adding that he’d be back after dark, the only hours the hawkers are allowed to set up.

A network of street vendors founded to push back against the clean-up effort marched on Government House early this week with a handful of demands. Many more attended a pair of public discussions about the ruckus coincidentally organised for the same week.

 One, called “Street Vendor and City: Leaving No One Behind”, took place at Chulalongkorn University.


 “The management of street vending is a complex issue,” Assistant Professor Narumol Nirathron of Thammasat University pointed out. “The BMA alone can’t handle it – it’s a matter for the national agenda. 

“To achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the government needs to handle this issue properly, by integrating the work of the Economic Affairs, Security, Commerce, Tourism and Sports and Culture ministries.”

Narumol and fellow academics from Thammasat, Chulalongkorn, the Thailand Development Research Institute Foundation and Urban and Design Development Centre plan to present an open letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha asking him to reconsider street-vending regulations designed to “return the pavements to the public”.

The government’s ultimate intention is to ban street hawkers in 683 areas of the capital where they’ve long been “temporarily” permitted to do business. As of last month, they’d been shut down in 478 areas, affecting 11,573 vendors in all. 

The BMA is gradually moving in on the remaining 210 areas and most recently has had Khaosan Road in its gun sights.

In their letter to Prayut, the academics note that one reason given for the cleanup was “to liberate Bangkok from a ‘disorderly’, ‘antiquated’, ‘undeveloped’ look. 

“In reality, however, a state of disorder – or order, for that matter – also depends on the management by government agencies, while an antiquated or undeveloped look has nothing to do with street vending. 

“In the US and Europe, known for their advanced development, the governments are allowing more street vendors to operate because the authorities are not able to create enough jobs [for everyone]. Thus, in pursuing the goal to make Thailand modernised and more developed, the government must not leave a number of people behind, as seems to be the case at present.

“Singapore is more advanced,” Narumol said. “It has a long-term policy to make the country clean and green and recently bid for Unesco to recognise its hawker culture as an intangible cultural asset.”

 Assistant Professor Niramon Kulsri-somba, director of the Urban and Design Development Centre, said Bangkok street vending could be sustainably managed and become “a win-win situation”. Niramon, an urban architect, is with her team redeveloping the Phaholyothin Soi 9 (Soi Aree) area with zones for street vendors. “Rather than top-down management, community engagement is the key. We need to get all the stakeholders talking so they can compare their needs and come up with a solution that will satisfy everyone,” she said, while admitting it will take time.

At the second discussion, “Negotiating Bangkok Streets”, held at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Trude Renwick, a PhD candidate in architectural history and theory at the University of California Berkeley, said street-vendor culture was important for a “creative city like Bangkok”.

“Street culture is something that can’t be taken away. It’s an essential part of the urban and rural ecosystems in Thailand,” said Renwick, who in 2011 began making “Observations from the Siam Square night market” on her way to earning her master’s degree.

“Good urban change benefits all citizens and requires complex thought. Bans haven’t produced any positive changes in the past, so I have a hard time believing that it will be any different now.” 

Rangsit University architecture lecturer Parisa Musigakama has been focusing on the Khaosan situation for her PhD.

“Top-down governance by the state is infective and exploitative,” she said. 

“The Khaosan Road Street Vendor Association is very strong, with a powerful leader in Yada Pornpetrumpa, and their negotiations have reached the national level.”
In response to the petition given him by the marching street vendors, Prayut ordered the BMA and Metropolitan Police to establish committees to address issues with the vendors.

Unesco Bangkok director Hanh Bich Duong believes it would be best to consider the matter in terms of sustainable tourism and preserving old communities.

 “Properly planned community-based tourism might be a measure to address this dilemma,” he said. “It’s important to work closely with communities when planning for tourism, to hear their voices and see whether and to what extent they want to open up their neighbourhoods to tourists. 

“Fair-benefit sharing is another important aspect to ensure that local communities do benefit from tourism development, rather than being left out or being at the lower end of the supply chain,” Duong said. 

“In addition, awareness about the importance of safeguarding the heritage, both intangible and tangible, needs to be raised among local communities and the authorities alike to ensure that age-old heritage doesn’t have to give way to modern tourism facilities.”

Source - TheNation

Thursday, September 6, 2018

#Thailand ‘best country for people’, says travel survey

Thais have been voted the best people in the world in an online survey by Conde Nast Traveller magazine, a leading US source of travel features.

Thailand won in the category of Best Country for People in the 2018 annual award.
The award honours “the best that the travel world has to offer”. Other categories include hotels, airlines, ski resorts, islands and architecture.

In addition, Thailand came third in the Best Country category after Italy and Greece .


 Two hotels – the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok and Six Senses on Kho Yao Noi – came fourth and fifth respectively in the category of Best Hotel in Asia and the Indian Subcontinent

Meanwhile Koh Samui island was awarded the ninth spot in the Best Islands in the World category, falling after Greek islands, Maldives, Balearic islands, Hawaii, St Lucia, Bali, Sicily and Mauritius.

Source - TheNation