BANGKOK, 9 May 2013: I am trying to be a new age traveller, smart and mobile, savvy and switched on. I might just qualify for premier status if I believe in miracles.
“Raise your hand if you have more than one mobile device on the table here today”, a whiz kid from Google asked delegates attending the recent PATA Summit. I can count. I raised my hand reckoning I had around five items. My reading glasses are for ever mobile, so is my pen if it is still on the table. Then there is my Iphone, a laptop and a wrist watch, an ancient mobile device that you can strap to your wrist or hang off a chain and dangle it from your waistcoat. That’s a fob watch and I don’t have one.
I thought I played the quiz quite well and the speaker was happy as he made his point. I was hoping he would sit down and call it day, but no he had to labour the point. Considering we all raised our hands and our mobile devices you would have thought the proverbial penny would have dropped. He was preaching to the converted. But he motored on; a speech had to be delivered.
CHIANG RAI, 18 October 2012: I did my homework on TripAdvisor over a late night coffee. Now in its 12th year it commands a monthly audience of around 60 million visits a month and if 10% of them are scribbling opinions on travel I reckon professional travel hacks are in deep trouble.
I am mulling over this threat, as my daughter, a self-confessed TripAdvisor blogger, plans the next day’s sightseeing trip in Chiang Rai.
We had a playful wager on who could deliver the best tour of the day. It was not going my way. She is feeling very confident after I took the family on a trip to Chiang Saen that bombed out and was declared busted by an overwhelming vote of everyone in the car except me. I lamely raised my hand in support of my own effort, but had to admit the dreadful state of all roads leading to the riverside town, in far north Thailand, had doomed my choice from the start.
BANGKOK, 6 October 2012: The bets were on. It was simple enough; who could organise and execute a day tour that would keep everyone smiling and happy?
It got a little more complicated by the location. We are in far-north Chiang Rai and none of us are experts on how to unlock the sightseeing treasures of this province.
Considerably smaller than Chiang Mai, the city and province lives under the shadow of its next door neighbour. Chiang Mai casts a 180 km long shadow north that appears to shroud Chiang Rai almost in obscurity. More than one tourist, who forgot to read the itinerary, thought he was landing at Chiang Mai airport. It took a couple of very confusing days for the truth to dawn. His travel agent had got it right. He was not in the wrong Chiang after all. He couldn’t ask for a refund.
CHIANG RAI, 22 August 2012: This far north town is about to be invaded by a horde of commuter vans and tour buses, 27 August, as more than 1,700 secondary school teachers meet for the their annual conference.
“We are going to see traffic jams,” warned Dusit Island Resort’s general manager, Mana Chanhorm, “Already hotels are filling up and we are expecting a full-house for the week beginning 27 August.”
Visions of Chiang Rai’s narrow streets overrun by fleets of Toyota Commuter vans may stretch the imagination of the town’s residents who take pride in their town’s laidback lifestyle and the province’s Lanna culture.
CHIANG RAI, 25 July 2012: After travelling on Nok Air for the first time, last week, I am not sure what category it fits. Is it a low-cost airline? Well it looks that way until the cabin attendants hand out free Auntie Anne’s snacks in a brown paper bag identified as Nok Khanom (sweets in Thai).
You could vomit in the bag too if you suffer from air sickness along way.
Nok cannot claim light premium status. That would beg the question why on earth would its main shareholder invest create yet another competitor. Thai Airways International’s Thai Smile will officially launch this Monday and it calls itself a light premium airline.
BANGKOK, 12 April 2012: Critics are coming out of the woodwork to lambast the government on its response to yesterday’s tsunami threat.
Travel industry leaders are bemoaning the impact on tourism confidence and playing the doleful tune that thousands of tourists will be too scared to visit Thailand’s west coast beaches.
It’s hog wash. None of these so-called tourism leaders consider the possible consequences if the government had backed off and a tsunami had indeed hit Phuket yesterday evening. There are thousands of named and unnamed graves to illustrate what happens when there is neither a warning or evacuation order.
BANGKOK, 3 April 2012: Cycling home and feeling smug about completing 95 km in the scorching summer heat, I got the shock of my life.
A girl on inline skates almost overtakes me. This is ridiculous, I thought as the super fit lass pulls alongside to say hello. She has another not so athletic mountain biker in tow, carrying their luggage.
Anja Schwarz earned my immediate respect as she glided along at a comfortable 23 kph.
CHIANG RAI, 26 January 2012: When you ask Le Meridien Resort’s general manager Justin Malcolm to profile his hotel, he invariably starts by saying let’s first talk about Chiang Rai.
Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort is the far north town’s only five-star resort and the affable general manager is showing me the landscaped gardens that merge with an infinity pool. From the vantage point of my bar stool the pool melts into river, a blurry placid line of water and beyond in the distance, hazy forested mountains complete the tranquil tapestry.
“Marketing the resort is inherently linked to Chiang Rai,” he explains. “First we introduce a fascinating new destination to customers who are looking for art and culture. Read more
BANGKOK, 17 October – It is all about snapshots, or quick takes in the world of TV media. The camera lens is about the size of those silly postcards we sent to relatives that always ended with the fib; “wish you were here”.
Of course, we didn’t and I suspect that TV news editors, if they had their way, would have us all lolling aimlessly on sofas back home glued to the box twenty-four seven rather than travelling and posting our snapshots on Facebook.
They do warn us every 15 minutes or so; “don’t go away we will be straight back with….”
But occasionally we see the TV media up close on location. They are now loitering around Klong (canal) Rangsit bridge obviously waiting for the sand bag barrier to burst.
BANGKOK, 13 October 2011 – Thailand’s Foreign Ministry has instructed embassies, worldwide, to concentrate on delivering accurate updates on the flood situation after 21 nations posted travel advisories earlier in the week.
They have a battle on their hands. TV channels worldwide present an image of a nation under water. Maps of Thailand are painted red suggesting the entire country is a disaster area. Predictably it triggers the panic button and scribes who pen travel advisories scribble away like there is no tomorrow.
The bulk of advisories are relatively mild with just three (Japan, Spain and the US) suggesting travellers postpone trips. Mild or not they are pressing a panic button that raises doubts about Thailand’s ability to host travellers safely.
Safety should never be in doubt as all of Thailand’s major tourist destinations are flood- free with the exception of Lopburi and Ayutthaya that attract mainly day-trippers from Bangkok. Read more