Thailand’s Phu Kradueng National Park to close until September 30

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Phu Kradueng National Park

Chief of Phu Kradueng National Park, Sombat Phimprasit says that the park will be closed from now until September 30. The park is in north-east Thailand, near Loei and just south of the Laos border.

The park chief says the annual closure, during Thailand’s rainy season, is because trekking and trailing will be too tough and risky due to the difficult terrain. He said the break also allows nature to regenerate the flora and fauna.

The park will also take the opportunity to fix all the facilities in the camping ground and its accommodation in readiness for the next tourist season. Tourists won’t be admitted into the park or allowed to stay overnight.

But tourists and visitors will still be allowed to visit Sri Than Centre and Tad Hong Waterfall at the 123 Wildlife Conservation Centre in Nanoi at the foot of Phu Kradeung.

For those who wish to trek and trail…

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Thai bay made famous by The Beach shut till 2021

Thai Bay

THE closure of the glittering Thai bay made famous by the movie The Beach has been extended for another two years to allow a full recovery of its corals and wildlife, an official said on Thursday, drawing a sharp rebuke from the tourism industry.

Maya Bay, ringed by cliffs on Ko Phi Phi Ley island and surrounded by azure waters, was made famous when it featured in the 2000 film starring Leonardo Dicaprio.

It was shut last June by Thai authorities due to worries the white-sand paradise was suffering from the pressure of thousands of day-trippers arriving by boat.

Authorities had initially said the beach – a massive draw for Thailand’s more than 38 million tourists – was going to be closed for four months, but the re-opening was repeatedly postponed.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, adviser to the Department of National Parks, on Thursday said the ban on visitors will be extended until mid-2021.

“The resolution of the Department of Parks yesterday [May 8] is to extend the closure of Maya Bay for another two years to allow its ecology to fully recover,” he said.

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After it is reopened, measures such as limiting the number of daily visitors and banning boats from parking within the bay’s waters will be enacted, Thon said.

Before Maya Bay’s closure, up to 5,000 tourists visited daily, causing trees and smaller vegetation to be uprooted, creeping soil erosion, and severe damage to the corals in the bay.

A majority of the visitors were ferried there from tourist hotspot Krabi province by local longtail boatmen or tour operators who touted the movie-famous bay as a key attraction for day trips.

“Maya Bay is the heart of our tourism,” said Wattana Rerngsamut, chairman of Krabi Provincial Tourism Association which represents some 200 tourism and hotel operators.

Calling the two-year extension “unfair”, Wattana said the Department of National Parks should conduct public hearings so they can find “common ground . . . so that local people can earn a living”.

Chinese visitors, making up a quarter of Thailand’s tourists, have “plunged 50 per cent [in Krabi]”, he added.

Thailand experienced a three-month slowdown in tourism last year, most noticeably since July when a ferry sank and killed 47 Chinese visitors off nearby Phuket.

Since the tragedy, the government has rolled out inducements aimed at regaining trust and making travel easier – including exempting Chinese visitors from paying a visa-on-arrival fee.

Less than a year after its closure, blacktip reef sharks have been sighted swimming in Maya Bay, with conservationists saying their return signals signs of a recovery to the ecology.

Source – ThePhnomPenhPost

#Indonesia – 8 reasons to visit Lombok and the Gili Islands

If you’re looking for a laid-back escape with an adventure or two, it
would be hard to beat Lombok and the Gili Islands. You can choose to
relax on endless white sand beaches, dive remote coral reefs or hike to
see panoramic views.
 
Devastated by the series of earthquakes in 2018, these destinations
are bouncing back and hungry for tourists. So pack your bags this coming
dry season and go explore paradise.
 
1. Hike Mount Rinjani National Park
 
Lombok’s Mount Rinjani National Park is unbeatable for spectacular
views and challenging trails. While most of the hiking trails on Mt.
Rinjani were damaged in the 2018 earthquakes, one trail has reopened.
 
Located in Aik Berik village, the trail is lesser known among the
mountain’s more popular trails, but offers a similar experience for
adventurous travelers in search of epic views.
2. Hop around Gili Islands
 
For a relaxing break from daily life, consider going island-hopping
around the stunning Gili Islands. These islands are known for scuba diving cruises and offers a chance to truly get away from it all.
 
If you can bear to tear yourself away from the white sand beaches and
turquoise ocean vistas, you’ll find vibrant coral reefs teeming with
life under the waters.
 
The Shark Point dive site offers a chance to dive with sharks and
manta rays, while Deep Turbo offers overhangs and underwater caves for
experienced divers to explore. You might even see a whale shark or two.
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3. Experience Bangkang bat cave
 
A trip to Goa Bangkang will take your breath away with stalactites
and bursts of sunlight through the cave’s ceiling. Tucked underground on
Lombok, it is a cave like no other.
 
Descending the stairs into Bangkang, your senses will be struck by
the sound and smell of thousands of bats. If you stay in the area until
sunset, you can watch the bats exit the cave, covering the sky as they
begin their nightly hunt for food.
 
4. Swim with sea turtles
 
If you’re a fan of sea turtles (who isn’t?), be sure to check out the sea turtle conservation initiatives at the Gili Islands.
 
Green sea turtles, which are classified as endangered, are
well cared for at Gili Meno, thanks to Bolong, the local man who set up
the Gili Meno Turtle Sanctuary. The sanctuary saves turtle eggs from
predators to help release the precious hatchlings into the sea.
The sanctuary is fascinating, and your visit will support turtle
conservation, as it depends entirely on donations from visitors.
 
You can swim with sea turtles at various spots around the Gili
Islands. Gili Air is especially known for green sea turtles at Han Rock.
 
5. Slow down, enjoy the silence
 
No motorized vehicles are allowed on Gili Trawangan, meaning you can
escape the noise of the neighboring destinations and rejuvenate in peace
and quiet.
 
The best way to explore the charms of Gili Trawangan is by foot or on
a bicycle. Stop off at beach bars, do some yoga, or just walk the
endless sands to reconnect with yourself, one day at a time.
 
6. Enjoy epic views from Gili Trawangan
 
There’s only one lookout point on the Gili Islands, at the top of
Gili Trawangan. Head off on a hike at sunrise, and you’ll start your day
off right.
 
At the peak is a shrine and Muslim burial site, plus the remains of a
World War II Japanese bunker to investigate, though the view is the
real highlight.
 
Resting at the top, you can look across the ocean to Mt. Rinjani and
capture panoramic views of the other Gili Islands, plus Lombok and Bali.
 
7. Learn to dive at Sekotong
 
If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving but were too nervous to
take the plunge, Sekotong in Lombok is a great place to start. The
beautiful reefs there offer easy, sheltered dives, perfect for
beginners.
 
It will be well worth the effort, as you’re likely to spot sea turtles. You can even try spotting the tiny pygmy seahorses.
 
8. Watch the sunset at Semeti Beach
 
Another Lombok highlight are the rock formations on Semeti Beach,
which are not to be missed. These striking pyramid-shaped rocks jut
impressively out of the ocean, providing the perfect backdrop to a
sunset.
 
Semeti Beach is an ideal place to end a day of island-hopping, to see
the best view of the sun setting that you’re ever likely to see.
 
The author is a diver and writer for LiveAboard.com
Source – TheJakartaPost
 

 

#Vietnam – Son Doong Cave an incredible find

The Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh Province is among the most incredible places in the world recently found, The Telegraph says.

 
The cave, part of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam, is the world’s largest, but it did not feature on Vietnam’s tourism map until it was opened for tourists in 2013.
 
The Telegraph has included the once-hidden cave on the list of 11 newly-discovered places that are worth an amazing exploration journey.
 
Son Doong opened to tourists in 2013, four years after members of the British Cave Research Association concluded their initial exploration and declared it the world’s largest cave.
 
The five kilometer-long system, which is 150 meters high and 200 meters wide, contains at least 150 individual caves, a dense subterranean jungle and several underground rivers.
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 Due to limited space, registration for Son Doong tours must be made well in advance. According to Oxalis, now the only company licensed to bring tourists to the cave, only 300 spaces are available for 2019 tours.
 
A four-day expedition costs $3,000, and there are bus routes running from Hanoi to Dong Hoi, the capital town of Quang Binh, and then to the park.
 
The Quang Binh government recently raised the limit for number of tourists allowed to visit the cave from 640 to 900 a year.
 
Other incredible places that are recent finds include the Pico da Neblina mountain in Brazil, Xianren Bridge in China, Cape Melville in Australia, Machu Picchu citadel in Peru and Mount Mabu in Mozambique.
 
Last month, the U.K.-based travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet, named Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh among the best places to visit in 2019.
 
The New York Times has named it among the world’s top eight travel destinations, while the National Geographic has called it a “natural wonder.”
 
 Source – VN Express
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#Cambodia – Kratie to become a priority tourist destination

A beach in the Mekong River in Kratie province

The province of Kratie, in the country’s east, is poised to become a priority tourist destination and a national heritage site.Tourism Minister Thong Khon on Monday unveiled plans to turn the province’s capital into a “prime tourism destination” and a “heritage city”.

Prime destinations are important attractions but are not as crucial to the tourism sector as the country’s main tourist draws – the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap and the coastal areas.

 

Minister Khon said the decision to turn Kratie into a priority destination and a heritage site was based on the city’s many tourist attractions, particularly the dolphins that can be spotted in the Mekong River.“If there are dolphins in the Mekong River, there are tourists; however, no dolphins, no tourists,” Mr Khon said.

Other noteworthy products and sites in the province with great tourism potential include the Koh Trong pomelo, colonial buildings, stunning river beaches, and a slew of eco-tourism sites, the minister said.

He reminded the city’s authorities of their responsibility to boost the quality of these products and sites to meet and exceed tourists’ expectations.

“We must continue improving the quality of services and products in the province and create new tourism products,” he said. “We must work hard to develop Kratie province into a prime destination and a heritage site, organise new events on the beach and in the river, keep the city and the province clean, improve hygiene in public toilets, and protect the environment,” Mr Khon said.

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“Tourism officials must also strive to improve tourist boats so that they offer a quality service, and drivers must wear proper uniforms,” he added.Mr Khon told Kratie’s provincial tourism department to focus on revamping infrastructure like tourist booths, parking areas, and public toilets while improving services and products at stores, tourist boats, restaurants, and food courts.

Chuk Chumnor, spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism, told Khmer Times that the government also wants to turn Battambang and Kampot into heritage sites. He said the ministry is working with Unesco to register these cities as national heritage sites first, and world heritage sites at a later stage.

“We are also working with Unesco to register Kratie city as a heritage site, together with Battambang and Kampot. These three cities boast beautiful French buildings,” Mr Chumnor said.

“We are committed to strengthening the quality of tourism services and products, social order and security as well as improving eco-tourism sites in the province,” Mr Chumnor said.

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Thoun Sinan, chairman of the Cambodian chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said the priority destination scheme is a strategy that aims to increase opportunities for socioeconomic development through tourism investment and development.

“To develop these priority destinations, the Ministry of Tourism, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and Unesco, has studied and produced the necessary documentation to register these cities as national heritage cities and Unesco world heritage sites.

“Battambang, Kampot, and Kratie could become world heritage sites, which will draw public attention to them and help develop them in a sustainable manner while preserving their urban and natural heritage,” Mr Sinan said.

Last year, Kratie province welcomed about 349,000 visitors, a 15.2 percent year-on-year increase. 25,990 of them were foreigners, mostly French nationals, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

 
Source – Khmer Times

 

#Cambodia – Siem Reap welcomes plans for aquarium, sanctuary

Siem Reap will be home to a $70-million aquarium and wildlife sanctuary project that seeks to become a new tourist draw for the province.
 
Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium, a joint venture of Cambodian, Japanese and US investors, announced the project on Monday during a meeting with Siem Reap’s governor Tea Seiha.
 
Roger Reynolds, member of the board of directors at Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium, said the project will comprise freshwater and saltwater fish displays as well as a wildlife sanctuary.
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The project will be located on 100 hectares on land in Sout Nikom district.
 
“The project will provide employment for many local people,” Mr Reynolds said.
 
“It is divided into three phases. Phase 1 will use $20 million. Construction of this phase will start in March and will be operational by the end of 2020.
 
“Besides helping to develop the national economy, the project will educate local and international visitors about the environment and the conservation of natural resources by introducing guests to rare aquatic species so that they can see and understand the natural resources of the country,” Mr Reynolds said.
 
Mr Seiha said Siem Reap welcomes the project.
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“The company must now cooperate with relevant departments and authorities to move forward. It must review the location of the project to avoid delays in construction in the future and it must ensure it adheres to the law.”
 

 

Phu Yen, #Vietnam’s land of the rising sun

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 The easternmost province is a top choice for adventures and to enjoy the beauty of nature including some out-of-the-world landscapes.Phu Yen, located on the south central coast, is the first point on the Vietnamese mainland to welcome the sun every morning.

It has a diverse topography consisting of mountains, rivers, lagoons, bays, and islands and a myriad of beautiful natural sights for visitors to explore.

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Phu Yen’s sunny season is from January to around August, and is perfect for sightseeing. There are also lots of local festivals during these months, so remember to check their dates if you want to see them.But April and May can be quite hot, so visitors who choose to go during this period should be mindful and take sun-protection gear and water.

From May until the end of July is the peak domestic tourist season, and during this period Phu Yen can get pretty crowded. It might not be an ideal time for those who prefer a quiet and relaxing holiday.

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Dai Lanh Cape, around 35km from Tuy Hoa, the capital city of Phu Yen, is the first place in the country where the sun rises. The best spots to catch the sunrise from are up the lighthouse or on Mon Beach, both spectacular places.Visitors can spend the night at Mui Dien lighthouse, and, when the time comes, take in the view of the bay and the ocean wide open right before their eyes. The feeling when standing on the top, with the wind carrying the smell of the ocean and caressing your skin and hair, and watching the spectacular scene unfold is indescribable.

You need to call up the lighthouse and make arrangements the day before. Tickets cost around VND10,000 ($0.43)

Camping on Mon Beach for the night and waiting for the sunrise can be an unforgettable experience. The beach is located behind Dai Lanh Lighthouse.

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Vung Ro spreads over an area of 16.4 square kilometers, with beautiful beaches and the ocean on one side and forested mountains like Deo Ca and Hon Ba, and the highest peak, Da Bia (Tombstone Mountain), on the other.It is situated in the commune of Hoa Xuan Nam, Dong Hoa District, at the edge of Ca Pass. The drive, whether from the south or north, is extremely scenic. The coastal road offers a magnificent, unbroken view of the bay’s blue waters, fishing villages, the craggy pass, the green mountains, and the white sandy beaches.

There are hundreds of floating homes, fish farms and wooden fishing boats in the main bay. From here, visitors can take a boat to visit seafood farms, try to be a fisherman for a day and learn how locals catch lobsters or go catching fish or squid.

The seafood at the floating restaurants here are obviously as fresh as it possibly can be as it goes straight to the kitchen from the floating farms around. Some beers while floating on the blue lagoon, and this becomes an experience one just should not miss.

There are also other recreation options such as jet-skiing, snorkeling and visiting historical relics for visitors.

 Vung Ro Bay has 12  beautiful, pristine beaches such as Lach, Mu U, Chua, Chan Trau which are perfect for a refreshing dip in the cool, clear water or just unwinding in a tranquil, quiet place on the white sand.

 

#Thailand’s most important airports are going smoke-free

Goodbye smoking lounges
Smoking is no longer allowed inside the passenger buildings at six of Thailand’s main airports.

As of Sun, Feb 3, Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hat Yai and Mae Fah Luang airports, all operated by Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), have been declared no-smoking zones with fines of up to B5,000 (around US$160) for any violators.

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The move is in accordance with the 2017 Tobacco Control Act and a
2018 Public Health Ministry announcement requiring all offices of
government agencies and state enterprises, which includes airports, to
assign no-smoking areas.
According to Bangkok Post, the AoT has instructed staff at the six airports to arrange smoking areas outside the passenger buildings
Passenger
traffic at Bangkok’s two airports, Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi, both
affected by the change, exceeded 100 million in 2018.
Source – Thaiger

 

#Cambodia – Koh Paen residents aim to keep bamboo bridge tradition alive

Each year, Koh Paen residents built a seasonal, kilometre-long bamboo bridge for cars and pedestrians to cross the Mekong when the water levels were too low for a ferry.
Connecting the island of Koh Paen to Kampong Cham city in Kampong Cham province is a giant 779m concrete bridge, opened in March last year, able to carry loads of 20 to 30 tonnes across the Mekong river.Is it functional? Perhaps. Does it have any charm? Absolutely not.

But 2km south down the Mekong used to sit another bridge fulfilling a similar function, less robust and practical, but exuding an antiquated charm by anyone’s estimation.

Each year, for decades, the island residents of Koh Paen built a seasonal, kilometre-long (1,000m) bamboo bridge for cars and pedestrians to cross the Mekong when the water levels were too low for a ferry. And each year, when the rains swelled the river, the elements would tear it down again.

For local residents, the bridge was a backdrop to daily life since they can remember – only disrupted between 1973 and 1986 with the civil war and emergence of the Khmer Rouge – though the specific history of the bridge remains hard to pinpoint.

Prior to 1973, the bridge was owned collectively by a company established by 14 villagers from the island, according to 74-year-old Nai Seang, speaking to The Post back in 2017. She joined the company in 1964, purchasing two shares for 7,000 riel (approximately $1,500 after adjusting for inflation).

Back then, the bridge was only a foot and bicycle bridge built from locally sourced bamboo, with a 1 riel toll for pedestrians, or 2 riel for a bike (equivalent to $0.19 and $0.37 today, respectively). As the youngest in the company when she joined at the age of 22, she was the sole surviving member.

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The bamboo bridge also serves as a major tourist attraction for both local and international visitors.
 “The knowledge would be passed down from one generation of builders to the next,” she said. While Seang says she never asked the older members of the company about the bridge’s history, she remembers it when she was an infant, which indicates that it dates back to at least the 1940s.

That the bridge has become a tourist attraction was a strange curiosity for Seang. “I did not know the bridge has become such a tourist attraction. I was very young when I bought my shares, and to me it was just a thing that helps people cross the river, and a business,” she says.

But back in March last year, as the concrete monolith neared completion, for the first time in decades the residents of Koh Paen decided against building their bridge as a river crossing for vehicles.

Yung Oun, the owner of the old bamboo bridge, told The Post that it served as a major tourist attraction in the province, for both local and international visitors, so the loss of the bamboo bridge signalled a loss of money for the area too.

To avoid this, last year enterprising locals decided to keep the tradition alive on a smaller scale by building a tourist friendly, pedestrian only bridge as a replacement.

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 “Last year, our new bridge was only 700 metres. This year, we will construct it up to 800 metres,” said 60-year-old Bun Dara, a former Institute of Technology of Cambodia engineer and owner of the new bamboo bridge.

The bridge, built using more than 20,000 bamboo sticks, was officially opened on December 1. It is open from dawn to dusk, including weekends and holidays.

“On a normal day, I see about 30 to 50 people walking across the bridge,” said Dara.

To cross the bridge, pedestrians cost 2,000 riel, a motorbike costs 5,000 riel, a vehicle or tuk-tuk costs 10,000 riel and a larger vehicle costs 20,000 riel.

Source – PhnomPenhPost

 

 

#Cambodia – Gov’t warns tourists over use of fake visa websites

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Wednesday urged tourists to avoid websites offering e-visas for Cambodia after receiving fresh reports of tourists being ripped off and losing their money.
The ministry warned prospective visitors to only use its official website as there is no legal framework in place to get back any money that is lost.
The call comes after the ministry found bogus websites – including cambodiaimmigration.org, which charged one unsuspecting tourist $300 – falsely claiming to be able to obtain e-visas for visitors to the Kingdom.
One British national complained to the Cambodian Embassy in London about the excessive cost of an e-visa after they were charged $90 by one such website, which is far in excess of the ministry’s own pricing.According to the ministry’s official website, an application for an e-visa for tourists should be made at evisa.gov.kh. An e-visa is valid for three…

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