#Laos – Pakxong – a fine place to chill out

 
People who are lucky enough to spend a few days on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos always want to return because of the pleasant climate – it never gets really hot, either in the dry or wet seasons.
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The Bolaven Plateau, which is often referred to simply as Pakxong, is located in the hills of Champassak province. I feel I know the area pretty well.
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A long time ago I made many visits there when my wife was working for a coffee project in Pakxong. I have never forgotten it and liked this place very much as it was always cool throughout the year, both day and night.
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The town of Pakxong is about 50 kilometres from the provincial capital Pakxe. I once went there in April when it’s usually extremely hot in Laos, especially in the south. 
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I stayed at km 35 and always felt comfortable but as soon as I ventured beyond Pakxong, the temperate spiked and it was really hot.
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At that time of the year, many people can’t sleep because of the hot weather. Residents of large towns such as Vientiane and Pakxe have to use air conditioning to help them sleep.
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But in Pakxong there is no need to use an artificial cooling device and Mother Nature will ensure you remain comfortable. The fresh air that surrounds you throughout the night will keep you refreshed so you don’t wake up feeling exhausted.
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Some Thai visitors have been known to say they don’t need to go to Europe to enjoy a cool climate but can come to Pakxong district instead.
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I don’t know if things are still the same in Pakxong because I haven’t been there for 15 years. But some people who have spent time in this beautiful area recently tell me that it’s as pleasing as ever.
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The Bolaven Plateau runs through Champassak province’s Pakxong district, Saravan province’s Lao-ngam, and Xekong province’s Thataeng district, and boasts a wealth of scenic beauty.
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Some of the most dramatic waterfalls in Champassak are Nheuang, Fan, Phasuam, Nong Luang and Champee Nang Sida.
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There are also three more waterfalls of note in Saravan province, namely Lo, Hang and Xeset, and then there is the Sinouk Resort in Xekong province, which are all very popular with both local and foreign visitors.
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The Bolaven Plateau is set to be developed as the country’s top agri-business and agri-tourism destination thanks to its year round temperate climate and picturesque landscape.
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When visiting Champassak province over the past few years, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has advised officials to seek more investment from domestic and overseas sources so that the coffee industry can be further developed and other crops can be cultivated on the Bolaven Plateau and nearby.
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From Vientiane, tourists can reach Champassak by either road or air transport. And thanks to shared borders with Thailand and Cambodia, there are close tourist links with both those countries.

The local food is another attraction, with a wide variety of dishes on offer that will satisfy all palates. Set a date for a visit soon!

Source – Vientiane Times

 

Thailand’s Ang Thong National Marine Park, the ‘new’ Maya Bay

With Thailand’s Maya Bay in Koh Phi Phi Ley remains closed
indefinitely to allow the tourist-magnet some much-needed time to
recover, it’s time to look for another natural wonder.
 
One of Thailand’s astonishing natural wonders, not as well known as Maya Bay,
is the Ang Thong National Marine Park, located about 40 kilometers north
west of the coast of Koh Samui. Some would argue it’s even more
spectacular and worthy of at least a full day visit. 
 
There are manytours available to the National Park.
 
The Ang Thong National
Marine Park is made up of 42 islands spread over 102 square kilometers. Travelers will find beautiful beaches, limestone cliffs, caves, rock
formations and countless photo opportunities. Enjoy some views from the
air…
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It will take you about an hour to travel there from either the Surat
Thani mainland or from Koh Samui by speedboat. There are slower
ferry-style boat trips as well but you’ll lose a lot of time travelling
there (usually for day trips) and the speedboats can get into much
shallower waters.
 
Tours usually also squeeze in a visit to Koh
Phaluai, the park’s biggest island, where there’s a popular  stilted
restaurant in the island’s fishing village, serving a delicious seafood
lunch.
 
Another popular island worth visiting is Koh Wua Talap,
famed for wildlife spotting and what might just be the most beautiful
viewpoint in the entire park.
 
FUN FACT: Though
the 2000 movie “The Beach,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was filmed in
Koh Phi Phi’s Maya Bay in the Andaman Sea, the book by Alex Garland upon
which the film was based was actually set in Ang Thong in the Gulf of
Thailand.
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Source – The Thaiger
 
 

 

#Vietnam – Rough Guides names Ha Long Bay among world’s 100 best places to visit

 British travel magazine Rough Guides has voted for Ha Long Bay as one of the 100 most beautiful places to visit next year.
 
In the “The Rough Guides to the 100 Best Places on Earth,” the magazine described “the scattering of limestone pinnacles jutting out of the smooth waters of Ha Long Bay”, around four hours east of Hanoi, as an “incredible sight.”
It is the only Vietnamese destination in the list, which covers many historical and cultural sites around the world such as the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Forbidden City in China, Kamniške-Savinja Alps in Slovenia, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania, and the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue in Mongolia.
 
Dropping anchor in the bay to explore small islands and caves is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Rough Guides said, adding that “the best junk boats have private cabins and serve gourmet food and in the early morning you can pull back the curtains to watch the sunlight dancing on the emerald green water.”
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Since its recognition as a UNESCO natural world heritage in 1994 Ha Long Bay has entrenched itself on the global tourism map, receiving rave reviews from travel bloggers and filmmakers. Around 5.2 million foreigners visited the bay last year, up 22 percent from a year earlier. A total of 15.6 million visited the country.
 
In its latest conservation move, the Ha Long Bay management said all tourism services in the bay would limit the use of plastic bags and straws from September 1. Fifteen local firms providing tourist boats, kayaks and high-speed boats will embark on a pilot program, banning the use of plastic products on sightseeing boats, starting August 1.
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The recent improvements in infrastructure have made traveling to and around Ha Long much easier for foreigners. Last December Van Don International Airport, 50 kilometers from Ha Long Bay, opened.
 
An expressway connecting the Hanoi-Hai Phong Expressway with Ha Long, opened to traffic last September, reducing the Hanoi-Ha Long commute by 50 km to 130 km.
 
In addition to the popular kayaking and cruise tours, visitors can book Ha Long Heli Tours, a new helicopter tour, through Fastsky, the country’s first helicopter ride-sharing service offered by ride-hailing firm FastGo.
 
The South China Morning Post recently named Ha Long Bay in its list of 10 most popular Asian attractions. British magazine Woman and Home last May labeled the bay one of the most mentioned global cruise destinations on Instagram.
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Source – VN Express

 

#Laos Saw More Chinese, Less Korean Tourists in Past Six Months

The number of tourists visiting Laos has increased 5 percent in the past six months thanks to a rise in the number of Chinese visitors.
 
More than 2.2 million people visited Laos between January and June, according to Laos’s Tourism Development Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
 
The number of Chinese visitors jumped by 13 percent while that of Vietnamese visitors increased by 11 percent. The number of visitors from Thailand also rose by 1 percent.
 
Vientiane Times quoted an unnamed government official as saying that he believed visitor numbers were up because of the ongoing Visit Laos-China Year campaign.
 
However, the number of South Korean visitors plummeted by 20 percent while that of Japanese visitors sank by 13 percent.
 
The official told Vientiane Times that the decline in arrivals from some countries was due to circumstances beyond the authorities control.
 
“Some people stayed away because they were unsure of the quality of services here. And although Laos has many enticing tourism products there are several inconveniences, such as poor road access to tourist sites,” the official added.
 
Laos attracted more than 4.1 million foreign tourists last year, an 8.2 percent increase from the previous year. Tourism generated revenue of more than USD 755 million in 2018.
 
Meanwhile, it is expected that at least 4.5 million people will visit Laos this year, generating revenue of more than USD 700 million.
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More Chinese tourist expected
 
Officials believe that, out of 4.5 million expected tourists, 1 million would come from China.
 
To achieve such a goal, Laos is currently intensifying its efforts to improve services and create more facilities for visitors.
 
Vang Vieng, one of the most famous tourist destinations in Laos, for instance, has improved the quality of services and made changes to the price of food, accommodation, and the fees charged at tourist attractions.
 
In Luang Prabang, meanwhile, restaurants have added Chinese dishes to their menus and installed signs written in Chinese at popular tourist sites.
As for Luang Namtha Province, the authorities are encouraging officials to supply useful information to Chinese visitors.
 
There have also been some other positive developments that might boost the number of Chinese visitors to Laos.
 
Banque pour le Commerce Exterieur Lao Public (BCEL) has recently teamed up with Chinese payment service provider UnionPay International (UPI) to roll out new QR code payment services in Laos.
 
The move will enable UnionPay app users to make payments by scanning QR codes at local stores in the country.
 
UnionPay currently operates one of the most popular mobile payment apps in China, and this means BCEL’s collaboration with UPI would help Laos’s local businesses to reach out to more Chinese visitors, who make up one of the largest sources of tourists.
 
Separately, Thailand is currently preparing to launch the country’s first bullet train that will run between Bangkok and Beijing, China, with Laos as one of the intermediate stations.
 
In particular, the first route, a Thai-Sino project linking Bangkok, Nong Khai, Laos and a Chinese city Mohan in the far Northeast, is currently under construction and is scheduled to be completed by 2023.
 
Where are the Koreans?
 
Laos has been one of the most popular destinations for South Korean tourists thanks to the reality TV show, “Youth Over Flowers,” which aired in 2014.
 
The number of visitors from South Korea to Laos grew in 2015 and 2016, finally beginning to plateau in 2017. The overall market share of South Korea rose to 4.4 percent in 2017, however, according to a report by Laos’s Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism. The number jumped from 96,085 in 2014 to 170,571 in 2017.
 
However, local tourism experts have repeatedly suggested that such a number is decreasing, but there had been no official number released by the Lao government until now.
 
Confirmation from the tourism ministry that the number of South Korean visitors plummeted by 20 percent in the first six months is therefore highly significant.
 
One Vientiane-based tourism expert cited a lack of promotional efforts as one of the reasons to contribute to the drop in such number.
 
“The TV show that led to the surge came out five years ago. Out of sight, out of mind. No one made any more major Korean TV shows or films, to my knowledge,” the expert told The Laotian Times.
 
As he pointed out, several South Korean broadcasters released similar shows to repeat the success of “Youth Over Flowers,” but none of them was able to attract similar viewer numbers.
 
The expert also noted that not enough has been done to promote and encourage people to return to Laos.
 
According to the latest survey conducted by the tourism ministry, only 7.9 percent of respondents said it was their returning visit to Laos. In contrast, first-time visitors accounted for 75.2 percent.
Time for a Diversification?
 
The Lao government invited 12 representatives from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, China, Japan and South Korea to Bolikhamxay and Khammouane provinces, in a bid to promote other parts of the country.
 
The familiarization trip to the two provinces took place between July 12 and 17 and was designed to publicize some of Laos’ tourist attractions and encourage the tour operators to include some of these locations in their package tours.
 
It marked the Lao government’s latest effort to promote lesser-known tourist sites to foreigners, and this work is expected to continue in the coming years.
Source – The Laotian Times
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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

#Philippines to rein in visitors to Boracay island, strained by tourism

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The Philippines will limit the number of visitors setting foot on its
most treasured island resort each day when it reopens to tourists on
October 26 after a six-month rehabilitation effort, an environment
official said on Wednesday.
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Boracay, located off the northern tip of the central island of Panay,
is famed for its sugary white sands, turquoise waters, lively nightlife
and abundant water sports, which attracted nearly 2 million domestic
and foreign visitors last year.
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But in April, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of the
island, calling it a “cesspool”, because of sewage dumped into the sea
and buildings constructed too close to the shore.
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About a third of the 600 to 700 resorts on Boracay, about 308 km (192
miles) from Manila, the capital, were operating without permits,
authorities found.
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Just 19,000 tourists will be allowed on the island on any given day,
with the number of workers capped at 15,000 daily, the environment
official, Sherwin Rigor, said in a television interview.
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 Only half of the island’s 12,000 existing hotel rooms will be allowed
to open each day, he added, to ensure the number of guests on the tiny
10-sq-km (4-sq-mile) island is below its “carrying capacity” of 55,000.
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Rigor, who is an undersecretary at the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources, added that authorities would ban beachfront parties,
and activities such as eating, smoking and drinking there.
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The closure of Boracay, which earns the Philippines more than a
billion dollars in tourism revenue every year, weighed on gross domestic
product in the second quarter. Growth slowed to a near three-year low
of 6 percent in April-June.
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Source – TheJakartaPost
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https://12go.asia/?z=581915

 

#Bangkok – Khaosan vendors to ‘disobey’ orders from Monday

Khaosan Road vendors will resort to “civil
disobedience” from Monday if Bangkok authorities do not allow them to
sell their wares during daylight hours, a leader of the Khaosan Road
Street Vendors Association said.

“We will defy the order and set our stalls up at the usual time,” Yada Pornpetrumpa said. 

The vendors are also planning to march to the capital’s City Hall at
around 11.30am on Monday to seek permission to sell their wares during
the day.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) banned street vendors from
trading during daytime since August 1. Though the BMA is coming up with
a new regulation to allow trading from 4pm to midnight, vendors at
present can only conduct their business from 6pm. 
https://12go.asia/?z=581915

 This time limit has meant a huge drop in income for daytime traders,
largely because they have to hand their stalls over at 8pm to vendors
who sell at night, Yada explained. 


“It’s like we set our stalls up for nothing. Now, we [daytime vendors] make only Bt500 or Bt1,000 daily,” she added. 

According to the 1992 Public Cleanliness and Orderliness Act, vending on
the street is illegal. However, since Khaosan Road is known the world
over for its vibrant street market, the City Hall decided to draft a
municipal order allowing vendors to take over the Khaosan Road footpaths
from 4pm to midnight. 

Khaosan vendors, however, said this order would cripple vendors who make
a living by selling trinkets to backpackers and Chinese tourists during
the daytime. 
Source – TheNation

 

The Sevenseas (4 Star) Resort, Koh Kradan, Trang Thailand

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The Sevenseas Resort located on the tranquil island of Koh Kradan, The Seven Seas Resort Koh Kradan offers luxurious beachfront accommodation. Free WiFi is available in public areas. Guests can enjoy relaxing treatments at a spa.

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The Seven Seas Resort is an 80-minute long tail boat ride from Pak Meng Pier located at Trang on the mainland. The Pier is about 1-hour drive from #Trang Airport.

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Rooms at The Seven Seas Resort Koh Kradan contain contemporary designs that balance between modern comforts and exotic island luxury. Each air-conditioned room features finely polished floors, dark wood furnishings, open-air bathroom and rain shower.

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Guests can enjoy a cocktail by the resort’s swimming pool while relaxing on a lounger on the wooden deck. 

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Enjoy a soothing massage and rejuvenating body scrub at The Seven Seas Spa, which features open air treatment rooms amid the resort’s gardens.

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The open-air Barnacles Bar is the perfect place to relax during the day or night time for coffee, juice or a cocktail. 

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The Seven Seas Restaurant serves traditional Thai, seafood and innovative international cuisines all day where guests can dine either by the pool or on the beach.

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The Emerald Cove, Koh Chang, Thailand

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Boasting an outdoor pool with stunning views of the ocean, Emerald Cove Koh Chang is located just a few steps away from the private beach. Free WiFi, a spa and a fitness center are also on offer here.

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All rooms are air conditioned and equipped with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and a refrigerator. Guests can grab a drink from the minibar and sit out on the furnished balcony. The private bathroom comes with bathrobes, a bathtub and free toiletries.

Emerald Cove 4

An airport shuttle, a shuttle service and soothing massages can be arranged upon request at the 24-hour front desk. Other facilities offered at Koh Chang Emerald Cove include a tour desk, luggage storage and a children’s playground. The property also offers free parking.

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Guests can enjoy dining at the on-site restaurants or have evening drinks at the bar. Room service is also available.

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The hotel is 5.6 km from Kai Bae Beach, 8.5 km from Koh Chang National Park and 16 km from White Sand Beach.

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Klong Prao Beach is a great choice for travelers interested in beach walks, tranquility and beaches.

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This property is also rated for the best value in Ko Chang! Guests are getting more for their money when compared to other properties in this city.

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Pearl Farm Beach (5 Star) Resort, Davao Philippines

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Situated along the shores amidst lush greenery, Pearl Farm Beach Resort offers tranquil and comfortable accommodation with free WiFi access in the public areas. It features an outdoor infinity pool, a 24-hour front desk and business facilities on site.

Pearl Farm Beach 2

Tastefully furnished, air-conditioned house comes equipped with a wardrobe, minibar, a personal safe and a flat-screen TV with cable channels. Fitted with a bathtub, the en suite bathroom also includes shower facility, hairdryer, bathrobes and free toiletries.

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At Pearl Farm Beach Resort, guests may indulge in a pampering massage at the spa or enjoy activities such as canoeing and beach volleyball. Airport transfers and shuttle services are available, while laundry services and sightseeing tours can be arranged.

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Housing both buffet and a la carte restaurant, the staff can assist to prepare special diet meals upon request. A wide variety of after-meal drinks can also be enjoyed at the bar.

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The property is a 1-hour boat ride followed by a 30-minute drive to Davao Airport.

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This property is also rated for the best value in Samal! Guests are getting more for their money when compared to other properties in this city.

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