MISSING ASEAN – PART 2:
THAILAND, LAOS, MYANMAR,
TOGETHER TOWARDS A NEXT GENERATION OF TRAVEL
Association of South East Asian Nations Tourism Authority (ASEANTA), formed by Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) comprises of 10-member countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.
A successful role model in regional unity, ASEANTA is committed to working towards tourism enhancement and prosperity to the regional population through unity and employing best practice methodology transforming a crisis situation into opportunity and in achieving set goals.
During the 1997 Currency Crisis in most of the ASEAN countries that nearly brought these nations at the brink of economic meltdown, united efforts of ASEANTA had the Crisis Turn Into Opportunity making the region a value-for-money tourism destination, giving more spending power to tourists loaded with stronger Dollar, which resulted a boost in Visitors Economy’. The joint campaign by ASEAN nations made a marked impact on the future of tourism and saw a steady rise in tourism growth each passing year.
ASEAN became a successful brand, offering world class resorts and tourism products. United, ASEANTA – with its united efforts in marketing campaign formulated quick recovery strategy for member nations to emerge out of the fear of economic meltdown due to global financial contagion, slowdown in visitors arrival after the SAARS, aftermath of tsunami, Bali bombing and other adverse factors.
Through the thick and thin of time, I am humbled to have been working with ASEANTA, since my hey-days, in the team of hand-picked professional international travel media, with my contributions in the official annual forums. Friends and partners also included some gurus working in South Asian countries and I had suggested a formation of SAARCTA (South Asia Association of Regional Cooperation Tourism Authority) under SAARC. While the idea had clicked, unfortunately this did not happen due to political rift among a few nations and lack of support from stakeholders.
I humbly feel contended that my contributions got acknowledged with the prestigious ASEANTA Award for Excellence (for two consecutive years: ATF 1999 Singapore and ATF 2000 Thailand). These awards are independently judged by Ministers of the 10 member ASEAN countries.
Combined – the 10 countries offers travel experiences that comes in a package including luxury and leisure tourism, wellness and medical, soft adventure, adrenaline, refreshing trails along tropical and rain forests and rich diversity of flower and fauna; river cruising and liquid treks abound sea-mountains, active volcano mountains; waterfalls and sublime beaches, stunning architecture and some of the astounding multi-racial cultures in the pockets of tribal villages and depicted in stunning modern and ancient architecture, art culture, and traditional music including music from around the world. And perhaps the best treat in the region you can give to yourself in region is culinary flavors of ASEAN countries.
Pre-COVID 19, the regional tourism is led by Thailand. The primary key factor being:
*Successful marketing campaign making Thailand a competitive destination of the region, not only at key markets but also participating in travel events at emerging markets, through Road Shows; Loyalty with a dedicated team of international media; Inviting international tour operators on FAM Trips (taking on-board cooperation of National Flag Carrier and stake holders).
*Explore New Tourism Avenues including MICE Tourism. In the recent years, inspiring initiatives and aggressive marketing campaigning by TCEB and TICCA has brought Thailand in the limelight of global MICE destination.*Formulating policies on Diversified TourismSecondary factors includes:
*Accessibility with incentive to international flight companies including Low-Cost-Carrier (LCC); *Strict adherence to creation of environmental-friendly infrastructure;
*Maintenance of unsullied beaches and controlling mass tourism into National Parks on land and Sea to preserve forests and fragile vertical gardens and caves;
*Promotion of historic and culture tourism, a vigilance over spa culture; pre-determined festival dates, respect for rich traditions and tribal culture; competitive shopping and gourmet.
THAILAND – ASEAN’S MUCH-LOVED DESTINATION
Bangkok is the main international arrival point and despite its growing population and pollution in center of the capital, Bangkokians can be very disciplined in their civic ways – no littering, safe driving, consideration to pedestrians and tourist friendly abodes, eateries and innovative shopping enters like Paragon and Icon Siam, when you can spend the whole day shopping till you drop at one of the Mobile companies service center over a cold treat of Choco-coffee buying a sim or a latest product.
For many, Bangkok serve as a transit point with a choice of accommodation from world brand hotels to guest houses and art hotels like Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, Royal Orchid Sheraton (recently renovated), Centara Grand or a home like Ariyasomville (Sukhumvit-1).
Shopping in Bangkok
From here tourists proceed to the South (Phuket, Krabi, Pha Nga, Satun, Koh Samui) to experience: Life is a Beach and/ or the North to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai via Kanchanaburi (Waterfall district of Thailand).
You can head to new destinations in the direction to the east like Koh Kood: already a popular island destination which boasts one of Thailand’s best 6-Star Resorts: Soneva Kiri Wilderness Resort Koh Kood. Te kitchen dishes out traditional and international variety to a gourmand’s delight. The Paradise Beach Resort, Jungle Resort and Mark’s House (Bed & Breakfast) are some other places to bed down.
Koh Samet Island, Rayong is a getaway to the hideaway: Samed Villa Resort.
The South offers some of the most stunning land and sea scape for an unforgettable beach holiday with plenty of activities like water sport, jungle trips, adrenaline indulgence including parasailing, diving, snorkeling, jungle biking. These dream places are lined with an amazing variety of basic to life style Resorts and eateries to suit your budget. In Phuket boarding starts from Baht 500/- per room per night to Baht 20,000+ at some high-end resorts like Beyond Kata Beach Resort (Kata Group), The Vijitt Phuket, Amari Phuket, Atsumi Wellness Resort – to name a few.
From Phuket there are Ao Nang Princes Cruise boats to Krabi (The L Resort, Aonang; Amari Vogue at Tub Kaek Beach) and Phi Phi Island (Viking Nature Resort).
Speed boats from Phuket to Koha Yao Island (about 40 minutes) is an escape to the best kept secret of the South. Home stay at the Fisherman’s Village at Leam Lam Muslim Village, Koh Yao Yai (FB: dang.phuketguide) and luxury at Saengsuree Villas. Nearby, Laem Had Beach is one of the most photogenic beaches in Thailand. There is, as at the time of my visit, no police and traffic is minimal.
From Krabi, you can continue to Koh Samui about four hours by road and 1-1/2 hour by Sea Tran ferry. The Authority TAT) is working together with local stakeholders and tourists on Ko Samui to eliminate the use of single-use plastics and encourage all to reduce waste, reuse and recycle to help protect the island’s ecosystem. Littering is absolutely not tolerated and the responsible concerns make sure there is pardon when the tourist litter. The tourist will be simply told off and to leave.
The Villa Beige Paradise Beach Resort, Amari Samui among the recommended abode on sublime beach. Some of the rewarding side trips from the main island to Ang Thon National Park (High Sea Tours), Koh Pha Ngan (the Full Moon Party island) and koh Nang Yuan – once a paradise for snorkelers, recently the coral gardens were destroyed due to over tourism. Farther down South, Satun is access by road via Krabi (250 kms, about 3-1/2 hours) – an out of this world destination for cave exploration.
Recently discovered, the system of caves within the Satun Geopark abound rainforest dates back to some 500 million years. Still a secret to tourists, a part of the caves is accessible kayaking via waterway. (www.salalahgroup.com/).
Traveling the North, you can either fly LCC from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or by train. Most tourists take the Road trip to Chiang-Mai via a photo-stop at Nakhon Pathom – the site of the tallest Buddhist Stupa in Thailand and proceed to Kanchanaburi for overnight. Not to miss the many waterfalls including the Erawan National Park and the River Kwai Festival (early 1st week November) and a journey on the “Death Railway” dedicated in the memory of POW during the WWII.
Some visitors take the night coach direct to Chiang Mai. Famed for the Night Market, gourmet coffee and Thai Tea cafes and healing centers (Ban Sabai Spa Village); Chiang Mai boasts the Night Safari and the Zoo including rehab center for animals that need caring hands. Farther up North via the Golden Triangle (at the border of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar), Chiang Rai offers soft adventure taking on the highland trails to meet the Hill-Tribes including Akha, Karen Padaung (long-Neck from Myanmar), Lahu and Lisu. Astounding architecture influenced from the neighboring Myanmar and Laos, Temples are among the focal attraction – not to miss the Wat Rong Seur Ten (White Temple), Ban Dam Museum, Doi Tung Royal Villa Garden. The Legend Chiang Rai is a traditional luxury abode by the Mae kok River.
LAOS – ASEAN’S UNNOTICED DESTINATIONLaos tourism products lack the attractions of its neighboring countries and limited to some of the heritage towns like Luang Prabang and cultural festivals, such as Boun Kinchieng (Hmong new year), Elephant Festival, Lao New Year (Water Festival), Rocket Festival and Boun PhaThat Luang Festival. Pre-COVID-19, most travelers poured in from neighboring Thailand and Laos recorded 2nd highest arrival from China.
MYANMAR – ASEAN’s Troubled Member-Country
With an ongoing trend of Responsible Tourism, tourists are also traveling to the destinations that has adopted the Best Practice in Responsible Tourism – and not just to the extent of Lip-Service. Myanmar is one destination in ASEAN where responsible tourists prefer not to visit the country for its policy on terror imposed on Rohingya people and of their displacement.
Content / Photos (except for self photos): Saifuddin IsmailjiFounder: e-Travelers Club travel update
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