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New Songkran ‘replacement’ holiday added on July 27

The Thaiger

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New Songkran ‘replacement’ holiday added on July 27 | The Thaiger

The Thai government has declared July 27 the first of, what will probably be, substitute Songkran holidays. This year’s Songkran holiday was postponed as the April 13 Thai New Year holiday, and the days around it, were right in the middle of Thailand’s outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent ‘lockdowns’.

Songkran celebrates the start of Thailand’s wet season. The first replacement holiday falls right in the middle of the country’s wet season.

Narumon Pinyosinwat, speaking for the Thai government, says the decision was made today. But despite the ‘substitution’ date being announced, – it falls on a Monday, making it a long weekend – there was no talk of water fights and the usual celebrations associated with the annual Songkran. With the emergency decree also extended until the end of July (it was officially sanctioned today), there will likely be a ban in place at the time on “large gatherings”. There is no mention of how the remaining 2 days of the postponed Songkran break will be distributed at this stage.

There is also another public holiday on July 28, which is His Majesty the King’s birthday, so the long weekend will now become an EXTRA long weekend. Traditionally Songkran sees an exodus from the main cities as Thais head home for the annual holiday. The four day long weekend (and you can be assured that many Thais will also take off the Friday before as well), will give Thailand an extended break to celebrate the Thai New Year.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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Thailand

Social distancing for Songkran, Thailand’s New Year water festival

Caitlin Ashworth

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Social distancing for Songkran, Thailand’s New Year water festival | The Thaiger
Songkran 2019 in Koh Tao / Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

Thailand’s massive water festival Songkran, celebrating the Thai New Year, got the “okay” as long as the festivities are in line with Covid-19 prevention measures. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says people need to abide by social distancing rules during the Songkran holiday from April 13 to 15… So make sure your water gun shoots at a long range.

For long distance water fights, the Super Soaker CPS 2000 is recommended by Wirecutter for the New York Times. They say it’s the most powerful mass-produced water gun in history, shooting at a 15-metre range at nearly a litre per second. The CPS 2000 is around $150 USD, so a more affordable option would be the plunger-style water gun from Steam Machine, which cost around $20 USD. While the Steam Machine water launchers can shoot at a range of up to 21 metres, it needs to be refilled often and is best used near a pool or a barrel of water.

Social distancing for Songkran, Thailand's New Year water festival | News by The Thaiger

Songkran 2019 in Koh Tao / Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

Allowing Songkran to take place this year is intended to help stimulate the economy which was battered over the past year due to the pandemic. Along with the prime minister, Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome also insisted that disease prevention measures must be strictly maintained, adding that social distancing and capacity limits are “chief” among the measures.

Popular spots for Songkran celebrations, like Bangkok’s Khao San Road, are given the “okay” to hold events, as long as they abide by the rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19. For Khao San Road, famous among foreign backpackers, the festival can give a boost to local businesses and vendors who have been struggling to earn an income due to the lack of tourists, according to president of the Khao San Business Association Sanga Ruangwattanakul.

“We know that it won’t help much as there are still no international tourists, but at least it is a good starting point to reignite business activities on Khao San Road… At the moment, we can only count on the support of local tourists to survive.”

He says 80% of the business activities on the street rely on foreign tourists. Many businesses that rely heavily on tourists, like massage shops and souvenir shops, there are “no customers at all.”

“For pubs and bars, there are just a few customers per night. Out of 500 entrepreneurs on the road, only 50 are still operating.”

Travel restrictions are likely to be eased in time for Songkran, Prayut says, adding that the government is still reviewing the rules for the holiday.

“The government is in the process of considering what can be allowed, whether to permit some activities or all of them. But if the virus spreads, the government might be blamed for it…So I call for your understanding. Easing restrictions is not an easy call to make since the government has to take responsibility for the whole country.”

Director of the Health Science Centre of Emerging Diseases at Chulalongkorn University, Thiravat Hemachudha, said he was concerned with the government’s plan to relax restrictions during the water festival. While the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration reported a decline in the number of daily coronavirus infections, he says the CCSA did not report on 100 infections at a plant in Samut Sakhon.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Wirecutter

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Songkran

Thai traffic jam as tourists wait for the Koh Chang ferry

The Thaiger

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Thai traffic jam as tourists wait for the Koh Chang ferry | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod

There’s been a traffic jam in, of all places, Trat, as impatient domestic tourists waited for the ferry to head to Koh Chang from the mainland. The island was invaded by Thais getting out of town for the long LONG weekend and, despite the forward bookings, the traffic police and ferry operator weren’t ready for the onslaught.

The long weekend runs from yesterday through to the end of Monday, 2 days public holiday to make up for the postponed Songkran celebrations in April, which were cancelled amidst the middle of Thailand’s outbreak of Covid-19. Over 10,000 tourists were scheduled to arrive on the island yesterday and today. Cars lined up for more than 3 hours to catch the Ferry from Ao Thmmachat Pier to the pier on Koh Chang. The Khaosod reported that at least 1,000 cars were lined up to get on the ferry at Ao Thammachat that will take them to Koh Chang Island.

Despite being one of the country’s largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Chang has remained somewhat off the mass tourism development footprint (Phuket is the largest, Koh Samui second and Koh Chang third). In 2019 the island’s hotel market hosted 1.2 million guests at its 272 tourism establishments that feature 7,617 rooms, with more on the way. Hotel occupancy for Koh Chang teeters between the mid to high 60’s, though the off season sees numbers often drop by half, like other islands around Thailand.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to entry for new larger hotels in Koh Chang remains the lack of direct airlift and dependence on the privately operated Trat airport, not far from the pier on the mainland. The distance across the channel, between the 2 piers, is about 3 kilometres.

The Koh Chang Deputy Municipal Clerk said that over 10,000 tourists had been waiting to travel the island early yesterday but that 1,000 cars had already crossed over to the island before lunchtime. About 2,000 cars were estimated to have crossed onto Koh Chang in the past 2 days. The cars are expected to wait at least 3 hours just to get back onto a ferry for the ride home.

Mainland police did their best to manage the additional holiday traffic in the area. Police said they received dozens of reports from motorists complaining about the wait to get catch the ferry to Koh Chang with most reporting the wait of 2-3 hours. The piers and related officials will have to find a solution so tourists don’t have to wait so long on holidays. Local residents and Koh Changians think it’s high time for a bridge to be constructed from the mainland to the island so cars can drive directly into the island, just like Phuket.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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Hotel bookings bounce back for long weekend holiday

Jack Burton

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Hotel bookings bounce back for long weekend holiday | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Web Design Thailand

The long holiday weekend is reportedly seeing heavy bookings at hotels and resorts, reigniting hopes of a revival of domestic tourism, which has been battered for months by the Covid-19 outbreak. Accommodations in the southern provinces in particular have been receiving a good rate of bookings with holidaymakers for the 4 day extended weekend.

The tourism authoritiy of Thailand says hotels and resorts in coastal provinces in the East and seaside provinces in the South are reporting a surge in bookings to 80% and 90% occupancy over the 4 day weekend, which kicked off yesterday. It should be noted that not all resorts are open and than many have opened a select number of rooms, skewing the TAT’s rosy picture for the holiday break.

Tomorrow is a substitute holiday for Songkran and Tuesday is the birthday of HM King Maha Vachiralongkhorn.

In the eastern Rayong province, where an infected Egyptian airman stayed and sparked a public scare 2 weeks ago, a large banner was put up in the central business district thanking people nationwide for supporting the province through the crisis. It’s now been 14 days and none of those who came in contact with the Egyptian airman have tested positive for the virus. After testing thousands, authorities have declared Rayong is now free of Covid-19… again.

In Pattaya, several large beachfront hotels say their bookings have jumped to a strong 90% from July 24-28. Pattaya is one of the most popular seaside destinations as it is close to Bangkok. The heavy hotel bookings are believed to be a result of sales promotions and the Rao Thiew Duay Kan (Let’s Travel Together) tourism campaign, in which the government offers subsidies for holidays.

In neighbouring Trat province, hotels and resorts on Koh Chang and Koh Kut islands were nealry booked out. The province’s 2 ferry piers were jam-packed yesterday with cars waiting to board a ferry to the islands.

In Phuket, the director of the TAT’s provincial office said about 6,000 mostly Thai tourists visited the resort island during the previous long weekend from July 4-7, when more than 30 million baht was injected into the local economy. She says she expects the current long weekend will bring even more tourism money. Despite the positive outlook from the TAT, the island’s main tourist town of Patong has been very quiet with fewer than 30% of the shops open.

The Phuket province also expects about 50,000 medical and health workers to visit and take advantage of the government-sponsored Kamlang Chai (moral support) tourism program, which provides a discount for 1.2 million medical and health workers nationwide as incentive to travel.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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