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Minister proposes bars stay open till 4, free visas to revive tourism

Greeley Pulitzer

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Minister proposes bars stay open till 4, free visas to revive tourism | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Under Pipat's proposal, bars and entertainment venues would be allowed to stay opn until 4am - File photo
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Thailand’s sports and tourism minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn told an extraordinary meeting in Bangkok’s Amari Watergate hotel yesterday that he proposes giving free visas to Chinese and Indians tourists, and allowing bars and other entertainment venues to stay open until 4am. That is the embattled minister’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis that continues to devastate Thailand’s tourism.

Pipat asked for support from the private sector, saying the 4am opening would only apply to certain areas and surveys would have to be carried out before it was initated. He admitted that 50% fewer tourists are expected in the first half of 2020.

The 4am closing idea received a lukewarm reception last year, and visa-on-arrival for Chinese and Indian tourists is already in place, albeit temporarily.

SOURCE: ThaiVisa | TNN

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Phuket

Phuket calls for immediate government help over coronavirus impact

Greeley Pulitzer

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Phuket calls for immediate government help over coronavirus impact | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Phuket Chamber of Commerce President Thanusak Phungdet details the problems Phuket faces as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak - Phuket Chamber of Commerce

Phuket’s Chamber of Commerce has asked the Thai govenment for swift action to help cope with the economic impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus, particularly on tourism. According to Chamber president Thanusak Phungdet:

“I explained to Tourism Committee President Surasak Phanchalernworakul about the situation and how coronavirus is affecting tourism and business in Phuket. I requested them to share this information with the PM and other relevant officers in Parliament. The situation is much worse than the government knows.”

Thanusak told reporters that he met yesterday with Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee on Tourism and Phuket MP Nattee Thinsakhu; Thai Hotels Association Vice President Kongsak Khoopongsakorn; Phuket Tourism Council President Sarayut Mallam, and other Phuket tourism industry representatives to try to find a solution to crisis.

“The Phuket private sector has been massively impacted by COVID-19. I’m not sure if the Government is aware of the situation as they have not yet visited to see the problems firsthand.”

“It has drastically affected tourism-related businesses. Many staff have been forced to take a pay cut, although the cost of living cost here remains the same. If this situation lasts six to 10 months, Phuket may well become an empty island.”

Thanusak lamented the absence of Chinese tourists, noting that some 20 hotels on the island have “temporarily” closed.

“Many boats and buses are not being used, [and are] parked and empty. Currently we have only 50% of the usual number of European tourists, and it will go down to around 30% next month, and possibly continue to decrease to zero. This situation is out of the hands of the private sector and local administrative officers.”

“We want government support for the tourism sector here, to help unemployed staff and to attract Thai people to come to Phuket in order to support local business and help everyone.”

Thanusak says he has requested help from the Minister of Tourism and wants swift action to safeguard Phuket’s standing as the second highest income-generating province in the country.

“It is worrying that the Government [does] not know the real impact of this bad situation. [The] Government have not yet come to Phuket. It may be because nobody has sent information about the coronavirus and its impact. Governors have to see the truth and listen to people’s complaints.”

As of today, Thailand’s toal confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus remain steady at 35, 17 of whom have made full recoveries and been discharged from hospital. Thailand has reported no fatalities from the virus, and no case has been reported in Phuket.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Top 10

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Tim Newton

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Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | The Thaiger

Phú Quốc is a Vietnamese island off the coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand (aka. Vịnh Thái Lan in Vietnamese). The island is actually closer to Cambodia than Vietnam. Phu Quoc is a rising star in the island destinations of south east asia. It has big ambitions and will catch up quickly with some key infrastructure already in place with more being hastily completed.

Long stretches of white-sandy beaches and resorts, most of which are along the palm-lined western coast. There are many, many resorts planned or in the midst of construction. More than half of the island is part of Phú Quốc National Park, which features mountains, dense tropical jungle, hiking trails and wildlife. Duong Dong is the largest town which the locals usually simply call Phu Quoc.

There are plenty of expat-owned bistros and bars that serve western and European tastes. You can also experience the local lifestyle by frequenting its many local markets and Buddhist temples.

There’s already some completed dual-lane main arteries linking the main parts of the island, a new international airport and hundreds of accommodation options, from the backpacker to the five star.

Our best go at pronouncing the name of the island is POR WOK, not POO KWOK, as you’d think, but Vietnamese has a lot of difficult-to-pronounce tones so check with a local when you get there.

Food options are truly international with a broad range of tourists making up the early visitors to the island. For now, principally east Europeans, Chinese and Vietnamese.

The main attraction is the longest cable car ride in the world. It’s an astonishing feat, linking the south of the island and hopping across three islands to a stand-alone resort on the southern-most island. Apart from being a world-class attraction, it’s also an indication of the vast sums being invested in the island.

You can fly in to Phu Quoc from KL, Bangkok, Singapore or Ho Chi Minh City for now with more flights and carriers getting a foothold on the popular new island. You don’t need a visa to visit Phu Quoc, a clear decision to kick off this new tropical destination by the Vietnamese government (for up to 15 days).

There’s a three kilometre tourist strip reaching south from the main town centre. There’s high-class bars, beach-clubs, tawdry souvenir shops, hundreds of restaurants serving up international flavours and some funky new shops opening up every month. If you want good Vietnamese food head into the main town.

Here are 10 things to do in Phu Quoc that will give you a range of flavours, colours and culture.

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The Thaiger

Phuket Quoc Cable Car

Wow, wow and WOW! The cable-car ride from Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island to Hon Thom, aka. Pineapple Island, is a breathtaking experience. It’s an astonishing tourist attraction on an island that has ambitions to be one of south east Asia’s most popular tourist attractions. This attraction proves it.

The actual cable car ride, the longest in the world, soars over the sea, coral reefs, fishing villages and Phi Quoc’s southern islands, with amazing views all along the way. You get 360 degree vistas of the An Thoi Archipelago.

As a quick mood killer, if you’re afraid of heights, this experience may not be for you. Flying above the views below is breathtaking but you are flying a long way above the ground. Despite the windy day I travelled, the ride was very stable and you didn’t get a sense that you were wobbling around in the air.

The cable car travels from a purpose-built faux-Italian ‘ruins’ entrance and hub to Hon Thom Nature Park. From the moment you arrive, and the staff greet you as you get out of your taxi/bus/motorbike, there’s plenty of wow factor. For a small, relatively unknown Gulf of Thailand island, this is a grand experience and an enormous investment.

Once you arrive at Pineapple Island, after hopping over three other islands on the way, you are greeted by a man-made beach, water park and substantial infrastructure – some of it still being constructed. Everything on the island has been constructed to serve the arrivals from the cable car, there’s no other way of getting to this remote island. You can spend a short time at the island or a long time.

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The ThaigerTop 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The Thaiger

Phu Quoc Prison

Yes, a prison and perhaps a bit off the usual tourist map. Nonetheless, very interesting. It’s a prison facility built by the French colonialist to punish Vietnamese people aka. Coconut Tree Prison. In 1967, Saigon Government rebuilt the Coconut Tree Prison into Phu Quoc communist prisoner prison in an area of 400ha, also known as Phu Quoc war prisoner prison, or Phu Quoc prison.

This was the largest place to keep communist soldiers in the South with more than 32,000 prisoners. Sometimes, this number was up to 40,000 people including political prisoners in several periods.

Slightly macabre but also a relic of a bygone era of Vietnam’s tortured history, Phu Quoc prison is the living evidence for the extremely brutal crimes of aggression colonialism and imperialism, while it proved the indomitable spirit and valiant struggle of revolutionaries. The war prisoners in Phu Quoc prison suffered extremely savage punishments and tortures. There’s plenty of mannequins propped up to provide a gruesome reminder of many of the tortures exacted on inmates.

The prison is located at the southern end of the island.

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The Thaiger

Horizon Bar

A bar and restaurant on the main beach, about 2 kilometres south of the main town centre. There’s also plenty of other casual attractions that pop up at this beach from time to time.

The most permanent venue is the Horizon Bar which serves some great food along with the refreshments you’d expect. You’re right on the sand, actually you can get a table in the sand which is a nice romantic touch for an evening meal or drink.

It’s not as swanky as some of the new beach clubs opening up but it’s a lot cheaper and casual as well. Looks a lot better at sunset and nighttime. There’s better food on the island but the location and view are fantastic. Located on the tourist strip south of the main town.

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The ThaigerTop 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The Thaiger

Also try the Sailing Club Phu Quoc for something a little more upmarket with prices to match.

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The Thaiger

Long Beach

The main beaches are on the Gulf side of the island. But there’s also a few excellent beaches facing Vietnam as well on the south east of Phu Quoc. The best on the south east side of the island is Long Beach.

Long Beach is the best known of the southern-end beaches and has a range of accommodation, casual restaurants, bars and beach clubs opening up. It’s all about 2 kilometres off the main road. The main beach area has a range of beach attractions, jet-skis, vendors, sun lounges and a large selection of restaurants – all right on the beach. The clientele is very international.

BYO towels and suncream. The water is quite shallow and sand bars will show up at low tide.

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The Thaiger

There was certainly a lot more people at this beach on the day we were there.

Ho Quoc Pagoda

The largest and most ornate of the island’s temples, Trúc Lâm Hộ Quốc Zen has a number of pavilions and smaller temples all leading up to the tall white statue looking east towards Vietnam.

Dress appropriately. But there’s also scarves and over-pants available at the main gate.

There’s plenty of parking for motorbikes and cars and there’s a vegetarian restaurant on site that provides free food for visitors.

To get there take the windy road off the main road for about 5 kilometres. A lot of it scoots along the coast with some terrific views. Directions on the link.

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The ThaigerTop 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The Thaiger

Island circle road

There are some key roads already sealed and completed, including plantings in the median strip. At the moment they’re mostly carrying the island’s locals on motorbike but they also allow you to easily get around to the key locations on good roads.

Although it doesn’t reach to the very north or south of Phu Quoc, there is a circle road that takes you from one coast to the other with some spots to check along the way.

If you just take the trip, without any breaks, it will take 2-3 hours. The main things to see along the way are the fishing village and fishing pier at Làng Chài Hàm Ninh and the beach views along the eastern coast of the island. Làng Chài Hàm Nin is a bustling seaside fishing village with floating seafood restaurants specialising in crab dishes.

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The Thaiger

But you can see the island growing along these completed arteries in the next decade.

There’s also good roads to the north and south taking you to some of the key beaches and attractions.

Vietnamese drive on the right hand side of the road. Car rentals are not common the island but motorbike rental is easy and cheap – around 150,000 Dong per day standard. Be careful and check your insurance first as any accidents on motorbikes may not be covered.

Vietnamese also enjoy tooting their horns to let other drivers know they’re around.

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The Thaiger

Dinh Cau Night Market

There’s a vibrant night market operating seven days a week in the middle of the main town.

It offers a plethora of dining and shopping opportunities until late. Located along Vo Thi Sau Street in the main town of Duong Dong, this pedestrian market is about a five-minute walk from Dinh Cau Rock. This Phu Quoc market caters mainly to tourists but will have plenty of locals visiting as well.

Live fish, sea snails, crabs and scallops are kept in large tanks with prices listed on the board in front of every booth.

The Dinh Cau Night Market is more about food than the nick-nacks but it will keep you occupied for a few hours. There is some quite exotic local food available here, not for the feint-hearted. Proceed with caution.

I love Phu Quoc

Not a tourist attraction and not anything that will blow your mind except that this modern little business has encapsulated a bar, restaurant, beach-club and a quality menu in one convenient location. Just moments from the heart of the main town Duong Dong, I Love Phu Quoc is worth a visit at any time of the day. A sunset drink with the beach-side beats is a good start to anything you have planned later in the evening.

They also do a terrific breakfast at I Love Phu Quoc which is, other than hotels, a little difficult to find if you’re used to a hearty western breakfast.

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The Thaiger

Dinh Cau Rock

Dinh Cau Rock, also has the Cau Temple sitting atop. The actual rock is an odd-shaped natural formation where local fishermen pray to before heading out on fishing excursions (the main town is a hub for the local fishing industry). Located just next to the Duong Dong Fishing Harbour, the rock it features a brightly-coloured lighthouse and Buddhist shrine – a popular photography spot for travellers and romantic walks along the pier. It sits at the entrance to the harbour where the fishing boats leave each day.

Dinh Cau Rock was constructed in 1937 to commemorate Thien Hau (the goddess of the sea), whom locals believe provides protection for fishermen heading out to the open sea.

Top 10 things to see and do in Phu Quoc, Vietnam | News by The Thaiger

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Opinion

Ten reasons western foreign tourists are not wanted in Thailand

The Thaiger

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Ten reasons western foreign tourists are not wanted in Thailand | The Thaiger

Adam Judd, writing for Pattaya Unplugged, has opined about western foreign tourists not being wanted in Thailand. He brings up some interesting topics, largely from the standpoint of an American living in Pattaya. Tell us what you think on our Facebook page.

The following are my opinions but based on many talks with people from many different backgrounds and cultures. This also comes from many years of knowing people in all of these demographics and spending time at a variety of local tourist attractions and businesses, not just the view from a barstool – Adam Judd

1. Western foreigners tend to complain more online, troll, write negative reviews and feedback and bicker amongst themselves in general. If you are bilingual or read comment threads and forums, it is mostly Western foreigners from England, America, Australia and Scandanavia complaining. In native language forums for India and Southeast Asian countries there is significantly less complaining and open infighting. This extends not only to forums but in person which brings me to number two….

2. Western foreigners are more demanding in person in general. If something goes wrong, especially Americans like myself, we complain loudly, long and demand a resolution, to talk to managers, etc. Many of the other tourist demographics will not make mountains out of molehills and or get upset over relatively minor issues. There is a reason why most news articles about a foreigner being attacked are usually Westerners, with the odd Korean and Russian here and there.

The sad thing here is that for those from a Western customer service upbringing they understand that a complaint is an opportunity to fix a problem and generally a customer who cares. Because of the face issue with many SEA nationals, they see a complaint as a personal attack or an insult, when it is not.

3. Westerners have in general more of a sense of entitlement than many other countries. Everyone wants to feel important but many Westerners, including myself, want to feel the most important. For someone from a society with billions of people or a social structure that values the group over the individual like the Japanese or parts of India, this isn’t as big of an issue and you get less of the first items, complaining and more demands.

4. Westerners often want to do something their way, and not go with the flow. I am very guilty of this. We are used to things how we like it and if it isn’t just the way we like it, to hell with everyone else. Folks from some societies and cultures are often used to things not going their way, the government running everything and not having the freedoms we often do.

Therefore, they tend to go with the flow easier and not complain, demand, etc. This can extend to minor things like demanding off menu items or services that aren’t on the menu and getting upset about it.

5. We often don’t spend as much as people think. There is a myth, and it is a myth, that no Russians, Chinese, Indians etc. Spend money on vacation. There are plenty of frugal and cheap Charlie’s in every country and there are also big spenders in every demographic. Some of the cheapest cost cutting people I have met in Thailand were my fellow Westerners.

Some of the largest spenders I have met were from the above demographics. It is mostly true, however, that most of the Chinese, Russians and Indians don’t spend their money at bars and gogos. There is a lot more to Pattaya then the bar scene.

Read the other five reasons Adam believes western tourists are not welcome in Thailand HERE.

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