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Bangkok removing trees to make way for underground walkways

Jack Burton

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Bangkok removing trees to make way for underground walkways | The Thaiger
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As part of a new “landscape improvement project,” the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has begun removing trees along Na Phra Lan Road, to pave the way for an underground network of walkways. 34 trees on the road will be removed, and the “Silpakorn Nokrob” (around Silpakorn) Facebook page yesterday called the decision “heartbreaking” for locals and conservationists. In April the BMA took some flak after some overly enthusiastic pruning of the city’s trees. Some of the city’s green shade was cut back to bare, ugly stumps that will take years to recover any meaningful foliage.

The decision was made to make way for the construction of underground walkways to accommodate crowds flocking to the historical district, which encompasses landmark attractions including the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The BMA says the trees, many of them decades old, will be replanted near the Memorial Bridge.

The project is an initiative by the Rattanakosin and Old Cities Conservation and Development Committee, to improve the landscape of the Sanam Luang public square and the adjacent Na Phra Lan and Maha Rat roads. The area is home to Silpakorn Univerity, the Grand Palace and other must-see tourist magnets.

The project, with a budget of 1.1 billion baht, and expected to be completed next year, comprises 3 underground walkways with utility space. 2 walkways will be built under Na Phra Lan Road. 1 will be 96 metres long and the other 37 metres long. 1 will have utility space of 6,280 square metres, including 76 public restrooms. The third walkway, 90 metres in length, will be built under Maha Rat Road with utility space of 1,146 square metres and 35 restrooms.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Paul Doyon

    June 14, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    I suspect a lot of it too, has to do with the installation of 5G — which, by the way, occurred at an extremely rapid rate during the lockdown/curfew — since trees tend to block some of the higher millimeter wave frequencies found in 5G.

  2. Avatar

    Gary

    June 16, 2020 at 7:52 am

    What a visionary and benevolent project. An enclosed underground walkway during a pandemic. And possibly a storm drain during rainy season?

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Thailand

Thailand growing more expensive for expats

Jack Burton

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Thailand growing more expensive for expats | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Business Traveller

According to Employment Conditions Abroad, Bangkok and Chiang Mai are among the 30 most expensive cities for expats in Asia. The capital of Turkmenistan might not spring to mind when with considering the priciest cities, but according to ECA International it ranks first on both the global and Asian tables, a 5 point rise up the rankings due to an ongoing economic crisis, food shortages and the resulting hyperinflation.

The survey is performed in March and September every year, based on a basket of items such as rents and utility fees. Car prices and school fees are not included.

In Asia, Bangkok ranks 28th, just above Chiang Mai, according to the latest ECA International survey on the cost of living for expatriates. But it dropped out of the top 50 global rankings from the report released in December 2019. In global rankings, Bangkok is now at 60 and Chiang Mai at 142. Bangkok has lost a good deal of its former appeal for budget-conscious travellers and expatriates, rising 64 places over the past 5 years, according to the survey.

ECA says a rapidly expanding economy and increased foreign investment, at least, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, made Thailand more expensive, fuelled by the strengthening baht.

“The baht has strengthened considerably, making the country more expensive for expatriates and tourists. However, this trend has slowed over the past year, partly in response to government attempts to weaken the baht in order to keep the country competitive.”

Hong Kong is the second most expensive city in Asia after Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), but ahead of Tokyo and Singapore. Singapore is rated the most expensive place for expats in Southeast Asia and has led that ranking for many years.

Hong Kong remains sixth in the global standings, 1 place ahead of the Japanese capital. Singapore was fourteenth in Asia, dropping 2 notches from the previous survey.

Ashgabat’s sudden rise to the top of the is largely attributable to the economic dilemmas of Turkmenistan’s government, according to ECA. The energy-rich Central Asian nation faces severe inflation, and a black market for foreign currencies has caused the cost of imports to rise. Both factors have sparked a large increase in the costs visitors pay.

The ECA says Chinese cities fell across the board due to signs of a weakening economy and poorly performing currency, even before Covid-19 began taking its toll.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Hospital director proposes importing overseas Covid-19 patients for treatment

Jack Burton

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Hospital director proposes importing overseas Covid-19 patients for treatment | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod English

With the Covid-19 situation in Thailand apparently well in hand (there have been no locally transmitted cases for well over a month), a hospital director in Bangkok is proposing flying in patients from abroad for treatment at his hospital. The director of Mongkutwattana Hospital is considering medical flights to bring international Covid-19 cases to the hospital for treatment, in an effort to stimulate the economy.

In a Facebook post, Dr Rienthong Nanna said flights would carry 60 passengers and be specially adapted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outside the cabin. Under his proposal, the hospital would act as a state quarantine facility, caring for foreign patients until they are certified virus-free and allowed to travel in Thailand as tourists.

The proposal has the support of several clinics that treat international patients. Accommodation providers who want to collaborate with the hospital to prepare medical flights and state quarantine are invited to contact the director of Mongkutwattana Hospital’s office.

The Ministry of Public Health Ministry has not announced whether Thailand will consider accepting Covid-19 patients from overseas.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Bangkok’s shopping malls struggle under tourist ban, fierce competition

Jack Burton

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Bangkok’s shopping malls struggle under tourist ban, fierce competition | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nerdnomads

Suvarnabhumi, the name of Bangkok’s second international airport, means “realm of gold,” and was given by His Majesty the late King Rama IX to Bangkok’s eastern outskirts (technically in Samut Prakhan province), once a marshland called Nong Nguhao (Cobra Swamp). With its overtones of wealth, the name represents the hopes of developers, who are turning the area into a retail battlefield.

The problem is oversupply. In late June, multitudes of of shoppers eager for a new experience after weeks of Covid-19 lockdown came to the grand opening of Siam Premium Outlets Bangkok, a brand new mall less than 10 kilometres east of the airport, the main gateway to Southeast Asia’s second largest economy.

The mood was festive for the debut of the massive project, a collaborative effort by Thai mall operator Siam Piwat and US conglomerate Simon Property Group. The joint venture invested 4 billion baht to accommodate an anticipated 10,000 visitors per day in the mall’s 50,000 square metres of floor space.

Siam Piwat Simon’s managing director says “Premium outlet is a retail trend that still has potential to grow”. He believes that growth will reinforce Thailand as one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations. But given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s hard to imagine a tougher time to open a mall. The foreign tourists whose spending would normally ensure the success of a new shopping complex are being kept out as the government still bans most international arrivals.

When tourists do return, their numbers and mobility may be limited, and competition among major retailers around Suvarnabhumi will enter a new, more intense chapter. Rivalries between central Bangkok’s many malls and those emerging around the airport will also heat up. There’s plenty of shopping for bored travellers waiting for flights inside the main airport as well.

Some analysts predict the “new normal”, requiring social distancing and limiting customer numbers that could result in significant shrinkage in physical store offerings. The head of retail advisory and transaction services at CBRE Thailand says retailers’ rental space requirement may be reduced by 20 – 40% from the levels before the pandemic. Still, nearly 1.3 million square metres of new retail space is expected in Bangkok by the end of 2023 – more than 25 times the size of Siam Premium Outlets Bangkok. That many commercial facilities opening in a span of just 3½ years is sure to add plenty of new challenges to the retail landscape. According to a spokesman for the Thai Retailers’ Association…

“Premium outlets are business in an upward trend, while duty-free shops are the opposite. In the future, there will be no tax because of free trade agreements. And tourist behaviour is changing. They don’t want to pay a lot of money for short-lifecycle goods. They would buy more goods from premium outlets rather than duty-free shops, where goods are more expensive.”

Thailand has been benefitting from growing overseas tourism, led by the Chinese with their formidable purchasing power, which was booming until the pandemic. According to a report by the World Tourism Organisation, in 2018 the kingdom was the ninth most visited country by tourists in the world, and second after China in Asia. Thailand’s visitors in 2019 were close to 40 million.

Bangkok's shopping malls struggle under tourist ban, fierce competition | News by The Thaiger

The turf war near Suvarnabhumi is essentially an extension of the fierce retail competition in central Bangkok, where retailers are also highly dependent on overseas visitors. Siam Piwat introduced mega mall Iconsiam on the east bank of Chao Phraya river, as a joint project with Thailand’s largest conglomerate CP Group and its property arm Magnolia Quality Development, in November 2018. Siam Piwat co-owns Siam Paragon with another retailer, The Mall Group, which also developed Emporium and EmQuartier department stores. Central Group, including Central Pattana, runs Central World and Central Chidlom.

More projects are in the pipeline. Magnolia Quality Development is working on one called The Forestias, scheduled to be completed by 2023. The US$4 billion (124 billion baht) project is on track to be the largest property investment in the kingdom’s history.

Whether in Bangkok proper or near Suvarnabhumi Airport, all major retail complexes have one thing in common: they’re counting the days until the foreign tourist inflow returns. The Tourism Authority of Thailand came up with a plan to promote domestic tourism packages to mitigate the impact from the lack of overseas travellers, but Thais’ spending power is limited compared to that of foreign tourists.

Although the coronavirus situation in the kingdom is well in hand, the risk of a second wave has the world on edge, even as some countries such as the US and Brazil struggle to rein in their first wave. The outlook for Thailand’s big bet on the return of inbound demand is fraught with uncertainty. The “Realm of Gold” that welcomes travellers may not be quite so precious for some time to come.

Bangkok's shopping malls struggle under tourist ban, fierce competition | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Nikkei Asian Review

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