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Crash helmet saves minibiker at Phuket “curve of death’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Crash helmet saves minibiker at Phuket “curve of death’ | The Thaiger
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SPECIAL REPORT

By Thawit Bilabdullar and Orawin Narabal

PHUKET: A high-quality crash helmet is credited with sparing a “minibike” enthusiast from critical injury after he lost control and crashed at one of Phuket’s most notorious traffic accident blackspots late last night.

News of the crash was reported to Phuket Kusoldharm Foundation rescue workers at 11:30pm.

At the scene, on Thepkrasattri Road northbound in Srisoonthorn, they found a 150cc Kawasaki minibike on the pavement, with 29-year-old local resident Noppon Petchluan lying on the median strip nearby covered with blood from multiple abrasions.

Conscious but only partially coherent, Mr Noppon was rushed to Thalang Hospital, where doctors discovered that his most serious injury was a fractured left arm.

Friends of Mr Noppon said they were out for a late night ride on their minibikes when they realized Mr Noppon had fallen off the pace.

When they went back to investigate, they saw that he had crashed and immediately called for help through the Narinthorn Andaman emergency call number: 1669.

A rescue worker at the scene said it was quite likely that the high-quality, full-face crash helmet Mr Noppon was wearing at the time likely spared him very serious injury, or possible death. He was able to walk away from the bike to the relative safety of the median strip, where he waited for help to arrive.

He later told rescue workers that he crashed while trying to dodge a hubcap that was lying in the middle of the road.

The site of the crash was just meters from where 15-year-old Kajonkietsuksa student Wanchai Saeksan died in a similar crash in early July. He was not wearing a helmet at the time.

CURVE OF DEATH

Local residents of the area are well-accustomed to the sound of sirens and sight of flashing emergency lights in the dead of night.

It was the same area where, just before dawn on June 30, three young Kusoldharm Foundation workers were badly injured when their rescue pickup crashed while responding to a police request for assistance with a drunken accident victim there.

The chain of events that night began at about 3:30am, when Thalang Police received a report of a motorbike accident just meters from where Mr Noppon crashed last night.

Chonthicha Chaikul, the 24-year-old owner of a beauty salon near the Tha Reua Shrine on Thepkrasattri Road southbound, told the PhuketGazette after that incident:

“Witnesses told me the drunk man’s motorcycle hit an electricity pole on the opposite side of the road. A few cars traveling close behind him had to stop suddenly, causing a chain reaction of collisions. After the accident, the man abandoned his bike and ran away, trying to hide from the police. They kept chasing him, so he ran across to the other [southbound] side of the road.”

It was at this late hour that Ms Chonticha, who was watching television, heard the sounds of a commotion outside. Going out to her balcony, she saw police chasing the man.

“The drunken man tried to call people in the area for help; he was really drunk and definitely didn’t want to be arrested,” she said.

None of the local residents dared to open their doors for the man.

“Police were finally able to take him into custody and put him in their pickup, but he continued to resist and tried to get out of the car,” she said.

“Police then called for the help from Kusoldharm Rescue Foundation. About 20 minutes later, I saw the Kusoldharm truck driving at high speed in the opposite [northbound] lane. When the driver saw people and police on the other side of the road, he slammed on his brakes. He lost control of the truck, which swerved up over the median strip, flipped, and finally landed in the southbound lane,” she said.

The injured rescue workers, all attached to the Kusoldharm Foundation Mai Khao Unit, were identified as: driver Raywat Niyomna, 24; Chaiwat Lanonpaew, 29; and Montree Phonpakdee, 22, who was on one of his first rescue missions at the time.

All three were taken to Mission Hospital Phuket, then transferred to Bangkok Phuket Hospital in Phuket Town. Mr Montree had to undergo facial surgery and was still a patient at the hospital two days later, as was Mr Chaiwat, who required surgery for an injured shoulder.

Another veteran Kusoldharm rescue worker who arrived at the scene later said it was unlikely any of the injured men had been wearing safety belts, as it was not a standard practice in the rescue organization.

Thalang Police later identified the drunken motorbike accident victim as 27-year-old Pramote Tirattanaprathom. He was eventually sent to Thalang Hospital, then transferred to Vachira Phuket Hospital the following day.

COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Ms Chonticha considers herself lucky, as her home has yet to be hit by a vehicle at the accident-plagued curve. Some of her neighbors have not been so fortunate.

On May 26, a man crashed his black Isuzu Hi-Lander pickup though the guard rail and into the kitchen of one of her neighbor’s homes at 2:30am. The homeowner, who declined to give his name, told the PhuketGazette that the accident was the “last straw”; even though there were no injuries, he said he intended to abandon the property because so many accidents happen there.

Not all of the carnage in the area is a direct result of the curve, however.

Just two days after the Hi-Lander crash, a man presumed to have been drunk was struck dead by a truck in the same area.

Witnesses told the PhuketGazette that the man was first seen trying to slow down drivers down on the northbound lanes of Thepkrasattri Road, between the shrine and the Yee Teng u-turn, the first turning south of the Heroines’ Monument.

The man motioned drivers to stop, then climbed up onto the hoods of cars, one witness said. Angry, one motorist sped off, prompting the man to step off onto the median strip and then out into the southbound lanes, where he was run over and killed instantly by a fast-moving truck.

EVER PRESENT DANGER

The thing local residents fear most is that their dwelling could be the next obstacle in the path of an out-of-control pickup, six-wheel truck – or something even bigger.

“I am afraid that some day a car might hit my house, since it is located in such a high-risk area. Almost all of the accidents that happened around here are the result of speeding or drunk driving; they usually happen late at night. It’s not very well lit here, and people might have problems with visibility, especially in the rainy season. I would say there is a serious accident here every other week at this time of year,” said Ms Chonticha.

“One of my former neighbors moved away after her family members were injured by a car that plowed into their house three or four years ago,” she added.

Somya Duangkerd, the 36-year-old owner of a pool equipment shop next to Tha Reua Shrine, told the PhuketGazette that there are often rush-hour accidents in the area, but most of them are just minor “fender benders”.

The more serious accidents tend to happen late at night and are usually the result of drivers speeding, drunk driving, falling asleep at the wheel – or some combination thereof, he said.

“I am afraid that some day a vehicle might drive into my shop. I am very lucky, however; I have been living here for two years and nothing has happened yet,” he said.

ON GUARD

Mr Somya said he was satisfied with efforts by authorities to try to minimize the likelihood of yet another disaster, especially their installation of a heavy-duty guard rail that was erected following

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Tourism

What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is ‘less’ more?

The Thaiger

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What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is ‘less’ more? | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Naka Island - The Luxury Travel Expert

by Anthony Lark

“Let’s say goodbye to all that stale pretence and manufactured pomp”

Until the collective nightmare that was 2020, many of the so-called high-end hotels had a reputation for trying to convince guests to pay for often dingy guestrooms lacking any real views inside an otherwise ornate structure with a storied, celebrated past, where the first impression was a check in often akin to applying for a bank loan. Defined as “luxury”, in the good old days they got away with it.

Over the thirty years I spent running Amanpuri and Trisara on Phuket, I heard hundreds of people complain of feeling ripped off at “legendary” and “iconic” hotels by staff that rudely treated them as anything but guests.

How many of us did not tip the head waiter after dinner on the first night, to return the next evening and find ourselves stashed at a table by the kitchen door, or getting ushered past the prime and utterly empty deck chairs (with a book on them) by an indifferent pool boy rushing to count his bounty at the pool bar.

As we in the hotel business look towards vaccine jabs while collectively praying for people to start travelling again, let’s say goodbye to all that stale pretence and manufactured pomp. Emerging from the darkness that was 2020, we hoteliers need to consider that life will not bounce back to all that, nor should it. Good riddance to the seller’s market when hotels could charge like the light brigade for sub-par accommodations and indifferent service while expecting our guests will automatically keep coming back for more.

Merriam-Webster ‘luxury’ definition #1: a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort.

“There will always be people willing to pay,” said the late, great Natale Rusconi of the Cipriani in Venice and Splendido in Portofino.The size of the room didn’t matter, he observed, nor did the price of a cup of coffee, as long as they felt cocooned in an ‘exclusive’ world with an established reputation of being the “best.”

A classic negroni or a plate of risotto on the terrace at Cipriani is luxurious, not so much because of the ingredients of the food and beverage (although it is the best), but because it’s a rare experience.

Sonu Shivdasani, owner of Soneva resorts, hits it on the head when describing luxury.

He points out “Our external communication focuses much more on our brand proposition of “Inspiring a Lifetime of Rare Experiences”.

For example, we touch upon the point of our guests being able to walk barefoot for a week. This is rare and hence a luxury.

Change is in the luxe-wind

There is definitely change in the post-covid wind. In virtual conversations with many wealthy, well-travelled former guests of mine living in the northern hemisphere, they are explicit about what they yearn for on the other side of their drawn-out lockdowns.

These people are the ones who every year asked me for the largest villa with the bluest views and the most kitted out yacht for a day on the Andaman Sea and now I sense they seek something distinctly less material. While I am not surprised to hear them in their Bel Air mansions and apartments overlooking the River Seine asking for deals, what they say next piques my interest. “Anthony, I don’t need the presidential suite when we come back,” they say without a whiff of disappointment to downgrade. They are increasingly asking not for the specs on yachts but for news of wellness offerings and rare, secret local experiences.

One company already excelling in this beyond luxury space is Six Senses, purchased in 2019 by the behemoth InterContinental Hotels brand but left to run relatively independently under CEO Neil Jacobs. In interviews and on panels throughout the pandemic, Jacobs has spoken often of his personal aversion to the very word ‘luxury’ as well as to ‘exclusivity,’ which he sees in direct opposition to Six Senses’ holistic ethos.

Community engagement, he argues, is not only an aspect of the brand’s sustainability guidelines but also critical to “the intrinsic value of the content around what is being offered” at each individual property.

Like Jacobs, I noticed even before Covid that bragging rights back home no longer focus solely on price-tagged acquisitions. Those same guests who regaled me during lockdown with tales from their past travels, talked about meaningful encounters with Bhutanese textile weavers, Portuguese sourdough bakers, Colombian coffee farmers or Thai fishermen with whom they shared meaningful encounters on immersive, often unexpectedly transformative journeys. Perhaps we all learned in lockdown that these memories endure far longer than we can linger on even the most decadent bed linens or the hotel’s fluffy-as-a-cloud bathrobes.

Even before any of us had given a thought to wet markets in Wuhan, our industry was abuzz with these ‘experiential’ and ‘transformational’ travel offerings, and we see smaller, more nimble independent hotels and resorts luring guests away from staid grand dames of the past, while commanding higher rates.

I suspect we will now enter a new era, best described by Morris Sim, one of the smartest marketing minds I know.Travellers he predicts, will be embracing the idea that “ luxury is the outcome of an experience, not a product.”

Merriam-Webster luxury definition #2: something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary.

To be clear, this is not a rallying cry to spend amidst an economic crisis. Luxurious experiences may be as humble as a thoughtful gesture or act of kindness by a staff member. It’s surprising our guests on their return to the hotel room to find their laundry cleaned, folded and tied with a beautiful bow, or that feeling of being cared for to discover one’s toothpaste, sunscreen and deodorant arranged like tiny soldiers on the bathroom vanity.

Going forward, those hotels that also help guests to make meaningful, immersive connections with the surrounding culture and environment while also delivering unpretentious, anticipatory service with thoughtful human touches will redefine luxury.

Merriam-Webster luxury definition #2b: an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease

Throughout the heady 1990s, we opened a new Amanresort every year or so. While now considered places of beauty that were undeniably desirable, they were initially revolutionary upstarts compared with the most famous resorts of the 70’s and 80’s where gold sink taps stood out against bathrooms laden with Carrera marble.

Into this arena where remote controlled toilets that blew air on your arse were regarded as luxurious, Adrian Zecha’s vision for each Aman was unashamedly simple in design and utterly lacking in superfluous finishing’s. The late architect Ed Tuttle, who mastered this design of understatement used to tell his team (including his lead designer Pin Tan, who now holds that title at Six Senses) and clients that “it’s not about embellishment, it’s about owning the space.”By this he meant that humans are most at ease in spaces that function well when for them rather than for shelter magazines and marketing brochures.

As we look towards leaving hibernation behind, I strongly believe our guests will gravitate to uncluttered places where simplicity reigns, where they can look better and feel better about their emergent selves and where they can enjoy consequential encounters with fascinating strangers, after feeling cut off for so long.

At Trisara Phuket, the team here serves local residents and Bangkokians down for the weekend gourmet Thai-inspired lunches prepared by chefs under a Thai carved sala roof overlooking a charming lake at the resort’s nearby working farm, engaging with locals tending the farm while keeping comfortably cool and exquisitely sated.

My personal view is that successful hotels must throw off any remaining shackles of our industry’s past definitions of ‘luxury’ and pivot towards delivering authentically local guest experiences and anticipative service that surprises and delights.

Are we headed towards a new paradigm where our job is to nurture the “outcome of the experience” rather than the showmanship of counting threads of Egyptian cotton and embroidering initials on pillowslips?

What has the pandemic taught hotels about luxury. Is 'less' more? | News by The Thaiger

Anthony Lark is the founding and current president of The Phuket Hotels Association. He also runs his own luxury hospitality company focused on resort and residential villa design & master plan concepts, plus management auditing of existing properties as hotels prepare for a post-covid world.

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Thailand

Thai Airways to resume flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai Airways to resume flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Airways

After nearly 9 months on the ground due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with problems balancing their accounts, Thai Airways will resume flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai as well as Bangkok and Phuket later this month. The flights will start back up on Christmas day.

Flights from Bangkok to the 2 key tourist provinces have been grounded since April 1. Starting December 25, the airline will run 3 flights a week on both routes. A source told the Bangkok Post that the new schedules will run until at least February 28.

Thai Lion Air, Thai Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Smile, VietJet Air and Bangkok Airways have returned to the domestic skies since July and slowly adding frequency to their routes.

In addition to resuming the domestic flights, the Thai Airways is relaunching some international flights from January 1 to March 27 including weekly flights to Frankfurt, London, Copenhagen, Sydney, Seoul, Manila, Taipei and Osaka. Flights from Bangkok to Tokyo will be available 3 times a week and flights from Bangkok to Hong Kong will be available every day.

Thai Airways has been tackling bankruptcy throughout the lockdown and trying to make up for more than 300 billion baht in losses. Since many flights were suspended due to travel restrictions, Thai Airways has tried to make money by business ventures on the ground, like a pop-up restaurant serving in-flight meals and selling off unwanted equipment from their warehouse. There also disposing of much of their older fleet, including all of their Boring 747-400s.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

97 police officers investigated for fiddling Covid-19 payments

Maya Taylor

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97 police officers investigated for fiddling Covid-19 payments | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.newsbeezer.com

97 police officers, from 41 police stations, are currently being investigated for an alleged scam involving Covid-19 payments meant for officers who worked extra shifts during the crisis. The case was assigned by national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk in November, when it came to light that some officers may have fraudulently claimed allowances meant for others.

In one incident, an officer responsible for transferring extra payments to police on the southern island of Phuket transferred the money to his own accountant instead. At the time, the transfer was dismissed as a mistake (in his favour), with the officer in question receiving a warning, and payments then made to the qualifying officers.

Wissanu Prasatthong-Osot from the National Internal Affairs Police says the investigation should reach a conclusion within the next 10 days.

“The result of the investigation should be ready in 10 days. Currently, 97 officers in 41 police stations ranging from non-commissioned to generals are under investigation for being involved in the swindle. The bureau aims to provide justice to all policemen involved. After the investigation concludes, the victims will receive their full allowance, while the offending officers will be punished under the law and disciplinary standards.”

Nation Thailand reports that a full list of alleged offenders has been sent to Suwat, with Wissanu promising that none will escape prosecution.

“The National Police chief had also ordered the transfer of offending officers at the commander and sub-commander levels out of their areas as per the investigation procedures.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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