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From Phuket to California by kayak

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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From Phuket to California by kayak | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: Two Phuket kayakers are getting ready for a spot of exercise: the world’s longest paddling expedition, a 14,000-mile voyage from Phuket to California in a 20-foot wooden boat.

American Ryan Doran, 26, and Phatum Thani born Piya ‘Mr X’ Sukunthai, 28, plan to leave Nai Harn Beach on March 10 – and they won’t be back for a while.

During their paddle, which they expect to take 20 months, they will pass through Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Russia before braving a 217-mile leg across the Bering Sea, one of the world’s most treacherous expanses of ocean.

If they successfully make the crossing, they will continue on to Alaska and Canada, and the lower 48 US States.

If all goes according to plan, the pair will port in Ryan’s home city of San Francisco, California, a few pounds lighter and just in time for Christmas next year.

Their own parents have branded their trip ‘crazy and dangerous beyond belief’, but for Ryan and Mr X the adventure is a life-long dream.

Currently in training, they can be seen most days paddling off Nai Harn Beach, and Promthep Cape in their Phuket-made kayak, Say-Lee (liberty).

Some sea kayakers have paddled sections of Ryan and Mr X’s planned voyage – but no one has ever gone the full way.

Hypothermia and huge waves will be their main concern when navigating through the South China and Bering seas.

The first to paddle across the Bering Sea was Jon Turk and his team, who completed the feat in 2000.

Turk’s team had to contend with 20-foot waves, navigate through ice shelves and withstand nine long days of sub-zero temperatures and zero visibility shrouded in a blanket of fog. They survived and the crossing is still heralded today as one of the world’s greatest-ever kayaking expeditions.

Ryan and Mr X claim they will be able to paddle the 217 miles through the Bering Sea in under two weeks’ time. A safety boat will tail them on this leg of their voyage.

“If we capsize in those conditions it will be extremely difficult to flip it back over, and huge waves and hypothermia are a very real threat,” Ryan said.

But he added: “If anyone can do it, it’s us.”

Ryan said the pair are paddling for themselves; not to break records, but to quench their appetite for the ultimate adventure.

“People wanna hear like, ‘oh you’re paddling for breast cancer or you’re paddling for Aids,’ and the reason we we’re paddling is, we’re paddling for us.”

“This is our adventure, and it’s what we want to do with our lives,” Ryan said.

Expecting to paddling anywhere from 20 to 50 miles a day, the pair will sleep in shifts. They say they can store enough food for one hundred days and enough water to last two weeks.

Food supplies of pasta, rice, and Spam will be used as a last resort, he said.

“We will fish every day for crabs, squid and other morsels,” Ryan said.

“Mr X is also bringing his slingshot in case any bird lands on our kayak….we’ll bring a spear gun too.”

The pair have been planning the trip for two years. Relying on internet maps, they say they have ’90 percent’ of their landing points mapped and have been tirelessly studying advance weather forecasts.

International visa applications, organizing a support vessel for the Bering Sea leg, raising money for their two GPS and marine radios has all taken time.

Earlier this month, the pair dispatched winter clothing and equipment needed to their ‘land support’ contacts in Japan and the Philippines.

They arrived in Phuket four months ago in preparation for their 20-month paddle.

Ryan, who has been kayaking since he was nine-years-old, arrived in Rayong Province in 2005.

Working there as a tour guide and wake board instructor, he met and became close friends with Mr X.

Mr X , an avid kayaker since the age of 14, said pirates and huge waves were a concern, but not a deterrent.

“We will not give up on our journey, no matter what,” he said.

Their kayak Say-Lee, cost US$7,000 and was handmade in Phuket by a Hawaiian craftsman.

“Say-Lee is durable and light yet strong,” Ryan said of the 38-kilogram vessel.

“Fiberglass would be 15 to 20 pounds heavier and we don’t need excess anything on our trip.”

As their departure date draws closer, Ryan and Mr X are preparing themselves both mentally and physically for the trip: Meditating, paddling 15 miles a day and rounding up supplies and a sail rigging system to aid them on their incredible journey.

Ryan and Mr X are still looking for additional sponsors for their trip. So far, John Harris from Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC) Boats and Bennet Bar from the NRS Kayaking Team are official sponsors. The Phuket Gazette is a media sponsor.

— Fraser Morton

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Tourism

Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule

The Thaiger

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Bangkok Airways add 3 new local routes to their schedule | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Bangkok Airways' ATR72, servicing the re-introduced routes

Some domestic routes are being added as local routes continue to expand. This time Bangkok Airways has announced it’s resuming its Samui-Phuket, Phuket-Hat Yai and Phuket-Pattaya/Rayong (U-Tapao) flights.

The first additions to the schedule will be the Phuket-Samui flights resuming this Sunday, October 25, and the Phuket-Pattaya flights start again next Tuesday, October 27. The Phuket-Samui flights will be operating on Sundays and Wednesdays only on the airlines’ ATR72 turbo prop regional planes, same as before.

A casual search on the Bangkok Airways website, for a return flight from Phuket to Samui on November 1, then back to Phuket on November 8 indicates the cheapest fare (promo) is 2,430 baht. Coming back, the cheapest fare we found, again labelled ‘promo’, was 2,630 baht. Bangkok Airways operate as a “full service” airline and don’t compete with the country’s discount airlines. But they operate these three routes exclusively – like it or leave it.

Bangkok Airways say that the flights will be operated “with the highest preventive measures and standards”. Around the country the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand have eased a few of the onboard restrictions, including the start of catering services which were originally banned under the initial flight rules when domestic routes started flying again at the start of July.

The daily direct services between Phuket and Hat Yai are also being operated on the ATR72 aircraft. The flight to Ha Yai leaves Phuket at 8.40am and arrives at Hat Yai at 9:.45am. The return flights leave Hat Yai back to Phuket at 10.25am each day. The route was very popular for the airline before the ‘disruption’ when airlines had their fleets grounded in April.

The service between Phuket and U-Tapao, linking the party city with the party island, will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, again with the ATR72. Phuket to U-Tapao will leave at 12.10pm and then from U-Tapao to Phuket at 4pm on the three days. U-Tapao is about a 50 minute drive from Pattaya and the airport also serves the greater Rayong area.

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Phuket

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket

Maya Taylor

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4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket. PHOTO: Booking.com

Phuket officials are setting aside around 4 billion baht to transform medical tourism in the southern province of Phuket, by developing a state-of-the-art treatment hub in the north of the island. The Bangkok Post reports that the Treasury department is planning to give the Public Health Ministry permission to use 141 rai of government land in the sub-district of Mai Khao, close to Phuket International Airport. It’s not the first time the proposal has come to light.

The concept is gathering support as Phuket battles to diversify its attraction beyond a tropical holiday island.

The aim is to develop Phuket as a world-class health and wellness destination, with facilities that will attract medical tourists from all over the world, as well as providing a high standard of treatment to the local population. It’s understood the facility will provide a full range of health services, including long-term care, and hospice and rehabilitation services.

The island already has a well-developed medical tourism market, but has been based around local hospitals and clinics linking up with foreign marketing companies in the past. “The International Medical and Public Health Service” has been conceived to create more long term financial security and diversification, and value-added tourism in Phuket, as the island has taken a heavy financial hit over the past 7 months.

4 billion baht medical hub planned for Phuket | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Phuket Andaman News

The plan was first suggested in 2017, by then governor, Noraphat Plodthong and confirmed by the director of Phuket’s Vachira Hospital, Dr. Chalermpong Sukontapol, in July. At that stage, the estimated budget was 3-4 billion baht. The director-general of the Treasury department, Yuthana Yimkarun, says the plot is being offered to the Health Ministry for free. The land is thought be worth around 1 billion baht.

Yuthana says the ministry will manage investment, with approximately 2 billion baht required for the first stage of the project. Construction of the facility is expected to be completed over 2 years.

Meanwhile, it’s understood that unused government land that is currently managed by various government agencies may be moved under the remit of central government, with a view to increasing its worth. According to the Bangkok Post report, just 4% of government land is directly managed by the Treasury. The other 96% is controlled by various government agencies. Yuthana says the plan is to increase the percentage of state-owned land under the Treasury’s management to 10% within 2 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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“Open the borders, safely”, Bill Heinecke, Minor International interview – VIDEO | The Thaiger

Bill Heinecke speaks to Bill Barnett. The two heavy-hitters of Thailand’s hotel and hospitality sector, mull over the current Covid situation and the reopening of Thailand’s borders to some form of tourism. Bill Heinecke is the Chairman and Founder of Minor International.

Bill Barnett is the Managing Director of c9hotelworks.com

Now the Thai government has approved the special long-term tourist visa scheme (STV), hoteliers are remaining skeptical about reopening due to the lack of clarity in the recent announcement, which will reportedly take effect next month. The president of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter says more hoteliers will consider reopening if the government gives further information about the plan in terms of prospective markets, arrival dates, origin countries, and flights.

Such details would allow hotels to prepare themselves ahead of time to offer services as alternative state quarantine premises as at least 60 hotels in Phuket are awaiting approval to operate such facilities.

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