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Park chief kills Koh Yao Noi climbing

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Park chief kills Koh Yao Noi climbing | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: A new national park chief has banned rock climbing on a number of internationally popular limestone outcroppings in areas under his jurisdiction, ruling the sites as unsafe.

“Climbing is an extreme sport and a risky activity. Even though there are safety regulations, and well-tested equipment is being used, there is still the possibility of someone falling and dying,” said Worapot Lomlim, the Ao Phang Na National Park chief. “There is no need for an expert’s opinion on this; I can see myself that it is not safe.”

The move by Mr Worapot, who took up his post in November, to close Dump Wall, Watchtower, Big Tree Wall, The Mitt, HD Wall, Koh Roi, Grateful Wall and The Hang, kills some of Thailand’s top off-the-beaten path climbing holiday destinations.

DESTINATION CLIMBING

“In the last decade, Thailand has been able to position itself as an exotic climbing destination that is able to offer a nice combination of sea and rock experiences,” explained Riccardo Mereu, a certified Climbing Wall Instructor (CWI) and the blogger behind the popular PhuketClimbing.Blogspot.com. “Rock climbing is very popular in Railay, Tonsai and Chong Plee here in the south, while the north is dominated by the Crazy Horse Crag in Chiang Mai.”

Thailand climbing destinations, such as Railey, Tonsai and Crazy Horse, regularly attract world-class rock climbers. This month, Alex Johnson, professional climber for The North Face, and Sasha DiGiulian, Climbing Female Overall World Champion and member of the USA climbing team, both put their hands on Thai rock.

“Hanging out over the Andaman Sea climbing a beautiful limestone roof. Paradise living here!” Ms DiGuilian recently posted on an Instagram photo of her deepwater soloing, that is, climbing over deep water without ropes, in Railey.

SAFETY

The major safety concerns in rock climbing can be broken down into three different categories: loose rocks, human error and unsafe protection – such as steel bolts placed into the wall that have since corroded, explained Heather Miner of The Mountain Shop Adventures.

Despite Mr Worapot’s concerns about the safety of climbing in Koh Yao Noi, Ms Miner assured the Phuket Gazette that the walls are incredibly safe.

“The rock is high quality, the protection is safe and the climbing is located in a spectacular setting,” Ms Miner said. “The walls have been cleaned of loose rock as much as possible… and bolted with titanium bolts to ensure that the protection is safe… Human error can happen anywhere.”

The use of titanium bolts, which can rake up a bill of between 5,500-8,000 baht per route, is essential in Thailand. Over the last few years, stainless steel bolts on routes in the Kingdom have been swapped out with titanium bolts and new routes put up throughout Thailand are being done so with titanium bolts.

“Stainless steel bolts are commonly used throughout the world in climbing areas. These bolts have been proven to break in environments such as Thailand. Titanium bolts are the solution to this problem,” Ms Miner explained.

In 2012, there were about 100 bolted routes on Koh Yao Noi, with more routes having gone up since then.

The costs of bolting the routes is mostly footed by a small group of dedicated rock climbers, reported Climbing, a US-based magazine, in 2012.

“Koh Yao Noi has been entirely equipped using titanium bolts and red-glue, which at the moment are the top material in terms of safety standards. This outstanding job was started in 2004, a few days before the tsunami, by Marc Miner [Ms Miner’s husband] and his friends,” explained Mr Mereu.

A number of the bolts used in Koh Yao Noi were donated by the Thaitanium Project, which accepts cash donations from climbers around the world, and then passes those donations to the climbers placing the orders for bolts each year.

“Considering that most of the climbing areas are frequented by local climbers, hence constantly inspected, all the routes are very safe and there is very little room for danger,” Mr Mereu explained. “In any case, we need to remember that we are talking about rock climbing, which is itself an activity that exposes its lovers to a higher dose of risk than badminton, for instance.”

ECONOMIC FACTORS

Unlike Railey, the climbing in Koh Yao Noi is still a relatively ‘small business’. Nonetheless, it provides an important source of income for local communities on the island.

“Rock climbing is a large part of the economy of Tha Khao [one of the villages on Koh Yao Noi], as well as the island in general. Bungalows, restaurants, massage shops, local boatmen and so on, are all losing business because of the closure,” explained Ms Miner. “Tha Khao is the closest village to the climbing routes, and it is where boats to the climbing areas depart from, so this is the village that is being most affected.”

Though rock climbers are not known for being five-star hotel guests, the money they spend is mostly directly injected into local communities instead of feeding the profits of large travel organizations, explained Mr Mereu, who works for a large travel company in Phuket.

“Closing Koh Yao Noi simply means deliberately obstructing the growth and the respectability of Thailand as a world-class climbing destination, and most importantly, depriving the local community of an additional income that would otherwise be entirely lost.”

However, Mr Worapot said that the closure of the routes will not have any major impact on tourism or local businesses on the island.

“Only a small number of the tourists who come to Koh Yao Noi do so for climbing. The safety and lives of those visiting our park is much more important than the small amount of income that can be derived by allowing the activity. I hope that people will understand this and enjoy other activities offered on our island,” Mr Worapot said.

DASHED SOLUTION

Climbing in national parks is not illegal, confirmed Mr Worapot. However, it is necessary to file certain paperwork, and permission must be granted by the park chief.

“Normally, climbing can be done in a park if the operators get permission from officers. All they have to do is send a letter requesting permission to conduct this kind of business in the area,” Mr Worapot said.

“In this case, it doesn’t matter if they do apply to designate the area as a climbing zone, as I have already decided to ban this activity. The walls are too steep, it is too dangerous.

“Please do not compare us to other places, as every officer has their own way of making decisions, and I say ‘no’ to this.”

Mr Worapot explained that he was taking a hard line on the issue following operators disobeying orders banning climbing.

“We have warned them a number of times, but the businesses keep getting bigger and bigger. I must be firm.”

Mr Worapot has posted signs informing operators and tourists that climbing in the area is illegal. However, he pointed out that tourists weren’t his primary focus.

“Operators know that they are not supposed to climb, but still do. Tourists will not climb without operators to lead them,” he said. “So, we will not press charges against tourists or fine them.”

Additional reporting by Kongleaphy Keam.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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Thai Life

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. Where to launch your krathong tonight

Tim Newton

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Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. Where to launch your krathong tonight | The Thaiger

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. But this year authorities are saying ‘only floating Krathongs thanks’. No polystyrene, no steel pins – keep it natural and plant-based please. This year Loy Krathong in Thailand co-incides with the annual Halloween celebrations on October 31.

Authorities are also urging people to choose, or make, their krathongs using natural materials only. The latest craze for “edible” krathongs is also causing problems. Read about that HERE.

Loy Krathong is a festival celebrated annually throughout Thailand The name could be translated as “to float a basket”, and comes from the tradition of making krathong or buoyant, decorated baskets, which are then floated on a river. Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar so the exact date of the festival changes every year.

In Phuket, the Provincial Office says fireworks, fire crackers and sky lanterns are prohibited “for people’s safety” (but be assured there will still be a few sky lanterns seen flying off the islands beaches this evening).

 

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. Where to launch your krathong tonight | News by The Thaiger

Loy Krathong is celebrated at many of the island’s popular waterways and at many of the beaches. Many hotels also host their own celebrations for their tourist customers. Here are a few of the locations you will be able to launch your own Krathong or buy one on site and watch families and couples launching Krathongs.

Popular locations in Phuket include…

• Saphan Hin Park Lake, Phuket Town

• Suan Luang Park (off Naka Market Road)

• Bang Wad Dam, Kathu

• The recreation lake near Ket Ho Temple in Kathu (The Thaiger ‘local’)

• Tin Mine Museum Lake on the Kathu back road, near BIS International School

• Nai Harn Lake and Nai Harn Beach

• Bang Maruam near the Alan Cooke Cricket Ground in Thalang

• Laguna (the main lake just inside the entrance)

• Just about anywhere along Patong Beach

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. Where to launch your krathong tonight | News by The Thaiger

On the night of the full moon, Thais launch their krathong on a river, canal or a pond, making a wish as they do so. The festival may originate from an ancient ritual paying respect to the water spirits.

We would urge people to consider the environment if you’re making your own Krathong or try and select Krathongs that are made from natural products. Many of the ‘commercial’ Krathongs use polystyrene and pins that end up scattered along our waterways and provide a hazard on the island’s beaches when the Krathongs eventually wash ashore and disintegrate.

Same goes for the new fad of bread and “edible” krathongs. Officials say these can be dangerous for the fish and cause long term problems for water catchments.

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. Where to launch your krathong tonight | News by The Thaiger

If you’d like to make a krathong, here’s a very quick guide…

If you want the easy way out, you will find hundreds of stalls on the way or near any waterway around the island that is participating in the event. Try and pick ones that appear to be made from natural materials.

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket!

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Phuket

Phuket tops travel destination list of cheapest hotel prices – Dertour 2020 Price Index

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket tops travel destination list of cheapest hotel prices – Dertour 2020 Price Index | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Phuket Hotels Association

Phuket tops a list of the cheapest travel destinations with a 1 night stay at a hotel costing on average less than $30 USD, according to a study by the German travel company Dertour. Phuket is going through what some say is a “crisis”, certainly a current tourist vacuum. The island province largely relies on income from foreign tourists, but with travel bans over the last 7 months, hotels and other businesses in the tourism industry have been at a loss.

For domestic tourists, Phuket currently offers a serene, peaceful tropical stay where you’ll have a lot of the island to yourself. There are plenty of daily flights to the island, but all from domestic locations at this stage – the international terminal remains closed.

Along with being listed as hotels with the lowest price, Phuket also made the top 5 cities with the largest price drop from 2019 to 2020, according to Dertour’s 2020 Accommodation Price Index. The company studied hotel prices for 75 popular tourist destinations around the world. Bangkok was just above Phuket at the fourth city with the largest hotel price drop. Bangkok hotel prices dropped by 34.6% while Phuket’s hotel prices dropped by 33.8%.

Prices will continue to be low, CEO DER Touristik Central Europe Ingo Burmester says…

“Travel itself will be cheap in 2021… Although it has been a challenging period, we have seen a great deal of interest in domestic travel. We also predict a major catch-up effect for Mediterranean destinations, European trips and long-haul routes in 2021 as soon as travel restrictions are lifted.”

Phuket ranks as the destination with the cheapest accommodation prices at an average price of $29 USD, according to the list. Average prices for 3-star hotels are $26 USD and an average of $54 USD for 5-star hotels.

Bangkok followed, ranking fifth on the list of cities with the lowest hotel price at an average of $43 USD per night. 3-star hotels in Bangkok average at $30 per night and 5-star hotels average at $93 USD.

Top 5 destinations with the lowest price in accommodation

  1. Phuket: Average of $29 USD per night
  2. Delhi: Average of $34 USD per night
  3. Kuala Lumpur: Average of $36 USD per night
  4. Bali: Average of $36 USD per night
  5. Bangkok: Average of $43 USD per night

Top 5 destinations with the largest price drop in accommodation

  1. Amsterdam: Dropped by 51.6%
  2. San Francisco: Dropped by 39.2%
  3. Vancouver: Dropped by 37.1%
  4. Bangkok: Dropped by 34.6%
  5. Phuket: Dropped by 33.8%

To read Dertour’s full report, click HERE.

Catch up with the latest daily “Thailand News Today” here on The Thaiger.

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Phuket

Man arrested after allegedly slicing a man’s face with sickle

Caitlin Ashworth

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Man arrested after allegedly slicing a man’s face with sickle | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

A man was arrested on charges of grievous bodily harm after he allegedly sliced his friend’s face with a sickle, causing a gash about 25 centimetres long.

3 men, identified as Saeng, Ta and Rop, had been drinking at a shanty in Phuket’s Rassada district where Rop lived. An argument broke out over money. A bank transfer was apparently made, but no one received any money, according to Rop as he related the story to police.

The men didn’t come to an agreement and ended up going to bed. Ta stayed awake and slapped Saeng twice while he was falling asleep, Rop says. Saeng then got up, grabbed the sickle and swung the hooked blade across Ta’s cheek, Rop says.

Reports don’t go into detail about Ta’s condition, but photos of the scene by the Phuket News show a significant amount of blood on the concrete floor.

SOURCE: Phuket News

Catch up with the latest daily “Thailand News Today” here on The Thaiger.

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