PHUKET: Les Bird’s teeth are clenched, muscles taut and body drenched in sweat as he sprints the last leg of his training hike to the summit of Nakkerd Hill in Chalong.
As he heaves off his 40 kilogram bag and glances at his watch, Les scolds himself for finishing his training hike in under an hour.
“I need to slow down; I’m going to buy ankle weights today. That will stop me running,” the 59 year-old Phuket resident says.
In the thirty degree heat atop one of Phuket’s highest peaks, Les shivers. He knows he has a monolithic challenge ahead: a climb 14 times the height of the 350-meter Nakkerd Hill – and just a few degrees colder.
A treacherous climb
Mont Blanc, or the ‘White Mountain’, lies astride the French and Italian borders and is one of the world’s deadliest climbs.
Of 20,000 climbers, at least a dozen die trying to reach the 4,810-meter (15,781 foot) summit every year.
Both Italian and French rescue teams deal with up to 800 emergency calls a day in the summer period between June and August.
Les, however, with only three years’ climbing experience gained 40 years ago in his native England, says he will be well prepared for the climb.
He will be climbing in a two-man team with fellow Brit Harry Taylor. A former Special Air Service
(SAS) soldier, Taylor was the first man to traverse the Pinnacles, on the Northeast Ridge of Mount Everest, in 1988.
Les will arrive in the Alpine resort of Chamonix Valley a month prior to the July 4 climb.
To allow their bodies to acclimatize, it will take the duo eight days to reach the summit.
Over the first three days, the pair will make ascents to 1,500, 2,000 and 3,500 meters, descending back down the mountain after each climb. On day four, they intend to climb 4,000 meters, camp for the night, and again descend to the Chamonix Valley.
On the sixth day, they plan to reach the 4,810 meter summit, plant the Thai national flag at the top, and then make the precipitous descent the next day.
As Les stoops into a dilapidated classroom in Phuket Town, 40 little faces look skyward, mouths agape. At six feet four inches he must look like a giant to the students under the care of the Child Watch Phuket Foundation.
The classroom is a stone’s throw from Phuket Provincial Prison, where most of these children’s parents are being detained.
Through his Mont Blanc challenge, Les hopes to raise one million baht for impoverished, orphaned and abused children cared for by the foundation.
‘Fanatical’ is how Les describes his Alpine training regime.
On Mondays he opts for a spot of ocean swimming: four kilometers from Bang Tao Beach
to Koh Waeo Island. A safety boat tails him to help avoid long tail fishing boats.
Three times a week, he cycles 125 kilometers wearing a weight belt. He endures three hour
runs and day-long hikes up Nakkerd Hill. He is a man who takes pleasure in pain.
Les has competed in seven Ironman competitions around the world over the past 10 years.
But even superfit Les knows his Alpine climb demands a different style of training. The deleterious effects on his body due to altitude sickness are also a concern.
“A person can be a world class athlete at sea level but become a vegetable at 4,000 meters,” he says.
Les is determined his fitness will see him reach the top of Mont Blanc. If he succeeds, he plans to summit Everest. If anyone on Phuket can do it, bank on him being that man.
Help Les Bird reach 1 million baht
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For a more comprehensive version of this story, see the current issue of the Phuket Gazette newspaper – in stores now.
— Fraser Morton
‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people
On October 18, the ‘Always Smile Journey’ group and its partners will host an exhibition with plenty of fun activities at the Yak Yai Market, near Chalong Circle, in Phuket. This event was designed to raise funds to provide free English classes for underprivileged people on the island of Phuket on Saturdays and Sundays. The group does not accept donations but aims to raise money through the sales of the products available at the event.
From 2 pm to 8 pm, there will be a number of artists, musicians and performers who will keep the attendees entertained along the way. There will be a short film about His Majesty King Rama 9 as well as fun activities and games for kids and families, which are all free of charge.
The big bike crew is also a part of this event. They will ride a parade from Rawai Beach heading to the market and showcase their gorgeous two-wheel buddies.
One of the highlights of the Always Smile Journey exhibition is the ‘Happening’ artists group, who will draw and paint a picture of the His Majesty King Rama 9 under the name ‘Street Art King Bhumibol’ on a 4×10 meter sign live at the event so the guests will experience this large-scale art in action. The Happening will also offer portrait sketching for the participants.
There will also be some western menus available at the event which will be donated to underprivileged children.
This free English class project has over seven years of experience through its cooperation working with individuals and other charity organizations. Throughout the years, the group visited several areas such as Ban Laem Hoy School, Ban Bopud School and Ban Angthong School in Samui, Surat Thani province, Ban Bueng Ao Oun School and Ban Kakoh Rayong, in Surin province, Jalae Village of Lahu (Muser) in Chiang Rai province, as well as community education centers in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in Luang Prabang, in Laos.
This event is a cooperation between several groups, including Happening, Yak Yai Market and Arrow Media, Tattoo artist group, Thonburi Art School Alumni, International School of Tourism, Suratthani Rajabhat University, big bike group from Phuket, artists/performers/musicians from many provinces as well as several businesses across Phuket.
The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations
PHOTO: Hello Phuket – destined for huge tourist growth in the next six years – fodors.com
In 2018, international tourist arrival traffic grew by 6% to reach a total of 1.4 billion world tourists, according to research by UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. And there’s a lot more to come with international travel predicted to increase by a massive 35% over the next six years to 2025.
But where is all that extra traffic going to go? Which destinations are quiet now that might be swarming with tourists in the years to come? Two destinations in Thailand are set for a prosperous future, according to the data. Whilst almost all the growth is excepted to be to Asian destinations, an under-visited resource for world tourism so far.
Euromonitor data has been used to simulate tourist growth models and reveal the fastest growing projected visitor arrivals in major cities and destinations around the world for 2025, compared to arrival figures in 2018.
In Thailand, Phuket’s tourist traffic is poised to increase up to 85% in the next six years, from nearly 12 million arrivals in 2018 to over 22 million in 2025. Bangkok is predicted to see the 8th most prolific rise in tourist traffic, with arrivals in Bangkok set to swell an additional 68% during the same period. Doha, the capital of Qatar, is set to explode with 104% increase in traffic over the next six years.
The data also predicts that both Bangkok and Phuket will rebound big time in 2020, Phuket in particular with a growth of around 20% for the next year, accord to the data from TravelSupermarket.com.
By 2025 the data predicts that Bangkok will be the world’s #1 tourist destination, a position it’s held before in recent years. The Thai capital will be followed by Singapore, Dubai, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur, making South East Asia the world’s emerging tourism hotspot.
Some of the world’s favourites – New York, Paris, London – will continue to grow their tourist numbers but not at the rate of most Asian destinations.
You can read the full list HERE.
Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com
Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com
Rawai beachfront water shut-off tomorrow for mains works
The Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority says Rawai’s mains water supply will be shut off tomorrow (Tuesday, October 15) as new water pipes are fitted in front of The Title Beach Front condo resort complex on the town’s beachfront.
The mains water supply will be shut off from 9am until 4:30pm along the beachfront strip.
The PWA says the areas affected will be along Wiset Road along the Rawai beachfront road, as well as Soi Yanui and Soi Ruafaed.
Residents and businesses are being urged to collect water for use during the day today, before tomorrow morning’s shut-off.
As usual, the PWA say…“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
Contact the Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority on 076 319173 or 082 7901634 for more details.
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