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Phuket Books: Teddy’s final adventure

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Books: Teddy’s final adventure | The Thaiger

PHUKET: There is a large and growing shelf of books about Theodore Roosevelt, most recently James Morris’s acclaimed biographical trilogy.

National Geographic writer Candice Millard has taken a different tack, concentrating on his last great adventure in The River of Doubt (Anchor Books, New York, 2006, 416pp). Subtitled “Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey” this is the tale of his descent in 1914 down the wild and uncharted Rio Duvida, or River of Doubt, in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon.

The source of the river had previously been discovered by Brazil’s legendary explorer Candido Rondon. Now the two men proposed to map its length northward through an unknown gauntlet of rapids, waterfalls, whirlpools and hostile Indians.

Roosevelt’s trip to South America had originally been conceived as a leisurely junket, a lucrative speech tour culminating in a ride down the known branches of the Amazon. Instead, Rondon proposed a voyage of real discovery and Roosevelt eagerly accepted.

Just to reach the river took a month of hard slogging through the Brazilian uplands in a massive safari train reminiscent of Roosevelt’s celebrated hunting trip to Africa after he had left the White House. He was obliged to shed most of the men and gear for the final trek, leaving a crew of 22 dangerously short of food.

Backing up the two co-commanders of the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition were two strong and able young men: Rondon’s lieutenant Joao Lyra and Roosevelt’s son Kermit who had accompanied him on the African safari. Kermit had learned Portuguese while engineering in Brazil and he and Lyra would provide the strong young backs in the forefront of the heavy work of portaging their dugouts up the raging river.

The obstacles were formidable.

“Even in an age when great feats of discovery were almost commonplace, a descent of the River of Doubt would be audacious. Not only was the river unmapped – its length and direction unknown and each whirlpool, rapid, and waterfall a sudden and potentially deadly surprise – but it coursed through a dense, tangled jungle that had a dark history of destroying the men who hoped to map it.”

Two Indian tribes lived on the east and west banks of the river. They would remain hostile to white people until the late 1960s. They chose, however, not to attack the little group of interlopers, but to keep them under observation and take the gifts of steel knives and hatchets they left behind. Only Rondon’s favorite hunting dog was killed by a five-foot poisoned arrow.

“As the journey wore on, the Amazonian jungle, which had never seemed welcoming, had begun to feel not just dark and dangerous, but inescapably oppressive,” the author writes of the group’s plummeting morale. “It was a sensation that most outsiders who plunged into that dense, inscrutable wilderness experienced, and it left behind an indelible, almost violent impression.”

By the end of six weeks, Roosevelt was near death from malaria and an old leg injury that had become badly infected. He would lose 55 pounds, or a quarter of his body weight. He was often delirious. For Roosevelt, the expedition was becoming an ordeal of inhuman proportions, testing his strength and resolve as nothing he had encountered in a lifetime of self-imposed physical challenges.

Half-starved, riddled with malaria and dysentery, weakened by overwork and swarms of blood-sucking insects, the expedition members fought their way up the river till salvation appeared in the form of a rubber-tapper’s hut.

In the end they would travel 1,000 kilometers of a river that Rondon renamed the Rio Roosevelt. A major tributary was renamed the Rio Kermit. An Amazonian state three times the size of England was eventually named Rondonia. The legendary explorer would live until he was 91, though his young lieutenant Lyra would drown in the rapids of another river in 1916.

Broken in health, Roosevelt would die three years later, at 61. His son Kermit , the young scion of so much talent, energy and discipline, would descend into depression and alcoholism and kill himself in wartime Alaska in 1943.

Candice Millard tells this sad tale with the urgency and suspense of a thriller. Finally, it is a harrowing tribute to the desperate courage of heroes.

— James Eckardt

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Thai Life

Finance Ministry wants to give 1,500 baht to each domestic traveller

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Finance Ministry wants to give 1,500 baht to each domestic traveller | The Thaiger

The Finance Ministry says they are launching a new stimulus package to boost the country’s domestic tourism by giving Thais 1,500 baht each to spend when they travel to 55 provinces under the promotion campaign.

Under the campaign, Thais aged 18 and over can register for the program. The government will then deposit 1,500 baht into their accounts though the e-payment system. They can use the funds to make e-payments the shops that have joined the project.

“We are collaborating with the Tourism and Sport Ministry and Krung Thai Bank for the campaign and have set a budget of up to 15 billion baht. We will now propose the program to the deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak and the cabinet to consider as soon as possible. We aim to launch the campaign before July this year,” a source from the Finance Ministry said.

The ministry expects up to 10 million Thais to register for the program, he added.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Bangkok

Bangkok named most popular city for Japanese tourists

The Thaiger

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Bangkok named most popular city for Japanese tourists | The Thaiger

Thai PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha says he was happy after hearing that Bangkok was named the most popular destination for Japanese tourists during their Golden Week, a five-day long holiday which begins in late April.

The survey was conducted by Agoda, the online booking platform. Pattaya and Phuket were also ranked among the most popular destinations at #4 and #10 respectively.

“Japanese tourists are among the top 5 nationalities of foreign tourists visiting Thailand, particularly Bangkok where there are many beautiful attractions, delicious food, not-too-high cost of living, and friendly Thai people. The two countries’s cultures are also quite similar. They can go along quite well,” said a spokesperson for the PM.

Lt Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak, the deputy spokesman of the Thai government, added that the PM loves to follow the updates on the tourism industry. Thai tourists love to escape the summer heat in Thailand, and visit Japan to experience the Japanese spring, visit popular tourist locations, sample authentic Japanese food and the Japanese people. The PM also invited the Thai people to be a good hosts, making all tourists feel welcome and helping keep them safe.

SOURCE: National News Bureau of Thailand

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Bangkok

Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling

Bill Barnett

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Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling | The Thaiger

by Bill Barnett of c9hotelworks.com

PHOTOS: Rosewood Bangkok

For hotel owners and managers in South East Asia, one of the great mysteries of the past ten years has been the low rate profile of Bangkok’s luxury hotel set. Despite soaring and sustained tourism growth, rising airlift and a strong economy, rates at Bangkok’s top tier properties have remained fairly stagnant.

Have we reached the tipping point?

I had had the opportunity to visit the latest entry to the Bangkok luxury class a few days ago, the Rosewood. With 159 keys which includes a limited number of posh houses with private pools and terraces the property is seeing an exceptional response and already achieving high rates.

What’s impressive about the entry is a take on the design approach that sees hotel developers apply a non-uniform approach with AvroKO coming in to focus on the restaurants and bars, while the rooms and public areas were led by Celia Chu Design and Associates.

While the speakeasy Lennon’s has not be opened yet, the 6,000 record vinyl collection is impressive and the bar will clearly have a strong pull. Taking the approach to designing restaurants and not typical hotel outlets, the Chinese eatery Nan Bei is a breath of fresh air and limited seating provides a bespoke appeal.

Taking a step back, and looking at recent entries like the Waldorf Astoria, and upcoming 101 key Capella, what is clear is luxury properties are shifting in terms of key drivers of the segment of art, fashion, residential vibe, bar and restaurant offerings, wellness and events.

So, what about rates?

On a broad basis Bangkok’s top tier hotels have averaged rates of US$200-240 for the past few years. This set has seen longer serving properties such as the St. Regis, Kempinski, and Okura effectively flatline on rates, though newer entries have come up including the Park Hyatt. On the broader horizon is the return of the Four Seasons and Capella by the river and the Orient Express at the MahaNakhon skyscraper.

With the entry of Rosewood driving rates, my expectation is that a few of the set will follow and at the end of 2019 we will set limited number of hotels crash through the US$300 average room rate barrier and effectively smash the legacy glass ceiling of Bangkok’s luxury hotels.

As in any business there will be winners and losers. Smaller hotels with some rate leading premium key types will be able to push up average daily rates. Segmentation is another key and hotels on the river that lack substantial corporate numbers will remain challenged until transport links to the area improve.

Where in the world are Bangkok luxury hotels heading?

To sum up 2019, size and location matter, the shift on food and beverage and social events along with niches like wellness and  smaller meetings/weddings are the key to the future. As for the quantum leap in rates, it’s about time Bangkok hoteliers be confident and push rates towards a more global norm.

Bangkok luxury poised to push through the US$300 ceiling | News by The Thaiger

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