Saturday, September 8, 2018

TAT continues King Bhumibols wisdom toward sustainable development


Bangkok – The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) continues to follow the royal wisdom of the late King Bhumibol and bring His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn’s idea to disseminate and further implement royal projects with the development of major tourism routes in five regions.

Following the royal wisdom on sustainable development will encourage local people to use local experience to generate more income an develop their communities, thus this will build tourism sustainability in long term.

TAT also invites Thai people to join its online activity to vote for favourable tourism routes. Winners will receive the prize to join tourism routes, which follow the royal wisdom.
Tung Prong Thong mangrove field located at Paknam Prasae, Rayong

Under this tourism project, five pilot tourism routes in five regions are designed to follow the royal wisdom and link with royal projects in each province. Backed by the story related to the royal projects, the five tourism destinations and tourism routes will be more interesting and there are many types of tourism destinations from OTOP villages, arts and craft centres, to trade centres.
Ban Rai Gong Khing Community in Chiang Mai
Meanwhile, TAT has launched various marketing activities to promote the “tourism route development to follow the royal wisdom” project via online channel under the “Travel to Follow the Royal Wisdom” activity. It opened for general people to vote for their favourite tourism routes from five short videos via www.tourismthailand.org/kingwisdom during 6-31 August, 2018. Winners will be announced on 7 September 2018, and they will receive the tour packages to follow the royal wisdom.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Thailand ranks top in Travel Weekly UK Best Destinations in The World survey


Bangkok – Travel Weekly UK has unveiled the results of its ‘Best Destinations in The World’ survey and Thailand has made it into the top 10 of four important categories.
The Grand Palace, Bangkok

Travel Weekly polled a cross-section of experienced agents, including independents, online travel agents and others to compile a comprehensive shortlist of 20 destinations in each category. Readers were then allowed to vote for their top destinations in each sector of the survey with over 500 agents participating over the course of four weeks.

Best for Spa & Wellness (1st Place)

The survey asked if there was any better place to pamper yourself? The answer to that was of course no. Thailand is an ascending global leader in the booming spa and wellness sector. Holistic wellness, Ayurveda, and acupressure is all part of Thailand’s current spa culture. While classic Thai massage continues to hold sway, there are heaps of spa packages and wellness retreats to make them affordable for most budgets.

See more at TAT Newsroom

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tourism Authority of Thailand upgrades mobile apps for tourists

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) recently upgraded its Amazing Thailand and Tourism Thailand mobile apps to ensure accurate and timely travel information at the fingertips of local and international tourists.

Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor said, “New innovations have been incorporated into the Amazing Thailand and Tourism Thailand, two of our four existing mobile apps, which give travellers instant facts and data on general tourist information or more niche services. This is part of our drive to improve the visitor experience whether they’re here for sightseeing, shopping, dining or health. We aim to constantly adapt to the way modern travellers seek services online and meet their expectations.”

Tourism Authority of Thailand upgrades mobile apps for tourists


The English-language Amazing Thailand mobile app is aimed at helping international tourists find data on attractions, tours, dining and accommodation. Meanwhile, the Tourism Thailand mobile app offers a similar range of services to local travellers with Thai language listings about events and attractions.

Both the Amazing Thailand and Tourism Thailand mobile apps are now boasting new features including maps, GPS and 360 VR images of destinations to enable users to easily find attractions and gain preliminary impressions of places of interest. Information can also be shared via e-mail and other social media platforms and e-mail.

In addition, the Amazing Thailand mobile app also enable users to ‘speak Thai’ via an English-to-Thai translation dictionary, which can be voiced operated allowing tourists to find words they need to communicate with Thai people, shop owners and food sellers.

TAT also has two other apps for specific groups of travellers. The Muslim Friendly Destination mobile app lists Muslim friendly venues and includes features; such as, a Qibla compass and prayer times. Meanwhile, the Women’s Journey Thailand keeps female travellers up to date with all the latest offers and promotions in dining, sport, health and beauty.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

GranMonte Wine: The Aussie Connection

When Adelaide University student Nikki Lohitnavy returned to her native Thailand after graduation, she received a surprise gift from her parents - her own winery! The first (and only) Thai national to receive a Bachelor degree in Oenology (with Honours in Viticulture) in Australia, Nikki is now head winemaker at the family-run vineyard GranMonte, located in the beautiful Asoke Valley in the foothills of Khao Yai National Park.

"When I returned from Australia, I found all these steel tanks waiting outside. I then had to set up the wine-making facility from scratch. There are some things they just don't teach you at university!" she jokes.


Nikki Lohitnavy, Thailand's first female winemaker

Fast forward six years, and Nikki is arguably Thailand's most respected winemaker, consulting for international vineyards as well as leading Thailand's charge to produce world-standard wines. She is also the only female winemaker in the country, and a great inspiration for other ambitious young women.

Nikki has inherited her passion for wine from her father Visooth, who first purchased the 16-hectare former cornfield in 1999. At the time, there were several small vineyards in the Khao Yai area, a Royal Project established decades earlier having already recognised the area's potential as a wine-growing region.


The GranMonte vines, just after harvest
Of course, producing grapes in the tropics requires adaptation of traditional growing methods; but through experimentation, consultation and the use of a microclimate monitoring system, Visooth soon learnt what varieties would flourish during tropical storms, monsoons and searing summer heat.

Things really took off, however, after Nikki returned to Thailand with internships at Browns Brothers and Wolf Blass wineries under her belt. The vineyard now has the capacity to produce 120,000 bottles a year, which it should meet within two or three years.


GranMonte vineyard

And trust me, GranMonte makes a fine drop, from its rich, award-winning Syrah, to its light and fruity rose made from Syrah grapes, named after Nikki's mother, Sakura. The wines have won over 100 awards in the past four years, and are the most decorated wines of Thailand.


Some of the many awards that GranMonte has won

As Khao Yai has become more popular as a weekend escape from Bangkok, so the winery has flourished into a full-blown tourist operation, with a stylish cellar door and tasting room, a charming restaurant serving delicious European-style food and a guest house offering seven rooms. Sixty thousand visitors pass through the cellar doors annually, with around 10,000 of those joining a winery tour.


Linguine with prawns , basil and olives in white wine from VinCotta Restaurant


GranMonte cellar door


Tours are held three times a day, and include wine tasting at a cost 270 baht per adult.

For more information, visit www.granmonte.com





Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Paddling with a Legend: John Gray's Sea Canoe


"Sometimes I think I'm responsible for what Phuket has become," John Gray sighs as we stare out at limestone cliffs looming on the horizon. "It was so quiet and beautiful when I started here in the '80s. That's the problem with being successful."

With his full white beard and hulking physique, 70-year-old John Gray cuts an imposing figure, the sort of man who makes an impact wherever he goes. Affectionately known as Ling Yai (meaning 'Big Monkey' - not 'ugly monkey' as I mistakenly thought!) by his Thai crew, Gray is indeed a legend, a name synonymous with the island of Phuket. His sea kayaking tours through the 'hongs' of Phang Nga Bay are one of the most popular day trips out of Phuket - a classic Thai experience that, in my mind, should be on every traveller's bucketlist.

Myself and John Gray on board his tour boat

John Gray's Sea Canoe tours have been part of the Phuket experience since 2001, when this Californian-born adventurer decided to expand his successful Hawaiian sea kayaking business into South East Asia. "I started the business on just 700 baht," he recalls. From the start, the focus was on the environment, with Gray keen to share his love of nature, science and low-impact exploration. He was the first to delve the caves and hongs of Phang Nga Bay, discovering hidden openings into the magical and surreal world inside the limestone karst islands; but, of course, many since have followed in his wake.

"Did you know there's no such thing as a sea canoe?" Gray asks me. "They are kayaks, of course. I just registered the same 'sea canoe' to throw off imitators. It didn't really work!" he laughs.

The yellow kayaks used by John Gray

Today there are several other operators offering "sea canoe" trips from Phuket; Gray is the only one, however, using the distinctive yellow SOTAR kayaks, safe and untippable rafts which can be easily manoeuvered through tight cave openings. Gray's tours are also recognised for their safety, use of local guides and for the quality of food - which is indeed excellent.

Gray himself tries to join at least three or four trips a week, with his clients always keen to hear his stories, ranging from riding huge waves in Hawaii, to kayaking in a typhoon, to hand-rearing a sea eagle that one day flew away to freedom - a tale that leaves the big man fighting back tears. But on the days he can't personally join the tours, his guests can rest assured that his all-Thai team are doing a great job, being personally trained by Gray in safety, environmental practices and eco-tourism.

John Gray explaining the geography of the 'hong'

The day of our tour is a landmark occasion for Gray - it's the first time he's paddled his own kayak in five years, with arthritis, a knee injury and a blood clot to the brain as recently as last year rendering him less-than-fit.

It's also one of the first times his company has hosted a baby under the age of one - my granddaughter Ellie.

I must admit to some nerves before our tour: tiny lifejackets don't seem to exist in Thailand, with the smallest being suitable for three-year-olds; while the Hong by Starlight tour is a long day for a baby, setting out from our hotel at 11.30am and not returning until 9pm.

After lengthy consultation with Gray, however, I was assured Ellie would be safe. We could bring along her pram for her to nap in on board the mothership, while Gray promised to allocated a dedicated staff member to her care and attention. So while her parents Jo and Nic paddled off on the first kayak excursion, I stayed on board with guide Toy, watching Ellie snooze in her pram during her afternoon nap.

Ellie with Toy

On the second kayak outing, however, Nic decided that holding Ellie would be quite safe; and indeed it was wonderful to watch her bouncing in his arms with excitement, leaning over to touch the water and fascinated with the sounds and sights inside the hong.


Ellie enjoying the kayak experience

"Who knows, maybe she'll grow up with a great love of caves and the water," Gray reflects afterwards. "Hopefully, subliminally, she'll retain a memory of this. Wouldn't that be incredible?"

I have to agree...

Happy baby! Pics: Julie Miller

Further information: www.johngray-seacanoe.com

Monday, February 23, 2015

XANA Beach Club: Where Family is Cool

Sexy, cool, sophisticated, chilled, place-to-be-seen: these are words synonymous with Phuket's Beach Club scene. "Family" and "babies" are not.

But having a child doesn't automatically exclude you from the beautiful people. In fact, at XANA, Phuket's most stylish beach club, kids are as welcome as adults at the Sunday Fun Brunch, with special activities for small folk.

And as we recently discovered, it's also the perfect place to recover from jetlag.

There's only four hour's difference between Sydney and Thailand, but that's enough to mess with your body clock and leave you dozing at inconvenient times during the first few days of your holiday. And if you're only 11-months-old like my granddaughter Ellie ... well, forget trying to stick to regular sleep patterns!

So when we were offered passes to XANA Beach Club for our first full day in Phuket, we snapped them up, with the notion of chilling by a beachfront pool very tempting indeed.

Coco Jamboo at XANA Beach Club

The Sunday Fun Brunch is a recent addition to XANA's impressive lineup of entertainment (which includes sets by leading international DJs, including Ministry of Sound alumni, Paul Oakenfold, Paul Harris and the Black-Eyed Peas' apl.de.ap.) Featuring the dulcet tones of Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Coco Jamboo, the brunch kicks off at 11.30am, with a fabulous array of food cooked up fresh at live stations. There's fresh seafood, sushi, several huge woks sizzling with noodles, a salad bar, tandoori station, pasta - you name it. The dessert station is equally delectable, with a cotton candy machine for the kids (big and little). Diners can choose a "free flow" drink deal or order by the glass, while children under the age of 6 dine for free.


The noodle station at the Sunday Fun Brunch

Ellie enjoying her lunch


Dessert station

After lunch, we retreat poolside to a double day bed under a red umbrella, big enough for all four of us. After a dip in the infinity pool, Ellie snoozes in her pram while the adults drink at the swim-up bar, walk along the beach or join the baby in slumber. It's truly blissful, so ridiculously relaxing with the gentle sea breeze, perfect sunshine and the sound of the waves lapping the shore.


Jo, Nic and Ellie in XANA's pool

Relaxing poolside

Meanwhile, children are entertained in a tent at the far end of the property (well away from the adults) with face painting, hair braiding and sand sculpture. At 3pm, Nam Chok, Angsara Resort's resident baby elephant, pays a visit, much to the wide-eyed astonishment of our own little Ellie, who doesn't quite know what to make of this huge beast! 

I hope this beautiful little person retains the memory of meeting her namesake, feeling its rough skin and experiencing that incredible sensation of a long trunk gently stroking her arm.


Ellie meets Nam Chok

XANA'S Sunday Fun Brunch is held every Sunday from 11:30am – 3:30pm.
Price: THB 1,450++ for brunch
THB 2,250++ including free flow of house wine, sparkling wine, beer, & signature cocktails
Kids below 6 dine free with 50% savings from 6-12 years.

Make reservations at info@xanabeachclub.com or call 076 324 101.
www.xanabeachclub.com





Monday, February 9, 2015

Sunwing Kamala: Where Babies Rule


As I discovered this week, travelling with a baby is a huge undertaking. Packing light is near-impossible, you have to compromise your itinerary to negotiate sleeps and feed times, and some activities just aren't practical when you have a small one in tow.

Even accommodation choices needs to be carefully considered. I don't mind roughing it if I'm travelling solo - but I shudder to think how I would have coped with some of my more rustic beds if I was concerned for the comfort of a child.

On our first "inter-generational" family holiday, my daughter, son-in-law, grand-daughter and myself stayed at Sunwing Kamala Beach. This large, beachfront resort is not just your standard family resort - its main focus is young kids, specifically babies. As well as spacious two-bedroom family suites, it also features 30 Happy Baby Studios which come with everything you could possibly need for your little one - a cot, high chair, Bumbo, play mat, change mat, baby bath and potty. There are clean tiled floors for baby to crawl on, kitchen facilities for heating up bottles and washing dishes, and a fenced play area with a locking gate to prevent wayward toddlers from stumbling into the pool area. There are even thoughtful touches such as protectors on the edge of the coffee table to save baby from bumping her chin.

Ellie enjoying her Bumbo

Best of all was the use of a pram - and not just a cheap, fold-up stroller either, but a proper pram with shade-cover, adjustable seating, seatbelts and brakes. The pram is yours for the duration of your stay and can be taken off the premises during family outings.


Ellie, Jo and Nic with a Happy Baby Studio pram

Sunwing's Happy Baby Studios easily accommodate a couple and bubs; adding granny was a bit of a squeeze, but the lounge doubles as a comfy single bed if you don't mind living in clutter.

While there is an active kids' club at the resort, it's more suitable for older children who enjoy time away from their parents. The resort mascots Lollo and Bernie (oddly enough a giraffe and bear ... not exactly Thai, though the children trailing along behind them didn't seem to care!) make twice-daily appearances. The playroom seemed adequately equipped (if slightly soul-less), while outside there is a sandpit area as well as seven (yes, count them!) pools, four of which have water slides.

Ellie looks a little unimpressed with the resort mascot

On check-in, families are given a sheet listing children's (and adults) activities. Unfortunately, none of these reflected Thai culture whatsoever - it would have been nice to see activities such as Thai dance, martial arts or even cooking on the agenda. Even their evening program seemed more about pandering to the largely Scandinavian clientele, with an Abba tribute show and some thankfully brief caterwauling resembling bad Scandi rock ... best avoided.

Kids' entertainment at Sunwing Kamala

The Thai staff at the resort, however, were simply delightful, and treated our 11-month-old like a princess. She had cuddles galore, and was greeted daily with cries of "Ellie! Ellie!" The ladies in the massage sala were particularly smitten, taking Ellie off our hands while Jo and I indulged in some much appreciated relaxation.


Massage staffer looking after Ellie. Pics: Julie Miller

Other ticks for this resort include an expansive breakfast buffet and its family-friendly beachside restaurant Fino, which provides complimentary main meals for under 12s.

While we seemed to be the only Aussies staying at Sunwing Kamala during our visit (which fell outside of school holidays), this resort should certainly be on the radar for Australians travelling to Phuket with small children.

For more information, visit www.sunwingkamala.com

*NB - the writer travelled as a guest of Sunwing Kamala.