JUNE 10, 2005 - The following is a report
on the current status of destinations Khao Lak and Phi Phi Island
in southern Thailand; indicating which hotel properties have made
progress in cleanup operations since December's tsunami, and where
problems still remain.
Although the destination has made great strides in clearing away
debris, there is still a lot to be done. Due either to a lack of
funds, or because they have not been instructed to do so, many hotels
have yet to remove debris from their properties.
Lacking clearly defined government guidelines on the use of beach
areas for commercial development has also meant that many hotel
owners are in a quandary on what action to take and this has further
hampered the clean up process. Despite this, some hotels, such as
the Khao Lak Merlin, Sunset, La Flora and Le Meridien, have reported
that they are either now operating normally or will be ready by
the end of October 2005. However, with the exception of Le Meridien,
we believe the majority of properties will not have completed re-construction
and renovation programms in time, and are therefore unlikely to
feature in our programmes.
A few properties are 'borderline' and may be ready for business
by the end of October. For example, we have received unconfirmed
reports that the Sarojin will indeed be sellable.
The only property untouched by the tsunami was the Andaburi. Ironically,
before the tsunami it was considered by some people to be located
too far from the beach, however, it is now one of the only fully
operational properties in Khao Lak.
In February/March Khao Lak Resort reported it would re-open for
the 2005/6 season, however, the adjacent Wanaburee Resort may not
re-open until the 2006/7 season. Whether ongoing construction work
in Khao Lak during this season will have too heavy an impact on
the quality of tourism in the area remains to be seen. It is still
difficult to quantify the amount of work remaining, and some unfinished
construction projects and debris may still be observed by the end
Other areas, such as Bang Ngiang Beach were totally destroyed. In
this area only La Flora is showing some signs of recovery, while
Mukdara and Palm Beach have yet to resume normal operations. South
Sea Prakarang Resort will also not be ready for the coming season
and does not expect to be operational before 2006/7.
A lot of reconstruction work is also being hampered by a lack of
construction materials - not just in Khao Lak - but also in Phuket.
The shortage of even basic materials has also seen a dramatic rise
in prices, further hampering the recovery process.
We have also received reports that Khao Khao Island Beach Resort
will re-open for the season 2005/6. As much as we would like to
see them enjoy a return of business, we are not sure the journey
to Khao Khao Island would be an enjoyable one for tourists. Much
of the surrounding area driving up to the pier - from where visitors
take the ferry to the island - has been devastated and reminders
of the tsunami are all around.
PHI PHI ISLAND
Many thought that after the tsunami Phi Phi Island was completely
destroyed, but that is not the case. For example, by January, there
was very little evidence of damage to be seen at Pee Pee Island
Village. In the months following the tsunami, some hotels on the
island like the Holiday Inn, used the downturn in arrivals as an
opportunity to upgrade their facilities. Other resorts, like Phi
Phi Natural Resort escaped damage due to its location.
Those badly damaged resorts included Tonsai and the adjacent Loh
Dahlum Bay resort, while properties that were completely destroyed
included Phi Phi Village (not to be confused with Pee Pee Island
Village), Phi Phi Princess and Phi Phi Charlie Beach Resort. Phi
Phi Cabana's main buildings survived the tsunami, however other
parts of the property were so badly damaged that is will not be
operational before the season 2006/7.
Cleanup operations have progressed extremely fast in and around
Tonsai Bay and are now almost complete with only some visible signs
of re-construction in a far corner of the bay.
Properties such as the Phi Phi Bayview, and everything located to
its right (Ayaburi, etc.) are considered up to standard and operational.
Many of the bars, pubs, shops and dive centres have also re-opened,
and while some of these properties are still experiencing a power
shortage, we anticipate this will be overcome in the coming months.
In terms of marine activities, divers have given positive reports
despite minor damage to some coral reefs. The lack of tourist activity
over the past few months has also helped the marine life and habitats
to recover naturally.
In conclusion, we believe that Phi Phi Island has made huge progress
in its cleanup operations, and by the end of October, many properties
will be ready to accept guests for what will surely be an enjoyable
of our June Bahtra junks will set across more of Thailand shortly
and offer a wider service area for our fabulous one day sailing
experiences. Until now, all three traditional junk-rigged schooners
have been in service in Phang Nga Bay, moored at Yacht Haven Harbour
Now, one will
go to sea in Koh Samui for 'The Magical Samui Cruise', while another
is already in Hua Hin where a scheduled service is about to begin,
and one as before in Phuket. Schedules and tariffs are being prepared
so we'll keep you posted as soon as dates and precise locations
The mighty Mekong river has been humbled in February and March.
Little or no rain in weeks has produced near-record low water levels
and operating difficulties for our two cruises, Vat Phou and Luang
Say. The situation is expected to return to a slightly deeper norm
soon, though recently certain points in the tours have been adjusted
slightly to cater to the Mekong's receded waters.
Hoan Kiem turtle most endangered of its kind
The legendary turtles living in Hoan Kiem Lake in Vietnam's capital
Hanoi are the most endangered freshwater turtles in the world, said
the Vietnam Wildlife Conservation Society. Up to now, only one single
individual of the species has been seen in the lake, the Vietnam
Wildlife Conservation Society said. According to Vietnam's Red Book
of Endangered Species, the species is possibly the Asian giant soft-shelled
The legend of the rare turtle species goes back to the mid-1400s
when the great king Le Loi used a heaven-sent sword to hold off
Chinese invaders. After the final battle, as the king was boating
in Hanoi, his sword leapt from its scabbard and into the mouth of
the turtle. The turtle plunged underwater with the sword, never
to be seen again, and the lake has been known as Ho Hoan Kiem ever
since - the Lake of the Returned Sword. Many Vietnamese believe
the turtle with Le Loi's sword is still living in the lake which
would make the sacred turtle about 550 years old.
Meanwhile, some international scientists believe the huge turtles
could be an entirely new freshwater species, one never yet documented
or studied. Their theory relies on the analyses of a few photographs
that show the shape of the turtle's head and shell.
Vietnam is home to 23 terrestrial and freshwater kinds of turtles.
All creatures are considered extremely endangered.
Prateep" is a novel new product offering a home-stay atmosphere
and initiation to meditation and well-being techniques. Located
on the delightful Koh Kred in the Chao Phrya River just north of
Bangkok, it will likely be featured in our tariff in the future
and sure to be of interest to many of our clients
. Watch this
Tourists visiting Luang Prabang in Laos can now set their sights
and senses on a new luxury accommodation option. The Maison Souvannaphoum
was officially opened in late February and fills a high-end niche
requirement for this beautiful world-heritage town. The hotel has
22 rooms and is geared towards the eco-tourism and culture tourism
markets. Room rates start at US$130 per night during the low season
and US$170 in the high season.
TAT statistics show that arrivals at Bangkok International Airport
increased 11.6% during first 15 days of February despite concerns
about the tsunami effect. Don Muang welcomed almost 359,600 visitors
from 1 to 15 February, up 11.6% up when compared to the 322,150
arrivals recorded during the same period in 2004.
Tiger Airways, Singapore's low fare airline, is launching a second
flight to Phuket starting from the end of March 2005. The additional
flight will operate initially twice weekly, on Monday and Friday
evenings, increasing to a daily second flight for the peak summer
season. "Tiger Airways is ahead of forecast budget in all our
current routes in Thailand and there are no plans to cut back on
any existing flights. The second flight to Phuket is a demonstration
of our confidence that the Thai tourism industry is solidly back
on its feet after December 2004." said Tony Davis, CEO Tiger
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