Published: 11 Apr 2013 at 00.00
Chiang Mai kicks off its first Usa-kane Songkran Festival today by inviting performing troupes from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and China’s Yunnan province to join the celebration.
People from Chiang Mai province get into the spirit of Songkran last year.
Usa-kane, meaning Southeast Asia, is the theme of the water festival hosted by Chiang Mai and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to link the festival to the upcoming Asean Economy Community (AEC).
“We want to have something new this year,” said TAT Governor Surapol Svetasreni. “So, we invited about 60 performers from neighbouring countries to showcase their unique performances.”
The festival’s highlight is a parade this afternoon by international performers. There will also be a stage for performers to showcase traditional dances and plays.
Songkran is celebrated from today until April 15, while some districts such as Phra Pradaeng in Samut Prakan and Si Racha in Chon Buri will host the festival from April 19-21.
“Locals and visitors can enjoy Songkran celebrations for 10 days throughout the Kingdom,” said the governor, adding that the TAT will support celebrations in 12 provinces _ Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Chon Buri, Nakhon Phanom, Suphan Buri, Hat Yai, Phuket and Nakhon Si Thammarat.
“Hat Yai will host a midnight Songkran, while Phuket will have Songkran on the beach. In Bangkok, Songkran will be in four styles, including the northern style at Wat Pho and the southern style at Wat Suthat,” he said.
TAT expects that festival will generate 11 billion baht and attract about 2.7 million domestic and foreign visitors.
“At least 177 charter flights will fly to Thailand this month and most of them will land in Phuket and Bangkok,” said the governor. The flights will carry more than 30,000 visitors and most of them are from China, Russia and Malaysia. He said more European tourists, especially Russians, travelled to Thailand during the first three months thanks to the extended winter season in Europe.
According to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, about 1.4 million Europeans out of 4.5 million visitors travelled to Thailand during January and February. The number rose 6.7% from the same period last year.
Russians led the group with 393,700 visitors, followed by Germans (162,550) and people from Britain (161,697). The top Asian visitors are from China (725,796) and Malaysia (452,131).
“TAT hopes tourists visiting Thailand during Songkran will have the opportunity to participate in all joyful activities taking place throughout the Kingdom,” said the governor. When asked whether the haze condition in the North would effect the celebration, Surapol said the situation has been improved.
“We had just finished hosting an international Chiang Mai Golf Classic tournament last month and everyone enjoyed the event. No one complained about breathing,” he said.
According to Sawan Kweanthaisong, president of the Association of Northern of Tourism Federation, hotel occupancy in Chiang Mai during the first three months was about 60-70%.
“Fortunately, the boom of the low-cost movie Lost In Thailand has boosted tourism in Chiang Mai.
“We have welcomed a large numbers of Chinese tourists. At first we were worried about the haze, but booking cancellation is not much and so far we haven’t received any complains from hotel operators,” he said.
“Unlike the haze situation in 2006 when people had to wear masks, this year the air pollution is an acceptable level and it has not effected the tourism industry much,” he said. “Also, the haze has subsided after two heavy rains.”
According to the Pollution Control Department, the number of fires burning was reduced from 671 in March to some 200 at the beginning of April.
Air quality in nine provinces in the North has been improved. Only in Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai and Nan do the levels of PM10-dust particles smaller than 10 microns exceed the accepted safe level of 120 microgrammes per cubic metre. There levels stand at 219, 161 and 139 respectively.
TAT expected that the Songkran festival will ease people’s worries about the haze. “Normally, there will be rain during Songkran days so I hope the situation regarding haze will be better,” said TAT governor.
Thai Smile has launched new international direct flights from Phuket to Malaysia and India.
The Phuket-Kuala Lumpur flight is four times a week on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Monday, while the Phuket-Delhi and Phuket-Mumbai routes are twice a week. The aim is to serve the growing demands of business and leisure travellers, especially wedding and honeymooners from India.
The airline uses Airbus A320-200 with 16 seats for business class and 150 seats for economy class for all of its new routes.
Six Senses Hua Hin has recently been merged with Evason Hua Hin. The combined properties now have one website offering 95 private pool villas, 145 guestrooms and outlets for dining and drinks.
After the merge, Sustainable Luxury Thailand, which is the owner of both properties, will invest some 20 million baht to upgrade facilities such as Wi-Fi, in-room entertainment system, a gym and guestrooms.
– Sofitel So Bangkok has introduced So VIP Suite on the 27th floor. Covering 233m2, the two-storey suite features a master bedroom, guest bedroom, living room and dining room for eight to 10 guests. There is also a huge Jacuzzi behind a glass wall.
The suite’s contemporary decor was created by well-known Thai designer Pongthep Sagulkul, with decorative items designed by French couturier Christian Lacroix. The luxury suite is also equipped with high-tech facilities such as electric frosted glass technology and an Apple Mac Mini with a 55-inch LCD TV supporting movies.
Other amenities include an Illy espresso machine, complementary in-room private bar and butler’s pantry for those midnight feasts.
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