- HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
Pattaya puts best foot forward for APEC delegates
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
CARAT Sailors give the gift of time
Pattaya puts best foot forward for APEC delegates
Forum seeks strategies for regional tourism and investment cooperation
by Staff Reporters
Hosted by the Thai government, TAT, provincial and local
administrations, last week’s high profile Asia Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) forum in Pattaya focused on the future of regional,
national and local tourism. Government representatives from the 21 member
nations met for the 22nd APEC Travel and Tourism Forum and the 3rd APEC
Tourism Working Group to discuss important regional and global issues from
and performers at the opening ceremony of the 22nd APEC Tourism Working
Group Meeting held at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort.
Manit Boonchim, director of TAT region 3, Auggaphol Brickshawana, TAT
Planning Department director, Krirk-krai Jirapaet, Deputy Minister of
Tourism and Sports, Panga Vathanakul MD Royal Cliff Beach Resort, Mayor
Pairat Suthithamrongsawat and Choosak Srivajanapong RM of the Royal Cliff
delicate art of fruit carving never ceases to amaze our visitors.
from Mini Siam perform the ‘Kinnaree’.
Krirkkrai Jirapaet, vice-minister of Tourism and Sports
presided over the official opening at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort on June
Officially opening the forum, Auggaphol Prueksawan,
director of planning for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said,
“Postponed from April due to the outbreak of the SARS virus in Asia, this
meeting now proves Thailand’s efforts to halt the spread of the disease
and involves representatives from member nations responsible for the
development of travel and tourism in the Asia Pacific region.”
Tight security prevented the media from joining the
initial stages of the meeting but the press got a chance to meet with
delegates at a special cocktail party at the Dusit Resort Pattaya on Tuesday
evening where everyone was treated to a display of Thai food and culture.
The following day a dinner arranged by many of local
business organizations and Pattaya City demonstrated appreciation and
provided the very best in food, cultural shows and displays for APEC guests
at the new South Pattaya Bali Hai Pier.
The Tourism Working Group (TWG) addressed main focal
points for tourism in the Asia Pacific.
Discussions dealt with problems currently facing tourism
and addressed issues of regional investment. It was acknowledged that strong
support and promotion of tourism within the region is vital for the member
countries and it was agreed that each nation must insure higher standards of
products and services for travelers.
Peter Malhotra kept the party rolling at a lively pace.
School No. 3 students perform the ancient Muay Thai pre-fight ritual.
delegate couldn’t take his eyes off Miss Tiffany.
TWG agreed that security amid the current global alert to
prevent terrorism and potential threats to travelers is a top priority and
pointed out that integrated measures and standards are necessary tools
required to develop the region’s vast potential for tourism and its vital
Discussions included the creation of the APEC
International Center for Sustainable Tourism, to support the industry,
particularly in the wake of SARS in the Asia Pacific Region and assess
tourism risk management in the Asia Pacific Region. The TWG also announced
its intention of implementing the best measures and practices in safety and
security in order to combat fear of terrorism in the tourist industry.
Officials of the Tourism Working Group (TWG) discussed
the impact of SARS on its member economies. In consultation with
international experts and private-sector representatives from the World
Travel and Tourism Council and the Pacific Asia Travel Association,
officials noted that while the health scare had affected all areas of
members’ economies, it hit the tourist industry hardest.
delegates pose for a group picture after receiving beautiful souvenirs from
Mayor Pairat Suthithamrongsawat.
residents from the government and private sectors including members of many
orgaisations lent a hand to give a warm welcome to our guests.
beautiful colors of dusk lend an extraordinary backdrop to this delegate
reading the Pattaya Mail.
Thursday June 12 opened the 3rd Tourism Forum which
focused on ‘Sustainable Pathways to Quality and Value in Tourism in the
APEC region’. This concept will create partnerships and alliances to
develop markets and sustain growth in the industry.
Sir Frank Moore AO, chairman APEC International Center
for Sustainable Tourism (AICST) summarized, “The first three decades of
modern tourism were successful. New heights were achieved and opportunities
were increased. Success also brought new problems which will require higher
levels of skills and abilities. Currently we need to upgrade our knowledge
in order to manage the situation. We also need to embrace a wider global
vision rather than the individual or national destination approach of the
“Wider partnerships and collaboration are required.
AICST can act as a vehicle for partner economies to collaborate in building
a wider knowledge base to allow the industry’ potential to be realized,”
concluded Sir Frank.
Sakolviphak, international counsellor and president of the Skal National
Committee of Thailand, plays host to delegates at the Dusit Resort.
Brickshawana, TAT Planning Department director leads the delegates to an
evening of fine dining and culture held at the Bali Hai Pier in South
Sir Frank touched on the very essence of APEC and
tourism. Cooperative partnership is vital between countries and businesses.
Effective cooperation empowers participants to resolve issues through better
understanding. Partnerships can ensure that future development is of high
standard and working together makes problems easier to solve.
The APEC International Center for Sustainable Tourism,
the Tourism Working Group has a project underway that helps governments and
tourism operators better manage risks and quickly respond to crises, whether
of human or natural origin.
This study and its recommendations, including a case
study on SARS, will be available in the last quarter of 2003, after a
presentation to APEC senior officials.
Meanwhile, TWG officials are aware that the media needs to be informed of
the measures being taken to enhance travelers’ security in the APEC
region. The TWG recognizes the important role that media and government
advisory messages can play in gaining the confidence of travelers.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
by Kathryn Brimacombe
Although I have been to Chiang Mai several times, each
time I go I visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Despite it being number one on
the tourist hit list for Chiang Mai, it stills beckons me as it stands
proudly from the top of the mountain, overlooking the city below. Whenever
the golden temple comes into my view as I’m walking along the streets,
I’m filled with a sense of peace and contentment, as if it’s protecting
me. It calls to me, and I go.
around the chedi, the scent of burning incense following me,
my eyes never leaving
the beautiful pagoda whose golden glow darkens to a deep copper colour in
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was established more than six
hundred years ago by King Keu Naone of Lanna, a kingdom in northern Thailand
of which Chiang Mai was the capital. The legend says that during that time,
a monk from Sukothai had a vision of a fire. When he followed the fire, he
found a bone that had come from Lord Buddha. He brought the relic to his
king, but the king soon lost interest when the bone failed to display any
magical powers. But King Keu Naone, who had heard the story, asked the monk
to bring the bone to Chiang Mai and constructed a new chedi (or pagoda) to
house it. When the time came to enshrine the relic, however, it split in
The king decreed that half of the bone should be placed
on a sacred white elephant, and the elephant should be followed. The
elephant left Chiang Mai by its northern gate (known today as Chang Puak, or
White Elephant Gate) and walked west into the mountains. The elephant
climbed up the 1676 metre Doi Suthep, or Suthep Mountain, but when it neared
the summit it trumpeted and died. On that spot in 1383 the King ordered the
temple to be built.
For more than 500 years, devout worshippers had to make
the arduous trek to the temple through the jungle to the top of the
mountain. But then in 1934, Phra Krubra Srivichai, a local monk, thought the
temple needed to be accessed more easily and organized several villages to
build a road. He asked each village to construct 10 metres, and within six
months the winding road was complete. Phra Krubra Srivichai was held in such
high regard a statue devoted to him was created at the base of the mountain,
where it still stands. It is believed to be good luck to pay homage to him
before ascending Doi Suthep.
my elbows on the railing, I look over the tops of trees to Chiang Mai below.
The sky is a clear blue with a few puffs of clouds in the distance, and with
little haze I can see for miles and miles.
The songthaew drops me off safely at the foot of the
stairs leading up to the temple, after spending many stomach-churning
minutes winding along the 13-km steep road through beautiful jungle to reach
the summit. I stare at the long staircase in front of me, which consists of
more than 200 steps, take a deep breath and begin my ascent, thinking that
this isn’t as bad as having to climb the entire mountain itself to reach
The staircase is flanked on both sides by the scaly
snake-like bodies of the nagas, whose fierce multiple heads form the
banisters’ bottoms. Thus, the nagas, who in Buddhist mythology protected
Buddha before his enlightenment by shooting down lightning bolts aimed at
him, guard the sacred temple.
After stopping halfway to catch my breath, sharing
exclamations about the strenuous climb with other tourists, I finally reach
the top and enter the temple grounds, first taking off my shoes. The temple
is breathtaking in its gold and vermilion splendour, twinkling in the
sun’s gaze against the deep blue sky.
Wiping my face with a handkerchief to catch the beads of
sweat dripping down, I enter the inner courtyard and am greeted by the sight
of the copper-plated chedi topped with a five-tiered golden umbrella,
glinting like golden fire. All around it are throngs of tourists, and I must
manoeuvre my way through to get a good view.
In front of the chedi people are praying, their eyes
closed, their hands placed together in a wai, whilst a candle, flowers and
joss sticks are pressed between their palms. After their prayers have been
said, they light the candles and place them in a rack that is dripping in
dried wax, then lay their flowers on a metal tray, and finally light their
joss sticks and position them in a sand-filled pot.
I walk around the chedi, the scent of burning incense
following me, my eyes never leaving the beautiful pagoda whose golden glow
darkens to a deep copper colour in the shadows. Behind the chedi is another
temple and I glance inside the dark room filled with Buddha effigies. As my
eyes adjust to the darkness, I see an elderly monk sitting on the floor,
murmuring and blessing an older woman seated in a lotus position in front of
him. Not wishing to disturb such a sacred moment, I quietly retire and
continue my walk.
Leaving the inner sanctuary and the chedi, I head outside
of the main temple where I had been told I would see a fantastic view of
Chiang Mai. Passing by a holy Bodhi tree, which people say had actually
grown from a clipping of the very tree under which Buddha became
enlightened, I come across two rows of large bells. A young man grabs the
gong of the first bell and gently taps the side, creating a resonating
sound. As he continues along the row, ringing each bell lightly, the sound
follows me as my eyes draw me to the bright pink bougainvilleas that reach
their limbs and paper-thin petals to the viewpoint.
Leaning my elbows on the railing, I look over the tops of
trees to Chiang Mai below. The sky is a clear blue with a few puffs of
clouds in the distance, and with little haze I can see for miles and miles.
The runway of Chiang Mai International Airport stretches out to my right,
and I watch as an incoming plane lands on the tarmac.
I gaze out to the horizon for several more minutes, feeling the
benevolent presence of the temple extending outward to those around me and
to the people of Chiang Mai below. Then the sweet scent of burning incense
tickles my nose, and turning my eyes towards the temple, I follow the smoky
trail back to the golden chedi.
CARAT Sailors give the gift of time
By Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Tim Gustafson
Commander, Task Force 712 public affairs
Damage Controlman 3rd Class Jason McPherson drives his
pickaxe relentlessly into the red rocky soil. Beside him, a slender Thai man
in his forties works a shovel into the clay. Perspiration is as common as
2nd Class Alan Countz of USS Vincennes (CG 49) plays with new friends at the
Ban Khao Bai Sri Elementary School. Sailors created concrete slabs to
support playground equipment and painted the school’s open-air dining
facility. U.S. Navy photo by Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Tim Gustafson.
The 20 members of the U.S. Navy who have come to Ban Khao
Bai Sri School are visiting the country for the Thailand phase of
Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT). But today is a
cooperative exercise of a different kind.
Without all the gadgets and diversions so common in more
affluent areas, schools in this region serve as community centers for
children. At Ban Khao Bai Sri, playground equipment creatively constructed
out of piping, barrels, and other odds and ends draws some 320 children from
preschool through the elementary grades.
But the structures sit loosely on the ground. McPherson
and the other volunteers are here to anchor the seven pieces of equipment in
Kathleen Hosie of USS Vincennes (CG 49) conducts an impromptu English lesson
with children at the Ban Khao Bai Sri Elementary School. U.S. Navy photo by
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Tim Gustafson.
There’s plenty of other work to do too. The school’s
modest buildings stretch unobtrusively across the back of the tree-lined
acre-sized quadrangle. Vivid tropical flowers punctuate the perimeter.
Netless soccer goals bracket each end. Seated passively on the tiled
veranda, a Buddhist monk takes in the scene. He oversees the property and
provides the food for the students.
A concrete structure in the far corner serves as a
cafeteria. Weathered and mildewed paint flakes from the walls. Scaffolding,
ladders and other supplies await the volunteer crew here from USS Safeguard
(ARS 50), USS Vincennes (CG 49), forward deployed to Sasebo and Yokosuka,
Japan respectively, and the staff of San Diego-based Destroyer Squadron (DESRON)
While McPherson and several of his buddies doggedly chop
at the holes for the concrete, another group of sailors makes for the paint
project. First they’ll need to scrape and sweep the walls inside and out.
Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class Dustin Phagan grabs a broom and
dispatches a spider that impedes his progress. “I don’t know about the
spiders here,” he grins.
Oozing curiosity, bolder schoolchildren blaze the trail
for their more reluctant classmates. Approaching their American guests, they
try what little English they know. “Hello. What is your name?” It’s
more than enough to break the ice. In unison, a semicircle of kids counts to
ten, giggling louder with each number.
The sailors have brought their own water, but they
didn’t need to. Children faithfully dispense glasses of it, while a Thai
teacher keeps a styrofoam cooler stocked with bottled water. Schoolgirls
bring fresh fruit at regular intervals.
As the alluring aroma of authentic Thai cuisine begins to
pervade the quad, long-forgotten American tunes from the seventies emanate
from the school’s antiquated speaker system. Employees of the school are
preparing Thai noodles for the volunteers.
By late afternoon, the work is nearly done. Amazingly,
several of the sailors still have energy to keep up with the kids.
DESRON Chaplain (Lt.) Robert Mercado, who helped pull the
community service effort together, is moved at what has been accomplished in
just one day. Accompanied by the interpreter, he walks over from a
conversation with school principal Detsara Pouaknand. His voice softens as
he relays what the principal has just told him.
“The principal is so grateful,” he says, shaking his
head. “She would have waited more than five years for the funds to get
[the equipment] stabilized.”
“We can pump money into this and it’s still not
enough,” he says wistfully. “It’s still not enough.”
But today, for the students at Ban Khao Bai Sri School, it isn’t about
the money. It’s about a group of sailors who cared enough to give some
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