Macau: Not just a gamblers’ paradise
One of many possible short trips to interesting destinations surrounding
Thailand is Macau, a former Portuguese colony and, since 1999, a Special
Administrative Region (SAR) of China. Macau is located 60 kilometers
southwest of Hong Kong. Thai Air Asia flies three times daily from Bangkok
to this tiny island-city. The flight takes three hours and takes you to
Macau’s small but modern airport, which opened ten years ago. Previously,
the only way of getting there was by boat or helicopter from Hong Kong.
Macau SAR comprises three parts: the Macau peninsula, Taipa Island and
Coloane Island. The peninsula is the heart of the city, with banks,
government offices and most hotels and casinos, where Taipa is mainly
residential and Coloane island is a getaway for the locals during the
weekends. The peninsula and Taipa are linked by three impressive bridges
which are beautifully illuminated at night, and Taipa is linked with Coloane
by a causeway. Around this causeway there is a huge landfill project going
on, almost doubling the precious land surface of this former colony. Coloane
is the greenest part, and offers beaches and nice views from the top of the
territory’s highest mountain.
View of Macau Tower with the
entertainment complex at its foot, and one of the bridges linking Macau
peninsula with Taipa Island in the background.
Although Macau was handed over to China in 1999, two years after the British
gave up Hong Kong, Portuguese is still an official language here, although
most residents are native speakers of Cantonese. English is also widely
spoken. It is remarkable to see signs in Portuguese in the Far East. The
unusual combination of Portuguese architecture, with its cobbled streets,
Mediterranean squares and churches, and Chinese temples and shops is
fascinating. Macau is also known for its excellent bakeries, a welcome
heritage of the Iberian people.
The main tourist venue in Macau is gambling. There are numerous casinos and
it is clear that gamblers bring in the most money here. Another major event,
which is inevitably linked to big bucks and worldwide attention, is the
Grand Prix Formula 3 racing, which is held each year in November. All hotels
are fully booked well in advance for this event. The racetrack runs through
the city, much like the Formula 1 course in Monaco. The major landmark is
the Macau Tower, which is more than 300 meters tall, with an observation
deck, sky jump facilities from a height of 233 meters, and an entertainment
complex with shops and restaurants at the foot of the tower.
Although taxis and buses are good, inexpensive, and will take you anywhere,
another nice way to explore Macau is by renting a car. Instead of a normal
car you could go for a Moke (an open jeep) or a Smart with sunroof. Renting
a car provides you with much more freedom to get around. The road network is
limited but excellent, and although parking in the city might be a bit
difficult, most hotels have their own garages for their guests. Rental rates
are around 1,800 baht per day for a Smart, depending on the length of the
A visit to Macau can easily be combined with bustling Hong Kong. There are
frequent jetfoil services throughout the day; comfortable fast boats which
cover the distance in about an hour. The one-way fare from Macau to Hong
Kong is approximately 135 Macau patacas, which is 700 baht. The fare for the
return trip is higher, at 175 Hong Kong dollars (around 900 baht). If you
are in a hurry and don’t mind paying a much higher fare, or want to
experience a flight in a helicopter, there is a frequent air shuttle service
between the two cities.
Macau is served non-stop from Bangkok by Thai Air Asia. Fares are variable.
A return flight leaving on April 1 and coming back on April 5 for example
would cost a very reasonable 2,750 baht, including all taxes and fees. Air
Asia has special offers on a regular basis. If you have an internet
connection, the best way to keep updated is by subscribing to their
newsletter. Visit their website www.airasia.com for more information. A
second option for a direct flight is with Air Macau, but that airline’s
fares are generally much higher.
Of course, you can also visit Macau in combination with Hong Kong, and take
the boat or helicopter from the former British crown colony across the Pearl
River delta to Macau. Hong Kong dollars are accepted almost everywhere in
Macau, but patacas are not accepted in Hong Kong.
Macau is well worth a visit and quite rightly promotes itself with the
slogan, “Where the Mediterranean meets the Pacific.” So, why not make Macau
the destination for your next short trip?
Tourism not yet affected by political woes
Thailand’s ongoing political tension has not yet affected
the country’s tourism since hotel occupations and airplane ticket
reservations remain booked at normal levels, according to an industry
Vijit na Ranong, president of the Tourism Industry Council of Thailand,
believes that the current political situation has dampened tourism climate
in some sections of Bangkok because those sections have become the center of
rallies demanding political change.
So far, there have been no cancellations of flights or hotel room
reservations by tourists. Still, some government officials have definitely
postponed reservations for hotel and seminar rooms following the dissolution
of the House Representatives on February 24, he said.
Vijit conceded that hotel room reservations are likely to drop slightly if
the political turmoil drags on, since tourists might opt to wait for the
situation to ease before traveling to Thailand.
Organizers of international conferences may hesitate to choose Thailand as a
venue for meetings since safety is always a top priority.
He said that local tourism would definitely be affected if the political
situation escalated into violence and led to riots.
Therefore, Vijit would like concerned officials to give tourists a proper
understanding of the current political situation to help ease their
Nevertheless, Vijit is confident the country’s tourism will grow 10 percent
year on year as earlier targeted, with money circulation exceeding 400
billion baht. (TNA)
New lease of life for United
At an intimate gathering with journalists recently,
United Airlines Singapore general manager, Laurence Chin, celebrated the
carrier’s coming out of Chapter 11 protection a month to the day, and its
20th year of operations in Singapore.
He said, “We’ve negotiated new leases on aircraft and properties, relooked
the pension scheme, and we exited Chapter 11 on February 1.” He added that
the airline would continue to keep a close watch on costs, but would not let
this stand in the way of a new round of product upgrades.
“There’ll be spending to upgrade first and business class products, and to
celebrate our 20 years in Singapore, we’ll hold a number of events through
the year to give value-added services to the market.”
Chin said a “strategic sales transformation” plan was underway, but added
the carrier did not believe air travel had become a “commodity market”
whereby no more stock was placed in service. “Our research shows there is
still a significant group of people here who are willing to pay for the
right services, so we’ll benchmark ourselves against best-in-class sales
teams from other industries and won’t just sell on price”. (TTG Asia)
Thailand predicts inbound Koreans to rise
The number of Koreans visiting Thailand has been
projected to rise 12 percent to 900,000 this year.
Thailand’s Kasikorn Research Centre estimated the increase would generate an
additional 2.5 billion baht (US$634.6 million) in tourism receipts - a 16
percent rise year-on-year. Some 800,000 Koreans visited Thailand last year.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand reported that in the first half of 2005,
the Korean market was the Kingdom’s fourth biggest behind Malaysia, Japan
and Singapore. (TTG Asiaa)
Rayavadee owner takes
over Tamarind Chiang Mai
The Premier Group of Companies, which owns and operates
Rayavadee Resort in Krabi, has taken over Tamarind Village, a boutique
property in Chiang Mai.
Tamarind was bought by Raya Heritage, a Premier subsidiary, in May last
The 40-key hotel has been renovated in stages since late last year. There
are three new room categories - 26 Lanna rooms, 12 Lanna Deluxe rooms, one
Tamarind Suite and one Tamarind Deluxe Suite - and a new spa and library.
Its restaurant will be refurbished. It has also enhanced its wine list from
10 labels to 40.
The hotel’s Chief Operating Officer, Paul van Frank, said the renovation was
scheduled for completion in October, and following which, the room rates
would increase by 20 percent.
He said the hotel aimed to attract more high-end FIT travelers. To achieve
that, it has added into its personalized services a concierge and a private
Chiang Mai Home Host excursion. (TTG Asia)
Marriott International accepts
NACTA’s TravelSellers Code
Starting March 1, members of the National Association of
Commissioned Travel Agents (NACTA) who possess a TravelSellers
Identification Code will be eligible to register their agency for a trial
program to receive commissions on Marriott brands as long as they have taken
and passed the Marriott Hotel Excellence Program, among other criteria.
This program will pay commissions to qualified NACTA members through to Dec
NACTA members may register for this trial program by going to the
members-only pages of NACTA’s website at www.nacta.com. All registrations
must be made through NACTA and not directly with Marriott International.
Besides providing their agency and membership information, NACTA members
must have the following: TravelSellers Numeric Code; the carrier, policy
number and coverage amount of the agency’s Errors & Omission Insurance; and
the HSS Code (Hotel Sales Specialist). (TTG Asia)
Selection of THAI president accelerated
Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (THAI)
is accelerating selecting a new president so that the company’s top
management will be in office by the time Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi Airport
is opened for commercial use later this year.
Deputy Transport Minister Phumtham Wechayachai Phumtham, who oversees the
national flag carrier, said that qualifications of the selected candidate
would have to meet the Ministry of Transport’s criteria.
They include being competent and having experience in successful management
of a multi-billion-baht business, and being capable of strengthening and
uniting organizational organs in order to drive the company forward with
competitiveness and solidarity, he noted.
“There are urgent tasks waiting for the new THAI president, including
improvements of internal management, customers services and passenger
aircraft to meet world-classed standards.
The company’s selection process for its new president to replace Kanok
Abhiradee has already been extended once before.
Kanok’s term will officially end soon, though he has already been ‘shelved’
with the appointment of Somchainuk Engtrakul, a THAI board member, as the
acting president since last year.
“Once the qualified candidate is selected, we’ll announce it to the public,”
the minister told journalists.
Meanwhile, Caretaker Transport Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal confirmed
that the new Suvarnabhumi International Airport would be open for commercial
purposes in late June as scheduled, despite any political change, with the
new government to be formed after the snap election following the
dissolution of the House of Representatives on February 24.
The minister said that the construction of the new airport is now 99 percent
completed, and that overall decorations would soon be finalized.
He conceded, however, that the new airport’s catering services would be
fully in place by September - three months after the opening of the airport
- due to a delay in repair works of THAI’s catering building after it was
damaged by a fire earlier this year.
“During the three-month period, the airport’s catering services will be
served by THAI’s old catering facility at the Don Muang Airport,” he noted.
For the airport-link project, which includes the development of a mass rapid
transit system connecting the new airport with Bangkok’s downtown areas,
Pongsak said the project is expected to be completed over the next two