Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Monday, May 21, 2012
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thailand is expecting a surge in arrivals from Indonesia following the launch of the first direct flights between Surabaya and Bangkok on November 7 and the upcoming launch of the first direct flights from Medan to Bangkok on November 16.
As of November 7, the low-cost airline Indonesia AirAsia, a sister company of Thai AirAsia, began flying Surabaya-Bangkok-Surabaya four times weekly, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The flight departs Surabaya at 15.25 hrs. and arrives in Bangkok at 19.10 hrs. It leaves Bangkok 19.45 hrs. and lands in Surabaya at 23.35 hrs. As posted on the airasia.com website, the regular fare is Bt7,701 for a roundtrip (as of November 9, 2010).
On November 8, 2010, TAT organized a welcome reception for 30 Indonesian travel agents and members of the media at the Siam Niramit in Bangkok. The reception was hosted by Mr Pongsathorn Kessasamli, Director of the ASEAN, South Pacific and Pacific Region, Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Surabaya is the main seaport and commercial centre in eastern Indonesia. It has a population of around 3 million with another 7 million in the catchment areas. One of Indonesia’s busiest ports, it is a hub for the export of sugar, tobacco, and coffee. In recent years, the city has seen a boom in real estate with new high-rise apartments, condominiums, and hotels.
On November 16, 2010, Indonesia AirAsia will launch three weekly services between Medan and Bangkok on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
These flights will significantly broaden the market base and boost aviation capacity between the two countries. Previously, there were 21 flights operating weekly between Bangkok - Jakarta and 14 flights between Bangkok - Denpasar (Bali) by Thai Airways International (THAI), Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia Air Asia, and Thai Air Asia.
According to Mr Pongsathorn, these new flights will certainly help bring more Indonesian visitors to Thailand and, equally important, boost intra-regional travel between the ASEAN countries, thereby enhancing connectivity.
Arrivals from Indonesia have enjoyed double-digit growth between 1998-2003. During January – September 2010, Indonesian visitor arrivals totalled 205,890, up 37.85% over the same period of 2009. TAT is targeting 270,000 visitors from Indonesia by 2010.
Indonesians find Bangkok an exciting city. TAT officials feel that new products; such as, the, opening of the Madame Tussauds Museum in Bangkok as well as its many health spas will prove to be popular stops for Indonesians.
While Bangkok and Pattaya are the traditional starting points for potential visitors from new markets like Surabaya, repeat visitors from Indonesia from cities; such as, Jakarta are being encouraged to visit Phuket and Chiang Mai.
TAT is now preparing for the opening of a full-fledged office in Jakarta by April 2011. At the moment, the Indonesian market is being covered out of the TAT’s Singapore Office.
To boost awareness and generate the marketing momentum, TAT launched a series of promotional activities at a recent travel fair in Surabaya in conjunction with AirAsia.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
But there must be something about the dragon that fascinates not just people of old but also modern men. While we can only make a wild guess about whether it ever existed, the closest one can ever come to dragons are dinosaurs. What is certain, however, is that if dragons had ever existed at all, it must have gone the way of T-Rex and company. And sadly not a single fossil were left for us to marvel at its size nor a shred of
Being born in the year of the Rooster, I am, say Chinese geomancy experts, would be most compatible with those born in the year of the Dragon. Yeah, right. I suppose I would love nothing better than to go home to a dragon lady every might. Suffice to say that me being the chicken and she being the dragon with fire flaring from her nostrils under most circumstances, there is every likelihood that I would be roasted or grilled daily. Of course, the other two compatible animals with me are the Snake and the Ox. But again I think this is not the column and place to discuss feng shui. So we would leave that to the experts of the earth, wind and fire and move to more familiar grounds, i.e. travel.
Just over a 100km to the north of Hat Yai is the province of Trang, where you find a cave called Tham Le Khao Kop, situated in Huai Yot County, about 7 km off the office building of the county administration. The cave has a stream running through it and the only way to get inside is by taking a boat so you can visit the cavern consisting of some fifteen caves. The caves differ from one another in shape and sizes and the highlight is Tham Lot or Thong Mangkon (the dragon's stomach). To explore this cave, you have to lie down on your back in the boat along the 100-metre waterway. Minimum of movement is required. You move your head up and your nose would get bruised by the many jutting rocks making up the dragon’s belly. It is not a journey for those who are claustrophobic because your mind tend to tell you that there is not enough oxygen. It is certainly one sure way to get your adrenaline flowing and you will automatically hold your breath when the boat passes sharp-pointed stalactites that are only a few inches away from your belly. A round trip takes about an hour. Being occasionally cheeky, I find that this is about the only time I can lie in a girl’s lap for 15 minutes without getting accused of sexual harassment. You have to try and visit when the tide is out because during the rainy season the cave expedition is not possible due to the high tide. It is about the only time when those with lots of fat seemed to be welcomed because the extra weight helps make the boat sink lower in the water, thereby giving more room in the dragon’s long belly. Opening hours is from to .
The river that makes up Tham Le Khao Kop flows from the Banthat Mountain Range and is divided into three waterways upon reaching Khao Kop. Two go around the mountain while one flows through the cave under the mountain. In addition the cave itself looks like a high and steep cliff with layers of rocks and stalactites and stalagmites magnificently decorating the cave for a distance of approximately 4km. One of the caverns is called a bridal chamber. Presumably in the days of old it must be where virgins are sacrificed to the dragon lord. Currently, the Khao Kop Tambon Administration Organization provides rowboats to facilitate visitors explorations of the cave. In addition, eco-tourism and light-adventure activities are provided by the locals. The boat ride costs 200 bahts for 7 persons, or 30 baht per person.
Incidentally the reason Bruce Lee is associated with dragons is that he was born in the Year of the Dragon in
To illustrate the point further, it is said that Lee's striking speed from three feet with his hands down by his side reached five hundredths of a second and he could spring a 235lb opponent 15 feet away with a one inch punch. His combat movements were at times too fast to be captured on film at 24 frames per second, so many scenes were shot in 32 frames per second to put Lee in slow motion. Normally martial arts films are sped up. In a speed demonstration, Lee could snatch a dime off a person's open palm before they could close it, and leave a penny behind. He could also perform push ups using only his thumbs and would hold an elevated v-sit position for 30 minutes or longer. Another demonstration of his speed was he could throw grains of rice up into the air and then catch them in mid-flight using chopsticks.
If those were not enough proof, Bruce Lee could perform one-hand push-ups using only the thumb and index finger as well as 50 one-arm chin-ups. From a standing position, he could hold a 125lb barbell straight out and break wooden boards six inches thick (not at the same time of course). He once performed a side kick while training with James Coburn and broke a 150-pound punching bag, and could cause a 300-lb bag to fly towards and thump the ceiling with a sidekick. In a move that has been dubbed "Dragon Flag", Lee could perform leg lifts with only his shoulder blades resting on the edge of a bench and suspend his legs and torso perfectly horizontal mid-air. He could thrust his fingers through unopened steel cans of soft drinks, back in the days when soft drink cans were made of harder aluminium metal. And Lee would use one finger to leave dramatic indentations on pine wood.
In the words of the master, "Be formless... shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle; it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot; it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, and it can crash. Be like water….”
I will try and remember that the next time I face a 300lb bully. And I hoped being like the water means more than just wetting my pants.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Or if I am up to it, then I would probably take up the irresistible offer to go play golf and most often than not get thrashed soundly by one group of friends or other. It does not matter which group, I seem to always end up losing. I have this sneaky feeling that when they run out of grocery money they will call me to save the trouble of going to an ATM machine.
This September, however was a little different. I was away in Pattaya for two rounds of golf, all part of official duty, of course. And back home, it was more golf but mostly on TV, i.e. the FedEx Cup and the President’s Cup. Trying desperately to pick up pointers from the likes of Tiger Woods and his “merry men”. And with it being fasting month, all my Muslim friends were extra charitable and decided to give me a break.
So on a weekend towards the end of the month I decided to have a cuti-cuti in
The inmates of the home seemed glad to see us as they helped to carry the food for the birthday party into the kitchen of the house. A wooden house surrounded by vegetable plots and some fruit tree, it is home to some 28 inmates who are waiting to go home. Some have homes to go back to and for those who do not, this was now home. Some have gone to work as mechanics at a workshop nearby. They seemed glad to interact with those from the outside world and most are jovial and friendly to visitors. Everybody sang a birthday song and the food was served.
Most of those living in the home were unable to secure family support or have lost contact with their families. For them the home had devised a Positive Living Community Programme whereby small groups of sufficiently recovered patients are provided with a rented house equipped with basic facilities and an overseer to enable them to continue leading a healthy lifestyle.
They are given opportunities to engage in some productive work opportunities to acquire vocational and living skills through various forms of therapeutic activities. Currently there are two such homes with a total of 20 residents in Batu Arang.
In addition, residents with the necessary aptitudes and abilities were also selected to participate in peer educators training organised by the Malaysian AIDS Council and coaching camps by volunteer professionals. Once sufficiently trained, their services would be made available to other NGOs, schools, community groups and faith based groups to conduct awareness programmes in a creative and interactive way.
The objective in running the above programmes is to come up with models that can be duplicated by other NGOs or faith based groups and so on. The home welcomes any organisation to send people to be trained as caregivers or to live in and learn about its other programmes.
A few kilometres from the half-way house stands a bigger facility. Run by Project Co-ordinator, Mr Alex Arokiam, it survives on charity and donations from non-governmental organisations and individuals. It had been around since October 1997 as a community-based facility to cater for 15 patients but has since grown due to demands. It now houses up to 34 patients of all race and religion regardless of their ability to pay for their stay.
Most were referred by hospitals and drop-in centres managed by NGOs from various parts of the country. More than a hundred have been provided with palliative care and subsequently died. The home has been gazetted as a private drug rehabilitation centre with a sick bay for residents who have developed AIDS. While the home started merely as response to the cry for shelter for people living on the streets who had contracted AIDS, over the years it had continuously improved its knowledge and skills in providing appropriate holistic approach to caring that deals with the mind, body and soul of the person.
A total of 14 staff members comprising a project co-ordinator, office administrator, full-time nurse, caregivers, hospital liaison officer, driver, helpers and cook provide individualised care for up to 34 patients. Up to 12 of the patients suffer from various forms of permanent or temporary disabilities and are in need of nursing care.
The Welcome Community Home functions as an after care home for up to 30 residents at a time where they will be assisted to recover physically and psychologically. It has earned affiliation with the Malaysian AIDS Council and is confident of obtaining sufficient funds for the continued operation and improvement of its services as of January 2008.
At the same time the home fully realises the futility of its services in the current situation whereby the continued ignorance and attitude of families and society as a whole and the indifference of relevant government agencies will continue to produce more and more persons with HIV/AIDS who are homeless.
As a first time visitor to both homes, and much as I try to hide my earlier discomforts I could not help but be impressed by their new found courage. Some of them took the wrong route and ended up with a drug addiction. Unhygienic use of drug paraphernalia had resulted in them contracting HIV. But it sure took hell of a lot of courage for them to pull themselves out of the mess. For that I wish them all the luck.
They have also tried to make the shelter their call home as normal as possible. There is even a band and a drama company consisting of eight residents who had been trained by a theatre director from the
I have to admit that like most people I also suffer from a phobia, thinking that by being close or breathing the same air with the HIV sufferers I would be susceptible too. But after not only sharing the same air, but the same food and shaking hands with them, I have not succumbed to the disease. HIV and AIDS do not spread by touch. You are more likely to contract the disease through certain unprotected nocturnal activities. When I shook their hands before heading home I did so a little shamefacedly remembering my earlier prejudice.
But at least now I know where I would be spending my next birthday. The address is Welfare Community Homes, D-1224, Lorong SU 4, Off Jalan DPP, 48100 Batu Arang, Selangor. The date is May 25 which happens to be a Sunday. All are welcome. No RSVP necessary.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Long before I took up the game, I also read somewhere that the word golf actually came from the phrase Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden. Like most things in the old days, men seemed to make it a point of excluding the female of their species from the fun. They prefer instead to relegate the women folks to less strenuous pursuits like needlework, knitting, gardening and tending to the children. Such behaviour in
Where golf is concerned, I for one, am not going to belittle the ability of ladies. I was paired with one lady, all five foot of her, who among the Thai circle in
Although so far I have only limited my exploits to golf courses in
You could say the first time I played was a baptism of fire of sorts. It was with His Excellency the Thai Ambassador to
My knees actually went soft because I thought Mr Ambassador was going to take his driver and whack me on the head with it or at least give me a ticking off. But to his credit he did no such thing. To this day I still shudder to think that I almost had to go before the Thai Foreign Ministry and explain how the Thai Government ended up being one ambassador short. Or explaining to the Indonesian Government that it was all an accident and that I did not mistake the caddie for a maid and had not abused one of her citizens. For a few months after that a number of friends had a great time poking fun at me every time I had a golf game. They would ask whether anybody got killed when they know I have just returned from a round of golf. Another friend would ask, “How many under today?” From the first time I played, it had always been about six or seven under. I am of course not talking about pars but I seemed to have this ability of hitting my ball into the water, under the trees, into the bushes, etc. Thus I would lose an average of six or seven balls a game.
Of course, there were some great moments as well, such as playing at the Blue Canyon Golf & Country Club in Phuket. In fact I have played there twice. This course was made famous by a certain Mr Woods, who still holds the amateur course record there when he won the Johnnie Walker Classic several years ago. Both times that I played there I actually came close to breaking his course record. I was just off by about 40 or 50 strokes, which was not too bad at all by my standards, considering he is Mr Woods and I always end up getting the wooden spoon at most tournaments.
At another time I was invited for a tournament in Johore. I had the distinction of coming in last again and winning a hair dryer for my effort. The organisers were very kind in recognising that somebody need to be in the last position. But I was quick to point out to my friends that in marketing this is what is called positioning. Either you come in first or come in last. That is the only way to be remembered. You are not worth a mention at all if you come in at 22 from a group of 72. Nobody remembers you. But come in at 72 out of a field of 72 and you get star-billing and is as famous as the champion.
While not belittling the golf courses in
Monday, October 29, 2007
Anyway it must be one of the most distressing things you can ever feel when arriving at a foreign airport for an international flight and realising that you have lost your tickets. Well, make that the second most distressing thing since the most distressing would be to have lost your passports. To have lost both while travelling abroad would be absolutely disastrous.
Losing your travel documents can be downright troublesome even when one is not travelling abroad. Getting a replacement can be quite a hellish experience because whether or not you do get a new passport depended very much on the Immigration Department.
“Atas budi bicara Ketua Pengarah Jabatan Imigresen
Which is why it would help a whole lot if you look honest. I mean, try and paint a picture to the immigration officer handling your case that you do not have the kind of face which belongs to a person who is likely to sell his or her passport on the black market and then go apply for a new one, thereby doing a roaring business. This is in fact one of the reasons getting a replacement passport after you have lost one is hell. In case you did not know, Malaysian and Singaporean passports are said to be the most valuable and expensive travel documents in the world on the black market. I say this not through personal experience. What I am quoting is just hearsay as I have never actually lost my passport. Touch wood. But I was told the reason our passports are so expensive has something to do with our diverse ethnicity. As to why this is so, please go figure. Suffice to say that the Malaysian authorities do not take very kindly to your losing travel documents, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
But back to our lost ticket story. Thank goodness that these days most airlines have gone electronic. For those still not in the know, you can actually travel paperless these days. Just do your bookings and jot down your booking reference code. Even if you have forgotten your reference code, just handing in your passport at the check-in counter will suffice as the staff attending to you would be able to confirm your flight and issue you your boarding pass. Just try to remember your flying date, time and flight number. Easy as that.
This, however, works only if you are travelling on one sector. Should it involve different sectors, say flying to
Some months ago I arrived at
The man, about a hundred kilos of him and who must be in his late 40s or early 50s, sounded very Italian. The wife, a petite young thing who could not be more than 25, and carrying a baby who must be a few months old to boot, just stood pale-faced and defenceless against the verbal onslaughts of her husband. Although I have not met that many Italians in my life, I have met a few, which I must say is more than enough for me to form an opinion that Italian men by nature are very passionate and excitable people. A normal conversation can often sound like an argument. So you can imagine what can come out of his mouth when he is in such a state.
In that instance, his English may be peppered with Italian, but he certainly was making his feelings understood not just by his wife but everybody who was in the vicinity of the drop-off area at the airport. Indeed, the adjectives he used, and there were quite a few mind you, to describe his wife’s state of mind at that moment and thereby her overall intellect, were some of the most colourful I have heard. If anybody had had their doubts before that, after his tirade it was clear he never married her for her brains. Nuclear physicist, she was certainly not. In the bedroom and in the heat of passion you may be excused for using some of the words but certainly it was in very poor taste when uttered for complete strangers to hear in a very public place.
Much as I would like to step in and help, I have lived a long and relatively peaceful life. And one of the things I have learned if you want to continue living a long and relatively peaceful life is not step in between an irate Italian and his Thai wife. In fact one should never step in between any man and his wife when they are in the middle of a heated exchange, even if they are your closest friends. Worst still if they are not. You may just end up with a black eye for your effort instead of words of gratitude from either party. While the Italian and his wife were still at it, I decided to let them figure out for themselves what they were supposed to do and went to check in for my flight back to
In fact if he had not been in such a state, he would have realised that should you ever lose your tickets all you need to do is go pay for new tickets and upon returning home file a claim for lost tickets with your insurance agent. Which is why it is essential that when you travel you first buy travel insurance. If you did not then there is nothing that can be done except bear the losses and be more careful with your travel documents and flight tickets the next time you go for a trip.
It is the difference between a completely beautiful holiday and a disastrous one.