Thailand in the News Week Ending 07/31/2010

Bangkok Named Top City

Central World on Fire May 2010

Travel and Leisure magazine honored Bangkok with it’s top city award this week and it would seem the residents reveled in this by letting off a couple of grenades.

While I love Bangkok and all it has to offer you have to wonder what the idiots at Travel and Leisure were thinking…or smoking.  The past year has been marred by political unrest and uncertainty as Thai’s find political footholds to change the country. This week two grenades exploded as by elections took place in the city. I’m not even going to bring up the air pollution and traffic.
The Travel and Leisure article went on to say:

Figures from the Tourism Authority of Thailand show that in the first half of the year, the number of tourists and gap year travelers visiting Thailand rose by almost 14 per cent compared to the same period in 2009.

Really? I think someone got their wires crossed. Thailand’s tourism numbers have been sharply down for the year with the first 2 quarters being a total wash due to protests and violence taking place in the capital.

Thailand is a wonderful country to travel to with it’s beautiful landscapes, exotic locales and cultural landmarks but it seems Travel and Leisure were not only off the mark but off their rockers as well. To be fair the cities were picked via a poll and over 16,000 people voted for Bangkok and I probably would have as well but I wouldn’t have candy coated it while wearing my rose tinted glasses.

I didn’t bother checking out who came in second on their list but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Afghanistan followed by Iraq. Business must be bad for the magazine as it doesn’t look like they can afford to hire fact checkers.

Bangkok and nine provinces remain under emergency control restrictions after months of demonstrations, riots and violence.

Again, I love Thailand and Bangkok…I’m moving there, but that doesn’t mean I can’t call a spade a spade.

Giant Catfish Losing Ground

Giant Catfish in Thailand

Or water as it were. With China’s expansion along the Mekong with new hydro electric dams in Laos it looks like some species of catfish will be cut off from spawning grounds.

China has already completed four hydro-power dams on the Mekong, while another 11 are being built or planned in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. Other smaller dams are proposed along its tributaries. The Mekong is south-east Asia’s longest river, rising in Tibet and flowing through southern China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before reaching the South China Sea.

The giant catfish, which can grow up to 350kgs (772lbs) and the freshwater stingray, also be affected,  can weigh in at 600kgs (1,320lbs), will be effectively cut off from their spawning grounds up river in Laos and Thailand as they try to make their way from Cambodia and China.

China’s expansion into South East Asia is forging ahead but there is some hope in the Mekong River Commission, an international body made up of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The plans for the new dam in Laos are currently under this organizations scrutiny and the World Wildlife Foundation is hoping that they will veto the current plans in hopes that new plans will be drawn up to take into account several species that would be impacted.

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14 Comment(s)

  1. Statictics and opinions are like “backsides”, everyones’ got one and they are all different.

    Tourism figures are always a “grey” area as just how each government, and even each department, classifies a tourist can vary. While the number of inbound travellers may decrease overall the actual number of tourists may actually increase due to lower numbers of transit passengers and a greater number of local holiday makers taking advantage of budget airlines etc.

    Lloyd | Aug 2, 2010 | Reply

  2. Talen Chiang Mai was the worlds second city in the poll, with popular locations like NYC and Rome also in the top ten.

    The poll was conducted before the latest round of red shirt activity. Since it is travellers and not the magazine voting I guess folk are still attracted to the big mango. I can understand why since when I first visited back in 2000 it certainly appealed, much less so now that I live in Thailand.

    I’ve been watching a few programmes lately about fishing(on the Mekong) and didn’t realise the huge fish that still live there. One can but hope that “water management” doesn’t totally destroy their environment.

    Mike | Aug 2, 2010 | Reply

  3. TAT do produce some fascinating figures don’t they? Survey results have a lot to do with how you ask the questions and what options are acceptable as answers.

    Thanks for an interesting post, Boonsong

    Boonsong | Aug 2, 2010 | Reply

  4. Talen, I also shook my head when I saw that Bangkok had won a top city award. While I have grown fond of the city, and still am, it’s proven to me that it cannot be trusted.

    And now the Thai government has decided that we have to report our house guests to immigration within 24 hours of their arrival. Lovely. I already have friends canceling trips to Thailand and this’ll be yet another reason for them to go elsewhere.

    Catherine | Aug 2, 2010 | Reply

  5. Hey Talen,

    Bangkok won the same award back in 2008 (, but I’m kinda surprised they won now considering the problems over the past couple years. It just goes to show that Bangkok is a fascinating and alluring city no matter what’s happening there.

    Regarding the fishy issue, I think Thailand, Laos and Vietnam have been trying to block China’s attempts to build Mekong dams for some time. Not only will it effect the marine life, but it will also have a profound effect on Issan farmers, taking needed water from them.

    Steve | Aug 2, 2010 | Reply

  6. Mike, I think Chiang Mai was a very good choice. I’m still not sure about the readers of travel and leisure though.

    Talen | Aug 3, 2010 | Reply

  7. Boonsong, Tat sure does…interestingly enough just a few weeks ago they let the real figures slip and they weren’t so good.

    Talen | Aug 3, 2010 | Reply

  8. Cat, House guests have to be reported to immigration now? That just makes absolutely no sense…then again this is Thailand.

    Talen | Aug 3, 2010 | Reply

  9. Steve, Bangkok has won quite a few awards and I do think it’s a marvelous city…hopefully it can live up to the accolades.

    Actually Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos are working in conjunction with China on the dams that’s why they set up the commission in the first place….China is dumping serious money in each country and building new bridges for each country as well.

    The farmers rely more on rain than the Mekong…although more than a few earn their living fishing the Mekong and that could be a big problem.

    Talen | Aug 3, 2010 | Reply

  10. Amazing, yes?
    Here it is…

    Catherine | Aug 3, 2010 | Reply

  11. Big brother in action…Surprised I hadn’t heard about this before.

    Talen | Aug 3, 2010 | Reply

  12. It just reached twitter so I was hearing it for the first time as well.

    Anonymous | Aug 3, 2010 | Reply

  13. Personally, I don’t see the allure of Bangkok.

    It’s just a huge, dusty, congested city to me.

    It’s too hard and it takes too long to get anywhere and if you don’t know where you are going you probably won’t find it anyway.

    I much prefer my wife’s home town or Pattaya – I can walk or take a song taew and be anywhere I want to go in minutes.

    ChuckWow | Aug 3, 2010 | Reply

  14. Even taking into consideration the poll was carried out before the recent troubles, I find it hard to fathom out how Bangkok came top of the list.

    I’m not a major Bangkok fan but I have stayed in the city 3 or 4 times before (travelled through loads more) and whilst I cannot deny it has a certain aura, for me it would need to be twice the size with half its population to make me feel totally at ease there. Bangkok has beauty set amongst concrete jungles and shanty towns, I don’t somehow think that’s an award winning mix.

    The giant catfish would be a great loss if its numbers dwindle and become near extinct, and I still can’t believe the size of the one in your photo. I’d like to see the sack of potatoes which accompanied that one to the restaurant.

    Back to Bangkok, I reckon Chuckwow perfectly summed up my thoughts on Bangkok and Pattaya.

    House guests and immigration….hasn’t that ruling always been in place but been generally ignored in the past. I know when I stay in Wilai’s village I’m meant to report my whereabouts to the local police but I never do.

    Martyn | Aug 3, 2010 | Reply

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