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Asean Affairs    31 May 2012

Mae Sariang becomes a hot cake in Thailand’s North

By Reinhard Hohler, Chiang Mai

Some 100 travel professionals gathered at the Holiday Inn Chiang Mai to attend the successful Miracle Tourism Forum on May 26-29, 2012. Under the theme “The Innovative Marketing for the Upper Northern Provincial Cluster 1” activities were introduced to develop new channels for businesses, so that Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang and Mae Hong Son can become more competitive in the tourism markets worldwide.
It was up to M.L. Panadda Diskul, Governor of Chiang Mai, to highlight Chiang Mai as “Most Splendid City of Culture” being 716 years old and being a city of life and prosperity. Most of all Chiang Mai is famous for its culture, cuisine, nature, hospitality, value for money and handicrafts, but also it is a medical hub and a centre for spa and wellness.
In the afternoon of the first day the Tourism Council of Thailand honored some most valuable persons on tourism development, such as Mr. Sansern Ngaorungsi, Vice Governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Mr. Vorapong Muchaotai, Secretary General of Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association (CTBA) amongst others.
Best and outstanding Lan Na hotel awards were given to Four Seasons Chiang Mai Resort, Ratilanna River Spa Resort as well as Khum Phaya Resort and Spa, while North Thailand photo tourism awards were given to 24 photographers from Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang and Mae Hong Son, each worth 10,000Baht.
On the second day of the forum, Mr. Chalermsak Saranant, Director of TAT Chiang Mai Office, released detailed information relating to an annual event calendar, including an innovative Golf Festival in May-June, while the most interesting session by the President of the Chiang Mai Tour Guide Association, Khun Somrit, was given on new combining tour destinations in a 7day/6 night itinerary. Also, two-hour business matching and table top sales were held by 60 sellers, such as 137 Pillars House, Chiang Mai Orchid, Furama Chiang Mai, Suriwong Moevenpick, and Shangri-La Hotel Chiang Mai amongst others.    
On the social front, there were two theme parties, one at Siripanna Villa Resort and Spa showcasing Lan Na Miracle Night to welcome the delegates on May 26, while the farewell Underwater World Dinner on the Mountain at Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium was organized by Chiang Mai Provincial Office of Tourism and Sports on May 27.
The last two days of the Miracle Tourism Forum could be used to join one of the four offered tour and inspection showcases to Lamphun, Lampang, Kalyaniwattana (Chiang Mai) and Mae Sariang (Mae Hong Son). All the tours were limited to 25 persons, but it was the tour to Mae Sariang, which was booked out very quickly and it seems that Mae Sariang becomes a hot cake in Thailand’s North.
The tour to Mae Sariang started at 7.30 in the morning at Holiday Inn Chiang Mai within a caravan of four minibuses. We followed the local road to Doi Inthanon and continued to Mae Chaem District in Chiang Mai Province, where we stopped at a 7/11 Shop for refreshments. Later we took a short break at “Hot Coffee” in Tambon Mae Na Chorn, a small place for bed and breakfast. We continued the new road to Khun Yuam District in Mae Hong Son Province that we reached at 14.00 to have lunch at the Ban Farang Guesthouse. After lunch we visited the new Thai-Japanese War Memorial Hall to get first-hand information about the Tai Yai and hill tribe culture as well as the quest of the Japanese into Burma during the Second World War.
At Mae La Noi District of Mae Hong Son we took another coffee break at the local Hern Tai Resort and continued to Mae Sariang, where we stayed for overnight at the elegant Riverhouse Resort, which offers 44 wood-decorated guest rooms. At 19.00 we went for a cultural dance performance within the centrally-located Chong Soong Temple and got a religious audience by the abbot of the temple, where amulets were given for protection. Later that night, we went to a local restaurant to enjoy a “khantoke” performance organized by the jovial “nai amphoe” of Mae Sariang.
The highlight of the tour followed next morning, when we changed into trekking tour cars to reach the mighty Salawin River, which can be reached by a long and winding road lasting for more than an hour. Arriving at Mae Sam Laep, a romantic Karen refugee village along the river, we took long passenger boats to explore the river down to Sob Moei. The Salwin River is deep and dangerous and marks only on a short stretch the international border between Thailand and Myanmar. Back in Mae Sam Laep, we drove up the mountain to the local Shan Pagoda and had a dramatic view of the river northwards along the Salawin National Park.
At 10.30 we had to return to Mae Sariang, where we had a delicious Shan lunch at the local Inthira Restaurant. After a last look into the newly built Shan Museum, we continued the road to Hod and stopped for an inspection of the Ob Luang Gorge, which is an important place to study the prehistory of Northern Thailand. As most of the tour participants had to take the flight back to Bangkok in the evening, we rushed back via Chom Thong, San Pa Tong and Hang Dong to reach Chiang Mai International Airport at 18.00. Most of the tour participants were sure that Mae Sariang is a good place for eco-adventure tourism and will see a bright potential for more tourists to go there in the future.
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AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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