Picture yourself in Phrae

Nestled between its neighbouring provinces of Lampang, Uttaradit, Nan and Phayao, Phrae today still boasts among the country’s largest teak forest reserves. It is one of the 55 secondary destinations being promoted around the kingdom in a complementary fashion with key destinations, in the ‘Amazing Thailand Go Local’ campaign.

Architectural Treasures

Picture yourself in PhraeThe old town area of the namesake provincial seat is home to a number of historic buildings and locations that are a proud testimony to Phrae’s history. And with this section of town being reasonably compact and relatively traffic free, the area lends itself to leisurely exploration on foot for those who so desire although there are motorcycle taxis and samlos (three-wheeled taxis) readily available.

Among places to visit is Wongburi House, a splendid two-storey teak mansion that was built in Phrae’s teak heydays of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and which is today open to the public as a museum. On display through various rooms of the house are old documents and photos, antiques and other artefacts that paint an interesting picture of life in Phrae in the past.

The mansion itself, which is set amid picturesque gardens, boasts turn-of-the-century architecture that blends Thai and European influences. Its colonial style of high ceilings and wide balconies is reminiscent of other such mansions that can be found across Northern Thailand.

The nearby Khum Chao Luang Museum, built during the same period, likewise stands in proud testimony to the glory days of the area’s teak trade. The furniture, ornaments, household items and period photographs on show here provide further insight into a prominent part of the local history.

Also located in the old town of Phrae is Wichai Racha House, a gingerbread teak mansion with Lanna architecture that was popular among nobles and aristocrats from the reign of King Rama IV until the reign of King Rama V.

Picture yourself in Phrae

Temples and Religious Sites

Among the various temples in Phrae, Wat Luang in the old town area is thought to be the most ancient with some saying it dates back to the 12th century while others put its origins in the 9th century. A few streets away is Wat Phong Sunan with its impressive reclining Buddha image and a 500-year-old seated image in the subduing Mara posture, as well as a striking chedi with gleaming white spires.

Also in the old town is Wat Phra Bat Ming Meuang, which includes on its premises a museum and an octagonal drum tower made of teak wood.

A couple of kilometres to the north is Wat Chom Sawan, this temple having been constructed by a group of migrant Tai Yai, or Shan, teak workers in the early 20th century. It’s considered one of the best temples of its kind still remaining in Thailand and features a main hall all in teak and raised on stilts with a three-tiered roof.

Picture yourself in Phrae

Wat Prathat Cho Hae

A few kilometres east of town, on a low hill, is a highly revered temple that locals say if you don’t visit you haven’t really been to Phrae. The main chedi at Wat Prathat Cho Hae is said to house relics of Lord Buddha, both hair and parts of his left elbow. The temple’s origins are thought to date back to the late 13th or early 14th centuries.

Cultural Creativity

The village of Ban Thung Hong, situated a few kilometres from Phrae’s old town area, is renowned for its products made from Mo Hom, a local indigo-dyed cotton fabric. Traditionally the fabric was used for farmers’ pants and tunics yet today the village also offers a range of lovely handmade clothing.

2 Million Years of Nature

Phae Mueang Phi Forest Park, a short drive outside of town, has been described as a geological curiosity. Some 2 million years of erosion has resulted in a landscape of intriguing red sandstone rock formations which, although only covering a small area, isn’t the kind of landscape you see every day.

Also known as the Forest City of Ghosts or Spirit Grove, this sacred forest park has a legend attached to it that tells of a woman who came across gold and silver deposits in the area and tried to take them home with her. This apparently offended the spirits there, and the woman became more and more lost and was only able to find her way home after she put the deposits back.

Fantastic Local Cuisine

It can be said that wherever one’s travels take them in Thailand, they’ll always be delicious local cuisine that’s easy to find and remarkably inexpensive for the culinary quality that’s served up. In Phrae, one of the best spots for a variety of great snacks and meals is the weekly Saturday walking street market that comes to life on Khum Lue Road at Prathu Ma (the West Gate) in the old town area.

The market stalls selling a range of items from handicrafts to T-shirts to carved candles and what can be best described as a taste bud-tingling array of exotic food dishes, begin setting up as the sun starts to go down. The amazing aromas, the captivating sounds of tasty morsels on the sizzle, and the unmistakable clang of spatula upon wok creates the perfect setting in which to enjoy such delights as barbecued kebabs, spicy northern Thai-style sausages, grilled chicken and pork, fresh fruit, sticky rice, sweet desserts and more.

Ten Thai provinces nationwide prominently showcased at ITB 2019

Berlin, 11 March,2019 – Thailand’s northernmost province of Chiang Rai, home of the famous cave rescue operation of the “Wild Boars” team of young footballers in June-July 2018, was one of ten provinces from all four regions of Thailand that were prominently showcased at the ITB Berlin 2019, the world’s largest travel trade show.

The 10 provinces – Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Sukhothai, Nan, Trat, Chanthaburi, Chumphon, Ranong, Trang and Nakhon Si Thammarat – have been chosen because they are a good combination of beach and culture with unique ways of life, gastronomic delights and interesting attractions to cater to discerning European visitors.

They have been selected as part of the TAT’s strategy to better distribute and disseminate visitor arrivals around the country, create jobs, and ensure a more equitable spread of income and economic progress.

Trade visitors to the Thai pavilion were able to find wide-ranging information about these provinces. They were also mentioned by Minister of Tourism and Sports H.E. Weerasak Kowsurat in his speech at the networking lunch to be hosted by TAT for prominent members of the European travel trade and media.

According to Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), “Europe is a very sophisticated source market where we are targetting more repeat travellers and first-time visitors from some of the emerging destinations. These 10 provinces will be perfect destinations for these very specific niche-market customers.”

Here are some brief highlights of each of the 10 provinces:

Chiang Rai: Tham Luang Cave is becoming a major tourist spot. The Cave itself is undergoing renovations to prepare for the expected numbers with completion projected by the end of this year. Tourists can visit the exhibition about the entire mission of the rescue of the “Wild Boars” team of young footballers in June-July 2018. Other interesting tourist attractions include the Pang Ha community where visitors can learn about the Karen ethnic group’s wisdom on how to make natural paper without cutting down any trees.

Ten Thai provinces nationwide prominently showcased at ITB 2019

Tham Lunag Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park, Chiang Rai

Mae Hong Son: Known as the “Switzerland of Thailand,” this province straddles the border with Myanmar, not far from Chiang Mai. Mae Hong Son is characterised by nature and cultural integration between the Tai Yai ethnic group and Thai people. It is famous for embroidered woven fabrics from various types of hilltribes. “Mae Hong Son Doister CraftStay” tour focuses on getting visitors to experience the history of the local art and craftwork.

Ten Thai provinces nationwide prominently showcased at ITB 2019

Ban Rak Thai Yunnan Chinese Village, Mae Hong Son

Trang: Located in South Thailand, Trang is known as a “foodie haven” and offers a beach getaway for those who prefer an off-the-beaten track holiday; such as, Ko Muk and Tham Morakot or Emerald Cave. Trang is also recognised as a habitat to the largest group of dugong marine species. At the Ban Nam Rap community, travellers can join in saving the sea cows by planting sea grass, which is the staple food for dugongs.

Ten Thai provinces nationwide prominently showcased at ITB 2019

Falang Beach on Muk Island of Hat Chao Mai National Marine Park, Trang

Ranong: This hidden gem on the Andaman coast is home to secluded beach getaways; such as, Ko Phayam. In addition, an organic farm tour on the island implements the sufficiency economy and way of life to manage community-based tourism. Highlighted activities include learning how to tap a rubber tree, processing raw cashew nuts info finished products, and collecting vegetables from a farm for cooking.

Ten Thai provinces nationwide prominently showcased at ITB 2019

Khao Khwai Bay on Payam Island, Ranong

Chanthaburi: Chanthaburi is an emerging tourism city close to the border with Cambodia on the rapidly emerging Eastern Economic Corridor. It is most famous for that well-known fruit “durian”. The Chanthaboon community along the riverside greatly reflect the simplicity of life. Baan Luang Rajmaitri Historic Inn in Chanthaburi won the Award of Merit in the annual UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2015.

Ten Thai provinces nationwide prominently showcased at ITB 2019

Chanthaboon Waterfront at Thaluang Road, Chanthaburi

Sukhothai: Sukhothai literally means “Dawn of Happiness.” In Sukhothai’s golden era, this city was the centre of Southeast Asia and the ruins from that glorious time have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is home to ruins of royal palaces, Buddhist temples, and historical monuments, and the remains of ancient moats, walls, and city gates form a rectangular shape.

Ten Thai provinces nationwide prominently showcased at ITB 2019

Tra Phang Ngoen Temple, Sukhothai Historial Park, Sukhothai

Trat: A small province in Thailand’s East, bordering Cambodia on the east, with the Khao Banthat mountain range forming a natural demarcation, with the Gulf of Thailand to the south. Trat encompasses over 50 islands of varying size, long white sandy beaches and unspoiled coral reefs. It is also a major fruit growing and fishing area.

Ten Thai provinces nationwide prominently showcased at ITB 2019

Wai Island, Mu Ko Chang National Park, Trat

Nakhon Si Thammarat: This province has long been a centre of culture and trade in Thailand’s South. Historically, there was a city-state here called Ligor, well-known throughout Asia as part of an important trade route connecting the city with Trang on the west coast, a trading port between the Western and Eastern worlds. Visitors can enjoy folk performances; such as, Talung and Manohra, and this fascinating city is also a centre of Buddhism in the Southern region.

Ten Thai provinces nationwide prominently showcased at ITB 2019

Buddha Park in Niranam Temple, Nakhon Si Thammarat

Chumphon: Located in Southern Thailand, this is a great location for culture and beauty. The most popular is the Chumphon Archipelago National Park with many beautiful islands and beaches, one of which is over 100 km long. Great diving spots can be experienced at various islands. The Blue Crab Community Research Centre in Pathiu district aims to replenish the dwindling population of blue crabs along the Chumphon coast.

Ten Thai provinces nationwide prominently showcased at ITB 2019

Bigeye Yellow Snappers at Chumphon Pinnacle, Chumphon

Nan: Nan is the frontier town of the Eastern Lanna Kingdom and has a mix of cultures from the high mountain ranges to the plains. It boasts interesting temples; such as, Wat Phumin, which features a famous painting of the ‘Whisper of Love’ as well as a Lanna cultural atmosphere and many unique local agricultural products and handicrafts. The main road is lined with many coffee cafés from where guests can enjoy panoramic views of rice fields with mountains in the distance. The cafés brew espresso drinks from locally-sourced Arabica beans.

Ten Thai provinces nationwide prominently showcased at ITB 2019

Doi Pu Chalon, San Pa Sak Village, Nan

The river ‘Nan’ runs through it

Nan prides itself on nature, and in 2018, received commendation from His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun as the No. 1 ASEAN Clean Tourist City. The recognition followed Nan being awarded the No .1 ASEAN Clean Tourist City Standard 2018-2020 at the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2018 earlier in that year.

The river Nan runs through it

Wat Phrathat Khao Noi on a hilltop offering panoramic views of Nan town and the surrounding hills

Lying 700 kilometres north of Bangkok, much of the province is wilderness, and the remainder is rural focusing on rice and fruit cultivation. There are also cultural and historical sights worth visiting. Nan town is quaint and the capital of the province of the same name. It has little more than 20,000 people making it a rather small provincial capital. It is an old city, though, dating back to the 14th century when the first known community settled on the banks of the Nan River.

For many centuries, the remote region pretty much kept to itself with few visitors in and out. But it was influenced by kingdoms in the region, first and foremost Sukhothai. It was also at times under the control of Lanna, Burma and Siam, and greatly influenced by them all, while keeping its own identity.

A diverse collection of hill tribes also populates the tranquil province including Thai Khoen, Thai Lue, Thai Puan, Thai Yai and Thai Yuan giving the region great cultural diversity although many have assimilated into the larger community.

The river Nan runs through it

Wat Phumin in Nan is known for its unique cruciform Ubosoth

Cultural Sites and Temples

The temples and historical district of the city offer many places to visit. Nan’s Old Quarter dates back to the height of the Lanna kingdom in the 14th century. A tram tour is the best way to see the sites with tickets sold at the Tourist Information Centre across from Wat Phumin. The guided tour takes in another 14 temples as well as historical sites.

Nan National Museum

Located opposite to Wat Phrathat Chang Kham, also known as the Elephant Temple, and near Wat Phumin, this building was originally a royal pavilion and where the former Royal Governor would work. It was renovated and named the National Museum of Nan in 1974. The natural light and open spaces make it feel like a home. It is divided into a “living” section about tribes that currently live in Nan, and another section about the ancient aspects of the province. 

The river Nan runs through it

Nan National Museum

Ban Phra Koet Community Museum

Exhibits include Lanna-style Buddha images and other valuable ancient artefacts, and old everyday household items used in centuries past. It is a good place to learn how people lived in the old days. And if museum and history happen to be your thing, there is a couple of old teak houses to visit around Nan including Nan Noble House (the House of Chao Fongkham) and the Residence of Chao Ratchabut.

Wat Phumin

The province’s most famous temple was built in the late 1500s and restored between 1867-1875, which was a century after Thailand retook the province from the Burmese who conquered it in 1558 and left the town nearly deserted. Wat Phumin is known for its ancient murals painted by the Thai Lue artist group including the famous Krasip Rak (whispering love) mural most photographed by many Thais. The temple is also known for its unique cruciform Ubosoth and the glittering golden principal Buddha images facing North, South, East and West.

The river Nan runs through it

Wat Phumin’s famous Krasip Rak (whispering love) mural is on the left wall inside the Ubosoth

For anyone who has an interest in temples, there are many others to visit in Nan town including Wat Phrathat Chae Haeng, one of the oldest temples in the city; Wat Si Phan Ton, known for its golden main hall; and Wat Phrathat Khao Noi on a hilltop offering panoramic views of Nan town and the surrounding hills to name but a few.

Natural Attractions and National Parks

Nan is home to six national parks, and the Luang Prabang Range that marks the border with Lao PDR – Thailand’s longest border with its neighbour that is not marked by the Mekong River – is wilderness and part of Lao PDR’s Nam Phouy National Biodiversity Conservation Area. One and two-day treks into the national parks can be arranged by some Nan-based travel agents. Overnight stays include camping under the stars and forest canopy.

Doi Phu Ka National Park

Villagers in the area call the Doi Phu Ka Basin in the Park the heart of magical Nan province. The number of tree varieties are so numerous the Park is frequented by Thai botanists, as several tree types are very rare. The steep mountains and rivers mean the Park has several waterfalls and a few caves that can be visited.

Sri Nan National Park and Doi Samer Dao

The river Nan runs through it

Camping at Doi Samer Dao, Nan

For views and hiking this park can be perfect. After a night of camping under starlight and maybe seeing a meteor shower (check with the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand for the forecast), hike to Pha Hua Singh (Lion’s Head Cliff) and take in the panoramic view of the forests and the river below.

Bo Kluea (Salt Wells)

The river Nan runs through itVillagers here mine rock salt from the wells and boil it in a traditional and sustainable fashion. They have been doing it the same way for centuries and visiting the village is like stepping back in time. Located in the northeast corner of Nan province in an out-of-the-way place, it’s worth visiting for a couple of days with accommodation available in the village. 

Sao Din Na Noi

The river Nan runs through itAnother natural attraction worth visiting is Sao Din Na Noi, offering magical landscape of soil formation into strange shapes. Geologists assume that it might be aged around 10,000 – 30,000 years and was once the bottom of the sea. There have been discoveries of stone bangles and ancient axes, which are currently preserved at Nan National Museum.

Local Cuisine

The Nan River flows from north to south through the province and is an important tributary to Thailand’s Chao Phraya River that flows through Bangkok then into the Gulf of Thailand. It is also an important source of fresh fish in Nan province. The fish don’t jump straight from the river onto your plate, but they are very fresh.

Floating restaurants offer some of the local delicacies including Yam Pla Sio Thot Krop (spicy crispy fried fish), Tom Yam Pla Kot (spicy catfish soup), and Pla Nuea On Thot Kratiam (deep fried fish with garlic). Meals are very affordable and for a little extra some of the restaurants offer pillows and mattresses for stargazing and relaxing after dinner.

Like many Thai provinces, Nan has seasonal fruits in abundance including lychee, som sithong (juicy oranges) and ma fai chin (Chinese star fruit).

Tourists visiting Nan on the weekend may want to drop by Kuang Mueang Nan Walking Street. Each Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening in front of Wat Phumin, local food stalls offer a wide range of local cuisine specialities, and there are also stalls selling locally-made crafts. Perhaps most unique is the “dancing place” in the temple grounds.

Getting There

Nan is easily reached with a flight to the airport in Nan town. There are daily flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport, and there are four flights a week from Chiang Mai. Buses from Bangkok’s Mo Chit Station take about 11 hours. From Chiang Mai, the bus journey takes a bit less than six hours. Hiring a taxi or renting a car are other options.

Accommodation in Nan ranges from the rustic to the posh. The national parks offer camping and some have bungalows. The province also has boutique resorts and very good hotels. Most accommodation is in or near Nan town.

Visiting Nan can work best when included in a five-to-seven day road trip stopping in Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang and Phrae before reaching Nan. The province is one of the 55 secondary destinations the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is promoting through the “Amazing Thailand Go Local” marketing initiative.

An intriguing, exciting blend of ancient and modern Lanna is rising in Chiang Rai

Thailand’s northernmost province of Chiang Rai, bordering Myanmar to the north and Lao PDR. to the east, boasts a dramatic landscape of mountains, rivers and forests, an ethnic diversity in its people including those of hilltribe and Chinese lineage, and a strong Lanna identity that can be seen in its architecture, art, language, music and cuisine.

An exciting blend of ancient and modern Lanna is rising in Chiang Rai

The Golden Triangle viewpoint in Chiang Saen

While the cultural essence of this identity – which dates back to Chiang Rai’s founding in 1262, and its role as the second capital of the Lanna Kingdom – is very much retained, there is also a growing modernisation of this taking place, one that offers a new perspective of Lanna in the contemporary world.

Chiang Rai found itself thrust onto the global stage in June and July of this year, when the Mu Pa or Wild Boars football team of 12 young boys and their coach became trapped by rising flood waters in Tham Luang Cave in Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park. The multinational operation that successfully rescued them gripped Thailand and the world, and memorials created to honour the epic mission have become new attractions in Chiang Rai.

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Not least of these is a museum at Wat Phra That Doi Wao in the province’s northernmost district of Mae Sai, the temple where the boys were ordained as Buddhist novice monks for nine days to make merit for Lt. Cdr. Saman Gunan, the former Thai navy Seal diver who died while assisting in their rescue. Here, there are some 5,000 photographs of the cave rescue operation on display.

At Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, about five kilometres from Chiang Rai city is an enormous painting by a team of artists led by national artist Chalermchai Kositpipat depicting the rescue mission and the key figures involved, as well as a life-sized statue of Lt. Cdr. Saman created by a team of Northern artists led by Sarayuth Kammoonchai.

An exciting blend of ancient and modern Lanna is rising in Chiang Rai

The painting depicting key figures involved in the Thai cave rescue at Wat Rong Khun

The White Temple is the creation of Chiang Rai-born Chalermchai and represents an unconventional approach to temple architecture, fusing as it does elements from the artist’s own imagination with orthodox Buddhist teachings about heaven, hell, karma and earthly sins. The temple is full of Buddhist symbolism while Chalermchai has also used icons from modern culture; such as, spaceships and even Neo from the Matrix movies to tell stories of the Buddha’s life and teachings.

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As well as the White Temple, there is also the Black House and the Blue Temple, all of them fascinating representations of the new creative movement in Chiang Rai that is blending modern art and architecture with the ancient philosophy of Buddhism.

Baan Dam, or Black House, is 10 kilometres north of the city centre and is the labour of love of another national artist, the late Thawan Duchanee. Painted all in black, the compound is as playful as it appears grim, with animal hides and bones, eerie sculptures and tribal statues among the displays it houses.

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The Blue Temple, or Wat Rong Suea Ten, is a 10-minute drive from the city’s Night Bazaar area and was completed in 2016. Adorned in the colours of sapphire blue and gold, the temple’s artwork and structure exude a modern feel, while the exterior features carved statues of the Buddha, Nagas, Garuda and other beings from Thai Buddhist cosmology.

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There are of course traditional temples that can be visited, among these Wat Klang Wiang in the city centre, which houses the original city pillar shrine; Wat Phra Kaeo, which is the original site where the Emerald Buddha now in Bangkok was enshrined, and Wat Phrathat Doi Chom that sits atop a low hill overlooking the entire city.

Among the city’s notable attractions is the Chiang Rai Clock Tower. Designed by the same Chalermchai behind the White Temple, the Clock Tower puts on a light show every evening at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Not far away is the King Mengrai the Great Monument, which stands in proud testimony to the founder of the Lanna Kingdom.

An exciting blend of ancient and modern Lanna is rising in Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai Clock Tower

The central city area is also where Chiang Rai’s very own Saturday Night Walking Street takes place. Here, from 4 p.m. onwards, market-goers can peruse Lanna antiques, OTOP (One Tambon One Product) goods, locally made handicrafts and traditional knowledge products; such as, spa, herbal and massage items.

For those who happen to visit Chiang Rai during the New Year period, the annual Chiang Rai Flower Festival is well worth checking out for the myriad of different plants and flowers on show like roses, orchids and tulips to name but a few. The event also features plant contests, flower processions and cultural performances.

Not far from the city are attractions like Singha Park and Rai Chern Tawan Meditation Centre, which make for great day excursions. Further afield are attractions like Choui Fong Tea Plantation, where visitors can see first-hand how tea is grown and which is perhaps best visited as a stopover on the way to the Thai-Myanmar border town of Mae Sai or Doi Tung home to the Mae Fah Luang Garden and Wat Phrathat Doi Tung that sits at an altitude of nearly 2,000 metres above sea level.

Singha Park is about 12 kilometres from the city centre and is agro-tourism focused with various activities on offer from a petting zoo the kids will love to rock climbing and zip lining for the adventurous to pleasant pathways adults will appreciate strolling along. The Park is large and the bicycles for hire onsite are a great way to explore it, while there is also an electric tram that tours the various sights.

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Roughly 20 kilometres from the city, Rai Chern Tawan Meditation Centre is a quiet retreat set in peaceful surroundings with bungalow and tent accommodation, where all are welcome to come and study Buddhist dhamma and reflect upon life.

For an interesting insight into Chiang Rai’s history and its Lanna cultural heritage, Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park and Oub Kham Museum are both just a few kilometres from town, while centrally located in town is the Hilltribe Museum and Education Centre, which is a recommended visit (beforehand) for tourists planning to travel to the region’s hilltribe villages. The Centre was created to educate tourists about the six major tribal groups of Northern Thailand – the Akha, Hmong, Karen, Lahu, Lisu and Yao, their culture and on etiquette they should observe when visiting the villages.

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Tourists lucky enough to visit when the annual Akha Swing Festival is held – usually around August or September in the rainy season – are in for a real treat. One of the most important festivals for the Akha hilltribe people of Chiang Rai, this colourful and vibrant event commemorates the goddess of fertility, celebrates an abundant crop to be harvested, and honours the Akha women. For them, it is an opportunity to wear the costumes and ornaments they have made during the year and to show they have entered marriageable age.

A highlight of the Akha Swing Festival is when the women ride a giant bamboo and wooden swing at frightening heights, often at the edge of a cliff, while singing, laughing, screaming and reciting Akha verses.

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A couple of hours’ bus ride from Chiang Rai city is Chiang Saen, on the banks of the mighty Mekong River and Thailand’s oldest city boasting an impressive history. It was a main city of the ancient Lanna Kingdom and the capital before Chiang Rai’s establishment in 1262. Evidence of these former glory days can still be seen today in the form of chedis, Buddha images, earthen ramparts and pillars.

Chiang Saen is also famed for its vantage points looking out over the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Lao PDR. and Myanmar come together at the convergence of the Khong and Ruak Rivers.

As northernmost province Chiang Rai serves as a strategic gateway for air and land travel with neighbouring countries in the region like Lao PDR. and Myanmar. Destinations further afield like Hong Kong are also connected with direct flights into the Mae Fah Luang-Chiang Rai International Airport.

Chiang Rai is one of 55 secondary destinations the Tourism Authority of Thailand is promoting through the “Amazing Thailand Go Local” campaign, the aim being to spread the tourism revenue more into rural areas and grow community tourism in a responsible and sustainable manner, while also evening out seasonality and weekend/weeday travel flows.

TAT curates three concepts to promote 55 secondary cities

Bangkok, 21 November 2018 – The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has curated three concepts for promoting the group of 55 secondary destinations to help develop and market their tourism economies and cultural assets in an environmentally-friendly way.

These 55 provinces, which get less than four million local and foreign tourists a year, are to get increasing prominence in TAT’s future marketing campaigns.

TAT’s research has identified the need to position these secondary 55 provinces within the “big picture” of Thailand’s development. The plan is to create conceptual models that are specific to each secondary province; such as, a sports city in Buri Ram and a wellness city in Chiang Rai.

TAT curates three concepts to promote 55 secondary cities

Car Racing at Buriram International Circuit (BRIC), Buri Ram

The research has shown that there are more than 4,000 tourist attractions and over 8,000 accommodation units in the secondary destinations as of 2018. This creates enormous opportunities to help each of them look unique and interesting.

The promotion is in line with the government’s policy to promote and strengthen the tourism sector with inspiring attractions, strengthen the foundations of tourism, and make it a major source of progress in the secondary destinations nationwide.

A survey of the TAT Intelligence Centre (TATIC) about travel trends showed that in the first half of 2018, the 55 secondary destinations hosted 2,288,164 foreign visitors. The top five source markets were Lao PDr. (513,046), China (235,573), United Kingdom (110,942), Germany (103,912), and France (84,380).

Lao PDR. was number one because it shares a land border with one of Thailand’s Northeastern city destinations, Nong Khai.

TAT curates three concepts to promote 55 secondary cities

A U-shaped skywalk at Pha Tak Suea Temple, Nong Khai

The most visited secondary destinations (hosting over 100,000 tourists) are Nong Khai, Udon Thani, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. The cities receiving between 55,001-100,000 tourists are Ubon Ratchathani, Mukdahan and Satun.

The three tourism promotion concepts for the secondary destinations identified by TAT are:

  1. Local Experience: Provide visitors with an in-depth experience; such as, community-based tourism, lifestyle, wisdom, local identity and distinction of each area.
  2. Future Challenge: Secondary cities have enormous potential to expand their economies and boost the income of the local people if the tourism industry is developed in a sustainable and well-planned manner.
  3. Connecting Destinations: Connecting Thailand’s big cities with smaller cities and also connecting them with neighbouring countries. There are 29 destinations adjacent to the primary cities, 22 airports in these destinations, and 10 destinations with immigration checkpoints.

The key point of promoting the secondary destinations is to have them serve as connecting points to other places, including the neighbouring countries, with smooth and seamless connectivity via the primary cities.

TAT curates three concepts to promote 55 secondary cities

Phrathat Doi Kong Mu Temple, Mae Hong Son

In October 2018, TAT launched domestic activities to invite tourists to “Visit a Secondary City: Must Try, Must Love and Must Care” by focusing on promoting low-carbon tourism in the secondary destinations as well as promoting and creating awareness of eco-friendly tourism.

Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of TAT, said, “This activity is designed to better distribute tourism income and visitation from the primary to secondary cities, boost exposure of Thai culture and traditions, and enhance community sustainability.”

The primary demographic segment is the Generation Y group, young people born between 1980-2000 who are technology-savvy, and have the time and money to travel for both educational and experiential reasons, and understand the importance of environmental conservation.

Mr. Yuthasak added, “Tourism is now very important to Thailand’s economy as a source of jobs and income across various sectors, including small and medium sized enterprises. At the same time, over tourism can have an impact on the natural environment and climate.

“That is why TAT organised the “Visit a Secondary City; Must Try, Must Love, Must Care” campaign to generate low-carbon tourism in secondary cities. This promotes and create awareness of the natural conservation and ecosystems in the tourist sites, so that the younger generation can benefit from the sustainable use.

“Secondary cities are beautiful, full of culture and interesting activities. If we facilitate low-carbon tourism to these places, everyone can get involved in environmental conservation, reducing greenhouse gases and enhancing the value and uniqueness of each tourist attraction.”

TAT curates three concepts to promote 55 secondary cities

A Fisherman in Thale Bua Dang or Red Lotus Sea at Nong Han Lake, Udon Thani


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