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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Increasing tourism stimulates Oudomxay

Increasing numbers of tourists in Oudomxay province have prompted local and foreign businesses to compete to invest in hospitality, according to the provincial tourism department.

“Most of the businesses invest in constructing hotels and guesthouses to service the influx of tourists coming to the province,” the Oudomxay Tourism Department Director, Mr Sivanh Bounsavath, exp lained yesterday.

He said most hotels were three-star hotels, including one currently under construction by a Malaysian developer. Various styles of guesthouses are being built in Pakbaeng and Meuang Xay districts.

The tourism department reported that 60,000 tourists visited Pakbaeng district between October 2007 and March 2008.

“It was an almost 100 percent increase on the same six-month period last year. January to March each year is the high season for tourism here,” Mr Sivanh said.

Mr Sivanh said most tourists wanted to experience the natural features of the area, including various caves and waterfalls. Equally popular is trekking to visit ethnic villages and observe their culture. There is also a graveyard with graves as old as 1,000 years.

“Most of these tourists are from European countries, including France , Germany and England ,” said the Pakbaeng district Head of Office, Mr Inpaeng Panyathong. The district boasts the largest amount of tourist attractions in the province, he added.

He said tourists usually spent at least two days in the district, generating more than US$4 million in tourist revenue over the six-month period.

Mr Inpaeng said local people had discovered the two biggest chilli trees in the Mokpho were an extra attraction for many tourists. In addition, the tea grown in the area is the best in the province and has attracted investment from foreign businesses.

Mr Sivanh said many people in the province had given up traditional shifting cultivation.

“The arduous slash and burn agriculture has given way to new employment opportunities in the tourist industry,” he said.

Both Mr Sivanh and Mr Inpaeng urged local and foreign visitors to travel to Oudomxay province to see the lifestyles of the different ethnic groups, their handicrafts and the natural beauty of the region.

“Oudomxay holds its own fascination for tourists,” Mr Sivanh said.

By Souknilundon Southivongnorath
(Latest Update April 24, 2008)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Burmese art in Vientiane

In the neigbourhood of my house in Vientiane there is a wat with Burmese art. Wat Si Am Phone is located near the burmese embassy. The embassy paid for contruction a hall in Wat Si Am Phone. So this wat is the only place in Vientiane which has a hall with burmese art.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PI MAI celebration in Luang Prabang

(KPL) This year’s celebration of PI MAI ( Lao New Year) in Luang Prabang was held with the more attractive events and bigger than ever.
On the first day of the celebration, falling on April 13, local residents headed to the traditional bazaar ( fair) held in the heart of the town with a total distance of nearly two kilometres.
In the afternoon, the focus of the celebration switched to the island of Done Sai Moung Khoun, on the opposite side of the town across the Mekong River, where thousands of people gathered to build sand stupas and release fish and birds to let bad things/omens go with the old year. The local people also organised a baci ceremony, dance performance, traditional sports, fire rocket and visited some natural and cultural tourism sites in the district.
On this occasion, the high-ranking officials from central and provincial level also attended at the event to celebrate with the local people.
In the morning of following day, people went to temples to water Buddha images brought down for public watering. In the afternoon, local people and visitors lined along the Sri Savangvong Road to watch the traditional procession of Hair Vor starting at Wat That Noi to Wat Xiengthong.
Early morning of the last day which is considered to be the first day of the Lao traditional new year, called Mue Sang Khane Khuen, people climbed up Phou Si Mountain, where the renowned Phou Si is stuated, to mark merit by offering steamed rice to spirits, called Yai Khao Phra, along the stairs up the mountain. The Phou Si Mountain stands abruptly in the heart of the town. In the afternoon the procession returned from Wat Xiengthong to Wat That Noi.
Nang Sankane 2551 was Miss Pavenaphone Boupha from Visoun village. 10 year ago, her mother and mother’s sister used to be Miss Sangkan.

Monday, April 7, 2008

More buses for Pi Mai Lao

(KPL) Bus Station will add more bus route on schedule service for the upcoming Pi Mai Lao or lunar New Year which falls mid-April.
“The bus ticket would remain the same price to cope with the increase of passengers who plan to visit their families in northern and southern provinces,” confirmed a senior official of Northern Bus Station.
The plan was discussed at the meeting on 3 April, was organised by the Public Work and Transport Department in collaboration with the Northern Bus Station and private-run bus service for north and south parts.
The meeting aimed at discussing a preparatory plan to cope with an increased number of passengers and a measure on checking the status of bus to ensure passengers’ safety and help them reaching their destinations during Pi Mai Lao cerebration.
“Each year, local people will visit their hometown and travel another parts of the country but the most important issue we are scared the inadequate buses during Pi Mai Lao.” said officials northern bus station, “The passengers saw a rise every years,”
This year, the Pimai cerebration will fall on 13-15 April. So we have scheduled about 24 routes per day on the northern part including 10 trips to Luang Prabang province.
This year, Luang Prabang was just awarded an international golden medal as the most popular tourism city. While Xieng Khuang province would have six extra routes and four extra buses to Oudomxay per day, said Mr Thongphanh Phommasit, Manager of Northern Bus Station.
Mr Ouennuea Sinlavong, Director of Public Work and Transport Office of Vientiane capital advised that all buses should have two drivers and the status of buses should be clearly checked to ensure the passengers’ safety along the roads.
On the occasion, Ms Chitprasong Luangdethmesay, Director of Northern Bus Station called for passengers with destination to northern part during Pi Mai Lao have to book the ticket first.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Tea from Baimone leaves of Keokoo

Last year I happened to visit my friend in Vientiane province. He lives in Keokoo village. Here they produce local product. That is tea. Tea is produced from Baimon leaves. They say this tea is good for health. However I cannot see tea of Keokoo being sold in Vientiane capital.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Rooms scarce in Luang Prabang for Pi Mai Lao

Although there are now many more guesthouses and hotels in the town of Luang Prabang than last year, almost all accommodation is booked out leading up to Pi Mai Lao , said the President of the provincial Hotel and Guesthouse Association on Monday.

“This year, we can accommodate around 5,000 visitors, almost 2,000 more than last year, but we still cannot meet demand during this peak time,” said Mr Kounchanthaboupha Vongsaravanh.

Luang Prabang was declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as a World Heritage Site in 1995, the first in Laos .

According to a staff member at the Manolak Hotel, Ms Phone Chanthapanya, all of the hotel's rooms have been full for the last month, with most of the guests booked in by their tour groups. It is the same at the Phousy Hotel, according to the receptionist, Mr Phan Chanthavong.

However, the reservation manager at the Phouvao Hotel, Mr Phonxay Keuthbounmany, said 10 percent of the rooms are still available, perhaps because of the higher cost.

Pi Mai Lao takes place from April 13-15, but people usually celebrate for longer and visitors to Luang Prabang commonly stay there for around eight days, from April 11 until 18, said Mr Kounchanthaboupha.

Visitors had begun making reservations in January, both through tourist agencies and by individual e-mails, so that around 178 guesthouses and 35 hotels were fully booked.

Lao and Thai people account for around 50 percent of visitors to the World Heritage town on this occasion.

Mr Kounchanthaboupha assured Vientiane Times that room prices will remain the same even though there is a high demand.

The province is expected to cope better next year, when five five-star hotels, currently under construction, will be completed in time for the 25 th South-East Asian Games, to be held in Laos in December next year, said Mr Kounchanthaboupha.

According to a report given by Luang Prabang Governor Bounheuang Douangphachanh to President Choummaly during his recent visit to the province, tourism has the potential to play a leading role in the local socio-economic development process.

Mr Bounheuang said tourism is a top priority and the provincial authorities should ensure that all sectors worked with the tourist sector. Many tourist attractions have been developed in rural areas, distributing more income to local people, he added.

“We have cooperative tourist links with many countries. This is proving to be very effective because the number of tourists has been increasing yearly,” he said.

Some 15 flights land at the Luang Prabang airport every day. Income earned from the issuing of visas on arrival at the airport during the first five months of this fiscal year reached 5,661 million kip, a 96 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Mr Bounheuang observed that the average annual income of the residents of Pakharm village, where the night market is located in the town centre, had reached US$2,000 per person, almost four times higher than the national average.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update March 26, 2008)