Monthly Archives: May 2016

Tourist in Thailand

Last November I won the CIPR Award for Outstanding Business Education Journalism 2015 for a series of articles about Apps for Good, a scheme that gets primary and secondary pupils to create an app, plan their pitch and show how they would bring it to market. I already had a trip to Hong Kong and Australia in my sights and decided to use the prize money to visit Thailand on the way home.

I soon learned that April is not the best month to visit Bangkok. With temperatures of 38 degrees and high humidity, I spent my time scurrying between the tourist attractions and anywhere with even a hint of air con.

thailand4I found that £500 goes a long way in Bangkok as my prize paid for four nights in a hotel, a half day guided tour of the city, canals and temples plus a full day visit to the River Kwai at Kanchanaburi to see the famous Bridge over the River Kwai, the Allied War Cemetery and Museum and a trip on Death Railway followed by an elephant ride.

Along the way I talked to locals and discovered a little about life behind the tourist sites. Thailand means Land of the Free and celebrates the fact that this country is the only one in south east Asia which has never been colonised by a foreign power.

Some of the anxieties expressed by Thai people are very similar to concerns in the UK right now. They respect their King – now the longest-reigning living monarch in the world- but are not so sure about his heir, so much so that there is talk of changing the law to allow his sister to take the throne.

Immigration is a key concern. Many complain that the Chinese have bought up property as an investment and as prices have risen, young people cannot get on the housing ladder. The average age for marriage is now over 30.

They also worry that legislative changes to the rules on migration for countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will allow free passage of other nationals into Thailand, especially from the Philippines. ‘Filipinos speak better English than Thais,’ explained my guide Michael, ‘and they are also noted for their good voices so they are likely to corner the market in professional singing jobs.’

The minimum wage in Thailand is just £5 per day but the top jobs which many young people aspire to are as plastic surgeons and cosmetic dentists. This is a country where looks count. The most popular anti-ageing cream is Snail White. Yes, it really is made from snail slime and is also reputed to be very good for acne, rashes and reducing the appearance of scar tissue. I didn’t buy a pot. Some things just don’t travel well.

Feeling Fearless in Deutschland

Holidays for disabled people have had an unfortunate image in the past. They have been good value but definitely short in the glamour stakes.

In the UK there has been an emphasis on seaside holidays, perhaps with an underlying belief that blustery winds, strong doses of ozone and temperatures below the seasonal average are somehow good for those who are not very mobile. Many of the popular resorts do not boast a convenient rail connection and are not handy for motorways so a slow journey along A roads has also been part of the fun.

They seem to do things differently in Germany as I found out when I went to the German National Tourist Office stand at Naidex. They were showcasing Feeling Fearless the latest addition to the GbikeNTO’s website .

I met representatives from Germany’s biggest barrier-free hotel, Haus Rheinsberg, a superior 4 star hotel located in the beautiful surroundings of the Brandenburg Lake District. Yes the rooms and communal areas are designed for wheelchair users but they also factor in fun: ‘The restaurant provides high quality regional cuisine and meets special dietary and nutritional needs. The hotel bar offers a counter that has the perfect height for wheelchair guests, and our dance floor offers plenty of space for wheelchair dancing.’ Now that sounds like a holiday.

Go boating offers ‘Barrier-free Aquatic Adventures’ including canoeing, boat trips and chartering house boats. For those who prefer dry land there are bike trips in Potsdam or you can just enjoy the culture, scenery and food in Lower Saxony and Thuringia.

Fiona-Jarvis-Founder-Blue-Badge-StyleI met Fiona Jarvis, founder of Blue Badge Style. She runs a website which rates places based on style, accessibility and disabled facilities. She was enthusiastic about Feeling Fearless and is thinking of having a go at skiing for the first time.

She is just the sort of tourist that Klaus Lohmann, director of the German National Tourist Office for the UK and Ireland. He said: ‘Our new webpage is designed to open up ideas for what you can do- not what your can’t- whether it’s cycling, tacking a climbing rope course in a forest or skiing. We are trying to make holidays in Germany as free from obstructions and as enjoyable as possible.’

They are definitely doing something right, because Germany has just recorded it sixth, record breaking increase in tourism in a row. So maybe give Skeggy and Weston Super Mare a miss this summer and give Germany a go.