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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, July 21, 2016

Again, Bangkok

I've visited the city a few times already, but Bangkok, Thailand always excites: the cheap shopping, the extraordinary food, the outstanding fruits so easily accessible in a place so similar to ours all contribute to making it one memorable destination.

A lot of the excitement of course is fueled by the memories you keep from the time you first visit the place to the succeeding ones. Somehow, a place becomes more familiar the more you frequent it, and the more familiar it is, the deeper your kinship with it becomes.

Sure I'd visit those temples once more if I have the time, or perhaps pet that tiger and ride that elephant again. Maybe even go for a thrilling tuk-tuk ride in the maze of bumper-to-bumper cars that is Bangkok traffic.

But before those, I'd probably have to go visit Sam Lung, our suki van driver who has, since my first trip there, built something of a company fielding tourist vans. The man no longer drives, but finds time to see our group and exchange hi-hellos-and-more. His is the story of how the small man, with enough dedication to his work, could cash in on a country's successful tourism program.

I'd probably also go check out the fat but sprightly lady selling fruits beside our hotel; last two years I've been there I saw her day in and day out without fail, pushing her cart full of ice and fresh fruits and would, from time to time, whisk out her sharp knife and peel and cut the fruits.

I hope to see the early-morning man balancing two baskets on his shoulders, selling finger-sized camote that are unbelievably sweet and the tastiest boiled peanuts this side of the planet.

Somewhere near Central World, starting at around 5 p.m., the entire sidewalk blooms with makeshift tables and chairs and kitchens, all selling traditional Thai food: salt-crusted pla-pla grilled on live coals; tom yum freshly prepared right from the pounding of the herbs and cutting of the leaves to the boiling of the prawns, and oh, yes, sweet and juicy but extraordinarily large mangoes with sticky rice and coconut milk. They also grill catfish like no other: soft and fat, with none of the fish-smell we get from the usual grilled catfish. I'll enjoy eating here, amid the horrible rush-hour traffic of the city, fully conscious that I am not just partaking of its culinary culture, but soaking in its culture in general. But I will remember to ask for the prices before ordering, and computing the bill before paying, because some friends have had the sorry experience of paying more than what these foods really cost. It's still tourism, yeah, but it's your wallet at stake here.

The weekends I will reserve for Chatuchak market, showcase for the country's handicrafts industry, all spread out in a hot trade fair spanning a few hectares. It's for you to find the cheapest goods and nicely-designed handicrafts, from T-shirts to house wares to food and well, practically everything you can imagine in between. For the latest in food and agricultural products, there is the nearby Otoku market, open even on weekdays.

And then, of course, I'll go drop by the House of Jim Thompson, a most inspiring place, where the city's artists have found expression in the most common of things: designer shirts and scarves, and placemats and table runners. It's interesting to see how art can help mundane things like baby clothes, and JT shows the way for this.

But even without having to go elsewhere, the Pratunam area where we usually stay is full of things to do, mostly shopping for cheap clothes. There is Platinum Fashion Mall, as big as our Mega Mall, where fashion is cheap and the range overwhelming. If that is not exciting enough, one can go down to City Complex, or Indra, and get lost in the maze of things that cost a fraction of how much they do in the country.

I'm flying there now.*

 

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Grab the opportunity

Hospitality and tourism continue to grow this year. In fact, international tourist arrival was recorded by the United Nations World Tourism Organization to increase by 5 percent between January to April 2016. Destinations around the world received 348 million international tourists or 18 million more compared to 2015.

Asia and the Pacific had an increase of 9 percent, as East Asia and Oceania achieved a 10 percent growth, and that of Northeast Asia increased by 8 percent and South Asia by 7 percent. UNWTO estimates that about 500 million tourists will travel internationally between May to August this year.

There is a strong desire to travel which explains the growth of tourism, even the number of schools offering tourism and hospitality management has increased. Recently, STI-WNU held a five-in-one activity: a career fair, student congress, faculty development program, and a cooking demonstration with the signing of a memorandum of agreement with the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center of Nashville Tennessee, USA, Global Educational Concepts Inc., and POEC Consultancy International Inc.

The congress was held at Grand Regal Hotel with Lalaine Rotas and Vic Brownsuzian, president and vice president of POEC Consultancy International Inc. Topics discussed were hotel operations, culinary and tourism updates, international career opportunities, cultural exchange work and travel program, internship and training program in the United States, Australia, Spain, Thailand and Vietnam.

Chef Armando Monterroso of Gaylord Hotels and David Causer Jr. of Gobal Educational Concepts Inc. also conducted an interview for possible trainees.

The whole group also visited La Consolacion College, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, which has been sending tourism and hospitality management students to be trained outside the country.

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My Taxi with Grab Taxi and Grab Car conducted a meeting with businessmen and tourist stakeholders to introduce the latest mobile application for transportation needs through taxi and cars.

They have about 400 member taxis in the city and still growing. The company provides trans-vehicle network service as a response to the call of the new generation where shopping, transportation and even food can be purchased with the use of smart phones. This is an e-hail app which has 17 million downloads and 320,000 drivers all over southeast Asia, reaching out to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia , Vietnam and the Philippines which has alliances with global partners, such as ChinasDidi, Lyft in the USA and OLA in India.

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The promotion of our destinations and attractions is very important. Recently, the Department of Tourism Region 6 participated in the International Travel Fair in Cebu, promoting the provinces in Western Visayas including Negros Occidental. Aside from that, DOT Region 6 also brought the DOT national media on a familiarization tour in Negros Occidental, with El Sola Travel and Tours as the local handler with the Negros Occidental Tourism office.

Participants were from DOT Media and Communications Service, Philippine Stra, Philippine News Agency, The Standard, Manila Times, Business Mirror and Malaya, who were brought to Campomanes Bay, Easy Diving and Artistic Dive Resort in Sipalay, Danjugan Island, Punta Bulata Resort, Suyac Island in Sagay, and the museums in Bacolod and Silay.*

 

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