Dec 27, 2012

Will the Chinese build a highspeed railway from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and to Nong Khai?




China has just opened the worlds longest Highspeed-Railway from Beijing in the north along 2298 km to the southern boom city of Guangzhou. There were a lot of international headlines around the first train on this line. And they helped to forget the big problems with Chinese Highspeed Trains as the Wenzou train collision in the not so far past.

But the Chinese Railway policy has much bigger ambitions. It is under way to create a Highspeed Railway System in Southeast Asia, linking China to Laos and Thailand and creating connections from China to Singapore.

Laos is forcing plans for a $7 billion railway link from the capital Vientiane in the South to the Chinese border in the North (passing the towns of Phonhong, Vangvieng, Luang Prabang, Oudomxay and Luang Namtha). The construction shall begin early in 2013. The line will be completed around 2014, said Laotian Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad at an international rail conference in Beijing. "While the exact route isn't clear, the rail line is expected to connect the southwest Chinese city of Kunming with Singapore, passing through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia", wrote wsj.com.

The project is financed by a 30-year loan from Export-Import Bank of China, according to rfa.org. China will be responsible for the construction. "Beijing is seeking to secure raw materials from neighboring countries to feed massive infrastructure investment and its manufacturing industry", wrote wsj.com. There is one more railway project in Laos: On December 24 a contract was signed for a US $5 billion railway line from Savannakhet to Lao Bao at Vietnam border. The construction is undertaken by Malaysian company Giant Consolidated, writes enjoy-laos.com.

Meanwhile preparations for four highspeed-railway lines in Thailand are going on. Funding is to come from a proposed 2-trillion-baht investment programme dedicated to new infrastructure projects over the next seven years. In November 2012 Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said according to Bangkok Post the government is planning four high-speed rail lines to support trade and tourism within the country. The four high-speed rail lines are Bangkok-Nong Khai-Vientiane; Bangkok-Ayutthaya-Chiang Mai; Bangkok to Hua Hin; and an expansion of the Airport Rail Link in Bangkok to Chon Buri, Pattaya and Rayong. These plans are supported by a Study of Thailand Development Research Institute Foundation. And China is aggressively lobbying the Thai government to select its train and construction technology, writes Bangkok Post. Chinese Deputy Railways Minister Lu Chunfang told Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that its construction costs average only US$20 million per kilometre compared with $81 million in Japan and $50 million in Germany. Thailand and China signed a memorandum of understanding on April 15 to conduct a feasibility study for the Bangkok-Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Nong Khai high-speed rail links. Thailands government plans to open international bidding early next year on the first phase of the high-speed rail project. Chinese government officials advising Thailand have suggested that it begins with a 54km route linking Bangkok and Ayutthaya as it would fall in line with the government's push to have the ancient capital serve as host for the 2020 World Expo, noted Bangkok Post.

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Dec 25, 2012

Pak Chiang Mai - a little heaven



















So many hotels and guesthouses there are in Chiang Mai. But this one has cought this bloggers heart. Why? It's just around the corner of Chiang Mai's daily live inside the moat, inside the old town. It's not in a street with guesthouse after guesthouse, massage shops, internet cafés, pizzerias and steakhouses. Pak Chiang Mai lies in a quiet soi - but not many footsteps from the smells of Gate Market and from its food stalls and from the beautiful temples.

It has very carefully done design like this sitting area on the first floor with the doors to the rooms:



















Take a close look and you will discover other details of the architecture as glass in assorted colors:


































There is also a corner for massage, seating and playing. Let the owners organise the Traditional Thai Massage or a Foot Massage for you - and you will be treated by very experienced hands, feet, ellbows and what else belongs to a classical Thai Massage, surrounded by the green courtyard, listening to the water of the small waterfall above the fish pond. Relax and dream!









































































Pak Chiang Mai is not only a guesthouse, but also a restaurant to discover. You will learn, that Noon and her family serve organic food. And her kitchen offers more than just what's on the menue-card, because Noon likes to create food, let the guests test it and to learn from their comments. So try the dinner she offers on request. You will eat with your eyes as well.





















































Of course you will not miss a good wine and a dessert. But this blogger was too delighted with the food. He ate the dessert, before he thought about taking a picture... But you can also imagine, how pleasent the breakfast is, you will get next morning. There is a wide choice from Müesli to Wonton Soup, whole bread, juices, different stiles of egg and of course fruits.

Organic food is not the only thing. The owners of Pak Chiang Mai care for the nature. So you won't find the usual plastic things with shower gel in your bath but small pots, that are refilled every day. Oh yes, the bath: You can take a look at its design and also the design of the rooms on tripadvisor.com , where you will also see, that Pak Chiang Mai is already top rated among the B&Bs of Chiang Mai. This blogger can tell you, that the beds are very good and lovers of cushions get enough.

Well, you know now about the location, the design, the food, the rooms. But there is more: The homepage of Pak Chiang Mai says: "Come as guests, Leave as family". When you leave, you will know, that this is not just a slogan. Noon, her brother Nat and everybode else of the family will let you feel.

Not enough. Pak Chiang Mai allows you to go on discovery with not many steps. Go just around the corner of Soi Ratchamankha 6 into Soi Phra Pok Klao 2 and you stand in front of a door, that leads into a little secret garden full of terracotta arts:
















































You move on some footsteps and find yourself inside Gate Market with its fruits, vegetables and meat. Fried skin of pigs and sausages are the specialities of Chiang Mai you should try! Then you move on again and you will discover many temples along Phra Pok Klao Road. And if you are here on a Saturday evening, you should cross the street outside the moat to the also close Wualai Road, where Walking Street takes place. You can also borrow bikes from Pak - a nice way to discover the sois of the old town.


Discover more:
Your Guide to Chiang Mai



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