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[Published on 2012-02-17 in Thailand News by Jesse Schule]

Phuket International Blues And Rock Festival

Since 2005, Phuket has been hosting The Annual Blues and Rock Festival, bringing in talented performers from around the globe. The festival has continued to grow in popularity each year, allowing organizers to bring in the biggest names in blues and rock music from all over the world. Over the years the this event has drawn big name musicians such as Richard Clapton of Australia, Rich Harper and Charlie Musselwhite from the U.S.A, and numerous others from various countries. 

This year's festival will be held at a new venue, as past festivals have taken place at The Hilton Arcadia in Karon Beach, this year the fun and games will be moving to Laguna Beach Resort on the northern end of the island. The 2012 edition of Phuket's Blues Festival is set to be the largest and most exciting event to date, with a star studded lineup that has created quite a buzz around Phuket and the rest of Thailand. 

The biggest name on this years card is Chris Thomas King, who burst onto the blues scene after appearing in the 2001 film "O Brother Where Art Thou". The film brought Chris international recognition for his talents as an actor as well as a blues musician. In 2011 Chris released his new album "Antebellum Postcards", which will be available for sale at the festival. Tickets are available for purchase on the official website : www.phuketbluesfestival.com/tickets.html

This Year's Schedule:
 
Thursday February 23, 2012:
16:00: 30-40 min. acoustic in hotel lobbies/pool areas with Jack Derwin, Stuart Bush & Jim Paxton, Moscowfish, Grainne Duffy, Randy & Peter.
21:00: Festival Warm-Up Session @ Rock City, Patong 

Friday February 24, 2012:
16:00: 30-40 min. acoustic at hotels as above

17:00: Main Gates open - games, music, plenty of food and drink
18:00: Official opening - Introductions - Welcome by MC                
18:15: Jack Derwin (Australia)
19:00: Moscowfish (Canada)
19:45: Rockin' Angels w/Mojo Perry (Thailand/USA)
20:30: TOKEN - A Tribute to Santana (Thailand)
21:30: Sky High (Sweden)
23:00: AkashA (Malaysia)
24:00: Good Night!

Saturday February 25, 2012:
16:00: 30-40 min. acoustic at hotels as above

17:00: Main Gates open - games, music, plenty of food and drink
18:00: Welcome back by MC
18:15: Stuart Bush Band (Australia/Thailand)
19:15: Colin Hill w/Jimmy Fame & PJae Stanley (Thailand)
20:15: Grainne Duffy (Ireland)
21:15: John Meyer's Blues Express (Australia)
22:45: Chris Thomas King (USA)
24:00: Official Festival closing


Sunday February 26, 2012:

21:00: Festival Wrap-Up Party @ Bliss Beach Club, Bangtao Beach

 


[Published on 2012-02-15 in Thailand News by Jesse Schule]

Kao San Road

No Longer Just For Backpackers 

Kao San Road is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Thailand's capital city, not too far from The Grand Palace, it was formally known as Rattanakosin. Back in 1982, Thailand was aggressively promoting tourism, with an elaborate celebration and festival held at The Grand Palace. When millions of tourists flocked into Bangkok, they found that there was not enough hotel rooms to accommodate them. Many travelers that were on a budget (backpackers), then negotiated with residents of Kao San Road, offering to pay a small fee to stay in their homes. When the festival finally ended, the local residents of Kao San Road had realized that there was a market for low cost accommodation, food and entertainment in the area. 

In the few years that followed, small hostels and guesthouses began opening up all over the area, street vendors came in to sell their wares, and food stalls arrived on scene to cater to the steady stream of backpackers. During the 1980s and 1990s, the tourists that were attracted to Kao San Road were almost exclusively backpackers, many of whom would have long hair and dreadlocks, smell of marijuana smoke and Patchouli oil. Many of the hotels and hostels had very shabby facilities, shared toilets and showers, and an overall low standard of cleanliness. 

Over the past decade, Thailand has become a more mainstream tourist destination, and Kao San road has transformed into an area that caters to a variety of tourists, with more mid range accommodation springing up, and several higher end restaurants and bars filling the street. The area has also grown much larger, spilling out to nearby streets, as far as several city blocks away. Nowadays many tourists from all walks of life will choose to stay on Kao San Road, in order to avoid the sleazy go go bars and sex trade workers that are so common in other areas of Bangkok. 

The cost of food and accommodation on Kao San Road is still much cheaper than most other areas of the capital city, with an average guesthouse renting out for about 500 Baht per night. The quality of accommodation is much better than it has ever been in the past, with clean rooms and all the facilities you would expect from an average hotel. There are still just as many street vendors selling souvenirs, clothing and trinkets, all very reasonably priced. Food stalls still line the streets, although the Pad Thai that used to be only 10 Baht per serving, will now cost your at least double that. 

The nightlife scene at Kao San Road is much different than anywhere else in Bangkok, the bars normally are allowed to stay open a little later, however this changes from month to month depending on local politics. There are plenty of pubs, and restaurant style bars where foreigners can sit and enjoy a drink, watching the crowds of people pass down the road. You won't find any sex tourists on Kao San Road, because there are no bars in the area that cater to them. 

For those of you that had visited Kao San Road in the early years, you probably wouldn't even recognize it today. This more sanitized, more mainstream version of Kao San road seems to be a welcome addition to Bangkok, as today's tourists are a different breed than the backpackers of the 1980s. Thailand now caters to more honeymooners, couples and families, and the facilities have improved to accommodate this new breed of tourists. 


[Published on 2012-02-12 in Thailand News by Jesse Schule]

Thailand Declared Safe

U.S, Lifts Terror Warning 

On the 13th of January, 2012, The United States issued a terror warning, stating that there was a real possibility of imminent terrorist attacks in busy tourist areas of Bangkok. This came after Thai authorities arrested a Lebanese suspect who is accused of trying to attack spots in Bangkok that are popular with Western tourists. The Thai government said the terror suspect is believed to be a member of Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group active in Lebanon that the United States and Israel view as a terrorist organization. The suspect (Hussein Atris), had been traveling on a Swedish passport, and had previously lived in Sweden. 

The 47 year old Hussein told the Swedish press ""I am 100 per cent not guilty of the terror crimes I am accused of," said Hussein, who was last week arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport on suspicion of preparing to carry out a terrorist attack in Bangkok. "Much of the materials police found in my storage had been placed there, probably by Israeli secret service Mossad,"

The government of Thailand voiced concerns that the Americans had overreacted, appealing for the Americans to lift the terror warning, as it might have a negative effect on the country's tourism industry. Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung was quoted as saying "Nothing to worry about', "I want to assure people that there is nothing to worry about. The police will take care of the situation and everything will be under control."

Since the infamous Bali nightclub bombing in 2002, there have been fears that Muslim extremists might launch a similar attack on tourists in Thailand. The Bali terrorist bombings, which killed some 200 people and injured hundreds more, has been clearly attributed to the al-Qaeda linked terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiya. The attack in Bali's crowded Kuta tourist district was initiated with a possible suicide bombing inside a tourist bar that funneled panicking victims into the street, exposing the crowd to the full blast of a large car bomb parked next to the neighboring Sari club. 

Despite these fears, Thailand has remained relatively safe, with no reported terror attacks against foreign tourists, however bombings have occurred in the troubled Southern provinces. Muslim separatists in the South have been involved in several violent clashes with the government over the years, with several bombings, however these cases are not targeting tourists, and tourism has not been affected. 

This week The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that the United States revoked the terrorism alert in Thailand. They have replaced the warning on their website with a more general alert warning for East Asia, not naming any specific countries. The Thai government is assuring citizens that more stringent security measures will be urgently implemented to restore confidence. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Australia is preparing to revoke the alert and several other countries are expected to follow over the next few days. 

Source: The Nation: US lifts terrorism warning, seven other nations retain warning


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