5 cities in Asia hope to be linked under a single visa
THAI government and private agencies in Chiang Rai are considering linking five cities in Thailand, Myanmar, China, and Laos under a single visa.
Planning for the user-friendly travel scheme started about two decades ago with aims to encourage travelers to cross over to these cities in the Mekong region, spurring tourism among the four countries.
Dubbed the “five Chiang cities”, it comprises of Thailand’s Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai provinces, Myanmar’s Chiang Tung (Keng Tung), China’s Chiang Rung (Jinghong), and Laos’ Chiang Thong (Xieng Thong) aka Luang Prabang.
Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar are closer to reaching an agreement on a single visa option, but for China to come on board, more considerably lengthy talks will be required.
Thailand is hoping to add more quality tourists to its Chiang provinces.
The Association of Northern Tourism Federations president Kitti Tissakul said Thailand would reap the rewards from the scheme because Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai can benefit from the flow of Chinese tourists who are visiting the other cities.
Tourism-dependent Thailand has been trying to lure back Chinese tourists after a serious Phuket boating accident killed 47 Chinese nationals in July, resulting in 7,300 hotel cancellations between July and August.
“It will add approximately 10 percent or more than two million tourists annually,” Bangkok Post quoted Kitti as saying.
Should the plan follow through, the provinces will see an influx of South Korean, Japanese, and French tourists who visit Luang Prabang as well.
About 14 million foreign tourists visit Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai each year. Increasing the number in the “five Chiang cities” is within reach, according to Kitti.
Chiang Rai, Thailand
Located in northern Thailand, Chiang Rai is a sleepy but pleasant provincial town near the borders of Laos and Myanmar.
Founded in 1262 as the capital of the Mengrai Dynasty, it boasts an impressive collection of historical and cultural attractions such as the magnificent Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple.
The vibrant the night bazaar in Chiang Rai, which sells unique items made by hill tribe people, is also a must-visit for tourists.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
A blissfully calm land of misty mountains and colorful hill tribes, Chiang Mai is an absolute delight for adventurers and paradise for laidback travelers.
Founded in 1296 as the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom, the city is home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents.
Not too far away from the city is a lush green countryside, pristine rainforests, and villages that are unmarred by modernization.
Chiang Tung (Keng Tung), Myanmar
Set against a picturesque mountainous backdrop, Chiang Tung is home to colonial buildings from the British Empire and beautiful sacred temples.
It boasts both Chinese and Thai influences as it was once at the crossroads of trade between China and the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand).
A charming city with many personalities and ethnic groups, its attractions include the giant standing Buddha near the Naung Tong lake and Thit Ta Bin Taung, where a huge solitary 250-year-old tree stands.
Chiang Rung (Jinghong), China
Tucked away in the far south of China’s Yunnan province is Chiang Rung, the historic capital of the former Dai kingdom of Sipsongpanna.
A prime area for backpackers, the city is home to historical sights, cultural attractions, and the chance to observe wild elephants and other wild animals at the Xishuangbanna Wild Elephant Valley.
Aside from its blend of Dai, Chinese, Burmese, Thai, Cambodian and Laos cultures, Chiang Rung is also a great place to experience authentic Dai cuisine.
Chiang Thong (Xieng Thong), Laos
Situated in northern Laos, the ancient town of Chiang Thong (Xieng Thong) aka Luang Prabang was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1995.
The heart of Laotian culture, it was the royal capital of the Lan Xang Kingdom until King Phothisarat moved the administrative seat to Vientiane in 1454.
Aside from hiking Mount Phousi, climbing waterfalls at Kuang Si and ploughing rice fields with water buffalos, one of the most popular activities for tourists when visiting the old capital is giving alms to monks.
While representatives from the four countries have shown their support to push the implementation of a single visa, they have also identified possible security concerns of the policy. In particular, transnational crimes.
To address this, Kitti is proposing the usage of a single database shared by all four countries to alleviate security concerns.
The countries are looking to discuss the single visa plan to an Asean intergovernmental platform such as the Asean Summit.