The Tourism Authority of Thailand has partnered with Tinder - like many Covid-19 unions, it's already being tested

PHOTO: Facebook/ThailandInsiderUSA

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has local lovers covered, thanks to a partnership with dating app Tinder that has been designed, according to the Bangkok Post, to “trap singles” while promoting domestic travel among uncoupled individuals.

Consisting of nine upcoming one-off tours – in Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lopburi-Saraburi, Udon Thani-Loei, Chumphon-Suratthani, Phuket, Pattaya and Ayutthaya – the “Single Journeys” campaign launched on December 20 with a complimentary cruise that took “single tourists who would like to pray for a relationship” along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river. The cruisers visited nine temples and enjoyed dinner on board, reported the Bangkok Post.

“Tourism connects people, and some people might end up being lifetime partners,” said TAT deputy governor for tourism products and businesses Thapanee Kiatphaibool, of the collaboration.

“Tourists can also help support tourism and the economy during tough times.” Sounds like everyone’s a winner, especially the tourism industry if the campaign meets its target of inspiring 7 million domestic trips.

The next Singles Journey has been arranged for January 9, and will include “a beach party and concert at Koh Khai, off the coast of Phuket”, for 50 affection seekers, according to Lonely Planet.

“The third tour accommodates up to 50 singletons and is scheduled for Jan 23 and is a one-day trip across the vast Pa Sak Jolasid Dam in Lopburi, Thailand’s ‘Monkey City’, and dinner at the dam,” reports the travel guide publisher.

However, timing is everything, and like so many new relationships that blossomed in 2020, that between TAT and Tinder is already being tested by the pandemic. Thailand closed its borders to international travellers in March and implemented a nationwide lockdown that largely succeeded at stopping the spread of the coronavirus while devastating the country’s tourism-dependent economy.

In an effort to inject some cash back into the country, long-stay travellers were allowed to start trickling back in on Special Tourist Visas in October, but a recent outbreak of Covid-19 in Samut Sakhon, to the southwest of the capital, has sparked fears of a second wave of infections.

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In Bangkok and other “high risk” provinces, local authorities have been provided with recommendations regarding restrictions, which include the shortening of business hours at places that pose an infection risk and asking people to stay at home whenever possible.

The Nikkei Asia news magazine reports that “stronger measures including nighttime curfews and bans on travel across provincial lines remain an option”.

All of which could spell heartache for lonely sightseers looking for someone to see the sights with – not to mention those singles hoping to be “trapped”.

Although the platform dedicated to booking the TAT-Tinder tours (questionably titled Sneaksdeal and not to be confused with a sneaker marketplace of the same name) remains up and running, it seems certain that any campaign encouraging people to come together when they should be maintaining their social distance is doomed.

Much like the hotly anticipated Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble, which was suspended the day before it was supposed to launch in November because of rising case numbers in Hong Kong, and Japan’s Go To Travel campaign, which launched in July only to be halted in December amid an increase in infections, the probable fate of the Single Journeys initiative highlights the risks involved in encouraging people to hit the road while the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

As for the TAT and Tinder tie-up – whether the star-crossed organisations can reconcile to provide cruisers, literal and otherwise, an opportunity to find love in the future remains to be seen.

Bangkok has a new big Buddha

The 70-metre Buddha statue under construction in Bangkok.
PHOTO: Twitter / @PDChina

It might be on the brink of a lockdown, but when Bangkok is ready to receive visitors again, they’ll be wowed by a brand new landmark, a very big Buddha. Located at Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen, a temple dating back to 1610, the 70-metre-tall gold-hued statue is the biggest image of Buddha in the capital and cost 100 million baht (S$4.4 million) to build.

“Named Dhammakaya Dhepmongkol, it is the most ambitious recent project of its kind in the country, reflecting Thailand’s continuing reverence for Buddha images,” reported the Bangkok Post.

In pre-pandemic times, such landmarks attracted both the faithful and the foreign faith-curious, helping to fund the upkeep of temples through entry fees, donations and souvenir sales.

Bali’s beaches are once again awash with waste

PHOTO: Facebook/kuta.beach.bali 

Unfortunately, it’s that time of year again on the Indonesian resort island of Bali – when the beaches are awash with waste.

“Residents of Badung, Bali, began the first day of 2021 on Friday by conducting a coastal clean-up drive in the Kuta beach area that resulted in 30 tons of marine debris cleared from this famous beach,” reported Indonesian news agency Antara.

Like clockwork, images of the island’s trash-covered sands arrive at this time of year, exposing the consequence of monsoon winds and rains washing rubbish onto the shore, poor waste management and a global marine pollution crisis.

Speaking to Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, Wayan Puja, from the provincial environment and sanitation agency said: “We have been working really hard to clean up the beaches, however, the trash keeps coming.”

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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.