Tour de France on the Mekong

Tour de France on the Mekong

Tourism officials are finalising plans for a multi-stage cycling event along the Mekong River, while playing down confusion over talks last year with Tour de France organisers.

Sports and Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said details of the “Tour de Kong” were still being worked on, but the northeastern province of Loei had been pegged as the most likely starting point.

“The project combines cycling, which is very popular right now, with our tourism campaign to explore destinations in 12 provinces,” Ms Kobkarn said.

The tentative course for the race will also take cyclists across the Mekong into Laos. Ms Kobkarn said it would be a friendly event between the two countries to mark the establishment of the Asean Economic Community at the end of the year.

She said it would also tie in with the launch of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s  “2015 Discover Thainess” campaign, which looks to promote the unique characteristics of 12 provinces.

The TAT had raised eyebrows in October for announcing that it was in talks with Tour de France organisers to host part of the iconic cycling event in Thailand. The news came as a surprise to the Amaury Sport Organisation, which organises the race. Its chairman, Jean-Etienne Amaury, promptly clarified that while there were indeed talks, they were only to host a separate, single-day event.

Ms Kobkarn said she had been unaware of the discussions, which her ministry was not involved in.

The minister also sought to clarify her widely criticised call for tourists to wear identification wristbands in the wake of the Koh Tao murders last year. She said her plan had been misinterpreted by the media, and the wristbands were only meant to be worn voluntarily to assist lost or inebriated travellers. “It was an initiative from the community and one of the measures to ensure the safety of tourists after the Koh Tao incident,” she said.

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