Yala authorities estimate 2019 finish for Betong Airport construction

Local authorities say an under construction airport giving access to the far south of Thailand should be finished by the end of 2019. Betong Airport is being built in Yala Province and the local Chamber of Commerce boss says work is progressing at a good pace.

Yala authorities estimate 2019 finish for Betong Airport construction

Speaking to reporters, Kantapong Limkanchana said the planned 1,800-metre-long runway would be extended to accommodate larger aircraft. Betong is being built on a 360-acre parcel of land in the province’s Yarom District and is around 100kms south of the city of Yala.

Mr Limkanchana noted that Yala Proviince was blessed with a bountiful collection of tourism draws. He carried on by saying the government should allocate funds to provide better ground access routes to Betong. He finished off with the claim that digging a tunnel through hills in Normaror alone would cut 20kms off the route to Yala City.

12GO ASIA explains that when complete, Betong will provide an additional gateway to southern Thailand. Even without Betong, the current options are good and include airports at Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Suratthani and Hat Yai as well as Yala Railway Station.

No trains to Singapore Changi Airport Station on Sunday

As part of planned maintenance there will be no MRT trains to Singapore’s Changi Airport for the next two Sundays. Changi Airport Station and preceding stations on the green East-West Line (EWL) will be closed to trains on Sunday 21 and Sunday 28 January.

No trains to Singapore Changi Airport Station on Sunday

On the Changi Airport website, a posted travel advisory says passengers have a choice of bus, taxi or airport shuttle bus during the MRT shutdowns. 12GO ASIA says taxis can be found outside the Arrivals halls of each terminal.

All of Changi’s passenger terminals are connected to public bus routes too while scheduled shuttle buses depart from Level 2 at Terminal 3. Concierges in each terminal offer reservations services for downtown shuttle services for between one and seven passengers.

The Sunday Changi Airport MRT closures are part of a programme which has seen late and early trains on the East-West Line cancelled each weekend this month. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the last trains from Changi are at 23:04.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the first services are 08:19. These amended departure times are applicable to Changi Airport MRT services until the end of January.

New Bangkok private bus route launches with free travel promo

A new privately operated Bangkok bus service was introduced on Tuesday with a promotional offer of free fares. Marat’s Route R26E is offering free travel for five days with the offer set to expire on Saturday evening.

New Bangkok private bus route launches with free travel promo

Route 26E is 61kms long and links the Thai capital’s Ramathibodi Hospital with the medical institute of Chakri Naruebodindra in the southeastern Bang Phli District. En route, buses stop at the likes of Victory Monument, Phahonyothin Road and Rajavithi Road.

12GO ASIA notes that fares for the 26E from Sunday onwards will be between THB13 and THB25 and dependent on the distance travelled. Buses are configured with 31 seats, standing room for passengers, wheelchair access and GPS.

The new route is the first of several planned. It is the fruit of a decision by the Thai government to allow private companies to offer alternate choices to the public buses run by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority.

Chakri Naruebodindra is close to the old Sukhumvit Road route to the nation’s eastern seaboard seaside towns. Samut Prakarn Crocodile Farm and the replica city of Mueang Boran are also nearby.

The Telegraph UK releases 2018 Top 10 Asian rail journeys

Four signature rail trips in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia feature in The Top 10 of The Telegraph’s Asian railway journeys for 2018. The UK daily newspaper recommended the 36-hour odyssey on Vietnam’s Reunification Express. The service links North and South Vietnam with terminuses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. 

The Telegraph UK releases 2018 Top 10 Asian rail journeys

The Reunification Express gives glimpses of the nation’s greatest assets with scenes ranging from stunning ocean vistas to timeless ones of farmers working emerald rice paddies. Another Vietnamese connection between Hanoi and the southern Chinese city of Kunming was cited for a similar beauty.

The so-called Jungle Railway in Malaysia also made the grade. This route begins close to the northern border with Thailand at Kota Baru and passes through the country’s heartland before joining with the West Coast line at Gemas.

The other Southeast Asian rail journey to make the Top 10 was the Eastern & Oriental Express trip from Singapore up through Malaysia and onwards to the Thai capital of Bangkok. Apart from the E&O, 12GO ASIA offers advanced reservations for The Telegraph’s four recommended Southeast Asian trips.

US rockers Incubus to play Bangkok concert in February

Californian rock band Incubus are scheduled to make a stop in Bangkok next month on the Asian leg of their new tour. Incubus will be on stage at the BCC Hall in the Central Plaza Lardprao Mall at 20:30 on the 15 February.

US rockers Incubus to play Bangkok concert in February

The band changes its sound seemingly as often as the wind changes direction and song styles vary between the funk of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Metallica’s heavy metal. The tour does not kick off until the 2 February and so no set-lists of songs are yet available.

Incubus released an eighth studio album last April. The creatively named ‘8’ peaked at Number 4 on the Billboard charts. The single Nimble Bastard was taken from the album and is expected to make an appearance on the set list alongside other tracks including No Fun and Love in a Time of Surveillance.

Tickets for Incubus live in Bangkok went on sale in mid-December but 12GO ASIA says there is still availability. Standard tickets are THB1,500 and front row zone ones are THB2,200.

Jetstar Asia beats Singapore Airlines in OAG flight punctuality study

A 2018 survey by aviation industry analyst OAG has found budget carrier Jetstar Asia is one of the planet’s most punctual airlines. With 85.08 per cent of its flights operating to schedule, Jetstar Asia placed eighth in the world rankings, fourth in the Asia Pacific region and second for Southeast Asia.

Jetstar Asia beats Singapore Airlines in OAG flight punctuality study

OAG’s On Time Performance (OTP) percentages placed Jetstar Asia in second place in the category of budget airlines. The study rated the punctuality performances of 400 global airlines and 250 in the low cost grouping. Airlines were only marked down for flights which arrived 15 minutes, or more, late.

The team at OAG say they factored in the 2017 performance statistics for 57 million flights to reach their conclusions. Jetstar Asia is the Singapore based stablemate of Jetstar Airways. Jetstar Asia’s stellar performances outranked Singapore Airlines. The city-state’s flag-carrier ranked thirteenth in the world OTP table with 84.07 per cent.  

Jetstar Asia flies to locations throughout Asia with destinations from Bangkok and Phuket to Da Nang, Hong Kong and Yangon on its itineraries. Jetstar Asia is one of the chosen partners of 12GO ASIA and we offer reservation services for flights with this airline.

Phuket Marine Department introduces new boat lifejacket rules

The head of the Marine Department for Phuket says new regulations governing lifejackets in Thailand were introduced on New Year’s Day. Surat Sirisaiyat explained that safety officers had collaborated with suppliers in standardising lifejackets.

Phuket Marine Department introduces new boat lifejacket rules

He carried on by saying all vests sold nationwide, including on Phuket Island, had to be able to provide no less than 100 Newtons of buoyancy. This is the minimum needed for the lifejacket to roll the wearer over if he or she loses consciousness while floating in the water.

The vests also have to be produced from a selected list of permitted materials. The jackets all have to have 10-centimetre² labels inbuilt specifying they comply with the new safety standards too. Online retailer Lazada already has a stock of the lifejackets and has supplied an image of one for today’s news article.

Chief Sirisaiyat says Phuket Marine Department inspectors will be checking lifejackets conform to the required standards during the annual inspections of boats. He finished off by saying the new rules were effective from 1 January so all vessels should be equipped with the new safety equipment by 2019.

12GO ASIA’s travel team in Thailand says that by the deadline passengers boarding ferries, longtail boats and sightseeing boats should all be given access to lifejackets bearing the Marine Department seal of approval. The rules are likely to be applied to those taking part in adventure activities such as kayaking as well.   

Weekend buskers fest to liven up the streets of George Town Penang

An international buskers’ festival is scheduled to take place in George Town on Penang Island this weekend. The festival is being staged by TLM Events and will offer music fans two evenings of scintillating entertainment provided by an all-star cast of international artistes.

Weekend buskers fest to liven up the streets of George Town Penang

The organisers say the line-up of musicians come from 21 countries including Malaysia. They say festival-goers will enjoy more personal and interactive experiences than from concerts by big-name pop and rock stars. The ad for the event also claims buskers wear their hearts on their sleeves with personal lyrics and sincere acoustic performances.

The venue for the Penang International Buskers Festival 2018 is Lebuh Pantai in George Town. Pantai is also known as Beach Road and is home to some of both George Town and Penang’s oldest buildings. The music runs between 17:00 and 23:00 on the 20 and 21 January.

12GO ASIA notes there is no admission fee for visitors. Our image of the festival poster was supplied by the Tourism Board of Malaysia. 

Bangkok transport authority says bus fares have to increase

The boss of the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority told reporters last week that the price of travelling by bus has to go up. Nuttachat Charuchinda warned that the only way for the authority to clear its massive debt was to increase fares.

Bangkok transport authority says bus fares have to increase

The president said fares needed to go up by about 30 per cent and this would add THB2 to the cost of an average ticket. The hike, if approved, means fares for travel on fan-cooled buses would go up from a minimum of THB6.5 to THB8.5 and on longer air-conditioned bus routes the maximum fare would rise from THB23 to THB25.

Mr Charuchinda explained that the fare hike would enable the BMTA to clear its THB100 billion debt within five years. The proposed increase still has to get green lights from both the National Enterprise Office and Thai government before it can be implemented. 

12GO ASIA says bus fares will likely be increased this year as the government has already instructed state enterprises to work on improving profitability and reducing their outstanding debts. The Bangkok team says even at THB25 for the longest trip, the city’s buses provide pretty good value for money.

Annual Bo Sang handicrafts fair to stage at weekend

The coming weekend will see Bo Sang Village in Chiang Mai Province hold its annual handicrafts fair.  The Thai tourism bureau says the festival will provide visitors with the chance of seeing collections of the famous Bo Sang umbrellas, live music and parades.

Annual Bo Sang handicrafts fair to stage at weekend

A statement released by tourism officials notes a definitive highlight of the 2018 fair will be the beauties on bikes pageant. This will feature local belles clad in traditional costumes holding signature Bo Sang umbrellas. There will also be vendors selling Chiang Mai and Thai snacks, meals and juices.   

The three-day Bo Sang Handicrafts Festival kicks off on Friday the 19 January. Bo Sang is a flagship of the multi-faceted handicrafts industries and factories in the eastern San Kamphaeng zone of Chiang Mai. It is a little over 20kms from the city’s railway station and a few more from Thapae Gate

The tradition of Bo Sang’s umbrella production is said to have originated with a Burmese monk passing through Bo Sang. He showed villagers how to make sunlight and rain resistant paper from the bark of mulberry trees and then fabricate umbrellas from it.  

No swimming red flags still posted on Cha Am beach

Choppy seas and strong winds in the Gulf of Thailand have led authorities in Cha Am to post red no swimming flags on the beach. The current bout of windy weather has resulted in the red flags flying almost continually since the dawn of the New Year.

No swimming red flags still posted on Cha Am beach

Thai media sources reporting late on Wednesday noted the flags were still up and people on the beach were few and far between. The high waves have also washed debris onto the beach and this seems to primarily consist of discarded plastic bags and bottles.  

12GO ASIA says windy weather is fairly common at this time of the year on the southern coastal peninsula of Thailand. When the wind eases, the seas are plenty warm enough for swimming. The sun shining almost every day and a distinct lack of rain have made Thailand a popular holiday destination at this time of year.

The fact this Southeast Asian nation welcomed 35 million international visitors in 2017 is ample proof it is flavour of the moment with travellers. Splendid beaches, a huge choice of activities, unique tourist sites, better than average nightlife and tasty cuisine ensure Thailand’s tourism star is unlikely to fade any time soon.

Thai PM orders probe into sky high drink prices at Bangkok airports

Thailand’s prime-minister has ordered an investigation into alleged price gouging on food and drinks sold at Bangkok’s two airports. The probe comes as a result of a raft of complaints posted on social media websites about the high costs of drinks at Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport.

Thai PM orders probe into sky high drink prices at Bangkok airports

A bottle of mineral water in the airside Departure halls at either of the two airports comes with a minimum price tag of THB30 and is often as high as THB50. In 7-Eleven convenience stores in Bangkok the same bottles of water are between THB5 and THB10. Even in the public zones of Suvarnabhumi a bottle of water is only a couple of baht more than this.  

Although the complaints mostly focus on water, Thai investigative reporters carried out their own surveys and found all meals and beverages were dearer than if bought on the street. A meal from a fast-food outlet costs THB250 upwards as opposed to around THB150 in central Bangkok while cups of coffee were typically THB20 more expensive.

A spokesperson said PM Prayut Chan-o-cha had instructed agencies with jurisdiction over food and beverage vendors at the airports to find out why prices were so much dearer than they should be. 12GO ASIA reports the Airports of Thailand authority has already asked vendors to ensure they sell one cheap meal and one low-cost bottled water option. 

Torrential rain stops Bangkok traffic and Saen Saeb Canal ferries

Heavy rain early yesterday morning caused extensive flooding in Bangkok. The flooding rendered many roads impassable and triggered near gridlock traffic conditions as well as playing havoc with the timetables of city buses and canal ferries.

Torrential rain stops Bangkok traffic and Saen Saeb Canal ferries

The storms caused flooding on some roads and sois which was 40 centimetres deep. The flooding swamped the engines of more than a few cars. Broken down cars exacerbated the traffic situation. A bus passenger reported on social media that it took four hours to cover 10kms while one driver said he had only managed to inch forward one kilometre in two hours.   

Even after the rain had long eased off a little and the morning rush hour was over, traffic jams on streets awash with floodwater were the norm. Streets in the Chao Phraya riverside zones and roads such as Phahon Yothin and Vibhavadi Rangsit were among the worst affected.

12GO ASIA says the floods stopped ferries running on the city’s Saen Saeb Canal altogether. Service operator Family Transport temporarily suspended the ferries at 09:30 and said the water was too high to allow the boats to pass under bridges spanning the canal.

Japan prepares bid to build Malaysia to Singapore hi speed rail link

The Japanese ambassador to Malaysia says Japan will be submitting a bid to construct a high speed rail link to Singapore. HE Makio Miyagawa said Shinkansen bullet train technology would be up for grabs if the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore development team accepted the Japanese tender.

Japan prepares bid to build Malaysia to Singapore hi speed rail link

His excellency carried on by saying Shinkansen bullet train expertise would be a real benefit to the Malaysian and Singaporean firms who would eventually take over operating the trains. He said the system would be a bespoke one designed to suit purpose and all necessary training of local engineers and operations personnel would be a part of the full package.   

The ambassador finished off by saying finance was available and this would help the two participating nations to shoulder the cost of going ahead with such an ambitious project. Bids to build the high speed rail link have to be submitted by mid-year. Other probable contenders for the contract include China and South Korea.  

12GO ASIA’s news team notes the successful bidder to build the 350km-long line will be announced by the end of this year. According to the schedule, completion is expected in 2026 and travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur will then be just 90 minutes. At present, the average train journey from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru on the Singapore Strait is seven hours.

US singer John Legend to play Bangkok BITEC Centre

US singing star John Legend is scheduled to play a live concert in Bangkok in March. The venue for the singer’s date in the Thai capital is the International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC) and the date is the 23 March.

US singer John Legend to play Bangkok BITEC Centre

The Bangkok concert is a stop on the Asian leg of the Darkness and Light Tour to promote the album of the same name. The album is the Legend’s fifth and spawned the hit single Love Me Now. The album sold thousands of copies during the first week after it was released in December 2016.

At prior gigs on the tour, Legend’s heartfelt vocals have been evident on Love Me Now and other tunes including Glory, All of Me and the Marvin Gaye classic What's Going On. Tickets for John Legend live in Bangkok went on sale early in December but agents such as ThaiTicketMajor still have some for sale.

12GO ASIA says ticket prices range from THB2,800 to THB8,000 for the VIP package. BITEC is located in the Bang Na area of the city. Bang Na Station is a stop for trains on the BTS Skytrain Sukhumvit Line and within walking distance of BITEC.

Elongated prototype urban trains introduced in Kuala Lumpur

The operators of Kuala Lumpur’s suburban rail network have introduced the first longer four-carriage trains. The prototype just introduced was created by joining two twin-car trains together and is part of a greater project which will see all of the Malaysian capital’s LRT trains converted.

Elongated prototype urban trains introduced in Kuala Lumpur

 A senior project director with the Kuala Lumpur Mass Rapid Transit Company says trains running on Rapid Rail’s LRT lines will be converted over the next two years. Zohari Sulaiman explained the conversions would allow the trains to carry more passengers and offer a higher degree of comfort.

Giving more details about the project, Sulaiman said the ends of two twin-car trains had been removed so the two could then be joined together to form the extended set. The new trains have been given a makeover too with enhancements like new lights, wheelchair spaces and noise-reducing rail-lubricator mechanisms.

Before the first refurbed train entered service, it was given rigorous trials and completed the equivalent of a 2,000km journey. 12GO ASIA says the systems on which the trains will all be eventually lengthened include the Kelana Jaya and Ampang LRT lines.

Chiang Rai Singha Park jazz fest to feature star musicians

Jazz maestro Brian McKnight will be the star performer at the Chiang Rai international jazz fest early next month. The début jazz festival at the Northern Thailand province’s Singha Park is scheduled to take place on the 2 and 3 February 2018.

Chiang Rai Singha Park jazz fest to feature star musicians

McKnight hails from the US and is famed for a distinctive voice and skills at playing a broad range of instruments. The festival bill boasts another eclectic collection of jazz stars. Singaporean Alemay Fernandez, Australia’s Susan de Jong and trumpet virtuoso Aya Takazawa from Japan are among the jazz icons scheduled to make appearances.

Thailand’s jazz artistes will be performing too with the likes of Pui Duangporn and saxophonists Tewan Subsanyakorn and the illustrious Mr Saxman in the festival line-up. Jazz aficionados will be able to enjoy workshops led by the musicians themselves as well.

Although the window to get discounted early-bird tickets expired with the old year, jazz fans are still able to buy two-day passes for THB2,500 from Singha Park and other official sales outlets. 12GO ASIA says Singha Park is just over 10kms from downtown Chiang Rai and an easy trip in a taxi or tuk-tuk.

Chefs cook up a storm for Ho Chi Minh Taste of the World food fest

Ho Chi Minh City will kick off the 12th edition of its renowned annual food fest later this week. The Taste of the World Festival will feature around 100 food stalls and will run from Thursday through to Sunday.

Chefs cook up a storm for Ho Chi Minh Taste of the World food fest

The food fest is being jointly staged by the Vietnamese National Tourism Association and the Ho Chi Minh tourist bureau. A statement released late last week said attendees would be able to sample Vietnam’s celebrated street food as well as the same staples from Thailand.

In addition, other international offerings from the likes of nations ranging from Italy to Argentina will be on the menu. The organising committee has not so far confirmed what, if any, entertainment will be provided.

In previous years, traditional Vietnamese music and visual arts performances plus one-off specials including a melon-lantern show and a cook-up by five-star chefs have added to the enticements of the Taste of the World. For the 11th edition in 2016, an estimated 300,000 domestic and overseas people visited.

The 12GO ASIA image of last year’s Taste of the World was supplied with courtesy by Vietnam Net.

Eurowings announces direct Munich to Bangkok flights

German budget airline Eurowings has confirmed the launch of direct flights between Munich and Bangkok. The twice weekly service will commence in mid-June and will be the first scheduled low-cost connection between the southern German state of Bavaria and Thailand.

Eurowings announces direct Munich to Bangkok flights

The maiden outbound flight from Munich will take off on the 15 June and, due to the time differences between the two nations, the return flight will depart the next day. Eurowings is a low-cost subsidiary of Germany’s Lufthansa Airlines Group.

The Lufthansa regional manager for Thailand and Vietnam is Stefan Molnar. He told media sources Lufthansa was happy to be adding an extra flight option for people travelling between Germany and Thailand. He noted the additional link would enhance the group’s presence in the Mekong region and Southeast Asia as a whole.

12GO ASIA says passengers planning trips to Bangkok and beyond will find our budget friendly fares to their liking. One search for a particular route compares the fares for all transportation providers and modes of transport.

Laos prepares for public opening of Lima Site 85

Construction workers in Northern Laos are busy preparing the Vietnam War era Lima Site 85 for its public opening. The site is a former US radar station and is perched on top of a 200-metre-high cliff at the side of a sacred mountain Lao people call Phou Pha Thi.

Laos prepares for public opening of Lima Site 85

The workers are racing against time to get the site and its access route ready in time for the 50th anniversary of it being invaded by North Vietnamese commandos. The anniversary falls on the 11 March 2018 and will see the official unveiling of a staircase scaling the cliff. 

From a new purpose-built information centre at the foot of the cliff, the stairway zigzags upwards to the spot the North Vietnamese soldiers climbed under the cover of darkness. The road from Houayma has been surfaced in preparation for the addition of Phou Pha Thi to Houaphan Province’s revolution memorials.

12GO ASIA says a look at local maps shows Phou Pha Thi is about 35kms west of Xam Neua, Houaphan’s provincial capital. In the opposite direction from Xam Neua, the huge warren of Viengxay Caves was a hideout for 20,000 Pathet Lao fighters and families during the Vietnam War.