Bangkok Bus Rapid Transit line gets reprieve

Bangkok Bus Rapid Transit line gets reprieve

Bangkok’s governor says the city’s sole Bus Rapid Transit line is not heading for the scrap heap after all. Aswin Kwanmuang told media reporters the service will not be axed as planned next month and instead fares will go up to cover a shortfall in income.

The governor said the flat fare for a BRT journey will triple from THB5 to THB15. He carried on by saying that although the decision had been made to keep the service, one had not been made on who would operate it. The BRT comprises 12 stations with terminuses at Ratchpruek and Sathorn.

When the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration first announced it was scrapping the BRT, residents and commuters in the part of southern Bangkok it passes through slammed the move. They said it would leave them with slow moving buses as the only way of getting to Skytrain stations. 

The BTS Group operates the line and a spokesperson said the firm could maybe reduce the annual fees from the THB200 million it currently charges. Governor Kwanmuang told the reporters he considered that way too expensive for running a few buses and THB170 million was a more realistic figure.

Bangkok’s public transport network connects Hua Lamphong Train Station, its two airports and the three main intercity bus terminals. 12GO provides online reservations services for trains, flights and buses from these to all areas of Thailand.


Ho Chi Minh proposes pedestrianisation of central city area

Ho Chi Minh proposes pedestrianisation of central city area

Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City say they are adding the finishing touches to a plan to turn the downtown precinct into a pedestrian one. Tran Quang Lam is the assistant-director of the city’s Transport Department and he says the 2.2km² zone would become a no-go area for all forms of motorised transport.

If the plan gets the go ahead on 30 April when it goes before the People’s Committee, thoroughfares like Nguyen Hue and Le Loi between Ben Thanh Market and the Saigon Riverside will be closed to cars and motorcycles. Quang Lam said the process would be gradually implemented on central streets at first and only on weekends.

He added that the long-term goal was to set up parking zones on the edge of the pedestrian area and to launch electric shuttle bus services. In addition to Ben Thanh Market, other tourism draws in the area include Saigon Zoo, Tao Dan Park and the Reunification Palace. Quite a few of the hotels, eateries and nightspots tourists frequent are here too. 

Ho Chi Minh City is the capital of southern Vietnam and draws with its vibrant aura and multitude of attractions. It is also one of the country’s two main entry points. Getting to Vietnam is easy when you select 12GO ASIA as your travel ticketing agent.


Conservationists urge Thai rail company to preserve old stations

Conservationists urge Thai rail company to preserve old stations

Architects and academics have united in a bid to persuade Thailand’s railway operator to save the nation’s heritage stations from the wrecking ball.  King Mongkut Institute of Technology’s Parinya Chukaew and leading architect Pongkwan Lassus say the country’s elderly rail stations have high cultural value.

They say stations such as Kantang and Khon Kaen Central should be included in plans to modernise the national rail system.  Professor Chukaew said the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) ought to include station preservation clauses in any contracts signed for the installation of double track lines where single ones currently exist.  

The SRT has a little over 400 stations and an estimated half were built in the first half of the 20th century. The Association of Siamese Architects’s Ms Lassus also says the SRT should be concentrating on preserving national heritage and even for structures not listed as protected by the National Fine Arts Department.

The travel team at 12GO ASIA says one of the delights of rail travel in Thailand is pulling into, or passing through, stations where the buildings are still gaily painted timber and look as though they have changed little in almost a century. Stations at Hua Hin, Kanchanaburi and en route to Chiang Mai are among the most delightful to look at.


Thai weather department says storms are on their way

Thai weather department says storms are on their way

The Meteorological Department of Thailand yesterday issued an adverse weather warning for the upper regions of the nation. A bulletin released by the department noted that extremely high temperatures from Bangkok upwards were the precursors for rain, hail and wind storms.

The warning advised people to stay away from wide open spaces during the storms expected over the next three days. It also said sheltering under trees or large advertising billboards was a no-no too because gale force winds might blow them down.  

The Meteorological Department explained that storms would not hit all areas of the upper half of the country, but there was a 60 per cent likelihood they would. The region is also likely to be cloudy over the next few days, although with long sunny spells.

12GO ASIA says storms during March, April and May are common in Thailand and Southeast Asia, yet rarely last long. The team reiterated the Meteorological Department’s advice and added that if it was starting to get cloudy and travellers had to catch buses, trains or flights they should allow that little extra time to reach their departure station.


Thai aviation authorities warn of surge in Songkran flights

Thai aviation authorities warn of surge in Songkran flights

Thailand’s aviation authorities have warned that an increase in the number of flight arrivals for the Songkran Festival may cause delays at airports. Aeronautical Radio of Thailand says 10 per cent more flights are expected over the peak Songkran period between 11 and 17 April.

This means that Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport plus those at the popular tourist destinations of Chiang Mai, Phuket and Koh Samui will be busy. 12GO ASIA says Songkran is Thailand’s busiest holiday period and flights are often full so it pays to pre-book to avoid disappointment.

The team also notes that congestion at Suvarnabhumi is likely to be worse this year as one of its runways has been effectively shut down for two months to allow for upgrades and essential maintenance. The runway is only partially closed, but is not due to fully open again until 2 May.

Statistics show that on average 100 daily flights out of 900 have been delayed by 10 minutes or more since the runway closed at the beginning of March. Suvarnabhumi is Thailand’s main international airport while Don Mueang is the national hub for low cost airlines.


Ho Chi Minh City to launch Saigon Riverside weekend market

Ho Chi Minh City to launch Saigon Riverside weekend market

Council officials in Ho Chi Minh City say they have approved a proposal to start up a weekend market at a central riverside park. District 1 chief Tran The Thuan told local media sources the market would kick off some time over the next couple of months and feature stalls offering a mix of souvenirs and knick knacks, food, beverages and entertainment.

He noted that vendors would only be permitted to sell products which stated where they were made. Any food and drinks sold also need to have been hygienically created and served in suitable containers.

Tran The Thuan said the market would be set up at Bach Dang Park and cover about 3,000-metres² with a total of around 120 stalls. The initial proposal says the market will operate every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 22:00 and vendors will be allowed until 08:00 on Monday to remove their booths.

Bach Dang Park is across from Nguyen Hue Plaza. The busy Ton Duc Thang Road separates the two. Tran Vinh Tuyen is the deputy chief of Ho Chi Minh’s council and he says that the long term plan is to build a pedestrian underpass linking the two locations.  

Ho Chi Minh is the gateway to Southern Vietnam and boasts a plethora of peerless tourism attractions. 12GO ASIA provides reservations services for flights, trains and buses from locations like Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Bangkok and Singapore.


Expansion of Vientiane Wattay Airport lagging behind timetable

Expansion of Vientiane Wattay Airport lagging behind timetable

The man in overall charge of a project to enlarge Vientiane International Airport says work is progressing slightly slower than scheduled. Sengsangouane Chanthavong told reporters that to date only 13 per cent of the project is done whereas the schedule had called for 16 per cent to be complete.

The project manger noted that the difference was not huge and expressed confidence it would be back on track before the middle of 2017. The project was started 15 months ago and the projected completion date is before the end of next year. 

The project will see terminal buildings improved and enlarged as well as the setting up of better exit lanes for vehicles and the car park renovated. Mr Chanthavong said the reasons behind the missed deadlines were a combination of delays in acquiring permits-to-work, tardy product imports and a lack of communications between the different contractors.

Wattay Airport is the main gateway to Vientiane and Laos. The number of passengers using it has increased in the past two decades. Projections indicate it could be handling more than two million passengers a year in six years’ time.

Vientiane is a hub airport for domestic airlines and has international connections with the likes of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Phnom Penh. 12GO ASIA guarantees reliability when buying flight tickets for services to and from Vientiane.


Ancient Buriram Khmer-era temple to stage annual festival

Ancient Buriram Khmer-era temple to stage annual festival

Prasat Hin Phanom Rung Temple in the east Thailand province of Buriram is preparing to hold its annual festival. The Khmers built the temple in the 10th and 11th centuries so that the sun rises through its 15 portals. The festival celebrates this.

The festival usually takes place at the beginning of April and this year it is between the 31 March and the 2 April. The chance of seeing the hilltop temple basking in the sun has proved to be a major draw card in recent decades.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand says that the festival will also include Apsara dancing performances and a market selling retro products. Most Buddhists who visit Phanom Rung during the festival take advantage of the opportunity of placing a smidgen of gold leaf on Prang Noi.

The structure is said to contain a footprint of the Lord Buddha and laying the gold leaf is a mark of respect and homage. This well preserved temple complex is one of the Isan region of Thailand’s lesser known treasures and is just 55kms south of Buri Ram town.

Travelling to Buriram is easiest when selecting 12GO ASIA as your travel partner. For this route, we offer the choice of flight, train and taxi.


Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport shutdown delays flight departures

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport shutdown delays flight departures

The partial closure of one runway at Bangkok’s main international airport is taking its toll on flight schedules. Statistics released by Air Traffic Services Thailand show that for the first 10 days of the shutdown at Suvarnabhumi Airport, an average 100 flights a day were 10 minutes late in taking off.

On a normal day, Suvarnabhumi handles 900 aircraft so the 100 delayed flights is more than 10 per cent. Part of the east runway was shut off for essential maintenance work and improvements on 3 March 2017. The work is scheduled to take two months and the provisional reopening date has been pencilled in for 2 May.

12GO ASIA is a leading travel solutions provider serving hundreds of destinations in Southeast Asia. The travel team notes that both Easter and Thailand’s famous Songkran Festival will be celebrated in mid-April and this is bound to cause more delays at Suvarnabhumi.

Aeronautical Radio of Thailand reports that the country’s main international airports will receive 10 per cent more flights a day for the week between 11 and 18 April. Although a lot of the passengers will be travelling onwards to Chiang Mai, Phuket or Koh Samui, this often requires a change of aircraft in Bangkok. People with connecting flights should allow enough time to change planes.


New bus route links Tan Son Nhat Airport and downtown Ho Chi Minh

New bus route links Tan Son Nhat Airport and downtown Ho Chi Minh

Last Thursday saw the inauguration of a new bus route linking Ho Chi Minh City and its international airport. Dignitaries were on hand for the official launch of Route 109 at Tan Son Nhat Airport.

City transport authorities have allocated six modern buses for the route. These incorporate air conditioning, oversized luggage storage areas and anti-jam doors. The Department of Transport noted that the buses are configured to accommodate 70 passengers.

They will run at 20-minute intervals in each direction with the first departure at 05:30 and the last at 01:30 the following morning. Route 109 buses call at 11 stops before Ben Thanh, Pham Ngu Lao and 23 September Park.

Fares have been set at VND12,000 if travelling less than five kilometres and VND20,000 if over. Bus operator, Southern Airport Transportation, notes that drivers on this route are able to speak English. 

12GO ASIA says that Ben Thanh and Pham Ngu are more than five kilometres so the higher VND20,000 fare will apply. The team also says this fare is considerably lower than the average VND170,000 the same journey costs in a taxi.


Cambodia defers entry fee price rises for top Phnom Penh museums

Cambodia defers entry fee price rises for top Phnom Penh museums

Cambodia’s Ministry of Finance has released a letter confirming entry fee increases for two top museums in Phnom Penh have been deferred. Admission ticket prices for the city’s Cambodian National Museum and the S21 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum were originally due to go up in January.

Commenting on the deferment, Ministry of Culture director Long Pinna Serivath noted that the admission prices would now go up in July. He explained that this would enable travel agencies and tour operators a timeframe to build the increases into their packages.

The delay was a result of complaints lodged by the Travel Agents Association of Cambodia which said the ministries had upped the prices without sufficient notice. The entry fee for S21 is currently US$3, but will go up to US$5 while charges at the National Museum will rise from US$5 to US$10.

Phnom Penh has a good selection of attractions for visitors which range between museums, Buddhist temples, Tonle Sap River cruises and good nightlife and dining. 12GO ASIA provides travel ticketing solutions to Phnom Penh from locations such as Bangkok, Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur.


Vietnam Aviation Authority floats airport usage fees increases

Vietnam Aviation Authority floats airport usage fees increases

Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority has put forward a proposal to raise all service fees at the country’s airports. Lai Xuan Thanh is the CAA’s boss and he says the current charges mandated in 2011 do not accurately reflect the increased operational costs of the airports.

Airport service and security check fees are built into ticket prices. Passenger service charges are VND70,000 (US$3) for Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nat, Noi Bai in Hanoi and other category A airports. If the fee hike gets the green light this will rise to VND90,000 (US$4).

Passenger charges at smaller category B airports will go up from VND60,000 (US$2.60) to VND72,000 (US$3.10). The bid submitted to the Transport Ministry also says security check fees should be raised from US$1.5 to US$2 for international flights and from VND9,000 (US$0.40) to VND18,000 (USD0.80) for domestic ones.

The final proposed adjustment to the airport usage fees is tweaking aircraft landing and takeoff charges so they are 30 per cent higher at peak times. 12GO ASIA notes that all the fees will be included in the prices of tickets and these are likely to go up by US$2 at most.


Thai marine department plants coral near Andaman island

Thai marine department plants coral near Andaman island

Thailand’s Marine Resources division organised a coral planting activity in the waters off an Andaman Sea islet over the weekend. The event saw 250 natural coralline algae embedded in a manmade reef close to Koh Mai Thon Island.

Divers and Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) officers were among the estimated 150 people who turned out for the planting ceremony. DMCR Region 6 chief Suchat Rattanaruengsri explained that the coral planted at the reef was only one year old and should breed.

He carried on by saying DCMR had harvested the coral from locations like Phuket’s Ao Po Grand Marina. He added that this genre of coral was becoming harder to come by as poachers had been stealing it over the past few decades.

On a final note, Mr Rattanaruengsri stated that coral was a protected species. He said anybody who saw somebody else damaging or stealing it should report it to local authorities.

Phuket, Krabi and this general area of the Andaman shoreline are one of the jewels in Thailand’s tourism crown. Tourists travelling here will find 12GO ASIA offers convenience when buying tickets.


Heavy rain swamps Phuket and cuts electricity supplies

Heavy rain swamps Phuket and cuts electricity supplies

Torrential rain yesterday afternoon on the Thai island of Phuket flooded highways and wiped out electricity supplies. The downpour lasted for about one hour and the resulting flash floods caused major traffic snarl ups around west coast resorts such as Kamala and Cherng Talay.

Phuket news reported that a part of Thepkrasattri Road was under half a meter of water at the height of the flooding. The storm brought down electricity poles on Srisoonthorn Road which caused blackouts in the surrounding area.

Local electricity board boss Boontham Jaroenphong said four poles were knocked right over other while others were leaning at dangerous angles. He added that cranes were brought in to realign the poles and workers refooted them.  Normal power supplies were restored at around midnight. 

Phuket police issued a warning about wet weather last week and urged motorcyclists in particular to ride slowly. A spokesperson said officers had received numerous reports of motorcyclists losing traction on slippery surfaces following sporadic showers.

12GO ASIA says March showers are the precursor for the first rainy season of the year in the Andaman region of Thailand. The April to May rainy season is generally followed by another stretching from August to early November.


Vietnam says launch of online visa system is a success

Vietnam says launch of online visa system is a success

Vietnam’s Immigration Division says the launch of a pilot scheme providing online visa applications has proved a major success. The division of the Ministry of Public Security explained that 490 applications were made in the month after the system went live on 1 February 2017.

The pilot project is scheduled to run for two years and will be evaluated before a final decision is made on whether it will be made permanent. The system allows people from 40 nations including the US and Ireland to pre-apply and pay for tourist visas online.

Evisas are valid for entry at Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi airports plus another 26 official airport, seaport and land border crossings. As well as the 40 designated nations, Vietnam has special visa arrangements in place for citizens of other selected countries.

People from the nine ASEAN bloc nations plus those from Japan, Russia, South Korea and Scandinavian countries are allowed visa free entry to Vietnam. Under a temporary waiver in effect until the end of July, people from the UK and four other European countries also get visa exempt entry.

12GO ASIA says people travelling to Vietnam or any other nation in Asia should check for up to date visa requirements as the rules and regulations change frequently. 12GO ASIA provides online ticketing choices for happy travelling in Southeast Asia.


Thai Lion adds options for Bangkok to Hanoi flights

Thai Lion adds options for Bangkok to Hanoi flights

Thai Lion Air has announced it will start flying the popular Bangkok to Hanoi route later this week. The new service will launch on Friday with two round trip flights between the two Southeast Asian capital cities.

Thai Lion will operate two flights a day on Fridays, Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. These will depart from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport at 10:00 and 17:35. The return flights will leave Hanoi at 12:45 and 20:20. The flights on the first day, Friday, will depart at slightly different times.

The new Thai Lion Air service will increase options for passengers on one of the busiest routes in the region. Low cost carriers such as Thai AirAsia and Nok Air fly from Don Mueang to Hanoi while Thai Airways and Vietnam Airlines fly from Bangkok’s main airport, Suvarnabhumi.

One advantage of choosing Thai Lion Air over other budget carriers is that there are no extra charges for up to 20 kilogrammes of checked luggage or seat selections. 12GO ASIA is an online portal providing advanced travel reservations services on routes connecting all the key destinations in Southeast Asia.


Thailand promises Cambodia new trains for international rail link

Thailand promises Cambodia new trains for international rail link

An undersecretary at Cambodia’s Transport Ministry says Thailand has made a verbal promise to supply trains for a soon to reopen rail link. Ly Borin told reporters that Thai authorities had not so far put the pledge in writing, but said they would provide four trains in three to four months time.

The new trains will be utilised on services running between Battambang and Poipet on the Cambodian side of the border with Thailand. Poipet is in Banteay Meanchey province. Once the rail route is operational, passengers will be able to travel to Aranyaprathet on the Thai side of the border.

When this rail line was first connected up in the 1930s, it allowed passengers to travel all the way from Phnom Penh to Bangkok by train. Service from Battambang to Poipet and Thailand was scrapped by the French colonial government in the 1940s. Due to the dilapidated state of the line, train services between Phnom Penh and Battambang were suspended in 2009.

Ly Borin says final tests will be carried out on the Battambang to Thailand section of the line by July. Buses are at present the most convenient means of travel on routes between Phnom Penh, Bangkok and Aranyaprathet. 12GO ASIA offers advance ticket reservations services for these routes.


Thai government contemplates U-Tapao as third Bangkok airport

Thai government contemplates U-Tapao as third Bangkok airport

The Thai governmental cabinet says it is considering enlarging U-tapao Airport and making it into Bangkok’s third international gateway. Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak told reporters that the Eastern Economic Corridor Committee (EEC) had put forward proposals that could eventually up capacity at U-tapao to 60 million passengers a year.

He explained that the EEC had recommended a plan that would see bidding for an extension of the airport’s runway put out to tender by year’s end. The short-term goal for the passenger terminals is to increase capacity to 15 million in five years, double that five years later and 60 million by the early 2030s.

Another part of the project should see a high-speed rail link built which would whisk passengers from central Bangkok to U-tapao in 45 minutes flat. Suvarnabhumi is the main Bangkok airport for scheduled airlines and the second airport, Don Mueang, is a hub for low cost carriers.

The two Bangkok airports are the focal point for flights to destinations throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia. 12GO ASIA offers reliability and cost-effective prices for tickets on flights to and from the two airports.


Pattaya Hua Hin ferry operator claims boats half full

Pattaya Hua Hin ferry operator claims boats half full

The operator of a new Pattaya to Hua Hin ferry service says the boats are averaging 50 per occupancy. The 346-passenger catamaran Royal 1 began operating to a daily timetable in the first two weeks of last month and Royal Passenger Liner says some vessels have been up to 60 per cent full.

Royal 1 was originally due to launch on New Year’s Day, but due to adverse weather and various technical problems daily services did not get underway until 12 February. Royal Passenger says the number of passengers crossing the Gulf of Thailand on its ferry is testament to the need for such a service.

The crossing between the gulf seaside towns takes approximately two hours. The outbound ferry departs from Pattaya at 10:30 and from Hua Hin’s Khao Ta Kiab at 13:30. Standard tickets for a one-way crossing are THB1,250 while business class on the upper deck is THB1,550.   

Promotional fares of THB999 are no longer available. 12GO ASIA sells tickets for the Pattaya-Hua Hin ferries which come with the added bonus of being able to make the reservation and pay online.


Cambodia rated among top global nations for hassle free visa entry

Cambodia rated among top global nations for hassle free visa entry

Rankings just released by Passport Index show that Cambodia is one of the top 15 nations in the world to enter with visas on arrival. Cambodia allows passport-holders from 198 nations easy access to entry visas.

Arton Capital's Welcoming Countries Rankings for 2017 show that Cambodia tied for first place with the likes of Madagascar, Samoa, Ivory Coast and the Maldives. Cambodia was a long way above neighbouring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos in providing streamlined entry options.

Laos was the closest and ranked 19th as it gives citizens of 168 countries the option of getting visas on arrival. Taking the number 63 spot, Thailand allows easy visa choices to people from just 74 countries while Vietnam ranked at 88 with 23 countries. 

Cambodia offers visas of fellow ASEAN bloc nations visa-free entry while citizens from most other countries can pre-apply for e-visas online or get a visa on arrival at official entry points. Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs regulations stipulate that only nationals of 11 countries including Nigeria, Iraq and Pakistan have to obtain visas for entry before travelling. 

12GO ASIA advises travellers to check the entry requirements for their specific destination when travelling around Southeast Asia and Asia. Our advisors say no two countries impose the same visa and entry requirements.