Talks on high speed Bangkok Phitsanulok rail link speed up

Talks on high speed Bangkok Phitsanulok rail link speed up

Thailand’s transport-minister says construction of a hi-speed rail link from Bangkok to Phitsanulok should kick off in 2019. Speaking to reporters at the weekend, Akhom Termpithayaphaisit said the final blueprints for the Thai-Japanese project were being draughted.

The project was officially inaugurated at an expo staged at Bangkok’s Sofitel Hotel. Shiro Sadoshima is the Japanese ambassador for Thailand. He claimed Japan’s expertise in trains and public transport would ensure the Thai equivalent of the Shinkansen bullet trains would be safe, reliable and run to schedule.

Minister Termpithayaphaisit explained that the initial northbound line to Phitsanulok would feature six stations. These are Bang Sue, Don Mueang Airport Station, Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Nakhon Sawan and Phitsanulok. If construction commences as planned, hi-speed services could be running by 2022.

12GO ASIA says the long-term aim is to extend the line from Phitsanulok up to Chiang Mai in the far north of the country. The current series of public transport projects is an initiative started by the government of Thailand to improve travel choices and cut down journey durations on key routes.


Bangkok Siam Paragon mall to host Harry Potter Xmas expo

Bangkok Siam Paragon mall to host Harry Potter Xmas expo

An interactive Harry Potter expo is heading for a central Bangkok shopping mall this Christmas festive season. Christmas in the Wizarding World will open at the Siam Paragon Mall on the 17 December and provide fans of the magic adventures with the opportunity of roaming some of the most famous scenes.

Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade Village plus shops including Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop, Honeydukes Sweets and outfitters of magicians extraordinaire Dervish and Banges are being recreated for the exhibition. Muggles will be able to pick up the famous Bertie Bott’s Beans, magic wands and wizard outfits on their Wizarding World safaris.

Another key attraction is Quaffle Toss. This game allows visitors to play their own round of the Potter sport of Quidditch. Those muggles and Potter fans who don’t have time to visit before Christmas will still have plenty of time afterwards.

According to 12GO ASIA, Christmas is being stretched out for a couple of months in Bangkok as Harry Potter will be resident at Siam Paragon until the 2 March 2018. The mall is located at Siam Square and accessible by pedestrian overpass from Siam BTS Skytrain Station.


Malaysia national zoo sends beloved panda cub to China

Malaysia national zoo sends beloved panda cub to China

A two-year-old panda cub born at Malaysia’s national zoo was dispatched to her spiritual homeland of China on Tuesday. Zookeepers at Zoo Negara near Kuala Lumpur and Malaysian government officials wished Nuan Nuan all the best for the flight to her new home at a panda centre in Chengdu.

Nuan Nuan was loaded into a container with a good supply of food at Kuala Lumpur Airport. Doctor Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar is the country’s environment-minister. He said that after a period of acclimatisation at the Chengdu facility, Nuan Nuan would be released into the forests of Sichuan.

Zoo Negara’s panda centre director is Mat Naim Ramli. He said he was sad to see Nuan Nuan leave but happy because the zoo and Malaysia had helped preserve the endangered species for future generations.

12GO ASIA notes that Nuan Nuan was born at Zoo Negara in August 2015. Her parents had arrived at the zoo the year before on a 10-year loan from China. Under the terms of the loan agreement, any offspring have to be sent to China on their second birthdays.
 
Despite the loss of Nuan Nuan, Zoo Negara is still a top tourism draw when visiting Kuala Lumpur. The cub’s parents, Feng Yi and Fu Wa, plus another 450 species of animals represent a varied cross-section of the planet’s wildlife.


Pattaya switches on the dancing fountains at Bali Hai

Pattaya switches on the dancing fountains at Bali Hai

Pattaya will be switching on a new landmark water feature this weekend in honour of the ASEAN International Fleet Review. Dancing fountains located in the Bali Hai port zone will be strutting their stuff twice daily from then onwards.

A total of 35 high-jet fountains make up the new feature which also incorporates a special recycling system to prevent water wastage. Pattaya authorities say the fountains will be turned on every day from 07:30 to 09:30 and 16:00 to 22:00.
 
Speaking to local cable TV reporters, Pattaya mayor Anan Charoensri said the water feature would likely become an iconic landmark for Thailand’s favourite seaside resort. This year’s Fleet Review commemorates the 50th birthday of the ASEAN bloc. Events scheduled for the weekend are set to make it an exciting one for Pattaya residents and tourists alike.

According to 12GO ASIA’s news archives, a parade along Beach Road this Sunday will feature floats representing Pattaya’s best known tourism draws. The Thai prime-minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, will preside over the Fleet Review on Monday.

Bali Hai Harbour is the departure point for ferries to Koh Larn. It is located at the south end of Pattaya Bay and a few minutes on foot from the famous nightlife establishments of Walking Street.

 


Wonderfruit music and arts festival to stage in Pattaya again

Wonderfruit music and arts festival to stage in Pattaya again

The popular Wonderfruit music and arts festival is set to return to Pattaya in the middle of next month. The Fields at Siam Country Club is again the venue for the four-day culture extravaganza beginning on the 14 December.

Organiser Event Pop has already confirmed the musical line-up and says it is multi-genred and there will definitely be something for all tastes. Among the acts are the Songhoy Blues Band from Timbuktu, Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band, English songstress Izzy Bizu and Eduardo Castillo.

But the extended weekend is not just about the music as various workshops will focus on the likes of creating watercolour and woodcut paintings, metal forging and visual storytelling. Street-food hawkers and famous chefs will be on hand to provide tastes of their culinary delights.

Wellness is another facet of Wonderfruit's draws and provides visitors with the opportunity of joining yoga, tai chi and mediation sessions. 12GO ASIA explains that full details about the activities and live shows at Wonderfruit can be found on Event Pop’s website.


Ho Chi Minh to deploy more electric buses for tourist routes

Ho Chi Minh to deploy more electric buses for tourist routes

Transport officials in Ho Chi Minh City have put forward a proposal to introduce more electric bus routes. A Department of Transport (DoT) representative told reporters this week the buses could be used to link hotels, the city’s key tourism attractions and piers for river ferries.

If the proposal gets the thumbs up, it could be launched on a trial basis before the end of November. The DoT says it is collaborating with bus operator Thuong Nhat on working out the best routes to bypass the Vietnamese city’s infamous traffic jams.

The spokesperson did note that to avoid exacerbating traffic conditions, bus stops would not be on roads. City agencies such as the Department of Culture and Tourism have already voiced their support for the introduction of the eco-friendly transport option. 

12GO ASIA says a sneak preview of the plan shows hotels likely to be on the new routes include the Continental Saigon and the Rex. Other stops such as Parkson Cantavil Tower, Ben Thanh Market and some of the main museums are also pencilled in on the draught.

Ho Chi Minh inaugurated three trial routes using micro-buses earlier this year. The most convenient of the three for tourists is the Pham Ngu Lao to Saigon Zoo connection.


Air Race I prepares for takeoff at Utapao Pattaya Airport

Air Race I prepares for takeoff at Utapao Pattaya Airport

Pattaya’s Utapao Airport is preparing to host the equivalent of a Grand Prix Formula 1 race in the air. The second Air Race Formula 1 World Cup will stage at the east Thailand airport this weekend.

The first heats in the airborne spectacular are scheduled to take place on Friday and the finals on Sunday. Pilots taking part in Air Race 1’s pylon races are consummate fliers with the skills needed to negotiate a tiny two-kilometre circuit at 400kph.

Due to the fact the aircraft are only usually 10 metres above ground, pylon air races are a scintillating spectacle. Teams and pilots who have confirmed they will be competing include Lionel Mougel for Siam Air Racing, Paul Newman and Fast & Easy, and Mapoles Air Racing.
 
The Thai Ministry of Tourism and Chang Beer are sponsoring Air Race I. 12GO ASIA explains the races are one of several high-profile happenings in Pattaya and the Rayong region of the nation’s eastern seaboard over the next 10 days. The long awaited International Fleet Review will also take place at the weekend.


SRT runs winter excursion trains from Bangkok to Pasak Dam

SRT runs winter excursion trains from Bangkok to Pasak Dam

The State Railway of Thailand has announced the winter schedule for excursion trains to Pasak Dam. The first trains will run between Bangkok and the dam this Saturday and Sunday and then every weekend except two until the 28 January 2018.

Trains will depart from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station at 07:10 on each of the operational days. The trip takes around three hours and the train stops at locations including Bang Sue, Don Mueang Airport and Ayutthaya en route.

The trains also cross a bridge on the dam and make a stop so that tourists are able to take pictures of one of the most beautiful and serene locations in the central regions of Thailand. Passengers get five hours to visit the local museum, enjoy a culture show and grab a bite to eat before the return journey to Bangkok.

The scheduled departure time for the return train is 15:30 and arrival back at Hua Lamphong is 18:30. 12GO ASIA notes the trains will not run on the weekends of the 30 and 31 December or the 6 and 7 January. 
 
Late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the driving force behind the project to build Pasak Jolasid Dam. It was designed to improve water-flow and irrigation in the valleys of the Pasak and Chao Phraya rivers. King Bhumibol attended the naming ceremony of the dam back in 1999.


Plummeting temperatures entice tourists to Doi Inthanon

Plummeting temperatures entice tourists to Doi Inthanon

National park authorities at Thailand’s highest mountain report visitor numbers are rising. Doi Inthanon National Park’s head-ranger told reporters at the weekend the winter’s cooler temperatures had already triggered the customary annual spike in visitors.

Rung Hiranwong explained that gate receipts showed 2,740 tourists entered the park on Friday alone. He carried on by saying the thermometer at the top of the 2,565-metre-high mountain showed 9°C early on Saturday and 16°C at the park’s HQ.

He added that the temperatures would likely keep dropping for the rest of the year and not start climbing again until mid-January at least. 12GO ASIA says the colder than average temperatures for a tropical country are a major draw for Asian tourists during the winter months.
 
Bathed in swirling fog, Doi Inthanon at this time of year appears almost unearthly. The rare chance of seeing ground frost and winter flowers is an added incentive to make the 90km trip from Chiang Mai. A cluster of guesthouses and resorts near the entrance to the park provide good bases for exploring. 


Pattaya tourist sites join hands for International Fleet parade

Pattaya tourist sites join hands for International Fleet parade

Fifteen of Pattaya’s top tourism attractions have confirmed they will join a parade for the International Fleet Review on Sunday. Among participating venues with floats are the Ramayana Watepark, Cartoon Network Amazone Waterpark and Pattaya Floating Market.

The parade will showcase each individual attraction and start at 09:00 on Sunday. The parade will travel the length of Pattaya Beach Road. Municipality officials say the seaside esplanade will be closed to vehicular traffic at 06:00 on the big day.  

The officials noted that each parade float would be 4.5 metres in height at most and carry signs in both Thai and English script. The council’s statement also said Bali Hai Pier will be closed on both Sunday and Monday. Thai prime-minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is due in town on Monday to inspect the International Fleet.

Pattaya is hosting the International Fleet Review to commemorate the golden 50th anniversary of the foundation of the ASEAN community. 12GO ASIA says Pattaya is going to be the top travel destination in Thailand for the next week or so at least.

In addition to Sunday’s parade and the International Fleet Review, there are several other major happenings on the agenda. The key events are the ASEAN Multilateral Naval Exercise, a dragon boat racing regatta and the Air Race I World Cup Thailand.


Bangkok Cheap Charlie’s Bar set to rise from the grave

Bangkok Cheap Charlie’s Bar set to rise from the grave

One of Bangkok’s most iconic bars is set to be reincarnated. Just over six months after the owner of Cheap Charlie’s called last orders for the final time, the bar could reopen in as little as three weeks.

The news that one of Bangkok’s best known watering holes was about to rise from the ashes was posted up on its own Facebook webpage. Along with the revamped original bar comes a new address.

Cheap Charlie’s will no longer be located at the Sukhumvit Road, Soi 11 spot it occupied for more than three decades. The new location is still close to Sukhumvit, but much farther down as it will be on Soi 50.

12GO ASIA’s Bangkok specialists say the new Cheap Charlie’s will still be easy to get to as the entrance to Soi 50 is only a few minutes walk from the On Nut BTS Skytrain Station. Nightlife is one of Bangkok’s biggest draw cards and ranges from the archetypal Thai bar beer to the glitzy establishments of Patpong and Royal City Avenue.


Hanoi Transerco Corp road tests new modern buses

Hanoi Transerco Corp road tests new modern buses

Hanoi’s public transport services operator added another 15 brand new modern buses to its fleet last week. The buses were officially unveiled by Transerco last Tuesday to commemorate the centennial anniversary of  the 1917 Russian Revolution.

The buses are being put through their paces on Route 3 which links two Hanoi bus stations, Giap Bat and Gia Lam. Transerco claims the new fleet members comply with the latest in European standards on both safety and features for convenience.

12GO ASIA notes that the buses come with the Transerco blue livery and have separate compartments for drivers plus LED information boards. They offer wireless internet connections and GPS to allow Transerco and passengers to locate their whereabouts.

Hanoi’s People’s Committee has ordered bus operators to upgrade their vehicles to provide more comfort and safety for passengers. Transerco has already swapped 200 buses this year and hopes to take delivery of another 15 before Year’s End.


New international bus service links Nan and Luang Prabang

New international bus service links Nan and Luang Prabang

Yesterday saw the inauguration of a new international bus service linking Thailand and Laos. The bus service links Nan in northeastern Thailand with the UNESCO listed World Heritage town of Luang Prabang in Laos. 

The service now operates daily in each direction and departure times are 08:00 at both ends. The 370km trip is via Xayaburi and takes around 10 hours for the total journey. Thailand’s public bus operator, the Transport Company, is running the service with micro-buses configured for 21 passengers.

Transport Company boss Jirasak Yaowatsakul explained that the service was a joint enterprise with the Lao firm of Naluang. He also offered the opinion that the international connection would enhance travel choices between the two locations and promote tourism.

12GO ASIA notes that Thailand has a number of international bus routes linking it to Laos and Cambodia. These include Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang and Bangkok to Phnom Penh. The image supplied by 12GO ASIA shows a similar bus operating on the Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang route.


Compensation on offer for scammed tourists in Thailand

Compensation on offer for scammed tourists in Thailand

Thailand’s national tourist division has announced the establishment of a fund from which visitors can claim compensation if they have been scammed. The Tourism Department director says tourists will now be able to lodge claims against licensed tour operators and travel firms which do not deliver what they advertised.

Anant Wongbenjarat emphasised that claims could only be made against licensed firms which contributed to the Tourist Business Protection Fund. If a complaint against a particular travel company is upheld, the Tourism Department will pay out first and then claim back from the firm.

The department director noted that tourists should always check the company they were making reservations for tours or other services with is officially authorised to do so. 12GO ASIA’s team in Thailand says that while scams are occasionally perpetrated, most tourists enjoy hassle-free holidays here.

12GO ASIA is a reliable source for air, rail, bus, ferry and taxi services when travelling in Southeast Asia. We offer advanced booking services to destinations throughout the region which include Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Singapore, Yangon and Hanoi


Seas of fog draw tourists to Thailand’s northern national parks

Seas of fog draw tourists to Thailand’s northern national parks

The start of winter and the chance of seeing swirling fog has been enticing visitors to Thailand’s northern national parks. Seas of fog and lower than average temperatures for Thailand have increased the number of visitors to the parks over the past week. 

Rangers at the northern national parks of Doi Inthanon, Doi Ang Khang and Doi Chang say they have been busy for the last few days and there has have been plenty of fog to see. Over in the northeast regions of Thailand it is the same story. The national parks of Phu Huay Esan in Nong Khai Province and Khao Phra Viharn in Sisaket have been shrouded by early morning mists. 

Rangers at these parks say tourists have been staying overnight, or arriving early, to catch the fogs and sunrise. Doi means mountain in Thai and the higher altitudes of these parks is almost a guarantee that fog and mist will be present and especially so in the morning. 

Park authorities note that the parks are busier at weekends for the duration of winter every year. 12GO ASIA’s travel team explains that public transport can be busier during the winter months and particularly so over the New Year and it pays to make reservations to guarantee the travel dates and times desired.


Chumphon to Koh Tao ferry services resume

Chumphon to Koh Tao ferry services resume

Lomprayah ferries between Chumphon and the Gulf of Thailand island of Koh Tao have resumed service. A Lomprayah agent confirmed yesterday that the ferries were running again as the sea was a lot calmer than it had been on Tuesday. 

The agent said return services between the mainland port of Chumphon and Koh Tao were cancelled on Tuesday due to a forecast of waves three metres in height. The affected services were the 10:15 sailing from Chumphon and the 13:00 return one from Koh Tao

The Thai Meteorological Department had released a weather warning earlier in the week saying gale-force winds and choppy seas would be a danger to all shipping on the Chumphon to Koh Tao route. The Lomprayah representative explained that the adverse weather could endanger the lives of passengers and it was better to cancel the ferries for a day. 

The National Marine Department says all ferry companies operating on routes to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui need to be careful until the current bad weather blows over. 12GO ASIA’s resident travel specialists say the rainy season this year has lasted longer than usual but the long-term forecast shows sunny skies and calmer seas are on the way. 


Thailand to introduce biometric checks for purchase of SIM cards

Thailand to introduce biometric checks for purchase of SIM cards

With effect from the 15 December, buying a new mobile telephone SIM card in Thailand is going to require the purchaser to give their biometric details. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) says the checks will come in the form of digital scans of fingerprints or faces.

The NBTC says it will distribute the requisite scanners to SIM card retail outlets ahead of the implementation date. The NBTC has not yet confirmed when or whether pre-existing users of SIM cards will have to re-register their personal biometric details or not. 

For Thai citizens, the biometric scans will be linked to the government’s database entries. Foreign tourists buying SIM cards will be subjected to face scans which will then be matched to their passport photographs.

The NBTC conducted a similar campaign a couple of years ago which required people to register their telephone SIM cards with their mobile services supplier. Non-compliance after several deadlines had passed meant the number was permanently disconnected.  

According to 12GO ASIA, NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith claims the biometric registration campaign is not designed to track mobile phone usage and users. He says it will improve security for phone and online transactions and also stop terrorists in Southern Thailand from using mobile phones as bomb detonators. 


Tickets for Liam Gallagher Bangkok gig go on sale on Saturday

Tickets for Liam Gallagher Bangkok gig go on sale on Saturday

On Saturday, music fans will be able to buy tickets for Liam Gallagher live in Bangkok. The former Oasis frontman is scheduled to play live at Hall 106 in the city’s BITEC Bangna events centre on the 12 January 2018. 

Gallagher is now solo after splitting acrimoniously with brother Noel and Oasis eight years ago and Beady Eye six years later. His début solo album, As You Were, was released last month and hit the number one spot in the UK.

The tour is in support of As You Were and the set list for the rocker’s Bangkok concert is expected to feature the main tracks from it as well as maybe a few Oasis numbers.  Wall of Glass, Chinatown, For What It’s Worth and Greedy Soul are tracks from the album which have also been issued as singles.

Advance tickets for Liam Gallagher’s Bangkok date are available from Ticket Melon and cost THB3,200. VIP advance tickets which come with complimentary soft drinks are THB4,600. Doors open at 19:00 and Gallagher will be on stage at 20:00. 


Landslide derails services on Penang Hill funicular railway

Landslide derails services on Penang Hill funicular railway

Heavy storms on Saturday triggered a landslide which closed down the funicular train service to the top of Penang Hill. Penang Hill Corporation operates the train service on the Malaysian island and manager Cheok Lay Leng says the line will be closed until further notice. 

According to local newspapers, the front window of a train on the hill during the storms was broken by a falling tree branch. Cheok Lay Leng added that all the passengers on the train had reached the station at the bottom of the hill and nobody was injured during the minor mishap.

Late on Sunday, he continued by saying sections of the cable tracks were still covered in mud, broken branches and other debris. He explained that it was not possible to bring in plant equipment as the trackbed was too narrow and workers were having to clear the landslip by hand. 

Cheok Lay Leng said another delay to the resumption of services would be the fact all spare track parts had been used up in similar storms in September and more needed to be ordered. 12GO ASIA’s news team notes the weekend storms caused extensive flooding on Penang


Record numbers of passengers arrive at Thailand airports

Record numbers of passengers arrive at Thailand airports

The Airports of Thailand (AoT) authority says record numbers of passengers used the six airports under its control during the last financial year. Figures just released by AoT for the year ending 30 September 2017 show more than 129 million passenger arrivals and departures.  

Compared to the previous year, the figure is an almost eight per cent growth. AoT president Nitinai Sirisamatthakarn stated that of the total for the last fiscal year 72.5 million were international passengers and 56.7 million were domestic.

Year-on-year, the percentage increases were 6.5 per cent for international and 9.2 per cent for domestic. AoT’s figures show the six airports handled 823,574 flights and this was a six per cent rise when compared to the previous year. 

Broken down into nationalities on international flights, the highest number of arriving passengers came from China and then South Korea, Japan, India and Malaysia respectively. The six airports AoT operates are Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport plus those at Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Hat Yai.

12GO ASIA notes that it was no surprise AirAsia and Thai AirAsia operated the most flights to the airports. Our travel partner has been expanding its flight options in recent years and there are not too many popular destinations in Southeast Asia which AirAsia does not fly too. 

Our image of Suvarnabhumi Airport was supplied with courtesy by AoT