Kanchanaburi launches 2017 Harmony World Puppet Festival

Kanchanaburi launches 2017 Harmony World Puppet Festival

Today sees the start of the delayed Thailand Harmony World Puppet Festival in Kanchanaburi Province. The fest is a celebration of the art of puppetry and marionettes and features string puppets, shadow puppet shows, hand puppets, rod-driven puppets and even human puppets.

International and Thai puppeteers are queuing up to stage theatrical performances based on the likes of historic legends and comedy skits for the delectation of audiences. The puppeteers will be on hand to greet visitors and demonstrate their skills. 

The six-day Harmony World Puppet Festival finishes on Saturday 26 February. It is actually the delayed 2016 edition. The festival was originally due to take place last November, but was rescheduled following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The venue for the festival is Prommitr Film Studios. The film studio is about 20kms from Kanchanaburi Bus Station. Fares for the regular shuttle buses between the bus station and the film studio are THB50 each way. Buses operate between 09:00 and 20:00.

People travelling to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok or other locations in central Thailand will find 12GO ASIA’s ticket services are perfect. We offer reservations for reputable passenger van operators on the Bangkok route.


Thai rail operator considers electrification of southern link

Thai rail operator considers electrification of southern link

Thailand’s Transport Ministry has asked the national rail operator to assess the feasibility of electrifying a train route in the far south. A secretary with the ministry says the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will evaluate whether electrification of the 50km link is viable.

Peerapol Thawornsuphacharoen said the recommendation to electrify the stretch of the route between Hat Yai and Padang Besar had been made by the Office of Transport Policy. The secretary explained that if the SRT gave the project the thumbs up it would be submitted to the government for final authorisation next month.  

The estimated cost of the electric connection is almost THB8 billion. This section of the southern Thailand line is part of a greater project also under consideration. Secretary Thawornsuphacharoen says the SRT is collaborating on plans to launch high speed trains connecting the Thai capital of Bangkok with Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Hat Yai Junction is the main interchange station in the far south of Thailand and Padang Besar Station is on the country’s border with Malaysia. 12GO ASIA provides ticket reservations services for trains on this route to stations including Suratthani, Hat Yai, Padang Besar, Alor Setar, Butterworth (for Penang) and Kuala Lumpur.


Ho Chi Minh City Goethe Institute launches German film fest

Ho Chi Minh City Goethe Institute launches German film fest

The Goethe Institute in Ho Chi Minh City has just inaugurated this year’s spring festival of German films. The 10-week programme launched on Wednesday with technology thriller Who am I-No System is Safe (Who Am I-Kein System ist Sicher).

The next showing is on Wednesday 22 February and is the drama Head Full of Honey (Honig im Kopf). There will be another eight films shown on consecutive Wednesdays until the grand finale on 26 April with the screening of Offline-Are You Ready for the Next Level (Offline-Das Leben ist Kein Bonus Level).

Show times are at 19:00 and, although the films are being shown with their original soundtracks, they have subtitles in both English and Vietnamese. Admission is free and the venue for the film screenings is Salon Van Hoa Ca Phe Thu Bay at 19B, Pham Ngoc Thach in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 3.

Ho Chi Minh City is a bastion of culture in Vietnam and has regular events and performances ranging from films to concerts by top classical musical artistes. The city is one of the main gateways to Vietnam too. 12GO ASIA offers ticket reservation services from locations such as Bangkok in Thailand and Phnom Penh in Cambodia.


Thailand submits UNESCO listing application for iconic Esarn temple

Thailand submits UNESCO listing application for iconic Esarn temple

Thailand has submitted an application to UNESCO which could see one of its best known temples designated a World Heritage Site. The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry prepared the portfolio of documents needed to pave the way for Phra That Phanom Temple to be UNESCO listed.

The manuscript has already been given provisional approval by a UNESCO vetting committee and will be on the agenda for this year’s general meeting in Krakow, Poland. This series of meetings and discussions will take place between the 2 and 12 July. 

The landmark chedi at Phra That Phanom Temple is believed to have been built more than 1,000 years ago. Due to monsoon rains, the original structure disintegrated in the 1970s but was rebuilt to the original specifications. A spire made from 100kgs of gold is the chedi’s crowning glory. 

Phra That Phanom Temple is in the Mekong riverside town of That Phanom. The town is midway between Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan. 12GO ASIA gives the choice of buses from Morchit Station in Bangkok or flying to Nakhon Phanom and then bus from there.


Siam Country Club Pattaya launches 2017 Wonderfruit Festival

Siam Country Club Pattaya launches 2017 Wonderfruit Festival

Today marks the start of the 2017 edition of the Wonderfruit Festival at the Siam Country Club near Pattaya. Wonderfruit provides a thrilling fusion of art, music, food and adventures and is a four-day event running through until Sunday.

The third Wonderfruit features an eclectic mix of live musical acts covering all genres from Thai folk to hip-hop and rhythm and blues. Three stages ensure good variety and acts scheduled to play include At Adau from Sarawak and jazz supremos the Bangkok New Quartet. 

Boogie maestro Dodgy Yamamoto will be on his turntable to ensure the dance floor is never deserted. Dining is set to be an eclectic affair with options ranging from Thai street food specials to feasts laid on by Marcel's French Bistro. 

The Siam Country Club is about 20kms from Pattaya Beach Road and 150kms from Bangkok. Wonderfruit’s organisers have arranged shuttle buses to transport festivalgoers to the site from Pattaya. There is also the option of bringing your own tent and pitching it onsite.

As Pattaya is Thailand’s favourite seaside resort, transport choices are plentiful. 12GO ASIA offers the choice of bus and passenger van from Bangkok’s Ekkamai and Morchit bus stations as well as Khao San Road. Those looking for extra comfort will find our point-to-point taxi services are best.


Thai airports authority announces multi-billion baht upgrades

Thai airports authority announces multi-billion baht upgrades

The Airports of Thailand (AoT) authority has announced major upgrades at the six airports under its jurisdiction. President Nitinai Sirismatthakarn says the AoT will plough in THB200 billion over the next decade to increase capacities and provide enhanced passenger comfort.

The Thai government has a controlling 70 per cent share in AoT. The company operates Bangkok’s two airports, Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Meuang, plus Phuket, Hat Yai, Mae Fah Luang-Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. Suvarnabhumi is the principal air gateway to Thailand.

Doctor Sirismatthakarn noted that 50 per cent of the budget allocation will be spent on revamping Suvarnabhumi. He explained that the airport’s annual passenger capacity is 83 million. He said that after the upgrades the capacity would increase to 200 million passengers a year. 

Suvarnabhumi opened in 2006 and replaced Don Meuang as Bangkok’s airport. Don Meuang was initially shut down but has since reopened and is a hub for budget airlines. It currently handles in excess of 30 million passengers annually.

12GO ASIA’s speciality is domestic travel within Thailand and connections to neighbouring Southeast Asia nations. To this end, we offer ticketing services for flights from both Bangkok airports to destinations such as Phuket, Krabi, Hanoi, Yangon, Mandalay and Luang Prabang.


Ho Chi Minh City to relocate Western bus terminal

Ho Chi Minh City to relocate Western bus terminal

Municipal authorities in Ho Chi Minh City say they plan to build a new bus station to replace the Western bus terminal. The departure point for buses to Mekong River Delta destinations such as Can Tho and Ca Mau is being moved to the less congested An Phu Tay zone of the Vietnamese metropolis.

The new bus station will occupy a 42 acre plot of land and will increase capacity to 2,500 buses per day. The city’s Transportation Mechanical Corporation says estimations show an average of 50,000 passengers a day will use the new Western station.

The corporation is working with Binh Chanh District authorities on expropriation of land in An Phu Tay for the new bus station. The actual building plans are still on the drawing board, but a corporation spokesperson said they would be finished by late April.

The plan is also to clear an adjacent 17 acres so a station for urban Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services and aceess ramps to National Highway 1A can be built. The current Western terminal is known as Ben Xe Mien Tay by city residents and is on Kinh Duong Vuong Street.

The location has no room for expansion and is a major cause of traffic snarl-ups in this area of Ho Chi Minh. 12GO ASIA provides reservation services for buses to locations throughout Vietnam.


Nok Air inaugurates Bangkok to That Phanom flight services

Nok Air inaugurates Bangkok to That Phanom flight services

Thai low-cost carrier Nok Air today inaugurated a new route linking Bangkok to That Phanom. The new destination is home to the renowned Wat Phra That Phanom Temple and faces across the Mekong River to Laos. 

The new route is twice daily in each direction and utilises buses for the last leg of the journey as That Phanom has no public airport. The morning departure leaves Bangkok Don Mueang Airport at 10:05 and arrives in Nakhon Phanom at 11:15. The bus to That Phanom leaves at 11:55 and arrives there one hour later. 

The outbound evening service departs Don Mueang at 17:40 and gets to That Phanom at 20:30. The return buses leave That Phanom at 09:45 and 17:30 and give arrival times back at Don Mueang of 12:55 and 20:45.

The location for drop off and pick up for Nok’s Fly ‘n’ Ride services in That Phanom is Sweet Home Travel. 12GO ASIA offers cost effective ticketing choices for many of Nok Air’s routes.


Singha Park in Chiang Rai hosts five day balloon festival

Singha Park in Chiang Rai hosts five day balloon festival

This year’s edition of the Singha Park Balloon Carnival kicks off today and will run through until Saturday evening. This international balloon fest is said to be the biggest in Southeast Asia and balloons in all shapes, sizes and colours lend an aura of the exotic to the jamboree.

Balloon rides are an integral part of the attractions of the balloon fiesta. A balloon ride at this time of year gives panoramic views of the verdant mountainscape surrounding Chiang Rai. Couples who manage to get to Singha Park today have the perfect opportunity of celebrating Valentine’s Day with a celebratory ride to treasure as a fond memory.

Light and music shows are an added bonus. The organisers at Singha Park have lined up an eclectic bill of top Thai musical artistes to entertain attendees. These culminate on Saturday with performances by pop band Jetset'er and rock goliaths Silly Fools.

Singha Park is located in Chiang Rai Province and is 10kms from Chiang Rai Town. 12GO ASIA offers travel tickets to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Once here, it is simply a matter of arranging private transportation, or renting a motorcycle, for the final leg to Singha Park.


Thai Airways serves in-flight special Valentine’s Day desserts

Thai Airways serves in-flight special Valentine’s Day desserts

Thai Airways is marking the day of romance by serving a range of special desserts on its international and domestic flights. THAI’s team of master chefs have created a collection of red Valentine’s Day treats which are being served to passengers in all classes.

Royal First Class passengers on domestic flights from Bangkok get to enjoy the subtle tastes of strawberry tiramisu with special sauce while Royal Silk fliers are sampling truffle gateau with bespoke strawberry topping. Even Economy travellers are not being left out as red rose strawberry shortcake is on the menu.

The Valentine’s puddings vary on inbound flights to Bangkok and include red-hued pana cotta and white brownies with raspberry sauce. The desserts have again been tweaked for international services but follow the same general theme of sweet delights garnished with red sauces or cream and a Valentine’s heart. 

Thai Airways is one of the 12GO ASIA travel providers and operates from a main hub at Suvarnabhumi Airport near Bangkok. Travellers looking for a superior in-flight experience have the choice of routes to and from Bangkok to domestic destinations which include Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and Phuket.


Zither maestro Tri Nguyen to play Ho Chi Minh City gig this evening

Zither maestro Tri Nguyen to play Ho Chi Minh City gig this evening

An award-winning musical maestro is set to perform at the French Cultural Exchange Institute in Ho Chi Minh City this evening. Zither master and pianist Tri Nguyen will be on stage at 20:00 at the institute and will give renditions of some of his best known pieces for music fans.

A sneak preview of the set list shows numbers from his just released third album as well as the debut Consonnances. Beyond Borders is the latest release and is an enchanting fusion of folk and traditional music from both Vietnam and Europe. The ensemble features Vietnamese dan tranh zither players and a European-style string quartet.

Born in Vietnam, Tri Nguyen went to Paris as a student and completed his studies at the Ecole Normale de Musicque. During an illustrious career, the musical maestro has played at top venues in Europe and the US.

Tri Nguyen and friends are live at the French Institute on Thai Van Lung Street in District 1. Bastion of culture, Ho Chi Minh City is one of 12GO ASIA’s most popular destinations and we offer travel connections from the likes of Bangkok, Vientiane and Phnom Penh.


Chiang Mai 2017 Strawberry Festival ends tomorrow

Chiang Mai 2017 Strawberry Festival ends tomorrow

The 2017 edition of Chiang Mai Province’s unique five-day strawberry festival is due to finish tomorrow evening. The festival is held in the mountainous Samoeng District of Chiang Mai and is an extravaganza dedicated to the delights of the fruit.

Although the focus of the Samoeng strawberry fest is showcasing locally grown strawberries and strawberry products, it has all the typical elements of a Thai festival. These include floral parades, culture shows and various entertainment options.

A market set up near the district office has other regional produce and culinary specialities on sale. This year’s strawberry festival is the 16th in the series. It was originally inaugurated to encourage collaboration between ethnic groups living in the Samoeng area and to help conserve cultural identity.

Samoeng is at the top of the so-called Samoeng Loop. The loop provides an alternate connection to the main north-south roads through Chiang Mai. It links adventure centre extraordinaire the Mae Sa Valley with beautiful mountain vistas.

The valley and the Samoeng Loop are top Chiang Mai attractions. When travelling to Chiang Mai, 12GO ASIA is the best option for tickets. We offer connections from locations including Yangon, Chiang Rai and Bangkok.


Vietnam to promote Hai Phong as top tourism location

Vietnam to promote Hai Phong as top tourism location

The national tourism authority in Vietnam says plans are afoot to promote Hai Phong and its environs as a leading destination. The Administration of Tourism Bureau says it will use Hai Phong as the spearhead of a campaign to enhance the profile of the region to domestic and international visitors.

Nguyen Quy Phuong is the agency’s chief and he says the Hai Phong Visitor Centre needs to ensure it has enough knowledgeable staff to deal with a surge in visitor numbers. He added that another essential component was to highlight the delights of Cat Ba Island and the other key attractions in the locality.

Tourism industry specialists say Hai Phong needs to link up with tourism authorities in the North such as those in Hanoi and Ha Long. They say the different bureaus could then collaborate on promoting the multiple draws of Northern Vietnam.

People travelling to the North from southern locations such as Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang or Da Nang will find 12GO ASIA is the best option when buying tickets. We also offer ticketing services from international locations including Luang Prabang in Laos and the Thai capital city of Bangkok.


Bangkok to axe Bus Rapid Transit line to Sathorn

Bangkok to axe Bus Rapid Transit line to Sathorn

Municipal authorities in Bangkok say they are scrapping a loss-making Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service. Explaining the decision to axe a line only introduced seven years ago, deputy-governor Amnuay Nimmano said it was losing THB200 million annually and only 25,000 people a day used it.

The deputy-governor continued by saying the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority had been running the BRT services on a contract since the launch of the line. He finished off by saying the contract period expired at the end of April and was not being renewed.

The BRT connects Ratchpruek and Sathorn stations and stops at an additional 10 stations including Rama IX Bridge en route. Ratchpruek is close to the Talat Phlu BTS Skytrain station and Sathorn is near Chong Nonsi Station on the same system.

The BRT links up an area of southern Bangkok where the only other public transport options are buses. It was designed to serve commuters, but City Hall claims only students and people entitled to concessionary fares use it and this is part of the reason it is losing money.
   
12GO ASIA says the BTS Skytrain is a good choice for getting around Bangkok as it links Ekkamai Bus Station and Siam Square. Morchit Bus Station is a few kilometres from its northern terminus and Hua Lamphong is two stops on the underground from Sala Daeng.


Thai Buddhists to celebrate Makha Bucha religious holiday on Saturday

Thai Buddhists to celebrate Makha Bucha religious holiday on Saturday

Buddhists in Thailand are preparing to remember one of the most important days in Buddha’s life with Makha Bucha Day. When Makha Bucha is actually celebrated depends on the cycles of the moon and in 2017 it is on Saturday 11 February.

Makha Bucha commemorates a day 2,500 years ago on which 1,250 arhant disciples were ordained by the Lord Buddha himself. Theravada Buddhists mark the day by abstaining from alcohol and visiting their local temples to make merit by giving gifts to resident monks.

At some temples, Buddhists perform an act called Wien Tien. During the rite they walk around the viharn (chapel) at the temple three times while holding lighted candles. On the north side of Bangkok, Phra Dhammakaya Temple usually takes the ceremony to a higher level with mass candlelight services and sermons. 

In keeping with a day of abstinence, the Thai government says a nationwide ban on the purchase and consumption of alcohol will be in effect from midnight on Friday to midnight on Saturday. 12GO ASIA notes that Makha Bucha is a low-key festival and there should not be any major delays when travelling by bus, train or aeroplane.


Thailand extends free tourist visa campaign for six more months

Thailand extends free tourist visa campaign for six more months

The government of Thailand has just endorsed a proposal to extend a promotion on free tourist visas for an additional six months. The current offer of free tourist visas was due to expire at the end of this month, but a government spokesperson says this has now been extended until the end of August.

Sansern Kaewkamnerd explained that since the free visa programme was launched on 1 December 2016, figures showed tourist arrivals had gone up by 12 per cent. Prior to the launch of the offer, the number of international arrivals had plummeted.

The fall in visitors was due to the Thai government announcing an elongated period of mourning following the death of the country’s king. The government also set a minimum daily spending level for Chinese tourists on package holidays.

Until the end of August, the THB1,000 fee for a single-entry tourist visa obtained from Thai embassies and consulates worldwide is being waived. These visas are valid for 60 days from the date of arrival in Thailand.

Citizens from around 60 countries are entitled to visa exempt entry to Thailand and get 30-day permits to stay upon arrival. Passport holders from 21 other countries including China and India, are eligible for visas-on-arrival which usually cost THB2,000.

Also until the end of August, the fee for a visa-on-arrival is being reduced by 50 per cent to THB1,000. 12GO ASIA provides advance reservations service for travel within Thailand and to neighbouring nations.


Bangkok sets deadline for installation of lifts at BTS Skytrain stations

Bangkok sets deadline for installation of lifts at BTS Skytrain stations

City authorities in Bangkok say all BTS Skytrain stations will offer lift access before the end of 2017. The Thai capital’s deputy-governor told reporters the installation of lifts at the 23 Skytrain stations had been delayed by construction issues and having to relocate facilities at their sites.

Amnuay Nimmano carried on by saying he had ordered the relevant officials to deal with the causes of the delays and expedite the installation schedule. At present, there are only a few operational lifts for disabled people to use on the two lines of the Skytrain system.

Earlier this week, governor Aswin Kwanmuang set a deadline of 28 February for lifts at Ratchadamri, Phrom Phong, Thong Lo and On Nut to be up and running. The lift installations at Skytrain stations were originally scheduled to be completed by January 2016.

The installations have become an urgent matter for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) as a group of disabled people launched a class action law suit last Friday. The suit claims the BMA is discriminating against disabled people by not offering them access to the Skytrain system.  

The two Skytrain lines link Morchit, Siam Square, the National Stadium, Ekkamai Bus Station and other key locations in Bangkok. 12GO ASIA says that as Skytrains are air-conditioned and do not get stuck in the city’s notorious traffic jams they provide the most comfortable option for getting out and about.


Cool weather and rain forecast for north half of Thailand

Cool weather and rain forecast for north half of Thailand

Thailand’s Meteorological Department says cooler weather and rainstorms are set to sweep across the north half of the country. In a bulletin released earlier today, the department said the bad weather is likely to kick in tomorrow and will affect all regions from Bangkok upwards.

The warning said temperatures will drop by up to 6°C in central Thailand as well as in the northeast Esarn region and the north. It carried on by saying there might be sudden thunderstorms and occasional blasts of gale force winds over the following week. 

In Bangkok, morning temperatures will probably drop to 22°C but climb to the mid 30s during the day. Fog is also expected to shroud some districts of the capital in the mornings. The Meteorological Department finished off by saying people living in the city and the upper half of Thailand should expect the changeable weather to last until the 15 February.

Cooler weather and strong winds are common in these regions of Thailand at this time of year. The 12GO ASIA travel team say they mark the changeover from the cooler winter season to summer.  The storms rarely affect public transportation and services to the likes of Chiang Mai, Sukhothai and Udon Thani generally operate to schedule.


Cambodia Apsara Authority inaugurates dedicated Angkor Wat website

Cambodia Apsara Authority inaugurates dedicated Angkor Wat website

The management body in charge of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple park inaugurated a dedicated website at the beginning of the month. The site’s pages are in English and contain comprehensive details about visiting the ancient Khmer site, the main temples, and what is nearby. 

Apsara senior director Sok Sangvar told media sources that Cambodia tourism agencies had helped with the design of the website and the end result was a user-friendly portal with lots of pertinent information. He noted that the site also had a contact us option and he encouraged visitors to use it and provide feedback.  

Until the launch of the site, any news excerpts relating to Angkor Archaeological Park were typically released on social media like Facebook. The news page details all forthcoming festivals and events. New admission ticket prices also came into effect on the same day as the site was launched and are clearly shown.

The Angkor temples are spread over 10,000 acres and feature 150 key structures plus thousands of lesser statues, chedis and monuments. The park is a few kilometres from the town of Siem Reap. 12GO ASIA operates an online gateway providing tickets for travel to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh and Bangkok.


Hua Hin to Pattaya ferry services no longer free

Hua Hin to Pattaya ferry services no longer free

The operator of a recently launched ferry service linking two Gulf of Thailand seaside towns has started selling travel tickets. Daily round trip services between Hua Hin and Pattaya launched last month and were free for all travellers.

Local media sources say Royal Passenger Liner is now selling tickets at THB999 for a one-way crossing. They noted that the company has no online gateway and passengers are only able to buy tickets from outlets at Hua Hin’s Khao Takiab Pier and Bali Hai Port in Pattaya.

The one-way fare was supposed to be THB1,250 after the official aluanch, but a source close to Royal Passenger’s management claimed the drop was forced by service hiccups in January. Services were suspended or delayed due to bad weather.

The THB999 ferry fare is still more than double that of 12GO ASIA supplied tickets for buses between Hua Hin and Pattaya. Our agent for this route is Bell Travel. This company utilises VIP 24-seat buses on this route. Although buses are not as quick ferries, they do operate every day and are not cancelled during bad weather.