Tourist numbers surge at new Cambodia UNESCO World Heritage Site

Tourist numbers surge at new Cambodia UNESCO World Heritage Site

Municipal authorities in Cambodia’s Kompong Thom Province say the recent UNESCO designation of a temple complex has led to a surge in visitor numbers. UNESCO added the province’s temples of Sambor Prei Kuk to the World Heritage Site list on 8 July.

Security officers at the forest temple complex say the UNESCO listing has even brought in wedding parties to take photos with the temples as a backdrop. One guard said he had worked at Sambor Prei Kuk for more than 20 years and had never seen so many tourists in such a short space of time.

Cambodia staged an official party on Monday at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium to celebrate the addition of the country’s third site to the UNESCO list. Prime-minister Hun Sen presided as fireworks lit up the night sky on the auspicious day.

Sambor Prei Kuk features about 50 reasonably well preserved temples and shrines which historians say pre-date the Angkor Empire. 12GO ASIA notes that Sambor Prei Kuk is 200kms north of Phnom Penh and just off the main route north to Siem Reap and the Angkor Wat temples.


Ang Thong Province prepares for annual drum festival

Ang Thong Province prepares for annual drum festival

Thailand’s one and only drum making village is preparing to stage an annual festival dedicated to showcasing the percussion instrument. The Ang Thong International Drum Festival will take place between the 26 and 30 July at locations in the province’s Ekkarat Sub-district.

A bulletin released by the Tourism Authority of Thailand says there will be performances by master drummers and drum parades around the district. Interactive sessions enable visitors learn how to make traditional Thai drums while stalls sell kits to take home and build DIY drums. 

A competition by drum virtuosos is another highlight. Other happenings on the agenda for the duration of the festival are cultural performances and light and sound shows. Old style Luk Thung singers will also be on hand to add to the offerings while food vendors will be serving up the diverse tastes of Thailand.

12GO ASIA’s chief travel advisor says Ang Thong and Ekkarat are north of Ayutthaya and easily reached on day excursions. We sell tickets for travel between Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Bangkok, Phitsanulok and Chiang Mai.


London double-decker bus takes to the streets of Hanoi

London double-decker bus takes to the streets of Hanoi

Transport authorities in Hanoi say numerous tourists have taken advantage of the city’s new transportation option for sightseeing. The bright red double-decker bus looks as though it could have been plucked from the streets of London and even has the same open upper deck as the sightseeing buses there.

The Hanoi Transport Corporation (Transerco) launched the City Tour service at the beginning of the month and is currently assessing whether to add extra buses once the 60-day trial period is over. The City Tour bus follows a circular route from the Hanoi Opera House.

En route, the bus takes in major attractions like the Hoan Kiem historic district, Thang Long Citadel and Tran Quoc Temple at West Lake. The vehicle is wheelchair friendly, offers wireless internet connectivity and is fitted with a convertible roof to shelter passengers on the upper deck from any sudden monsoon storms. 

Hanoi is the gateway to the north of Vietnam. After taking in all the sights and experiences of the city most tourists travel to locations such as Sapa and Halong Bay or take the southbound route to Hue, Danang, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh. 12GO provides convenience when buying tickets for travel on these routes.


Thailand marks birthday of king with national holiday

Thailand marks birthday of king with national holiday

Thailand will next week celebrate a new national holiday in honour of the nation’s king. King Vajiralongkorn will celebrate his 65th birthday on the 28 July and the Thai government has designated it as national holiday.

This is the first year of King Vajiralongkorn’s reign and the Thai government has yet to release any information about what rites, if any, will be staged on the big day.  The 28 July is one of around 20 national holidays in Thailand. Government offices and bank branches usually shut up shop for the day.

As the 28 July is a Friday it gives Thai workers a long weekend. As is the case the world over, a long weekend presents an opportunity to travel and head for the beach. Thai roads, buses, trains and aeroplanes are expected to be busy from Thursday lunchtime onwards. 

12GO ASIA advises pre-booking tickets on intercity domestic routes such as Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Bangkok to Phuket to avoid the rush. Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Train Station plus Ekkamai, Sai Tai and Morchit bus terminals are always busy and even buying tickets at counters is a long-drawn-out process.


Top travel mag names Chiang Mai as third best global city

Top travel mag names Chiang Mai as third best global city

Readers of leading magazine Travel + Leisure have placed the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai third in this year’s up-and-coming global destinations. The magazine quizzed its 300,000-strong readership on what were the premium travel experiences today’s world has to offer.

According to the T+L the World’s Top 15 Cities listings, only San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and Charleston in the US state of South Carolina garnered higher readers’ rankings than Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai scored 91.40 out of a possible 100 while San Miguel de Allende came top with 92.12 and Charleston second with 91.54.

To compile the ratings, T+L factored in the general tourism appeal of the cities as well as their historic sites, attractions, shopping, cuisine, culture and how welcoming the general population were. Commenting on the honour of placing third on the illustrious list, the head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand said he would like to thank T+L’s readers first of all.

Yuthasak Supasorn continued by saying famous Lanna temples, an attractive setting and activities for all age groups were among the city’s chief enticements to visit. When travelling to Chiang Mai it pays to check out what deals 12GO ASIA has on tickets to reap the biggest savings.


Cambodia reports spike in passenger arrivals at airports

Cambodia reports spike in passenger arrivals at airports

Aviation authorities in Cambodia have reported a significant increase in the number of passenger arrivals at the nation’s three main airports. Cambodia Airports director Khek Norinda said the combined increase was 23 per cent for the first half of 2017 when compared with the same period for last year.

Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap airports recorded 4.2 million passenger arrivals during the six-month period for this year. Norinda attributed the increase to the number of Chinese tourists choosing holidays in Cambodia and the fact more airlines were adding Sihanoukville to their timetables.

The director said that while arrivals at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap had climbed, Sihanoukville was the driving force behind the ever rising number of international and domestic air passengers. He finished off by saying increasing affluence among both ASEAN and Chinese people was bound to benefit Cambodia’s tourism and air industries.

12GO ASIA is a leading provider of tickets for travel in the ASEAN region. We provide choices for Cambodian domestic travel as well on key air routes from Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.


Thai weather department says heavy rainstorms expected

Thai weather department says heavy rainstorms expected

Thailand’s Meteorological Department says violent storms are expected to sweep across most parts of the nation over the next few days. In a bulletin released late on Saturday, the department said rain and possible flash-floods plus high waves in coastal areas were expected to last until Wednesday.

The advisory noted that waves were expected to peak at up to three metres high in both the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea areas. It carried on by saying the skippers of small boats should not set sail while larger vessels should proceed with caution. 

The Meteorological Department says the heavy rains are being triggered by converging monsoons from the Andaman and Northern Thailand. In the centre of the Andaman region, disaster assistance offices say heavy rains are expected to cause flooding in Suratthani, Krabi and Trang.

In the latter two provinces, the authorities say residents living in low-lying zones near rivers should be prepared to deal with any floods. Tourists are also advised to take care when swimming in the sea and avoid swimming altogether at beaches where red flags have been posted.

12GO ASIA says tourists who use their common sense while out and about in the rains will not be in danger. The team also says the storms rarely last long and the sun is often out within an hour of the end of any storms.


Myanmar kicks off Shwedagon Pagoda application for UNESCO listing

Myanmar kicks off Shwedagon Pagoda application for UNESCO listing

Myanmar’s culture-minister has confirmed the process of getting the nation’s iconic Shwedagon Pagoda inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List has begun. Speaking to reporters, Thura Aung Ko said an international team had already recorded the dimensions and features of the Yangon pagoda.

He continued by saying these had been sent to UNESCO specialists in Paris where they would be checked for their veracity. The committee has MMK80 billion earmarked for the conservation of Shwedagon and this is currently lodged with the Myanmar Economic Bank. 

Aung Ko is the chairperson of the committee with responsibility for the application. The committee is multi-talented and includes architects and engineers plus the board of trustees and the head of Yangon council.

The committee is aiming to get Shwedagon added to the UNESCO list by September of 2019. The pagoda is one of two important monuments Myanmar is trying to obtain UNESCO status for. The other is the former Rakhine kingdom capital of Mrauk U.

12GO ASIA’s travel specialists say Shwedagon likely pre-dates the Roman Empire and is a fitting testament to Myanmar’s culture and heritage. 12GO ASIA offers ticketing services for travel to Yangon from the likes of Chiang Mai, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore.


US nu metal band Issues to play gig at Bangkok nightclub

US nu metal band Issues to play gig at Bangkok nightclub

Heavy metal music fans will have the chance of seeing cult US band Issues when they stop over in Bangkok next month. The nu metal band will play at the city’s Hollywood Awards Nightclub on the 8 August and are due on stage at 20:00.

Issues hail from Georgia and combine traditional heavy metal with electro, pop, and rhythm and blues to produce a unique sound guaranteed to please even the most discerning of music fans. The set list for the band’s performances usually includes the likes of Blue Wall, Hooligans and Never Lose Your Flames.

Issues are likely to have a few fans in Bangkok as they played at the Mellow Yello club in 2014. The latest Bangkok gig is part of an Asian tour which includes several dates in Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan. The concert in Bangkok is the only one in Southeast Asia. 

Advance tickets are available from Gram Siam Paragon or on the door on the night at the Hollywood Awards. Reaching the club is not difficult as the 12GO ASIA resident travel experts in Bangkok say it is less than 10 minutes on foot from the north exit of Phra Ram 9 MRT Metro Station.


Full steam ahead for hi speed Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima trains

Full steam ahead for hi speed Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima trains

Thailand’s government has given the green light for the construction of a new high-speed rail line from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima. Spokesperson Kobsak Futrakul ended speculation over the multi-billion project on Tuesday and confirmed the government had endorsed the budget needed to build it.

The PM’s office secretary said the budget allocation for the first phase of the intercontinental route to China was THB179 billion. He explained that construction would begin in September and would be finished four years later.

The 250km-long Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima section is the first part of a planned rail line which will go up Nong Khai and the Thai border with Laos. This line is part of a larger project linking Kunming in southern China with Laos and Thailand.

Construction in Laos has already begun. Two months ago, contractors reported significant progress in boring the series of tunnels needed to lay the tracks in the mountainous northern regions of the country.  

12GO ASIA offers transport solutions for travel to most locations between Luang Prabang in northern Laos, down through Thailand and on to Malaysia and Singapore. East to west, our portfolio encompasses Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.


Annual Fingerstyle Guitar Festival heading for Vietnam

Annual Fingerstyle Guitar Festival heading for Vietnam

Vietnam’s two biggest cities are ports-of-call on the International Fingerstyle Guitar Festival Asian Tour 2017 next week. The artistes attached to this year’s tour will be landing in Hanoi first and will play at the city’s Vietnam Youth Theatre on 18 July.

They will then fly south for a concert at the Conservatory of Music in Ho Chi Minh City on the following evening. Vietnamese guitar maestro Duy Phong is among the line-up of a quintet of leading international fingerstyle performers set to enthral the audiences on the two evenings.

Yamaha Music’s Akihiro Tanaka, Agustin Amigo from Spain and renowned Belgian guitarist Jacques Stotzem will be joined by the US’s Justin King. King is famed for his peerless blend of Celtic and Flamenco musical styles. 

Fingerstyle guitarists typically perform solo and have the ability to give a rendition of a whole three or four piece band. Tikkit Vietnam notes that the concerts will start at 20:00 on both evenings and music lovers wishing to attend can still purchase tickets online.

People travelling to either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi for the concerts will find 12GO ASIA offers a service on a par with Tikkit Vietnam. On domestic routes as well as flights from the likes of Bangkok, Singapore or Yangon it is only a matter of search, compare, book and pay and then you are good to go.


Chiang Mai adds new bus route to transport network

Chiang Mai adds new bus route to transport network

Transport authorities in Chiang Mai have added another urban bus route to the city’s public transportation options. Route B3 was officially inaugurated last week and links Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station and Provincial Hall (Sala Klang).

En route, the B3 takes in Chotana Road, the location of both Chang Puak Bus Terminal and Rajabhat University, plus CMECC (Chiang Mai Exhibition and Convention Centre). The service utilises medium-range 23-seat buses which are air-conditioned.

The B3 is the third route launched by the city. The Arcade Bus Station is the terminus for B2 services from Chiang Mai Airport and the B1 route from Chiang Mai Zoo and Chiang Mai University.

Municipal authorities in Chiang Mai claim the first two bus routes have played an important role in reducing traffic congestion in the city. 12GO ASIA notes that while the buses do offer convenience, they usually run at 30-minute intervals.

Most travellers and commuters opt for the convenience of taxis, songthaews or tuktuks as they do not have to wait. For the budget conscious, the buses are a cheap option for getting from A to B on journeys that could cost up to THB200.  


Pattaya authorities contemplate tram or light rail system

Pattaya authorities contemplate tram or light rail system

The idea of introducing a tram or light rail system in Pattaya was tabled at a meeting last week. At a meeting of council officials and local business leaders, the proposal was put forward as a means of resolving the Thai seaside resort’s ever-worsening traffic issues.

Pattaya’s mayor presided over the meeting at which examples of transport projects in the pipeline in the Thai eastern Esarn region were cited. Attendees were told any project could be funded by private investment and there would be no need to hold the hat out for a government budget allocation.

The current options for getting around in Pattaya are taxi, motorcycle taxi or Baht-bus. Unless chartered as a private hire, Baht-buses operate on set routes. The main one is a circular route around Beach Road and Second Road and a second one to Jomtien.
 
Although most attendees at the meeting were receptive to the idea of a modern public transportation system for Pattaya, no firm decision on whether to conduct a feasibility study or not was made. Pattaya is a little over 100kms from Bangkok and 12GO ASIA is the best source for advanced tickets when travelling between the two.


Pai prepares for debut blues and jazz festival

Pai prepares for debut blues and jazz festival

Music fans will be heading up to the Northern Thailand town of Pai next week for an inaugural blues and jazz festival. The three-day event will be staged at the town’s chic pubs and cafés and will also have a central artiste’s zone.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has confirmed artistes and bands such as Bangkok’s Banglumpoo Blues Company, Tuk and friends, and blues virtuoso Andy Martin will be making appearances at the festival. Local performers are also being draughted in to lend a helping hand.

The Mae Hong Son TAT office is jointly sponsoring the debut Pai Jazz and Blues Fest with the Chiang Rai HIP Magazine. In its statement, TAT extended a welcome to music fans to attend. Admission to the venues is complimentary but attendees will be expected to buy their own food and drinks.   

The Pai Jazz and Blues Fest 2017 will take place on the 21, 22 and 23 July. 12GO ASIA notes that Pai is quite bohemian and relaxing to boot. Getting here is easy enough with a choice of bus, minivan or taxi from Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son the most economical options.


Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival to stage at the weekend

Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival to stage at the weekend

The annual edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival is set to kick off on Friday. The premier Asian music fest will feature an eclectic line-up of artistes and will take place at Sarawak Cultural Village near the Borneo city of Kuching.

The music is spread over three days and features the likes of home-grown Malaysian bands At Adau and the O Maliao Maliao Dance Troupe as well as Calan and Huw Williams from Wales. From Thailand, the popular Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band will showcase their unique compositions.
 
In total, around 25 different acts will take the stage with show times on each of the three days between 14:00 and 01:00 the following morning. Added attractions are various music and crafts workshops, a handicrafts market and the AFK Mart’s huge range of culinary delicacies.

The organisers say there are still online tickets available for the Rainforest World Music Festival and that guests can also pay on the door. Sarawak Cultural Village is swaddled by the rainforests at the base of Mt Santubong and is 30kms by road from Kuching. 12GO ASIA partner AirAsia flies to Kuching from Kuala Lumpur.


AirAsia set to launch direct Kuala Lumpur Nha Trang services

AirAsia set to launch direct Kuala Lumpur Nha Trang services

Budget airline AirAsia has confirmed the inauguration of a direct service from Kuala Lumpur to one of Vietnam’s most beloved seaside resort towns. Flights to Nha Trang will commence on 14 September and will operate once a day in each direction.

Outbound flights from Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) will depart at 10:30 and land at Nha Trang’s Cam Ranh Airport at 11:35. Return flights take off at 12:00 and land back in Kuala Lumpur at 15:15. All times are local and actual flying time is a little over two hours each way.

AirAsia says it will utilise its fleet of Airbus A320s to serve the route. When it launches, the route will be the first direct one between Malaysia and Nha Trang. AirAsia also flies from Kuala Lumpur to the Vietnamese cities of Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City.

The new Kuala Lumpur to Nha Trang route will reduce the cost of flying between these destinations as no change of aircraft in Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh is needed. 12GO ASIA will add this flight option to the portfolio in the very near future.


Hanoi Airport to upgrade domestic passenger terminal

Hanoi Airport to upgrade domestic passenger terminal

Officials at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport have confirmed that a major upgrade of the domestic passenger terminal is about to start. The improvements will begin tomorrow and are designed to alleviate congestion at a facility operating way beyond its maximum capacity.

A bulletin released on behalf of the airport’s management says passengers flying domestic should arrive early. The advisory also says that some zones in the terminal will be off limits to allow work to be carried out, but signboards are being put up to give directions.  

An initial estimate of the time-scale needed to carry out the enhancements says the work will be completed in eight months. The upgrade will increase the terminal’s annual passenger capacity to 15 million.

When it opened in late 2001, Noi Bai’s Terminal 1 was designed to accommodate six million passengers a year. Upgrades in 2013 upped this to nine million. In January 2015, all international airlines shifted their operations to the new Terminal 2.

Noi Bai is the busiest airport in Vietnam and handles more than 20 million passengers a year. 12GO ASIA sells tickets to Hanoi from locations including Singapore, Bangkok, Yangon, Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang.


North Thailand elephant centre stages Vassa Lent parade

North Thailand elephant centre stages Vassa Lent parade

The self-proclaimed capital of Thailand’s elephant camps marked the onset of the Buddhist Lent with a lively parade on Friday. The celebrations took place in Tambon Keud Chang Sub-district and featured a parade of elephants bearing giant candles.

Each of the candles was around 1.5-metres high and was mounted on the elephant’s howdah seat. The 32 elephants then joined a retinue which followed a route through the forests and jungles of this area of Northern Thailand’s Mae Taeng District.

The prequel to the parade was traditional dance performances. The local marching band also joined the parade. The event was staged by Ban Mae Taman officials to recognise the village’s first birthday as being home to Northern Thailand’s biggest pachyderm population.

Buddhist Lent is known as Vassa to Thais and is three months long. 12GO ASIA notes that devout Buddhists typically abstain from alcohol, tobacco or meat for the period. In olden times, monks used to stay in their temples and meditate for the duration of Vassa, but this practice has more-or-less died out.

The image of the Ban Mae Taman elephant parade was supplied with courtesy of the Nation.


Myanmar authorities set to ban visitors from climbing Bagan temples

Myanmar authorities set to ban visitors from climbing Bagan temples

Myanmar’s Culture Ministry says it is set to reintroduce a ban on tourists climbing the temples at the landmark Bagan archaeological complex. The ministry’s Archaeology Division deputy-director says the ban is necessary as the structures are up to 1,000 years old.

Thein Lwin carried on by saying due to the age of the monuments they could easily be damaged and allowing tourists to keep clambering up them could mean they could be lost to future generations. Viewing sunrises from the tops of temples and stupas at Bagan is a highlight of a visit.  

Thein Lwin says the plan is to build observation towers so that this activity will still be available. The director said an additional option of going up in an anchored balloon would be launched in the very near future.

The Culture Ministry is in the process of submitting an application to UNESCO to get Bagan listed as a World Heritage Site. A veto on temple climbing is seen as an integral element to ensuring the bid is successful.

12GO ASIA’s news archives show the ministry instigated a ban early last year but it was soon rescinded when tour operators protested stridently. The issue has become more urgent as an earthquake in August caused damage to around 400 of the 2,000 Bagan monuments.


Rescuers treat beached dolphin at Patong

Rescuers treat beached dolphin at Patong

Good Samaritans gave a helping hand to a stricken dolphin at Phuket’s Patong Beach yesterday morning. Witnesses said the dolphin washed up onto the beach and had visible injuries on both its tail and body.

The rescuers used a fabric sling to keep the 20kg spinner dolphin afloat until a Marine Department rescue team arrived. The dolphin was then transported to a holding tank at the division’s Research and Development Institute. Marine specialists are currently treating and nurturing the dolphin.

The witnesses said the dolphin appeared weak while other beachgoers said they had seen the dolphin swimming close to shore the day before. Patong is on the west coast of Phuket and faces out to the Andaman Sea. The Andaman supports an eclectic range of sea creatures including several dolphin species and Olive Ridley turtles.

Tourists embarking on sightseeing or diving cruises have a reasonable chance of spotting frolicking dolphins while out at sea. 12GO ASIA resident travel specialists say visitors who want to be sure of seeing dolphins should visit the Dolphins Bay dolphinarium in the Chalong area of Phuket.