Celebrated violinist to play at Yangon Strand Hotel bar

Celebrated violinist to play at Yangon Strand Hotel bar

Noted violinist Yasmine Azaiez will be visiting Yangon next week and will play live at the Strand Hotel’s Sarkies Bar. The London-born musical maestro is due to take the stage at 19:00 and is all set to provide music fans with a treat rarely heard in this part of the world.

Admission is free, but demand for the mini-concert is expected to be high. The Strand’s food and beverage department says it is probably a good idea to reserve a seat. This can be done e-mail or by telephone.

Ms Azaiez has been lauded for her skills with the violin and has previously performed at top venues such as London’s Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Opera House in the Omani capital city of Muscat. Her style is a pleasing fusion of classical and contemporary and provides that unique wow factor for audiences.

The five-star Strand dates from 1901 and is one of the best known hotels in Southeast Asia. 12GO ASIA says Sarkies Bar was named in honour of the brothers who founded the Yangon hotel. Sarkies looks pretty much as it would have done during the former Myanmar capital city’s colonial heyday and is an ambient spot to enjoy a cocktail after a hard day’s sightseeing.


Thailand Cambodia Vietnam bus service on the cards

Thailand Cambodia Vietnam bus service on the cards

The transport ministers of Thailand and Cambodia have proposed the inauguration of a bus route linking the two nations to Vietnam. If the plan comes to fruition, buses will ply a route linking Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City.

Cambodia transport-ministry spokesperson Va Simsorya said such a route would be a useful international connection for both tourists and citizens of the three nations. He confirmed that Sun Chanthol, the transport-minister, had given provisional approval but added the legal ramifications needed to be ironed out first.

The initial proposal is to use luxury coaches on the route. This will provide additional choices for travel between the three countries. Cambodia has individual agreements in place with Thailand and Vietnam for international bus services, but not for a through route.

At present, there are bus routes from Phnom Penh to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City. 12GO ASIA sells tickets for both routes. Our preferred partner for Phnom Penh to Bangkok services is Thero Express while Giant Ibis is a top choice when travelling from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh.


August a record for rainy season visitor numbers in Thailand

August a record for rainy season visitor numbers in Thailand

Tourism authorities in Thailand say August was a bumper month for international tourist arrivals. Figures just released show 3.1 million tourists visited in the traditional low-season month and the number was almost 10 per cent higher than for the same month in 2016.

Arrival numbers for last month were the highest ever for August and the first time they had topped the magical three million mark. Tourist ministry spokesperson Pongpanu Svetarundra confirmed the record numbers at a press briefing staged on Tuesday.

Broken down into geographic regions, the lion’s share of international visitors was from East Asia. This figure reached almost 2.3 million and nearly 50 per cent were from China. In comparison, only 440,000 were from Europe.

Financial analysts say one eighth of Thailand’s annual income is derived from tourism. They say the high number of tourists is surprising as the national currency, the baht, has been strong for months. 

12GO ASIA says despite the fact the baht is on a roll, Thailand still offers value for money in areas such as travel, accommodation, dining and sightseeing. 12GO ASIA concentrates on what it does best and that is offering varied solutions for travel in the Southeast Asia region at the lowest possible prices.


Direct Kuala Lumpur to Nha Trang flights take off

Direct Kuala Lumpur to Nha Trang flights take off

Last Friday saw the maiden voyage of a flight service linking the Malaysian capital city and one of the most popular seaside towns in Vietnam. When AirAsia flight AK2014 took off from Kuala Lumpur it marked the inauguration of the first direct flight connection between Malaysia and Nha Trang.

The first flight was full, but passenger numbers were swollen by the number of AirAsia and airport representatives and journalists on board. AirAsia commercial director Spencer Lee noted that the new route provided convenience for travel between the locations and gave passengers flying to Malaysia access to the airline’s comprehensive Asian network of 120 destinations. 

Flights now operate to a schedule of once daily in each direction. Flights from Kuala Lumpur depart at 10:30 and arrive at Cam Ranh Airport at 11:35 Vietnam time. The return service leaves at 12:00 and arrives back in Kuala Lumpur at 15:15.

12GO ASIA says Kuala Lumpur to Nha Trang services will cut the price of travel between the locations as passengers will bypass Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh. The team says Cam Ranh Airport and Nha Trang are round 30kms apart.


Contract for supply of new Bangkok underground Blue Line trains agreed

Contract for supply of new Bangkok underground Blue Line trains agreed

Bangkok Expressway and Metro has agreed terms with Siemens for the supply of new trains to serve the extensions of the city’s underground train line. A partnership headed by the global manufacturer has won the contract for the supply of 35 triple-carriage trains.

The trains will be delivered in three batches with the first scheduled to be shipped to Thailand late next year. The trains are set to be built at the Siemens factory in Vienna. Each train will have a maximum capacity of 800 passengers and the power units needed to deliver speeds of 80kph.  

The current MRT Blue Line is 20kms long and runs from Tao Poon Station to Hua Lamphong Station. Extensions under construction will see the system extended as far as Tha Phra and then on to Lak Song. The add-ons will both launch over the next 18 months.

12GO ASIA explains that public transportation options are improving in Bangkok and now link the main intercity railway station, Hua Lamphong, as well as Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports, and Ekkamai Bus Station. Buying tickets for onward travel from any of these locations plus Morchit Bus Station is easiest when choosing 12GO ASIA as your travel partner.


Cambodia Transport Ministry asks bus companies not to increase fares

Cambodia Transport Ministry asks bus companies not to increase fares

The Transport Ministry of Cambodia has asked bus companies not to jack up fares during national festival periods. The request from transport-minister Sun Chanthol came ahead of the start of the Pchum Ben Ancestors’ Festival yesterday.

The minister continued by saying a free market policy was in effect in Cambodia and the government did not have the authority to implement fare ceilings. Nevertheless, he explained that during last year’s Pchum Ben Festival some Cambodians could not afford to go back to their home towns to perform rites in respect of their ancestors.

The minister finished off saying he wished to appeal to bus operators not to increase their fares at peak times. A spokesperson for Mey Hong said the company had already acquiesced and will be offering standard fares for Pchum Ben. Mey Hong is also reducing fares for students and Buddhist monks by US$1.

Speaking on behalf of Phnom Penh Sorya Transport, Yean Somala confirmed fares were typically jacked up by as much as 20 per cent during festival periods. The spokesperson would not be drawn on whether the fares would be increased again for Pchum Ben this year.

12GO ASIA says the best way to avoid paying over the odds for travel in Cambodia, and ensuring a seat too, is to pre-book. 12GO ASIA offers advanced ticketing services on key routes between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Kampot.


Thai Vietjet Air floats plans for new destinations

Thai Vietjet Air floats plans for new destinations

Bangkok based airline Thai Vietjet Air says plans are afoot to launch new routes to both Thai and international destinations. From its hub at Suvarnabhumi Airport, the carrier has announced ambitious plans to add Krabi and Hat Yai to the domestic Thai portfolio.

A spokesperson for the airline says new routes to Vietnam, Taiwan and China are in the pipeline too. The bulletin noted that the only thing needed before the launch of the new routes was a new Air Operator Certificate.

The Civil Aviation Authority International and its Thai counterpart are in the final stages of the recertification process. Thai Aviation Authority director Chula Sukmanop says the certificate will be issued next month and this will give Thai Vietjet the green light to follow through with the network expansion.

According to the 12GO ASIA travel specialists, Thai Vietjet Air is jointly owned by Vietnam’s Vietjet and Thai partner Kan Air. Thai Vietjet currently flies from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Phuket, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in Thailand and Hai Phong, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.


Phuket veggie fest celebrations for 2017 to be low key

Phuket veggie fest celebrations for 2017 to be low key

The organisers of the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival say this year’s event will be toned down in respect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The funeral of the late, beloved king will take place while the nine-day festival is in progress.

The 2017 veggie fest is scheduled to run between the 20 and 28 October. The king’s funeral will take place in Bangkok on the 26 October. Phuket Chinese Shrines Association president Prasert Fakthongkol confirmed the festival will go ahead as planned, but parades will only be allowed on the last day, the 28 October.

He explained that the festival would be low key and there would be no parades for the first eight days. He carried on by saying no ban on firecrackers would apply nor would there be any prohibition of food or souvenir stalls.

12GO ASIA says the Ministry of Culture’s Phuket Province office has already issued a list of dos and don’ts for the fest.  Royal ceremonies dedicated to the late King Bhumibol and to King Maha Vajiralongkorn are okay, but shows, entertainment or anything else classed as amusement are not.

On the 26 October, all fun activities are prohibited out of respect for the royal funeral. Khun Prasert did add that individual shrines could decide whether they wanted to allow market stalls to be set up on this one day of respect.


New contract keeps Grand Prix in Singapore until 2021

New contract keeps Grand Prix in Singapore until 2021

New terms agreed between Formula 1 race organisers and Singapore ensure the city state will be a Grand Prix venue for another four years. Formula One Group boss Chase Carey said he was delighted with the new deal as the night race in Singapore was one of the most exciting on the annual race calendar.

An announcement confirming the extension of the contract to host what will soon be the only Grand Prix in this part of Asia was issued on Friday. The confirmation came on top of several months of deliberations and just in time for the qualifying sessions for yesterday’s Grand Prix.

Following a first corner pileup which took out three of his principal rivals, Britain’s Lewis Hamilton had a marvellous race and was first across the finish line. Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were all forced out of the race by the crash.

12GO ASIA notes Sepang International Circuit will host the Malaysian Grand Prix for one final time on 1 October. Falling attendance figures and the increased cost of hosting the event are said to be factors behind the demise of the event after 19 seasons.


Vietnam government okays cable car for Son Doong Cave

Vietnam government okays cable car for Son Doong Cave

The prime-minister of Vietnam has confirmed the legendary Son Doong Cave will be getting a cable car. However, Nguyen Xuan Phuc notes contractors who build the cableway through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park must ensure the natural environment is preserved for future generations.

The five-kilometre long cableway will lead from a station near the park’s visitor centre to the cavernous En Cave. This cave is the gateway to Hang Son Doong.

Only discovered a quarter of a century ago, Son Doong stretches for almost two kilometres underground and is believed to be the longest continuous underground cavern in the world. Stalagmites in the cave are up to 70 metres high.

Currently, access to the cave is restricted to an elite number of 800 visitors a year. These budding cavers have to join organised expeditions and pay top dollar for their unique underground safaris. While Hang Son Doong caving is by invitation only, 30 other caves in Phong Nha-Ke Bang are open to the general public.

12GO ASIA notes that a cableway will make Hang Son Doong less exclusive. However, environmentalists oppose construction as they claim it will have a negative impact on the local environment. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is located in Quang Binh Province and just over 50kms from Dong Hoi Airport.


Drivers head for the start line at the Singapore Grand Prix

Drivers head for the start line at the Singapore Grand Prix

One of the top Grands Prix on the annual Formula 1 racing calendar will take place in Singapore this weekend. Practice and qualifying sessions begin this afternoon and continue tomorrow before the race proper starts on Sunday.

The Singapore Grand Prix differs from most other Grands Prix as it takes places on a street circuit and after dark has fallen. Defending Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg will be joined by teammate Lewis Hamilton and the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas on the starting line. 

Lewis Hamilton says the Singapore street circuit provides decent challenges and comes with the added beauty of twinkling lights at every bend. The Singapore Grand Prix will start at 20:00 on Sunday. Drivers will negotiate 61 laps of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

The main race on Sunday will be preceded by the finals of the Ferrari Challenge and Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. Drivers will take off on a lap parade at 18:30 as a warm up for the main Grand Prix event.

12GO ASIA notes that seats on flights to Singapore over the weekend are in short supply. Sultan Ismail Airport in Johor Bahru is an alternative gateway and just across the Singapore Strait from the city state.


Storm damage closes iconic Songkhla Ton Nga Charng Waterfall

Storm damage closes iconic Songkhla Ton Nga Charng Waterfall

Following a violent storm, rangers at Ton Nga Charng Wildlife Sanctuary were forced to close off its celebrated waterfall.  The storm in the Songkhla park on Tuesday uprooted trees and blew broken branches all over the place.

It also knocked over electricity poles and ripped the roofs off buildings. Rangers and other workers claimed it was the fiercest storm they had seen in over 40 years and that it would take at least three days to pick up the debris and put the park to rights again.

A 100-strong force of workers kicked off the cleanup operation on Wednesday.  Power and communications cables also need to be connected again before the sanctuary can reopen to the public.

Ton Nga Charng Waterfall and Sanctuary is one of the highlights of a visit to the southern Thai hub town of Hat Yai. The falls cascade over seven tiers and, when the water flow is not too strong, are a magical sight.

12GO ASIA says Ton Nga Charng is less than 30kms from Hat Yai Railway Station. What’s more, it is quite easy to get to as tuk-tuks and local minibuses from the town offer transport options to suit all budgets.


Doksuri rain storms set to lash upper regions of Thailand

Doksuri rain storms set to lash upper regions of Thailand

Thailand’s Meteorological Department issued a warning yesterday saying heavy rain was set to batter the northern half of Thailand. The forecasted noted tropical storm Doksuri was working its way across the upper area of the South China Sea and was expected to hit northeastern Thailand on Friday.

They estimated that Doksuri was travelling at an average speed of 15kms an hour. This means the northeast and northern areas of the country are likely to be wet for much of Friday and Saturday.

The weather alert says the rain is likely to be really heavy at times and might bring winds of up to 75 knots. The tail-end of the southwest monsoon is also expected to reach as far as the northeast and this may exacerbate the rainfall there.

12GO ASIA’s resident travel specialists say that while the rainstorms are inconvenient the sun is usually shining a couple of days later. They also say travellers catching buses, trains or aeroplanes during inclement weather should allow a little extra time to get to their departure stations.


Vietnam German Oktoberfest to celebrate 25th anniversary

Vietnam German Oktoberfest to celebrate 25th anniversary

The German Businesses Association’s Oktoberfest in Vietnam will celebrate its 25th anniversary next week. At a recent press briefing, the GBA confirmed the Hotel Nikko Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City is the setting for the first leg of the 2017 German beer and food fest.

The Ho Chi Minh event will begin on Thursday 21 September and run through until the Saturday with opening hours of 18:00 to 24:00. Two weeks later, between the 5 and 7 October, Hanoi’s JW Marriott Hotel is the venue for the second leg of the Oktoberfest.

Launched in 1992, the GBA’s Vietnam Oktoberfest has since evolved into a premier festive event on the nation’s annual calendar. The GBA in collaboration with Vietnam’s German Industry Delegation and the German consulate ensure the events are an authentic replication of the original Munich Oktoberfest. 

12GO ASIA says Vietnam Oktoberfest visitors get to sup the finest German beers, enjoy the full repertoire of Germany’s cuisine and listen to the dulcet tones of Bavarian oompah bands. 12GO ASIA is a one-stop source offering travel solutions to destinations throughout Vietnam.


Promotion fares for Bangkok Purple Line pegged until December

Promotion fares for Bangkok Purple Line pegged until December

Bangkok’s Metropolitan Rapid Transit has confirmed promotional fares for Purple Line rail services will stay the same until the end of 2017. Passengers travelling between Tao Poon and Khlong Bang Phai on the Purple Line will still pay between THB14 and THB29 for their journeys.

The fare relates to distance travelled. Those travelling on the weekends save even more money if they go farther as a fixed fare of THB15 applies for any Purple Line journey.

Since the so-called ‘missing link’ from Tao Poon to the rest of Bangkok’s urban rail network launched just over a month ago passenger numbers have increased dramatically. When the Purple Line launched a year ago it attracted only 20,000 passengers a day on average.

Once the connector line to Bang Sue launched on 11 August, the figure more than doubled and now an average 49,000 passengers travel on the Purple Line every day. 12GO ASIA notes that while the Purple Line is primarily a commuter line it does give access to northwest Bangkok, Nonthaburi and temples such as Wat Ta Khian and Wat Bang Phai.


Budget carrier AirAsia inaugurates airport VIP service

Budget carrier AirAsia inaugurates airport VIP service

Passengers flying with AirAsia from a select number of airports in Thailand now have an additional option to ensure their journeys are stress free. The low-cost carrier has launched Red Carpet. The service comes with all the bonus features of a full-service airline’s premier package.

Red Carpet provides access to airport passenger lounges, a dedicated check-in zone and fast track boarding and luggage pickup. The add-on feature is available for all AirAsia passengers departing from Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok and Phuket Airport. 

Passengers flying to international destinations from Chiang Mai and to domestic Thai locations from Udon Thani can also book themselves a Red Carpet treatment with the red livery airline. Domestic flyers can use Coral Executive Lounges for up to 2 hours 30 minutes before their flights. International passengers gain access to King Power Lounges for the same time duration.

Santisuk Klongchaiya is the commercial boss of Thai AirAsia. He explained that the new service was designed to provide additional choices for the airline’s customers and would satisfy those who enjoyed low fares, but wanted those little extra creature comforts. 12GO ASIA notes that AirAsia Red Carpet can also be purchased at the airport.


Final Malaysian Formula 1 Race to stage at Sepang Circuit

Final Malaysian Formula 1 Race to stage at Sepang Circuit

Malaysia will be holding a final Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit on 1 October.  Ace drivers Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will be among those competing to win the prestigious event and add to their points tallies in the drivers’ and makers’ competitions.

12GO ASIA notes that tickets for the  2017 Malaysian Grand Prix are still available on the organiser’s website and include cheaper ones for the covered Hillstand, the Main Grandstand and the K1 Grandstand. Those with a bit of spare cash can also buy VIP entry to the Platinum Club Suite.

Tourists and motor-racing enthusiasts are able to get a sneak preview at Sepang. Entry to seating zones is free on Friday 29 September. Sepang International Circuit is across the other side of Jalan Pekeliling from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and is around 45kms by road from the city centre.

The 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix is the nineteenth in the series since the opening of Sepang in 1999. It is also the final one as falling attendance figures, increased host fees and the more popular night race through the streets of Singapore have all driven nails into the Malaysian edition’s coffin.


Phuket to stage beach cleanup operation on Saturday

Phuket to stage beach cleanup operation on Saturday

Phuket Island’s Hotels Association has scheduled a beach cleanup operation for this coming Saturday. The association’s president says the jewels in Phuket’s tourism crown need preserving for posterity and sprucing them up is the way to go.

Anthony Lark continued by saying debris and plastic detritus amounting to 46,000 individual pieces is found in each square mile of the planet’s oceans. He added that the trash in the sea was responsible for the early demises of tens of thousands of creatures including sea turtles, whales and sea birds.

The Hotels Association has already asked islanders and the expat community to lend a hand on Coastal Cleanup Day. The association says anybody else interested in joining in just needs to turn up on the day.

The venue is any of the island’s beaches and the time is between 08:00 and 11:00. The beach collection includes Bang Tao, Patong, Karon and Kata.

The event is being organised to coincide with the International Coastal Cleanup initiative. 12GO ASIA’s travel specialists explain that Phuket’s beach portfolio was a contributory factor to the southern Thai island being nicknamed the Pearl of the Andaman Sea.


Free buffet at Samui Chaweng Beach attracts thousands of tourists

Free buffet at Samui Chaweng Beach attracts thousands of tourists

A free gourmet buffet on the southern Thai island of Koh Samui over the weekend proved to be a smash hit with visitors. Both locals and international tourists headed down to Chaweng Beach to snack on the 5,892 dishes and desserts available.

The dishes featured the full array of piquant Thai and seafood dishes in addition to a tantalising assortment of Chinese themed and international specialities. There were lots of oohs and ahs as visitors got stuck into the buffet.

The huge amount of dishes on offer was no accident as it was a concerted effort to beat the Guinness World Record in this category. The record was set by the Art of Living Foundation at a free buffet staged in Ahmedabad in India seven years ago when 5,612 dishes were served up.

The Chaweng Beach feast was a part of the four-day long Samui Festival 2017 celebrations. 12GO ASIA notes that festivals are a good time to visit Koh Samui but even when there are no events in the pipeline, the island’s diverse draws never disappoint.


New terminal at Singapore Changi Airport to open at Halloween

New terminal at Singapore Changi Airport to open at Halloween

Singapore’s transport-minister confirmed last week that a new terminal at Changi Airport is on track for a Halloween opening. Khaw Boon Wan posted the confirmation up on Facebook and noted that lots of trials had proved Terminal 4 was ready to welcome its first passengers.

The first airlines to migrate to the new terminal on 31 October will be Cathay Pacific and Korean Air. These will be followed two days later, the 2 November, by Spring Airlines and Cebu Pacific. On the 7 November, Vietnam Airlines and the four affiliate airlines of budget carrier AirAsia which fly to Changi will move into their new home.

Terminal 4 features the latest in technological advancements. Passenger handling will be streamlined by features including automated facial recognition systems, self-service check-in and one-stop security processing. 

12GO ASIA explains that the addition of Terminal 4 will raise the annual passenger capacity at Changi by 16 million to 82 million. 12GO ASIA sells flight tickets from locations including Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok to Singapore Changi Airport.