Fire walks signal restart of Phuket Veggie Fest

Fire walks signal restart of Phuket Veggie Fest

The sight of people walking on fire last night was a signal Phuket’s 2017 Vegetarian Festival was coming back to life. At Phuket shrines including Jui Tui, religious devotees known as Masong walked across the hot beds of embers in a time-honoured rite called goi hoi. 

Those who missed the goi hoi fire walks yesterday still have two more opportunities to take in the spectacle over the weekend. Cherng Talay Shrine is one of several shrines at which Masong will climb bladed ladders this evening in alternative acts of self mortification.

Tomorrow is the final full day of the festival and will be celebrated with the Nine Emperor Gods Farewell parade. Each of the shrines at which Masong  have mortified themselves will join together for the procession to Saphan Hin Park. 

On Sunday evening, go teng lantern poles will be hoisted up at the shrines to allow  the gods to safely ascend to heaven for another year. 12GO ASIA explains that the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival offers illuminating insights into the island’s rich heritage and traditions. 


Thailand stages Royal Cremation rites for King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Thailand stages Royal Cremation rites for King Bhumibol Adulyadej

The new king of Thailand oversaw cremation rites for his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in Bangkok yesterday. The day began early with a merit-making ceremony at 07:00 in the Grand Palace’s Dusit Throne Hall. Afterwards, King Maha Vajiralongkorn led a parade from the palace’s Kamphaeng Kaeo Gate to a nearby temple. 

From there, the king’s casket was placed on the Grand Victory Chariot and taken to the Royal Crematorium site at Sanam Luang Park. When the procession reached the park, it circled the actual crematorium three times. 

In the evening, a symbolic cremation, a gun salute of honour and rites to allow mourners to pay their last respects to King Bhumibol took place. The cremation itself was at 22:00 and King Maha Vajiralongkorn symbolically ignited the funeral pyre.   

12GO ASIA notes that in spite of the fact the funeral ceremony is now over various rites still need to be completed before the streets in this part of Bangkok return to normal. The team also says public transport is going to be extremely busy over the next few days with mourners heading back to their home provinces. 


Royal Cremation Day ceremonies scheduled for Bangkok today

Royal Cremation Day ceremonies scheduled for Bangkok today

Today is the Royal Cremation Day for Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Although the actual cremation will take place in Bangkok at 22:00 this evening, the day will see a number of rites take place.

The first is at 07:00. The royal bier will be transported from the Grand Palace’s Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall to the crematorium at Sanam Luang Park. Traditional rites leading up to the final cremation begin at 17:30 and will be attended by Thai and visiting foreign dignitaries.

In keeping with tradition, visual and musical artistes including khon masked drama performers will start a marathon performance at 18:00 which will conclude at 06:00 tomorrow morning. This is two hours before the remains of King Bhumibol are collected from the crematorium.

12GO ASIA explains that the palace and Sanam Luang are located in the Rattanakosin Island area of Bangkok. The Royal Thai Police have already closed 27 roads to vehicular traffic in the locality and are expected to shut off more as the day progresses.


Vietnam tour company inaugurates city hopper bus services in Hanoi

Vietnam tour company inaugurates city hopper bus services in Hanoi

A leading Vietnam tour operator recently inaugurated a city bus hopper service in Hanoi which takes in many of the key tourist sites. Hanoitourist’s  hop-on, hop-off buses stop at 15 locations and these include the likes of Hoan Kiem Lake, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and the Hanoi Hilton.

The service operates every day and between the hours of 08:00 and 16:15. Daily passes are  VND130,000 (US$5.70). Hanoitourist notes that the introduction of the service enhances sightseeing options for visitors and complements its Golden Tour service. This tour links the Vietnamese Fine Arts Museum and the Temple of Literature to other important visitors destinations in the city.

Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi is the gateway to the north of the country too. As well as world-class tourist attraction, Hanoi enchants with multiple venues for performing arts, delicious cuisine and nightlife to suit all tastes.

12GO ASIA does not offer sightseeing tours of Hanoi, but concentrates on offering the best prices for travel to and from the city. Together with our partners, we offer connections to locations such as Sapa, Yangon, Bangkok and Singapore


Flooding swamps central Thailand provinces

Flooding swamps central Thailand provinces

Several provinces in the central regions of Thailand have experienced severe flooding this week. Rising levels in Chai Nat Province reservoirs forced the national water irrigation authority to release water into the Chao Phraya River.

The higher water levels in the river compounded with high tides in the Gulf of Thailand  has resulted in parts of Nonthaburi, Uthai Thani and Pathum Thani provinces being inundated with water up to one-meter deep. Districts and locations currently flooded include Pak Kret, Muang Pathum Thani and Bang Kwang jail. 

Residents in some locations say their homes are not flooded, but the reek of stagnant water which has not drained away is making their lives a little unpleasant. Another issue has been the fact flood defence walls normally built along Chao Phraya riverside zones have not been put up this year. 

12GO ASIA’s news team notes that the affected provinces are not on Thailand’s mainstream tourism trail. Roads to other parts of the country which traverse the flooded areas are mostly clear and public transportation is running to timetables.


Thai King to attend first royal funeral ceremony at Grand Palace today

Thai King to attend first royal funeral ceremony at Grand Palace today

Thailand’s King Mahavajiralongkorn will be overseeing a merit-making rite at Bangkok’s Grand Palace later today. The ceremony is the first official one in the five-day-long Royal Cremation rites for his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Today’s proceedings at the palace’s Dusit Maha Prasad Throne Hall will start at 15:00. The ceremony will pave the pave way for transferring King Bhumibol’s bier to the purpose built crematorium site at nearby Sanam Luang Park. 

Media sources in Bangkok say mourners started crowding designated viewpoints at 05:00 this morning. Some of the visitors arrived last night and braved rainstorms to be first in the queues this morning. 

Sansern Kaewkamnerd is a spokesperson for the government and he says space for mourners at the cremation ground has been doubled to accommodate 110,000. 12GO ASIA says most roads within a two-kilometre radius of the palace are closed to vehicles and public transport is running normally in other areas of the city. 

Our image of the Royal Cremation site was supplied by Thai PBS.


Nok Air announces direct Mae Sot to Yangon flights

Nok Air announces direct Mae Sot to Yangon flights

Thai budget airline Nok Air is all set for the inauguration of a direct flight service from Mae Sot to Yangon. The maiden flight in what will be a thrice weekly service is scheduled for take off on Sunday 29 October.

The initial timetable shows the flights will operate on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Effective in the New Year, the service will be increased to four times weekly with the additional flights on Thursdays. In March, a flight on Saturday will be added to bring the weekly schedule up to five.

Outbound services from Mae Sot will depart at 11:40 and land in Yangon at 12:10. The return flights will leave at 13:00 and arrive back in Mae Sot at 14:30. All times are local. Nok will utilise 86-passenger Bombardier Q400s to serve the route.

12GO ASIA notes that this route is a convenient link between northwest Thailand and Yangon’s diverse attractions. Mae Sot is a top shopping destination for everything from jade to traditional clothing while Shwedagon Pagoda and other historic sights are among the draws of Yangon.


Jellyfish alert at Pranburi beach

Jellyfish alert at Pranburi beach

Authorities in the Thai seaside town of Pranburi have posted up no swimming signs at local beaches. The measure is a response to smacks of jellyfish being washed inshore and to prevent more swimmers being stung. 

A number of tourists have reported being stung by jellyfish at Khao Takiab Beach over the past week. Officials say most visitors are following the no swimming advice but have left up notices saying vinegar is the most effective treatment for jellyfish stings.  

There are still lots of jellyfish bobbing on the waves as well as on the beaches just above the tideline. Marine officials say the increase in the amount of jellyfish has probably been caused by water runoff from monsoon rains washing nutrients into the sea. 

Food and deckchair vendor explained to reporters that fire jellyfish were among the species on the beach. 12GO ASIA notes that the end of the monsoon season is fast approaching and jellyfish will be washed out to sea at Pranburi and other Gulf of Thailand locations such as Hua Hin

The 12GO ASIA image of jellyfish at Pranburi Beach was supplied by Thai PBS. 


Today is a national holiday for King Chulalongkorn Memorial Day

Today is a national holiday for King Chulalongkorn Memorial Day

Today is a national holiday in Thailand. The 23 October marks the death of one of the nation’s favourite monarchs, King Chulalongkorn, in 1910. Due to the upcoming funeral rites for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, today’s ceremonies will probably be very subdued.

As the day is a memorial day and not a Buddhist holiday, bars and other entertainment places will mostly be open. Immigration offices, but not immigration checkpoints at airports and land border crossings, will be shut for the day. Post offices, the main branches of banks and government offices are also closed.

King Chulalongkorn and King Bhumibol were both Chakri Dynasty monarchs. Chulalongkorn was number five and Bhumibol was number nine. King Chulalongkorn is said to be the founder of modern-day Thailand and, during his 42-year reign, was the driving force behind setting up a legal system and preventing Thailand from being colonised by a foreign power.

12GO ASIA says that while Chulalongkorn Day is usually not busy, this year will be different as Thais are already heading to Bangkok to attend the Royal Cremation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday. The national airports operator says forecasts show Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport will handle four million passengers this week.


Bangkok transport operators offer free travel for Royal Cremation

Bangkok transport operators offer free travel for Royal Cremation

City authorities in Bangkok are offering free travel on trains and buses for the Royal Cremation rites on Thursday. According to the official King Rama 9 website, services on the BRT bus, MRT underground and BTS Skytrain will offer free travel for all passengers.

In addition, the Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link and Purple Line trains will be free on both the 25 and 26 October. The window for BRT buses and Skytrain services at the far end of the lines is longer and all passengers will be able to travel free between the 25 and 27 October.

The website bulletin also noted that Chao Phraya River ferries would not be stopping at pier stations close to the Royal Cremation site near the Grand Palace and Sanam Luang Park. Roads in this Rattanakosin Island area of the city will mostly be closed between the 25 and 27 October too.

The Airports of Thailand organisation says Bangkok’s two airports will be extremely busy in the days before and after the funeral ceremonies for  King Bhumibol Adulyadej. 12GO ASIA notes that people with confirmed tickets for flights, buses and trains this week need to bear in mind it is better to allow extra time to reach departure stations.


Phuket governor welcomes gods from heaven for veggie fest

Phuket governor welcomes gods from heaven for veggie fest

A traditional ceremony held at Phuket’s Jui Tui Shrine yesterday evening ushered in the 2017 edition of the island’s vegetarian festival. The island’s governor, Norraphat Plodthong, oversaw a lantern-hoisting ceremony known as  Seng Ko Teng Thiao at exactly 17:09.

Tradition has it that the so-called nine emperors gods come down the poles for their annual earthly holiday. Other Chinese shrines and temples on the island followed suit with the same ceremonies to enable the gods to once more walk the earth.

Once the gods were earthbound at Jui Tui Shrine, holy mediums known as Mah Song clad in white clothing carried out their own sacred rituals to launch the veggie fest. This year’s festival has been toned down in respect for the funeral rites of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the 26 October.

12GO ASIA says an events schedule released by the festival organisers has revealed the parades and festivals which are a feature of the proceedings will take place but have been tweaked to reflect the official mourning period for King Bhumibol. Climbing blade ladders and walking on fire rites will be held on the 26, 27 and 28 October.


Pattaya municipal authorities clear monsoon debris from beaches

Pattaya municipal authorities clear monsoon debris from beaches

Municipal authorities have staged a cleanup operation to remove rubbish from beaches at Pattaya and Jomtien. Piles of discarded bottles, plastic bags and other flotsam were washed up onto the beaches by the heavy monsoon rains sweeping across the Gulf of Thailand over the past couple of weeks.

Officials at Pattaya City Hall organised the spruce up after they were seemingly left red-faced when pictures of sunbathers ringed by litter went viral on social media. One unnamed source at the headquarters claimed the images were likely photoshopped to make the beaches seem dirtier than they actually were.

City hall brought in teams of workers and tractors to scour the beaches for unwanted trash. Beach vendors say the jetsam is a common sight during the annual monsoon season. Environmentalists note that Pattaya and and other seaside destinations in Thailand such as Phuket often stage beach or marine cleanups.

12GO ASIA says this is similar to locking the stable-door once the horse has bolted and does not deal with the root problem of educating people on how to dispose of their litter properly. The littering problem is not strictly one that Thailand faces alone as other nations from Cambodia to Sri Lanka share the same seas as Thailand.

The trash stays in the sea between November and May because the seas are calmer. The only hazard the trash presents then is to sea-turtles and other marine life as they often eat it thinking it is food.


AirAsia announces direct Phuket to Macau flight connection

AirAsia announces direct Phuket to Macau flight connection

Budget carrier AirAsia has announced the launch of a direct flight link between two of its long-standing destinations. Effective 8 January 2018, travellers will be able to fly between the Thai island of Phuket and Macau, China without having to transit in Bangkok.

The flights will operate daily. Outbound services will depart from Phuket at 05:20 and arrive in Macau at 10:05. Return flights will leave at 10:40 and land back on Phuket at 13:05. Times quoted are local and actual flying time is about 3 hours 30 minutes in each direction.

Phuket is a popular destination with Macanese people and Chinese living on the western side of the Zhujiang River estuary. The casinos of Macau are likely to prove a hit with Thais living in the Andaman Sea  region of the country.

12GO ASIA says AirAsia already flies to Phuket from about eight locations in Asia. These include Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Singapore and Hong Kong. AirAsia has nearly as many connections to Macau. Among these are Bangkok and Chiang Mai.


Bangkok airports set up info points for royal cremation

Bangkok airports set up info points for royal cremation

The Airports of Thailand authority has set up information points at Bangkok’s two airports for mourners attending cremation rites for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The AoT booths at Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports open today and will be open through until the 31 October.

The info point at Suvarnabhumi Airport is located in VIP Room 5. At Don Mueang Airport, the facility is up on the upper level next to the corridor connecting the two passenger terminals. The authority will also be deploying extra staff to cope with the expected influx of passengers for the royal cremation.

Nitinai Sirismatthakarn is the president of AoT and he says the additional information centres at the airports will help facilitate the passage of mourners to the cremation grounds at Bangkok’s Sanam Luang Park. He noted that the two airports were expecting to handle up to four million passengers during the peak period between the 23 and 29 October.

12GO ASIA notes that the actual cremation ceremonies for King Bhumibol are scheduled to take place on the 26 October. The team says people using public transport both in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand will likely face some delays due to the sheer volume of people on the move.


Cambodia confirms new rules on long stay visas now apply

Cambodia confirms new rules on long stay visas now apply

A director with the Cambodian Interior Ministry has confirmed new rules apply to foreigners applying for long-stay visas. Sok Veasna told the Phnom Penh Post earlier this month that people who apply for long-term business visas would now have to show work permits.

The director explained that the new regulations were effective from the 2 October and this was one month after the ministry announced the change. He carried on by saying rumours the change had been deferred until next year were simply not true.

The rules are only pertinent to tourists who apply for six or twelve month visas. Applicants have to show work-permits and letters from employers confirming they are still employed.

Mr Veasna noted that the change in policy did not cover freelance workers or digital nomads, but the Non-Immigrant Division would judge these on a case-by-case basis. He added that foreigners who did this kind of work could help themselves by providing documentation proving what their employment was.  
 
The Phnom Penh 12GO ASIA travel specialists say that foreign tourists entering Cambodia on one or three month business visas are exempt from the policy. It is still business as usual for the time being regarding the issuance of these visas.


Rain storms in Thailand to last until the weekend

Rain storms in Thailand to last until the weekend

Thailand’s Meteorological Department has issued a bulletin stating that the current heavy rainfall is expected to last until the weekend. The department’s seven-day forecast issued late Monday stated that scattered but heavy rainstorms are expected to lash all regions of the country until Friday.

The bulletin continued by saying from then though to Sunday prevailing monsoon conditions would bring more rain to the eastern and southern regions. The weather is likely to improve from the Northeast up to the far north over the weekend.

Rainstorms over the past week have already resulted in heavy flooding in areas of the country from Chiang Mai down to Bangkok. Rain swollen rivers have turned waterfalls in the North into raging torrents while on Saturday numerous areas of Bangkok were flooded with water up to half-a-metre deep.

12GO ASIA says both the Thai government and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration have held meetings with agendas focusing on the flooding and how to alleviate it. The 12GO news team advises travellers departing on buses, trains or flights to get to their departure locations early.


Typhoon Khanun approaches Vietnam

Typhoon Khanun approaches Vietnam

People living along the upper regions of Vietnam’s long eastern seaboard were bracing themselves for the arrival of Typhoon Khanun yesterday. Meteorologists said the Category 1 typhoon would likely make landfall in North Vietnam late yesterday or today.

Winds and rain from the Category 1 typhoon have lashed southern China already and caused massive flooding, evacuations of residents and major disruptions to transport timetables. The meteorologists say Khanun will be losing some of its intensity by the time it reaches Vietnam and will cause fewer problems.    

Vietnam has not had time to recover from last week’s heavy rainstorms. Disaster prevention authorities are still mopping up localities which saw hundreds of houses and acres of rice paddy inundated by floodwaters. Local authorities are facing the gargantuan task of repairing roads, dams and drainage channels damaged in these storms.

The Disaster Prevention Department says that boats need to steer clear of the trajectory of Typhoon Khanun. 12GO ASIA notes that travellers in Vietnam who are taking flights, trains or buses during rainstorms need to leave ample time to reach their departure points.


Hua Hin authorities propose fairer fines for smoking on beach

Hua Hin authorities propose fairer fines for smoking on beach

A Hua Hin council spokesperson has told reporters fines for smoking on beaches here should be far lower than those proposed by Thai environmental agencies. Jirawat Phramanee stated that a THB2,000 fine was a reasonable penalty for any person caught smoking on the beach.

The Thai government has already issued a statement saying a smoking ban on 20 of Thailand’s busiest beaches will be effective from 1 November 2017. Authorities have said penalties of a THB100,000 fine and / or a year in prison will apply to people who violate the no-smoking law. 

The Hua Hin ban will apply to the 13km-long swath of beach from the Centara Grand Resort down to the Kao Tao Villa Beach Resort. Signs warning of the smoking ban will be put up. These will be in Thai, English and Chinese script.

12GO ASIA notes that Hua Hin Municipality has already stated designated zones for smoking will be set up. So-called tetsakit council enforcement officers will be on the prowl looking for smokers who defy the ban and light up where they shouldn’t.


Thai authorities declare start of official mourning for King Bhumibol

Thai authorities declare start of official mourning for King Bhumibol

An official period of mourning ahead of the funeral rites for Thailand’s late king began on Friday and will continue through to the 29 October. The actual cremation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is scheduled for the evening of the 26 October.

Thai authorities have issued an advisory saying dark mourning clothes are suitable to match the solemnity of the occasion. They also say all entertainment and public events will be cancelled from the 21 October until the cremation ceremonies in Bangkok are complete.

Bars and clubs throughout the kingdom have been asked to keep the volume of their music low or, better still, switch it off altogether. The government says bans on the sales of alcohol might be issued at short notice and most retail and entertainment businesses will likely close on the 26 October.

12GO ASIA explains that in the area around the Bangkok Royal Palace and the Royal Crematorium at Sanam Luang Park most roads will be closed to vehicular traffic. The team also says an expected influx of 250,000 Thais for the funeral will cause major problems in getting around the city on public transport.

Tourists travelling from Bangkok to other destinations should leave plenty of time to reach their departure points. People travelling by train with tickets to pick up from stations are advised to allow three hours in which to get them.


Deep floods in Bangkok close major roads at weekend

Deep floods in Bangkok close major roads at weekend

People in Bangkok woke up to flooded streets and a plea from city authorities to stay home on Saturday morning. Heavy rain lashed the Thai capital from midnight on Friday to almost dawn on Saturday and caused flooding on more than 50 streets. 

Meteorologists say rainfall measured at 214-millimetres swamped the city’s Phra Nakhon District and that other areas including Yannawa and Din Daeng were not far behind. The end result was that flooding blackspots were awash with water which in some cases was thigh deep. 

Affected roads and areas included Chatuchak Park, Din Daeng, Vibhavadi Road and Bang Sue Road. The flooding at Din Daeng meant that cars coming down from the Don Mueang Tollway could not exit. City officials were forced into opening up a U-turn to allow drivers to turn back for other exits.

The 12GO ASIA news team says that not all of Bangkok was flooded and some roads were bone dry by about lunchtime. A couple of the worst affected areas were still flooded early on Saturday evening.

The governor of Bangkok, Aswin Kwanmuang, apologised and claimed municipal officials had done everything they could to alleviate the flooding. Water management technicians note the city’s drainage system is only able to handle 60-millimetres of rainfall in one hit.