Eurowings announces direct Munich to Bangkok flights

German budget airline Eurowings has confirmed the launch of direct flights between Munich and Bangkok. The twice weekly service will commence in mid-June and will be the first scheduled low-cost connection between the southern German state of Bavaria and Thailand.

Eurowings announces direct Munich to Bangkok flights

The maiden outbound flight from Munich will take off on the 15 June and, due to the time differences between the two nations, the return flight will depart the next day. Eurowings is a low-cost subsidiary of Germany’s Lufthansa Airlines Group.

The Lufthansa regional manager for Thailand and Vietnam is Stefan Molnar. He told media sources Lufthansa was happy to be adding an extra flight option for people travelling between Germany and Thailand. He noted the additional link would enhance the group’s presence in the Mekong region and Southeast Asia as a whole.

12GO ASIA says passengers planning trips to Bangkok and beyond will find our budget friendly fares to their liking. One search for a particular route compares the fares for all transportation providers and modes of transport.

Laos prepares for public opening of Lima Site 85

Construction workers in Northern Laos are busy preparing the Vietnam War era Lima Site 85 for its public opening. The site is a former US radar station and is perched on top of a 200-metre-high cliff at the side of a sacred mountain Lao people call Phou Pha Thi.

Laos prepares for public opening of Lima Site 85

The workers are racing against time to get the site and its access route ready in time for the 50th anniversary of it being invaded by North Vietnamese commandos. The anniversary falls on the 11 March 2018 and will see the official unveiling of a staircase scaling the cliff. 

From a new purpose-built information centre at the foot of the cliff, the stairway zigzags upwards to the spot the North Vietnamese soldiers climbed under the cover of darkness. The road from Houayma has been surfaced in preparation for the addition of Phou Pha Thi to Houaphan Province’s revolution memorials.

12GO ASIA says a look at local maps shows Phou Pha Thi is about 35kms west of Xam Neua, Houaphan’s provincial capital. In the opposite direction from Xam Neua, the huge warren of Viengxay Caves was a hideout for 20,000 Pathet Lao fighters and families during the Vietnam War.

Phuket inaugurates tourist assistance offices

The first of 10 tourism assistance centres opened on Phuket Island just as 2017 was drawing to a close. Phuket governor Norapat Plodthong presided over the official opening ceremonies of the centre at Patong Beach on Christmas Day.

Phuket inaugurates tourist assistance offices

The attendant audience were told Phuket’s fast evolving popularity as the holiday destination of choice justified setting up the centres. Other centres already opened, or just about to, are located at Nai Harn, Nai Yang, Surin, Kamala, Kata and Karon beaches.

Cape Promthep and Rawai Pier are two of the remaining locations and the final one is at the Phuket branch of the Thai National Provincial Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Office.  Governor Plodthong explained that the new centres would be one-stop facilities for tourists and would be manned 24/7.

12GO ASIA says tourist police at the centres will be assisted by municipal and maritime officers as well as volunteer students with English and Chinese language proficiency. The team says more than 10 million Thai and international tourists visit Phuket every year and the centres will help smooth out the holiday experience for them.

Vintage doo wop band the Drifters to play live in Bangkok

Nostalgia looms for music fans in Bangkok later this month as legendary US doo-wop band the Drifters are scheduled to play live. The Drifters will be bringing the Stand By Me tour to the city’s SHOW DC Mall and will take the stage on Friday the 19 January.

Vintage doo wop band the Drifters to play live in Bangkok

Formed in the early 1950s by Clyde McPhatter, the lineup of the Drifters has undergone numerous changes. Yet today’s group remains faithful to the sound which spawned early hits such as Such a Night and Ruby Baby.

The Drifters have gone through an estimated 60 vocalists including celebrated blues singer Ben E King. Along the way, tunes like Under the Boardwalk and Saturday Night at the Movies released as singles by the Drifters have turned into musical classics.

According to 12GO ASIA, tickets for the Drifters live in Bangkok went on sale in November. ThaiTicketMajor is one of the agents for tickets and still has some availability. Prices range from THB1,000 to THB2,000.

The nearest stations on Bangkok’s train system to the SHOW DC Mall are Phetchaburi MRT and Makkasan-Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link. Taxi or tuk-tuk is the most convenient choice for the last leg of the trip.
 

Cambodia claims Thailand rail link will launch in 2018

Cambodia’s transport-minister claims a rail connection to Thailand will definitely be inaugurated before the end of 2018. Sun Chanthol said the government would be expediting contracts for the repair and relaying of rail tracks between Phnom Penh and Poipet.

Cambodia claims Thailand rail link will launch in 2018

A secretary with the ministry, Ly Borin, said most of the tracks from Pursat up to Poipet had been renovated. He carried on with the explanation that 130kms of the line still needed refurbishing and this was mostly between Pursat and Phnom Penh.

This latter stretch of tracks was damaged during the civil war and Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s. Ly Borin said an estimated budget of US$20 million would be needed to finish the project. Once the funds have been approved, the repairs contracts will be put out to tender.

12GO ASIA explains that the last time trains from Phnom Penh to Poipet, Aranyaprathet and Thailand ran was after WWII. Services beyond Battambang were suspended by the ruling French government in 1946. Phnom Penh to Battambang trains were withdrawn in 2009 as the tracks were in such a bad state of repair.

Royal Railways started running trains between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville in 2016. The plan is to launch passenger services to Thailand once the line to Poipet is restored.

Bangkok transport division agrees new deal for gas buses

Late last month, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) agreed a new deal for the supply of a fleet of gas-powered buses. Under the terms of the contract, the authority will pay almost THB4.3 billion for 489 natural gas vehicle (NGV) buses.

Bangkok transport division agrees new deal for gas buses

The initial consignment of 100 buses is due for delivery in March and the rest in increments of the same amount, or slightly more, at three-month intervals. The latest agreement for the purchase of the buses lays to rest a saga that, according to transport-minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, began more than a decade ago.

The last edition saw the BMTA pull the plug on the contract after some of the buses had already arrived in Thailand. This was last April and the reason provided was the supplier, the Bestlin Group, had avoided paying the full importation tax on the buses.

12GO ASIA says the new contract seems above board as the buses are being provided by a partnership of two firms, Scan Inter and Cho Thavee, and the parts are being fabricated by the Jiangxi Kama Bus Company in China. As part of the deal, the joint venture will be providing maintenance services on the buses for 10 years.

Thai sakura cherry trees at Ang Khang hill station in full bloom

The officer in charge of Northern Thailand’s Ang Khang hill station says cherry trees are in full bloom. Thanawuth Nakham said the 5,000 sakura trees started flowering prior to the New Year and the blossoms would likely last through until mid-February before they started to wilt and die.

Thai sakura cherry trees at Ang Khang hill station in full bloom

The sakura cherry trees in full bloom present a riotous profusion of hues with many visitors saying the spectacle is as good as any in Japan. Mr Nakham noted there was a huge influx of tourists at Doi Ang Khang on weekends and this would likely continue for the duration of sakura season.

He also asked visitors not to pick flowers off trees as this would reduce the number of flowers and shorten the season. 12GO ASIA’s man in the north says weekdays are the way to go for trips to Doi Ang Khang. Temperatures are still low, down to a little over 10°C some nights, and this will help preserve the flowers.

Doi Ang Khang is also noted for tea plantations and growing cold climate fruits such as strawberries. It is in the mountains of Fang District and around 170kms north of Chiang Mai by road. Options for travel are to join a tour, hire a car or motorcycle, or a combination of bus and songthaew shared taxi.

Private Myanmar airline adds to choices for Chiang Mai Yangon route

With the recent launch of its new route, Air KBZ added to the choices available for travellers wishing to fly between Yangon and Chiang Mai. The privately operated carrier has inaugurated a two-times-a-week service connecting Myanmar’s principal city, Yangon, and the biggest city in Northern Thailand.

Private Myanmar airline adds to choices for Chiang Mai Yangon route

Flight KY842 operates on Wednesdays and Sundays with outbound departure times of 11:15 from Yangon. Arrival time in Chiang Mai is 13:05 and departure for the return flight KY843 is at 13:50. Air KBZ is utilising its fleet of ATR turboprop aircraft to serve the route. These are configured for 70 passengers. 

Air KBZ is only offering Yangon-Chiang Mai flights for the peak tourist season this year and will terminate the service on 21 March 2018. It has not so far confirmed whether the flights will be re-launched for the winter 2018-2019 season.

12GO ASIA’s travel experts say both Myanmar National Airlines and Bangkok Airways fly the Yangon-Chiang Mai route too. Tickets for these services are available for purchase on the user-friendly 12GO website and come with the bonus of instant confirmation.

Battambang bamboo train service gets a new lease of life

New Year’s Eve saw the rebirth of Cambodia’s renowned bamboo train service. After shutting down to make way for real trains a few months ago, a section of tracks has been shifted to a site 20kms from the original ones in Battambang.

Battambang bamboo train service gets a new lease of life

The new bamboo train service now operates on a four-kilometre stretch of line linking Phnom Banan Angkor temple and the township of Chhoeuteal. Bamboo train tour company agent Soy Bora says tourists riding the small trains will enjoy the unique vistas surrounding Phnom Banan.

He carried on by saying there were six trucks available to take tourists to Phnom Banan. The trains themselves are little more than a bamboo platform mounted on a bogey and an engine. Local media sources say fares for Cambodians are KHR10,000 while international tourists have to pay a surcharge.

The original bamboo trains were born out of necessity and provided a link to transport goods and people. 12GO ASIA notes that Phnom Penh to Battambang trains only ran once weekly in each direction for a number of years before the service was discontinued altogether in 2009. The line was not used for anything else other than bamboo trains. 

Royal Railways has now taken over Cambodia’s two-line rail network. Limited services on the line between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville have already been launched. The Phnom Penh to Battambang and Poipet line is being renovated and tracks relaid in places where they were torn up.

Vietnam sets 2018 deadline for opening of Hanoi urban Skytrain

Vietnam’s deputy-transport-minister says Hanoi’s début elevated railway line should be up and running by year’s end.  Speaking to reporters last week, Nguyen Ngoc Dong stated that issues which had been delaying progress on and completion of the system had been resolved.

Vietnam sets 2018 deadline for opening of Hanoi urban Skytrain

The deputy-minister explained the Eximbank in China had at last released the US$250 million loan needed to kickstart the project. He carried on by saying the tracks between Cat Linh and Ha Dong had been laid and most of the rolling stock was either in-country or in transit.

Ngoc Dong said Chinese contractors had been told to get a move on and that Vietnam had been through three transport-ministers since the Skytrain broke ground in 2011. Finishing off, the minister said the Chinese had been told the deadline for the launch of the Skytrain services was the end of 2018. 

12GO ASIA notes that while the 13kms of tracks might have been laid, the support infrastructure is far from complete. Onsite engineers claim the likes of signalling systems and fire alarms have not so far been installed. Another issue delaying completion is that the original estimated cost has soared from US550 million to US$870 million.

New Vietnam train carriages set for Tet holiday unveiling

The Vietnam Railway Corporation (VNR) has announced the unveiling of a fleet of modern train carriages. The corporation says the fleet of 30 units will be deployed on trains linking Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in time for next month’s annual Tet Festival.

New Vietnam train carriages set for Tet holiday unveiling

In a news update, the VNR noted that the carriages were soundproofed, featured anti-vibration mechanisms and were built from fireproof materials. Oversized seats, wide aisles, ample luggage space, air-conditioning, electric charge points and reading lights are among the amenities designed to enhance passenger comfort. 

Sleeping berths come with all the same bonuses plus super comfort mattresses specially imported from Korea. The Tet, or Lunar New Year, Festival will take place in mid-February this year. Tet is one of the principal holidays on Vietnam’s annual calendar and public transportation is always booked solid.

12GO ASIA advises travellers planning on visiting Vietnam during Tet to buy their tickets as soon as possible. 12GO’s reservations system allows customers to buy tickets in advance and without the necessity of even being in Vietnam.

Thailand applies brakes to planned hi speed trains to Chiang Mai

A senior Thai government minister says a planned high speed rail link between Bangkok and Chiang Mai will be way too expensive. Somkid Jatusripitak said a viability assessment carried out by Japanese specialists had revealed the cost of the 670km connection would be THB420 billion.

Thailand applies brakes to planned hi speed trains to Chiang Mai

The deputy PM explained that this figure was for building a line with the capability of running 300kph trains. He carried on by saying that if the line was built for trains with maximum speeds of 200kph construction costs would be significantly lower.

Minister Jatusripitak also noted that an international rail link from China would be built with a connecting point to Thailand at Nong Khai in the Northeast. As Chiang Mai is a kind of spur line from the Nong Khai-Bangkok tracks and will not have international connections the study says it does not need to be ultra-high speed.

According to the 12GO ASIA news team, railway improvements are being instigated for the benefit of both the Thai people and tourists. Minister Jatusripitak further noted that existing rail services are not frequent enough or fast enough for people travelling between the nation’s tourism hotspots.

Bangkok Centra World Plaza is Flagship Thai Venue for New Year Party

Bangkok’s Central World Plaza is again the flagship venue in Thailand at which to enjoy the countdown to the New Year. Central World along with event sponsors AIS are laying on an eclectic schedule of entertainment to welcome 2018.

Bangkok Centra World Plaza is Flagship Thai Venue for New Year Party

Live music will be provided by the likes of Thai rock band Da Endorphine and acoustic virtuosos Room 39. AIS will be staging laser light shows while fireworks extravaganzas will usher in the New Year in the manner of similar happenings staged from New York and London to Sydney. 

The Central World countdown party is a highlight on the Thai capital’s annual calendar for Bangkokians, expats and tourists alike. The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority has announced a two-hour extension of service hours to enable partygoers to stay until the end of the countdown.

MRT underground trains, the BTS Skytrain, the Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link and key bus lines will operate through to 02:00 on New Year’s Day. 12GO ASIA said those who are unable to get to Bangkok could always attend sister parties at Central World or Festival malls including Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Koh Samui.

Thai rail operator reports southern trains booked solid for New Year

According to the State Railway of Thailand, seats and sleeping berths to the south are fully booked until after the New Year holiday. There are a few seats on long distance trains from Bangkok to Suratthani but from there on down to destinations such as Hat Yai and Yala there is almost no availability.

Thai rail operator reports southern trains booked solid for New Year

The first day with any seats on trains to the southernmost provinces is Wednesday 3 January. Slower trains to the likes of Cha Am, Hua Hin and Chumphon have seating availability but only in cheaper second class fan cooled carriages.

12GO ASIA says staff at Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station and other key State Railway of Thailand stations are bracing for the usual influx of travellers heading off to pastures anew for the New Year holiday. Media sources in Bangkok say the rush began yesterday. Hua Lamphong, the city’s three long-distance bus terminals, Don Mueang Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport were far busier than usual.

The 12GO ASIA team notes that third class trains are an alternate, albeit not the most comfortable, option to the south. There are still plenty of bus seats available to most destinations but these are selling like hot cakes so it is best to buy now.

Discounted early bookings for Bangkok marathon to close soon

Runners planning on taking part in Bangkok’s Unforgettable Marathon in February still have a window to snap up discounted registration. The deadline for early bird bookings is New Year’s Eve. After that, the entry prices are at least 20 per cent higher in all race categories.

Discounted early bookings for Bangkok marathon to close soon

People wishing to take part in the Unforgettable Marathon on the 4 February have four options. These are the 42km full marathon, a 21km half marathon, a 10km quarter marathon and the Muang Thai Smile Family Run over a course of 3.5kms.
 
Until the end of the year, the registration for the full marathon costs THB1,200 for Thai nationals and THB2,000 for foreigners. Once the clock strikes midnight on the 31 December, the entry fee shoots up to THB1,500 for Thais and THB2,600 for foreigners.

The other two main categories increase in price for both Thais and foreigners relative to the distance. Registration for the Family Run is the same for both Thais and foreigners and is THB450 before the deadline and THB650 after.

All runners get a race pack with a running vest and numbered bib. Free shuttle buses are available to transport full marathon competitors to Rajamangala Stadium from the Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail link.

12GO ASIA’s representative in Bangkok says the course routes take in some of the best tourism sights in Bangkok. They begin at locations such as the Golden Mountain and the finish line is at Democracy Monument.

Thailand names two possible sites for new Chiang Mai Airport

A spokesperson says the government of Thailand has identified two possible locations for a new Chiang Mai airport. One is in the northern province’s district of San Kampaeng and the other in the Ban Thi area of neighbouring Lamphun Province.

Thailand names two possible sites for new Chiang Mai Airport

Speaking to media representatives following a mobile cabinet meeting in Sukhothai, Sansern Kaewkamnerd said senior figures with the Airports of Thailand (AoT) authority would be inspecting the locations. The lieutenant-general explained that the viability studies would take place in late January or February. 
 
A new airport is needed to serve the nation’s second city, and the capital of the North, as the old one is close to the centre and is approaching maximum capacity. The current structures and runways are designed to accommodate eight million passengers annually but have been handling almost ten over the past few years.

12GO ASIA notes the AoT has already committed to plans to expand Chiang Mai Airport so that the maximum passenger capacity will be 13 million. This is due for completion by 2025. The long-term proposal is to increase the capacity to 20 million.

Security at Suvarnabhumi Airport increased ahead of New Year holiday

Thailand’s Immigration Bureau has increased its security presence and police patrols at the nation’s airports for the New Year. Immigration boss Suttipong Wongpin said the enhanced security was in response to the predicted surge in tourist arrivals over the holidays.

Security at Suvarnabhumi Airport increased ahead of New Year holiday

He added that up to 170,000 passengers a day were expected to pass through the principal air gateway to the country, Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, over the extended holiday period. The commissioner said security and fast-tracking through immigration checkpoints would streamline the arrivals experience at Suvarnabhumi and other airports.

The security campaign was launched with the title of Love at First Sight by Thai Immigration. In addition to the high-vis security presence, additional immigration officers will be posted at airport immigration desks while translators will be on hand to deal with any issues travellers may encounter.

12GO ASIA says Suvarnabhumi Airport will handle more than 7,000 flights a day during the peak holiday period from tomorrow through to the 3 January 2018. The team explains efficient immigration processing and help on tap will ensure the record number of flights does not have a negative impact.

Phuket begins 2018 Countdown party on Christmas Day

The governor of Phuket was on hand on Christmas Day to launch the countdown party to ring in 2018. The popular annual event features seven days of live entertainment and music and the opportunity of sampling tasty snacks and drinks in a carnival atmosphere.

Phuket begins 2018 Countdown party on Christmas Day

Bangla Park in the holiday town of Patong is the venue for the countdown fest. Although usually busy in the build-up to New Year’s Eve, the park comes into its own as the end of the old year approaches and is one of the top locations in the country to celebrate the advent of the new one.

Governor Norraphat Plodthong officially launched the beachside festival and said it generated happiness for all comers and was a boon to local businesses. In addition to the Patong countdown to 2018, Phuket Old Town will stage its own edition on New Year’s Eve with the festivities set to kick off at 16:00.

12GO ASIA notes that tourist towns and the islands of Thailand will be throwing countdown parties to usher in the New Year. Venues include Chiang Mai, Bangkok Central World and Pattaya. A definite bonus of celebrating the New Year in Thailand is warm weather and a hospitable environment.

Thailand names 13 five star flagged beaches for 2017

A study carried out by the Thai Environment Ministry has found 13 of the nation’s beaches are clean enough to be blue flagged. Chonburi’s Toey Ngam Beach comes under the jurisdiction of Sattahip Naval Base and is the number one five star beach in the nation for 2017.

Thailand names 13 five star flagged beaches for 2017

The annual study of Thailand’s beaches assesses them in the areas of pollution, their natural states and how they are managed for prosperity and tourism. The study is called Beaches with Stars and is managed by the Environment Ministry’s Pollution Control Division. 

Thirteen beaches made the grade this year. After Toey Ngam, two Prachuap Khiri Khan Province beaches took second and third places. These were Laem Sala in Khao Sam Roy Yot National Park and Ao Manao.

Three beaches in the Ang Thong Islands National Marine Park featured in the top 13. The rest were either on the mainland or in the islands along the opposite Andaman Sea coast of the southern Thai peninsula.

Commenting on the Beaches with Stars awards, the resident 12GO ASIA travel specialist for Thailand explained beaches were one of the jewels in the nation’s star-studded tourism crown. The collection is varied too as Thailand’s shoreline stretches for thousands of kilometres.

Authorities issue storm warning for southern Thailand

Weather and water management authorities in Thailand have issued a severe weather alert for the lower half of the country. The warning says Tropical Storm Tembin should reach Vietnam today and will sweep across to southern Thailand tomorrow.

Authorities issue storm warning for southern Thailand

The Meteorological Department stated that by the time Tembin reached Thailand it would be weaker yet severe enough to trigger some flooding. The advisory noted that the bad weather would affect all provinces from Bangkok down to Satun, Narathiwat and the Malaysian border. The forecast shows rainfall is likely to be heavier from Prachuap Khiri Khan downwards.   

The bad weather is expected to last through until New Year’s Eve and will then brighten up to welcome 2018. The Royal Irrigation Department explained that officials at local amphur offices had been asked to keep an eye on water runoff and arrange drainage mechanisms in any areas which flooded.

12GO ASIA’s travel advisors said people catching flights, trains, buses and ferries over the next few days should allow a little more time than usual to reach departure stations. 12GO ASIA is a reliable source for travel tickets to destinations throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia.