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.

Phuket governor welcomes gods from heaven for veggie fest

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

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.

Pattaya municipal authorities clear monsoon debris from beaches

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

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.

AirAsia announces direct Phuket to Macau flight connection

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

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.

Bangkok airports set up info points for royal cremation

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

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.

Cambodia confirms new rules on long stay visas now apply

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

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.

Rain storms in Thailand to last until the weekend

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

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.

Typhoon Khanun approaches Vietnam

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

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.

Hua Hin authorities propose fairer fines for smoking on 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

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 declare start of official mourning for King Bhumibol

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

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. 

Deep floods in Bangkok close major roads at weekend

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.

Buses to be rerouted in Bangkok to allow for practice royal cremation

Thailand’s Transport Ministry has issued an announcement saying buses in central Bangkok will be rerouted this weekend. The change affects all bus routes which pass close to the city’s Sanam Luang Park and the Grand Palace for the two days.

Buses to be rerouted in Bangkok to allow for practice royal cremation

The routes are being changed to allow a practice run for the funeral and cremation rites of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej to take place. The bus routes affected are numerous but include the Number 2 service between Pak Klong Flower Market and the Imperial Samrong.

12GO ASIA says the bus reroutes are bound to cause some delays when travelling in Bangkok this weekend. The buses themselves will likely be packed with mourners heading for the Grand Palace to pay their last respects to the much loved King Bhumibol.

Thailand started the official mourning period for King Bhumibol today and this will run through until the 29 October. Thais and tourists have been asked to wear clothing with toned down colours for the duration. The government also says loud entertainment is banned during the mourning period and there might be days when the sale of alcohol is prohibited too.

Flood alert for central Thai provinces near the banks of the Chao Phraya

Thai authorities say provinces in the central regions of the country to the north of Bangkok should brace themselves for more flooding. Heavy rainfall in the north of the country at the back end of the rainy season has filled reservoirs to the max and there is nowhere for floodwaters to go but south to the Gulf of Thailand.

Flood alert for central Thai provinces near the banks of the Chao Phraya

Areas of provinces from Lampang, Phayao and Phitsanulok down to Pathumthani are already under water. The National Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department has warned that floods are likely to inundate six provinces, including Lopburi and Ayutthaya, soon.

The forecast is for rains to continue through until Sunday and this will probably increase the risk of flooding. This is particularly so in districts near the course of the Chao Phraya River from Nakhon Sawan all the way down to Bangkok and the gulf.

12GO ASIA says the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry’s Chatchai Sarikulya has already asked the Royal Irrigation Department to do its best in managing the flow of water. The department has also been told to issue flood warnings when the waters reach critical levels.

Floods swamp districts of Chiang Mai and Phayao

Days of heavy rainfall has triggered flash flooding in several districts of Thailand’s northern provinces. Video footage posted on social media this morning shows floodwaters washing away motorcycles in the Hang Dong region of Chiang Mai.

Floods swamp districts of Chiang Mai and Phayao

Highway 108, the main route south to Mae Sariang and Mae Hong Son, near the Kad Farang Market was lying under half a meter of water. The road was passable for vehicles with high ground clearance, but drivers of other vehicles were forced into using the Canal Road which caused considerable traffic tailbacks.

An estimated 1,000 houses have suffered flooding of varying degrees. The 12GO ASIA news team note that the flooding is spreading south in the direction of Sanpathong and Chom Tong. Eastwards in Phayao, local authorities have warned that in areas near the Thung Reservoir floodwaters are up to one meter deep.

Runoff floodwaters from the north have already started to swamp provinces such as Ang Thong and Ayutthaya to the north of Bangkok. The Royal Irrigation Department says it is currently funnelling water near the Chao Phraya River into dykes and farm fields.  Voice TV supplied our image of the flooded Chiang Mai Highway.

Tardy loans slow down completion of Hanoi Sky Train

City authorities in Hanoi say a new Sky Train line scheduled for live tests this month has been delayed yet again. Contractors say sections of track and side safety fences are still not complete and the reason is there are not enough funds available to do the work.

Tardy loans slow down completion of Hanoi Sky Train

An unnamed source at one of the companies working on the project blamed the tardiness of a promised US$250 million loan to build the elevated rail system in the North Vietnam city. The source claimed the China Railway Sixth Group was supposed to have disbursed the loan but didn’t.

As a result many of the materials suppliers plus contractors building the line have not been paid. The Hanoi Sky Train broke ground in 2011 and was supposed to have been finished two years later. 

When the Hanoi Sky Train is eventually completed it will be 13kms long and connect the districts of Dong Da and Ha Dong. 12GO ASIA notes that cyclos, taxis, Uber, buses and rented motorcycles are still the only options at present for getting around this bustling metropolis.

Thailand government to ban smoking on beaches from November

Thailand’s government has announced that smoking will be prohibited on the nation’s main beaches. The ban is set to come into effect on 1 November and will apply to beaches in locations such as Phuket, Phang Nga, Songkhla, Hua Hin, Cha Am, Pattaya and Jomtien.

Thailand government to ban smoking on beaches from November

Non-compliance could work out very expensive for die-hard smokers as the maximum fine has been set at THB100,000. The authorities say offenders could be jailed for up to 12 months as well.

The stiff penalties are not being imposed over concerns for the wellbeing of beachgoers. The country’s environment department explains that countless discarded fag butts are buried in the soft sands of Thailand’s premier beaches.

Jatuporn Burutphat is a specialist with the department. He told reporters that an estimated 140,000 butts were lurking beneath the sands at Phuket’s Patong Beach. He carried on by saying the no-smoking rule would target people walking or sitting on beaches who did not dispose of their butts properly.

12GO ASIA has just learnt that smoking on or near the beaches will not be prohibited altogether. Apparently the plan is to set up designated smoking areas near beaches and furnish them with ashtrays.

King Bhumibol Memorial Day public holiday on Friday

Friday the 13 October is one of three public holidays in Thailand over the next two weeks. King Bhumibol Memorial Day marks the first anniversary of the passing of Thailand’s revered monarch.

King Bhumibol Memorial Day public holiday on Friday

In keeping with the solemnity of the occasion, Thai authorities have asked entertainment venues to keep a low profile. They have not so far ordered pubs, clubs and cafés to shut up shop for the day. As is normal on public holidays, government, immigration and post offices and banks will be closed.

When he died at age 88 on 13 October 2016, Bhumibol Adulyadej had reigned for seven decades. The 26 October is another public holiday and will mark the cremation day of the king. The 23 October is the third public holiday and remembers the passing of another of Thailand’s favourite monarchs, King Chulalongkorn, in 1910. 

12GO ASIA notes public transport options will be busy throughout Ocober with Thais travelling to Bangkok to pay their last respects and also for the cremation rites. The other extra vacation days usually entice people to take excursions and this will contribute to the scarcity of travel tickets. 12GO ASIA advises booking now before it is too late.

Phnom Penh Airport monorail link ready for summer 2018

A Chinese urban rail company has released the plans for a monorail connecting Phnom Penh Airport to the downtown zone. China Sky Railway Group’s representatives say the 10km-long line will terminate at the Royal Palace near Sisowath Quay.

Phnom Penh Airport monorail link ready for summer 2018

The provisional schedule shows the line could be up and running by May 2018. China Sky conducted a viability study for the Cambodian Public Works and Transport Ministry back in July and the blueprints are the outcome of that exercise.

The monorail trains will be driverless, powered by lithium batteries and capable of carrying 144 passengers. China Sky CEO Tang Tong explained that monorail systems did not require as much land expropriation as on-the-ground rail lines and were therefore a cheaper option for governments. 

The Cambodian government has commissioned the monorail to help alleviate jams on the traffic clogged highway between the airport and central Phnom Penh. 12GO ASIA says it will also be a boon during the Southeast Asia Games the city is scheduled to host in 2023.

The image of Phnom Penh International Airport was supplied by VINCI Airports.

National Orchestra of Lithuania due to play Bangkok concert

The National Symphony Orchestra of Lithuania is scheduled to give a live performance in Bangkok on Saturday. This highly acclaimed orchestra will be playing at the Thailand Cultural Centre in the Huai Kwang area of the city at 19:30.

National Orchestra of Lithuania due to play Bangkok concert

The Lithuanian visitors are set to play Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody Number II, the Per Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony Number IV. The orchestra will be conducted by Modestas Pitrenas.

The concert will take place in the Cultural Centre’s main hall. The doors open half an hour before the concert starts. Saturday’s concert is a part of the exciting timetable of events for this year’s Bangkok International Festival of Dance and Music. 

Tickets priced between THB1,000 and THB3,000 are still available for purchase on internet ticketing websites. Complimentary shuttle buses to the Cultural Centre depart from Exit 1 at the Thailand Cultural Centre subway station.

Bus ferry services launch on Yangon River

A river ferry service designed to alleviate ever-worsening traffic conditions in Yangon officially launched on Friday. The water-buses link the northern zone of Insein with Bohtataung and run at 20-minute frequencies between 06:00 and 18:30.

Bus ferry services launch on Yangon River

There are seven intermediate stops en route and fares of between MMK300 and MMK500 have been set to reflect the distance travelled. The ferry boats are a mix of Myanmar, Thai and Australian made and come in different sizes. The biggest can accommodate 180 passengers while the small ones can only carry 60.

Tint Tint Myanmar won the franchise to operate the Yangon Water Bus service. CEO Tint Tint Lwin said the ferries would cut what is typically a two-hour journey between the two locations down to 45 minutes. She added that the company would also be expanding routes over the coming six months and just as soon as landing piers had been built.

12GO ASIA says Bohtataung Pier is within view of the iconic Yangon Bohtataung Pagoda. The pagoda is a short taxi ride from central Yangon, Sule Pagoda and Vandoola Park. Our image of a Yangon Water Bus was supplied by Zomi Daily.

AirAsia announces direct Ho Chi Minh to Manila flights

AirAsia recently announced the inauguration of a direct flight route which will link Ho Chi Minh City and Manila. The flights will begin next month and operate three times weekly in each direction.

AirAsia announces direct Ho Chi Minh to Manila flights

AirAsia Philippines is operating the flights. Provisional timetables show the outbound flight from Manila will depart at 23:15 on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Arrival time at Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh is 01:05.

Return flights take off from Ho Chi Minh 30 minutes later and land back in Manila at 05:15. All times quoted are local. AirAsia Philippines will fly the route using Airbus A320s.

The CEO of AirAsia Philippines, Dexter Comendador, has released a statement confirming the imminent launch of the route. He explained that it would improve travel links between the Philippines, Vietnam and other member nations in the ASEAN bloc.
 
On the 12GO ASIA reservations pages, we offer AirAsia flights between Ho Chi Minh City and Manila. These require a change of planes and a stopover at Kuala Lumpur Airport.

Cebu Pacific and Vietnam Airlines both offer direct Ho Chi Minh to Manila flights. 12GO ASIA says extra competition on any route is a win-win for travellers as it keeps prices low and provides choice on departure times.