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.

Restoration of Cambodia Thailand rail link inches closer to reality

A spokesperson for Cambodia’s transport-minister says the official ceremony to mark the opening of a rail link to Thailand is likely to take place in early 2018. The rail line will eventually connect the capital cities of the two nations, Phnom Penh and Bangkok.

Restoration of Cambodia Thailand rail link inches closer to reality

At a press briefing on Wednesday, an under-secretary confirmed that final agreements over the link are being hammered out between the two nations' transport ministries. Ly Borin carried on by saying these should be signed off on before year’s end.

He explained that Cambodia still had a few things to do before the official opening. The first and most important is laying a final kilometre of track. The two other tasks are finishing off a new station in Poipet and agreeing customs duty rates with Thailand.

12GO ASIA says the last trains to run between Cambodia and Thailand departed just after WWII. The French colonial government of the time scrapped services operating beyond Battambang.

The line used to carry on to Poipet. This town is on the Cambodia-Thailand border and a few kilometres from the Thai town of Aranyaprathet. Our image of a Royal Railway train at Phnom Penh Station was supplied by Asia Life Magazine.

US singer Michael Bolton to play Bangkok gig in November

Acclaimed US pop balladeer Michael Bolton will be playing live at Bangkok’s CentralWorld Shopping and Lifestyle Mall next month. The singer’s Thai concert is a part of the Subaru sponsored five-date Asian Dream Tour in search of new pop talent.

US singer Michael Bolton to play Bangkok gig in November

Bolton will be live on stage at CentralWorld’s GMM Live House concert hall at 19:00 on 11 November. The setlist for the gig is expected to include hits such as When a Man Loves a Woman and How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?

Tickets for the gig first went on sale on 23 September. Online concert ticket agents including ThaiTicketMajor still have some available. Prices range between THB2,500 and THB8,500. The latter is a premium package which comes with the bonus of a personal meeting with the star of the show. 

The 12GO ASIA Bangkok team explains that CentralWorld is located in the chic Pathum Wan area of the city. It is midway between the Siam and Chit Lom BTS Skytrain stations. There is an aerial walkway from Chit Lom to CentralWorld.

Bangkok Airways flights to Phu Quoc Island ready for take off

Bangkok Airways will begin flying between Suvarnabhumi Airport and Phu Quoc Island at the end of October. The Thailand based boutique airline will launch the flight link between Bangkok’s main airport and the Vietnamese holiday isle on the twenty-ninth of the month.

Bangkok Airways flights to Phu Quoc Island ready for take off

Services will operate four times weekly in each direction. Outbound flights from Suvarnabhumi will depart at 11:30 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays and land on Phu Quoc at 13:10. Departure times for the return flights are 13:50. Scheduled arrival time back in Bangkok is 15:35.

Bangkok Airways says it will be utilising ATR 72-600 aircraft configured for 70 passengers to fly the new route. At a media briefing held in the airline’s lounge at Suvarnabhumi Airport, president Puttipong Prasarttong-osoth confirmed the Phu Quoc link was good to go. 

He explained that the airline was pleased to be adding such a beautiful destination to its Asian regional network. 12GO ASIA notes that Bangkok Airways is a preferred travel partner and expects to be adding the new flights to itineraries in the near future.

Last chance to see Nakhon Phanom lighted boat fest in 2017

The nine-day-long Nakhon Phanom Lai Reua Fai Festival is drawing to a close and tourists who want to see the famous illuminated boats need to get a move on. The colourful cultural extravaganza began on the 28 September and will end tomorrow.

Last chance to see Nakhon Phanom lighted boat fest in 2017

Visitors who do make the long trek to the northeastern Thai province for the boat parades on the Mekong River this evening or tomorrow will get to witness an almost surreal sight. As today is Wan Awk Phansa and the end of the Buddhist Lent period there are extra events to entice culture buffs.

Phra That Phanom Temple is the venue for culture shows and rites designed to pay homage to its landmark chedi. A street parade featuring replica Lai Reua Fai boats will take place this evening in the district around Nakhon Phanom municipal hall while the town’s Lan Tawan Boek Fa riverside park will have live music bands. 

According to 12GO ASIA’s travel timetables, Nakhon Phanom is not so difficult to get to. There is plenty of seat availability on buses from Bangkok as well as Nok Air and Thai AirAsia flights from Don Mueang Airport

Thai Buddhists end Lent with Wan Awk Phansa tomorrow

The full-moon tomorrow signifies the end of the three-month-long period of Lent for Buddhists in Thailand. Buddhists will be making a trip to their local temples to give small donations of sweets and the like to mark Wan Awk Phansa.

Thai Buddhists end Lent with Wan Awk Phansa tomorrow

As is the case with most major Thai Buddhist events, saffron-robed monks will give sermons in the temples. Lent is called Vassa in Thai and Wan Awk Phansa is the name given to the official end of the period of abstinence which began in July.

Like Christians, Buddhists typically give up habits like drinking alcohol and eating meat products for Lent.  On the traditional calendar for Thailand, Wan Awk Phansa falls in the eleventh month.

From a visual perspective, there is not much for tourists to see in most locations in Thailand. A notable exception is the Lai Reua Fai illuminated boat fest held in Nakhon Phanom Province. The sight of the boats floating on the waters of the Mekong River is awesome. 

12GO ASIA notes that Wan Awk Phansa is a religious festival and not a public holiday. This means banks, immigration offices and post offices will be opening as normal.

Utapao Pattaya Airport to host airborne Formula 1 racing event

The organisers of the Air Race Formula 1 World Cup racing series have confirmed Utapao Pattaya Airport is a venue for a 2017 edition of the thrilling event. Utapao will host the next in the series of 2017’s Air Race 1s between 17 and 19 November.

Utapao Pattaya Airport to host airborne Formula 1 racing event

The Air Race 1 management team has promised this year’s event will feature the same exhilarating displays of flying skills as the inaugural Thai races in 2016. In what are called pylon air races, pilots zoom around a two-kilometre circuit at speeds as high as 450kph while only 10 metres from ground level.

The proximity of the high-performance aircraft makes for a really exciting spectator sport. Each race heat features eight laps. Air Race 1’s management team say more flyers are expected to compete this year than in 2016,

Air Race 1 has joined forces with Chang Beer and Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism in staging the event. 12GO ASIA explains that Utapao is a mixed use public and military airport located on the grounds of Sattahip Navy Base. The base is 40kms from Pattaya.

Bangkok performing arts fest to stage West Side Story

Bangkok’s Thailand Cultural Centre is the venue for a series of performances of the US culture classic play West Side Story this week. Theatre lovers have the choice of six different performances and the first one is on Thursday.

Bangkok performing arts fest to stage West Side Story

Showtime is 19:30 in the main hall at the Cultural Centre on Thursday and will be followed by performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the same time. Those who can’t make an evening show have the option of 14:30 matinee shows on Saturday and Sunday.

The Bangkok performances of West Side Story are true to the original story written by Arthur Laurents and feature the music and lyrical gems of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. The shows are 150 minutes long and include a 20-minute interval. Doors open 30 minutes prior to the start of the performances.

Advance tickets for West Side Story are available online from ThaiTicketMajor’s website. 12GO ASIA notes that the Cultural Centre is in the Huai Khwang District of Bangkok. Free shuttle buses to the centre depart from Exit 1 of the Thailand Cultural Centre MRT Station.

Rainstorms in Thailand set to last until the weekend

Thailand’s weathermen say rainstorms right across the country are set to last until the weekend at least. They say the storms will bring scattered but heavy rain and are likely to exacerbate flooding in some regions.

Rainstorms in Thailand set to last until the weekend

Locations such as southern Trang Province and Pathum Thani in the home counties around Bangkok were inundated by flooding over the weekend. Floodwaters washed through houses in low-lying areas of Trang and left some roads under water in both locations.

Rainstorms in Bangkok yesterday slowed down transportation and turned the morning commute for many residents into somewhat of an ordeal. The forecasters say the expected rainfall over the coming week is bound to result in some areas of the capital flooding.   

The weather department says that any more flooding will probably be limited to the upper regions of Thailand from Bangkok northwards. 12GO ASIA says that tourists with confirmed tickets for buses, trains or flights should allow ample time to reach their departure stations until the wet weather eases off.

Thailand parks dept to launch tourist trail to remote Sukhothai waterfall

Officials at a national park in Thailand’s northern Sukhothai province are planning to set up a new tourism trail leading to an isolated waterfall. The 80-meter-high waterfall in Ramkhamhaeng National Park is surrounded by thick forest and lofty mountain peaks.

Thailand parks dept to launch tourist trail to remote Sukhothai waterfall

The waterfall’s stunning beauty is enhanced by the fact it drops in a single cascade and creates a plume of spray which glistens like diamonds on a sunny day. Villagers who live close to Ramkhamhaeng National Park claim the fall is the most stunning in upper Thailand and is worth going out of your way to see.

The waterfall is around three kilometres away from the park’s main road. Officials say they plan to improve the access route to make it easier to get to. The Khiri Mat checkpoint and gateway to Ramkhamhaeng National Park is about 25kms to the south of both New Sukhothai Town and Sukhothai Historical Park.

12GO ASIA says a Ramkhamhaeng daytrip is easily organised when staying near Sukhothai Historical Park. Sukhothai itself is not that difficult to get to either as we offer the choice of flying from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport with Bangkok Airways, bus or taxi for the journey.

Koh Phangan authorities call off full moon party for 5 October

Local government officials on the Thai island of Koh Phangan have ordered full moon party organisers to call off this month’s event. The chief of the island’s municipal council says the party is being cancelled out of respect for the forthcoming cremation of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Koh Phangan authorities call off full moon party for 5 October

Kriekkrai Songthani has issued an order which bans all loud entertainment including the full moon party until after the cremation has taken place on the 26 October. The October full moon party had been scheduled to take place on Thursday the fifth, but the organiser’s website has a notice saying it is cancelled.

According to the website, the next full moon party is scheduled to take place on Friday 3 November. Rated one of the planet’s most fun happenings, the full moon party takes place on Koh Phangan’s Haad Rin Beach and attracts up to 30,000 revellers at a time.

The date of the November full moon party coincides with the onset of the peak tourism season in Thailand. 12GO ASIA explains that people planning on heading down to Koh Phangan, or the nearby islands of Koh Samui and Koh Tao, in November should buy their tickets for travel now to avoid paying top dollar.