CNN names Isaan as one of best places worldwide to visit this year

THAILAND’S northeastern region of Isaan was recently named by CNN as one of the top 17 places in the world to visit this year.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the TAT, (TAT) said: “Isaan has a long history with some of Southeast Asia’s oldest settlements found here. In modern times, the region is famous for its fiery salads, country music, stunning scenery and elaborate temples. 

“There is so much to be enjoyed here and most of it is unseen by tourists, so we encourage people to explore and discover their own amazing Isaan stories.”

The flowers of the Red Lotus Sea in Khumphawaphi district of Udon Thani are usually in full bloom from New Year until around February. Tourists can hire a boat to see the red lotuses up close and enjoy the natural scenery of the freshwater lake and waters, which are home to a variety of fish, birds, wildlife and aquatic plants.

 The list was put together by CNN travel experts and international reporters who named their favourite destinations around the world for a feature on the news organisation’s website. Other destinations on the CNN list included Penang in Malaysia, Columbia, Bordeaux in France, Bhutan, Albania and Senegal.

Isaan was cited as “a piece of Thailand that’s still largely unexplored by the international market”. CNN also noted Isaan’s “excellent infrastructure” including domestic airports and hotels.

CNN also wrote about Isaan’s most famous food exports, sticky rice and papaya salad, as dishes that are among Thailand’s best – provided diners can handle the spices.

Aside from Isaan, Bangkok was named the “Best City” in Asia by readers of DestinAsian, a travel and lifestyle magazine in the Asia-Pacific region with a print run of 33,414 copies and a readership of 100, 242 per edition.

This is the 12th annual DestinAsian Reader’s Choice Awards and Bangkok took the top spot in the city category with Singapore and Hong Kong taking the second and third place on the list. Another popular Thai city, Chiang Mai, was also popular with DestinAsian readers, taking ninth place in the poll.

This poll shows how Bangkok is fast becoming a popular short-haul trip for travellers and tourists across the region. The city offers a range of shopping and entertainment as well as historic sites, temples and attractions that can be easily enjoyed by visitors coming for a few days visit.

Source: TheNation

Six essential tips for frequent business travelers

Avid business travelers should always be ready for that one-month-away business trip or an unscheduled one in two days.

Traveling for work is not the same as traveling for leisure. It requires efficiency, as you will deal with various business-related activities, such as meetings, conferences or even a gala dinner once you arrive in your destination.

Below are some tips all business travelers should consider in preparing, regardless of the business they are in and the destination they are going to.

Always be prepared

Avid business travelers should always be ready for that one-month away business trip or an unscheduled one in two days, if circumstances demand it. This means your passport should be no less than six months from its expiration date, your visa should be ready and you have done some research about the weather in your destination, the places you will be visiting as well accommodation and transportation options.

If your visa is not yet in your hand, it is recommended to spend some time to apply for it, as the procedure can take a while, depending on your destination country. As for booking a flight, comfort should be your priority, especially on long-haul flights. It is suggested to stick with one or two particular airlines, as they sometimes have promotions for loyal customers and frequent flyer programs.

Pack lightly

When it comes to packing for a business trip, you may want to make George Clooney’s character in Up in The Air ( 2009 ) your role model. For a two- or three-day trip, it is suggested to pack all your belongings in a piece of carry-on luggage.

While a duffel bag may sound practical, it increases the risk of getting your clothes creased and could potentially be a burden on your shoulder. Carrying your belongings on board also means you do not need to claim them once you have landed, saving you precious time.

Make a list of necessary items to store in the suitcase, such as electronic chargers, adaptors and jewelry. Place your laptop in a reachable space, so you do not need to dig through your clothes to get it out for airport security. There are ways to maximize the limited space in a cabin-size suitcase, such as filling your shoes with ties, socks or belts prior to packing them. Turn your shirts, blazers or suits inside out and then fold them horizontally to minimize creases, and bring clothes that cater to more than one purpose. Generally, adjust your clothes to your schedule during the business trip, thus you will not pack too much.

Don’t bring prohibited items

Do some research on prohibited items on your airline to exclude them from your suitcase. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lists banned items and items that require additional screening or will trigger the alarm at airport security. Aside from obvious items like explosives, firearms and sharp objects, you need to be aware of certain types of food and sporting equipment. National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has released a similar list of prohibited items, which included rackets, penknives, fishing rods and selfie monopods.

(Read also: Top tips for flying with children)

Know the rules

Prior to checking in at the airport, there are some rules you should know. Be careful concerning the amount of liquids, gels and creams in your luggage, as several carriers require passengers to limit liquids to 100 mL (3.4 ounces) or less per item and to place them in a clear, resealable bag.

Do note that different airlines have different rules in terms of baggage weight. Garuda Indonesia, for example, limits checked-in baggage to 32 kilograms and carry-on baggage to 7 kg, with certain dimensions, depending on the class and flight.

Avoid wasting time at airport security checkpoints

Use your time as efficiently as possible at airport security checkpoints. Different countries have different airport screening procedures. You may need to take off your shoes, jacket, watch and belt before passing through the metal detector. Large electronic devices and toiletries may need to be checked separately, so be ready get them out of your luggage quickly. The trick, courtesy of the Up in the Air movie, is to take two container bins at the same time. Fill one with your shoes and jacket and the other with your laptop and other required belongings. Put them on the conveyor belt and prepare your ID as well as boarding pass.

Always be ready. Do not wait for your turn to take off your shoes, for instance.

Arrive early

According to TSA, it is recommended to arrive at least two hours ahead of domestic departures and three hours for international flights. Remember that what you need to do at the airport is not just checking in and jumping on the plane. Consider additional time for traffic jam, parking, rental car returns and security screening. (kes)

Source: TheJakarkaPost

More Asians are traveling around the world

The number of international tourists rose by 4% worldwide to 1.2 billion last year as Asians traveled more, but security fears hit visitor arrivals in Europe, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) said.

The number of people living in Asia and discovering both their own region and the rest of the world rose 8% compared to 2015, the Madrid-based body said.

The Asia-Pacific area, meanwhile, proved a popular destination – the second most visited region after Europe.

But the UN body cautioned that while Europe was still blessed with 620 million tourists last year, the growth in the number of visitors had slowed due to security concerns.

WTO chief Taleb Rifai told reporters the results in Europe varied widely from one country to the next. He refused to give a much-anticipated ranking of the most visited countries, saying this would be unveiled later.

In 2015, France ranked number one, followed by the United States and Spain.

Source: TheNation

Cambodia – Angkor Wat bridge awaits restoration

SIEM REAP, 25 January 2017: A temporary pontoon bridge leading to Angkor Wat will be completed in May to allow workers to close an ancient stone bridge for restoration.

Phnom Penh Post reported that Apsara Authority will close the stone bridge , this May, to allow for restoration, while tourist traffic will be diverted to the temporary bridge.

The authority, which manages the historic temple complex, said the closure is part of restoration efforts carried out in conjunction with Japan’s Sophia University.

The 197-metre-long, 10-metre-wide pontoon is made of non-slip weather-resistant plastic.

Apsara spokeswoman, Chaosun Keriya, was quoted saying: “The restoration will take at least two to three years…as  the same type of stone must be used instead of cement.”

The construction of the pontoon started last November.

The original bridge, west of the temple, is about 190 metres long. The first phase of repairs was completed in 2007 by the Apsara Authority and Sophia University, which has spent 12 years repairing 90 metres of the structure already.

The number of foreign visitors to the World Heritage site rose 4.63% to 2.19 million last year. The top source markets were China, South Korea and the United States.

Revenue from ticket sales to foreigners visiting the park reached a record USD62.5 million in 2016, representing a solid increase of 4.21% over 2015.

The entrance fee to the Angkor Historical Park costs USD20 a day (foreigners only), USD40 for a three-day visit and USD60 for a week-long visit.

New entrance fees are due to take effect 1 February this year. The new fees are: one-day pass USD37, three-day pass USD62, and seven-day pass USD72.

Source: TTRweekly

Thailand wants in 2018 introduce E-Visa

#BANGKOK, 25 January 2017: Thailand is exploring the world of e-Visas with the introduction phase scheduled to take place by the end of this year.

Minster of Tourism and Sports, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, confirmed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently evaluating the project.

She was commenting on ways to ease visa formalities and make travel to Thailand more convenient during a press conference, Tuesday, convened to announce the hosting of the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit, 26 to 27 April, in the Thai capital.

“We are working on the introduction of an e-Visa… the first phase should be completed by end of this year… and the full phase will be completed in 2018.”

She said the project was with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although ultimately visas are in the domain of the Immigration Bureau.

But introducing an e-Visa would decrease visa fee revenue at Thai consulates worldwide, a matter that will need agreement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Her comments followed statements made by the World Tourism and Travel Council, president, David Scowsil, who strongly recommended nations speed up the migration from paper to electronic visas.

“The WTTC focus is on electronic visas, freedom and the right to travel,” he said. “Visas are required by 58% of the world’s 1.2 billion population and they still need a paper visa…they are required to queue and pay for a visa it’s a crazy out-dated system.”

He said the WTTC’s three core objectives were to encourage freedom of travel, encourage policies for growth and encourage sustainable development for tomorrow.

Quoting the example of airlines he said it took them three years to migrate from paper to electronic tickets.

“We are persuading governments to move fast on this, electronic visas offer more security and a country can use the funds earned from e-Visa processing to support branding.”

He cited the example of the US, using e-Visa fees to fund Brand USA.

“China should create an e-Visa. Tourist arrivals to China have remained static at 55 million for five years,” he said. “If they created an e-Visa they could also use the visas to fund a Brand China campaign similar to what the US has done.”

Thailand is hosting WTTC’s first global summit a first for Southeast Asia. Last year, the annual event that attracts around 900 CEO’s tourism policy makers and government ministers, was hosted in Dallas, US.

Former prime minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, will address the global summit in Bangkok, while high profile CEO, Tony Fernandes, who founded the AirAsia group, will talk on airline connectivity.

The summit will be held at the Bangkok Convention Centre in CentralWorld, in downtown Bangkok.

Official airlines for the event are Thai Airways International, Emirates and AirAsia Group.

Source: TTRweekly

Myanmar (Burma) – The land that time forgot

Once the bustling imperial capital of Burmese Kingdoms, the ancient city of Inwa is now in ruins but still a great place to spend a day

Perched on the left bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River in Upper Myanmar, Inwa – or Angwa as it is known in Thai – must surely be the best-known ancient kingdom among Thais. The imperial capital of successive Burmese kingdoms from the 14th to 19th centuries, it was from Inwa that King Hsinbyushin began a two-year assault on Ayutthaya in 1765 that resulted in the collapse of Siam’s capital. Less than 70 years later Angwa was completely destroyed in turn, the victim of several earthquakes. As Maroon 5 put it, “Nothing lasts forever”. 

Ravaged by war and tremors, Inwa today is scarcely larger than a rural backwater dotted with ruins, monastic buildings and stupas. Daytrippers travel from Mandalay to the old city, enjoying a trip back in time as they try to imagine the city’s previous grandeur from the remains of its watchtowers, city walls, monasteries and temples.

“Visitors jump into horse-drawn carts or make their own way around the old city,” says Khin, my local guide in Inwa. 

I opt for the horse and cart and immediately feel worlds apart from the hustle and bustle of Mandalay. Myanmar’s countryside is charming with rice paddy fields and banana plantations stretching as far as the eye can see. The ruins of stupas and abandoned monasteries roll along like a slide show. The driver slows the horses as we arrive in Inwa proper and pulls over in front of a wooden building with huge posts and a multi-tiered roof.

“This is Bagaya Monastery. The entire building is made of teak,” begins Khin, as we head towards the entrance. “It was a Buddhist school during the Inwa period.”

The grand monastery boasts 267 teak posts, the guide continues, the largest of which is almost three metres in circumference. Each post is 20 metres high. Undoubtedly Bagaya Monastery is the pride of Inwa and I find it easy to imagine hundreds of monks and novices praying here. The monastery today is shaky and worn but it’s still beautiful and worth a visit. 

The Burmese might have been ruthless as they marched from Inwa to Ayutthaya but they also had a strong artistic side, particularly when it came to woodwork. The entire monastery is decorated with figurines, arabesques and reliefs of birds and animals as well as small pillars all beautifully carved in teak.

From Bagaya Monastery, we ask the cart driver where we can stop for lunch and meet some residents. He pulls over at a roadside restaurant, where several locals, their faces covered with Thanaka, are tucking into noodles, sweet tea and bean cake. They welcome us with smiles and friendly nods.

Within walking distance from the restaurant are Yadana Hsimi Pagodas. Here, under the canopy of a huge Banyan tree is a beautiful Buddha image surrounded by what remains of a group of small stupas and what remains of a prayer hall. 

“The temple was reduced to rubble by the 1839 earthquakes,” says the local guide. “Only some beautiful stone lintels and Buddha images survived around the ruins.”

Back in our personal carriage, the driver guides his horse through peanut and banana plantations. Some farmers are busy clearing weeds, while others balance earthen pots and basketful of grass on their heads.

Finally, we arrive at Maha Aung Mye Bon Zan Monastery. Unlike Bagaya Monastery, where every single piece is made of wood, this huge Buddhist temple is built of stucco-covered brick. The monastery survived the earthquake in 1839 but time has taken its toll on the huge temple. Yet it is attractive in a strange way and in summer, the guide says, its ultra-thick walls provide a welcome respite from the midday sun. 

In fact, Maha Aung Mye Bon Zan Monastery is a very rare survivor of the Inwa era. Just to the East of the main hall is a group of whitewashed pagodas with shimmering gilded umbrellas. Behind them is the lookout for Sagaing – another ancient capital nestled on the Ayeyarwaddy River.

In terms of exotic glamour, Inwa is truly a city lost in the mists of time. 

Some visitors don’t take the horse carriage at all, but prefer to travel on foot. With map in hand and plenty of time, they explore the ancient city on foot. Moving at a slower pace, they enjoy a much more accurate experience of where they are: In essence, the middle of nowhere.

IF YOU GO

Bangkok Airways and AirAsia operate flights between Bangkok and Mandalay. Inwa is about 30 kilometres south of Mandalay.

Sourse: TheNation

New baggage scanning system of Phuket airport to be ready in March

A new baggage scanning system that will speed up the checking-in at the Phuket International Airport will be installed and ready late March, Government Spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Sunday.

Sansern said the new in-line screening system would free passengers from having to queue up for bag scanning at the airport before checking in. He said passengers can check in and their bags will pass through the in-line screening system, which will be installed during March 15 to 25.

Sansern said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had learned about complaints of tourists about the delay in bag scanning at the Phuket airport so he told the Transport Ministry to take action to tackle the issue.

Sansern said the government has also allocated Bt7.5 million for installing online compute systems for immigration officers at the airport to speed up the checking of arrival and departure tourists.

He said there are now 34 immigration counters for departure tourists and 38 others for arrival tourists at the airport.

We take you to the Pearls of the Orient

CAMBODIA

Siem Reap – Here you will find influences of French colonial and Chinese architecture.

With the Tuk Tuk service to the ancient city of Angkor Thom, to visit Angkor Ta Prohm, one of the famous temples of Cambodia. In the afternoon with a Jeep to the Angkor Wat Temple.

MYANMAR

Mandalay – After arriving in Mandalay you go to Mandalay Hill for magnificent views over the city and Irrawaddy River. In the afternoon you visit Amarapura, ‘the city of immortality. ” During a sunset cruise on Lake Taungthaman overlooking the U Bein Bridge.

Bagan – Departure to Bagan, where you will visit in the afternoon with a horse and carriage the old town. You will enjoy the sunset and an unforgettable view from O Gyan Pe Hill.

Air Balloon Flight Tour by balloon over temples studded plains of Bagan and the Irrawaddy River. In the afternoon, with small local boats a mini cruise on the Irrawaddy River.

VIETNAM

Hanoi – Let you in Vietnam be surprised by culinary delights, local culture and unique means of transport. In Hanoi visit the main attractions of this fascinating city. Visit the Hoa Lo Prison (known as the “Hanoi Hilton”).

Cruise through Halong Bay city tour Hanoi. In the afternoon, you will embark on a 3-day luxury cruise through one of the most beautiful natural bays in the world. Halong Bay is famous for its thousands of small islands and colorful floating villages in an emerald green sea.

Thailand – Tourism industry needs smart management in several areas

THE THAI Tourism industry is on the right track but needs to be well managed in terms of infrastructure capacity, faster immigration processing and developing new tourist destinations, says the chairman of Dusit International.

Chanin Donavanik, chairman of Thailand’s leading hotel-chain operator, said yesterday that it was conceivable that the country would welcome between 34 million and 35 million foreign tourists this year. 

“But the authorities should turn their focus on quality control and management both at the main international airports and at each tourist destination.” 

Current airport capacity does not appear to be sufficient for the expected influx of international travelers. Chanin pointed to the newly opened terminal at Phuket International Airport as an example, as the airport hit full capacity from Day 1. Another example is Suvarnabhumi Airport, which exceeded its planned maximum capacity more than five years ago. 

A new midfield terminal project is under construction, and is expected to be completed in the near future, but he said: “This project development might be too late to accommodate increasing passenger traffic once it is completed.” 

Slow immigration processing at the key airports is another issue that should be addressed, as it might hurt the country’s image as well as the promotion of Thailand for mass tourism. 

“We should shift our focus from being a value-for-money destination to a high-quality one in order to give business operators in the tourism and hospitality sectors more room to increase their prices,” he said.

However, he acknowledged that the government had initiated several impressive policies to improve the country’s image, such as a crackdown against zero-dollar tours from China, controlling illegal hotel operators, and limiting tourist numbers in environmentally sensitive areas. 

Chanin also suggested that the government should develop more tourism destinations to meet increasing demand from both local and overseas travelers, particularly appealing to Asian countries where more than 200 million middle-class people now reside and are keen on traveling outside their homelands.

As well, he said, creating a new generation of tourism entrepreneurs would be a way of maintaining this industry as one of the most important in the Kingdom. It employs more than 6 million workers, almost 15 per cent of the total population. The tourism industry also contributes 17 per cent of Thailand’s gross domestic product. 

To support its educational role in the tourism industry, Dusit International has partnered with Bangkok Bank, Boon Rawd Brewery, Central Group, Chiva-Som International Health Resort, Jim Thompson, Siam Piwat, Thai Airways and the Tourism Authority of Thailand to publish a new book, “Thailand Tourism: The Early Days”. The book details the history of the tourism industry here as well as the pioneers in the early age of Thai tourism six decades ago. 

The 181-page book aims to inspire readers, particularly younger people, and encourage hospitality students to discover inspiring stories in the past. 

The book will be available at Asia Books and all Dusit hotels in the country from next month. Chanin said all proceeds from sales of the book would be donated to the Royal Project Foundation in remembrance of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Source: TheNation

Why is Jaipur called the Pink City?

Jaipur has been popularized with the name of Pink City because of the color of the stone exclusively used for the construction of all the structures. Anyone who has witnessed the city can substantiate the fact that all the buildings of Jaipur are pink in color. The pink color has its own history. In 1876, the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria visited India on a tour. Since pink denotes the color of hospitality, Maharaja Ram Singh of Jaipur painted the whole city pink in color to welcome the guests. The tradition has been sincerely followed by the residents who are now, by law, compelled to maintain the pink color.

Pink in color and pink in vibrancy, the city of Jaipur is one of most beautiful and magnetic cities of India. One always falls short of words while describing the bounteous charm that the city captivates the visitor with. The culture, architecture, traditions, art, jewellery and textiles of Jaipur have always charmed the travelers. It is one city that, even after modernisation, still holds to its roots and values.

Apart from being the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is also the largest city of the state. The foundation of the city dates back to the eighteenth century, with credit to the great warrior and astronomer Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. The glorious past of Jaipur comes alive in the palaces and forts in the city where once lived the royal clans. The majestic forts and havelis, the beautiful temples, the serene landscapes, and the rich cultural heritage, have made Jaipur an ideal destination for tourists.

There is something in the atmosphere of Jaipur that brings joy and delight as soon as you set foot in the city. The pink color of the city brings out a romantic charm that captivates every heart. If you haven’t got a chance to experience the royalties of Jaipur yet, plan your trip right away!