Finally, E-visas available for India – great news for Americans but not yet available for Canadians…

Happily the long awaited news that visas for visiting India can now be obtained online has finally been announced. And while online visas can now be obtained for visitors from 45 countries, including those holding American passports, unfortunately Canada is not on the list. So great news for Americans, while Canadians must hope that we will be added in phase 2 of the online visa processing roll-out…

For more details please visit the following link… https://indianvisaonline.gov.in


					

Shwedagon Pagoda to undergo renovations…

Beginning the 2nd week of September 2014 and continuing through February 2015, the fabulous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon will be undergoing renovations. Although the pagoda will remain open for sightseeing, as of the middle of October it will be fully covered by scaffolding.

The gilded pagoda and stupa are 99 metres (325 ft) in height and is situated on a hill, just west of Kandawgyi Lake and dominate the skyline of Yangon. It is a ‘not to be missed’ site for visitors to Myanmar, and is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of four past Buddhas enshrined within: the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight strands of hair from Gautama.

Private Island Luxury in Cambodia…

The amazing Song Saa Private Island sits in Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago, which is made up of mostly uninhabited islands – oases of virgin rainforests, coral reefs and pure white beaches. The resort helped create a marine preserve surrounding it’s two islands to protect the marine life including turtles, seahorses and exotic species of tropical fish. Cambodia’s first private-island resort, Song Saa’s guests enjoy “always included” pricing and can choose from 27 Over-Water, Jungle and Ocean-View villas designed around the theme of a Cambodian fishing village, but with all the luxuries and modern conveniences of a world-class resort.

World’s highest cable railway line inaugurated in Bolivia…

Bolivian President Evo Morales inaugurated the first segment of the world’s highest cable railway line on Friday, carrying passengers from city to city at up to 4000 metres above sea level.

The cable line connects the capital La Paz with the nearby city of El Alto, through the high Andes mountains, offering stunning views of the snow-capped Illimani, one of Bolivia’s highest peaks. Constructed by the Austrian company Doppelmayr for US$234 million (A$251.30 million), the line allows passengers to travel between the two cities in less than 10 minutes, compared to more than 30 minutes by road. “It is a joy that this cable car line is finished,” Morales cheered during the inauguration ceremony in La Paz. “It’s important work for the residents of La Paz.”

La Paz is the highest capital in the world, at an altitude of 3660 metres. After the ceremony, long lines of people waited in the terminals at both ends, eager for their first experience in the cable car. A “speechless” Jorge Villena was one of the first passengers. “It’s awesome: the quiet, the view, the Illimani. It’s perfect,” the 25-year-old bank employee.

The cable car line will ultimately travel nearly 10 kilometres. After the first installment – which stretches about 2.6 kilometres – a second segment of 7.3 kilometres is due to be inaugurated by the end of the year. La Paz and El Alto, an urban conglomerate of more than 1.6 million people “are among the first 10 cities in the world with an inter-city transport system by cable,” said Jorge Dockweiler, director of the state-run Mi Teleferico company.

Cars will run 17 hours a day, 360 days a year and can transport up to 18,000 people an hour, according to official projections. A ticket goes for three bolivianos (A$0.46), and each car can carry up to 10 passengers. The only other cable car system in Bolivia is in the city of Cochabamba, in the center of the country, and is designed for tourists.

Thailand’s military enacts martial law

In a surprise move, Thailand’s military has enacted martial law, but insists that this is not a coup, but is rather being done in order to ensure continued stability within the country.

Following many months of political unrest in Bangkok, the Thai army has apparently had enough, and had declared martial law throughout the country as a preemptive measure to ensure law and order is maintained. With both pro–government and anti–government protests ongoing, this measure allows the army greater reach to ensure the safety of the public.

The military merely asked for calm, something that has been elusive for Thailand after numerous anti-government marches intended to “shut down” the capital. “We ask all sides to come and talk to find a way out for the country,” General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army’s chief general, said.

Since first allowing elections in 1937, Thailand has seen 11 military coups — it is now perhaps in the midst of a 12th — and a series of constitutions drafted by opponents attempting to cement their hold on power. The latest round of political unrest dates back to the 2001 election of billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, who successfully appealed to the country’s northern rural base to sweep him to power. Mr. Thaksin and his acolytes have won commanding election victories ever since. That has prompted the urban elite, who had for many years governed the country, to make repeated attempts to regain control, including through loud whistle-blowing marches that have taken place since last fall. They argue that Mr. Thaksin has polluted the country’s politics through mass vote-buying schemes. The billionaire has been convicted of corruption and now lives in self-exile.


The military effectively has two choices, Kan Yuenyong, director of Bangkok think-tank Siam Intelligence Unit, wrote on Tuesday. Either it can install a government, which he called the “worse” option that risks stirring “insurgency nationwide.” Or it can push forward an election, which will mean navigating the stormy waters between Mr. Thaksin and his opponents, who want lengthy reforms before any new ballots are cast

AirAsia India set to launch…

After a nine-month-long wait and legal hurdles, the new airline AirAsia India has just been granted its license to operate flights in India with it’s official launch for low cost flights within the country planned for three months from now.

“We have granted the Air Operator’s Permit (AOP or flying licence) to AirAsia India, subject to the final decision of the High Court and that is, under the directions of the Supreme Court,” DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar told PTI here. 
The airline’s parent company, Malaysian carrier AirAsia’s CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted: “History has been made today in Aviation. Everything has been hard for Airasia but we never give up. Today Airasia India has got APPROVAL.”

AirAsia India, whose top officials have promised to offer low and competitive airfares, would have Chennai as its hub and would focus on connecting Tier-II cities to begin with, including Trichy, Kochi and Kolkata.

The Road less Travelled…. Bangkok to Yangon

With the recent opening of four border crossings, travelling overland from Thailand to Myanmar has never been easier as it is now possible to travel by road all the way from Bangkok to Yangon, using roads rarely used by tourists that will provide you with glimpses of life that seem to be suspended in time.

You will cross from Thailand at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border and enter into Myanmar’s Kayin State, homeland of the Karen people. In both countries you will pass through spectacular scenery that changes as you travel, revealing mountain passes, rural villages, bustling market towns, shimmering temples and vast green rice paddies.

Highlights along the way include Bangkok and the former capitals of Ayuthaya and Sukhothai in Thailand, and the town of Mawlamyine in Myanmar, where British colonial buildings face stunning views of the Thanlwin River, not far from the world’s largest reclining Buddha. The golden rock of Kyaikhtiyo, perched precariously on the edge of a cliff, and the town of Hpa-An that is surrounded by stunning karst mountain scenery where farmers still travel to market with horse-carts are highlights along the route in rural Myanmar. You then reach the historic city of Bago where you can meet monks in a monastery to learn about their daily lives, before then continuing on to reach the capital of Yangon.

 

For more details please contact Footprints at trips@footprintstravel.com

Bangkok Returning to Normal…

Happily, protesters in Bangkok have now started to dismantle their barricades in key parts of the city, so hopefully the bevy of negative headlines about safety in Bangkok that has swamped the media in the past few months will now disappear – for despite the impression that Bangkok has been a city under siege, nothing could have been, or is, further from the truth.

And despite a delicate political impasse that has put a question mark over the future of Thailand’s (now interim) government, life and business in the vast majority of Bangkok, and throughout the rest of the kingdom has been perfectly normal through the past few months. And hopefully now that the barricades are coming down, the selective images and footage of street marches, police battling protesters and clogged intersections will now be replaced by reality: tourists and locals eating, socializing, shopping and enjoying all this vibrant city has to offer.

To be sure, there are political issues in Thailand. There have been protests, mostly peaceful, which may continue. The People’s Democratic Reform Committee has moved its supporters to Lumpini Park in Bangkok’s business district where they are gathered, quietly and orderly, listening to speeches and watching a giant screen.

There isn’t the slightest hint of trouble, and Bangkok is a far cry from the situation in the world’s real trouble spots such as Kabul, Kiev, Baghdad and Beirut, and in fact, it is not even close to the situation in New York, Chicago or other major western cities where assaults and concerns about personal safety are everyday issues and occurrences.

Hopefully, Thailand’s political issues will be solved in the coming months as the two sides are talking and there is confidence the impasse will end soon. In the meantime, it is perfectly safe to visit Bangkok and the rest of Thailand and do the same things travellers have always done in this friendly, welcoming city and country. For in reality, life and tourism in Thailand, other than for some minor traffic inconveniences in Bangkok, has been continuing throughout the past few months in a completely normal manner.

Good News for Travellers to India!!

In an significant development, the Government of India on Wednesday cleared two initiatives, visa on arrival and electronic travel authorization for travelers originating from almost anywhere on the globe. For all those travellers who have had the unique pleasure of attending their local visa office in North America and spending a good portion of their day standing in line waiting to submit their visa application documents – only to then be refused for the most minor of errors (photo on the wrong kind of paper or with the wrong background, not enough of the should ers in the photograph, too much of the shoulders in the photograph, minor typo on the form, etc., etc…)

To be implemented from early October 2014, the electronic travel authorization process will allow foreign travelers to apply for a visa from home and receive an online confirmation in five working days, and to then obtain their actual visa upon their arrival at the airport in India. And this visa-on-arrival with electronic travel authorization will be available to citizens of 180 countries (including Canada and the USA) and will be implemented initially at nine airports including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Goa and Trivandrum.

Aman Resorts Opening in Vietnam

Many of our favourite properties in South East Asia belong to Aman Resorts, and now the newest property in their collection will be opening this month in Vietnam.

The first Aman in Vietnam, the ‘Amanoi’ is a contemporary beachside resort alongside an Aman spa. It is situated on the coast of Nui Chua National Park, overlooking beautiful Vinh Hy Bay. Protecting more than 29,000 hectares of coastal and marine habitats, Nui Chua is situated in Ninh Thuan province, northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.

The resort will have 31 pavillions, a number with private swimming pools, and five villas, each providing a combined living/sleeping area and a timber sundeck with sun loungers. And each Aman Villa consists of four or five free-standing bedroom pavilions as well as living and dining pavilions and a large private swimming pool. A live-in housekeeper and cook meet all guest’s needs.

The resort has two swimming pools – the Cliff Pool next to the Central Pavilion, and another at the Beach Club. Overlooked by magnificent granite boulders, the Beach Club is located on a pristine white-sand beach and provides a dining area, dressing rooms and a range of water sports equipment.

For more details and rates, please contact the Footprints office or visit www.footprintstravel.com