News Roundup: Updates from Indochina
Here are some exciting and timely tidbits of news from around the region. The three countries of Indochina are getting so much better all the time. Read up on some new tours and activities, expedited borders, international recognitions and of course new trains, planes and automobile routes.
- Oudomxay Province opened a natural tourist site Namkad Yorapa in Xay District to attract more visitors to the province. Activities include: caving, cycling, trekking and climbing.
- Flights are launched on Vietnam Airlines from Vientiane in Laos to Vinh in Vietnam.
- One-stop-shop is officially launched by Lao and Vietnamese governments at the Lao Bao/Quang Tri (Vietnam) and Densavan/Savannakhet (Laos) border gates. Previously border crossings involved numerous steps and stops to cross, costing time and reducing efficiency. Immigration and customs procedures are now simplified in line with other overland crossings.
- Bagan loses ‘best city’ recognition to Luang Prabang in the 2015 Wanderlust Travel awards.
- Pandaw Cruises to launch Lao vessel in 2015. The 10-night itinerary will have its first departure in November 2015. The tentative route is: Vientiane – Ban Paklay – Tha Deua – Luang Prabang. There will be a stop at Pak Ou caves and the program will end in Chiang Khong, Thailand.
- Last autumn the Lao government signed a deal with the Chinese government to build a new high-speed railway direct from Kunming in China via Luang Prabang and Vientiane to Bangkok. If this controversial development goes ahead the 296-mile line will be one of the world’s most dramatic civil engineering projects.
- Last year, LANITH (Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality) won the WTTC People Award for demonstrating excellence in capacity building, training and education to build a skilled tourism workforce for the future. This year’s finalists are Confortel (Spain), Global Travel and Tourism Partnership (USA), and Mountain Sheperds Initiative (India).
- An ecotourism project in a remote part of Laos has won the World Responsible Tourism Award for Best Responsible Wildlife Experience. The Nam Nern Night Safari, an ecotour in Laos’ Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area in Houaphan Province, was recognized by the World Travel Mart for its innovative approach to generating benefits for local communities.
- Trang An in Ninh Binh Province was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At Khiri Travel, we much prefer this site to the over touristy Tam Coc.
- A new international terminal opened at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport.
- 3G coverage now reaches the top of Vietnam’s climbing hotspot, Fansipan, dubbed the “Roof of Indochina.”
- The national air carrier, Vietnam Airlines, plans to offer inflight Wi-Fi for both international and domestic routes this May.
- Flights from Hanoi to London Heathrow to operate five times per week starting 31 March. Daily service will commence in July when the airline starts deploying its new fleet of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. This follows the rise of UK arrivals into Vietnam 40% year on year.
- Vietnam trains are offering free Wi-Fi access since late January.
- A record lava cave system is discovered in central Vietnam.
- Vietnam is mulling a unilateral visa waiver for travelers from France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, India and Canada.
- The Kunming (China) to Lao Cai (Vietnam) railway border crossing will soon be a reality as each country considers connecting the two and opening up the border area. Travel time would then take 6.5 hours.
- At the end of September 2014, the new highway from Hanoi to Lao Cai was already opened replacing Highway 70 that previously took 7-8 hours and 348 km. The new highway cuts the journey to 3.5 hours and 245 km.
- The Ho Chi Minh City – Long Thanh – Dau Giay expressway opened to traffic in February 2015 slashing travel times from Ho Chi Minh City to other provinces.
- Luxury 5-star carriages opened on the north to south train with soft sleeper beds and modern bathroom facilities.
- With the building of a new bridge over the Mekong River and the improvement of the Vietnamese border crossing at Neak Loeung, overland travel time between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City will soon be cut by one hour.
- A new museum in Kampot opened on 28 January. Three of the city’s French colonial buildings have been restored including the custard yellow Governor’s Mansion in which the new museum is housed. The exhibition consists of photographs, paintings and artifacts, some of which are pre-Angkorian and originate from sites around Kampot Province.
- Bayon Airlines, a new airline for Cambodia, opened at the start of the year adding another airline to Cambodia’s growing flight options. It has flights between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
- The Cambodian government launches a campaign to cut road accidents with the passage of some new road safety laws.
- A new road, to be completed later this year, will open in Sisaket linking Thailand to Siem Reap. The Thai ministry of transport is also planning a bus route.
- Several floating bungalows opened in Phnom Penh on the Mekong River. Originally intended as an experiment in energy-efficient living, the Mekong floating bungalows have become one of the rivers’ most romantic spots for an overnight getaway. Sunset cruises to the bungalows are also available. To book overnights at the floating bungalows on the Mekong River, please contact the Khiri Travel Cambodia team via the form below.
- Direct flights from Siem Reap to Phu Quoc, Vietnam are now possible without a Vietnam visa. In a bid to promote the destination, the authorities have created a visa waiver for direct flights to the island.
- Cambodia mulls hosting its own travel trade show later in 2015.
- Last Saturday in Siem Reap, the Giant Puppet Parade took place. This year was the 9th time the annual event took place around the Angkor temples. Children created the puppets themselves in workshops organized by art students from Phare Ponleu Selpak.
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