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Updated Information about 10 Year Thai Visa for Senior Tourists

Updated Information about 10 Year Thai Visa for Senior Tourists

The Thai government has approved the extension of long-stay visas for senior tourists from one year to ten years. The new visa will cost 10,000 Baht. The Ministry of Public Health reported to the Cabinet on 22 November 2016 that the number of foreign senior citizens seeking to stay in Thailand for a long period is on the rise. As Thailand aims to develop itself as a Medical and Wellness Tourism Center, the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports in their joint meeting agreed to create a new long-stay visa of 10 years. The extension will be offered for tourists from 14 countries, namely Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Extension of the Duration of Stay for Non-Immigrant Visa (Long Stay Visa)

The criteria are as following:

1.1 The age of applicants must be at least 50 years of age and are required to apply for the O-A visa at the Thai Consulate in their respected countries, or if a tourist travelling with a different visa wishes to change their visa type to O-A they are able to but they will be issued a multiple entry O-A visa for a duration of 5 years and are able to apply for another 5 year renewal of the O-A visa.

1.2 The fee for the O-A visa is 10,000 THB

1.3 The applicant must submit their bank statement with a minimum balance of 3 million THB or evidence of a minimum monthly income of 100,000 THB. When renewing the O-A visa, the applicant must again submit their bank statement with the balance no less than the previous submission for the visa, and also evidence of a minimum monthly income of 100,000 THB. Though within the first year of the 5 year period, the applicant must maintain the balance of 3 million THB or minimum monthly income of 100,000 THB, after which the applicant must not withdraw more than 50% of that sum. The applicant must also submit their withdraw statements for payments in Thailand.

1.4 The applicant must submit their Medical Insurance with 1 year validity and covering the following amount; inpatient, minimum of 10,000 USD, outpatient minimum of 1,000 USD per year.

1.5 Report to the Immigration Bureau once every 90 days.

1.6 Applicants are able to bring over their spouse and children, in the case of the spouse being at least 50 years of age, they are also able to apply for an O-A visa and also have to submit their bank statement. If the spouse is less than 50 years of age then they will receive an O visa, for children under the age of 21, are able to accompany their family to Thailand for education and will receive a non-immigrant visa type (ED). They are able to purchase vehicles, condominiums in Thailand (with reference to the Condominium Act of 1981) with the cash being transferred from their native bank to the Thai bank account. Also, the Thai bank must issue a letter certifying the said transfer.

PLEASE NOTE: A 1 year O-A visa is still available for those who do not meet the criteria for 10 year O-A visas.

COMMENT UPDATE on 15 December 2017: The new retirement visa is an initiative between the Ministries of Public Health & Tourism. It has been passed by the Cabinet & is now with the Ministry of Interior. There are no confirmed details yet about what it will include. It will take at least three more months to finish. The above information was sent to me by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. Some details may change. I will update this page if I hear of any changes.

Source: Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports

Thailand’s crown prince proclaimed King Rama X

Thailand’s crown prince proclaimed King Rama X

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will be crowned King Rama X of the Royal House of Chakri, succeeding His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, who passed away on 13 October 2016.

His Royal Highness the Crown Prince is the only son, the second of four children, of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. He was born in Bangkok on 28 July 1952. After completing his primary education in Thailand, His Royal Highness attended secondary school in England and then enrolled at Australia’s King’s School and University of New South Wales, in the Faculty of Military Studies.

Upon his return to Thailand, the Crown Prince took up his duties, which, besides serving in the Royal Thai Armed Forces, included representing His Majesty the late King at a wide variety of official functions and ceremonies. He accompanied the late King and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on visits to the rural remote areas to help ease local people’s problems. His Royal Highness was invested as Crown Prince by King Bhumibol on 28 December 1972.

With funds donated by the public, he established the “Crown Prince Hospitals” to serve as medical and health care centers for people living in remote areas. By the year 1977, Crown Prince Hospitals had been set up in 21 locations. As of the year 2011, these hospitals had become major community hospitals providing services of international standard to the general public.

Also interested in agricultural development, His Royal Highness has accepted the “Mobile Agricultural Clinic Project” under his patronage. The project provides prompt services to farmers in order to enhance efficiency in farm production and solve farmers’ problems. It comprises experts in various agricultural fields who can advise farmers on plants, livestock, fisheries, and land development.

His Royal Highness also offers suggestions on the tackling of agricultural problems, in addition to the application of agricultural technology to increase productivity and the improvement in the quality of agricultural production. He emphasizes full-cycle agricultural activities, considering that they will help improve the quality of life of farmers.

Aware of the importance of education, His Royal Highness initiated the establishment of “His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Scholarship” in 2009. The scholarship program has been operating with His Royal Highness’s personal funds as well as donated funds presented to him for charitable purposes. The funds have been used to support education for needy students on a continual basis.

His Royal Highness has followed in the footsteps of His Majesty the late King, who commanded great love and respect among the people.

Popular Tweets about Thailand in November 2016

Popular Tweets about Thailand in November 2016

The following are my most popular tweets about Thailand for November 2016. They are not necessarily the most retweeted, but they are the ones that got the most engagement on Twitter.

1. After the death of King Bhumibol, the national flag was flown at half mast across the nation for 30 days. My most popular tweet for November was just informing people that the last day for this would be 13 November.

2. Everyone expected the Crown Prince to be proclaimed the new King straight away. But, there was a delay. However, things are now back on course to proclaim the Crown Prince as King Rama X.

3. There is no official portrait or even emblem for the soon-to-be King, but the very next day after the Thai Cabinet acknowledged the Crown Prince as the next King, the front pages of the newspapers were dominated by this news.

4. Since the passing of King Bhumibol, countless thousands, if not millions by now, of people visited the Grand Palace to pay respects. One of the more unusual visitors were these elephants who had come from nearby Ayutthaya.

5. The Fine Arts Department decided to make all national museums and historical parks in Thailand free until 31 January as a way to honor the King.

6. The good thing about drone photos is that they give you a new perspective. I particularly like the shots straight down of ancient ruins and seeing how symmetrical they are.

7. New train carriages have been arriving in the Thailand over the last few months. They are now being put into service on various routes. This is the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I already tried to book a sleeper but the new carriages were all booked up.

8. Loy Krathong is one of the most popular festivals in Thailand. However, the downside to this event is the environmental impact. Thousands of people float foam based krathongs which pollute the waterways. Over recent years, that has been a growing campaign to encourage people to use krathongs made from biodegradable materials. One event I visited this year, most krathongs were made from bread.

9. This is a problem at the airports that never seems to go away. There never seems to be enough Immigration staff on duty. However, it is not like this all day. If they did increase the number of staff, they wouldn’t have a fulltime job. The majority would only be needed for peak times. Their argument is that there is no money available for more staff.

10. After the death of King Bhumibol, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace was temporaily closed to tourists. However, it has now re-opened.

11. I went during the first week the Emerald Buddha Temple was re-opened. Unlike previous visits, it was easier to take photos without people getting into your shot. The number of tourists has now returned to normal.

12. Some more drone photos. These ones are of my visit to Lopburi for the annual Monkey Party. The palace is presently free to all visitors until 31 January 2017.

13. One of the most amazing tourist attractions in Pattaya is the Sanctuary of Truth, a wooden palace. They have been working on this for many years and it seems far from finished.

14. Variety is always good as it makes life more interesting. The previous week I had my own villa and private pool. Then I went to this! But, it was alright. I only stayed here for one night and checked out early in the morning. 

15. A fun festival that takes place every year in Thailand is the Monkey Party in Lopburi. This city is famous for the monkeys which attract thousands of tourists every year. As a way to say thank you to them, local businesses put on a buffet meal for the monkeys every year at the end of November.

16. One of the most unusual temple buildings in Thailand is this one at Wat Niwet Thammaprawat. On the outside it looks like a Christian church. But inside there is a Buddha image and monk.

17. One of my favourite floating markets around Bangkok is Khlong Lat Mayom in the Western suburbs. 

Thanks to everyone who engaged with my tweets during November. I got an average of 460 retweets per day, 373 likes per day and 28 replies per day. The majority of my tweets are about Thailand, where I have lived for twenty two years. I tweet the good, the bad and the ugly about the country, but as many people have noted, I mainly only see the good. Please don’t blame me for that. I don’t get paid to tweet, nor do I accept payment for tweets. If I like it, I will tweet it. If you have an upcoming event or have opened a new attraction that might be of interest, then please let me know. See you on Twitter at @RichardBarrow.

Ten Long Weekends in Thailand during 2017

Ten Long Weekends in Thailand during 2017

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During 2017, there are ten long holidays in Thailand. These are as follows:

  • New Year’s Day: Saturday 31st December 2016 to Tuesday 3rd January 2017
  • Makha Bucha Day: Saturday 11th February to Monday 13th February 2017
  • Songkran: Thursday 13th April to Monday 17th April 2017
  • May Day: Saturday 29th April to Monday 1st May 2017
  • Coronation Day: Friday 5th May to Sunday 7th May 2017
  • Asanha Bucha & Khao Phansa: Saturday 8th to Tuesday 11th July 2017
  • Mother’s Day: Saturday 12th August to Monday 14th August 2017
  • Chulalongkorn Day: Saturday 21st October to Monday 23rd October 2017
  • Constitution Day: Saturday 9th December to Monday 11th December 2017
  • New Year’s Day: Saturday 30th December 2017 to Tuesday 2nd January 2018

Source: Kapook.com

How to visit the Grand Palace during the Mourning Period

How to visit the Grand Palace during the Mourning Period

After the death of King Bhumibol, access to The Grand Palace and The Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok was restricted. However, since 1st November 2016, the doors were once again opened for foreign tourists. Although it’s not compulsory for you to wear black clothes, you are asked to dress respectfully and to wear muted colours or a black ribbon. Tickets are still 500 Baht. You may be asked to show your passport and your bags will be checked. These are the photos that I tweeted during the first week that the palace was re-opened.

Latest Situation in Thailand after the death of King Bhumibol

Latest Situation in Thailand after the death of King Bhumibol

It was with great sadness that I heard the news about the death of King Bhumibol. I was with a group of Thai friends at the time and it was very emotional. We all knew this time was coming, but it hit everyone hard. Thais and foreigners alike. Everyone had tears in their eyes for a great man that had done so many great things for the country. The initial mourning period will last for 30 days, but funeral rites will last for 100 days. Government officials will be wearing black for one year. This will then be followed by the royal cremation.

Please scroll down for latest updates >>>>

Ever since the announcement of His Majesty’s death, I have been tweeting live updates on @RichardBarrow to inform people of the situation. At times like this, it is difficult to get accurate information, and that is when Twitter becomes invaluable. Even more so in a foreign country where you don’t speak the local language. The majority of my tweets are translated from the Thai media to help foreigners better understand the latest situation. I decided to start this page after I saw a lot of misinformation being put out on social media and in the international press. I was also getting a lot of questions about what it is like in Thailand at this moment and what, if anything is open. So, this is a guide to my observations so far. Please come back as I will constantly update this page. Also, I suggest you follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow for any breaking news and updates.

UPDATE: Please read my exclusive interview with the Thai Tourism Minister on what to expect in Thailand over the coming months.

Tourists are NOT expected to wear black for the next 30 days (up to 13 November 2016). However, if you are able, I am sure the Thais would appreciate it if you wore muted colours. If not, it is possible to buy a black ribbon to pin on your shirt. Please be respectful at all times when around Thais. They are in deep mourning. But, life goes on. For Thais too. The King himself said that he didn’t want people to weep at his passing. Everything is open as normal though some events have been adjusted to be more appropriate.

LATEST UPDATE (4th November 2016):

  • Temple Fair in Nakhon Pathom “งานมนัสการองค์พระปฐมเจดีย์” is taking place as scheduled from 11-19 November 2016
  • Loy Krathong festival is not cancelled this year. It takes place on full moon on 14 November
  • The Giant Christmas Hope Fair on 29 November is going ahead as planned at the Rembrandt Hotel
  • The popular Ploenchit Fair at Bangkok Patana School is going ahead as planned on 26 November 2016
  • It’s official! Football supporters at the upcoming match between Thailand and Australia can cheer as normal
  • Entertainment activities can resume Nov 14
  • Culture Collective Studio presents “12 Angry Men” from 18-27 November in Bangkok.
  • Festival in Pattaya has been rescheduled from December to 16-19 February 2017
  • TMB Parkrun 2016, originally scheduled for November, has been postponed until 5 March 2017
  • Thailand Harmony World Puppet Festival, originally scheduled for November, will now take place from 20-26 February 2017
  • Parties for Halloween, Xmas & New Year can go ahead as normal with loud music behind doors. But if outside, must be adjusted appropriately.
  • The annual Monkey Party in Lopburi is going ahead as planned on Sunday 27 November 2016. Everyone is welcome
  • Loy Krathong Festival in Sukhothai is confirmed to be going ahead from 10-14 November 2016
  • Public access to Dusit Maha Prasart Throne Hall to pay respect to the royal urn postponed to Saturday
  • The Full Moon Party scheduled for 14th November will now take place on 15th November 2016
  • My friend was at the Ratchada Train Market in Bangkok the other night, and she said it was packed, with music blasting out as normal
  • There are no plans to cancel the Ayutthaya Marathon. It is going ahead as scheduled on 11 December 2016
  • At the World Cup qualifier next month in #Bangkok between Thailand & Australia, you must wear black, grey or white & you can’t sing or cheer
  • UPDATE: The Laguna Phuket Triathlon, scheduled for 20 November, is NOT cancelled any more. Please tell your friends
  • It looks like all concerts & major entertainment will be cancelled or postponed during the 100 day period. This is up to about 21 January. So, this would include new years celebrations. Certainly no fireworks or Countdown events.
  • Department of Fine Arts has announced that ALL national museums & historical parks in Thailand will be FREE for EVERYONE from 20 Oct-31 Jan
  • Grand Palace and Temple of Emerald Buddha remain closed to tourists until October 31
  • Facebook has announced that delivery of ads in Thailand will resume on 21 October at 00:01 hrs
  • New Royal Anthem performance to be filmed on Saturday 22 October at Sanam Luang from 1pm. You can take part in it. Please wear black.
  • Three or four public holidays next year could change according to the Bangkok Post. This includes Coronation Day and Kings Birthday. Possibly also Queens Birthday. Speculation is that 13 October will now become a public holiday. It is not known yet what will happen to Fathers Day. Hopefully it will stay on 5th December.
  • Photos posted on social media show that the nightlife is starting to get back to normal one week later. This includes lights and music. But, this will vary around the country. No clear picture yet.
  • Reports sent to me from around Thailand show that not as many people outside of Bangkok are wearing black. So, don’t worry about standing out. In tourist areas, life goes on. Just be respectful if around mourners.
  • Mourners will be allowed to pay their respects to the royal urn from Friday 28 October (The body of King Bhumibol is in a coffin nearby). A cremation pyre will be built on Sanam Luang. However, the cremation is not expected to take place until at least after one year
  • Outside of the metropolitan areas not all Thais are wearing black. The ones that are, said they will only wear for 30 days. Some for 1 year. Like I said before, tourists are not expected to wear black or white. Muted colors appreciated but not compulsory. Same with black ribbon.
  • Chiang Mai Yi Peng Lantern Festival at Tha Phae Gate on 13-15 November is NOT cancelled now, though there will be no music or entertainment
  • People can organise weddings, ordinations and sporting events, but no music or entertainment
  • Nightclubs are allowed to open and sell beer, but they mustn’t organize any special activities or play loud music. Basically, they are allowed to continue as long as they keep it behind close doors and are respectful.
  • People are allowed to organize weddings, ordinations and sporting events, but no music and entertainment.
  • Shows aimed at tourists are all open as normal, this includes Siam Niramit, Alcazar Cabaret, Tiffany’s Show, Calypso, Muay Thai Live etc.
  • Loy Krathong is allowed to take place on 14th November, but music and entertainment is not allowed. Basically people will go to the local canal and river to float their krathongs.
  • Cinemas, ice rinks, zoos, tourist attractions are all open as normal. Night markets in Bangkok opened as normal at the weekend
  • Places like Dream World and Safari World are open as normal, though the parade at Dream World is cancelled for 30 days
  • In Chiang Mai, the famous Night Bazaar and Walking Street opened as well.
  • Shopping malls are all open as normal. Local markets in Chinatown, Pratunam, and Bo Bae were all packed over the weekend. Chatuchak Weekend Market was open as well, but as shops are individually owned, some chose not to open as they wanted to go to the Grand Palace. We expect them to be fully open next weekend.
  • The Temple of the Emerald Buddha and The Grand Palace is closed to tourists. However, you are allowed to go and pay respects to his portrait (if you are wearing black) at the Sa­hathai Sa­makhom Hall in the Grand Palace be­tween 8.30am & 4pm. Starting from 28 October, the public can pay respects to King Bhumibol’s urn in the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall from 9am-4pm
  • Every other temple around the country is open as normal. This includes the historical parks in Ayutthaya and Sukhothai.
  • Dinner Cruises on Chaophraya River are continuing though they won’t play any music and will dim the lights

WHAT IS CANCELLED?

  • CentralWorld cancels New Year Countdown Party & Beer Garden
  • The Scorpions 50th Anniversary World Tour, scheduled for 26 October, has been cancelled
  • Wonderfruit Festival, originally scheduled for December, has been postponed until 16-19 February 2017
  • The Big Mountain Music Festival, scheduled for 10-11 December, is cancelled
  • The annual temple fair at Wat Saket and the Golden Mount, scheduled for 7-16 November, is cancelled
  • BDMS Bangkok Marathon 2016, scheduled for 20th November, has been postponed until 12th February 2017
  • The annual Patong Carnival has been cancelled this year
  • Luang Pho Pan Festival parade by boat & truck in Khlong Dan, Samut Prakan, has been cancelled.
  • “Bryan Adams The Get Up Tour Live in Bangkok” and “Blue Man Group” have been postponed. No new dates announced
  • The annual Elephant Roundup in Surin, scheduled to be held from 19-20 November 2016, has been cancelled
  • Asia’s First Ever All-Girl Battle of the Bands Competition, scheduled for 21-23 October, has been postponed
  • Full Moon Party cancelled on 17th October. The next one is going ahead
  • Hellfire Pass Memorial and Walking Trail will be closed from 14-16 October
  • The Sound of Heritage concert scheduled for 21 October is cancelled
  • Lumpinee Boxing Stadium and other Muay Thai rings in Bangkok are closed for one month. Lumpinee will re-open on 15th November
  • Bangkok Street Show, scheduled for 10-12 December has been postponed
  • Pattaya International Fireworks Festival, scheduled for 25-26 November, has been cancelled
  • The Illuminated Boat Procession, scheduled for 9-17 October, has been cancelled
  • Naga Fireball World Festival in Nong Khai, scheduled for 15-24 October, has been cancelled
  • Bangkok International Festival of Dance and Music is cancelled
  • Morrissey Live in Bangkok scheduled for 18 October is cancelled
  • Scorpions 50th Anniversary Tour, scheduled for 26 October, is cancelled
  • New Year celebrations in Pattaya are cancelled

It is expected more will be added and possibly some cancellations rescinded. Come back as I will update the above list daily to make changes. New additions will be added to the top of the list.

THE SITUATION DURING THE FIRST THREE DAYS:

  • King Bhumibol died at 3:52 p.m. on Thursday 13th October 2016. The announcement was made to the nation shortly before 7 p.m.
  • Flags to be flown at half staff for 30 days. Most Thais expected to wear black, grey or white for 30 days. Government officials to wear black for one year.
  • Over the first few days, people were in shock. Entertainment venues were asked to close or at least turn off the lights and music, and shut the doors. Many places also stopped selling alcohol over the weekend.
  • Quite a few events scheduled over the first three days were cancelled or were toned down. Some cinemas shut their doors on the day after the death of His Majesty. Local Immigration offices shut for one day.
  • There were no advertisements on the electronic billboards and on the skytrain. Mannequins in the shops were all dressed in black.
  • On Saturday, the annual Buffalo Racing in Chonburi was cancelled, though the Buddhist boat parade in Bang Phli went ahead. It was confusing to know what would be acceptable.
  • On Sunday, the malls were packed. Cinemas open as normal. People eating in the restaurants. Life goes on.
  • All airports continued to operate as normal. All transportation networks, buses, trains and boats, continued as normal.

Please follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow for all the latest breaking news and updates.

What Happens Next? Interview with the Thai Tourism Minister

What Happens Next? Interview with the Thai Tourism Minister

On Monday the Minister of Tourism, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, briefed the ambassadors and other foreign diplomats on the situation in Thailand following the passing of King Bhumibol. The theme of her presentation was “Life Goes On” (download here). A couple of the ambassadors posted a few of the power point slides. Which was kind of them, but not very helpful for me. So, I tweeted that it would be nice if the Minister also briefed travel writers based in Thailand. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but as it turned out, the Minister’s sister follows me on Twitter. Apparently she told Kobkarn about what I was tweeting and she immediately invited me in for my own private briefing. Which is what I did on Wednesday. Below are some of my notes and observations.

First to say, there has been no situation like this for the last seventy years. There is no script of how to handle the grieving. I know it may sound strange as we all knew this day was coming. But, there is a Thai superstition that if you talk about it in advance, it is like you are inviting that bad event to happen. So, there was no discussion of what to do the day that the King died. Of course, everyone was in deep shock for the first three or so days. The King wasn’t your average King. He was literally the Father of the Nation and his death was a great loss to the Kingdom.

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The immediate reaction was to call for a year of mourning and to cancel all of the upcoming events. But, as time passed, they realized that this wasn’t really practical or sustainable. After all, over four million Thais depend on the tourism industry and this kind of closure would hurt not only them, but the country too. And so, as the days go on, we are starting to see some of the earlier events being reinstated. However, they are being adapted to make them more appropriate for the mourning period.

The problem we have is that no-one knows how the Thais will feel two, three, or even four months down the road. What is appropriate for New Year? What is appropriate for Christmas? When the King first died they were saying, cancel for sure. Now they are saying that these events can go ahead but need to be adjusted appropriately. But, no-one can say yet what exactly that means. Like I said, no-one knows what the mood will be like in a few months. The same goes for Songkran. Will they want to celebrate by that time? They just cannot answer that question yet. And it would be wrong of us to try and push them on this.

mots7

Another problem is that not everyone will grieve in the same way. Although the government has issued guidelines on what is appropriate at the different times, not everyone will follow in the same way. For example, there is a 30 day mourning period and most people are wearing black. After that, some will choose to wear normal clothes again. The funeral rites last for 100 days and so we will probably find some people wearing black for those 100 days. Then there are people like government workers who will wear black for one year. The same goes for owners of hotels and nightclubs. Some have already turned the music on. Others will wait longer. It is up to them. That is why it is not consistent across the country.

Khun Kobkarn told me that all cultural, religious and sporting events can go ahead as normal, but they must adapt the mood and tone to respect the Thai people. So, no loud music or fireworks. The focus will now be on the cultural and religious side of the events. There will be some limitations during the first 30 days of mourning up to 13th November. After that, she expects things to get back to more like normal. However, as the funeral rites last for 100 days, until 21st January, they are asking people to celebrate in an appropriate manner. But, what exactly does this mean? As we have seen, people are going to interpret that in different ways.

WORLD CUP QUALIFIER: The international football match between Australia and Thailand is going ahead. However, the Thai FA announced strict rules like no cheering and chanting, no banners and the Thai team cannot wear their normal colourful shirts. However, that was the initial reaction. As it is outside the 30 day mourning period, it is possible the rules will be softened. After all, they would be cheering for the national team, for King and Country. The Minister said she would like to see that but it is the decision of the Thai FA.

HALLOWEEN: This is arguably a cultural event though not one from Thailand. It is an adopted tradition from elsewhere in the world. There are no bans on parties behind closed doors which means Halloween can go on as scheduled.

LOY KRATHONG: As this is a cultural event, it will go ahead as planned. Most of the activities won’t change, but there will be no concerts, fireworks or any beauty contests. However, people can float krathongs and take part in cultural activities.

CHRISTMAS: This is a religious activity and so it isn’t cancelled. Christian schools can go ahead with their normal events to celebrate the birth of Jesus. There will be Christmas decorations up in Bangkok and across the country. But, it is too early to say what this will be like. It will be up to the owners of malls and private buildings as to what is appropriate. There will be trees covered in lights for sure. But it is not clear about the colours. It was suggested that colours like gold might be good to represent the king. Christmas carols will also most likely be played. Though, if we are lucky, not so loud and not literally everywhere.

NEW YEAR COUNTDOWN: There will be a public countdown for sure. Though it is not clear yet how they will make this appropriate. It is also doubtful there will be fireworks. There will be music, but they are not sure what kind yet. However, if you attend a private countdown party in a club or hotel, then they will continue exactly the same as last year.

UPDATE: CentralWorld has announced they won’t be organizing a Countdown this year. Nor will they have beer gardens

CHINESE NEW YEAR: This is a cultural and religious event and so will continue. At this moment in time, they are saying it can go ahead and people can wear red. But they should also wear a black ribbon.

SONGKRAN: Again, this is a cultural event with religious overtones. So, this will be going ahead for sure. However, it will be adapted to be more traditional with a gentle sprinkling of water instead of wild water fights. All of the cultural sides of the festival will be emphasized and promoted. In some way, I think this might be a really good Songkran.

I hope that gives you a clearer idea of what is happening now and in the future in Thailand. There will be further updates soon and so please stay tuned (See my Situation Updates). If you are planning on coming to Thailand for a holiday, then I would say there is no reason to cancel. Everything is open as normal. This includes, shopping malls, markets and tourist attractions. The only place closed at the moment is the Grand Palace and that will re-open on 1st November 2016. As far as nightlife goes, they are open again, serving alcohol and playing music behind closed doors. Though some are closing earlier than normal. Once, the 30 day mourning period finishes in mid-November, it should be back to normal.

You can tweet me question on @RichardBarrow or Facebook or post comments below. Thank you.

How the public can pay respects to King Bhumibol

How the public can pay respects to King Bhumibol

The Bureau of the Royal Household has announced that during the 100-day Royal Funeral Rites, the general public are allowed to pay respect and write messages of condolence to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace as follows:

• Every day 08.30-16.00 Hrs.: Sala Sahathai Samakom Pavilion.
Pay respect to His Majesty the King’s royal remains at Dusit Maha Prasat Hall.
• 29 October 2016, 13.00-16.00 Hrs. (changed from 28 October)

To facilitate members of the public to travel to pay their respect to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports in collaboration with the public and private tourism sector is providing transportation and preparing special arrangements, starting from 17 October, 2016, as follows:

1. For members of the public wishing to travel to the Sala Sahathai Samakhom Pavilion at the Grand Palace, in the Sanam Luang area, the Thai Transportation Operators Association, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Royal Thai Police are providing free bus services from 17-24 October, 2016, 08:30 – 15.00 Hrs. The hourly bus services cover four routes, starting from the National Stadium, Victory Monument, Wongwian Yai BTS Station, and the Bangkok Bus Terminal in Talingchan, to Sanam Luang.

2. For members of the public in the Ramkhamhaeng area and within the vicinity of the Sports Authority of Thailand who are unable to visit the Sanam Luang area, they will be able to pay their respect and write messages of condolence in front of the late monarch’s portrait at the Sports Authority of Thailand’s Commemorating His Majesty’s 7th Cycle Birthday Anniversary Building. In addition, the national broadcast of the 100-day prayers during the Royal Funeral Rites will be made available on two large LED screens in front of the Building. These broadcasts will begin on Monday, 17 October, from 09.00 Hrs. onwards.

3. For members of the public in the city centre, including Siam Square, MBK Complex and within the vicinity of the National Stadium who are unable to visit the Sanam Luang area, the Department of Physical Education, Ministry of Tourism and Sports has prepared a book of condolences for the general public to pay their respect and write messages of condolence in front of the late monarch’s portrait at the National Stadium. In addition, the national broadcast of the 100-day prayers during the Royal Funeral Rites will be made available at the Nimibutr Building. Members of the public are advised to travel to the National Stadium by the BTS Skytrain, getting off at the National Stadium Station.

In addition, the number of trains coming to Bangkok has been increased to 150 from 132. The State Railway of Thailand began adding extra carriages and extra trains for free to Bangkok from Friday, 14 October, 2016, onwards. An additional 64 carriages a day are now available on trains operating between Bangkok and the surrounding provinces. For more information, please contact the State Railway of Thailand Call Centre at 1690.

During the period of national mourning, TAT would like to advise that some festivals and activities in the kingdom may be cancelled or postponed. Other events will go ahead as planned, but may be toned down as a mark of respect. We would like to recommend that any visitors with travel or tourism plans reconfirm with agents and check local media regularly as well as follow the advice of the local authorities for announcements and updates. Also, please check directly with the respective organisers on the status of events.

For further updates, please click here.

Useful Links:
The Bureau of the Royal Household – in Thai
The Royal Thai Government – in English
The Government Public Relations Department – In English
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs – In English
TAT Contact Center

Source: Press Release from TAT

Brian Davidson named as next British Ambassador to Thailand

Brian Davidson named as next British Ambassador to Thailand

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British Ambassador to Thailand Mark Kent is now in his last year at the embassy in Bangkok. There is no news yet where he will be going next, but the Foreign & Commonwealth Office has just announced the name of his successor.

Mr Brian Davidson has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand in succession to Mr Mark Kent, who will be transferring to another Diplomatic Service appointment. Mr Davidson will take up his appointment during September 2016.

Mr Brian Davidson was born in 1964 and grew up in Holywood, Northern Ireland. Brian was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Law at Trinity College, Cambridge before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1985. In September 2014, Brian married his American boyfriend Scott Chang in a ceremony officiated by British Ambassador Sir Sebastian Wood at the Ambassador’s residence in Beijing.

Brian Davidson is presently the Consul General in Shanghai. Although he won’t take up his role as ambassador for another year, he is undoubtedly already undergoing Thai language training in China. He is then expected to fine tune this here in Thailand in the months leading up to taking his post as ambassador in September 2016. He certainly has some big shoes to fill as Mark Kent is fluent in Thai and very active in the British and Thai community. Mark Kent is also active on Twitter (@KentBKK) with many Thai followers. It is not known yet if Brian Davidson will also be as accessible to the British community as Mark Kent.

Source: FCO and Wiki

48 Hour Alcohol Ban in Thailand from 30-31 July 2015

48 Hour Alcohol Ban in Thailand from 30-31 July 2015

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There will be a ban of alcohol in Thailand for 48 hours on Thursday 30th July and Friday 31st July due to the Buddhist holiday. The ban is expected to start one minute past midnight on Wednesday night and continue to midnight on Friday night. The fine for selling alcohol during the Buddhist holiday is up to 6 months in prison and/or 10,000 Baht fine. However, some hotels will have exemption if most of their guests are foreigners.

A survey, conducted by the National Statistical Office in 2014, shows that among six million Thai youths, aged between 19 and 24 years, 1.5 million are alcohol drinkers, accounting for 25 percent. The number of male alcohol drinkers is fourfold higher than female drinkers. Among those consuming alcohol, 54 percent are heavy drinkers. A report issued by the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board shows that Thai people spent 41.39 million baht on alcoholic drinks in 2014, an increase of 2.1 percent over the figure for 2013.

How Does Lifting of Martial Law Affect Tourists Coming to Thailand?

How Does Lifting of Martial Law Affect Tourists Coming to Thailand?

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After nearly ten months, martial law has been lifted in much of Thailand. Though we shouldn’t forget that it continues in the deep south as it’s a separate issue due to the ongoing insurgency. Martial law came into affect across Thailand shortly before the coup last year. The good news is that it has now been lifted. The bad news, is that the military junta has invoked Article 44 which basically gives them absolute power over the Thai people and any foreigners living here.

So, how does the lifting of Martial Law affect tourists? Well, on the surface, nothing has really changed as I think the majority of them didn’t really know what was happening in Thailand. The ones I spoke to had recollections of some protests a year or so ago, but the majority thought that the troubles were all in the past. Of course, that is not so. Tourists should have been aware that having Martial Law in Thailand probably meant that their insurance was invalid. You cannot really blame the tourists as you hardly see any soldiers, and any police you see are usually traffic cops.

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I was at an event today that was attended by Ms. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the Minister of Tourism and Sports. I managed to ask her a quick question as she was leaving. Though there was no time for any follow ups as she was already late for her next engagement. This is the transcript of what she told me

How does the lifting of the martial law affect foreign tourists?

Kobkarn: It will benefit them.

In what way?

Kobkarn: Because of the confidence. Like for example the Japanese. They have asked us many times whether we can change the name. Because “martial law” to them is very strong. It’s something related to war. That kind of thing. So with this they will have more confidence. And that another part that will help a lot will be, I think, the MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions]. Because some of them were reluctant to come to Thailand because of the insurance companies. But I believe the insurance [companies] should be happy to accept Thailand now.

From what I am reading here is that it’s just the name that has been changed; from Martial Law to Article 44. Basically superficial window dressing to make insurance companies, MICE organisers, and foreign tourists happy. But, will it work? Will insurance companies fall for this sleight of hand? If tourists are now fully insured should they still come to Thailand for a holiday without any concerns?

There is still a lot more I want to find out about Article 44 before I make up my own mind. I also need to give some thought as to whether I should continue promoting Thailand as a tourist destination. I have received a certain amount of criticism from certain quarters regarding this. The pressure is similar to the call for travel boycotts to Burma in the past. I had previously dismissed this by saying it’s not the same in Thailand and that the generals will soon give power back to the people. But, these days I’m not so sure.

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At the moment, my heart says continue promoting Thailand for the people and the country that I love. The hope is that one day there will be light at the end of the tunnel and that things will get back to normal. But, I know full well that it won’t ever be the Thailand that I fell in love with when I first came here over twenty years ago. I am also realistic that the day might come when I should stop promoting Thailand as a tourist destination. But that will never mean that I have stopped loving the country.

What do you think? Has the time come for me to hang up my hat or should I continue as normal?

Motto for Children’s Day 2015 in Thailand

Motto for Children’s Day 2015 in Thailand

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In Thailand, they celebrate National Children’s Day (Wan Dek) on the second Saturday of January every year. This year it is on Saturday 10th January 2015. Each year many places like Government House and armed forces bases put on special activities for children. In addition, many attractions allow children in for free or at least at a reduced price. Even the BTS Skytrain and MRT Metro allow children to ride for free on this day. Follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow for news about where you can take your kids this Saturday.

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A few weeks beforehand, the Thai Prime Minister will announce the motto for Children’s Day. It’s different each year. Here is what was chosen for this year:

คำขวัญวันเด็กแห่งชาติ 2558: ความรู้ คู่คุณธรรม นำสู่อนาคต

Children’s Day 2015 Motto: “With knowledge and morality comes a brighter future”

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The National Children’s Day celebration was held for the first time in Thailand on the first Monday of October 1955, and later, it was changed to the second Saturday of January. The organizing of Children’s Day is aimed at raising public awareness of the importance of children and youth, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Nonthaburi 1 Bridge to Open on 26 December

Nonthaburi 1 Bridge to Open on 26 December

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The latest bridge to be built across the Chao Phraya River is called the Nonthaburi 1. The bridge will be opened to motorists on Friday 26 December 2014. This bridge is situated to the north of Bangkok between Rama V Bridge and Phra Nangklao Bridge. It is a semi-cable-stayed bridge. It connects Nonthaburi 1 Road, on the east side of the river, and Wat Bot Don Phrom-Thanam Nonthaburi Road and Ratcha Phruek Road, on the west side of the river.

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According to the Bangkok Post, there are nine more bridges in the planning stage which will be built between 2017 and 2021. Two bridges that will begin construction in 2017 are for Kiakkai and Samut Prakan. The rest are the Rama 2, Ratchawong-Tha Din Daeng, Lat Ya-Maha Pruktharam, Chan-Charoen Nakhon, Pathum Thani, Sak Khok and Sanam Bin Nam bridges.

Promo Code to get 50% off Uber Phuket rides

Promo Code to get 50% off Uber Phuket rides

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After testing their services for the last month, Uber Phuket has just gone live. To celebrate their launch, use the promo code “UBERPHUKETLAUNCH” to get 50% off all your rides (up to 500 Baht) until 20th November 2014 (insert the code under “Promotions” in your Uber app). Drivers will also be handing out limited edition Uber swag while supplies last.

Wat Pho to Increase Admission Prices by 100% for Foreigners

Wat Pho to Increase Admission Prices by 100% for Foreigners

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One of the most popular temples in Bangkok for foreign tourists is Wat Pho, otherwise known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This is because of the giant reclining Buddha that is 46 meters long and has feet inlaid with mother-of-pearl. While most temples around Thailand are free for everyone to visit, some of the bigger ones charge foreign tourists an entrance fee. It doesn’t matter if you are a Buddhist or not, if you are a foreigner you have to pay. It used to be 50 Baht at Wat Pho like all the other big temples in Bangkok. They then decided to increase the price by 100% to 100 Baht. Now comes the news that from 1st January 2015, the price will go up again by another 100% to 200 Baht. The price remains free for Thais. The argument is that Thais will make merit by donating money. But what about the Thai Muslims, Christians and Sikhs etc who also get in for free? Why is that fair when foreign Buddhists have to pay so much?

A couple of years ago, President Obama and Hilliary Clinton visited Wat Pho. One of the most popular pictures taken during their visit to Bangkok was this one where they are seen sharing a joke with assistant abbot Phra Suthee Thammanuwat. What were they talking about? Apparently they were talking about the admission price for foreigners. “Several people asked me what we were talking about when we were seen laughing,” Phra Suthee told The Nation. “At that moment, Clinton asked how many people visited the temple a day. I said that about 7,000 to 8,000 people visited and foreigners were charged Bt100 each. Clinton responded that the temple was making a lot of money and should be able to support Obama’s work in helping poor children. I replied that the US president and his entourage should instead support the temple because the visit prompted half of the temple to be closed and caused the temple to lose money.”

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This now brings us to the question of how much money these temples are making from foreigners. According to Phra Udornkanarak, each day Wat Pho has about 10,000 visitors and half of them are foreigners. So, at an admission fee of 100 Baht per head for 5,000 people, it means they make 500,000 Baht a day. In just one month they will make 15.5 million Baht. And this is just from foreigners at one temple. It doesn’t include the large donations that Thais make themselves to temples. Next year they will make a minimum of one million Baht PER DAY which is presumably tax free. This is ONE MILLION DOLLARS per month. Where exactly does all of this money go?

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