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Sihanoukville Authorities impose Island Environment Tax


Dear friends and business partners

Local authorities in Sihanoukville recently announced the implementation of a new environmental tax for guests who travel by boat to one of the islands off the coast. The Cambodian government issued a statement, clarifying that this tax will be used to maintain the environment of these up and coming tourism destinations off the Sihanoukville coast.

According to the statement, effective immediately, a fee of US$ 2 per person will be levied for all guests and visitors, traveling by boat from Sihanoukville to any of the islands. The fee will be collected for customers who have booked overnight accommodation on one of the islands and those who have booked full day excursions only.

Asian Trails Cambodia deeply regrets that this announcement reaches our office at this stage of the season yet requires implementing this fee in all our transportation rates to these islands from 1 October 2017 onward. Our customer service representatives and reservation executives will contact you individually about these newly-levied charges for existing bookings

For more information or other inquiries related to this, please do not hesitate to contact us at res@asiantrails.com.kh.

Kindest regards

Asian Trails Cambodia

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Cambodian Government Restricts E-Visa Checkpoints Crossing

Dear friends and business partners

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Cambodia has recently issued a statement to restrict the number of checkpoints crossing for travellers handling an E-visa.

According to the government statement, e-Visa is now valid for customers entering the country via the following five check points only:

  • Phnom Penh International Airport
  • Siem Reap International Airport
  • The Thailand – Cambodia checkpoint at Cham Yeam (Koh Kong)
  • The Thailand – Cambodia checkpoint at Aranyaprathet (Poipet)
  • The Vietnam – Cambodia checkpoint at Moc Bai (Bavet)

Other important entry points into Cambodia – such as Sihanoukville International Airport – are not eligble for e-Visa applications.

For online applications and information, customers can go to the following website https://www.evisa.gov.kh/ or contact us for more information via res@asiantrails.com.kh

Kindest regards

Asian Trails Cambodia

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Malaysian Authorities Approve New Hotel Tax Regulations

Dear friends and business partners

After months of discussions and unclear releases from various sources, Asian Trails finally has received confirmation on the newly-implemented hotel taxation of customers in Malaysia. The government and tourism authorities, led by the Ministry of Tourism and the Royal Malaysian Customs Department, announced that this new Tourism Tax will be implemented effective 1 September 2017.

  • A fixed amount of RM10 per room per night will be levied directly from the customers at the hotel
  • The enforced RM10 Tourism Tax is for all types of accommodation in Malaysia
  • These taxes do not apply for Malaysian nationals
  • The tax will be applicable for all foreign visitors who check-in on or after 1 September

On 1st of September only hotels who have already received a tax number from the relevant authorities will be able to immediately implement it.

According to the statements we’ve received, there are still a few details to be ironed out and pending further updates from the two aforementioned government offices, we will keep you appraised about any news related.

Asian Trails Malaysia deeply regrets sending a number of updates about this tax implementation measures by the government, often without receiving official confirmation. We continue to check with all authorities for the latest updates.

Should any further questions remain unanswered, you are more than welcome to email us at res@asiantrails.com.my 

Kindest regards

Asian Trails Malaysia

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Eruption of Mount Sinabung on Sumatra

Reports on the ground from our team and local authorities have seen a series of new eruptions at one of Sumatra’s active volcanoes. Having recorded numerous expulsions of dust and smoke since September 2013, Mount Sinabung’s region has been declared a no travel zone within a 7-kilometer radius from its crater.

According to local experts, the chances of seeing increased activity, resulting in seeing hot clouds and possible lava flowing along its slopes, are possible yet have not been confirmed yet. Direct communication between Asian Trails Indonesia, its suppliers and the authorities on spot have confirmed that there isn’t any structural damage in the vicinity or any of its visitors or residents have sustained injury from the increased activity. Visits to the various tourism sites and accommodation providers have reported that things are running normal and no travel warning have been released with the exception of the 7-kilometer perimeter.

One of the main destinations – Berastagi, the starting point for tours to Medan and Lake Toba – states that none of their operations are affected by Mount Sinabung’s increased rumbling. This popular town lies around 22 kilometers away from the crater.

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Padang Bay Harbor Tax revoked by Balinese Authorities

Dear friends and business partners

Following petitions and concerns about the recently-imposed Padang Bay Harbor tax for guests, traveling from Bali to one of the surrounding islands, Asian Trails Indonesia is pleased to announce that local authorities have cancelled the taxation of visitors traveling to the Gili Islands, Lombok or Nusa Lembongan with immediate effect.

Our statement from earlier this month therefore will be officially recalled by our office, affirming that any customer departing from Padang Bay will no longer be levied this tax. We regret any inconvenience caused in this change of regulation on such a short notice after it initially was instilled.

We remain at your disposal for any questions you may have and thank you for your understanding and collaboration. For inquiries, please contact our reservation team via res@asiantrails.co.id or contact your customer service representative in Asian Trails Indonesia.

With kind regards,

Asian Trails Indonesia

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Iconic Ho Chi Minh City Landmark undergoing Extensive Renovations

Dear friends and business partners

For a period of approximately 3 years, the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City will be closed for the public. Local officials have given the green light to commence with a renovation plan after reports from local and international experts showed the necessity of rejuvenating this popular sight in the former capital.

During this period, Asian Trails Vietnam has received a statement that visits inside the Cathedral are no longer possible during this period. The team behind is massive project expects to complete all work done by June 2020.  City officials have erected barrier around the cathedral and traffic around this holy site has been restricted. Catholics who would like to attend Mass here will be able to enter the cathedral via the main entrance only.

The Notre Dame Cathedral, dating back to the late nineteenth century, was built in the Neo-Romanesque style, with two square towers tipped with iron spires. Vietnamese Catholics, tourists and foreigners regularly visited the cathedral for Sunday Mass at 9:30AM, with one of the highest attendance rates worldwide. The Notre Dame Cathedral is the only place offering an English mass in Ho Chi Minh City.

Asian Trails Vietnam will offer alternative sightseeing, where possible, during this period and will inform partners about possible changes in itineraries. For any questions related to this message, feel free to contact Asian Trails via vietnam@asiantrails.com.vn or email your customer service representative in our head office.

With kind regards

Asian Trails Vietnam

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Hotel Tax implementation in Malaysia still Raising Questions

Dear friends and business partners

In line with previous updates in regards to the implementation of a new hotel tax in Malaysia, Asian Trails Malaysia would like to inform you about the latest developments since the initial implementation took place 1st July. The Malaysian government has announced that this addition hotel tax will be used to enhance the tourism experiences throughout the country.

As of today, we regret not to have received any official declaration from the applicable authorities in regards to ongoing changes and proposed exclusions. Latest reports we’ve received state that implementation has been postponed now to 1st August onward and that customers booking hotel accommodation via Destination Management Companies may be exempted for paying tax on spot. In addition, accommodation rated 3 stars and below are said to be excluded too.

In addition, the regulations state that the aforementioned exemptions only apply for hotel reservations that have been made and paid for prior to the implementation of this new mechanism. The levied taxes will take effect for guests making reservations after the official announcement has been made.

It is with deep regret that we still are unable to outline this initiative from the respective government authorities and giving you a clear and definite answer in relation to this ongoing matter. Should any update from the Ministry of Tourism reach our office, we will inform you accordingly.

We apologize in advance for any inconvenience and thank you for your ongoing understanding and support.

Yours sincerely

Emir Cherif
Managing Director
Asian Trails Malaysia

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The CEO Story: The ‘long neck women’ of Myanmar

The Padaung women of Myanmar or ‘long neck women’, as they are commonly called, have had a troubled history. Best known for their exotic looks with brass rings elongating their necks, they became a sensation decades ago when they were ‘exported’ for touristic purpose to Thailand and other countries. This story is not just about the Padaung women but also on the beautiful region they come from in Myanmar, a part of the country that was closed to tourism until recent years.

This year’s Asian Trails board meetings were held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar’s new capital since 2005 when the government moved it from Yangon. For most of my colleagues it was their first chance to visit this rather utopian city in the middle of nowhere.

Most of us flew to the city from Bangkok on the city’s only international flight operated by Bangkok Airways. With six-lane highways, 50 mostly large-scale hotels, the Parliament, and government buildings forming the urban landscape, Nay Pyi Taw looks more like a giant agglomeration of buildings than a capital city. A unique opportunity for us to visit this one of a kind place in Asia.

As is customary at Asian Trails, the chairman, managing directors and I travel together for a few days after our yearly meetings to discuss in a relaxed way tourism topics concerning our business, and to learn about new developments in the industry. This year we embarked on an overland journey to Loikaw in the heart of Kayah state.

We left Nay Pyi Taw early in the morning, and travelled south on the deserted highway to Taungoo where we had a breakfast of local delicacies in one of the crowded coffee shops. After leaving the highway the road started to wind its way up into the mountains with my sturdy 4WD car negotiating turn after turn. I couldn’t make any other comparison to this winding road other than to say it reminded me of driving in the mountains of Switzerland. The lush vegetation became greener and greener at every turn until we were driving through thick jungle. I was surprised to find the road was paved throughout the drive, although not in the best condition but good enough for the vehicle to get a safe grip on it.

We stopped for a late lunch in a little bamboo shack at the side of a river, which was converted into a restaurant and rest place. It is a great place for a swim or to cool one’s feet. To the delight of the children and local villagers we took a fun break with them before continuing our journey, driving up and down the forested mountains until we reached Loikaw.

The eight-hour drive was a long one, but was a pleasant journey passing through beautiful landscapes, jungles, rivers and villages, with hundreds of photo opportunities sans the tourist crowds. This will be an excellent drive for 4WD enthusiasts hooked on travelling off-the-beaten track to see the world.

Loikaw, the remote and sleepy capital of Kayah, Myanmar’s smallest state, is the starting point for explorations to the surrounding mountains, valleys, villages and lakes. It is just a matter of time before the border between Kayah state and Thailand open, offering fantastic cross-border tours to the Mae Hong Son and Pai areas. With the opening of the border point it will finally be possible to combine the ethnic minorities of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and northern Vietnam into one overland journey. I look forward to the day when this happens!

Loikaw and the Kayah state were closed to foreign visitors until the last few years, and the entire area has retained its unique charm and fascination. Not only are the surrounding mountains and valleys home to the Padaung ethnic minority, but also to nine more distinct tribal cultures that have retained their traditions and their lifestyle. The villages are simple by any standard, and a far cry from modern civilisation.

Most visitors who venture to this part of Myanmar come to see the ‘long neck women’ whose original habitat are the surrounding villages of Loikaw. Even though the ‘long neck tradition’ is slowly dying out and visitors will mostly see older women wearing neck rings, the spirit and bonding amongst the Padaung is very strong. In fact, one should call them ‘Kayan Lahwi’ since ‘Padaung’ is a Shan word, but I take the liberty to use ‘Padaung’ in this story as it is better known.

The Padaung culture is colourful and very interesting. Even though the Padung are mostly Christians, their animist beliefs are omnipresent and the village shaman as well as totem posts are an intricate part of their culture. They are essentially farmers but village hunts, when entire villages go together on one single hunt, are part of their traditions.

Asian Trails, in line with its CSR activities, donated a water well to one of the schools in Pan Pet village. Clean water, which is taken for granted in many parts of the world, is not found in this part of Myanmar. The water well that we sponsored collects rain water from the school’s roof, which is then purified to provide clean drinking water for both the students and villagers.

Not all areas around Loikaw are accessible to foreign visitors. Some require permits and some are off limits, but with more of the country opening up I believe that more and more areas will become accessible in the near future.

Loikaw is a three-hour scenic drive from Inle Lake, making it an ideal pre- or post-destination to combine with a visit to Kayah state. This is one of the most stunning overland journeys in Myanmar and a highlight of any Asian trip. Visitors can board boats for Inle Lake visits in the southern part of the lake, mid way along the natural canal or in the north, and choose to explore remote villages and temple sites or the better-known areas of the lake. There are even a couple of guesthouses and simple hotels in the south part of the lake for visitors to stay.

The launch of daily morning flights from Yangon to Loikaw earlier this year has opened the way for regular tours. There are a couple of hotels and lodges in Loikaw, which we recommend even though their capacity is limited for now and in the coming years. For adventure, trekking and 4WD specialists there are numerous possibilities to combine the region with the lower plains of Nay Pyi Taw and Mandalay, or the hill station of Kalaw.

Asian Trails Myanmar will be happy to tailor make a journey to suit the travel preferences of individual visitor.