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Never heard of Nok Air? You're about toa lotas the low-cost, Thailand-based airline embraces innovation to soar beyond other airlines, while still keeping ticket prices low and flights fun. We've even flown 'em, but this time around we dispatched special correspondent Kinny Cheng to check out their latest news: the arrival of free in-flight WiFi.
A lover of spectacles, Patee Sarasin, the outspoken CEO of Nok Air, stood and addressed the room overflowing with journalists. His big announcement would mark a first in Asia, and certainly a revolutionary development for Nok, which describes itself as “Thailand’s homegrown premium low-cost airline.”
That announcement? Free In-Flight WiFi. Not only would Nok be the first in Asia, but they'd join a precious few carriers (like JetBlue and Norwegian Air) willing to let their passengers surf the net for free at altitude.
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In response to decreased tourism returns this year due in part to the country’s political woes, Thailand has doubled the amount of days that tourists are allowed to stay in the country on a visa-exempt stamp from 30 to 60.
Passport holders from 49 nations, including the United States, do not need to apply for a visa to enter Thailand. Instead, travelers from these nations receive a visa-exempt stamp upon arrival which grants them 30 days in the country. Under the new rule, tourists can now obtain a one-time, 30-day extension stamp when their initial 30 days expires by visiting an immigration office. The extension will be granted same-day and costs $59 (1,900 baht).
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When you visit Bangkok, you'll quickly realize that public transportation is pretty cheap. When using a metered taxi, rates starts at 35 baht (just over a dollar) for the first two kilometers and increase by about 2 baht for each kilometer after. This means that to jump from neighborhood to neighborhood is only a couple of bucks, and if you're in no rush, fares on the subway (MRT) and skytrain (BTS) are under 60 baht ($2) for all one-way trips.
If you're staying along the river and are looking to visit a destination up or downstream, such as the Grand Palace, taking a water taxi is a very good option both in terms of convenience and ambiance. Just as you should never take a taxi that's not metered in Bangkok, you also have to be careful of water shuttles that could cost you more.
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First-time visitors to Bangkok will no doubt be pointed in the direction of the Grand Palace as a must-see tourist attraction, and such was the case for us this week. It was a last-minute decision, and when we arrived, the complex was hot, crowded, and there was very limited explanation on site. We quickly realized that a little bit of research would have gone a long way towards a better experience. With that in mind, here's a rundown of what you should know before visiting:
View looking south down the Chao Phraya River
A few weeks ago, we told you what you needed to know about the military curfew in Thailand. Well, worry no more, because the restriction is officially gone and nightlife is back to normal across the country. With that news in hand, we arrived in Bangkok this week, very anxious to see what the city felt like during this time of military control.
Aside from one humvee we passed on the highway that appeared to simply be a standard transfer between bases, we haven't seen one sign of anything out of the ordinary. No tanks, no soldiers, and no protests. All the shops, attractions, restaurants, and bars are operating as normal. If someone who didn't read the news came here right now, they would have no idea that anything had happened in the first place.
Those currently or with plans to travel to Thailand this summer will want to stay up to date on the latest regarding the military coup and subsequent curfew. Here's the latest on what's happening across the Pacific:
· The curfew has been completely lifted in Phuket, Pattaya, and Koh Samui, and all businesses are running as usual.
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Tax day is here, and you're probably excited...but not because you love sifting through receipts and credit card statements. You're excited because you're getting a fat refund. Probably. The economy may be on its way back up, but you should try to stretch that tax refund as far as you can...like with a little "you did a great job last year" tripa Tax Refund Vacation.
Now that your bank account might be a little more padded, there's nothing better than to splurge on an exotic trip more than half-way around the world to soak up the sun, sip fruity cocktails, and experience a new culture. One destination that ticks all these boxes and more is Thailand. With its beach resorts, rural charm, and mega-city metropolis style, you can definitely say that there's something for everyone.
Exactly 12 hours ahead of the central time zone, this Southeast Asian country is well and truly half-way around the world. While the distance can be a plus for some, the time it might take to travel to Bangkok from the US may be a deterrent for others, but we can only tell you it's well worth the haul. Thai Airways, United, Cathay Pacific and plenty other Asian airlines do have routes with only one layover, so it's really not all that bad.
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Last time we checked-in on the political protests happening in Bangkok, a few airlines had reduced service to the Thai capital. Even though there's no immediate cessation of anti-government protests in the near future, can travelers still consider Bangkok as a safe destination this season?
Interestingly enough, Thai Airways hasn't said much when it comes to reduced flights or travel waivers. There is a warning on their website that, due to road closures, they recommend leave 4 hours early before a scheduled flight. Apart from that, operations are running as per normal and as if nothing was actually happening in the city center.
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The political unrest currently underway in Bangkok has convinced at least three airlines, including Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Hong Kong Airlines, to reduce the number of flights into Thailand's capital during the second half of January and February.
"We've learned that Singapore Airlines plans to cut 19 flights between Jan 14 and Feb 25. Cathay will probably follow suit because passengers are uneasy about the political situation in Thailand," Suvarnabhumi Airport General Manager Rawewan Netrakavesna told the Bangkok Post. Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said that Hong Kong Airlines was probably going to cut about 60 flights as well.
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While most of the US is fighting with snow, sleet, ice, sub-zero temps and all of the joys that come with any mixture of those things, that's thankfully just a tiny speck of the world. Thanks to Winter Storms Hercules and Ion, Chicago just got buried in almost 2 feet of snow and will now be facing a high of -11° F (and that's no typo), but that's only one extreme when it comes to crazy weather; there are places experiencing some of it's hottest temperatures to date.
We snapped the photo above over the weekend, on our way from Brisbane, Australia to the Sunshine Coast, during the worst heatwave Queensland has seen in 15 years. That dashboard temperature reading of 47° Celsius converts to 116° Fahrenheit. What a scorcher!
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On the banks of Bangkok's Chao Phraya River sits one of the city's most dramatic temples, Wat Arun. It's really hard to miss if you've hopped one of the tourist boat rides up or down the river, and virtually impossible to ignore if you're staying in one of the riverside hotels dotting the banks.
"Wat Arun" translates to "Temple of Dawn" and, if you are lucky enough to see the temple glisten in the rising sun's light, you'll understand why. Thought to have been originally built in the 17th Century, the Khmer-reminiscent towers can be spied from most everywhere in the neighborhood as they keep a watchful presence not only over the river, but the Bangkok Yai District.
If you've been to Thailand, or any other Buddhist country in the region, you know monks going about their daily activities wrapped in saffron-colored robes is a fairly common occurrence. Since Bangkok is the only Thai city with some sort of public train system, it is quite regular to see the monks saving some bhat and hopping on the city's light rail or subway system.
While not very extensive, the city's public transport system is very easy to use and, at about 40 US cents per trip, is even easier on the wallet, no private jets here. It makes complete sense for anyone to use the train system, from '9 to 5'-ers to school kids on their way to class. One thing to keep an eye out for, however, is the occasional monk on his way to a local temple for his devout duties. They actually have their very own reserved seats, as you can see in the sign above.