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Between a Rock and a Sacred Place. . . Yangon

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon Myanmar

Shrouded in mystery, Myanmar – formerly known as Burma – is often referred to as the Golden Land. Due to being cut off to the rest of the world for so many years, very little is known about this country where monks, holy men and magnificent temples are just part of the everyday scenery. Therefore we asked Raphael Kern, our Assistant Country Manager from the ICS Travel Group office in Myanmar, to share his knowledge and his love of the country with us. Read more

Bokor Hill Station – Cambodia’s Ghost Town

Bokor Hill Station, Cambodia

The abandoned “ghost town” of Bokor Hill Station provides us with a glimpse into the life of French colonials who settled in Cambodia more than 70 years ago.

In an effort to escape from the heat, humidity and “general unhealthiness” of Phnom Penh, this resort was built near Kampot in southern Cambodia. The focal point of the resort was the elaborate Bokor Palace Hotel & Casino, but the development also contained shops, a post office (now demolished), a church and the Royal Apartments which were used by the Cambodian royal family.

During the First Indochina War, the French abandoned Bokor Hill because of local insurrections guided by the Khmer Issarak.  The site was abandoned again in 1972 as the Khmer Rouge took over the area. As the Vietnamese invaded in 1979, the Khmer Rouge were able to entrench themselves at Bokor Hill and hold on tightly for months. Even into the early 1990s, Bokor Hill was still one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge. Read more

Watch a Songkran Ceremony

In observation of the Buddhist holiday known as “Songkran,” Thai custom is to pour water over the hands of elders and other respected figures. The religious significance relates to cleansing and purification, and is believed to bring good luck in the coming year. Team members in Bangkok lined up to take a cup of water, scented with flower petals, and pour over the hands of CEO, Sandor Levai.

Songkran has become one of the most popular festivals of the year and the main attraction has become splashing passerbys with water and powder. Click here to learn more about the annual Songkran Festival.

Songkran Festival

Songkran

photo credit: JJ Harrison

 

Next week, Thailand marks the start of the Buddhist holiday known as “Songkran” which has become one of the most popular festivals of the year. The religious significance relates to purification, a fresh start, and cleansing. Consistent with these themes, many Thais mark the occasion by thoroughly cleaning their homes, gently washing Buddha statues with scented water, and by showing respect to their elders by pouring water over their hands.

Although the origins of Songkran are religious, splashing complete strangers with water has become the main attraction of the festival. Soaking or sprinkling people with water signifies the washing away of bad thoughts and actions, and brings them good luck in the new year. 

At the end of the processions and festivities, crowds form in the street to dance, party, and throw water in good-natured fun. To add another layer of intensity, many Thais add ice to their water or travel in teams that wear masks and carry large water cannons. But you probably won’t mind the getting wet because afternoon temperatures in April can rise above 40°C/100°F.

Click here to see our infographic “What to do During Songkran”

What to do During Songkran

Koh Hong Island and Rainforest by Catamaran

Koh Hong – Islands and Rainforest by Catamaran – FD

Board a catamaran and cruise out into the majestic Andaman Sea

A vacation that many people only dream about is now available in Thailand.

When you book our cruise to Koh Hong, your day will begin with drinks and a homemade canapé before you board a catamaran and cruise out into the majestic Andaman Sea. Dramatic landscapes, picture-perfect beaches and lush rainforests are waiting for you.

You will have the opportunity to explore the island’s dense rainforest, home to a wide variety of wildlife and botanical species as well as a gigantic three-hundred-year-old tree.  Enjoy a seafood buffet along with other savory treats in the exotic jungle setting.

Enjoy the powdery sand and crystal-clear water

After lunch, kayak amongst the breathtaking limestone cliffs, and visit nearby caves. Cruise along the Yao Noi archipelago, also known as Pah Koh or Forest of Islands.

Enjoy the powdery sand and crystal clear water at Pilah beach on Hong Island and sunbathe, swim or snorkel alongside the diverse marine life in the island’s coral reef.

 

For more information, please consult our Tariff

Bangkok by Train, Boat, Foot and Tuk Tuk

Bangkok by Train, Boat, Foot and Tuk Tuk

 

Visitors to Bangkok, Thailand have the opportunity to join us on a City Safari through some of Bangkok’s most exciting areas. You will start by taking the Skytrain to “Saphan Taksin” pier, where you’ll hop on an express boat and cruise along the Chao Phraya River.

Wat Pho Temple, BangkokOne of the most famous temples is Wat Po, home to the famous Reclining Buddha which is covered in gold leaf.  If you get an early start you can experience the monks morning chanting ritual.

A tuk tuk – Southeast Asia’s most iconic form of travel – will carry you to Baan Bat, where locals have been crafting monks alms bowls since the 1700s, and then to Wat Saket, the ‘Golden Mount.’ If you are feeling energetic you should climb its 400 steps to the top and see the large golden Chedi, which houses a holy relic of the Buddha. You’ll also be rewarded with panoramic views of the city from this high vantage point.

Reclining BuddhaNext, you’ll head to the iconic Giant Swing in Bangkok’s famous Chinatown and explore the area on foot.  A local restaurant serving up some of the best Thai dishes in town will provide lunch.  Afterwards, try coconut ice cream from a nearby vendor who has been selling homemade ice cream in the same location for over 50 years.

A boat ride through Bangkok’s Saen Saeb canal will escort you to the beautiful Lanna-style house of Jim Thompson, who brought Thai silk international recognition before mysteriously disappearing during a trip to Malaysia.

 

For more information on our

“Bangkok by Train, Boat, Foot and Tuk Tuk” excursion,

please consult our Tariff.

Balinese New Year. . . a Day of Silence

Nyepi, Balinese New Year

Nyepi, Balinese New Year

The island of Bali, Indonesia has many festivals, but one of the most important is the “Day of Silence” – the New Year celebration also known as Nyepi.

Nyepi is known as “Silence Day” because on this day the island is completely silent for 24 hours. This year, Nyepi Day will start at 6:00am on 21 March and will end at 6:00am on 22 March.

  • Airports and harbours will be closed for both domestic and international travel. . . no planes will land or take off for 24 hours.
  • All shops and offices are closed.
  • No one is allowed on the beach or on the streets.
  • No motor vehicles are allowed (except ambulances, police, and in case of emergencies).
  • At night, all lights will be turned off.
  • Hotel guests are asked to remain on the hotel premises (but are free to enjoy the hotel facilities as usual)

The day before Nyepi, you will see a parade characterized by a very unusual procession of Oogh-Oogh. . . giant monsters. Symbolizing bad spirits, the Oogh-Oogh handmade paper statues are paraded through the streets of Bali.  At each intersection, the monster is spun around counter-clockwise three times in order to confuse the spirit and drive it away from the island.  At the end of the procession, the Oogh-Oogh monster is burnt to rid its evil from Bali.

On the day following Nyepi, Balinese Hindus visit family members, neighbors and relatives to ask for (and to give) forgiveness – similar to the Muslim’s Ied Al Fitri custom in other parts of Indonesia.

Nyepi, Balinese New Year

Nyepi, Balinese New Year