Archive for December 2010

Merry Xmas crosses culture lines

BANGKOK, December 21, 2010 by TTRweekly 

The decorations are up, the carols are playing and Santa has been seen scuba diving in Japan, delivering presents on a motorbike in Seoul and being thrown out of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Christianity may not be Asia’s main religion, but Christmas cheer is in evidence around much of the region, even if eating and shopping are often the main attractions.Christmas Spirit around Asia

The shop tills are ringing in Buddhist Bangkok and Muslim Kuala Lumpur, where stores are festooned with tinsel and fairy lights.

More than 100 children in Santa suits recently joined a Christmas carnival at a major mall in the Thai capital.

In Japan, Santa has made a splash in Tokyo aquariums, feeding marine life and performing with dolphins.

At one, an electric eel is generating power for the Christmas lights.

Visitors can help by stomping a floor panel, which generates additional electricity to power a blue light on the Christmas tree, as a robotic Santa looks on, singing Christmas songs and wriggling his hips.

“They stomp, with the tree flashing blue and white, and Santa singing all the time,” said Enoshima Aquarium spokeswoman Asako Inoue. “It’s a very cheerful event.”

In South Korea, 50 post office delivery men wearing Santa Claus outfits are delivering presents by motorbike to poor children in Seoul, where even the 22-metre-tall “Hammering Man” sculpture is wearing a red hat.

South Korea will also display Christmas lights near its tense border with North Korea for the first time since 2004 following the regime’s deadly artillery attack last month, military officials said.

While Christians make up a mere two percent of India’s billion plus population, Christmas has become a popular festival there and shops are cashing in by selling gifts such as Santa Claus masks.

Christmas Decoration in Bangkok / ThailandIn China, malls, office buildings and restaurants in major cities are decking their halls with bright lights, Christmas trees and robotic Santa’s as retailers latch on to the holiday’s sales potential.

The season is a vital time of year for the country’s myriad toy-makers and other manufacturers and exporters who for years have served as Santa’s workshop.

But the Chinese authorities failed to see the funny side when dozens of mainly foreign residents dressed as Santa Claus descended on Tiananmen Square, scene of mass pro-democracy protests in 1989 that ended in a bloody army crackdown.

As they gathered for a photo, police intervened and told them to leave, the participants said. The Global Times quoted one drunken Santa as saying: “China stole my Christmas.”

In Cambodia’s northwestern tourist hub of Siem Reap, a hotel has unveiled a giant Christmas tree made up entirely of local fishing materials such as bamboo rods and hand-woven nets.

“We typically import a live fir tree for Christmas celebrations but this year we thought we would move away from convention and feature a tree with a stronger local context,” said Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor general manager, Robert Hauck.

Carols were sung in English and Khmer to mark the hotel’s tree lighting ceremony. The lyrics were modified to give a local flavor, with Santa Claus arriving by tuk-tuk instead of a sleigh.

The festive mood is evident in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur with huge Christmas trees decorated with bright colored bulbs in major shopping malls.

Christmas cuisine such as roast turkey and lamb is popular with food-loving Malaysians and supermarkets and restaurants are doing brisk business.

“I am catering for a big party consisting mainly of non-Christians. They are excited about the roast turkey and baked potatoes,” said Ivy Arigesamy, a restaurant owner in the capital Kuala Lumpur.Santa Claus in Kuala Lumpur

“Last year I had roast turkey orders from Muslims. They like to eat it but they do not know how to cook it.”

Restaurants in Taiwan are also enjoying some Christmas cheer.

“Nearly 90% of the seats at our seven restaurants have already been booked for Christmas Eve,” said Cindy Lo, a spokeswoman for the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei, a leading hotel in the island’s capital city.

Christmas displays are going up in Vietnam, with snowmen more than two meters (seven feet) tall outside one bar in Ho Chi Minh City.

On Le Loi Street in the city centre, streetlights are decorated with large snowflakes, and children wait to have their picture taken with Santa outside the Saigon Centre shopping mall.

Lam Kim Anh, 54, arrived on a motorbike with her four-year-old granddaughter for the photo shoot with Mr. Claus, who was decidedly leaner than normal and wore a suit of royal blue velvet.

“We are not Catholic so we don’t celebrate Christmas but I’ll get her a present anyway,” Anh said. “I just like the crowd and the environment.”

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Re-entry visa introduced at BKK airport

BANGKOK, December 17, 2010 by TTRweekly 

Effective 16 December, foreigners can submit an application for a re-entry permit when departing from Suvarnabumi Airport.Passport Control at the Suvarnabumi Airport

Immigration Division 2 allows foreigners, who have to leave the Kingdom before their visa expires, to submit a request for a re-entry permit on their departure. The application must be filed at the Immigration Bureau east zone in the departure hall.

Previously the re-entry permit was renewable at all immigration checkpoints except Suvarnabhumi Airport unless it was an emergency case.

Once they have filed the application at the airport, foreigners still need to submit an e-mail inquiry one day in advance and then on the following day visit the immigration offices in Soi Suan Plu, or the Chaeng Wattana Government Centre, to submit photographs and make payment. The fee is Bt1,000 for single re-entry and Bt3,800 for multiple.

For more information, contact Suvarnabhumi’s departure immigration at 02 137 0226 or 1178.

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Come and joy the fun during Songkran in Thailand

One of the famous festivals in Thailand is Songkran. It coincides with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia and is taking place between the the 13th and the 15th  of April.Merit-making ceremonies are held at Buddhist temples

Songkran was celebrated originally only in the north of Thailand and was probably brought there by the Burmese, who adapted it from the Indian Holi festival. It spread across Thailand in the mid 20th century and is now observed even in the far south. However, the most famous Songkran celebrations are still in the northern city of Chiang Mai, where it continues for six days and even longer and takes the form of religious ceremonies as well as public festivities.

Merit-making ceremonies are held at Buddhist temples, Buddha images are bathed and in ancient days, old people were actually given a bath and clothed in new apparel presented by the young folks as a token of respect for the New Year. Songkran was traditionally a time to visit and pay respects to elders, including family members, friends and neighbors by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddha’s for cleansing and then using this “blessed” water to give good fortune to them by gently pouring it on the shoulder.Respect to the elders during Songkran

It is also an old belief that the Nagas or mythical serpents brought on rain by spouting water from the seas. The more they spouted, the more rain there would be.

The tradition of throwing water was at first based on a religious ritual, but soon evolved into an entertaining activity that people indulged in one this holiday. It has also become a party for foreigners and an additional reason for many to visit Thailand for immersion in another culture and giving Songkran the name “Water Festival”.

These days Thais as well as foreigners roaming the streets with containers of water or water guns (sometimes mixed with mentholated talc), or post themselves at the side of roads with a garden hose and drench each other and passersby. Passers-by stand the chance of getting soaked when they walk on the road, but all this is done in a festive spirit. Another common sight during Songkran is people with a white chalk or talcum powder caked on their faces. This is believed to originate from Buddhist traditions where monks mark blessings with chalk.

The New Year celebrations in Thailand are special in many ways why not escape the cold weather and celebrate your New Year in Thailand?  The Thai weather, the splendid food and the genuine kindness and attitude of the locals makes this a great festival and a unique New Year location.

Interesting in celebrating Songkran with us? Let us know and we are more than happy to organize your Songkran week in Thailand.

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Songkran or "Water Festival" in Thailand

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