Chinese kid draws on dad’s passport, get stuck in South Korea

pass·port [pas-pawrt, -pohrt, pahs-]
noun
1. the thing you freak out about when you’re travelling and you can’t find it

Well, in this case the father didn’t lose it. But his 4 year old son had drawn all over it in ink. After the added animals, facial and other hair and general doodles the authorities labeled it “unecognizable documentation”. And so dad was unable to travel home with the rest of his family.

You can decide for yourself :

passport1n-2-webIf you’re a fan of video reporting, have a look at this video on the subject:

Passports … keep them safe! Not only does that mean that you shouldn’t give them to kids to play with. Obviously you should know where your passport is at all times. Often places to stay will ask for your passport. Most people will hand them over and never have a problem. But every so often something happens. The passport can be duplicated for whatever reason and the rightful owner gets in trouble.

Therefore, I advise you to take copies of your passport and hand them in when they ask for it. I haven’t been to a place yet where they didn’t accept the copy. Sometimes they will demand the real passport but when I show that it is in fact a good and unaltered copy and tell them I will go elsewhere if they don’t accept the copy they’ll let me stay. It’s best that you are in control of the real thing 🙂

 

Thailand – man arrested for wearing “Peace please” t-shirt

They’re not kidding about the demonstrations in Thailand. Today in Bangkok a man has been arrested for wearing a t-shirt with the writing “Peace please” on it. This qualified as critiquing the current situation and the military coup.

The man has been living in Thailand for several years, so he was well aware of the situation and current laws. It is not clear if he was actively involved in a protest, though some sources seem to suggest he may have bean part of a small group of protesters. He may face up to 2 years in prison.

My advice to everyone who goes to a non-European country is to respect the laws, any and all of them. You can get away with certain things in Europe, but don’t expect the same kind of leniency in other countries.

The video below shows the man being arrested and taken away in a police car.

UPDATE: He was held for only a short time and so has already been released. It was to be expected that he wouldn’t be held long as the entire military coup is already under scrutiny and the attention of the world. Holding a foreigner for this reason would have put the current military government in a very unfavorable light.

UPDATE 2: The person in question has kindly and politely contacted me and requested the removal of his identifiable information. Which is his right to do. I have chosen to comply with the request since this article was written to make travelers aware of how things can work in other countries. It was not written to target the person in question or paint this person in any sort of negative light. This article does not imply that the person in question was not respecting the local law. I only want to point out that in certain countries it will be good to be aware of local laws (written and unwritten ones) and to respect them as it could get you into trouble if you as a traveler don’t do so and assume you can get away with it because you’re a foreigner or so.

Thailand military coup and tourism

Protests in Bangkok

On may the 22nd of 2014 the Thai military staged a coup. This would be the 12th coup in the past few decades. More recently the Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej has officially given his backing to the army chief who is now in charge of the country.

So, what to do if you’re going to Thailand or are there now?

Well, just enjoy. Try to stay away from demonstrations. Even though they are not allowed they do still happen and as past demonstrations have shown, they can get violent. Respect the curfew which starts at midnight and lasts until 5am (some sources say 4am). So there won’t be much night life as all the shops, restaurants and bars that are usually open until late at night are closed.

For some tourists that’s a big down side, as many of them go to Thailand to party. However, for others it’s a plus. In 2013 more than 26 million people visited the country. In the first 4 months of 2013 that came down to 9.1 million visitors. In 2014 this number has dropped to 8.6 million in the first 4 months. The tourist industry is impacted and tuk tuk drivers that make about $100/day now struggle to make $30/day. Harsh as it sounds, that means that as a tourist you have some more bargaining power. Also, whereas there would be waiting lines and many people visiting tourist attractions, there aren’t any now. Some of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, like the Grand Palace, are almost empty at certain times of the day.

Be very aware of the curfew if you need to get to the airports. The situation at the airports is said to be normal. The shuttle bus between Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang is running as normal. Passengers for international flights can get to the airport but should have their flight ticket and passport at the ready. Make sure you leave to the airport on time though. Due to the curfew the Airport Rail link, the Skytrain (BTS) and subway (MRT) to Suvarnabhumi close at 11pm!

Should you have questions or need to contact the embassy of your country, that is not a problem. All embassies are open and reachable at their respective opening times and addresses. Some embassies in the country can be followed on their Twitter accounts, like “BEinThailand” for example. That’s the Twitter account for the Belgian embassy in Thailand.

Oh and as a side note. If you had planned to go to the Tailor Swift concert in Thailand you’re out of luck. The concert has been cancelled due to the situation and recent developments.

Ryanair says flights to US will cost €10

Michael O’Leary, not known for his subtlety, says that once the airline can get hold of the laung haul aircrafts necessary for the job, it will sell tickets to the US for €10 to Boston and New York. Tickets for coming back to Europe will be €7.30.

As per usual on Ryanair flights, just about anything costs you extra. That includes meals and baggage.

You should be able to depart from about 12-14 major European cities to about 12-14 major US destinations.

Click here for more info in an article in English, and here for an article in Dutch

Top travel destinations for 2014

TripAdvisor anounced the list of the top 25 travel destinations in the world for 2014. The numbers in front are the current ranking. The numbers at the back in between brackets are the ranking for that city last year. If there is no number, the city is new on the list.

Have you been to any of the places on the list? Do you agree with it, or do you feel some place is missing? 🙂

1. Istanbul, Turkey (12)
2. Rome, Italy (4)
3. London, United Kingdom (3)
4. Beijing, China (21)
5. Prague, Czech Republic (9)
6. Marrakech, Morocco (19)
7. Paris, France (1)
8. Hanoi, Vietnam (-)
9. Siem Reap, Cambodia (25)
10. Shanghai, China (22)
11. Berlin, Germany (11)
12. New York City, New York (2)
13. Florence, Italy (8)
14. Buenos Aires, Argentina (18)
15. Barcelona, Spain (5)
16. St. Petersburg, Russia (20)
17. Dubai, United Arab Emirates (-)
18. Chicago, Illinois (14)
19. Cape Town Central, South Africa (16)
20. Bangkok, Thailand (13)
21. Budapest, Hungary (-)
22. Sydney, Australia (10)
23. Lisbon, Portugal (-)
24. Chiang Mai, Thailand (24)
25. San Francisco, California (7)

Manhole cover art – Japan

Japan_manhole_cover_art

Travel and art can go hand in hand. Especially this way. In 1985 a high ranking government worker had the idea to let municipalities design their own anhole covers. After a few design contests and publications, things went quickly and municipalities were soon competing with each other to see who could come up with the best designs. Today you can find over 6000 of those artistic covers spread throughout Japan.

One photographer, S. Morita, has travelled around Japan for several years to photograph these works of art. You can see the resulting collection on Flickr.

Angkor street view – Cambodia

Since the beginning of April you can visit the temples of Angkor on Google maps. Just drag the yellow Google Maps Peg man into the temple complex and you can start walking around Angkor digitally. You can save the trip to Cambodia! Although I personally would suggest you to visit this beautiful country anyway 😉

Normally Google uses a car equipped with cameras on the roof for their street view images. Obviously this is not possible for Angkor and other places. So they designed a special ‘backpack’ with cameras to do the same, but while the carrier is walking around. Some types of organizations can actually borrow the “Trekker equipment” as they call it to help collect views of remote an unique places.

Follow this link for more information: Google Angkor street view

And here’s a promotional video that Google launched for Angkor street view

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Travel outside of Europe cheaper for Belgians

Vakanties_buiten_Europa_goedkoper

Good news for Belgians who want to travel outside of the European Union. Soon they will not need to pay the almost 4% travel taxes involved. Which makes travel cheaper for the people, but can also generate more income for the sector.

Since December 1977 Belgians pay 3.85% taxes when travelling to destinations outside of the European Union. No other country in the Union has such a tax. Because of that people book trips on line through agencies outside of Belgium, which in turn means losses for the Belgian tourism sector.

Travel by tuk-tuk

Who among you has had the pleasure of riding along in a tuk-tuk? I think many of us have. But I’m sure none of us have drive as far as these two British teachers who broke the world record tuk-tuk driving. And they did it for a good reason too: grassroots education projects in Africa, Asia and South America. Follow the link for more information and a movie!

British teachers break tuk-tuk record

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