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Archive for the ‘Thai Chi’ Category

Chinas El Chapo is flooding the world with crystal meth via Asian cartel which makes $17billion a yea – The Sun

Posted: October 20, 2019 at 9:33 am


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A DRUG kingpin dubbed "China's El Chapo" is supplying the world with up to 13.1 billion worth of crystal meth every year, the United Nations has said.

Tse Chi Lop, 55, head of cartel Sam Gor, now controls at least 40 per cent of Asia's regional market, which has seen a huge spike in demand for the drug in recent years.

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The boom has triggered a huge counter-narcotics investigation, Operation Kungur, with Sam Gor and Tse Chi Lop as its prime targets, Reuters reports.

The operation, led by the Australian Federal Police, involves 20 law enforcement agencies from countries including Myanmar, China, Thailand, Japan, the United States, and Canada.

It is the biggest ever international effort to combat drug trafficking in Asia.

Crystal meth is a potent psychoactive substance used as a recreational drug throughout the world.

Used consistently, it can induce mood swings, psychosis, muscle breakdown, and seizures.

Sam Gor is thought to being selling the drug into at least a dozen countries across Asia, from Japan in the north to New Zealand in the South Pacific.

Drugs are shipped in containers marked as tea, strapped to the bodies of couriers on commercial flights, or carried in rucksacks by hikers on the jungle paths between Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.

Lop, currently Asia's most-wanted man, was born in China, but moved to Canada in 1988 and is now a Canadian citizen.

He was arrested in 1998 for importing heroin into the US, but succeeded in having a life sentence reduced to just nine years, and was ultimately released in 2006.

It is reported that he travels by private jet, has a personal guard of Thai kickboxers, and once lost $66 million (51 million) in one night at a Macau casino.

Officials have said Sam Gor is in many ways far more sophisticated than any of the more notorious Latin American drugs gangs.

It supplies a larger and wider-spread market and collaborates with a broader range of other organisations, including Japan's Yakuza syndicates, Australia's biker gangs, and Chinese gangs operating across Southeast Asia.

It is also said to be less prone to outbreaks of internal conflict.

Tse Chi Lop is in the league of El Chapo or maybe Pablo Escobar, Jeremy Douglas, Southeast Asia and Pacific representative for United Nations on Drugs and Crime, told Reuters.

The word kingpin often gets thrown around, but there is no doubt it applies here.

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One veteran Western anti-narcotics official added: The crime groups in Southeast Asia and the Far East operate with seamless efficiency.

"They function like a global corporation."

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Chinas El Chapo is flooding the world with crystal meth via Asian cartel which makes $17billion a yea - The Sun

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October 20th, 2019 at 9:33 am

Posted in Thai Chi

Reflecting on 15 years of Lake Sumter Landing – The Villages Daily Sun

Posted: October 7, 2019 at 9:44 am


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On a warm summer night 15 years ago, the lighthouse at Lake Sumter Landing illuminated for the first time. Villagers danced around the Pavilion at Lake Sumter Landing Market Square in celebration while listening to the rock n roll sounds of Derek and the Slammers. It was that same night that Tony Pacelli, 88 at the time, commented on how impressed he was with how far The Villages had come in his 20 years in the community. Pacelli, one of the founding fathers of softball as we now know it in The Villages today, has since passed away, but his predictions for the squares future have come true. You can bet people from all over The Villages will come here for entertainment and the shops and eating places that will be here, Pacelli said on that opening night, according to The Villages Daily Suns coverage of the event. It will be a drawing attraction for all types. It has been 15 years since the lakefront downtown of Lake Sumter Landing opened to the community.

And today, the areas lighthouse glows just as brightly as it did in 2004, with no signs of dimming any time soon.

As Bill and Joyce Burns, of the Village of Country Club Hills, sat eating their lunch at Lighthouse Point Bar & Grille on a recent summer day, they said the lighthouse was a highlight of the area for them, and theyve been returning to the square to enjoy it for more than six years.

The area instantly drew my attention, Bill said. The view and the food are outstanding. Its just a nice place to come and relax and have a nice meal.

Businesses at the square

Although some things have changed over the years, many things havent.

The Old Mill Playhouse, Ambrosia on the Square, The Purple Pig, Bear Dance Boutique, Hallmark and R.J. Gators are still there, as are about 20 other businesses that opened prior to December 2015.

There is a great synergy between the retail, restaurant, service and office uses there, said Scott Renick, director of commercial development for The Villages. Most of the businesses that have come to Lake Sumter Landing over the years have thrived off of each others customer traffic, and the energy around the center continues to be an attractive quality.

The Villages second movie theater, the classically designed Old Mill Playhouse, opened just days after Lake Sumter Landing, and it has stood the test of time.

Jeffrey LeFrancois, assistant manager at the theater, was there when it opened. At the time, he was an usher.

It was mobbed here when we first opened, he said. We had some old movies that had been out for a while, but people were still coming to see them.

Lefrancois said that its hard to believe its been 15 years because he enjoys coming to work so much.

The staff here makes it fun, he said. It doesnt feel like work.

Lefrancois said the theaters biggest milestone was when it started using digital projections about eight years ago, a feature that all three Villages movie theaters have now.

It took us from static fuzziness to something crisp and clear, like looking out the window, he said.

But even though its been 15 years, the theater is still developing and is constantly active.

At the beginning of the year, Lazy Macs Taco Shack was installed in the lobby, and many events, like a recent Downton Abbey tea party, are held inside the theater.

With the recent opening of Chop House at Lake Sumter and The Flying Biscuit Cafe, Lake Sumter Landing is more than 99% occupied. Both Spanish Springs Town Square and Brownwood Paddock Square are 97% occupied.

(My husband) likes Thai Ruby, and we both enjoy walking around down here by the water and the shops, said Carleen Richardson, of Arlington Ridge in Leesburg. We bring our grandchildren here too because they enjoy looking out over the water and walking the boardwalk. Theres just a lot to do here. We can grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks or a bite to eat at Panera (Bread) and check out the many shops around the square.

Entertainment

Business isnt the only thing booming at Lake Sumter Landing. Entertainment and special events have been a staple at the square for years.

Lake Sumter Landing has hosted numerous political rallies for candidates, including Sen. Mitt Romney, Sen. Paul Ryan, President George W. Bush, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Florida Gov. Rick Scott. It also has been the site of several live television events, including Glenn Beck, Fox & Friends 15th Anniversary Show, Sean Hannity and more.

Over the years, the square also has been the site of many large festivals and special events put on by The Villages, including St. Patricks Day festivals, Christmas tree lightings and many car shows.

We have seen a consistent growth in attendance over the years, especially recently, said Chalsi Goheen, special events manager with The Villages Entertainment. During this time, we have also continued to expand our events to both keep up with demand and to keep things new and exciting.

As snowbirds return this year, Lake Sumter Landing will offer monthly events.

There will be Tai Chi on Tuesday; Total Body Workout in November; Ukulele in December; Group Synergy in January; Cardio Drumming in February; Interval Training in March; an Earth Day event in April; Zumba in May and Yoga on the Square in June.

The three squares

Even with all of Lake Sumter Landings events and entertainers, those who frequent other areas of The Villages should not feel left out.

Goheen said Spanish Springs Town Square still holds the most events per year, and Brownwood has been increasing the number of events at its location as well.

Weve been working hard to bring more balance to that, Goheen said.

But she said Lake Sumter Landing does typically get the largest crowds due to both its central location and larger physical size.

The project itself was unique in the commercial real estate sector, as there were very few like it at that time, Renick said. The area was modeled similarly to Spanish Springs but larger. And having been constructed all at once was also a differentiator for Lake Sumter Landing.

Renick credits the central location and diverse mix of local and national businesses, most of which have been in place for many years, as contributing factors to the success of the square.

Although each square is set up differently, with its own unique features and strengths, one thing they have in common is the variety of nightly entertainment.

At this point, I would say that there isnt one favorite square overall, Goheen said. Everyone has their personal favorite square, but ultimately weve seen all of them get equal favor. One thing that does make Lake Sumter Landing special is the scenery, especially that beautiful view over the lake. It really creates a comfortable, inviting and relaxing atmosphere.

Senior writer Kristen Fiore contributed to this report. Staff writer Monique Meeks can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5387, or monique.meeks@thevillagesmedia.com.

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Reflecting on 15 years of Lake Sumter Landing - The Villages Daily Sun

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October 7th, 2019 at 9:44 am

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Chamber To Host Family Health and Wellness Fair At Jordans – Reading, MA Patch

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A release from the Reading-North Reading Chamber of Commerce:

The Reading-North Reading Chamber of Commerce will host a Family Health and Wellness Fair on Tuesday, Oct. 15th from 58 p.m. in the Beantown section of Jordan's Furniture, 50 Walker's Brook Drive in Reading. This family friendly event will feature exhibits and demonstrations. All are welcome and this event is free to attend.

"We are excited to showcase these talented local providers and resources at our inaugural Family Health and Wellness Fair," commented Chamber President, Francine Coughlin of Bark n' Roll.

Gold Sponsors include Lahey Health, MelroseWakefield Health Care and Austin Prep. Jordan's Furniture is the host sponsor. The Silver Sponsor is The Residence at Pearl Street. The Event Partners are ABC Home Healthcare, PDA Dental Group, Thai Chi Acupuncture and Wellness andCentered Soul Yoga.

Robin Krane, Event Chair and Owner of Fitness Within noted, "Mark your calendar and plan to come to Jordan's on October 15th . It will be a great community event with lots of hands-on demonstrations from local experts."

Dana Farber will be hosting a blood drive that day from 12:30 7:30 PM in the Jordan's parking lot. Online appointments are encouraged and you can sign up here. Fitness Within will offer a prize wheel where guests can win boot camps, small group training sessions and personal training sessions will offer body fat assessments. Natural Food Exchange will be raffling off a spiralizer. Winchester Hospital will be offering a free Breast Cancer Risk Assessment, which calculates your lifetime risk for developing breast cancer, and to learn more about the potential risks for developing breast cancer. Genetic counselors will also be onsite to answer your questions about the benefits and limitations of genetic testing. Fuddruckers's will be offering a dining for dollars with a portion of the bill of all diners who mention the Health and Wellness Expo going to Understanding Disabilities, which operates in the Reading schools. Gymsource will be offering 20% equipment that evening (with some restrictions).

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Chamber To Host Family Health and Wellness Fair At Jordans - Reading, MA Patch

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October 7th, 2019 at 9:44 am

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Transformers-inspired robot rolls out green message in Vietnam – The Thaiger

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Whilst Thailand is often nicknamed the land of a thousand 7-elevens, with a convenience store on just about every corner, there are none of these in Vietnam, yet.

With the Thai Baht on a high at the moment, along with the TM30 crackdowns and changes in visa rules, some expats say theyve had enough and are heading to Vietnam, or some other south east Asian country where they improve their situation.

For an expat pensioner, on a fixed income, from a country where the Thai baht has risen against your currency, Thailand has indeed become a more expensive option. The British pound, for example, has gone from around 55 baht to the pound four years ago, to now around 37 baht, a big loss of value. Meanwhile the cost of living in Thailand, on some items, has risen.

But Vietnam has its own challenges and, whilst being an amazing place to explore and be a tourist, may not be to everyones taste as a place to retire or enjoy your extended stay. If you think its better than Thailand to live as an expat youre in for a few rude shocks.

The Thaiger has lived in Thailand and travelled to Saigon, Hanoi, Da Nang, Hue, Hoi An and Phu Quoc in Vietnam. We love Vietnam but estimate it has another decade or so until its ready to cater for longer-term expats, unless you work there of course.

Heres a few things to consider.

If youre looking for some additional hard facts on a move to Vietnam, try this site HERE.

The people

Both Thais and Vietnamese are proud cultures Thailand because weve never been colonised (which youll hear ad nauseam any time the topic comes up), and Vietnam because theyve fended off the Chinese and French, and beaten the Americans in the Vietnam War.

Both are very elegant cultures, rich and exotic and rooted in similar cultural festivals and Buddhist traditions.

But, whereas the Thais have weaponised their trademark smile into a cultural tourist attraction, the Vietnamese remain a bit more, well, unsmiling. This is not because theyre rude or not embracing of westerners and western tourism, its just they are a bit more reserved in expressing an outward smile, unless its deserved. On the other hand, the Thai smile can mean 20 different things, not always in your favour.

Whilst many westerners fall in love with Thailand, its difficult to see that same sort of love being associated with Vietnam. Whatever magic spell Thailand seems to weave on western tourists doesnt seem to happen as much in Vietnam. Thats not to say you wont have wonderful and astonishing experiences in Vietnam, but its palpably different.

Costs

For a tourist the costs can vary a lot in both countries between the out-of-town locations and the tourist magnets. For tourists, youre just going to pay more in both countries, compared to the locals. Hotels and transport will cost you much the same in both countries for things like hotels and bike rentals.

For a long-stay expat finding long-term accommodation in Thailand is easy theres an oversupply of condos, villas and old houses. In Vietnam its a lot more complex to find something and probably more expensive, like-for-like. Thats mainly to the immaturity of the property market which, again, is catching up fast.

Finding a cheap beer will be easier these days in Vietnam but the culture of bars and nightlife is completely different in Vietnam, when compared to the infamous bar culture in Thailand. The bar girls serve you drinks and wash dishes in Vietnam whilst we know the bar girls in Thailand often provide additional services. If youre heading to Vietnam for a vibrant and crazy nightlife youre going to be a bit disappointed.

Food, once you get out of the tourist hubs and cities in Vietnam, is very cheap and delicious but youll never have the same choice or range of flavours you enjoy with Thai food.

Language

English is much more commonly used in Thailand, especially in any of the popular tourist spots, and is a compulsory subject in Thai schools. But out of the tourist zones any English spoken is basic at best.

Outside the two cities or tourist spots in Vietnam, youll be battling with English or any other foreign language. English is not a part of the Vietnamese school curriculum.

Driving

The Vietnamese drive on the opposite side of the road, the right side, compared to Thailand. This may not be a huge issue but is certainly something youll need to adapt to quickly to avoid potential disasters on the roads.

Speaking of the roads

Roads

Vietnam is catching up to Thailand fast in the way of infrastructure but, beyond the major cities, youll find Vietnams roads a lot less drivable than roads in Thailand. As a rough guess, Vietnams road network is 30 years or so behind Thailand for now, but catching up quickly.

Beyond the physical roads, the behaviour of Vietnamese drivers is entirely different from Thailand, and the west. The key word here would be merge. Just go with the herd and dont drive defensively. When you come to an intersection the ability for Vietnamese drivers to weave through the traffic is one of the great wonders of the modern world. The busier the intersection, the more amazing it is to watch.

Whilst appearing completely chaotic to an outsider the system all works very well.

The actual road toll in Vietnam isnt much better than Thailand, which is pretty bad! The annual road toll in Vietnam, per capita, is around 25% less than Thailand.

And then theres the tooting of horns. Whilst tooting someone in Thailand with your car or motorcycle horn will get some serious looks (and sometimes the cause of serious road rage), in Vietnam its common. Actually, more than common, just part of the soundtrack of Vietnams roads. Usually just a mere courtesy to traffic youre passing, Vietnamese drivers will routinely toot a motorbike or car as theyre about to pass them. So get ready for a whole new realm of noise pollution.

Influences

Both countries have long and rich traditions, Thailands recent history a lot more stable than Vietnam which became a colonial punching bag in the middle of the last century, in the form of the Indo-Chinese War with the French then the Americans. In the case of the latter, a drawn-out 20 year invasion by the US left Vietnam a crushed and divided country and caused the collapse of governments in neighbouring Cambodia and Laos. For Cambodia the consequences were disastrous. Both countries now are ruled by communist governments.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and the former king, King Bhumibol, was greatly loved and respected. His son, King Maha Vachiralongkorn, now maintains the customs and traditions of the Thai monarchy. His coronation was an elaborate ceremony in May 2019 celebrated by all Thais.

The main religion in Thailand is Theravada Buddhism. Monks retain high status and are a big part of daily life, from festivals to daily blessings. Young Thai men become novice monks for a period usually 1-3 weeks to earn merit for their families.

Thailand is a hodge podge of old culture and traditions fused with modern western influences often at the same time. Thais celebrate everything and are reasonably tolerant to all cultures. Thai people always try and make their work and daily life fun (or sanook) and have a huge passion for food. Thais never eat alone.

On the other hand Vietnam has a more defined cultural contrast than Thailand and can be a bit more opaque to western travellers. Unlike Thailand that has not had any major colonial influences, Vietnam has been hammered with three key impacts to its recent history China, France and the US.

Centuries of Chinese occupation has had a profound historical legacy on Vietnamese thinking and customs. This heavily influences their customs, traditions and beliefs. The legacy of French colonialism, which lasted six decades from the 1880s, has mostly influenced distinctive French architecture and food.

To that end, Vietnam has maintained a more authentic local culture whilst Thai culture has been more flexible to accommodate the large influx of tourists and investment. Vietnam will certainly have more cultural surprises which many travellers will find more interesting. But that also makes travelling, and living in Vietnam, more challenging.

There is also lingering suspicion of the west, particularly Americans and particularly in the north of Vietnam, but only with the over-50 generation whose memories are more shaped by the horrors of the 20 year conflict that finished in 1975, leaving the country divided and battered by war.

Getting around

Thailand wins hands down with convenience, options and comfort. Travelling around Vietnam, although progressing quickly, is still more of an adventure.

In Vietnam, air transport is excellent and opening up fast, but the countrys road and rail transport infrastructure is still a challenge. If youre travelling to Vietnam you may find it more convenient to take organised tours at this stage as the FITs (free and independent travellers) will certainly need more patience than they would in Thailand.

Thailand is already highly developed in tourism with airlines serving both international and domestic routes. You are spoiled by choice. Theres plenty of local transportation, not necessarily cheap anymore, with options in the cities from tuk tuks, taxis and motorcycles. Bangkok has a modern mass transport system that now links most of the citys main locations. Theres also thousands of tour companies and options for just about any sort of holiday. Its one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations for good reason.

In comparison, there are not that many international flights from western countries to Vietnam, but the situation is changing fairly quickly.

Thailand is served by far more airlines, from all over the world. Thailand also has much better domestic travel facilities and services than Vietnam.

Domestic flights in Vietnam are very convenient, and there are many flights between the main cities. But domestic buses and trains are basic in Vietnam, compared to Thailand which has more comfortable options.

Visas

You cant just land in Vietnam and get a visa on arrival. It doesnt exist except for ASEAN countries (for less than 30 days), and a handful of other countries for 15 days only (the situation changes often so ask Mr Google before you book your flight).

There are three ways of obtaining a visa for Vietnam via a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate, an E-Visa, or a Visa on Arrival (which requires a sponsor letter and pre-approval). The E-visa is a pilot electronic visa system launched in 2017 visitors can apply for a 1 month single-entry visa by paying US$25 via the official immigration platform.

Business visas are a little trickier. Applicants need to get an official entry clearance from their sponsor, usually their employer. This visa allows for multiple entries and lasts for up to one year. If you plan to apply for a business visa, you have to obtain approval from the Vietnamese Immigration Department through your sponsor. If you do not have a business partner, employer, or other sponsor who can provide you with an entry clearance, you can also apply for a business visa for a stay of up to 90 days.

Diplomatic and official visas can be applied for without having to pay any visa fee.

For long-termers you better consult your local embassy because the situation changes fairly often. Suffice to say, you cant just come and stay in Vietnam without a lot of paperwork and occasional frustration.

There is a Permanent Resident Card but its qualifications are fairly odious and would require the assistance of a proper immigration lawyer or agent.

Only in Phu Quoc, the southern tropical-island-Phuket-wannabe, off the coast of Cambodia, can you arrive without a visa. You can get stamped in for free for up to 30 days, but youll then need a visa if you want to take the ferry or fly to Ho Chi Minh City, for example.

Thailand is much more convenient with respect to visas. Passport holders from 57 countries, including the citizens of most European countries, Australia and the US, can enter Thailand for up to 30 days without having to apply for a visa beforehand.

For long-termers there are a number of categories, including business visas, retirement visas, smart visas and a few other categories. All require application and plenty of paperwork.

Recently the Thai government has cracked down on the enforcement of qualification for many visas which is causing problems for some long-termers that have fallen through the cracks in the past but are now finding visa extensions a bit more difficult.

In both cases, youll need to provide some proof of assets to stay long-term. Vietnam is starting to become much more stringent as it starts to become more popular and, like Thailand, you can find a lot of variation in application of the immigration laws, depending on where you are.

Food

Thai cuisine is better known than Vietnamese cuisine. Anywhere in the world youre going to find more Thai restaurants and the flavours and dishes of Thailand are easier to define and describe that their Vietnamese counterparts.

But Vietnamese cuisine has its own features and is becoming more popular. It can also be spicy and pungent, with plenty of fresh herbs, although generally less spicy than Thai food. But youll be able to dine cheaper in Vietnam than in Thailand, whether in the capitals or on the streets in the countryside.

Vietnamese food also has a French influence with a developed coffee culture and excellent bakeries.

And whilst Thailand is often nicknamed the land of a thousand 7-elevens, with a convenience store on just about every corner, there are none of these in Vietnam, yet.

Currency

In Vietnam you can use Dong or the USD. Its always best to carry some Dong for local purchases. Local shop owners or taxi drivers will probably accept your USD but will have their own commission added to the exchange. Currency exchange is easy in most parts of Vietnam, certainly in the cities.

In Thailand its the baht or nothing. Your USD will be of no use on the streets and youll need to get it changed into the local currency.

There are exchange booths everywhere in tourist hot spots and ATMs will dispense you local baht but be careful of the exchange rates and fees when doing international currency exchanges via an ATM.

Medical care

Thailand has a much better developed medical and health care system than Vietnam at this stage. Relative to western countries, the standards of the hospitals are very high and the medical costs still reasonable although private hospitals have become noticeably more expensive over the last decade.

Vietnam is still decades behind Thailand in this respect although catching up fast. Make sure you have comprehensive health insurance when travelling or living in either country.

Seasons

Thailand generally has a hot season, which usually lasts from March/April to June/July. That turns into the hot and wet season that continues until November as the southwest monsoon swings into action sweeping in moist air from the Indian Ocean. The cool season running from December to March, is drier and more comfortable in the north getting quite cold on some days, in the south drier but never dropping below 20 degrees.

Vietnam has a more diverse climate. The south is divided between wet and dry seasons, which is similar to Thailand. Da Lat and the Central Highlands have their dry season from December to March until the southwest monsoon season. The central lowlands, such as Nha Trang, are protected by the mountains and enjoy a long dry season from January to October.

North Vietnam has a distinct winter and summer, completely different to much of Southeast Asia. The winter, from November to March, is wet and cool. The summer, from May to October, is hot with the occasional typhoon swimming in from the South China Sea.

Scams and annoyances

Both have their fair share.

Vietnam Visa scams Certain websites offer online visas in exchange for a fee. Vietnamese embassies have issued a message to warn travellers that those websites are not official, and that they often fail to issue visas. Also, certain travellers thought they were covered by these websites, but once at the airport in Vietnam, the authorities refused them the entry, and they had to go back to their country of origin.

Cheating in the shops can be one of the most annoying problems for travellers to Vietnam. Shops may attract customers by advertising lower prices, but the price may increase at any time and you may end up pulling out more money than what was originally asked for. Continue to read Vietnam Tourist Traps and Scams.

In addition, cheating may even happen as you change money. Since the denominations of dong are very large, sometimes travellers may be confused by the trail of 00000s.

Cheating and scams also happen in Thailand, especially tourist locations. Some restaurants have two menus, one for locals and the other with higher prices for foreigners. The same applies at some tourist attractions although the two-tier pricing in this case is bracingly rubbed in your face. Beware of taxi and tuk tuk drivers that offer to take you to a cheap gem shop, a massage shop or a tailor, or know a friend with a cheap hotel. It will end up an expensive ride.

The prices in those shops will certainly shock you, for they will be two or three times higher than the normal prices.

The bar scene in Thailands tourist hot spots with its girlie bars will delight you with pumping music and tight hot-pants but, as the song One Night in Bangkok says The bars are temples but the pearls aint free. The sex scene in Thailand is, at the same time, strictly illegal, and also in-your-face. The drinks are expensive and the after-drink entertainment might cost a lot, lot more.

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Transformers-inspired robot rolls out green message in Vietnam - The Thaiger

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October 7th, 2019 at 9:44 am

Posted in Thai Chi

Spa of the week: YHI Spa at the Paradisus Hotel, Cancun – Evening Standard

Posted: September 27, 2019 at 1:43 pm


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The latest lifestyle, fashion and travel trends

The latest lifestyle, fashion and travel trends

Swaddled in a bathrobe with a piping hot herbal tea in hand and views across the crystalline Caribbean Sea, its difficult to feel stressed at the YHI Spa in Cancun.

The Paradisus hotels in-house spa is built on a sprawling scale, with a whole floor dedicated to itsAsian-style wellness centre. Guests can enjoy hydrotherapy facilities, steam room, sauna, a state-of the art gym and a smorgasbord of bespoke treatments.

Blending ancient Mayan principles with Asian-style massage techniques, the YHI Spa is the perfect place to melt away any last vestiges of tension and detoxify after too many all-inclusive Pina Coladas.

(Paradisus Hotel Cancun)

The YHI Spa is designed to create an immersive wellness experiencewith Thai-style wooden huts for guests to recover in between treatments and restorative exercise classes like Tai Chi, yoga and Pilates.

The spa specialises in kick-starting recovery and alleviating stress from hectic city life by drawing on ancient Mayan principles combined with cutting edge technology and eco-friendly products. The spas signature IX Chel collection is inspired by the Mayan God of love and includes a healing wrap, hydrotherapy and facials using traditional ingredients like aromatic salts and chocolate oil.

it alsooffers a full beauty salon where guests can treat themselves to a pedicure, manicure, haircutor a makeover by a professional make-up artist.

Guests are led through a private door into a bright atrium with sofas and a bountiful array of flavoured water and herbal teas. A water fountain tinkles in the background while therapists usher guests into a changing room to dispose of their possessions and change into downy dressing gowns.

I had been complaining about tension in my shoulders and neck so the therapist suggested I get a 50-minute deep tissue massage. I was led intoatreatment room decorated in soothing purples and mahogany wood furnishings. The therapist spent the next 50minutes rubbing, slathering and kneading my weary limbs with aromatic oils as I teetered on the edge of sleep.

The full-body massage aims to release blocked energy, reduce pain and stiffness and encourage lymphatic drainage in the body. Its safe to say it did what it said on the tin; at the end of the massage my body felt positively supple and I was barely sentient.

(Paradisus Hotel Cancun)

There are plenty of other treatments to choose from including facials for anti-ageing and acne-prone skin, salt scrubs, body wraps and Ayurvedic style massages. At the end of every treatment guests are encouraged to hydrate with detoxifying tea and make use of the spa and sauna facilities to expel any lingering toxins.

The YHI Spa is the perfect setting to recalibrate and relax, the tension in my neck and shoulders had completely gone at the end of my treatment and I walked out with a spring in my step. Get the most out of your visit by committing half a day to use all the facilities from the fitness classes to the hydrotherapy rooms.

Deep Tissue Massage $165 for 50 minutes,yhispa.com/en/book/paradisus-cancun

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Spa of the week: YHI Spa at the Paradisus Hotel, Cancun - Evening Standard

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September 27th, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Thai Chi

50 Must-Read Picture Books to Transport You to Another Place – Book Riot

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To travel is to live, so said Hans Christian Andersen. I love to travel, to see new places and cultures, and to meet new people. I think it is an immensely rich and rewarding experience, and one that I do not take for granted. For those who dont have the time or money to travel, there is always books. There is enough out there on great travel books for adults (whether travel lit, or simply books set in another place), but there seemed to be little in the way of guides for childrens armchair travelling.

This is a list of childrens books where the setting is important to or evident in the story. The place might be at the forefront and influence everything about the story explicitly. Or it might be a little more subtle. Either way, the setting shines through the illustrations or text or both. I have also picked books that have a plot and characters, so these are not factual, Lets learn about Country! type books. I have nothing against those kinds of books, but for this list I wanted the childrens version of being transported to another place through the story. This is, first and foremost, a list of good books to read at storytime, and not a list of potential geography class textbooks (and I say this as a geographer).

(Note: all descriptions from Goodreads or Amazon; those marked with an asterisk are ones I especially loved and hit the mark of armchair travel).

Renowned picture book creator Jeanette Winter tells the story of a young girl in Afghanistan who attends a secret school for girls.

Wishing a better life for her family, Ary, a poor Cambodian girl, longs to buy a bird from the bird lady and set it free. According to tradition, the bird will carry her wishes into the wide open sky, where, they will be fulfilled.

Mei-Meis morning begins on Grandpas bicycle. Along the busy streets they ride, through the round moon gate to the park. They play games, practice tai-chi, and drink tea with their friends. No wonder Mei-Mei loves the morning.

Children play, birds call, and grownups go about their business during the hot days of summer in northern India. But in the bustle of street and marketplace, everyone is watching, waiting for those magical clouds to bring their gift of rain to the land. Through the observations of one young girl, the scents and sounds, the dazzling colors, and the breathless anticipation of a parched cityscape are vividly evoked during the final days before the welcome arrival of the monsoon.

When Oka-san, a brown-and-gold duck, selects the Mitsui Office Park as the perfect spot for her nest, people flock from downtown Tokyo to watch the ducklings hatch. A modern-day Make Way for Ducklings, set in Japan.

These are the gifts brought across the ocean to Korea: Leather gloves. An apron with pockets like flowers. A book with pictures and simple words. What is given in return? Simple gifts like theseand so much more.

From one of Chinas most beloved, bestselling childrens authors comes this touching story of friendship and empathy, which celebrates the traditional way of life for the Indigenous Ewenki peoples of Mongolia.

Chandra and her sister Deena see a demonstration of a magic light, a solar-powered lantern, at a market near their home in Nepal and are determined to buy one, knowing it will help their little brothers cough to stop using kerosene lamps.

When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year-old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one. As the girls go about their routines washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important.

A heart-warming story of a young Filipino girl who builds self-confidence after spending a day with her classmates, Pan de Sal Saves the Day: A Filipino Childrens Story is an award-winning inspiring tale for young children everywhere.

Mela sets out to explore the river outside her village but quickly ends up in trouble when her little boat is swept downstream and into the dense jungle. She encounters a crocodile, a leopard, and some monkeys, offering each a prize return for helping her find her way home but the animals snatch up their rewards without helping Mela back to her village. Just when shes about to give up, an elephant shows Mela that kindness is its own reward. This new fable is told with authentic Thai customs and includes an authors note with more Thai traditions and language.

Avi and Hamudi are two boys who live in Jerusalems Old CityAvi in the Jewish Quarter and Hamudi in the Muslim Quarter. To each boy, the others neighborhood is an alien land. And although neither boy knows it, both are caring for the same beautiful white stray cat.

After showing kindness to a strange old woman, Shiraz receives the gift of beauty but her lazy and unkind stepsister, Nargues, suffers a less pleasant fate in this adaptation of the Grimms fairy tale, Mother Hulda, reset in Tehran, Iran.

Through the eyes of a child, I See the Sun in Russia is the story of a day in the life of Anton, a young boy growing up in St. Petersburg, Russia.

London is calling! Come along on a mother-daughter day trip as they wend their way past the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, through Trafalgar Square, and on to Covent Garden. Listen closely and you might just learn a secret about the Whispering Gallery in Saint Pauls Cathedral. Then its on to the Tower of London and the river Thames, where a fold-out surprise awaits. Readers will be enchanted by Salvatore Rubbinos cheerful, sophisticated illustrations and abundant trivia about the one and only city of London.

When Simons older sister, Adle, picks him up from school, he has his hat and gloves and scarf and sweater, his coat and knapsack and books and crayons, and a drawing of a cat he made that morning. Adle makes Simon promise to try not to lose anything. But as they make their way home, distractions cause Simon to leave something behind at every stop. What will they tell their mother?Detailed pen-and-ink drawings filled with soft watercolors make a game of this unforgettable tour through the streets and scenes of early-twentieth-century Paris. Illustrated endpapers extend the fun by replicating a 1907 Baedeker map of Paris.

Like the other Sasek classics, This is Munich is a facsimile edition of his original book, which was first published in 1969. The brilliant illustrations have been meticulously preserved and facts updated for the twenty-first century. The charming illustrations coupled with Saseks playful narrative make for a perfect souvenir that will delight both children and parents. Sasek introduces childrenand many adults aliketo the ancient Bavarian capital. Stops include the New Town Hall, the Frauenkirche cathedral, and Munichs most famous beer hall.

This is Greece captures the flavor and tradition of the birthplace of Western civilization. Theres Athens, with its spectacular views of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, temples, theaters, and marketplaces; architecture-renowned Corinth; Mycenae, inhabited since 3000 B.C.; Olympia, home of the gods; Delphi, famous for its legendary oracle; and the beautiful isles. Theres also modern-day Greece, where life is lived on street corners, in squares, and at tables amid reminders of the past.

Hanna was a hippopotamus in the Budapest zoo. Hanna and the other hippos thrived in the warm springs which flowed from the ground. One winter, however, it was so cold that the river froze. There was a war going on, and the people and animals were starving. But the people of Budapest made a plan to save their beloved hippos.

This book follows the story of a young sheep, Humi. Humi lives in Iceland, The Land of Fire and Ice. Iceland is a remarkably beautiful country with hot springs, mountains, waterfalls galore, and magnificent sunsets, but during the winter time its dark for the majority of the day. This is most unfortunate for Humi because he is afriad of the dark. He stays inside, wishing he could go out with his friends, but the dark is too scary. Through a series of adventures however, he learns that not everything that comes out at night is scary some things are beautiful, too.

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Fiona who lived in Dublin. But Dublin is full of colorful characters and creatures from the fairytale realm. Often not seen or heard, they reside in some of Dublins most famous locations and landmarks! Fionas on a journey to Grannys house .but whos that following her through the streets? Travel across the city with Fiona and her fantastic friends in this modern Dublin fairytale. With beautiful and quirky illustrations by the author.

Torill Koves grandmother often told stories to Torill when she was a young girl. One in particular revolved around ironing shirts for the King of Norway.In My Grandmother Ironed the Kings Shirts, Kove follows a thread of family history, embroidering it with playful twists along the way, imaginatively rendering her grandmothers life and work in Oslo during World War II.

Miracle Dogs of Portugal is the almost-true story of historical figure Henry the Navigator and the dog that saved his life Milagro the Portuguese Water Dog. Set against a backdrop of actual historical events, the story is sure to remind kids of all ages to love their friends, summon their courage and follow their dreams.

The Little Matador comes from a long line of proud bullfighters, but he would rather draw a bull than fight one! Despite his fathers best efforts to get him to follow tradition, the Little Matador spends most of days daydreaming and sketching animals in the meadow.One day when the Little Matador is caught making a scene in the town square-drawing a scene, that is-his father decides hes had enough! The Little Matador gets dragged to the arena to face his first bull. He may have decided hes not going to fight, but the bull has other plans. That is, of course, until the Little Matador pulls out his sketch pad. Our talented hero may have won over the bull, but can he overcome his fathers disapproval?

This booktells the old story of Sankta Lucia through the eyes of three children in modern-day Sweden.The book follows the adventures of Sofie, Louise, and Carl as they prepare for Lucia Day, December 13th. On that day, many Swedish people celebrate the legacy of Lucia and the coming of the light with coffee, saffron buns, ginger snaps, and wonderful singing.

There is so much in store on this incredible journey enormous statues and temples, the legendary Sphinx, tombs and mummies, and of course the Great Pyramids.

Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.

Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community. This inspirational true story shows how one persons actions really can make a difference in our world.

On market day, Mama Panyas son Adika invites everyone he sees to a pancake dinner. How will Mama Panya ever feed them all? This clever and heartwarming story about Kenyan village life teaches the importance of sharing, even when you have little to give.

An innovative, two-in-one picture book follows a parallel day in the life of two families: one in a Western city and one in a North African village.Somewhere in Sydney, Australia, a boy and his family wake up, eat breakfast, and head out for a busy day of shopping. Meanwhile, in a small village in Morocco, a boy and his family go through their own morning routines and set out to a bustling market. In this ingenious, wordless picture book, readers are invited to compare, page by page, the activities and surroundings of children in two different cultures. Their lives may at first seem quite unalike, but a closer look reveals that there are many things, some unexpected, that connect them as well. Designed to be read side by side one from the left and the other from the right these intriguing stories are told entirely through richly detailed collage illustrations.

Join Baby and his doting mama at a bustling southwest Nigerian marketplace for a bright, bouncy read-aloud offering a gentle introduction to numbers.

A lyrical, strikingly illustrated story celebrates the unifying power of soccer.In a dusty township in South Africa, Ajani and his friends have earned a brand-new, federation-size soccer ball.

They kick. They dribble. They run. They score. These clever boys are football champions! But when a crew of bullies tries to steal their ball, will Ajani and his friends be able to beat them at their own game?

A Tanzanian family welcomes their Auntie Sharon and Grandmother Bibi from America for a very special occasion: a surprise safari in honor of the matriarchs 85th birthday.

In the sky at nighttime, the northern lights dance, a mothers song sways on the breeze, and a raven roosts atop a tall building, bathed in the light of the moon.

This lyrical poem sends readers sailing through the Arctic night sky to see and hear the unique beauty of a Northern night.

An account of a little girls idyllic summer at her grandparents ranch on the pampas of Argentina.

One day, a man exhausts himself trying to chop down a giant kapok tree. While he sleeps, the forests residents, including a child from the Yanomamo tribe, whisper in his ear about the importance of trees and how all living things depend on one another . . . and it works. Cherrys lovingly rendered colored pencil and watercolor drawings of all the wondrous and rare animals evoke the lush rain forests, as well as stunning world maps bordered by tree porcupines, emerald tree boas, and dozens more fascinating creatures.

Susan and her sister, Rebecca, love watching their mother write letters to people in other camps. Their mother has one precious pencil, and she keeps it safe in her box for special things. One afternoon, Anaana leaves the iglu to help a neighbour, and Susan, Rebecca, and their brother Peter are left with their father. They play all their regular games but are soon out of things to do-until Ataata brings out the pencil! As Susan draws and draws, the pencil grows shorter and shorter. What will Anaana think when she comes home? Based on author Susan Avingaqs childhood memories of growing up in an iglu, this charming story introduces young readers to the idea of using things wisely.

Ana loves stories. She often makes them up to help her little brother fall asleep. But in her small village there are only a few books and she has read them all. One morning, Ana wakes up to the clip-clop of hooves, and there before her, is the most wonderful sight: a traveling library resting on the backs of two burrosall the books a little girl could dream of, with enough stories to encourage her to create one of her own.

Together, a boy and his parents drive to the city of Havana, Cuba, in their old family car. Along the way, they experience the sights and sounds of the streetsneighbors talking, musicians performing, and beautiful, colorful cars putt-putting and bumpety-bumping along. In the end, though, its their old car, Cara Cara, that the boy loves best. [Note: It was this book that sparked the idea for this post.]

From the clip, clop of the milkmans mule in early morning to the clic, clac of her fathers abacus at night, a young girl tells about a day in her familys store and home in Guatemala City.

Every winter, a young girl flies to Haiti to visit her Auntie Luce, a painter.The moment she steps off the plane, she feels a wall of heat, and familiar sights soon follow the boys selling water ice by the pink cathedral, the tap tap buses in the busy streets, the fog and steep winding road to her aunts home in the mountains.

When Ida finds out that Papa must leave Jamaica to work in America, shes heartbroken. But there is some consolation in knowing that Papa needs her to care of the tangerine tree while hes away, and his parting gift of a book comes with a promise: hell be home again by the time shes able to read it.

The first time Abuela holds Nina, her heart overflows with tenderness. And as Nina grows up, she and Abuela spend plenty of time together. Abuela cant help thinking how much shed like to give Nina a very special treat, so she saves a little bit of her money every week a few pesos here, a few pesos there. When the world turns upside down, Abuelas dream of a surprise for Nina seems impossible. Luckily, time spent together and the love Abuela and Nina have for each other could turn out to be the very best gift of all.

Ada Ros grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an optionuntil a music teacher named Favio Chvez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Adaand her townforever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation.

This rhyming text travels from Lake Titicaca all the way to the city of Cusco for the marvelous Inti Raymi Festival. Young readers will meet children from many areas of southern Peru who are traveling to the festival, each using a different mode of transportation.

An exuberant picture book tribute to our national parks and the importance and fun of connecting with nature.Our Great Big Backyard follows Jane, whose plans of spending the summer playing video games with her friends are dashed when her parents announce that her family is going on a road trip to national parks around the country. Yet somewhere between the Everglades and Big Bend National Park, things begin to change.

Sophie Scott is only nine years old, but shes going to Antarctica on an icebreaker with her dad, the ships captain. During he voyage to Mawson Station and back, Sophie keeps a diary. She sees icebergs, penguins, seals and whales. She makes new friends, wonders at the southern lights and even becomes stranded in a blizzard.

The year I turned eight, Mum and Dad took us on a trip around Australia. Luke, Billy and I missed school for the whole winter term.

Join Grace and her family on their adventurous and sometimes funny expedition. A warm, heartfelt story based on an actual journey undertaken by the much-loved, award-winning author and illustrator, Alison Lester.

This bookinvites young readers to spend a day with Tui; a small Fijian boy, as he explores the reef and ocean near his home.The adventurous and water-loving Tui starts his day by exploring the beach with friends and finding kasikasi crabs. As Tui and his friends wade into the shallow waters they encounter beautiful blue starfish and schools of small fish near the reef. They swim to deeper waters and they find larger marine animals like the gentle turtle and a camouflaged octopus hidden in the rocks. Tuis sea animal friends eventually lead him to the shining underwater treasure!

Its laundry day on a South Pacific island, and Kessy is proud that Mama has chosen him to go to Mindas Store to buy the biggest soap. But hell have to hurry if he wants to get back in time for the storytelling that accompanies the washing, so off he goes as fast as a typhoon wind! Along the way there are plenty of surprises, but Kessy returns with just enough soap to finish the wash and in time to tell stories galore from his big adventure.

Here is the incredible story of Elizabeth, a real-life elephant seal who made her home in the Avon River in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. When Elizabeth decides to stretch out across a two-lane road, the citizens worry she might get hurt or cause traffic accidents, so a group of volunteers tows her out to sea. But Elizabeth swims all the way back to Christchurch. The volunteers catch her again and againeach time towing her farther, even hundreds of miles awaybut, still, Elizabeth finds her way back home.

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Here is the original post:

50 Must-Read Picture Books to Transport You to Another Place - Book Riot

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September 27th, 2019 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Thai Chi

12 month Medical Visa proposed among updates to Thai visa offerings – The Thaiger

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Whilst Thailand is often nicknamed the land of a thousand 7-elevens, with a convenience store on just about every corner, there are none of these in Vietnam, yet.

With the Thai Baht on a high at the moment, along with the TM30 crackdowns and changes in visa rules, some expats say theyve had enough and are heading to Vietnam, or some other south east Asian country where they improve their situation.

For an expat pensioner, on a fixed income, from a country where the Thai baht has risen against your currency, Thailand has indeed become a more expensive option. The British pound, for example, has gone from around 55 baht to the pound four years ago, to now around 37 baht, a big loss of value. Meanwhile the cost of living in Thailand, on some items, has risen.

But Vietnam has its own challenges and, whilst being an amazing place to explore and be a tourist, may not be to everyones taste as a place to retire or enjoy your extended stay. If you think its better than Thailand to live as an expat youre in for a few rude shocks.

The Thaiger has lived in Thailand and travelled to Saigon, Hanoi, Da Nang, Hue, Hoi An and Phu Quoc in Vietnam. We love Vietnam but estimate it has another decade or so until its ready to cater for longer-term expats, unless you work there of course.

Heres a few things to consider.

If youre looking for some additional hard facts on a move to Vietnam, try this site HERE.

The people

Both Thais and Vietnamese are proud cultures Thailand because weve never been colonised (which youll hear ad nauseam any time the topic comes up), and Vietnam because theyve fended off the Chinese and French, and beaten the Americans in the Vietnam War.

Both are very elegant cultures, rich and exotic and rooted in similar cultural festivals and Buddhist traditions.

But, whereas the Thais have weaponised their trademark smile into a cultural tourist attraction, the Vietnamese remain a bit more, well, unsmiling. This is not because theyre rude or not embracing of westerners and western tourism, its just they are a bit more reserved in expressing an outward smile, unless its deserved. On the other hand, the Thai smile can mean 20 different things, not always in your favour.

Whilst many westerners fall in love with Thailand, its difficult to see that same sort of love being associated with Vietnam. Whatever magic spell Thailand seems to weave on western tourists doesnt seem to happen as much in Vietnam. Thats not to say you wont have wonderful and astonishing experiences in Vietnam, but its palpably different.

Costs

For a tourist the costs can vary a lot in both countries between the out-of-town locations and the tourist magnets. For tourists, youre just going to pay more in both countries, compared to the locals. Hotels and transport will cost you much the same in both countries for things like hotels and bike rentals.

For a long-stay expat finding long-term accommodation in Thailand is easy theres an oversupply of condos, villas and old houses. In Vietnam its a lot more complex to find something and probably more expensive, like-for-like. Thats mainly to the immaturity of the property market which, again, is catching up fast.

Finding a cheap beer will be easier these days in Vietnam but the culture of bars and nightlife is completely different in Vietnam, when compared to the infamous bar culture in Thailand. The bar girls serve you drinks and wash dishes in Vietnam whilst we know the bar girls in Thailand often provide additional services. If youre heading to Vietnam for a vibrant and crazy nightlife youre going to be a bit disappointed.

Food, once you get out of the tourist hubs and cities in Vietnam, is very cheap and delicious but youll never have the same choice or range of flavours you enjoy with Thai food.

Language

English is much more commonly used in Thailand, especially in any of the popular tourist spots, and is a compulsory subject in Thai schools. But out of the tourist zones any English spoken is basic at best.

Outside the two cities or tourist spots in Vietnam, youll be battling with English or any other foreign language. English is not a part of the Vietnamese school curriculum.

Driving

The Vietnamese drive on the opposite side of the road, the right side, compared to Thailand. This may not be a huge issue but is certainly something youll need to adapt to quickly to avoid potential disasters on the roads.

Speaking of the roads

Roads

Vietnam is catching up to Thailand fast in the way of infrastructure but, beyond the major cities, youll find Vietnams roads a lot less drivable than roads in Thailand. As a rough guess, Vietnams road network is 30 years or so behind Thailand for now, but catching up quickly.

Beyond the physical roads, the behaviour of Vietnamese drivers is entirely different from Thailand, and the west. The key word here would be merge. Just go with the herd and dont drive defensively. When you come to an intersection the ability for Vietnamese drivers to weave through the traffic is one of the great wonders of the modern world. The busier the intersection, the more amazing it is to watch.

Whilst appearing completely chaotic to an outsider the system all works very well.

The actual road toll in Vietnam isnt much better than Thailand, which is pretty bad! The annual road toll in Vietnam, per capita, is around 25% less than Thailand.

And then theres the tooting of horns. Whilst tooting someone in Thailand with your car or motorcycle horn will get some serious looks (and sometimes the cause of serious road rage), in Vietnam its common. Actually, more than common, just part of the soundtrack of Vietnams roads. Usually just a mere courtesy to traffic youre passing, Vietnamese drivers will routinely toot a motorbike or car as theyre about to pass them. So get ready for a whole new realm of noise pollution.

Influences

Both countries have long and rich traditions, Thailands recent history a lot more stable than Vietnam which became a colonial punching bag in the middle of the last century, in the form of the Indo-Chinese War with the French then the Americans. In the case of the latter, a drawn-out 20 year invasion by the US left Vietnam a crushed and divided country and caused the collapse of governments in neighbouring Cambodia and Laos. For Cambodia the consequences were disastrous. Both countries now are ruled by communist governments.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and the former king, King Bhumibol, was greatly loved and respected. His son, King Maha Vachiralongkorn, now maintains the customs and traditions of the Thai monarchy. His coronation was an elaborate ceremony in May 2019 celebrated by all Thais.

The main religion in Thailand is Theravada Buddhism. Monks retain high status and are a big part of daily life, from festivals to daily blessings. Young Thai men become novice monks for a period usually 1-3 weeks to earn merit for their families.

Thailand is a hodge podge of old culture and traditions fused with modern western influences often at the same time. Thais celebrate everything and are reasonably tolerant to all cultures. Thai people always try and make their work and daily life fun (or sanook) and have a huge passion for food. Thais never eat alone.

On the other hand Vietnam has a more defined cultural contrast than Thailand and can be a bit more opaque to western travellers. Unlike Thailand that has not had any major colonial influences, Vietnam has been hammered with three key impacts to its recent history China, France and the US.

Centuries of Chinese occupation has had a profound historical legacy on Vietnamese thinking and customs. This heavily influences their customs, traditions and beliefs. The legacy of French colonialism, which lasted six decades from the 1880s, has mostly influenced distinctive French architecture and food.

To that end, Vietnam has maintained a more authentic local culture whilst Thai culture has been more flexible to accommodate the large influx of tourists and investment. Vietnam will certainly have more cultural surprises which many travellers will find more interesting. But that also makes travelling, and living in Vietnam, more challenging.

There is also lingering suspicion of the west, particularly Americans and particularly in the north of Vietnam, but only with the over-50 generation whose memories are more shaped by the horrors of the 20 year conflict that finished in 1975, leaving the country divided and battered by war.

Getting around

Thailand wins hands down with convenience, options and comfort. Travelling around Vietnam, although progressing quickly, is still more of an adventure.

In Vietnam, air transport is excellent and opening up fast, but the countrys road and rail transport infrastructure is still a challenge. If youre travelling to Vietnam you may find it more convenient to take organised tours at this stage as the FITs (free and independent travellers) will certainly need more patience than they would in Thailand.

Thailand is already highly developed in tourism with airlines serving both international and domestic routes. You are spoiled by choice. Theres plenty of local transportation, not necessarily cheap anymore, with options in the cities from tuk tuks, taxis and motorcycles. Bangkok has a modern mass transport system that now links most of the citys main locations. Theres also thousands of tour companies and options for just about any sort of holiday. Its one of the worlds most popular tourist destinations for good reason.

In comparison, there are not that many international flights from western countries to Vietnam, but the situation is changing fairly quickly.

Thailand is served by far more airlines, from all over the world. Thailand also has much better domestic travel facilities and services than Vietnam.

Domestic flights in Vietnam are very convenient, and there are many flights between the main cities. But domestic buses and trains are basic in Vietnam, compared to Thailand which has more comfortable options.

Visas

You cant just land in Vietnam and get a visa on arrival. It doesnt exist except for ASEAN countries (for less than 30 days), and a handful of other countries for 15 days only (the situation changes often so ask Mr Google before you book your flight).

There are three ways of obtaining a visa for Vietnam via a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate, an E-Visa, or a Visa on Arrival (which requires a sponsor letter and pre-approval). The E-visa is a pilot electronic visa system launched in 2017 visitors can apply for a 1 month single-entry visa by paying US$25 via the official immigration platform.

Business visas are a little trickier. Applicants need to get an official entry clearance from their sponsor, usually their employer. This visa allows for multiple entries and lasts for up to one year. If you plan to apply for a business visa, you have to obtain approval from the Vietnamese Immigration Department through your sponsor. If you do not have a business partner, employer, or other sponsor who can provide you with an entry clearance, you can also apply for a business visa for a stay of up to 90 days.

Diplomatic and official visas can be applied for without having to pay any visa fee.

For long-termers you better consult your local embassy because the situation changes fairly often. Suffice to say, you cant just come and stay in Vietnam without a lot of paperwork and occasional frustration.

There is a Permanent Resident Card but its qualifications are fairly odious and would require the assistance of a proper immigration lawyer or agent.

Only in Phu Quoc, the southern tropical-island-Phuket-wannabe, off the coast of Cambodia, can you arrive without a visa. You can get stamped in for free for up to 30 days, but youll then need a visa if you want to take the ferry or fly to Ho Chi Minh City, for example.

Thailand is much more convenient with respect to visas. Passport holders from 57 countries, including the citizens of most European countries, Australia and the US, can enter Thailand for up to 30 days without having to apply for a visa beforehand.

For long-termers there are a number of categories, including business visas, retirement visas, smart visas and a few other categories. All require application and plenty of paperwork.

Recently the Thai government has cracked down on the enforcement of qualification for many visas which is causing problems for some long-termers that have fallen through the cracks in the past but are now finding visa extensions a bit more difficult.

In both cases, youll need to provide some proof of assets to stay long-term. Vietnam is starting to become much more stringent as it starts to become more popular and, like Thailand, you can find a lot of variation in application of the immigration laws, depending on where you are.

Food

Thai cuisine is better known than Vietnamese cuisine. Anywhere in the world youre going to find more Thai restaurants and the flavours and dishes of Thailand are easier to define and describe that their Vietnamese counterparts.

But Vietnamese cuisine has its own features and is becoming more popular. It can also be spicy and pungent, with plenty of fresh herbs, although generally less spicy than Thai food. But youll be able to dine cheaper in Vietnam than in Thailand, whether in the capitals or on the streets in the countryside.

Vietnamese food also has a French influence with a developed coffee culture and excellent bakeries.

And whilst Thailand is often nicknamed the land of a thousand 7-elevens, with a convenience store on just about every corner, there are none of these in Vietnam, yet.

Currency

In Vietnam you can use Dong or the USD. Its always best to carry some Dong for local purchases. Local shop owners or taxi drivers will probably accept your USD but will have their own commission added to the exchange. Currency exchange is easy in most parts of Vietnam, certainly in the cities.

In Thailand its the baht or nothing. Your USD will be of no use on the streets and youll need to get it changed into the local currency.

There are exchange booths everywhere in tourist hot spots and ATMs will dispense you local baht but be careful of the exchange rates and fees when doing international currency exchanges via an ATM.

Medical care

Thailand has a much better developed medical and health care system than Vietnam at this stage. Relative to western countries, the standards of the hospitals are very high and the medical costs still reasonable although private hospitals have become noticeably more expensive over the last decade.

Vietnam is still decades behind Thailand in this respect although catching up fast. Make sure you have comprehensive health insurance when travelling or living in either country.

Seasons

Thailand generally has a hot season, which usually lasts from March/April to June/July. That turns into the hot and wet season that continues until November as the southwest monsoon swings into action sweeping in moist air from the Indian Ocean. The cool season running from December to March, is drier and more comfortable in the north getting quite cold on some days, in the south drier but never dropping below 20 degrees.

Vietnam has a more diverse climate. The south is divided between wet and dry seasons, which is similar to Thailand. Da Lat and the Central Highlands have their dry season from December to March until the southwest monsoon season. The central lowlands, such as Nha Trang, are protected by the mountains and enjoy a long dry season from January to October.

North Vietnam has a distinct winter and summer, completely different to much of Southeast Asia. The winter, from November to March, is wet and cool. The summer, from May to October, is hot with the occasional typhoon swimming in from the South China Sea.

Scams and annoyances

Both have their fair share.

Vietnam Visa scams Certain websites offer online visas in exchange for a fee. Vietnamese embassies have issued a message to warn travellers that those websites are not official, and that they often fail to issue visas. Also, certain travellers thought they were covered by these websites, but once at the airport in Vietnam, the authorities refused them the entry, and they had to go back to their country of origin.

Cheating in the shops can be one of the most annoying problems for travellers to Vietnam. Shops may attract customers by advertising lower prices, but the price may increase at any time and you may end up pulling out more money than what was originally asked for. Continue to read Vietnam Tourist Traps and Scams.

In addition, cheating may even happen as you change money. Since the denominations of dong are very large, sometimes travellers may be confused by the trail of 00000s.

Cheating and scams also happen in Thailand, especially tourist locations. Some restaurants have two menus, one for locals and the other with higher prices for foreigners. The same applies at some tourist attractions although the two-tier pricing in this case is bracingly rubbed in your face. Beware of taxi and tuk tuk drivers that offer to take you to a cheap gem shop, a massage shop or a tailor, or know a friend with a cheap hotel. It will end up an expensive ride.

The prices in those shops will certainly shock you, for they will be two or three times higher than the normal prices.

The bar scene in Thailands tourist hot spots with its girlie bars will delight you with pumping music and tight hot-pants but, as the song One Night in Bangkok says The bars are temples but the pearls aint free. The sex scene in Thailand is, at the same time, strictly illegal, and also in-your-face. The drinks are expensive and the after-drink entertainment might cost a lot, lot more.

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12 month Medical Visa proposed among updates to Thai visa offerings - The Thaiger

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September 27th, 2019 at 1:42 pm

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Vietnam ready to join Singapore in F1 firmament – WTVB News

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Monday, September 23, 2019 8:58 a.m. EDT

By Abhishek Takle

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Vietnam Grand Prix organizers are confident their race will join Singapore in lighting up the Formula One calendar for years to come, rather than adding to the list of Asian shooting stars, after it debuts in 2020.

As the sport said farewell to Singapore for another year on Sunday, it looked forward already to a return to the region in April for the inaugural Vietnamese round in Hanoi.

"Vietnam is the right country at the right time in the right place," Vietnam Grand Prix Chief Executive Le Ngoc Chi told Reuters.

"(Its) just the perfect time to join Formula One with our robust economics, with our traditions, with our culture, with our people, with our food, so everything is just right."

Vietnam's fast-growing and youthful economy is attractive for sponsors as well as commercial rights holders Liberty Media, who have spoken about adding 'destination cities' to the calendar.

Singapore -- whose night race is now one of the most glittering events of the season - was the only round in South East Asia in 2019, with Malaysia joining a list of races to fall by the wayside after saying goodbye two years ago.

India (2011-13) and South Korea (2010-13) have come and gone, while plans for a floodlit race in the Thai capital Bangkok never got off the ground. Chi said Vietnam would be more resilient.

"We are not the shooting star," she declared.

"We dont just come on the scene to stay for one year... in order for a grand prix to be successful, you have to be sustainable.

"How do you stay in the business? Thats what we can learn from the unsuccessful ones."

Chi said the key lay in creating a satisfying experience for fans and in the longer term growing motorsports popularity among a local population more focused on soccer.

"Its just a sense of pride, its a sense of responsibility," she said. "We have to deliver this event successfully."

TOURISM BENEFIT

Formula One considered racing in Vietnam when Bernie Ecclestone was the sports commercial boss but the Briton ruled it out, despite significant sums on offer, because he felt the region had enough races already with Singapore and Malaysia.

Ecclestone was ousted in 2017 and a deal with Vietnam's largest conglomerate Vingroup JSC was signed last year.

"Its obvious that tourism will benefit," Chi said of the race. "But there are other things that we think it will bring, such as investment, promotion, technology, opportunities for businesses in Vietnam to connect with businesses in the world.

"Besides all that, we also want to showcase to the world that Vietnam and Hanoi can actually organize a world-class event.

"We want to showcase to the world that we are not just a country that got out of war anymore.We are developing, we are moving forward very quickly, we are the new dragon of Asia."

Formula One has long expanded from its European origins, with now-departed Malaysia added in 1999 as a second race in Asia after Japan.

China joined the list in 2004, Singapore in 2008 and there are now also two races in the Middle East.

(Editing by Alan Baldwin/Ken Ferris)

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Vietnam ready to join Singapore in F1 firmament - WTVB News

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September 27th, 2019 at 1:42 pm

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Things to do in Thailand in low budget for Budget Trip – seattlepi.com

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Things to do in Thailand in low budget for Budget Trip

Thailand is often listed as one of the budget-friendly countries for travelers. Although the cities like Bangkok, Phuket, etc are often labeled as a party destination for their bustling lives, rich nightlife, exotic personality, traffic jams, etc. the cities are also loaded with exciting activities that people can indulge in when running short of money. The irony of traveling to Thailand is that it is both an exotic and budget-friendly destination for travelers.

From cheap food stalls to devour the taste of Thai cuisine to hostels and apartments to rent out a comfortable lounging space the country has its many facets that unfold as you take Pattaya Tour Packages. Solo travelers and backpackers vouching for its cost-effectiveness, Thailand is celebrated by travelers of all kinds. Here are some of the things you can do in Thailand on a low budget!

The Bangkok Night Markets

It is always good to visit the stunningly beautiful malls decorated with idealistic interiors and presentation of vivid brand stores. But in Bangkok, the true excitement races in when you hit the night market. The vibe of the night markets is an instant connect with the city taking you on a tour to explore the artistic minds of the people here. Known for its shopping experience, the markets treat you with cheap handicraft, steal deal clothes, gadgets, home dcor items, etc. You can walk from cheap food stalls, entertainment zones, local stores to electrifying dance moves and party feel inside the market. And as you hop on the SkyTrain the lifeline of Bangkok, you are sure to save up on a lot while you make your way to one of these truly exciting markets.

Cruising on Chao Phraya River

Chap Phraya River is one of the sacred rivers of Thailand known for its holy waters. The astounding beauty of the river with its flow across the villages and iconic old cities, the journey through the river is truly an excruciating experience. Hop on the traditional cruise running from centuries now to connect to the lost world of Thailand and make your way through the river. The twists and turns greet you with new views every minute. Sitting on a comfortable lounge deck, you can spend some time your partner to soak into the beauty of this truly serene river.

The city of Ayutthaya

Nothing better than taking some time out to explore the culture and heritage of the country! In Thailand, Ayutthaya, the old capital is where you get all your questions answered. The ruins of Ayutthaya are truly iconic in their beauty and feel. The city had once been home to several palaces and iconic structures, the remains of which are much more stunning today. Hop on a traditional cruise to make your way to the city of Ayutthaya on a cruise and travel all day long hoping from different temples, palaces, and ruins of the city. Wat Arun, Wat Phro, and Wat Saket are popular temples to visit. Your Google Pin is your best friend as you explore on a budget!

Chinatown

Popular across the world for its iconic name, Chinatown is like mini China in Thailand. As the sun sets, the Chinatown comes to life. Flooded with street food stalls, restaurants, candy stores, and entertainment arenas, Chinatown is your ticket to budget-friendly eating in Thailand. The numerous stalls and restaurants serve the finest of food in Thailand at seriously low prices. The beauty of this place is that it is always crowded and bustling with activities to notice and enjoy. Immerse into the culinary world of Thailand as you take a bite of the Pad Thai Noodles, Thai curry or rice sitting on the corner of the street. If you crave for some fun or night out to eat or shop around Chinatown can be an exciting plan!

Lumpini Park and Muay Thai fight

Spend some time boating on the artificial lake that overlooks the splendid skyline of the Bangkok city. Lumpini Park is a heavenly park with its greenery, collection of flowers, fresh air, and peace. On a regular evening, you shall find groups of people practicing Tai Chi, spending time with their partners or playing around in the park. After enjoying a beautiful sunset in the park, you can head to the MBK Shopping Mall for cheap shopping endeavors. MBK is also popular for hosting evening Muay Thai fights for free. This entertainment sport is a unique fight in action practicing the art of Muay. With ring girls, flashy lights and fighters in action you get a completely entertaining evening for free!

Pattaya Offshore Islands

Pattaya is also celebrated not just for its city life but some of the iconic islands off its coast that are closer than they appear. Hop on the local boats to make your way to these stunning groups of islands and spend some time in nature. An instant disconnect from the city life, the islands like Koh Phi Phi, Koh Bon, etc are truly breathtaking. Spend an entire day island hopping and soaking in the view of the limestone pillars, Rock Mountains, golden sand beaches, emerald green water and more. As you immerse in the trip yourself or through the Pattaya Tour Packages, you unfold many mysteries of marine life without blowing up your budget.

Chatuchak Market

Even if you hate shopping, you cannot ignore the spectacular offering of the Chatuchak Market. With over 8000 stalls spread over an area of 27 acres, this market is one of the largest markets in the world. The unending number of local stores and stalls here sell anything and everything that one can imagine. The endless offerings of this market are perfect for a shopper to spend almost an entire day shopping, bargaining, and eating! If you have a niche in bargaining, try your skills here and buy the best of things on cheap deals.

Being a budgeted traveler is no issue with Thailand. The exotic beaches, lively markets, shopping hubs, museums, parks, and iconic islands fit your bill right while filling your pocket with memories and experiences!

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Things to do in Thailand in low budget for Budget Trip - seattlepi.com

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September 19th, 2019 at 6:45 am

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SE Asia Stocks-Trade in tight range amid cloudy Fed outlook – Reuters

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* U.S. Fed cuts interest rates as expected * Indonesia slips ahead of central bank meet * Malaysia on track to fall for a second session By Anushka Trivedi Sept 19 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets traded ina tight range on Thursday, as investors laid off heavy betsafter the U.S. Federal Reserve delivered an expected rate cutbut provided limited insight on its next move. Fed Chair Jerome Powell described the U.S. economic outlookas "favorable," and said the policy easing was meant to insureagainst ongoing risks including sluggish global growth andongoing trade tensions. The Fed's cautious stance will be of little help to Asianpolicymakers who are weighing additional measures. Indonesia'scentral bank is set to meet later in the day and the Philippinesthe week after, while Fed's cloudy outlook offers less room forthem to ease their respective rates, giving them fewer tools totackle their cooling economies. "Should Fed officials continue conveying mixed policyoutlook to global investors, that could trigger bouts ofvolatility as markets contend with the uncertain projectionssurrounding U.S. interest rates," Han Tan, market analyst atbrokerage FXTM said in a note. Indonesian shares traded a tad lower ahead of thecentral bank policy decision as financials strained thebenchmark. Bank Indonesia is largely expected to slash rates, accordingto a Reuters poll, with government officials stating the policywould be aimed at supporting Indonesia's GDP expansion in lightof a global economic slowdown. Lenders Bank Rakyat Indonesia (Persero) Tbk PT andBank Mandiri (Persero) Tbk PT dropped 0.7% and 1.4%,respectively. The Thai bourse touched a two-week low as localenergy players came under pressure from an overnight tumble inoil prices. Top oil producer PTT PCL slipped 1.1%after scaling 3.2% in the previous session. The Malaysian benchmark index was poised to closelower for a second session, dented by consumer and telecomsectors. A dip in palm oil prices hurt producers of the commodity suchas Sime Darby Plantation Bhd and IOI Corp Bhd, while telco Digi.com Bhd dropped 1.5%. Singapore shares and the Philippine index werelargely unchanged. For Asian Companies click; SOUTHEAST ASIAN STOCK MARKETS as at 0352 GMT Change on the day Market Current Previous close Pct Move Singapore 3163.79 3166.84 -0.10 Bangkok 1647.7 1654.14 -0.39 Manila 7913.91 7915.29 -0.02 Jakarta 6247.918 6276.633 -0.46 Kuala Lumpur 1594.73 1599.49 -0.30 Ho Chi Minh 993.85 995.15 -0.13 Change so far in 2019 Market Current End 2018 Pct Move Singapore 3163.79 3068.76 3.10 Bangkok 1647.7 1563.88 5.36 Manila 7913.91 7,466.02 6.00 Jakarta 6247.918 6,194.50 0.86 Kuala Lumpur 1594.73 1690.58 -5.67 Ho Chi Minh 993.85 892.54 11.35 (Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru, Editing by SherryJacob-Phillips)

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SE Asia Stocks-Trade in tight range amid cloudy Fed outlook - Reuters

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