Hello, Digital Travellers!
For most people not living in—or familiar with—Asia, there’s a fair chance that most of your news consumption this week has been focused upon the world leaders gathering at Davos, Switzerland, the real possibility of a no-deal Brexit, or the partial re-opening of the US Government.
That’s a lot for anyone to take in, and we’d perfectly understand if you missed some of Asia’s big—and relevant—political stories, as well as some great little gems just for journeying Digital Travellers like you.
First the less fun stuff: attacks in both southern Thailand and over in the Philippines occurred with mortal consequences; Bangkok once again found itself with the unwanted moniker of a polluted city by the local press; another volcano erupted in Indonesia – this time without causing any damage; and, at least to the Australian Government, much of Myanmar is a risky option for travel.
With that out of the way, there’s good news for the Asian-adventurer of tomorrow: Myanmar is promoting some of its seldom-visited sites; there are still places on Bali to explore in peace; and Taco Bell opened its first restaurant in Thailand.
*As it’s been another busy week for The Digital Traveller Team, this update includes what we think are the most important things relating to fun and safety over the slightly longer time frame of nine days (19th-27th January, 2019).
Disclaimer: The Digital Traveller Team endeavours to not proffer or impose our personal opinions on politically sensitive topics. If, however, you feel that we have gone beyond our usual mandate to highlight political and security developments in Asia, please email us at email@example.com so that we can correct it. Thank you.
The Middle East
Israel/Palestinian Territories: A series of incidents, which, as of now, hasn’t seemingly had a serious impact on regional stability, nevertheless adds to the strife between communities and interstate relations. On the 21st, Israel confirmed it hit Iranian targets in Syria (the sorties were launched in response to fired Iranian surface-to-air missiles towards Israel); Israel’s separation wall is becoming a concern for some Palestinian community members; and, the State authorities plan to close UNRWA schools in occupied East Jerusalem. Again, as far as we’re hearing, nothing has so far lead to an increase in tensions, but each event in the context of the Middle East is a potential source for further violence that visitors should be cognisant of.
China and East Asia
North Korea: From what some of the papers are saying, it looks like a second Trump-Kim summit is on the cards at the end of February. Fingers crossed the event brings peace, stability, and some pioneering tourist opportunities to the DPRK!
India and the Subcontinent
India: On January 19th, the deadly H1N1 virus that caused such a scare a decade ago made a deadly return; it has so far claimed 40 lives in Western India this year with over a thousand others testing positive. This highly contagious virus is spread from human-to-human. Needless to say, if you are heading to Rajasthan and its surrounds, keep your Digital Traveller ear to the ground for local updates, warnings, and information.
A day after this new-story, over half a million people in Eastern India attended an opposition rally hoping to remove India’s Prime Minister. With a multitude of existent problems in the world’s largest democracy, discontent is certainly simmering.
Indonesia: On 19th January, Mount Agung erupted. Currently, as noted in the OCHA snapshot, the volcano was spewing lava and is a no-go zone. As of the update (published on 21st), no damage has so far been reported.
In more positive news, Mark Eveleigh, spills the beans on how to experience Bali away from the crowds: simply go west of the island – that’s where the quiet, unspoiled beaches are. And it’s even easier to get there from the UK with some direct flights taking less than 16 hours. This is worth a read for those wanted to experience the ‘real Bali.’
The Philippines: On January 20th, a tropical depression, named Amang, made landfall—the first to hit the Philippines this year. According to OCHR, 11,000 people were pre-emptively evacuated.
And just before we published this update, two bombs exploded in the south of the Philippines, killing 20 and injuring over 80. The Muslim militant group, Abu Sayyaf is suspected of carrying out the attack.
Myanmar: We have no wish to bore readers with the same disclaimers that we seem to feel are necessary to include every week: the country remains in a de facto state of civil war; a ceasefire is holding in the north, but violence (including military assaults and ambushes) remain a present threat in Northern Rakhine State.
That said, the Australian Government produced a travel advice map that would make one think twice about heading there at all. The map is included in this article by Pro Niti Travel which also raises pertinent questions not only about safety but also ethics. They (and we agree), are correct in asserting that Myanmar is safe, save for the war zones.
And it certainly isn’t all doom and gloom in this fabulous Southeast Asian country. The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is trying its best to promote long-standing sites that are not currently on the tourist trail for Myanmar travellers. Among such places are Toungoo (The Global New Light of Myanmar, 20.01.2019: pps.8-9); Sagaing Region (The Global New Light of Myanmar, 22.01.2019), and as mentioned last week, Nagaland. All regions boast extraordinary natural beauty and sublime ancient buildings that well and truly do deserve to be part of any Digital Traveller’s itinerary. Given that Myanmar has a big push on right now to attract tourists this year in the campaign dubbed ‘My Myanmar, Be Enchanted (The Global New Light of Myanmar, 22.01.2019: p.7),’ DT’s should be on the look out for possible bargains.
But, if you want to stay closer to Yangon rather than heading out in search for barely discovered sites, this Yangon Timeout from The Irrawaddy will give you a fine sense of the range that this vibrant old colonial capital has in store for its visitors.
Thailand: Perhaps the most urgent news for Digital Travellers is that two Buddhists monks were killed in southern Thailand. This matters, or potentially matters, for two reasons: the first is that this region has long harboured a low-level insurgency seeking separation from Thailand; and, secondly, the region is not only a tourist hub in itself, but is where various land routes to Malaysia will take many. There’s no suggestion tourists are directly at risk, but Digital Travellers should be aware of the goings-on in this part of the world if intending to visit.
For the second week in a row, we’re noting a concern over air pollution in Bangkok. As we stridently said last week, don’t underestimate the dangers of pollution. Go prepared, DTs!
On the plus side, Agence France-Presse news agency (published in The Global New Light of Myanmar on 25.01.2019) wrote that Bangkok now boasts its first Taco Bell restaurant. Hundreds queued for the opening day, eager to see how it stood up to Thai food. Apparently the flavours and spices are rammed up to accommodate for local tastes.
That’s all from us this time. As always, if you hear of anything we’ve missed, or have a juicy tip, let us know by emailing the team at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thedigitaltravellerteam/?ref=bookmarks.
*This update was compiled by Thomas David Dowling
Have fun and stay safe
The Digital Traveller Team