Usually unpleasantness in a country or region can be a good thing for travelers, in that it means discounts for visitors who don't mind a bit of stricture or inconvenience. Right now, China's having a bit of trouble with, well, most of Southeast Asia, meaning a reduced number of Chinese travelers, creating a theoretical opportunity for discounts. Add to that a military coup in Thailand, and one would think lower airfares and hotel rates would abound. One would also be wrong.
Let's start with Thailand. Ok, a 10pm curfew is probably not what the average traveler had in mind as "holiday atmosphere," and certainly not there. By the way, that curfew is national, not just in Bangkok, so forget about full-moon parties and the like. However, that's not everyone's schtick in Thailand, and there's still plenty to do otherwise. Reports from travelers and friends there indicate things are pretty normal, except for the nighttime lockdown.
But if the travel industry is reacting to the coup, they're not doing so quickly enough. Base fares to Thailand on Cathay Pacific Airlines were the lowest of the airlines we checked, but not exactly inexpensive. Cathay was offering RMB 1,660 as the fare, but with tax came out to about RMB 2,500. That's about normal, it's certainly not significantly lower in light of ongoing political trouble that has damaged Thailand's previously Teflon-coated reputation. Thai Airways was about RMB 3,500, and Air China about the same. Yawn.
On the hotel side, the Four Seasons and Shangri-La both had rooms available in the USD 180 per night range. That's not too bad. Bear in mind that right now is Thailand's hot season, so it's not exactly the best time of year to go, and soon it will be the rainy season, which is really not the best time to go. Both of those hotel rates were found via Agoda. If you're doing the backpacker thing on Khao San Road, then just bargain.
Vietnam, however, is looking up in the face of anti-Chinese riots. Now, if you are of Chinese descent, it still may not be a great idea to go there. But if that doesn't apply, then Vietnam is offering fairly good deals right now. Vietnam Airlines can get you to Hanoi, May 31 departure and June 4 return, for RMB 1,906, including tax. That's pretty good. Unfortunately, going to Ho Chi Minh will be more like RMB 3,000. Go to Hanoi, it's a lovely city.
Beijing's airline of the year, Malaysia Airlines, can fly you to Kuala Lumpur for RMB 3,715. Just forget it.
One other note for this edition: Beijingers (Chinese citizens whose hukou is in Beijing) may apply for Taiwan travel permits on the day of the trip, at least that's the fastest service now available. That's just another indication of how normal that part of the cross-straits relationship has become.
Prices may start to change after the May 31-June 2 Duan Wu. Using Talking Travel's maxim that you have to plan your next trip as soon as you return from your previous one, that means next Tuesday, we'll have our October 1 preview. One destination I can guarantee will be included: Myanmar. Until our Thursday edition, one road flat safe.
Photo: Vietnam Online
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