35 Die in Central Vietnam After Typhoon Molave

At least 35 people have died and 59 are missing as Typhoon Molave hit Central Vietnam on Wednesday (28th October), the fourth major storm to hit the area in October. The number of deaths is expected to rise. The three previous storms left at least 130 people dead and 18 missing before Molave.

Photo depicts previous flooding of Hoi An and not current conditions – credit Loi Nguyen Duc on flickr

Heavy rain and winds of up to 150km (93mph) resulted in major damage to around 89,000 homes. At least 19 people have been killed following landslides. Government officials have stated that Molave is the most powerful storm to hit the region in at least 20 years.

12 fishermen who had been reported missing following the loss of their vessel are now confirmed to have perished, a further 14 are still unaccounted for. Two navy vessels continue the search for survivors.

In Tra Leng in Quang Nam province a landslide left up to 45 people buried, at least 12 bodies have been recovered and 14 are still missing. Rescue efforts are being hampered due to other landslides and blocked or damaged roads.

8 people died in nearby Tra Van in Quang Nam province after a hillside collapsed onto houses where they were sheltering from the typhoon.

3 people were killed and 8 are still missing in Phuoc Loc following another landslide.

Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung said in a statement “We can forecast the storm path or the amount of rain, but can’t predict when landslides happen.”

Rescue teams, including military teams, are searching for more survivors and are helping with humanitarian relief efforts.

More than 1.7 million residents are believed to have been left without power after widespread outages.

At least 40,000 people were evacuated to emergency shelters in the lead up to the typhoon.

Vietnam’s weather agency has said that heavy rain will continue in the area until Saturday that could result in up to 700mm (27.5 inches) of rain.

Molave had already caused devastation in the Philippines where it left 16 dead, dozens missing and extensive damage.

More on Typhoon Molave from our previous post on the Typhoon.

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Andaman Sea

My favourite pictures #9

I have always loved water.

My fearless antics around swimming pools as a 2 year old scared my non-swimming mother on many occasions. I did so many sponsored swims that by 8 years old relatives had said enough was enough, especially those who sponsored by distance.

I have been a swimming teacher, a lifeguard and a water-sports instructor.

Of course as someone who has always loved the water I have also always loved boats. I don’t mean big cruise liners, I mean sailing dingy’s and yachts, ribs and speed boats.

I have sailed and driven boats on lakes, rivers, seas and even oceans.

I once did a yacht delivery from Tenerife in the Canary Islands to Gibraltar.

I have hired small boats in the Greek Islands to go and explore the islands and “secret” beaches and coves.

I have been a passenger on many boats as well, enjoying the tourist sights or just travelling between locations.

I have seen beautiful seas, rough and angry seas, cold deep lakes and raging rivers. I have gazed down on stunning tarns from steep English Lake District mountains. I have stared through a face mask through murky water at the bottom of a flooded English quarry.

I don’t think I have seen more beautiful water than the Andaman Sea however.

From Khao Lak to Phuket and Krabi I have gazed at the wonderful clear blue sea from hills and beaches. I have swum in calm, warm waters. I have had an incredible scuba diving experience off Phi Phi.

The sounds of Long Tail boats plying their trade up and down the coast or just of gentle waves lapping against the beach.

The incredible islands and Karst cliff faces, soaring out from the water.

I love the Andaman Sea.

The Andaman Sea used to be known as the Burma Sea and primarily borders on Thailand and Myanmar plus parts of Indonesia and India (Andaman and Nicobar Islands).

Andaman Sea, Thailand

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Typhoon Molave Batters Central Vietnam

Typhoon Molave, believed to be the most powerful storm to hit Vietnam in the last 20 years, made landfall just south of Da Nang at around 11.00am on Wednesday morning.

Photo depicts previous flooding of Hoi An and not current conditions – credit Loi Nguyen Duc on flickr

The storm is expected to move westwards through Central Vietnam for the next 12 hours before weakening into a tropical depression and moving into southern Laos.

CNN reported winds of up to 165kph (103mph), equiavalent to a Category 2 Hurricane, although official figures currently record winds of 135kph (84mph). Rainfall of up to 250mm (9.8 inches) has been recorded since Tuesday evening and continues to fall. Waves along the coastline have risen as high as 6 metres (19.5 feet).

26 fisherman are currently missing after their boats sank in rough seas. Two Vietnamese Navy ships are currently searching for the fishermen. There are unconfirmed reports of at least 2 deaths on the Vietnamese mainland.

Power cuts have been reported in Da Nang and nine provinces in the region. Hoi An has experienced extensive flooding in some areas.

There have been reports of extensive damage to at least 500 buildings and many trees being uprooted by the high winds.

Vietnamese military have 250,000 soldiers, helicopters and amphibious vehicles prepared to assist in the aftermath of the storm.

Central Vietnam has already been hit by 3 major storms in October with at least 130 people dead and 18 missing following flooding and landslides in the area.

Molave had already caused devastation in the Philippines where it left 3 dead, dozens missing and extensive damage.

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Songthaew

My favourite pictures #8

I have ridden in many a Songthaew over the years. We have hailed them from the side of the road, used impromptu “bus” stops and jumped onto waiting trucks.

I have always enjoyed travelling in the back of a Songthaew, with its open sides and back and the little sense of adventure as you hang on as the driver takes a tight turn and you start to slide on the bench seat.

However the one pictured almost felt like our own private transport.

We were staying at the Beyond Resort Khao Lak and asked at reception for transport, for the 6 of us, into the main part of town. They were, as always, very helpful and told us to wait outside reception at the required time the following day.

The next day we headed to meet the driver and there, waiting for us, with a broad smile on his face, was the driver and his Songthaew.

We told him where we wanted to go and jumped into the back. Off we went, enjoying the breeze as we motored along the road, admiring the scenery, the locals riding mopeds with children perched on the front or with goods piled high behind them.

Soon enough we pulled into the centre of La On and went to pay him. He smiled and asked if we needed a lift back. We said yes but not for a few hours. That was fine, we arranged a time and he waved our money away, “pay me on the way back” he said.

A few hours later we went back to meet him and again he was sat there waiting for us. By the time we had got back to the hotel we had decided to arrange our next trip with him before he left.

We used the same Songthaew and driver multiple times over the next week or so and loved every minute of it.

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Threat to Komodo Dragon by “Jurassic Park”

Protests against an Indonesian government backed scheme to promote tourism on Rinca Island, dubbed “Jurassic Park” have intensified following the publication of a picture showing a Komodo Dragon and a workers truck in close proximity.

Rinca Island is one of the the three largest islands making up Komodo National Park in Indonesia. The island comprises an area of just 198 sq km (76 sq miles) and can be reached only by boat.

The Komodo National Park was founded in 1980 to protect the Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard, and its remit has since been expanded to help protect other species including marine life. The National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

Around 4,000 Komodo dragons are believed to inhabit the National Park and many locals and conservationists oppose the project saying that the construction and increased tourism will harm the natural habitat of the dragons. The use of concrete for the new structures has also been criticised as not being in keeping with the local habitat and National Park status.

The Komodo dragon can grow up to 3 metres (10ft) long weighing up to 140kg (300 lb). They eat a wide range of animals although the primary prey are the Timor deer and carrion although they have been known to kill Water Buffalo. Dragons have been known, rarely, to attack humans and a single bite can be fatal due to the venom injected which prevents blood clotting, lowers blood pressure and induces shock.

Komodo dragon. Credit Matthias Liffers on flickr

It has been reported that around 15 Komodo dragons are regularly seen in the area of the project park of a localised population of around 66 dragons. There are estimated to be just over 1,000 dragons on Rinca, the second highest population behind Komodo Island with more than 1,700.

The work is designed to increase tourism to the area and promote the island as a “premium tourism destination”. The project has received Rp69.96 billion (approx £3.67 million or US$4.78 million) of funding.

The  Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR) issued a press release on 26th October in an attempt to reassure concerned residents and environmentalists that the facilities were being built “with great care”.

The press release states that much of the project is designed to be elevated 2 metres high so as not to interfere with the activities of the dragons and other animals and protect visitors and includes:

  • An improvement to the existing Loh Buaya Pier
  • A coastal safety building and footpath
  • Information centre including resort office, guest house and cafeteria
  • Lodging and research posts for rangers, tour guides and researchers
  • An elevated deck access road linking the pier to the information center and lodgings
Komodo dragon. Credit Nina R on flickr

Head of the NTT Provincial Settlement Infrastructure Center, Herman Tobo was quoted as saying “We are always accompanied by a ranger from the Komodo National Park, so that the construction process of infrastructure and facilities does not damage or disturb the habitat of the Komodo dragons”.

The project work is reported to be currently demolishing existing buildings and the temporary installation of fencing to protect workers and Komodo Dragons.

There is concern however that these works are only the start of development and further, more invasive and damaging works will soon follow.

Picture credits Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR)

The project work is estimated to be completed in June 2021.

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Street Food

My favourite pictures #7

I love street food.

This picture sums up everything that is good about street food for me.

Wander around a street market in many places in Southeast Asia and you will see all kinds of street food vendors.

The whole experience adds up for me. Gazing at their menu trying to narrow the choices down. Deciding on what you are going to have and then watching them cook or serve someone else’s meal and second guessing yourself.

Finally making a decision and then adding a couple of sides, because the whole meal, for two people, is going to cost less than awful fast food back home – yes McDonald’s I am looking at you.

In some street markets seating is hit and miss or even non-existent. But not here. They take your order and then take you behind the stall to their “seating area”. Initially it looks like just a jumble of chairs and tables but every vendor has their own space and quickly move you if you are sitting on their chairs but have ordered elsewhere.

My chosen picture was taken in Ao Nang earlier this year. We must have visited this vendor 3 or 4 times in our stay and also visited a couple of their neighbours. I think in two weeks we only ate in proper restaurants 3 or 4 times.

This though was the prime seat. Directly above their stall so you could watch everything being prepared and cooked. Quickly getting more and more hungry as the smell of the food wafts upwards and you watch food being cooked.

Then you see a member of staff walking in your general direction, you try and figure out if they are carrying your food and then….. success.

Every meal was as good as the last and didn’t ever cost us more than £10 ($13) for two people, including a couple of beers and always included mains, sides and rice or noodles.

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Vietnam Floods Cause More Than 100 Deaths

It has been reported (26th October) that Vietnam was preparing to evacuate almost 1.3 million people as Typhoon Molave (also known as Quinta) heads towards the country. The typhoon has already seen wind speeds of 125km per hour (77mph) and gusts of up to 150kph (93mph)

Typhoon Molave is expected to hit Central Vietnam on Wednesday after causing flooding and landslides in the Philippines where 25,000 were evacuated from their homes in Luzon leaving 2 dead and 13 missing.

Central Vietnam has already been impacted by three major storms during October which have resulted in the deaths of at least 130 people in the region with 18 missing. In one incident 22 soldiers are reported to have been killed when a landslide buried their barracks in Quang Tri.

Tropical Storm Linfa was the first storm to hit the area on 10th to 13th October, followed swiftly by Tropical Storm Nangka on 14th to 16th October and Tropical Depression Ofel on 17th October. These storms all followed heavier than average rainfall in the area in early October as part of the seasonal monsoon.

The worst hit areas are reported to be Hue and Quang Binh Provinces although the historic city of Hoi An, and Da Nang further south, have also been affected

The flooding and landslides already experienced in Central Vietnam are said to be the worst in decades. According to Vietnam Red Cross 274,001 houses have already been flooded or damaged, 14,097 hectares of agricultural land has been damaged and 767,073 livestock have been killed or swept away.

Vietnam Red Cross Society have been working hard to support affected communities. They have warned that the floods already experienced are the worst seen in decades and are “dealing a staggering blow to the livelihoods of millions of people already reeling from hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic”.

They are sending food, safe water and other essentials into the worst affected areas as the relief effort is stepped up. They estimate that at least 160,000 people will need food in the next 5-6 months.

Vietnam Airlines have been providing free relief transport as well as assisting those fleeing the area. Financial aid has been forthcoming from a number of sources including:

  • US$400,000 (approx £306,878 or 9.2 Vietnamese Dong) from Taiwan
  • 297,349 Swiss Francs (approx £251,442, US$327,831 or 7.6 billion Vietnamese Dong) from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
  • US$300,000 (approx £230,158 or 6.9 billion Vietnamese Dong) from the South Korea Government
  • US$200,000 (approx £153,273 or 4.6 billion Vietnamese Dong) from the United States Agency for International Development
  • US$100,000 (approx £76,748 or 2.3 billion Vietnamese Dong) from the China Red Cross
  • US$100,000 (approx £76,748 or 2.3 billion Vietnamese Dong) from the United Nations and Save the Children Vietnam
  • AU$100,000 (approx £54,665, US$71,323 or 1.6 billion Vietnamese Dong) from the Australian Government

There are concerns that financial hardships already being experienced due to COVID-19 by many of those affected by floods and landslides will send many people into poverty. Damages caused to the area may also further impact the areas ability to reopen safely once mass foreign tourism restarts.

The World Bank reported last week that 35% of settlements in Vietnam, totaling 11.8 million people, were located on crowded and eroding coastlines that were at risk from flooding.

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Will Rapid COVID Tests Allow Tourism to Restart?

Pharmacy Boots have today announced today (26th October) that they will start to make a 12 minute COVID test available in select UK stores to people who are not showing symptoms.

Meanwhile last week Heathrow Airport announced pre-departure raid testing facilities in Terminals 2 and 5.

Is rapid testing the answer that international tourism has been looking for?

What are the Tests?

The Boots rapid test is a nasal swab test that can be taken in-store for £120 and are said to have an accuracy of between 97% and 98% and will be rolled out in a number of stores over the next few weeks.

The new rapid test follows a 48 hour test already available in 10 stores in major cities, with plans for up to 50 stores by the end of November. in their press release Boots stated that this test was available “for customers travelling to UAE.”

The Heathrow Rapid Tests, costing £80, aim to provide results within 60 minutes for departing passengers. The Heathrow Press Release states that the test will “initially offer passengers travelling to Hong Kong the option to fulfil those countries’ pre-departure testing requirements at the airport before they fly.”

Heathrow had previously announced an Test-on-Arrival testing service for passengers entering the country to enable passengers to reduce any quarantine period. This has yet to receive Government approval however.

All of these tests should only be taken by people who are not showing any symptoms as they should be isolating and accessing an NHS test.

Are Tests Accepted Elsewhere?

Very few countries are currently allowing UK residents to travel to their country and many of those require a negative PCR test with 72 hours of departure.

The Boots 12-minute test and Heathrow Rapid Test are not PCR tests as these require processing at a registered laboratory. They would therefore not be accepted by most countries requiring a test.

The Boots 48 hour test is sent to a laboratory for testing although it is not clear from their press release if it is registered and so would be accepted for travel.

Are Tests Accepted?

The fledgling Thailand Special Tourist Visa (STV), available only to residents of low-risk countries, requires a pre-arrival COVID-19 test followed by 2 in-country tests before visitors can leave their quarantined accommodation.

The Singapore Air Travel Pass (ATP), only available to residents of Australia (excluding Victoria State), Brunei Darussalam, New Zealand and Vietnam, requires a pre-travel negative test and isolation until a negative post-arrival test is received.

Are Tests the Answer?

It is a difficult question although the simple answer at the moment is no.

Due to the incubation period of COVID-19, a single test would not give a definitive result and so many countries will remain reluctant to allow people to travel from high-risk areas with just one test result.

Until more countries manage to control COVID domestically and the number of cases fall dramatically it seems that most countries, at least in Southeast Asia, will not be prepared to take the risk of allowing tourists to enter the country.

Vaccine

Many people have been saying that a vaccine is the only way to control the disease.

There is of course no guarantee that a safe and effective vaccine will be found. The Chinese vaccine was launched with minimal testing and has yet to be proven to be effective.

Many other vaccines are under development, some making bold claims about being ready to be rolled out before the end of 2020.

Even if that is true there are still major obstacles to be overcome.

Once a vaccine is approved, generally most countries have their own approval process, there would then need to be a decision by each country how vaccinations will be rolled out.

For the UK for example a mass vaccination of the population is estimated to take around 10 months and would prioritise the most vulnerable. Those wanting to access a vaccination for travel purposes would probably need to access a private vaccination, if they are available – there is no guarantee that the majority of vaccinations wouldn’t be purchased by governments resulting in very few, very expensive, vaccinations available privately.

The other question is how would countries without a free healthcare system deal with mass vaccinations? Would they be restricted to those who could afford private vaccinations or with health insurance?

The Tourist Industry

Of course there are other factors to take into account.

One of the most important is the economic impact of a lack of tourists for countries where tourism has become a major source of income.

Estimates suggest that around 20% of GDP in Thailand has been through tourism. How long will Thailand, and other countries with a similar proportion of tourist income, be able to afford to continue their strict restrictions on entry?

The longer the pandemic continues, the greater the impact on the tourism industry worldwide. We have already seen a number of large companies close due to the pandemic and many airlines are now struggling to continue and most are looking to downsize. Many hotels and other tourist businesses in-country are also likely to be struggling without foreign tourists.

Will the infrastructure for mass tourism still be there once countries feel able to open up again?

Will countries feel that they have no choice but to start opening their borders again once it looks like some controls are in place?

What is the Answer?

In all likelihood the re-opening of mass tourism in Southeast Asia will be reliant on a combination of factors.

There will be a balance between the controls that can be put in place, COVID testing and minimal if any quarantine, an effective vaccine and the economic impact of a prolonged closure to tourists.

Most countries will probably have to compromise and allow tourism before the situation has been brought under control.

Tourists from high-risk countries may continue to be banned from many countries as they target lower-risk tourism.

That is not good news for tourists from most of Europe and the USA.

What Is Your Opinion

We are very interested in what our readers think is the future of travel as the battle against COVID-19 continues. Leave a response in the comments section to continue the conversation.

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Chang Tower

My favourite pictures #6

First of all I would like to point out I am not a big drinker. I like to drink but it is an every now and then thing usually, and not too excess.

We first discovered the Chang Tower in Chiang Mai. In fact it was the same night that we discovered the Thai Rolled Ice Cream from my first post in this series.

We sat down to eat in a small restaurant near our hotel.

We looked at the menu but then the big question came, “would you like to order drinks?”

It would be rude not to so we started to order when someone said “What is a Tower?”. The waiter told us so rather than ordering three large and one small beers it seemed to be sensible to go for the tower.

The other drinks came, it takes a while for the tower to be poured, but then the exciting buzz of the tower coming to our table and the looks from the other customers.

Our food came, we ate and drank and left the restaurant very happy.

We went for a walk around the local market, discovered the Thai Rolled Ice Cream and as we were eating it stood and watched a live band in one of the bars. We were asked if we wanted a seat but the idea was that we were just watching the band while we ate our ice cream. Most of us were tired and wanted an early night.

The band were good. They were very good.

“Quick drink?” I said. A couple of people said they were going to bed but the rest of us fancied one quick drink while we watched the band.

Five of us grabbed a table. We sat down and looked at the menu. Chang Towers, excellent.

“A Chang Tower and three glasses please” the others had cocktails.

A couple of hours and a few Towers and cocktails later, we wobbled back to the hotel.

The band were so good that we returned with the other two people the following night so that they could enjoy the “Rock God” lead singer, but that is another story

I have never actually sat down and figured out if the tower is more or less expensive than individual drinks. It’s definitely more fun though.

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Travel from Europe to Singapore to Open

Singapore and Germany announced on 23rd October that a Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) scheme had been agreed between the two countries.

The RGL will enable essential travel for business or official purposes, via direct flights between both countries. The start date and details of the scheme have not yet been announced.

Singapore already has RGL arrangements in place with Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia and requires direct travel to the destination country, a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure, and another test on arrival together with isolation while waiting for results of the test.

Germany has so far recorded 437,866 cases of COVID-19 and 10,138 deaths. Numbers of new cases have dropped however and the latest daily figures showed only 229 new cases. Singapore has recorded 57,973 cases of COVID with just 3 new cases in the last 24 hours.

Travel from Singapore to Germany

Germany have also announced that Singapore residents will be able to enter Germany for short-term visits from Tuesday 28th October without the need for quarantine. Singapore however have not yet lifted restrictions on visitors from Germany, so this does not mean the start of tourism between the two countries.

Singapore Travel Corridors

Singapore has lifted travel restrictions to visitors from Australia (excluding Victoria State), Brunei Darussalam, New Zealand and Vietnam under the Air Travel Pass (ATP) scheme.

In a similar scenario to that with Germany, the arrangements have not yet been reciprocated which means that travellers going the other way would still be required to follow quarantine arrangements in that country, if they are allowed to travel at all.

A number of countries have lifted restrictions on visitors from Singapore including the United Kingdom and United States of America but Singapore have not reciprocated in kind.

Flyingdog Travel Comment

It does feel that we are moving closer to true leisure travel corridors however it does not look like it will happen any time soon or in great numbers.

In Thailand we have seen the first tourists for 6 months but in very small numbers, from restricted countries and with tight restrictions. It seems likely that Singapore along with much of the region may look to very different travel arrangements in the future rather than a simple travel corridor.

There is hope for leisure travel in 2021 but options for the remainder of 2020 are likely to be very limited or even non-existent.

We have covered current travel arrangements in Southeast Asia in more detail in our article Southeast Asia COVID Facts and Figures.

Header photo credit Jisun Han on Unsplash

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