Southeast Asia Battles With Surging Floodwaters

By Michelle Baran
October 3, 2012
Courtesy Michelle Baran

Some of the worst flooding in decades has gripped Southeast Asia, raising concerns about travel to the region as waters continued to surge on Wednesday, threatening Bangkok and other popular destinations.

The severe flooding caused by an abnormally heavy rainy season has already left more than 700 dead in Cambodia and Thailand, according to the United Nations. Additionally, in Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam, homes, crops and vital infrastructure have been destroyed and millions of people living in low-lying areas remain vulnerable to further destruction, Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs at the UN Development Programme, Valerie Amos, said on Tuesday.

While the Tourism Authority of Thailand is reporting that major tourist destinations such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, and southern provinces in Thailand are experiencing normal weather conditions, The New York Times on Wednesday reported that "thousands of volunteers and soldiers battled to strengthen Bangkok's flood defenses as water surged to the edges of the city."

Indeed, Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra acknowledged Wednesday that the country's flood crisis has overwhelmed her government, the Associated Press reported.

The historic city of Ayutthaya, a Unesco World Heritage site about 62 miles north of Bangkok, one of the hardest hit areas, has now been submerged for two weeks, according to news reports.

"It's been a tough last month here in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia," said Andrea Ross of Journeys Within. Journeys Within is a Siem Reap, Cambodia-based tour operator that specializes in travel throughout Southeast Asia.

"Here in Cambodia the temples have stayed above the flooding and we have been able to keep touring as planned for most of our tours," said Ross. "In Thailand we have had to make some adjustments, especially with the flooding of Ayutthaya. With that said, we have only adjusted tours and have not cancelled any tours or received any cancellations."

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the floods are mainly affecting the provinces in central Thailand and a few provinces in the north and northeast.

All airports in Thailand, including Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, are still open and are operating as per usual.

"We are hoping that as November draws closer and rainy season comes to an end, we will see the waters receding and things returning to normal," said Ross. "With that said, we know that the toll on families and communities has been huge and the loss of crops will mean that the following harvest could mean a lack of food in the region."

More from Budget Travel:

Metered moto-taxis

Cambodia's Comeback

A flood of new ships to sail the Mekong

Plan Your Next Getaway
Keep reading

3 New Boutique Hotels Where a Niche Theme Dictates Design

Countless hotels around the world open every year, and some, it seems, will go to great lengths to stand out from the pack. This year, as we put together our annual story on the best new boutique hotels in the world—all with rooms for $150 or less a night—we noticed that a few shared one thing in common. They took the idea of a specific, niche theme and ran with it. Here are three of our favorites: El Acebo de Casa Muria, in Spain’s Pyrenees Mountains: From India to China to Kenya, mountaineers Jennifer Ayllón and José Luis Bengoa have conquered some of the world’s major peaks. So when the pair decided to open El Acebo de Casa Muria guesthouse (from $78) in Spain’s Pyrenees Mountains last fall, they naturally looked to the summits for inspiration. In this converted 1806 stone farmhouse, each of the six rooms pays homage to a favorite destination: minimalism in the Japanese-inspired Room Fujiyama, muted earth tones in Suite Kilimanjaro, pink-and-ocher silk accents in the Moroccan-themed Room Toubkal. Behind the house, guests can take in views of the Benasque Valley from a three-tiered garden, which is filled with prayer flags and rock sculptures. The Cheshire, in St. Louis, Missouri This Tudor-inspired St. Louis hotel may have a strong British accent on the outside, but the Cheshire (from $139) slips into Medieval Times–style kitsch, too. The traditional inn, which dates to the 1920s, reopened in August with fixtures fit for a queen: leaded windows, brocaded drapes, paisley carpets. The Cheshire’s six “novelty” suites subtly honor British literary icons, including the country manor vibe of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, the nautical trappings of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the mod ’60s vibe from Ian Fleming’s James Bond, and the colonial decor of E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India. Each room includes a framed author biography and a hardcover copy of their novel. Crystal Hotel, in Portland, Oregon Sure, Portland has become a Northwest beacon of cool in the past decade. But the folks at the newly opened Crystal Hotel (from $85) might tell you that their city has been rocking for ages. Located in a century-old former bathhouse, the hotel’s 51 guest rooms are each inspired by an iconic song performed at the 97-year-old Crystal Ballroom just across the street. Hand-painted lyrics circle the walls, and headboards are decked out in trippy murals by local painters, such as a fantastical green triplane (for Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”). Calmer amenities include a saltwater soaking pool in the bamboo-lined basement and the first-floor Zeus Café. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: World's Weirdest Hotels World's Weirdest Hotels, Part Deux World's Weirdest Hotels 3.0


Google is Mapping the Amazon

The Google Street View team has landed in the Amazon, visually mapping the river and rain forest to provide an on-the-ground look at this endangered habitat. In an effort to help promote awareness of the Amazon as one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, Google has partnered with the Sustainable Amazon Foundation to map the region by boat and by bicycle. In addition to its core team members, Google has also employed local indigenous people to pedal around their communities, snapping photos of some of the 350 indigenous and ethnic groups that reside here. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('7f4ab78d-84a1-4135-830c-67b148ce2530');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info) It's a big undertaking with no known timeline as of yet—after all, the Amazon is two-thirds the size of the U.S.! In the meantime, take our poll and vote for the next location you think Street View should tackle. Don't see it on the list? Add your vote in the comments below. Have you used Google Street View when planning a trip? If so, how did a virtual poke-around-town help you? SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Google Street View Travels Inside Museums Finding a hotel is as easy as pointing to a [Google] map Little-Known Travel Tricks With Google Maps


Establishing a Greater New York-Seoul Connection

New Yorkers are being encouraged to visit Seoul, and Seoul's city dwellers to come to New York as part of a new joint marketing agreement between the two cities. This week, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and NYC & Company, New York's tourism marketing arm, signed a one-year agreement to engage in a reciprocal marketing effort. Thus, in Seoul, 133 posters promoting New York will start to appear in Jongno (the South Korean capital's downtown area), Gangnam (a higher income neighbor south of the city), and at the main train station, Seoul Station. In New York, 70 posters promoting Seoul will pop up around the city, and digital ads will appear on the Clear Channel Spectacular screen in Times Square. The cites also partnered with Korean Air to offer a limited-time airfare deal, starting from 1,310,000 South Korean Won ($1,094, based on current exchange rates) from Seoul to New York, and starting from $1,295 for flights from New York to Seoul. The flights from Seoul to New York must be purchased by Oct. 31 for travel between Nov. 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012 (restrictions apply; prices exclude fuel surcharges and taxes). Flights from New York to Seoul must be purchased by Oct. 28, for travel between Nov. 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012 (restrictions apply; price includes fuel surcharges, but not taxes). To book, go to In 2010, New York welcomed 223,000 visitors from South Korea, a 10 percent increase over 2009, according to NYC & Co. Seoul, on the other hand, welcomed 653,000 visitors from the U.S. in 2010, a 7 percent increase over the year before. "There’s outstanding potential to further grow the volume of travel between two of the world's great cities," NYC & Co. CEO George Fertitta said at a meeting in Seoul on Tuesday with Young-Gyu Kwon, the acting mayor of Seoul, and Korean Air Managing Vice President Kee-Hong Woo. The deal marks the first time New York has partnered with a city in Asia, having done similar swaps in the past with London, Madrid and Sao Paulo, as well as stateside with Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles. On Tuesday, NYC & Co. also launched a new Facebook page promoting New York to South Koreans at More from Budget Travel: Seoul Connection And the winner of the 2018 Winter Olympics is... South Korea New York's Best-Kept Secrets


Breaking down Italy's slew of new hotel taxes

You may have recalled reading something somewhere in the past couple months about a new hotel tax in Rome. Or was it Venice? Or Florence? Or all of them? Well, it was all of them, and some other cities in Italy too. Basically, Italian municipalities are on the hunt for additional revenue sources in the wake of government funding cuts as the country's economy and budget falters. To compensate, this year, at least eight cities in Italy have added a hotel tax of between 1 and 5 euros (between $1.40 and $7, based on current exchange rates), per person, per night. They include Rome, Venice, Florence, Padua, and Giardini Naxos on the island of Sicily. For a complete list of the cities, the hotel taxes, and when they are in effect, see our chart. So, what does this mean for you, the traveler? Well, it means that when you check out of your hotel in one of these cities listed, from here on out you should expect to find an additional charge at the bottom of your bill, one that can range considerably depending on the star-rating of your hotel, how many of you are traveling together and how many nights you're staying. Now, if you've already booked a vacation package to Italy, you might check with the travel provider to see if you're going to have to pay or if they're going to absorb the tax, as several travel companies have come out with statements that they're going to actually absorb the taxes into their 2011 and 2012 prices since they were put into effect so last-minute. The Globus family of brands, for instance, recently put out a release that it is absorbing the cost of the taxes, a decision that is costing the company more than $1 million this year alone. Insight Vacations also stated earlier this summer that it would absorb the cost of hotel taxes in Florence and Venice. Perillo, an Italy vacation specialist, is absorbing the cost of the hotel taxes for its group departures, but people who book through its independent travel website,, will pay the hotel directly and therefore pay the taxes themselves. "These taxes represent less than 1 percent of the average tour cost with air, so it's more of an administrative hassle than having a big impact on the final price," said Diane Ferro, product manager at Perillo. But, she noted, "we are already at a disadvantage with the current rate of exchange and we did not need to add on another fee." Indeed, Tom Jenkins, executive director of the European Tour Operators Association, which focuses on inbound travel to Europe, and Terry Dale, president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association, whose members sell travel to Europe, have been lobbying the Italian government to ease up on the taxes. In a joint letter to Italy's tourism minister in late June they argued that, "underlying the imposition of these taxes is an assumption that tourists can be exploited as a natural resource." Thoughts on the new hotel taxes and how and whether they will impact your Italy travel plans? More from Budget Travel: Poll: Are quick trips abroad worth the travel time? Theft from luggage at airports and how to avoid it Heading to Europe? Have a Blue Lagoon layover