Places to take a raincheck

BANGKOK, 26 April 2019: It’s a rare occasion when a travel firm identifies places you shouldn’t visit, but ICS Travel Group has named some of the region’s spots to avoid in its latest report.

The company kicks off by saying that “due to over-crowding, danger or too much construction here’s a list of places you may want to avoid.”

Tacky side to Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s major port and resort town on the Gulf of Thailand, is a top spot to avoid mainly due to construction, heavy traffic and roads riddled with potholes.

ICS describes a town that was once famous for its beaches but now “dominated by casinos and tacky commercial centres.”

On the upside, the town’s port is the jumping off point for trips to offshore islands such as Koh Rong, Koh Rong Sonaleum, Koh Russei and Koh Krobei where travellers can still find peace as well as unspoiled beaches.

The honest assessment comes at a time when AirAsia is planning direct air services from Bangkok to Sihanoukville and JC International this month starts flights from the Cambodian resort town to Macau and Bangkok.

A monastery meal to miss

Myanmar’s Mahagandayon Monastery located in Amarapura near Mandalay suffers from too much of a good thing – tourists, according to the ICS travel advisor.

“Hordes of them arrive for the once peaceful lunch that has become a “noisy, boisterous affair with the constant clicking of cameras from tourists – many in ‘less than respectful’ attire.”

The advice is simple enough. Give it a miss and visit other equally attractive monasteries that are not overwhelmed with tourists.

Rough rail ride

The Yangon to Bagan night train in Myanmar is described as positively dangerous.

Going out of your comfort zone is one thing, but the ICS assessment says the night train from Yangon to Bagan takes ‘roughing it’ to new extremes calling it “quite dangerous”.

The company recommends visitors take a ride on Yangon’s circular train, or join the scenic train journey from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw that crosses the incredible Goteik Viaduct.

Maya Bay rests in peace

It lists Maya Bay in southern Thailand as a no-go spot, but that is due to conservation efforts that are successfully rehabilitating the bay’s coral and marine life.

The stunning bay, a locale for the famous ‘The Beach’ movie, remains off-limits to visitors and will probably stay that way for the rest of the year.

The bay and its marine environment suffered serious damage inflicted by thousands of day-trippers resulting in a decision to close the beach indefinitely to allow the ecosystem to recover. The tough mission is working too as black-tipped reef sharks have been spotted there after a long absence.

So the travel firm is doing the right thing by recommending visits to other places that will still give employment to local boat owners while ensuring Maya Bay enjoys a much-deserved respite from destructive human activity.

Give elephants a break

Then there are the elephant camps in Laos that the company says are not recommended due to allegations that the elephants are mistreated.

But it does recommend several elephant sanctuaries where there are no elephant rides, no circus tricks and no evening elephant dances.

“At Mandalao and the Elephant Conservation Centre in Sayaboury visitors can observe these huge mammals splashing in the river, playing in the grass, and snacking on the forest canopy,” company’s blogger states.

Stay clear of Bali’s volcano

Finally, Mount Agung, Bali, gets a no entry signposted for one very good reason. The iconic mountain is on the brew, exploding and erupting clouds of ash that represents a risk to visitors who get too close (there’s 4 km no-go zone around the crater)

Mount Agung in Bali erupts frequently, the last one being 20 April. In 2017, a huge eruption sent ash spewing into the atmosphere as high as 2 km forcing the island to close its airport.

ICS tags a serious warning here saying, “climbing this angry mountain is not possible.”

Instead, climb Mount Batur and enjoy a pre-dawn trek to admire the sunrise and views of Lake Batur.

(Source: ICS Travel Group)