By April Cole.
I’ve always felt that travel is good for the soul. There are many ways travel nourishes your soul - you see new sights, you meet new people, you open your heart to new cultures and experiences. Another way to have travel nourish your soul is to embrace the beauty of incorporating local spiritual practices while you’re traveling. In this blog I’ve outlined some of the more special and unique spiritual experiences you can have whilst traveling in Southeast Asia that can be arranged by your Kaanect Travel Coach.
The Erawan Shrine in Bangkok was built in 1956 to ward off bad luck from a hotel that was built nearby. Since then it has been known to locals as a shrine that grants good luck. With your private guide, visit the shrine and learn how to prepare a proper offering and present it to the shine. Many locals and travelers have had their wishes and prayers come true!
In the late morning you will be transferred to a Buddhist temple, where you will have an opportunity to meet with a Buddhist monk, who will share Buddhism’s concepts and beliefs. Feel free to ask the monk any questions about Buddhism or meditation you would like. The hope is for an open and honest conversation so that you understand more about Buddhism at the end of the chat.
Silent meditation retreat
Spend two days, one night at a monastery in Chiang Mai where you will learn the art of mediation from local monks. These two days are spent in silence, so that you can learn to calm your “monkey mind,” and practice wellness of your brain.
Yoga and Meditation retreat
There are many single, multi-day and multi-week yoga, nutrition and meditation retreats in Thailand. If you’re interested in a retreat, consult a Kaanect Travel Coach with the specifics of what you’re looking for in the retreat so that your travel expert can recommend the best option just for you.
One of our favorite retreats is the Kamalaya in Koh Samui. A great combination of beautiful accommodation and beach access, with quality practitioners and a variety of programs to support all your wellness needs.
“Srouch Tec” Water blessing
This morning, head to Angkor Wat with your guide in an air-conditioned car. Explore this majestic temple throughout the morning while it is still cool and has fewer tourists. Your guide will take you to an active Wat, where you should change to clothes you can get wet in as here you will experience the ceremony “Srouch Tec,” which roughly translates into “pour water.” A monk will chant in ancient Pali as he splashes water over you, washing away your sins and bad luck so you can start fresh and by being a good person can increase your good luck.
Fortune Teller and Blessing from Monk
Cambodia has a deeply spiritual culture which is still actively observed today. Many local people look to the spirits for guidance and today you will gain a brief glimpse into this long-standing and well-respected tradition. To begin your Southeast Asia travel tour, you will pay a visit to a local fortune teller. This man is very well respected by our local Khmer team, who visit him frequently for guidance. Your reading will be conducted in Khmer language and will be translated for you by your guide. You are welcome to record this on your phone for deeper analysis later if you like. From here you will move on to visit the pagodas of Siem Reap city. Pagodas are well attended by most Cambodians to receive blessings and give alms to the spirit world, a very important part of the Buddhist religion. You will receive a blessing performed by a monk from the pagoda to cleanse your spirit from which you will take away a small red ribbon tied around your wrist to protect you for the rest of your travels.
Visit Reiki Master
Southeast Asia is known for having very strong energy, and many Reiki masters come to the region as they have noted their ability to work with energy is amplified in the area. While in Siem Reap, we have arranged a visit to work with a highly sought-after reiki master who now calls the area home. She has worked as a Reiki master for decades and is known best for her healing work. Experience a one-hour session with the local master at her healing center.
Traditional Baci Ceremony
This evening you will take part in a traditional Baci ceremony. The baci ceremony, referred to as, su kwan, which means “calling of the soul” will be performed by a local village elder, maw pawn. This blessing is meant to welcome you by giving you a blessing to bring harmony and balance to your body and soul. The Lao believe that this blessing will bring the believed 32 kwan, souls, that watch over you, back to your body so that you may be blessed and healthy. Your guide and the locals will help to lead you through the steps of the ceremony. During the ceremony there will be blessings, chanting and Pook Kwan. Pook Kwan is the tying of the white baci threads on each of your wrists from the elders. The white cotton is a symbol of peace, good fortune, honesty and comfort. They are traditionally worn for at least 3 days and should be untied rather than cut off. After the closing of the ceremony you will have the opportunity to ask any questions about the ceremony with your guide and your ceremony’s hosts.
Early Morning Alms to Monks
Wake up at sunrise to give monks morning alms. You’ll be accompanied by your guide who can demonstrate the proper method of alms giving and explain this daily Buddhist ceremony. Return to your hotel for breakfast.
Sacred Cham ceremony
The journey starts at dusk with a gentle walk to our hidden spot set in the middle of nature. The Sacred Cham lets you explore this ethnic culture in its most authentic way. The Cham is well-known for their cuisine -- therefore you will start your evening experience with a Cham feast.
In this culture, a Cham Master is the most respected person who is the only one allowed to conduct important ceremonies. There are very few Masters in a Cham society, due to high requirements of deep knowledge, practices and skills. Join this Cham Master for a blessing ceremony in the Cham style -- a unique and interesting way to feel something you have never experienced before.
*tour exclusively arranged at the Amanoi Resort
Visit with a local healer
During your private visit with a dukun (Balinese healer or medicine man) you will discuss the healing process using traditional medicines and acupressure -- and in some cases, magical drawings.
Spirit of Belimbing
Start the tour early from your hotel and enjoy a comfortable scenic journey along country roads to the Tabanan area in the remote region of Belimbing. Along the way, you will observe many beautiful sculpted-terrace rice paddies. When you arrive at the start point of the tour, you will be served refreshing tea or coffee plus tasty cookies before starting the 7km trek around the coffee and chocolate plantations. The trek is not arduous but will take you up and down the rice-paddy terraces. The trek ends at the secluded Benben Waterfall, considered sacred by the Belimbing inhabitants. Bring your bathing suit and take a few minutes to bathe in the waters and thus cleanse away bad spirits and ensure good fortune for you in love for your future. From Benben Waterfall, you will be transferred by road back to the starting point for lunch followed by some relaxation time.
Later, around 4 pm, you will be attired in suitable Balinese national dress and taken to one of Belimbing’s ancient Hindu temples located in the jungle. There you will encounter the sacred monkeys that live in the temple. A temple priest will enact a Hindu offering-to-the-gods ceremony involving bantens (ornate creations of meals cooked with meat and vegetables and decorated with flowers) followed by the drinking and spraying of holy water, an essential element of Balinese Hinduism. After the ceremony, you will be transferred back to your hotel where you can enjoy the rest of the evening at your leisure.
Agni Hotra Fire Ceremony & Meditation
Agni Hotra is an ancient fire ceremony originating from the sacred vedic hindu texts. Agni refers to fire and Hotra means healing. Specially trained priests make offerings of ghee and grains into the fire while reciting Sanskrit mantras to invoke blessings of health, abundance and transformation. Participants are also invited to join the priests at specified times, offering rice into the fire, as a symbol of divine light. The ritual is for cleansing, purification and integration of all things, creating harmony and healing for the participants.
**I want to stress the importance of not being voyeuristic or disrespectful of local cultures and beliefs in your travels. If you choose to incorporate a spiritual aspect into your travels, it’s vital to do so in a manner that is respectful and non-invasive. Kaanect Travel and our local partners on the ground have well-developed relationships with the partners offering travelers the opportunity to take part in these local experiences.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can incorporate these experiences as you travel in Southeast Asia, feel free to reach out to a Kaanect Travel Coach here!
Cambodia Entry Requirements
Updated December 21, 2021
You can apply for your e-visa at this link here: www.evisa.gov.kh
It currently takes about 3 days to process your e-visa, which will be emailed to you.
Your negative PCR results must be provided as a HARD COPY document WITH a Wet Signature and a Stamp - Digital results will NOT be accepted. We recommend getting a print out of your negative PCR results and either having your physician sign and stamp the results, or taking your results to a notary to verify your results with a stamp.
The PCR test result requirements:
• Original hard copy (not photocopy or electronic)
• Printed on Clinic/Testing Facilities/Physicians letterhead and includes name, address & contact details
• Traveler’s Full Name, Date of Birth/Age and Passport Number (as per passport bio-page)
• Type of Test (MUST state PCR or RT-PCR)
• Date of Test (ideally time also, as people have faced issues with airlines when there has been no time of testing annotated)
Note: Strongly advise you to ensure that the standard time format of Day-Month-Year is used ie. 14-03-21, 14-03-2012, 14 March 2021. Other formats, in particular the US format of Month-Day-Year, may cause confusion and have resulted in travelers being denied check-in/boarding/transfer.
Most airlines now offer a pre-check of documents and this is something we highly recommend that everyone does. You upload your documents on a website and the airlines will verify them. This will make check in and document verification a faster process.
Files to upload:
Proof of vaccination - 2 doses, travel after 3 weeks of second dose
Negative PCR Test
As you disembark and enter the terminal, the process starts.
Verify your documents
Documents to verify:
Passport (valid for 6 months after departure)
Proof of vaccination - 2 doses, travel after 3 weeks of second dose
Negative PCR Test
Health Declaration Form (given to you on your flight)
Immigration Form (given to you on your flight)
Custom Form (given to you on your flight)
Once your documents have been verified, move on to Immigration and Luggage Collection.
Prior to leaving the airport, take a Rapid Covid Test
You will be given a rapid covid test
Your documents (same as listed above) will be checked again
Move to the waiting area while results process (about 10-20 minutes)
After your results have been reviewed, and you are negative for covid, you will be free to leave the airport.
(this is for US passport holders, if you carry a passport from another country, please reach out to Kaanect to confirm Cambodia entry details)
**Below is Naida's personal account of entering Cambodia. Click here if you want to skip to the 5 Steps to Enter Cambodia**
In November, Cambodia started to open their borders, removing travel restrictions which had been in place since March 2020. Having spent seven months in Europe, I decided it was time to return to Cambodia. I was anxious and don’t get me wrong, travel is one of my true passions. I work in the travel industry and exploring both new and old places is what I truly love, but I also know that travel has changed and it’s not as simple as “just jumping on a plane”.
So, what can you expect as a traveler returning to Cambodia? Be prepared that travel has changed and my biggest advice to you is to keep yourself updated by working with Kaanect and a travel coach, as things can change very quickly. The amazing team at Kaanect helped guide me and answered any questions I had.
I’ve detailed out the current travel restrictions and the process for entering Cambodia below. Note, the travel restrictions in Thailand are very similar.
The documents you need are: Proof of vaccination, visa, pre departure PCR test and I would highly recommend travel insurance.
I applied for my visa in advance as all visas on arrival are suspended at the moment. Once the visa was approved it was time to book a flight.
It was important for me find a flight with good (the shortest) connections as I have to do two transfers to arrive in Cambodia and PCR tests are only valid for a certain amount of time. All airlines and transfer destinations have different requirements so it is important to confirm the requirements for each airline and destination.
Having booked my flight, I booked a PCR test. I needed to find a testing clinic who could accommodate Cambodia’s very specific requirements.
Now this is not the easiest as everything is digital in Sweden stamps are no longer used. It took a few calls but after having explained my situation, I found a clinic that was willing to do this for me. The day before departure, I went and got my test and picked up my negative result later the same day.
Check in was a breeze, as long as you have all the documents you need, you are fine. My documents were checked and verified twice, once in Sweden and once in Germany. Be prepared to put on your mask as soon as you enter the airport and not take it off before arrival. If you forget, you will be reminded. Social distancing rules are in place everywhere and even if my flights were quite busy, the airlines did everything to space passengers out. My one concern was delays. What happens if I am delayed and miss a connection and the PCR test is no longer valid? Again, I had done my research before and knew that if this was the case, all I needed was a letter from the airline and not to leave the transit areas and I would be let into Cambodia. My flight from Frankfurt to Singapore ended up being delayed and I was going to miss the flight to Phnom Penh. After having spoken to the chief stewardess on the plane, I did find out that all planes in Singapore were being held back to make sure people could make their connections. It is more hassle for the airline to have passengers with timed PCR tests to miss a connection than to hold back a plane. As we arrived in Singapore, they disembarked passengers by plane connection. As my flight was waiting for me, I got off the plane first.
I booked a seat as upfront as possible as I knew that the arrival process takes time. As you disembark and enter the terminal, the process starts. The first stop verifies your documents so make sure you have your documents ready and that you have completed the three forms you receive on the flight (health declaration form, immigration form and custom form) as you will be sent to the back of the queue if you haven’t. It is also important to have all your boarding passes as you might be asked for these as well. As you get the ok stamp, you move on to immigration and then luggage collection. Last stop is your rapid test. You line up and all of your documents are checked again, take the test and move on to the waiting area. The waiting time is 10-20 minutes and after your name is called, you are free to leave the airport. The whole arrival process takes 30-90 minutes depending on where you were sitting on the plane.
So, what I’m really trying to say with this text is that you will be fine, it seems like a lot but it is fine. Be patient as everyone is adjusting to the “new normal” and a smile will get you far. Keep yourself updated and the great thing about having Kaanect organizing the trip for you is that they will keep themselves updated for you and will guide you through the whole process.
We have all been looking forward to being able to travel back to our favorite countries in Southeast Asia and as the region slowly opens up to tourism, we know everyone is wondering, how safe is it to travel? Is the Covid situation under control? What are the vaccination rates like?
No one wants to put a country's population at risk, and there are many things to consider, so we hope the numbers below can bring some clarity and help in your travel planning.
Cambodia is currently reporting very low infection numbers, which is attributed to the country’s successful vaccination campaign. The vaccination campaign has received praise around the world and not only does Cambodia have a higher vaccination rate than its neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, but it is now one of the most vaccinated countries in the world.
Covid Case Numbers
Confirmed new cases as of November 6, 2021: 73
3 infections per 100K people reported in the last 7 days
9% of peak
Please note that the Cambodian government does not have an accurate census of the population which throws off their vaccination percentages (which is why the reported numbers are sometimes greater than 100%).
Adults 18+: 100%
Children 12-18: 98%
Children 6-11: 102%
Children 5 and under: 51%
Covid infections are decreasing in Thailand and are at their lowest since Thailand entered their 3rd wave of Covid in April 2021. The government is aiming to have 70% of the population fully vaccinated by the end of November.
Covid Case Numbers
Confirmed new cases as of November 6: 8,467
81 infections per 100K people reported the last 7 days
37% of peak
Thailand started the vaccination of children ages 12-17 in October and plans to vaccinate 3 to 11 year olds at the start of 2022.
Adults 18+: 46%
Laos is currently experiencing its worst Covid wave with new infections reaching new highs every day. The vaccinations are going slowly and the country is dependent on donations from COVAX. At the current vaccination rate, the government’s goal is to have 50% of the population fully vaccinated by the end of the year.
Covid Case Numbers
Confirmed new cases as of November 6: 960
89 infections per 100K people reported the last 7 days
The Lao government are currently only vaccinating adults and no decision has been made on vaccinations of children.
Adults 18+: 39%
The "new normal" began in October 2021 and Vietnam is feeling its way into post-pandemic life. Daily cases are increasing mainly outside the main cities as the movement of people has increased, but new infections are less severe amongst those vaccinated. As more people are vaccinated daily the trend should show numbers begin to decline again within the next couple of weeks.
Covid Case Numbers
Confirmed new cases as of November 6: 7,491
41 infections per 100K people reported the last 7 days
47% of peak
Vietnam is rapidly picking up the pace of administering vaccinations to its population now that there is an increase in vaccine deliveries arriving and being made available. Until September the focus was on vaccinating the 18+ adult population. From October there is now a proactive push on vaccinating 12 to 17 year olds. The decision around ages up to 11 years old is still pending.
Adults 18+: 29,8%
The decision to travel to a country that’s still being majorly impacted by the Covid pandemic is one to be thought through. If you’d like some help planning your trip or simply deciding if now is the right time to go, consider a one-hour Travel Coaching call with one of Kaanect’s Southeast Asia specialists.
This week we have had some exciting, if not crystal clear, news from Southeast Asia… Thailand just announced plans to reopen November 1 to international travelers! Cambodia is starting to open, but still requires quarantine periods at this point; Vietnam is still saying it won’t reopen until sometime in 2022; and Laos hasn’t announced any plans yet.
If you’re guessing that this news added a little pep to our step this week, you’re right. We can’t wait to get travelers back to the region and support our guides, drivers and teams; but with anything Covid-related, it isn’t quite that cut and dry.
Thailand is reopening to vaccinated travelers on November 1, 2021, with no quarantine period required and travel around the country possible. This is great news for our teams on the ground and for the hotels that want to be back up and running.
But however excited we all are for our teams and partners on the ground, we’re still advocating taking it slow to most of our travel clients. We know that some of our travelers are hungry to be the first ones back to these destinations. Heck, we even put together this First Travelers Back Thailand Itinerary (PDF). But we also know that this is only the right experience for the right person; because when November 1 rolls around, while we might be allowed back in the country, the country might not be ready for us.
As the “Phuket sandbox” experiment proved, a country can be open, but unless the hotels, restaurants and experiences are open, it might not be what you’re looking for.
As travel coaches we’re always trying to match our travelers to the right experience, so based upon what we know now (October 2021), here is who should go to Thailand in November and who should wait...
If you’re the type of traveler that can purchase a flight and head to an amazing destination with a passport, some local knowledge and a basic plan, then returning to Thailand in November will be an incredible experience for you!
Flights out of San Francisco to Bangkok were under $800 roundtrip when we checked recently, and you can book the Anantara Riverside Resort in Bangkok for $50 a night! These are incredible rates and will suit the independent, spontaneous, up-for-anything, aware-it-might-not-all-be-possible traveler. You might not be able to do all the things, but temples, national parks and monuments will be open, and hotels will be treating these first travelers back like royalty.
How our travel coaches can help: If you want a full itinerary check out our First Ones Back or set up a call to put together an itinerary for your time, understanding that there might be last minute changes and things that aren’t open in time so the itinerary will need to be flexible.
Or, go it alone, but with our insider knowledge in your back pocket. Book a one hour Southeast Asia Coaching call and we’ll go over what to expect when you get to the Land of Smiles - everything from our favorite hotels and activities, to how to balance your time, budget and interests.
Book Your Trip for Early 2022 with a Travel Expert
While I think it will be amazing to be in Thailand (and potentially Cambodia) in the next couple of months, it might not be the smooth-sailing trip that some travelers prefer. Restaurants might not be open yet, attractions may not have the staffing levels to run at full capacity, and things you want to do - cooking classes, elephant visits and snorkeling trips - may not yet be functioning.
But in early 2022 we expect all this to be back up and running close to normally, but there will still be significantly fewer crowds. If you like to plan an itinerary, this allows you to take your time working with a travel coach to perfect it, and you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that the hotels and attractions will have had a couple of months under their reopening belt to ensure things are fully operational.
How our travel coaches can help: Our First Travelers Back itinerary is still going to be great in early 2022, even if you’re maybe the second wave back! Or, schedule a call with one of our Southeast Asia travel coaches to discuss your trip and make sure you’re booking the perfect experience for you and your group.
Need help planning your trip? Our travel coaches are here to help you! We have a group of talented coaches that have vast travel expertise in Southeast Asia. Book a consultation today!