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!
Here are the details of what you need to know to enter Vietnam now and what to expect if you test positive for COVID-19 while traveling.
Proof of port entry and exit
Valid Entry visa issued or e-visa issued
PC-COVID app installed on your mobile phone - link here: PC COVID app
Health declaration submitted. Use the link: https://tokhaiyte.vn/
Travel/medical insurance purchased with a minimum liability cover of $10,000USD valid for COVID-19 treatment
Proof of negative COVID test result, either from RT-PCR/RT-LAMP (within 72 hours of arrival) or rapid testing (within 24 hours of arrival) certified by the competent authority of the country where the test is performed. *Note, children under 2 years old are not required to be tested.
Required during stay:
Self-monitor health for ten days after arrival
Notify health authority if you have any signs or symptoms of COVID-19
If you test positive for COVID during your travel in Southeast Asia:
If you have booked a trip through us, we can assist you to inform the local authorities and hotel team. You can self-isolate (stay in your room, or designated hotel area), and we will coordinate with the hotel team to care for your needs and itinerary changes as required. Once a negative PCR test result is received, you can continue on with your trip. If there are serious symptoms needing specialist medical assistance, then we will coordinate with the hotel and authorities to transfer you to the best local hospital to continue care for you.
Vietnam is fully open for US travelers that comply with the post-pandemic entry and travel requirements as outlined above.
As the country has opened up, the main highlights such as the Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Night Markets, local restaurants - are open and everyone on the ground is working really hard to make sure that the experience of the visit is as good as ever.
Hotel wise, luxury properties are up and running at the caliber which one would expect at that level. These properties had investment through the pandemic and were able to hold on to a lot of employees, which has really helped in the quality remaining high.
Budget hotels and properties (3 stars and under), are struggling right now to come back online and have the quality of service they offered before. We expect these properties to see improved quality and more staffing in the next few months as travel rebounds, but at this time, we’d recommend guests look within their budget to see if they can stay at a higher level hotel for a more consistent quality experience.
Train travel within country is also seeing an impact, with less frequent departures. Again, we expect this to adjust over the next few months as demand increases.
In these first few months we all need to extend our kindness and patience as everyone emerges from closed borders. Office teams are proactively expanding again and refreshing their knowledge in readiness for excellent service, but responses may remain a little slower than pre-pandemic times at present whilst everyone ramps up again.
If you have any questions about travel in Vietnam right now, or for travel in the upcoming months - book a free 30 minute travel coaching call today!
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.
2020 saw Vietnam successfully handling the Covid pandemic and the country subsequently receiving worldwide recognition for doing so well. However, in April 2021, the Delta variant broke through and spread rapidly across the country. In a short time, it literally brought local businesses and residents, still trying to survive, further to their knees.
This latest wave has been the longest and toughest time in the battle against the virus. The Government has put in place and tried many iterations of directives, guidance, and support mechanisms countrywide to help with the common goal of achieving Covid-zero. However, despite best efforts by everyone, the economy and people have reached their limit and can no longer sustain more location-wide lockdowns and strict directives. As with many countries, the Vietnamese Government has decided that the best way forward is to adjust to the ‘New Normal’, where the only way forward is to slowly open and learn to live with the Covid virus. What the ‘New Normal’ for travel and living means is gradually being agreed upon and, at present, changes day to day. Vaccinations are going well and herd immunity through population vaccination is expected to be reached by April 2022.
What we do know is that when international borders reopen, Vietnam will follow the standard which now applies to travel around the world. At a minimum, travelers will need to be fully vaccinated and if we are to go by Vietnam’s neighbors, a negative PCR test before and after arrival will also be necessary. Even though there is no set date for when the borders will fully reopen, certain areas are expected to begin their trials this November. Phu Quoc and Da Nang are the first locations to trial with a model very similar to Thailand’s Sandbox project, followed by Nha Trang in December this year. Hoi An is set to open with its trial in January/February 2022.
Our friends and partners in Saigon, Khoa and Michelle who own In Country Tours, have regularly kept us up to date since the international borders closed early last year. Since May 2021, they have been in various stages of extremely strict social distancing and lockdowns, and they were so excited to share with us recently that starting this month the strictest directive has been lifted and they are gradually beginning to resume a more normal living and working life. In addition to feeling renewed joy and hope, they also shared the wonderful news that they have recently been inspected and approved to operate touring within the ‘New Normal’. Our guides, drivers and local providers are beginning to engage in rebuilding the travel industry after nearly two years of limited/no work and are really looking forward to caring for us travelers again.
Vietnam has had a tough road...from being an example to other countries to being on one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. We are excited that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we are talking to travelers now about Vietnam 2022! Schedule a call today with a Southeast Asia Travel Coach/Specialist to start planning your trip!