News: 30 August 2023

Jakarta construction update, two great gardens of Jakarta, proposed airport railways for Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, LRT Jabodebek officially inaugurated, and more

An unexpected hello from Chiang Mai. I was ready to go to Vietnam last week, but my visa wasn’t processed in time. The good news is that Vietnam has reinstated the 3-month visa. The bad news is they launched a new visa website that is still buggy. This unwieldy online process has caused problems for other visa applicants as well.

I applied online, but my visa returned saying that my name was incorrect. It asked for “Given Name” but maybe they wanted given and middle name, so I tried that combination. That was also rejected. Each rejection puts you back in the 3-day queue time, so I was going to miss my flight at this point. I considered a same-day visa agent, but they weren’t clear on if they were using the same visa application, and I would have paid more money to still be sweating it out waiting for an answer.

I took the easier option of booking a flight to Thailand. Luckily I had nothing else booked in Vietnam, though my cheap non-refundable CGK-SGN ticket turned into a donation to VietJet Air (you’re welcome, Nguyễn Thị Phương Thảo).

My Vietnam visa was approved today with the original name combination (first and last only) so I have no idea why this happened. If you are applying for a Vietnam visa then allow 2 weeks!

I was going to spend the rest of the year between Thailand and Vietnam, so this has just reversed the order somewhat. I will note that being a nomad allowed me to be this flexible. I also note that my Vietnamese and Indonesian friends are put through a far more arduous process of applying for a visa to my homeland in Australia.

The one downside of this rescheduling is that I missed the first full test run of the HCMC Metro Line 1. I can’t believe this line that has taken over 10 years to build is almost ready. I plan to be there during the opening week, but after missing the high-speed rail and light rail openings in Jakarta, I am done with trying to time my travels to openings. I’m still holding out for the opening of the Thailand-Cambodia and Thailand-Laos cross-border railways. If the Nong Khai - Vientiane service opens, I might be able to get back to Vietnam via this new Vientiane - Saigon flight.

I’m now in work mode for the next month as I have a month’s worth of content from Jakarta alone. I have some map ideas to work on, and I will work on the jobs board.

Trip report

Part 1: A summary of the big construction projects in the city that, contrary to media reports, is not being abandoned. Update for paid subscribers. Subscribe to support the site.

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🇰🇭 Cambodia

🇮🇩 Indonesia

Mistargeted subsidy”The Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway (HSR) is not the type of project that deserves a subsidy regardless of the government’s concern that it may be difficult to attract enough ridership to keep the business alive and sustainable.”

🇱🇦 Laos

🇲🇾 Malaysia

🇵🇭 Philippines

🇸🇬 Singapore

“The Marina Bay Sands meets sustainability.”

🇹🇭 Thailand

• There were two conflicting news reports about Chiang Mai airports last week:

“Airports of Thailand Plc (AOT) on Thursday officially launched its 10-year development project of Chiang Mai International Airport, aiming to improve its capacity to serve 20 million passengers per year by 2033.”

The current airport is going ahead with a massive expansion project, yet the new government also wants to go ahead with the Second Chiang Mai Airport project. I have already written about the madness of second airports and how the money should be put towards a high-speed railway instead.

🇻🇳 Vietnam

“The inspectors discovered 2,300 cases of violation including illegal occupation of state and forest lands.”

If you are wondering how there could be 2,300 cases, here is my trip report from 2021.

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