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Globe-trotting: Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.

Philippines

 

philippines_1
An overhead view of Banaue, on the island of Luzon.

Population

– 87,955,000

Climate

– Generally humid and tropical

Capital

– Manila

Languages

– English and Filipino (based on Tagalog)

Time zone

– 17 hours ahead of Vancouver

Currency

– Pesos (PHP) $1 CAD = 38.64 PHP
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, and ATMs are available in all city centres. There are also many HSBC branches in the Philippines. When travelling outside the city, it is recommended to use pesos, the Filipino currency.

As a matter of fact

The Philippines is known as the text message capital of the world. Each day 350 to 400 texts are sent by approximately 35 million cell phone users. This is more than the total daily text messages sent in Europe and the USA combined.

Tourist attraction

Taal Volcano, in Tagaytay City, was once one of the largest volcanoes in the world at a height of 18,000 feet. Today, however, it is one of the world’s smallest volcanoes due to numerous eruptions. Its ridge allows tourists to see an extraordinary view of the mountain filled with lava. The volcano sits on the island Luzon, which is on a lake. In addition, there is yet another lake within the volcano’s crater, creating Volcano Island. This curious image of a volcano inside of another volcano lures
many tourists from around the world.

Good to know

Common greetings in English are “Hi,” “Hello” and “Good Morning.” Some Tagalog greetings include “Kumusta ka na?” which means “How are you doing?” and “Mar ming sal mat ho” meaning “Thank you very much.” Business is formal and friendly. Conservative dress is expected when visiting homes, churches and places of business.

Tipping

A 10 percent tip is advisable but not necessary. Visa – A Canadian passport valid for at least six months after the date of entry is required. Also, possession of an onward or return ticket is needed. Canadians can stay up to 21 days without a visa. For longer stays, one should apply for a visa at the Embassy of the Philippines, in Canada, or apply for an extension at immigration offices in the Philippines.

Vaccinations

Individuals who are over one year of age and are coming from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission are required to have a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

Transportation

The two domestic carriers are Air Philippines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific. Transportation is also available by bus, taxi, ferry and railway. More rural forms of transport include jeepneys (customized army jeeps left from World War II), kaleas (horse and carriage), tricycles and bancas (wooden outrigger boats). The main seaports are located in Manila, Cebu, Davao and Iloilo.

 

SINGAPORE

singapore_2
The view across Jurong East.

Population

– 4,500,000

Climate

– Humid and warm all year. Increased rain from November to January.

Capital

– Singapore City

Languages

– Cantonese, Mandarin, Malay, Hokkien, Teochew and Tamil. English is widely spoken in business.

Time zone

– 16 hours ahead of Vancouver

Currency

– Singapore Dollar (SGD) $1 CAD = 1.24 SGD
There are branches of the Royal Bank of Canada.

singapore_1
A grid of apartment buildings near Chinatown.

As a matter of fact

Singapore is one of the 20 smallest countries in the world.

Tourist attraction

The Fountain of Wealth is the largest fountain in the world. Located in Suntec City’s commercial district, its construction is truly a marvel. The base of the fountain is tucked underground. It covers an area of 1,683 square metres, and it mimics the palm of a hand. The fountain is encircled by buildings that form the hand’s fingers. Ground level reveals the fountain’s bronze ring, which is a complete circle. The fountain represents a ring inside a palm, symbolizing the possession of wealth. The water’s flow, towards the inside of the fountain’s ring, symbolizes fortune and is said to bring luck to all those that are near. At night, a laser show makes the fountain glow. Surreal and unique, the Fountain of Wealth truly provokes a sense of astonishment.

Good to know

A $500 fine is given to anyone who smokes in a public place. Smoking at food stalls and on the street is allowed as long as it is properly taken care of – putting your butt in a bin is highly recommended. Chewing gum on the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system or littering will earn an on-the-spot fine.

Tipping

Discouraged. In restaurants, a 10 percent service charge is added to the bill. Tipping in hotels, bars, taxis and coffee shops is to be avoided.

Visa

Not required. It is given on arrival.

Vaccinations

Unnecessary. However, it is important to keep routine vaccinations up to date. Travellers who have previously visited Asian countries that carry a yellow fever risk are required to provide proof that they have been vaccinated against it.

Transportation

It is very easy to get around Singapore, as there are many taxis, buses and trains.

 

South Korea

south_korea_1
The island of Solmaymuldo.

Population

– 48,456,369

Climate

– Summer season brings hot, humid weather. Between June and September is monsoon season. Winter reveals cold and freezing temperatures; thus, spring and autumn are the most enjoyable seasons in South Korea.

Capital

– Seoul

Language

– Korean

Time zone

– 17 hours ahead of Vancouver

Currency

– South-Korean Won $1 CAD = 1196.17 Won
Citibank allows a broad range of banking services. For an ATM transaction, an account with a Korean bank is required.

As a matter of fact

On the first night of the new year, many South Koreans hide their shoes. It is believed that a ghost will come down and try all the shoes on. If the ghost finds a pair it likes, it will take them, and the owner of the missing shoes will have bad luck for the whole year.

Tourist attraction

Myeong-dong Street is a stylish shopping area in Seoul. It attracts over two million visitors daily. Its string of boutiques keeps the cuckoo-for fashion crowds on the lookout for the latest trends.

Good to know

It is highly recommended to avoid tap water, unbottled drinks and iced beverages.

Tipping

Not customary. However, one may leave a tip if exceptional service was received. The majority of tourist hotels and restaurants add a service charge to the bill.

Visa

Canadian citizens require a Canadian passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of the expected departure from South Korea.

Vaccinations

Unnecessary. However, it is important to keep routine vaccinations up to date.

Transportation

Subways, buses and taxis

Thailand

thailand_2
Tea being sold in Pai, a small town in the mountains of Northern Thailand.

Population

– 64,632,000

Climate

– Tropical. High in both temperature and humidity.

Capital

– Bangkok

Languages

– Thai and English

Time zone

– 15 hours ahead of Vancouver

Currency

– Thai Baht (THB) $1 CAD = 28.85 THB
Credit cards are widely accepted in big cities, and ATMs are found throughout Thailand.

As a matter of fact

Thailand is bigger than the United Kingdom, Austria, Iceland and Belgium put together.

Good to know

When swimming in coastal areas, watch for riptides and poisonous jellyfish. When shopping, make sure that companies are reputable before buying valuable items. Also, gambling is illegal.

thailand_1
Phi Phi Island in Krabi, off the west coast of Thailand.

Tipping

Usually reserved for taxi drivers, airport and hotel porters. At restaurants, a 10 percent service charge is often added to the bill, making a tip unnecessary. However, if it is not already added, a 10–15 percent tip is appropriate.

Visa

All visitors must have a valid passport. Canadians staying less than 30 days do not require a visa.

Vaccinations

Yellow fever vaccination is required only if you are coming from a country where the disease was present. It is recommended that travellers have current immunizations for hepatitis A, polio and tetanus.

Transportation

Bangkok has a large city-bus system and a sky train. Cars, taxis and motorcycles can be rented. In addition, the State Railway of Thailand runs well and is convenient.

Tourist attraction

Wat Traimitr (Temple of the Golden Buddha) was not always a famous temple in Bangkok. In the beginning, it was a temp le like many other ordinary buildings of worship scattered throughout the city. In the 1950s, the land surrounding the plaster statue of Buddha was purchased by the East Asiatic Company and the statue was to be removed. Being too heavy for the crane to lift, the figure fell.As the rain tapped a melancholy tune, the Buddha statue was left behind. On the following day, a golden sparkle attracted a few monks walking by. Soon after, the plaster was removed, unraveling what to this day still remains a mystery: a 3.5 metre Buddha cast, containing 5.5 tons of gold was discovered. While it is assumed to date from the Sukhothai period when Buddha treasures were often hidden from invaders, the origin and how it got to Bangkok remains unknown. Today, the Golden Buddha can be seen in the Wat Traimitr temple and is a popular attraction in Bangkok’s Chinatown.

RichardSystems