Japan – Train with less strain

An energy-efficient bullet train has just been launched – the first new model to take to the tracks in five years.   The Central Japan Railway Company say the new Shinkansen train has several new features designed to ensure it runs more firmly at high speeds thanks to a function that ensures automated running while maintaining maximum speeds set for each section of track.  This unique system can anticipate terrain, slopes and curves.  Energy-saving LED lights and a dimming system in the carriages will cut lighting power consumption by 20 per cent and the cabin’s seat cushions are made from 100 per cent recyclable materials.  The operator will invest 66 billion yen (USD$832 million) to manufacture six of the new N700A trains this year and seven over the next few years. Travellers will get to ride in the new train when it makes its commercial debut in February 2013.

Saigon – Ease of access for tourists

Whereas the majority of World Discovery passengers visit the highlights of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) on an organised private excursion with a driver and guide, there are also those who prefer to discover the city at their own pace.  Visiting Saigon’s major tourism attractions has suddenly got a whole easier with the launch of a dedicated tourist bus service.   Bus number 127 stops at destinations such as the Reunification Palace on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, and several museums in the downtown area.   The bus departs from Ben Thanh Bus Station at the Quach Thi Trang roundabout (pictured), which is located across from the well-known Ben Thanh Market and September 23rd Park.  This is within walking distance of the “Westerner Quarter”, an area packed with hotels and foreign-style restaurants centered on Pham Ngu Lao Street in District 1.

The 9.8-km route takes 35 minutes to complete and is operational from 5.30 am to 8.12 pm with an eight to 10 minutes time gap between buses.  The vehicles are designed to serve passengers in wheelchairs and tickets cost VND 4,000 (about 12p!) for the entire route.

Tragic accident in Halong Bay

At 3.30pm on Wednesday 3rd October 2012 a tragic accident occurred on the UNESCO World Heritage listed Halong Bay in northern Vietnam.   A local day-boat collided with a small tender boat resulting in the death of 5 passengers.   World Discovery would like to assure you that all our clients are safe and well and not directly affected by this disaster.   The day boat was reversing at the time when it hit and overturned the tender boat which was transferring 18 people from Sung Sot cave back to one of the Paradise Cruises luxury boat. The crew and management immediately coordinated with the local police and hospitals.  13 people were rescued with minor to no injuries, however, one person died on the transfer to the hospital and 4 other people were pronounced dead at the scene.   Paradise Cruises have been cleared of all responsibility for the accident by the local authorities who are now involved in further investigations with the other day tour operator, thus the Paradise operations will not be interrupted.  Our local representatives will call clients travelling today and during the next few days to check they are fine to continue travelling and to answer any questions they may have.

Hundreds of tarantulas found in luggage

A German couple have been arrested after being caught with hundreds of poisonous tarantulas and other insects in their luggage at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.   Customs officials found 200 live tarantulas and an assortment of other insects including bugs, crickets, grasshoppers and millipedes.  The animals were collected by the German couple on a recent trip to Peru and were put in plastic containers and tubes hidden in their clothing and shoes.   The arachnids and insects have been handed over to Dutch animal welfare authorities for further investigation.   Airport authorities often intercept people trying to smuggle animals, particularly seahorses, into the Netherlands, but rarely in such large numbers.   A criminal case has been opened against the German couple.