A Malaysian guide rediscovers the joy of traveling
In the early autumn month of October in the northern hemisphere, the Earth is dreamily draped in bright colors and the weather is cool and pleasant, where agricultural and fish harvests abound.
The leaves also begin to fall in October, making this month the perfect time to travel.
It’s the best time to discover the charms of the Earth, although I prefer to travel in the spring. Nevertheless, I love more than anything else the romantic atmosphere of autumn that resembles a storybook.
I also think that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to mobilize 300,000 troops, which makes many young Russians nervous, will not really affect people like us. In its place, when Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently announced in New York that Japan would finally ease its travel restrictions on October 11, many of us rejoiced! This is the news that we have been waiting for almost three years and which deserves to be celebrated in a big way.
With this announcement, we can assume that the Covid-19 pandemic situation in Japan is finally getting better and people can now look forward to better days. That said, are the Japanese really ready to welcome foreign tourists again? Are they ready for the sudden influx of visitors?
To be frank, ordinary Japanese citizens are quite reluctant to receive such “undue disturbance” from visitors.
Coincidentally, Taiwan also announced earlier that from September 29, anyone traveling to or returning to Taiwan is only required to undergo “3 + 4” days of quarantine. In addition to this, no PCR test will be required and all travelers will be entitled to a full visa waiver.
Later, Taiwan changed the rule slightly: from October 13, the quarantine requirement is simplified to “0 + 7” days, which means that there is no mandatory quarantine, but you must undergo seven self-quarantine days.
Hopefully Taiwan will end all of its Covid-19 related travel restrictions soon.
Following the announcement, Taiwanese airlines almost immediately added 50 new flights per week to major destinations around the world, I guess to try and attract as many international visitors as possible. It is therefore not difficult to deduce that the tour operators on the island do everything possible to accommodate visitors.
Back in Malaysia, travel agencies have also started offering attractive packages to Taiwan. For us, we have developed a series of themed Taiwanese itineraries in conjunction with the Taiwan Tourism Board, as well as the Taiwan Hobby Farm Development Association and other agencies.
If you have never been to Taiwan and you ask me why you should visit this place, my answer will be: “because I really like the sincerity, kindness and pure heart of people”.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong also doesn’t want to be left out of the October tourism stimulus game. It recently announced new sets of Covid-19 travel restrictions for travelers entering Hong Kong, as well as returning citizens and residents. Currently, travelers would only have to follow a 0+3 home quarantine order, in which they are not allowed to dine or visit crowded areas or shops for the first three days of arrival.
This may not yet be good news for many foreign tourists, as the cosmopolitan city is famous for its high-quality dining experiences.
My friend Chua Lam, who is a columnist, food critic and travel expert, texted me as soon as the announcement was made. “I’m ready to take tourists from Hong Kong to Malaysia!” he said.
We were both excited, but the fact is that airfare from Hong Kong is either hard to come by or exorbitantly priced, a phenomenon that I believe has become the new norm in the world of trip today.
So far, apart from China which has yet to open its borders to tourists, South Korea is probably the only other country that still imposes a K-ETA visa online (although the PCR test requirements at arrival have just been lifted), while Australia still enforces its strict online ETA application. In truth, such requirements are not very favorable to tourists.
After Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan opened their borders and lifted visa, mandatory quarantine and PCR testing requirements, the travel scene in South Korea and Australia is expected to remain stagnant and slow.
If South Korea feels it is missing out on the bounty of the bountiful autumn travel season, I am sure the government will also lift its outbound entry restrictions in October. As for Australia, there is no indication that the country will soon liberalize the ETA requirement.
In short, from October, everyone can fly, freely (even Malaysia has abandoned its mask obligation for flights!). Have you renewed your passport yet?
Post-lockdown travel today is very different from what we once knew. We may need to be mentally prepared for something totally unexpected. For example, you may be told that your reservation – whether for a flight, cruise, hotel, car rental, restaurant or something else – has canceled or “not found”.
And that’s not all. If you are traveling to Europe or North America, there is a 30% chance that your travel plans will be disrupted by strikes at airports or railways. You should know that the unions there are so powerful that if negotiations between employers and employees fail, you could be hit with a sudden disruption of service that could literally upset your travel plans.
Also, expect a severe energy shortage in Europe this winter and make sure you are fit enough to survive the biting cold. Or bring extra winter clothes.
But I believe that all problems are happy problems and there is always a solution. Plus, the great beauty of fall is sure to melt your heart and dissolve all your anxiety, so pack your bags and start traveling!
The opinions expressed are entirely those of the author.
Leesan, the founder of Apple Vacations, has traveled to 132 countries, six continents and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He is also the author of five books.