World Travel Watch: Chile Earthquake Aftermath, Rallies in Bangkok and More
World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news
03.03.10 | 11:01 AM ET
World Travel Watch is a weekly report designed to help you make informed judgments about travel. Conditions can change overnight, so always make your own inquiries before you leave home. The U.S. State Department and embassies or consulates are good places to start.
Chile: Country Recovering from Massive Earthquake
The massive earthquake that struck near Concepcion in central Chile Feb. 27 was a catastrophe, creating challenges for the country to restore basic services to the affected zones and find housing for the hundreds of thousands left homeless. Significant damage occurred in the cities of Concepcion, Talcahuano and Temuco. But Chile is a long, narrow country, some 2,700 miles north-to-south, a distance roughly equivalent to the stretch from Alaska to Mexico, so much of the country was unharmed. Some of the top tourist sites suffered no damage, including the Atacama Desert and Chilean Patagonia. The primary issue for travelers is transport. Santiago’s international airport was not expected to be operating around the clock until March 6, and even then still out of temporary facilities. And strong aftershocks are possible for several weeks.
Czech Republic: One Site to Close, Another to Open in Prague Castle Complex
Authorities will close one of the Prague Castle complex’s most popular sites May 1 for a year to complete necessary repairs. The Golden Lane, named for the goldsmiths who once lived and worked there, is a narrow alley lined with one-room 16th-century houses, and, perhaps most notably, where Franz Kafka lived in 1916-17. But as one attraction closes, another opens: the Rosenberg Palace, another 16th-century structure with a frescoed chapel and Renaissance hall, will open to the public for the first time April 6.
Indonesia: Bali to Close March 16 for Nyepi, Day of Silence
The island of Bali will effectively shut down March 16 to observe the Hindu holiday of Nyepi, a day of silence and reflection when almost no one goes outside, no music is played, no work is done, no travel occurs, no fires are lit and lights must be kept low. Many people fast and say nothing all day. The holiday runs 24 hours beginning at 6 a.m. All airports, seaports and public roadways will be officially closed, and it will be impossible to arrive on or depart from the island. Throughout the rest of Indonesia, however, the day is simply a national holiday and all services and facilities will be open on a holiday schedule.
Israel: Clashes on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and in Hebron
Palestinian youths clashed with police at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount Feb. 28 after the youths hurled objects at tourists. The unrest spilled into the narrow lanes of the Old City but no injuries were reported. Palestinian religious authorities said the youths were defending the site after rumors spread that Jewish extremists would take it over. The site is sacred to both Jews and Muslims and such conflicts occur periodically, most recently last October. A week of clashes also occurred in Hebron at another site sacred to both faiths after the government decided on Feb. 21 to place the Tomb of the Patriarchs on a list of Jewish heritage sites.
Thailand: Red Shirts to Protest in Bangkok
“Red Shirt” protesters who support ousted and exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra plan to stage massive rallies in Bangkok beginning in mid-March in an ongoing effort to bring down the government. The Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 to confiscate $1.4 billion of Thaksin’s $2.3 billion fortune because it was obtained through corruption, but the Red Shirts intended to protest regardless of the court decision. Organizers plan the rallies to last a week and hope to draw hundreds of thousands of protesters to the capital. Given their success last April, when they shut down an Asian summit meeting and rioted in Bangkok with some 100,000 demonstrators, such numbers may be possible. Expect tensions, police presence, and possible delays if in Bangkok when the rallies begin.