What if we told you there is a way (a completely free way) to bypass the lines at immigration and customs when re-entering the U.S. at select airports—and all you needed was your smartphone?
The secret is no secret at all, but a downloadable app available to both iPhone and Android users via theApple App Store and Google Play Store that allows users to enter their passport and travel information, submit it electronically, and generate a receipt to show at customs and immigration checkpoints. It's calledMobile Passport and its technology eliminates the need for traditional forms and line waits. The catch is...there is no catch. The app, launched in 2014 by Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) in partnerships with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is free to download and free to use. Entirely separate from the paid Global Entry program, Mobile Passport boasts a speed and ease that has Global Entry users eating its dust.
For now, use of the Mobile Passport app is limited to U.S. citizens holding a valid U.S. passport, as well as Canadian citizens with a valid Canadian passport. Five airports are currently a part of the program: Atlanta (ATL), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), Chicago (ORD), and San Francisco (SFO). The goal is to have at least 20 airports accepting the app over the next year.
Once the app is on your phone, there's nothing left to do until your plane lands back on U.S. soil at one of the participating airports. When you turn off "airplane mode," open the app, complete the steps, and you'll have your immigration and customs clearance ready before even stepping off the aircraft. The profile includes the traveler’s name, gender, date of birth, and country of citizenship. According to CBP, the process is simple (a claim we can vouch for): travelers complete the “New Trip” section by selecting their arrival airport and airline, take a selfie, and answer a series of custom declaration questions. Once the traveler submits the form through the app, the traveler will receive an "electronic receipt with an Encrypted Quick Response (QR) code," which expires four hours after issuance. Travelers then bring their passport and mobile device with their digital bar-coded receipt to a CBP officer to finalize their inspection and be welcomed back into the United States. Voilà.
6 Month Validity
This actually means up to 9 months if you time it right. Get the new visa 2 weeks before you leave for Thailand, then come and go as you please making sure you fly back into Thailand a day or two before your 6 months run out. That way, you get a full 60 days from that day, plus the option to extend it for another 30 days without leaving the country, giving you up to 9 Months in Total!
Example: If your 6 month visa is valid from January 1st to June 1st you can come and go as much as you like during that time for up to 60-90 days at a time, then just make sure you re-enter Thailand before May 31st, and you'll get 60 days from that day + an option to extend it for another 30 days, giving you close to 9 months in total.
Death of the Double and Triple Entry Visas:
Unfortunately, this is something no one knew about until just now, but with the introduction of the new 6 month multiple entry tourist visa we lose the option to obtain a double or triple entry tourist visa. We'll still be able to get single entry visas which are good for 60 days + a 30 day extension, but it rules out going to places like Laos to get a double entry.
How to Obtain a New 6 Month Visa:
The only downside to getting the new 6 month visa is that you have to do it from your home country, or a county where you can prove residence in.
That means for most of us already traveling in Thailand or SE Asia, we'll have to fly back home to get the new visa. The good news is, if you use my 9 month plan I mentioned above, you'll only have to do it once a year or so, and can use it as an excuse to go to weddings, or see your family that I'm sure misses you.
The cost of the new visa is around $140 USD and in my opinion is a fantastic deal for a 6 month multiple entry visa as it gives us both freedom of time and schedule. In my first book 12 Weeks in Thailand I wrote about how to live the good life on the cheap, make border runs and get by on $600 a month, but those days are over.
SAN DIEGO, California -
Earlier this month, an 80-year-old, homeless, white-bearded man was found deceased under an overpass in San Diego, California. Nobody knew the man’s name, but friends referred to him as Jessie, so investigators decided to try DNA testing with hopes that something would pop up in the nationwide DNA database. What popped up on the computer screen in the high-tech lab stunned everyone. The DNA results of ‘Jessie Doe’ were an exact match to the one and only, Elvis Aaron Presley.
Lab technician Robert Brensdale said he and his lab assistant, Madeline Hedgespeth, laughed when the name popped up. “We thought somebody, somewhere, somehow in the system pulled the greatest and most elaborate prank on us ever, we both laughed with hysteria for about an hour,” Bresndale told Jerry Hardin of the Hollywood Word, a new entertainment publication based out of Los Angeles.
Brensdale and Hedgespeth then went to their superior with laughter, as if he were the one behind this “prank”. They were told to simmer down and stay quiet, that this was no laughing matter. From there, the results went up the ladder to the FBI and CIA.
Now, weeks later, FBI spokesperson Philip Hunter has revealed that the deceased man’s body was actually the body of Elvis Presley, who had been in the witness protection program since 1977.
“Mr. Presley was placed in the program under a voluntary basis. He was not a witness to any crime or anything like that. Once he had met President Nixon, the two became great friends, and Mr. Presley wanted out of his life, he wanted to be an unknown, so President Nixon made this possible. Yes, it is official – Elvis Presley was really alive all that time, and only a handful of people knew it, most of which are no longer with us
LOY KRATHONG – THAILAND FLOATING FESTIVAL
Loy Krathong is an annual Thai festival held throughout the country. It is held in the 12th month of the Thai Lunar Calendar, on the night of the full moon, which usually occurs in November. This is a good time of year for a celebration, the main rice harvest seasons are over, so there’s now plenty of time to celebrate. While not an official public holiday, it is Thailand’s second most widely celebrated festival, after the Songkran Thai New Year celebration. Much like Thailand itself, Loy Krathong is a bit of a contrast between the countries traditionally conservative values and its modern day practice.
Historically Loy Krathong is a day where the Thai people make offerings in the form of ‘krathongs’ – a floating raft made of banana leaves, filled with candles, sparklers and other offerings, and then ‘loy’ (float) them down a river or canal. This floating of offerings down the river is seen as a way to release all the past years anger, resentment, indiscretions and start afresh. The decorations and offerings placed into the krathongs also act as an offering to the river gods, and are expected to bring good luck for the New Year. Additionally, Thais release floating lanterns made from rice paper and candles into the sky, making a wish and asking for merit for the coming year
On Loy Krathong day you can observe many things:
Where is Loy Krathong Celebrated?Loy Krathong is celebrated all over Thailand, with larger cities organizing more elaborate fireworks displays and parades.
Bangkok – Bangkok’s famous Chayopraya River is the place to be, with huge crowds gathering to float their krathongs. Fireworks light up the sky throughout the city. Be warned however, the Thai Government has recently announced a crackdown on the use of fireworks in the capital during the festival, although its not always enforced.
Sukothai – Said to be where Loy Krathong first originated, Sukothai is famous for its Loy Krathong celebrations, which last over several nights.
Chiang Mai – Well known for it’s beautiful and elaborate celebrations and festivals, Loy Krathong in Chiang mai is no exception. The festival has events scheduled over 4 days leading up to and after the full moon night. One of the most spectacular sights is the mass lanterns which are released in Mae Jo, located 13 km outside of the city centre. In Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand the festival is also referred to as Yi Peng.
How to ParticipateIf observing the spectacle of Loy Krathong isn’t enough, you can take part by buying your own krathongs from local shops and markets (or make your own if you prefer), and make an offering in any river or canal. Floating lanterns are also sold widely, from street vendors, markets and local shops.
If fireworks are more your style, many street vendors start stocking them leading up to Loy Krathong and can be purchased with no hassle. Be warned that government officials often release statements about cracking down on firework sales leading up to festivals in Thailand, so be careful.
Thais love to celebrate, and so the yearly calendar is full of festivals, holidays and other reasons to make merry. The end of rainy season marks the advent of tourist season, with many wonderful festivals for travellers to take part in. If you’re travelling in Thailand during the autumn, check out three of the celebrations that make the Land of Smiles a truly amazing place to visit.
Naga Fireball Festival, late OctoberOn the full moon of the 11thlunar month, which coincides with the end of Buddhist Lent and the rainy season, a serpent swims in the Mekong, shooting balls of fire from its jaws. The Naga, as the serpent is called, appears in Nong Khai Province, where hundreds of thousands of spectators congregate along the banks of the river to watch for the phenomena. Non-believers posit two theories on the cause of the fireballs. One is that methane gas is released from the river bottom and is ignited upon emergence from the water. The other is that Lao residents across the river shoot tracer fire into the air. Neither explanation, however, has held any ground with Thai believers, who rioted when a Thai TV program 'exposed' Lao tracer fire.
The town of Nong Khai sees the fewest fireballs (head to Phon Phisai or Rattanawapi, 50 and 80 km, respectively, east of Nong Khai for a more consistent show) but has the largest festival, with boat races, alms-giving, and cultural performances. Food vendors line the riverside walkway, selling all manners of treats and northern Thai specialties.
Monkey Buffet, last Sunday in NovemberThe town of Lopburi is nearly overrun with monkeys, who scamper around temples making mischief in the form of snatching food, purses, cameras, and whatever else they can grab from unsuspecting people. As a way to thank the monkeys for the tourist business they draw in, the residents of Lopburi hold a feast for the animals each November.
Thailand for first-timersHow to interact ethically with elephants in ThailandWhere to sample Chiang Mai's best kôw soy (famous noodle soup)Lavishly decorated tables are set out on the grounds of Prang Sam Yot, where the monkeys can gorge on sausages, dessert, fruit and other dishes prepared by local chefs. Some of the fruit is even encased in ice to add a little variety and challenge for the monkeys. The banquet is staggered into four different meal times, affording plenty of camera time for the thousands of visitors who come to witness the spectacle. Besides the feeding frenzy there is also a parade, cultural dancing, and the usual line-up of street food vendors.
Surin Elephant Round-Up, third weekend in NovemberThe elephant has always held a special place in Thai culture, most notably due to the creature’s invaluable participation in labour and war. The residents of Surin, in northeast Thailand, were known for their ability to capture and train elephants. These days, elephants are no longer used in battle and are rarely used for labour, but the animals’ importance is commemorated each year in the Surin Elephant Round-up. This ten-day festival showcases the skills and talents of several hundred elephants, who are dressed to the nines for the event. Pachyderm activities include a breakfast buffet, elephant talent competitions, and battle re-enactments.
Loi Kratong, late NovemberPossibly Thailand’s most beautiful holiday, Loi Krathong pays respect to the river goddess at the end of the rainy season. On the full moon of the 12th lunar month, Thais set afloat small krathongs (floats) on rivers and canals. The krathongs are made from banana stems wrapped in leaves, and then adorned with flowers, candles, incense and coins. After sunset, the Thais set the krathongs afloat, releasing grudges from the past year and making wishes for the new one. In the sky, hundreds of floating lanterns are also released, so the sky and water are lit with flickering, floating stars. Street vendors sell elaborately-decorated krathongs for as little as 20 baht (about 60 cents US).
Loi Krathong originated in Sukhothai, which remains one of the most popular places to celebrate the holiday. Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya are two other excellent spots. The festivities start days before the actual holiday, with beauty contests, parades, and nightly fireworks.
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Chinese manufacturers have seriously advanced in making iPhone replicas; they no longer have antennas and TV tuners. A new fake iPhone 6s looks exactly the same as Apple’s flagship. However, it's different on the inside and twenty times cheaper.