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Spirit houses can be found outside almost every home and place of work in Thailand. Normally the spirit house is a replica of a small house or temple. The spirit house plays an important role in Thai life where folk law and beliefs about ancestors, spirits, and ghosts have a strong influence on daily life.

Spirit houses come in many forms. In the rural areas of Thailand, they may be a simple humble wooden structure placed in the corner of a rice field. In both rural and urban homes they may be a colourful and ornate concrete structure placed in the garden. In city centers, the spirit house may be a large modern structure placed near the entrance of an office complex or hotel.

What are spirit houses for?

Thailand is a very superstitious country; it is believed that the spirit house is the home of the spirit of the land or the so-called ‘Lord of the land’.

It is believed that the ‘Lord of the land’ has powers that can influence almost everything from agricultural success in rural areas to financial success and safety at home. Providing a home or shelter for these spirits is like taking out an insurance policy, by keeping the spirits happy you will remain safe and protected. If the spirits are not happy who knows what they can do!

Where should a spirit house be positioned?

As we all know, the location of your home is very important, and the same is true for every spirit house, but for very different and specific reasons.

Traditionally a spirit house should be positioned as follows: • So that it never falls within the shadow of the building that it is protecting • Not positioned on the left side of a door or facing a toilet or road • Ideally, it should face north or northeast • It should be high enough to demand respect but low enough to allow daily offerings

Luckily the home or landowner can decide where to position the spirit house, but if this is done wrong it could prove disastrous! Identifying an auspicious spot to ensure future success often requires the expertise of a Brahman priest.

There are two popular types of spirit houses: The ‘Saan Chao Thii’ is the oldest type that is also known as ‘Da Yai’ that means grandfather and grandmother. This is for the spirits of the people who used to live on the land and is usually in the form of a wooden house sat on four posts.

The other type is called ‘Saan Phra Phum’, or angel house, which has a single post and is the house of the guardian spirit. Being more formal this spirit house is usually more ornate than the others.

A Brahman priest, with astrological knowledge, can also be consulted to determine what form the spirit house should take.

What is inside a spirit house?

Depending on the type of spirit house they will contain certain small figures of people and animals.

For example, in the ‘Saan Chao Thii’ spirit house there will be an old man and women. There may also be figures of butlers, servants, and traditional Thai dancers.

The animal figures are usually elephants and horses that symbolise the spirits means of transport. In today’s modern world it is not unusual to see toy cars and even airplanes.

After the spirit house has been suitably positioned and decorated with figures, it is common that a Brahman priest is invited to a religious ceremony. This is when the spirits are invited to the spirit house and, all being well, they will take residence and protect the property and owners.

Why make offerings at the spirit house?

As well as providing a shelter for the spirits, it is also very important that they are provided with the things that they possibly enjoyed in their previous life. Daily offerings, such as food, drinks, and garlands are left at the spirit house to ensure that the guardian spirits are happy and content.

In days gone by, many Thai’s used to chew betel nut, a kind of vegetarian chewing gum. This would make their mouths go red and they would then spit onto the floor. As the country opened up to the outside world, this common habit was banned as it was deemed unhygienic. However, as the spirits of past generations used to love betel nut, it is still available to purchase for offerings at the spirit houses.

When making offerings to the spirits it is also common to offer burning incense sticks. Whilst praying it is believed that the rising smoke is transporting the wishes for protection and good luck to the heavens.

Regardless of age or social standing, almost every Thai person will wai (bow slightly with the palms pressed together), as they pass a spirit house to honour the resident spirits, and this demonstrates that this ancient tradition will be here forever.

Thailand will reduce mandatory quarantine from 14 to seven days starting April for foreigners arriving in the country who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, health minister Anutin Charnvirankul said.

Vaccinations must be administered within three months of the travel period and travellers will be required to show negative COVID-19 test results, he said, adding that those who have not been inoculated but have COVID-19 free certificates would be quarantined for 10 days.

Thailand is betting on a revival in tourism, which accounted for about a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) pre-pandemic, to return Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy to growth. The local tourism industry has called for mandatory quarantines to be lifted from as early as 1 July so it can open to potentially millions of vaccinated visitors.

(Source: Reuters)

SINGAPORE - Personal and leisure travel will return from the second half of this year as borders reopen to tourists hungry to be free again and to reunite with families and friends, the director of the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said in an interview with The Straits Times.

Mr Alexandre de Juniac said the recovery in business travel will be slower, and the actual volume of travel by the year end will still be low compared with the pre-Covid-19 period in 2019.

"We will likely start seeing a change in the air travel landscape after May or June this year," he added. "We at Iata are already working with states to design and plan protocols and road maps for the reopening of borders."

Key among these protocols is Iata's Travel Pass, a mobile health verification app which electronically captures a traveller's vaccination history and Covid-19 test results for cross-border safety checks.

Singapore Airlines has been the first to officially announce that it will begin testing the Iata Travel Pass on flights from Singapore to London.

Beginning Monday, passengers on that route using Apple iOS-enabled phones will be able to download the Travel Pass app and create a digital identification with their photo and passport information.

They can submit flight information and book a Covid-19 test at one of seven participating clinics in Singapore, after which the test results can be viewed directly on the app. Check-in staff at Changi Airport can then verify their status via the app, which will speed up the check-in process, according to the carrier.

But due to current regulations, travellers will still need to carry a physical copy of their health certificate issued by the testing clinic.

China has just announced the roll-out of its vaccine passport, while Germany and the United States are poised to introduce their own soon.

Mr de Juniac, who retires from his five-year tenure next month and hands the reins to Mr Willie Walsh of IAG (which owns British Airways), said Iata is targeting to work with 33 states and territories around the world on border reopening and international flights.

There is a huge pent-up demand for air travel, he added. "You never appreciate what you had until you lose it. People are hungry to be free again, to travel again."

He sees leisure and personal travel coming back more quickly than business travel.

"Personal travel will definitely bounce back, but business travel will take another 12 to 18 months to recover," he said, alluding to the fact that many companies have adopted digitalisation technologies over the past year to connect and continue business.

But even with gradual border openings, Mr de Juniac said air passenger traffic volume by the end of this year will remain relatively weak compared with pre-Covid-19 2019, though better than in mid-2020.

"Governments in many countries are cautious and remain in emergency mode amid the emergence of new Covid variants," he added. "They have to manage their domestic circumstances first."

But Iata, whose 290 global carrier members represent 82 per cent of global traffic, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) will accelerate protocols for safe air travel. "We are working with our partners on vaccination, testing and safe air travel measures," Mr de Juniac said.

Meanwhile, ICAO, which last year rolled out various guidelines such as masks, health declarations and empty middle seats in planes, is expected to announce its latest protocols for health and safety guidelines within the next few weeks.

What will the new normal look like in aviation?

"In the short and medium terms, there will be fewer actors (airlines) and smaller planes. Airlines which survived the crisis will be more competitive, having dramatically cut costs and scaled down.

"We will still have full-service and low-cost segments, but full-service carriers will not see business and long haul coming back for a while."

But Mr de Juniac does not see much consolidation in the industry, either. "Given the acute cash shortage in the industry, airlines will not be able to simply go out and buy competitors. More so when states have doled out taxpayers' money into bailouts of airlines. They are unlikely to simply sell off."

He added that the crisis brought an important lesson - that the industry needs to strengthen its financial management.

Although airlines which were the strongest before the crisis have survived, much of the industry is struggling along on thin margins and "unbalanced" balance sheets, he said.

"Ironically, having dealt with previous health scares like Sars and Ebola, airlines were best prepared for this crisis. We had the tools.

"But the unprecedented global nature of the crisis showed that we were not prepared enough. We need more cooperation and collaboration amongst various partners, including governments and regulators," said Mr de Juniac.

Geographically, Asia-Pacific will emerge as the most robust region for global air traffic, he predicted.

"We already saw this upswing prior to Covid, and the Chinese market was already No. 1, and ahead of the US. This trend will simply accelerate."

But the growth could be uneven, he said. "The key will be how individual states and territories open up their borders as the vaccine roll-out and test regime accelerate."

Article from The Straits Times - Singapore 11th March 2021

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