General Articles about Thailand

Then and Now: That’s a really big snake! (Bangkok Snake Farm)

Bangkok Snake Farm Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute

(or สวนงู สถานเสาวภา สภากาชาดไทย)

Kids are fearless.  These two just had to hold the snake by themselves, much to the shock and surprise of the other people around and the snake handlers as well.  This snake farm is a nice place for a little educational nature visit.  It is right in downtown Bangkok, but you wouldn’t know it once you enter the ground.  Many many varieties of snakes  and other reptiles are on display, along with an assortment of other small animals.   They have regular demonstrations of tapping the venom of some of the poisonous types.  These large Burmese pythons are not venomous at all (although they could probably snap a neck pretty easily).

girls holding big snake

We aren’t scared!

During a recent trip to Thailand we “retook” some pictures that we had taken about 10 years earlier. Great fun! I think they were more scared doing it as adults.  Kids are fearless!

City of Angels and Beyond

City of Angels and Beyond
City of Angels and Beyond
City of Angels and Beyond

Thailand has so much to see with so little time. Why not begin in Bangkok, a fast, busy, smokey and smothering city, with thousands of restaurants, shopping meccas and hotels that rank from ultra cheap to ultra extravagant. Start in ‘Bangers’ as it is known to Expats and experience the hustle and bustle; head on down to Khao San Road and experience the haggling among the street vendors.

Bangkok holds the record for the longest place name! In Thai, Bangkok is known as Krung Thep; and over time has been referred to as ‘The City Of Angels’ and enmasse Thailand as ‘the Land of the Smiles’ (as it’s citizens have that famous enduring smile). Why not also head north-west to Kanchanaburi City – where Australian, British, Dutch and American soldiers endured years of torment and hardship building the Thai-Burma Railway for the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942-5. Whilst there visit the Tiger Temple, Sai Yok Waterfall or drive to Sangklaburi and visit the Mon people on the border of Thailand and Burma. There is so much to see and do.

Sightseeing

The Grand Palace in Bangkok is pure opulence; Thai and western style buildings share the opulent rai’s (acres) and are utilised for ceremonial and administrative purposes alike. The gold leaf tiles and attention to every minor detail in design is exceptional – the man hours that are invested here is incredible, something a westerner could not probably fully understand nor would our unions allow. Guards stand out the front and are not permitted to move – the heat and humidity must be so oppressive standing to attention in all their regalia. There is a lot to see at the Grand Palace for your 200 baht entry cost, the palace has an area of 218,400 square metres, the length of the four walls totals 1900 metres where construction began in 1782. There is a group of canons that is worth a look as well as swords and weapons of a bygone era. You can visit an active Wat (temple) inside one of the Thai style temples and see how the locals pray and are humbled by their god – Lord Buddha. It is interesting to note that even Thai teenagers and younger Thai adults also participate in the religious homage in all of these and many other Thai Wats.

Wat Phra Kaeo is situated within the grounds of the Palace; it is a two storey Wat with many antiques and valuables to see; including scale models of the Palace grounds today and of a century ago – you can see how it has progressed over the years by the many influences of the Kings.

Wat Phra Kaeo houses the most revered Buddha image in all of Thailand – the Emerald Buddha (known in Thai as Phra Kaeo Morakot) it is carved from a large piece of Jade. The Emerald Buddha is 48.3cm in width across the lap and 66cm in height, the three seasonal costumes for the Emerald Buddha consist of those for the hot and rainy seasons donated by King Rama I and one for the cold season donated by King Rama III.    
  
Shopping

Pra-Tu-Nam is an excellent market and one you can easily get lost in – but this is a good thing right? It is basically below the Bai Yoke Sky Hotel and the silk, clothing, watches, and all other nick nacks etc are very cheap compared with other more ‘touristy’ venues, a lot of locals shop here so you know it is good value. For a side trip whilst at Pra-Tu-Nam, visit the Bai Yoke Sky Hotel and their observation deck on level 78 (cost 120 baht), there is an inside and outside deck with one revolving – the cityscape continues up there as far as the eye can see.

Silk products, especially silk in rolls for dressmaking etc can be purchased cheaply at ‘Porn Phaisal’ 288/6 Rajprarop Road, Opposite Golden Gate Plaza, Pra-Tu-Nam. On the way to Pra-Tu-Nam is a shopping centre called Panthip Plaza – this is a popular multi level shopping centre for all your electronic and computer related needs, including software and accessories, digital camera memory is very cheap here. Remember to haggle prices and keep receipts. The big daddy of all the tourist markets is of course Patpong Night Market. The name Patpong comes from the family who owns it, a must visit in Bangkok and whilst it caters for the tourists who flock here some bargains can be found but generally it is way overpriced. There are two alleys known as Soi’s dedicated for the market and it gets packed full of tourists on most nights especially weekends. Stop off at the Tip Top Restaurant (in the middle of Patpong 1) if the ambience of the market becomes too smothering, remember to haggle and offer a smile. Have a beer in a ‘bar’ there and you will see some interesting sites.

Remembering

Allied Prisoners of War were utilised as forced labour by the Japanese Army and sent by ship, train and marched to Kanchanaburi and beyond to begin the Thai-Burma Railway in 1942, to create a rail link from occupied Thailand to current day Myanmar – to feed supplies to the Japanese fighting in Burma. As a consequence 2,710 Australians died all along the railway and as one writer has said – ‘A Life for Every Sleeper.’ If it wasn’t for the Australian tenacity, mateship and medical legends such as Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop and Sir Albert Coates, many more of our soldiers would have perished. Kanchanaburi is two hours by bus from Bangkok (from the Southern Bus Terminal), there is the Don Rak War Cemetery to see – the southern cemetery for the railway with approximately 7,000 war dead including 1,362 Australians. Adjacent the cemetery is the Thai-Burma Railway Centre, a museum on the railway with many wall panels etc describing events on the railway plus a cafeteria overlooking the cemetery. Two kilometres north is the Bridge Over the River Kwai – built by POWs and destroyed in 1945 by United States Air Force B24’s on a bombing mission. Next door to the bridge is a floating restaurant, spend a night having dinner here and have the famous bridge as a backdrop and toast the men who are still there. Another 80 kms north following the Kwai Noi River is the infamous Konyu Cutting or Hellfire Pass. It is said it got it’s name from POW’s standing at the top of the cutting looking down during the night with the bamboo bonfires and oil lamps burning with hundreds of men toiling in the balmy night and their captors ready to pounce with a bamboo stick at the ready – men likened this ‘to the jaws of hell’ where it subsequently became known as Hellfire Pass. It took three months to cut a way through this solid rock and it has been said cost some 700 lives. Without men of this calibre, tenacity and spirit we certainly could be speaking ‘A Different Brand Of English’.

Dining

‘Prik’ and ‘Phed’ or hot and spicy, that’s the way Bangkok food has been since the traders introduced chilli some centuries ago. One top restaurant among hundreds is the Nipa Thai Restaurant on level three inside the Landmark Hotel near Soi 5. Attention to detail at the Nipa Thai is to be commended; the Thai decorations down to the carpet make for a pleasant and classy surrounding. For AUD$50, two can dine until stuffed like a Christmas turkey, with several lagers to wash down the well presented and flavorsome Thai (aharn) food. This restaurant would make a small fortune if nestled in uptown Collins Place; this is one where any good Aussie Shiraz or Merlot would dazzle the palate against the spices of the Bangkok cooking. For starters try ‘Toon Ngern Yuang’ or Fried Minced Pork and Prawns wrapped in a Bean Curd Pastry’, these little packets come with plum or sweet and sour sauce for dipping and tantalize the taste buds, they are certainly equal to South Melbourne Market’s ‘Cricket Ball Dimmy’ only a smaller size but equal on taste. This restaurant out does itself with ‘Kao Ob Sabprarod’ or Fried Rice served in Pineapple, the half pineapple is finely cut by the chef and beautifully produced with other delicately sliced vegetables including carrots that resemble an award winning ‘David Austin Rose’ and finely shaped cucumber and tomato, perfectly laid out on a presentation Thai style plate with accompanying dipping sauces – perfect. These dishes alone would overprice such treats in Melbourne with all the time taken to present them with their intricately cut vegetables and service staff that hover like on-ballers at the centre bounce at the MCG. Don’t forget Thailand’s favourites like the Green Chicken Curry, the Panang and Musaman curries – delish.

If you enjoyed your dining experience and fell in love with the ‘Prik’ and ‘Phed’ of Thai aharn, then try the cooking course offered by this restaurant. You can choose the one day or full week of cooking all types of popular Thai cuisine, both fun and rewarding; where else could you cook, consume and learn without having to do the dishes? (Landmark Hotel at 138 Sukhumvit Road Bangkok, 10110, Thailand, Tel: (662) 254 0404).  

Staying

The Montien Hotel Bangkok is a four star hotel and was opened in 1967 by Queen Sirikit, inside it has been lovingly renovated and cared for – the grand staircase is golden, long and made of marble, it sweeps up to the business floor area adjacent the bar where they serve expensive but delicious cocktails. The doorman wears a white military style suite and pith helmet and the majestic lobby borrows the stately name ‘Montien’ meaning Royal Residence. This hotel has everything from an inviting pool to a bakery, Chinese Restaurant, all you can eat buffet breakfast which has all types of dishes from salmon to fresh local fruits and bacon – lots of bacon, Club 54 to it’s cigar bar and karaoke booths. It is a five minute walk to the Skytrain and is directly across the road from the market of Patpong – I mean you could throw a stone and hit a tout in the head (don’t get any ideas!) Travel brochures all mention the real estate catch phrase for this hotel: ‘location, location, location.’ This is the hotel that you can spend time in, swimming, smoking a cigar, having a smooth ‘Jack and Coke’ at the lobby bar listening to the ‘Tinglish’ piano singer whilst the Pong people set up their wares ready for you to start with your bargaining skills. This is relaxing!

When on the expressway heading for the airport, don’t look back; planning for your next Thailand adventure starts there – on that fast expressway home. Was it all an action packed dream? Mai Pen Rai (She’ll be right).

Andrew Mason is author of a published travel guide for Thailand, titled, ‘A Different Brand of English’ and is available at: www.poseidonbooks.com/a_different_brand_of_english.htm.

Full of security tips, travel advice and staying safe in Thailand and Singapore. It has what the other travel guides miss – heart & history.

Animal Rescue – THE BEACH DOGS

Animal Rescue the Beach DogsKoh Tao is a small island surrounded by the calm expanse of the Gulf of Thailand. This may be a tropical paradise for visitors but for the many ownerless dogs that live there it is far from paradise. Ravaged by mange, hungry and often frightened, they parade the beach in packs each tribe fiercely protecting their self-designated territory. This is a place where the law of the jungle pervades, survival of the fittest. But the only food source is that provided by humans – the scraps from the restaurants. The dominant male pecking order often means that the weakest get no food at all. In fact these dogs at the lower end of the scale are often cast out from the tribe.


Noi’s story

In April of this year myself, my friend Miranda and her eight year old son Jordan visited Koh Tao. On our second day we met a small black mongrel that we later called Noi – which is Thai for little one. She had been rejected by the pack because she had weak back legs and a clubfoot, she was starving and infected by maggots. We fed her up and managed to enlist the help of the pharmacist to procure some anti-biotics from the nearby Koh Samui island. After I jabbed her she ran off and we didn’t see her for three days. We thought she was dead. Then one evening when we were walking along the beach in the sunset she appeared from nowhere. At first we weren’t sure if it was the same dog because she looked so much better. She followed us around faithfully from then on and spent the nights on our balcony. By now we were completely hooked and wanted to take her home with us but it seemed impossible. We would have to leave her behind.

When we came back to the UK we couldn’t stop thinking about Noi. I discovered that there was a Dog Rescue Centre on the nearby Koh Samui island and we made contact with Bridget and her husband Hans who run the centre. After another month of deliberation we decided that the only thing to do was to go back and get Noi. Bridget put us in contact with another Brit who had done the same thing – Roger Cooper. Roger had had a similar experience with his dog Gypsy. He had become attached to her during a holiday and when he and his family returned thirteen months later the dog recognised them instantly. The clincher was when they got into a taxi for a sight seeing trip and the dog ran after the taxi for a mile and a half and then sat in the road howling.

Miranda can speak fleunt Thai which was to be a great help. When we arrived there we took the photo we had taken of Jordan and Noi around to the different restaurants but no one had seen her. There were a few heart stopping days when we thought she was dead. Then she suddenly turned up but she was in a pretty bad state. She was sicker than before and was covered in mange and wouldn’t eat. Over the next few days we fed her up and gave her some anti bioitics and Vitamin C. But now there was another problem. Whilst they were looking for Noi another outcast had attached himself to us another black mongrel who we called Star. Since we’d first met Star someone had thrown stones at him and he was now hobbling on three legs. We decided that we would take him with us to the vet at the dog’s home in Koh Samui, fix him up and return him to the island.

The only way from Koh Toa to Koh Samui is by speedboat and it’s a pretty rocky journey. The journey by jeep to the jetty and then the crossing to Koh Samui with two dogs, a kid and luggage was a challenge particularly as the dogs wouldn’t walk on leads and had to be carried. But probably most challenging of all was the continual vomiting of little Star on the speed boat that reached such a pitch that we wanted to throw him overboard!

Arriving at Koh Samui we were met by the motorbike and sidecar from the dogs home. The dogs were loaded up and Star howled all the way the rescue centre. We had to go between two different vets to get the dogs injected, get their vaccinations and get Star’s leg fixed and then take them back to the rescue centre. By the time we arrived our hotel we were exhausted. We stayed on Koh Samui for the next few days visiting Noi and Star and generally helping out at the rescue centre. By now we had another dilemma. Star was really attached to us how could we take him back to the life of a beach dog where anything might happen? After much soul searching we decided to bring Star home.

To prepare for the next leg of the journey – the flight from Koh Samui to Bangkok, the airline had insisted that the dogs be sedated until they were asleep. The quarantine kennel here in the UK had expressly said not to sedate them because of the danger of hypothermia. A double dose of tranquilliser was administered to Noi because the first one didn’t seem to work.

When we arrived at Bangkok the dogs were actually sent out on the conveyor belt with the luggage!!! Miranda and I went off to sort out some documentation and whilst we were away Jordan, thinking that Noi didn’t look too good, put his hand into the cage and in her drugged state Noi bit him and wouldn’t let go. He started screaming. It took a security guard to prise her off. We came back to find Jordan in tears and blood all over the floor. We had to bundle the two dogs, still in their cages, Jordan and the luggage off to the nearby private hospital where Jordan had to have rabies and a tetanus injection and get his wound cleaned and his arm bandaged. We dropped the dogs off with Tai – the contact in Bangkok that Bridget from the rescue centre had arranged and dragged ourselves off to the hotel.

At nine o’clock the next morning Tai rang the hotel. There was a problem. The excessive dose of the tranquilliser may have caused Noi to go blind. We rushed to Tai’s. Things didn’t look good. Noi’s eyes were completely blue. Thankfully over the next few days her sight returned.

Noi and Star came out of quarantine in February and there were quite a handful – to say the least! But now they are house trained and understand basic commands. Star is very nervous of other dogs and this makes him quite aggressive to them but both of the dogs are great with humans. Soon they are going off for an intensive four week live in training course with Brian from Just For Dogs. He has a fantastic reputation for non aggressive training methods with amazing results.

This experience has led me to start a charity the Noistar Thai Dog Rescue to help the hundred of dogs still on the island. The Noistar Thai Dog Rescue intends to introduce a neutering and education programme to bring the dog population under control and thereby improve the quality of life for both the humans and the canines who inhabit the island. We will involve local people directly in this programme as well as targeting tourists to act more responsibly.

There will be a clinic on the island, which is already running with a bare staff of volunteers, this will be the focus for the medical and educational activities.

Koh Tao should be a refuge for the beach dogs that live there. With help they would be able to exist in harmony with the islanders and the many thousands of visitors that go there each year. We may not be able to change the world but we can change an island.

If you are interested in helping out contact Laura at laura@hummingbird-films.co.uk

Places of Worship in Thailand

where_do_you_worship_1Places of Worship in Bangkok and Thailand

Maribel Escarpe writes: “You are all invited to our Sunday worship Service! NAME OF CHURCH: JESUS IS LORD CHURCH THAILAND CHAPTER Address: Sunshine Mansion Soi 18/2 Chatuchak District, bangkok, Thailand Every Sunday @ 10:12:00 Noon CONTACT # : 085-911-5705 WEBSITE: COME & EXPERIENCE THE PRESENCE OF GOD!” 

Every Nation Church Bangkok
Every Nation Church Bangkok – we worship at Every Nation Church Bangkok, 15/F Jitt Utthai Bldg., Ramkhamhaeng Road 73 in Bangkok between 1600 – 1730 every Sunday. Bilingual services. Click here for more details. 
 
The International Church of Bangkok
Stewart writes: “The International Church of Bangkok is a multi-denominational English language church. We meet Sundays at 10am near Surasak BTS and at 6:30pm near Sala Daeng BTS. See our website for details, directions and maps. (www.icbangkok.org) We are a church that welcomes all people regardless of where you are in your spiritual journey. We focus on loving God and loving others.” 
 
Holy Redeemer Church
Meg writes: Holy Redeemer Church is unique in its architecture and the faithful are invited to an active parish life. Weekday Masses are at 630 AM (Thai), 7 and 8 AM (English) and 530 PM (English). 
 
Bangkok International Church of Seventh-Day Adventists
Dr. Brian Lee writes: “Bangkok International Church of Seventh-Day Adventists www.bicsda.org Tel.02 713 2232 Please join us to worship and praise God each Saturday at 09.00. You\’re sure to experience warm fellowship with our members from more than 10 countries, meaningful sermons in English, and beautiful, uplifting music by our talented choirs. We have lunch prepared for you after the service.” 
 
Hope of Bangkok, International Fellowship
Hope of Bangkok, International Fellowship (www.hobif.org) is a non dominational church located at the 3rd floor of The Royal Benja Hotel in Sukhumvit soi 5. Service starts at 10:00 am. 
 
Bethany International Church Bangkok
Hi all, I recommend to attend the Sunday service at: Bethany International Church Bangkok at 10.00-12.00 a.m. at PATHUMWAN PRINCESS HOTEL (MBK Shopping Center) M Floor. More information at www.bethanybangkok.com or send email. The service in Indonesian with Thai, Japanese and English translation. We welcome all of you to experience God’s blessings, anointing and love. 
 
Italian Speaking Catholic Community Holy Mass
Frederico de Souza Arauo writes: “About the “Italian Speaking Catholic Community Holy Mass” we also have mass in Spanish on Saturdays at 18:00. The website is: http://www.comunidad-catolica.com/ we have a map there and other information.” 
 
Siam Bangkok Church
“Welcome all of you to www.siambangkokchurch.org. Every Sunday we have two services the first one in ther morning at 10.30 AM – 12.30 PM (Thai) and International service at 7.30 PM – 9.30 PM (English).” 
 
International Christian Assembly
Wanna writes: “The International Christian Assembly is an international church based in Bangkok. Its website is www.ica-bangkok.org.”
 
Protestant Gospel Church
Ally writes: “There is a Protestant Gospel Church on Sukhumvit Soi 6. Just a little walk from the Nana BTS station for those who are interested.” 
 
Assumption Cathedral, Bangkok
John Nobelius writes: “For Catholics try the Assumption Cathedral for lovely Mass on sundays, beautiful new building and they have a great choir, easy to find in Oriental Lane opposite the Oriental Hotel 10 and 11am masses in English.” 
 
Christ Church Bangkok
We received this email from Mr Mithunayon: ‘Christ Church Bangkok Corner Sathorn and Convent Roads. (10 min walk Saladaeng SkyTrain, next to BNH Hospital) see their website tel. 0 2234 3634 A friendly English-speaking church, meets at 7.30am, 10am and 5pm each Sunday. Children’s programme at 10am. (Also has a Thai congregation.) Easy to find, very pleasant grounds and a beautiful and historic “Colonial Gothic” church building. Informal Anglican / Protestant services, very comfortable chairs!’ Thanks for that… 
 
Italian Speaking Catholic Community Holy Mass
Italian Speaking Catholic Community Holy Mass at 10:30 on Sundays and Feast Days. Venue Salesian Sisters Foundation, 124 Saladaeng Road (the road connecting Silom Road,at the back of the Dusit Thani Hotel) and Sathorn Road (Tisco Bldg.side). There is also a service in Spanish at the same chapel on Saurdays at 18:00 hrs.” 
 
Holy Redeemer Church
Esther (esther@thailand.com) writes:
“I can recommend the Holy Redeemer Church in Soi Ruam Rudee for those who feel like attending a Sunday Mass. Espescially the one at 11 a.m. is worth being part of: celebrated in English with a very nicely mixed attendance and heavenly music.” Thanks for that Esther! 
 
Greater Grace Church (Thailand)
Athima (erng@yahoo.com) writes: “Greater Grace Church (Thailand) http://www.greatergracethailand.org Address: 1/2-3 Soi 4, Seri 2 (It’s 150 meters from the entrance to the stadium on Ramkhamhaeng Soi 24) Church services are held with simultaneous translation from English to Thai on Wednesdays 7:30 p.m. and Sundays 10:30 am” 
 
Evangelical Church of Bangkok
Evangelical Church of Bangkok is an international and interdenominational church sponsored by the Christian and Missionary Alliance. We are a mosaic of the peoples of the world, joyfully committed to glorifying God and developing people for His kingdom through worship, discipleship, compassion and witness. Service times (in English) are 8, 9, and 11am on Sundays. Email: office@ecbbangkok.org Web: http://www.ecbbangkok.org
 
Calvary Baptist Church
88 Sukhumvit Soi 2
Bangkok
10110
Tel: 251-0809, 251-8278
Email: calvarybangkok@hotmail.com
Website: www.thai-info.net/churches/calvary/ 
 
Chabad House – Synagogue
Nechamya Wilhelm
Rabbi 96
Ram Buttri Rd.
Khao San Road,
Banglampoo
Bangkok
Tel: 282 6388
Fax: 629 1153
Email: chabadbangkok@yahoo.com
Website: Information on synagogues in Thailand can be seen at the following website:
www.jewishthailand.com/syna.html

Speak Thai – Basic Greetings and Phrases

Speak Thai - Basic Phrases

Thai language, like other languages, is very difficult to learn to speak fluently. KhaoSanRoad.com invites you to learn enough to get by, help yourself in an emergency, and get better acquainted with local Thai people. Check out these phrases.

 

 

 

 

 Hello / Good Morning Sawadee krup (male) kaa (female)
Never Mind Mai pen rai.
Thank You Kop khun (krup/kaa)
How are you? Sabai dee mai?
Fine, thanks. Sabai dee.
I cannot speak Thai. Phoot Thai mai dai.
Please speak more slowly. Phrohd phoot cha-cha.
I don’t understand. Mai kao chai.
Do you understand? Kao chai mai?
May I take a photograph? Tai ruup dai mai?
May I use the telephone? Kor chai torasap mai?
Where is the restroom? Hong nam yoo ti nai?
How much does it cost? Nee tao-rai (krup/kaa)?
What is this? Nee arai?
Very expensive. Paeng maak.
Do you have something cheaper? Mii tuuk gwaa nee mai?
The bill please. Gep taang (krup/kaa).
Goodbye. La gon.
See you again. Laew phob gan mai.
Pleased to meet you. Dee jai thee dai phob gan.
Happy New Year! Sawadee bi mai!
Happy Birthday! Sooksan wan gerd!
Good luck! Kor hai chok dee!
Sorry / excuse me. Kor thoad.
Does anyone speak English? Mee krai pood pasa angrit dai bang mai?
I need a doctor. Tong karn more ma raksa.
I want to go… Yaak ja bai…
Where is…? Yuk nai?
Turn left. Leeo sai.
Turn right. Leeo kwaa.
Straight Ahead. Trong bai.
Stop here. Yuut tee nee.
Slow down. Cha-cha.
Be careful! Ra wang!
Airport. Sanam bin.
Bus Station. Satanee rot mae.
Railway Station. Satanee rot fai.
Police Station Satanee tum-ruat.
Hotel. Rong-raeum.
Embassy Sa-tantoot.
Hospital Rong-payabaan.
Post Office. Prai-sanee.
Market. Dalaat.

A List of Dos and Don’ts in Thailand

Dos and Don'tsThai culture, like other cultures, has its taboos as well as conventions. We invite you to help each other and learn from each others’ mistakes. Tell us about your experiences, give advice, and learn from others. These comments provided by Mike at ethailand.

DO ensure you have adequate travel insurance and that it covers both medical treatment and unexpected losses/expenses/theft.

DON’T carry anything through customs for anyone else unless you know the contents. Penalties for drug trafficking are severe.

DO follow common sense health precautions and check with your local doctor on current vaccination recommendations for travelling within Thailand.

DO take care of your valuables at all times and report any loss immediately to the nearest tourist police office.

DON’T buy gemstones or jewellery unless it is from a reputable dealer. Many sophisticated scams have sprung up over recent years. Whether the tout is dressed as a student, a monk or a policeman, identity card and all deal only with a registered gemstone dealer.

DO be careful with your passport. Be on guard against pickpockets or inadvertent loss.

DON’T overstay. Fines are imposed for each day you stay in Thailand beyond the date of the visa expiry, currently Baht 200 per day.

DO be careful when driving in Thailand. Only use car hire companies which offer full insurance coverage.

DO dress in a manner fitting to local custom and sensibilities.

DO respect Thai customs. While Thais are generally forgiving towards visitors disrepect towards images of Buddha or the Royal Family will not be tolerated.

Backpacking and the Environment

Carbon OffsettingAs global warming kicks in and climate change becomes recognized less as a theoretical consideration than a hard fact, the amount of carbon we as individuals put into the atmosphere has a direct impact on all our futures. Of course, we can all cycle to work and turn off our air-conditioning to reduce our carbon footprints, but when it comes to traveling, what are we supposed to do? Travelers can abandon air travel and choose bus or rail, but of those living in Europe or America, only Rambo types are ever going to get to see Thailand or beyond. And that’s never going to happen – realistically people just aren’t going to sacrifice their trip of a lifetime.
To overcome what is clearly a serious dilemma and keep people traveling, a creative solution has emerged – carbon offsetting. According to WikiPedia.com, Carbon offsetting is “the act of mitigating (“offsetting”) greenhouse gas emissions. A well-known example is the purchasing of offsets to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions from personal air travel”. But exactly how does it work? Today we talk to Kathrin Dellantonio, of myclimate, a Swiss-based non profit foundation with a range of carbon offsetting products.

myclimate talk the talk and walk the walk… we asked lots of companies to do this interview and they were the only ones to step up to the plate – well done myclimate.

We ask Kathrin about the mechanics behind carbon offsetting, and the extent to which it really will have an impact on our futures.

Carbon OffsettingKSR.com: Kathrin – thank you for taking time out of a busy schedule like this to talk to KhaoSanRoad.com… It’s very kind of you. Perhaps you could start by giving our visitors an overview of myclimate and your role in the organization.

Kathrin: myclimate is a nonprofit foundation based in Zurich and active since 2002. We are among the leaders in the international voluntary carbon offset market and known especially for the very high quality of the projects.

We offer offsets for individuals (flights, cars, households); companies, events, products etc. We also have several projects of environmental education where we sensitize people for climate change and try to give them tipps on how to make their behavior more climate friendly. I have been working here for the last two years as head of sales, marketing and communication.

KSR.com: And just so we can get a background to your company’s activity, what is the current situation as far as the environment is concerned? Global warming, climate change – are these buzz words and sounds bites or should we really be concerned?

Kathrin: Gobal warming is something we should be concerned of because it is proven that mankind has a very big impact on the climate system. The IPCC, the highest scientific panel on climate change stressed this in its last report.

KSR.com: Just to get the full picture… Theoretically, if we wanted to see positive changes in the environment in five years rather than twenty, what would the human race have to do right now? It would mean some pretty radical changes in the way people live and earn a living, wouldn’t it?

Kathrin: Yes, changes are requested from all of us. However, the climate system is a very slow system. Emission reductions realized now will bring down the atmospheric CO2 concentrations much later.

KSR.com: For the uninitiated out there, can you give us a broad overview of carbon offsetting and how it works.

Kathrin: Offsetting means that emissions caused at one place are offset somewhere else. For example, with offset money, it is possible to build a biomass power station instead of a coal power station. The biomass station produces much less CO2 than a coal power station, this avoided amount of CO2 is sold.

KSR.com: What sort of carbon offsetting products do you offer?

Kathrin: For individuals – flights, cars, households… For companies – a whole company or parts of it… events, products.

KSR.com: Taking for example a trip from London Heathrow to Suvarnabhumi Airport, how much carbon would that put into the atmosphere and how do you calculate it?

Kathrin: A return economy flight produces 4.508 tons of CO2 equivalents (i.e. also other climate relevant emissions are counted). This is calculated using the distance, fuel consumption and average number of passengers in a plane.

KSR.com: How much would it cost to offset that amount of carbon?

Kathrin: EUR 108

KSR.com:
And if I engage your services for this purpose, what specifically might myclimate do to offset this carbon?

Kathrin: We invest the amount into our projects where the same amount of CO2 is reduced by replacing fossil fuel energy sources with renewable ones and implement energy efficient technologies. For examples please see our website.

KSR.com: I recently saw a program on the BBC where the presenter was flying around the world enjoying himself, and buying carbon offsets to lessen the impact of his travel on the environment. From what I remember, the company that sold the offsets paid for more efficient light bulbs and gave them to a hotel in the Caribbean. Realistically, how long would it take to offset the amount of carbon a trip from London to the Caribbean puts into the atmosphere through the use of more efficient light bulbs? It would be years, wouldn’t it?

Kathrin:
I can’t say anything with regard to this project as I don’t know it. However in our projects we guarantee that the emission reductions are realized and retired from the market no later than 2 years after the purchase.

KSR.com: This is where I get confused about offsetting. If it is going to take a period of years, or even up to a year, to offset the impact of a flight, it’s going to take at least that amount of time for the benefits to kick in. Meanwhile carbon is going into the atmosphere. Isn’t the immediate threat from increased amounts of carbon in the atmosphere greater than the balancing impact of carbon offsetting?

Kathrin: Yes, definitely the amount of CO2 produced now is much bigger than the emission reduction in offset projects. It won’t be possible to offset all CO2 with offset projects. Therefore we all must try to reduce the CO2 emissions.

KSR.com:
I am just playing devil’s advocate here, and I have to askÂ… Isn’t there a danger with your products people feel the more they buy, the more they save the planet?

Kathrin: To counteract this we also do a lot of environmental education in order to show people how they can change to a more climate friendly life. Because for the climate it is course the best if emissions are not produced at all.

KSR.com: So, alongside offsetting your air travel, what advice would you give to the traveler who is concerned about the planet? What can that guy walking down Khao San Road with a backpack on do right now to help the world tomorrow?

Kathrin: When it comes to traveling, he should try to travel with the the least negative impact on the foreign country. Apart from traveling, he should try to reach a more climate friendly consumption pattern, i.e. use public transport, use energy efficient appliances, etc.

KSR.com: Last question – are you a half empty or half full type of person? Are enough people doing enough? Or aren’t we going to make it?

Kathrin: A half full type of person, an optimistic person. I think that we can counteract climate change, but we all need to contribute our part, rethink our consumption patterns and take emission reducing measures.

KSR.com:
Kathrin – thanks for this. Let’s hope that people take into account their impact on the environment and start making the changes we all need.

Santa Comes to Thailand

Unfortunately tourists, backpackers and travelers never get the real spirit of Thailand because they are not in country long enough. For those who stay or have relationships with families, you may relate to the following event.

When my wife and I decided to return to Thailand for Christmas, we decided to give the kids of the village something that they never had before — Santa Clause. Most nationals in Thailand are Buddhist and don’t celebrate Christmas, but they certainly have heard of Christmas. But do they understand its meaning? No not really.

In preparation, we purchased a Santa suit in Australia, together with Santa sack, beard and many presents. We arrived in my wife’s village [sub village of Nakhon Sawan] and were greeted by the family. It was nice to see them and they were all keen to receive gifts. We had to explain that the gifts were not going to be given out until Christmas Morning. It was also decided to have an Aussie barbeque for lunch on Christmas Day.

My wife organized all the food and we prepared it for our family and friends. This was my Christmas gift to everyone, as they would never have had anything like it before. We borrowed a barbeque from a local restaurant and purchased the refreshments. My mate and his wife joined us from Korat and we commenced the activities.

I had brought music tapes from Australia and everyone was amused to see two farang’s singing and dancing to tunes that they had never heard before. The most rewarding thing was when a local restaurant owner kept on repeating ‘aroy, aroy’ – she certainly loved the marinade pork steaks, and chicken salad.

Christmas day fell during the week and all the kids were at school, so naturally Santa had to visit the school. He arrived bells ringing on the back of a shiny new red motorcycle. Santa explained through the teachers about Christmas and the birth of Jesus in the Christian Faith, and the belief in Santa Clause and its origins, then he gave lollies to every child in the school. The children then responded by giving Santa a truly fine dancing and drum exhibition. The experience was great for everyone and Santa was asked to return next year. Who knows!

Later in the day Santa went through the village and gave lollies to all the kids that he saw. All-in-all a very satisfying day.

Cheers,

Garry

Why Thailand?

To the readers of this piece: I am sure that you all went through a similar experience when considering the destination of your holiday. You decided in one manner or another that a trip overseas was for you.

After speaking to all your friends especially those who had traveled before, a short list of destinations was considered. At some stage over a month or so you decided on the destination and the method of travel. For the young it nearly is always backpack, because a greater experience can be had on a smaller budget, and lets face it you are fit and can more easily cope with sleepng on the floor, and as statistics show you stay longer on holiday.

For those who are in the 35-50 age group other priorities are clearly defined, with other interests other than rafting or elephant trekking. Suitable literature should be obtained on the country of destination, to prepare you for differences in cultures, language, and day to day existence. As a seasoned traveler I cannot stress this ‘preparation’ highly enough. Especially in a country that speaks a tongue that is not your own.

If you think that it is going to be easy ‘just a walk in the park’ — think again. Every country has its wise guys and they seek out vulnerable persons and take advantage of them. So being armed against that type of situation by reading books will help you understand. I am not going to promote any books but there are many around that shed light on to every subject.

Anyway… Why did you select Thailand?– Was it the history, food, nightlife, the beach? Whatver the reason, it was the right reason. Remember tourists descend on Thailand from all over the world, most with a good deal of money. The Thai government welcomes you to swell their coffers with your foreign currency, and hope you have a great time and return soon. The Thais only see a walking money bag. They do not resent you, but your presence only reinforces their position, that they are not as well off as you. So, in their attempt to raise their standard of living sometimes surharges are applied to foreigners, and in many instances quite a lot.

It is often said ‘you farang, you have money too much’ They only see the holiday aspect of your life and can’t understand that you have saved money for a long time to travel. This is their pleight, most cannot save money. Now that we understand that you are a “rich farang” and nothing will ever dissuade them from their belief you can get on with your holiday, remembering always that you have the money and the Thais will do their best to separate you from it.

I am writing this from serious experience, having fallen into every trap that was about. A few simple rules will help enormously- never bullshit about your wealth or status, try not to overdress. Neat casual, but not dinner suite with all the trimmings. Dont try to impress by offering to buy drinks for everyone.

Cheers,

Garry

Essential Equipment for a Backpacker’s First Trip

Essential Equipment for a Backpacker's First TripA couple of years ago a female colleague of mine had decided to take a career break and spend some time in South East Asia before taking up a new job in Australia. Stop number one on her journey planner was Bangkok. As I was the office aficionado on all matters Siamese she asked me what she should take. I sucked my lips, thought for a moment and replied, “It’s more what you should leave behind”. She gave me a look that said, “What sort of answers that? He’s finally gone gaga.”

Thailand is a country of many faces. Wherever you go in the country they’ll be smiling. Bangkok has some very wealthy inhabitants who spend their time sat in very expensive cars with the windows up and the air con on full while they watch their poor cousins scooting by. It also has some seriously impoverished rural parts, and the whole gamut of socio economic grades in between.

There are no material things I can think of that you can’t get in Thailand. Most of the things one might need are considerably cheaper over there than they are in the West, the only exception being up-to-date electronic goods. So if you really can’t live without your twenty-six inch wide screen TV or Intelligent Washer Drier, take it with you. I’m not sure on the charges you’d incur at the airport but I’m sure the airline would be happy to supply you with that information.

You can buy most thing’s that you’ll need when you’re there but people like to feel prepared and take things like toothpaste, sun tan oil, mosquito spray etc with them although you’ll be gutted when you see the price of them there. I think the only thing that’s more expensive over there is deodorant. I’m told the Tampon’s available there are bit like hand rolled cigarettes if you are used to buying them in packets, but being a bloke it has rarely been of any great consequence to me. The condoms available in Thailand are at best described as a little “snug”. A friend of mine who isn’t well regarded in feminist circles described the usage of a Thai brand condom as “Like fitting a roll of carpet in a babies sock”.

So stock up on Johnnies and Tammies before you go, although there are branches of “Boots” dotted around the larger conurbations selling Western Toiletries and medicines for Western pallets at astronomical prices. I think the best way for me to go about explaining things is to make a list for you.

Appendix a

Take:

1) A smile (or the ability to perform one)
2) Common Sense
3) Paranoia
4) Your time
5) A tolerance to alcohol (Although one can be acquired in situ)
6) The ability to communicatesee ( “An extensive glossary of phrases, colloquialisms and head movements essential for visitors to Thailand”

DON’T TAKE 

  1) Your ego
  2) Gullibility
  3) Paranoia
  4) Impatience
  5) Bad Temper (although this may become history if you take it with you)
  6) Lots of clutter         
  
Appendix b

AN EXTENSIVE GLOSSARY OF PHRASES, COLLOQUIALISMS AND HEAD MOVEMENTS ESSENTIAL FOR VISITORS TO THAILAND

1) Yes – a positive affirmation used in a linguistic context

2) No – a negative affirmation used in a linguistic context

3) Move your chin and the rest of your head fifteen degrees to the left, back to centre and fifteen degrees to the right then back to the centre in a continuous movement-a negative affirmation in a non-linguistic context. (If you are Peter Beardsley completing this correctly may prove difficult so stick with “No”)

4) Move your chin upwards fifteen degrees along the vertical axis, back to the centre, down through fifteen degrees then back to the centre – a positive affirmation in a non-linguistic context

5) Mai ow crap – it means “No Thank you” in Thai. If you are female say “ka” instead of “crap” (Yes Thai men do walk round saying “crap” all the time. Stop giggling at the back)

6) Mai Pen Rai – it means it doesn’t matter

7) F**k off – catch all phrase which can be used if item “5” on the “Don’t Take” list has found it’s way into your hand luggage. Also comes in handy if you miss packed item “2” on the “Don’t Take” list thinking it was item “2” on the “Take” list, and have been taken to a jewellery store where you can make a fortune buying discounted emeralds.

Thai people differ greatly from Westerners. They’re nice. Nothing is too much trouble. I suppose I should explain the list. Thailand is a chaotic place. The idea of planning isn’t something they’re comfortable with. We’re starting to get the picture. In the West you’ll have got used to things happening within five or ten minutes of when you expect them to. Thailand is similar just replace the word “minute” with the word “hour” or possibly “day”. Now lets run through a few scenarios:

Scenario 1

Yesterday you booked into “Smiling Guesthouse/Internet Cafe/Massage Parlour (traditional of course)/Restaurant/Travel Agent/Laundrette/Motorcycle Repair Shop” and paid the handsome sum of $5.50 US to spend the night in the room where “Ducky” from “The Beach” killed himself (it’s true you can still see the bloodstains). You also booked onto a “Luxury Air Conditioned Coach” to Surat Thani for $10 US. From there you will catch the ferry to Kho Samui or Kho Pha Ngan. The coach is due to leave at 10 am.

Today you’ve woken up. You have a cold shower (good for the soul) dress and go and wait for the “Luxury Air Conditioned Coach”.

It’s 09:55, you have an American Breakfast (it’s good to get into the customs of a country) and wait. Some other people with back packs turn up.

It’s 10:25. You ask the Lady in the apron you bought the ticket off for the coach, who served you your breakfast after fixing the Internet connection where the bus is.

“Is coming soon” she smiles.

10:55 a 15-year-old Toyota Hi Ace pulls up. It only has one headlight. The rear bumper is held on with blue string, it has a large “Manchester United” sticker in the back window. One of the rear tyres is almost flat and one of the front ones looks like it was stolen from a handcart. The people with rucksacks jam themselves into the vehicle. You go for a slash. When you return the vehicle is trundling off in a large black cloud of diesel smoke.

The lady you bought the ticket from sees you laughs uncontrollably points at the vehicle through the smoke and says, “You miss bus.”

Take item “1” from the “Take” list. Use it as genuinely as is physically possible. Make sure item “5” from the don’t take list doesn’t rear it’s ugly head and use item “6” from “Appendix b”.

Scenario 2

You have established that no refund is available. Your ticket is valid for tomorrow. You have decided to stay another night. Have a walk round. The traffic is very busy. You become thirsty. Ensure that item “5” from the take list is fitted and functional. Sit in a bar and try some of the local beer Singha is very good. Once you’ve tried seven of them try a Beer Chang or 6, then move on to the Mekong the Thai’s call it a whisky (but is technically a rum for all you grog snobs out there).

Walk around in the sun. Come very close to being killed by a scooter. Use item “1” from the “take” list liberally. It must be pointed out that failure to fit item “5” from the take list correctly will seriously interfere with function of item “6” on the take list and may lead to item “2” on the “Don’t Take” list creeping up on you.

You wake up the next day having misplaced item “6” from the take list. You check your rucksack again. You look at your watch it’s 11:45 am and realise your “Luxury Air Con” has left again without you. Stroll downstairs for breakfast.

Scenario 3 Run back to your room. Unfortunately you brought item “1” from the “Don’t Take” list and it has been torn from your back and stamped on by a family of laughing Thais. Say to your self, “Fuck this for a game of soldiers”. Get a taxi to the airport and pay $130 US for a flight to Kho Samui that afternoon. Whilst on the plane use item “3” from the “take” list while wondering if it is possible to catch Aids when using a condom and mulling over that article you saw on the telly about a plane crashing at Samui Airport killing all but two of the passengers.

The pedantic among you may notice that item “3” on the “Don’t Take List” also appears on the “Take” list. Paranoia can save your life and also ruin it. I believe there are different brands available in the west. If you can only find a brand which must be fitted like a steel plate in your knee and can’t be removed don’t bother. If however you can find a brand similar to Bic Razors, which can be used once and thrown away this is ideal. Carry it with you at all times.

Once you’ve got to Kho Pha Ngan. If someone stops you in the street and offers you something/anything grab item “3” quickly out of your pocket and wave it at them in conjunction with item “7” from “Appendix b”. If your dancing away at the Full Moon Party and your vision has become distorted after a shake, try and get one of your friends to look after “item 3” for you.

Enjoy your trip!