Tag - travl

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

Yangon, Burma

Yangon, Burma
Yangon, Burma
Yangon, Burma

Formerly known as Rangoon, this large, vibrant city is full of gleaming temples, markets and interesting buildings. The focal point of any visit to Yangon will probably be the much photographed Shwedagon Paya. This ancient Buddhist shrine is said to be more than 2,500 years old and gigantic golden stupa can be seen from all over the city, much like the Taj Mahal in Agra. 

There are many sides to this fascinating city. Wander along the waterfront and you will discover aged streets full of British colonial-era architecture, while other streets such as the Strand or Pansodan Street have been renovated and have an ultra-modern feel.

In many ways Yangon feels like a Western city with tree-lined avenues, picturesque lakes and colonial architecture. A trip to Chinatown offers a different dimension to the city and this is a particularly good place to get an evening meal and wander through the bright lights and colourful decorations.

Most tours of the city will start with its temples and pagodas and there are certainly plenty to see. Top of the list should be the ancient Sule Pagoda, the mirrored maze inside the Botataung Pagoda and the Maha Pasan Guha.

Despite its often chaotic feel, there are plenty of places to relax in Yangon. Take a walk through the Mahabandoola Garden and you will find a beautiful rose garden, while there is a water fountain and informative museum in People’s Park.

Take a boat trip on the large Inya Lake before viewing the traditional Burmese royal boat at Kandawgyi Lake.

Those interested in the city’s history can visit Aung San’s house, which has been turned into a museum of sorts, before visiting the place where Aung San Suu Kyi was held under house arrest for so many years. 

There is plenty to see just outside Yangon such as the Naga-Yone enclosure near Myinkaba. Here you will find a large Buddhist statue, while the Golden Rock Pagoda at Kyaik Tyo is an 18 foot high shrine built on a gold-plated boulder on top of a cliff.

Take the The Dallah Ferry across the river to visit the pretty village of Dallah. The ride itself is beautiful and provides an interesting inside into country life as people try hard to sell their ways and compete for attention.

Bokator Vs. Muay Thai Boran

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Bokator Vs. Muay Thai Boran
Bokator Vs. Muay Thai Boran
Bokator Vs. Muay Thai Boran
Bokator Vs. Muay Thai Boran
Bokator Vs. Muay Thai Boran
Bokator Vs. Muay Thai Boran
Bokator Vs. Muay Thai Boran
Bokator Vs. Muay Thai Boran
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What is Bokator: Bokator is the ancient Cambodian martial art, which was nearly wiped out during the Khmer Rouge genocide. Through the sacrifices of Grand Master San Kim Saen, the art was reborn. After surviving the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime, he returned to Cambodia in the late 1990s. Scouring the country, he found less than ten Bokator masters who had survived. He later opened his school in Phnom Penh, where he teaches Bokator to about three hundred students. Several have been promoted to black karma (belt). Derek Morris and I are the only foreigners to have earned a black karma. Mine is in fighting only, Derek’s belt and certificate make him an instructor. The Grand Master hopes that a foreigner will open a Bokator school outside of Cambodia, so that the art will spread and survive. Unfortunately, I don’t accept students. After training in Muay Thai Sangha, with Kru Pedor Villalobos, Derek went to China to learn San Da (Chinese Kickboxing).

What is Muay Thai Boran: Boran means ancient. It is actually a Khmer word which was absorbed into the Thai language. Long ago, Thailand raided Cambodia, capturing masters of various arts, from religion, to dance, to martial arts. Khmer words and culture were adopted into Thai culture. Today, in Thai language, all words associated with religion, royalty, martial arts, science, and government come from Khmer. The Khmer claim that they invented kickboxing. The original Khmer kickboxing art is called Bradal Serey (Pradal Serey).

Today, Muay Lao, Muay Thai, Bradal Serey, and Burmese boxing (Lethwei or Lethawae) are quite similar. The cultures of these countries are also quite similar, with the people following Theravada Buddhism, which originated in India and then Sri Lanka and Cambodia.

Neighboring Vietnam is always the odd-man-out. The culture is Chinese. The written language was Chinese, until the French forced them to use the Latin alphabet. And the predominant ancient martial art, Tieu Lam, is a form of Chinese Kung Fu. There are rumors that Vietnam once had a kickboxing art similar to Cambodia. Today, this art seems to have disappeared, but even in Tieu Lam, we see some elements taken from kick boxing, such as shin kicks and elbow strikes.

The point here is that the fighting arts of all of the Indochina countries are quite similar, and clearly come from the same origin. In Thailand, however, martial art developed into a massive professional sport. Kickboxing is also the national sport of Cambodia, but there are less than 400 registered boxers. In Thailand there are close to 100,000.

Muay Thai Boran is a word which is often given to the original, military fighting art, which was later watered down into a sport art, used in a kickboxing ring.

What is the difference between Bokator and Muay Thai Boran?

Muay Thai Boran ad Bokator clearly share a lot of similarities, but one primary difference is that Bokator is a system. Muay Thai Boran is not. You study Muay Thai, and if your teacher knows Boran, he teaches you some movements in isolation. For example, he advocates kicking with the bottom or side of your foot, instead of just shin kicks. Or, he teaches you spinning back kicks or heal kicks, instead of just roundhouse.

Muay Thai Boran and Krabi Krabong get lumped together. Karbi Krabong is the weapons training:just staff and doubles swords. If you see Thai practitioners using double sticks, the sticks represent swords. There is, to my knowledge, no Thai double stick art like Arnis in the Philippines.

Bokator, on the other hand, is a complete system, like a traditional martial arts. There are belts, and you learn movements, forms, and techniques in order. The weapons include the double stick, double swords, long staff and scarf.

While Muay Thai Boran includes a bit more grappling than sport Muay Thai, it is still stand up grappling from the head. And you are wearing gloves.

Bokator includes Khmer traditional wrestling (jap bap boran khmer), kick boxing (bradal serey or pradal serey), and weapons. In true Bokator fights, you don’t wear gloves and you can fight on the ground, with bouts ending in submissions or chokes.

The ground fighting is not nearly as effective as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or western wrestling, but it is arguably the only ground fighting art in Southeast Asia. I have trained in nearly every country in southeast Asia (except Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunai) and there doesn’t seem to be any ground fighting at all.

At this point, a reader asked me how ground fighting changes the landscape of fighting, both in Muay Thai Boran vs. Bokator and in MMA.

This is my take on the dominance of ground fighting. A good street fighter, a tough biker dude like Tank Abbot or Sony Barger, could probably hold his own against most strikers. If you see the youtube clips of the bare knuckles pro fighter named Kimbo (I think that is his name). He is a huge, strong, American guy who makes his living knocking guys out in parking lots. He probably never had any training. And if he went in UFC and got matched with a striker, he could hold his own and might win on a KO because in professional street fighting the goal is to keep the fight short and get a KO.

I’ve done only one of these fights. Coming into it, the mistake I made was in trying to box and move, and win in a later round. I got hit once in the eye, it opened me up, and I realized there is no later. You have to win NOW. I did win. And the fight probably only lasted about twenty-five seconds, but it was too long.

So, the answer is a tough street fighter, big and strong, used to going for the knock out would be hard to beat in a ring. The best strategy would be to drag the fight on as long as possible to make him tired. But he would be landing bombs on you the whole time, and that wouldn’t be a very pleasant experience.

With grappling, the rules change. An untrained grappler stands zero chance against a trained grappler. It’s that simple. I pound a bag every day in the gym, but I know if I come against the right street fighter, he could knock me out. But a guy who trains grappling every day would instantly take down an untrained grappler or a street fighter and that would be the end of the fight.

The smartest strikers, like Mirco, have learned to escape. He was smart enough to just ignore the grappling and hope to win on a kick KO. And he was smart enough not to try and win on submissions. He learned to avoid the take down and to escape back to his feet. But he had to learn that. You have to train specifically to avoid the grappler. If you look at early UFCs the grappler nearly always won because they always got the take down and then once on the ground, there was no escape for the striker.

So, comparing Muay Thai Boran with Bokator, because Bokator has the ground fighting, it is the better fighting art. The issue in Thailand vs. Cambodia right this minute, however, would be that the Bokator school has only been reopened for about five years. So, the guys don’t have a lot of fighting experience. When I prepared for my black belt I went out to the village and learned Khmer wrestling with the farmers. I was the first one to do this. The team isn’t ready yet to fight all comers.

In Thailand there is a lot of interest in MMA now. When I am training there, they all tell me how they would just it for the shoot and then take the grappler out with a knee to the face. This is ludicrous because their entire game plan rests on a single technique. Yes, if you shoot and run head first into a knee thrown by a pro Muay Thai fighter you will get knocked out. But what if the Muay Thai guy misses? Or what if the grappler deflects the knee with his hand? Or what if he just absorbs the knee? Or, what if he shoots and executes the throw from the waist or the hip?
We have played around with this scenario in the gym quite a bit in Bangkok. And anyone who has seen my youtube knows I am no grappler. My shoot looks like an old man bending over to pickup his change. Even with that, I am able to take them down. And of course, once I get on top, I am so much bigger, that is the end of the fight.

The throw I usually use to take down a Muay Thai fighter is actually a technique from Muay Thai Boran. You shoot in with your forearm in front of your face. Instead of hitting the hips or thighs, you hit the opponent’s shin with the forearm and then scoop his heal with the other hand.

To sum up: Bokator is a complete art which, if learned would be a better fighting art than Muay Thai Boran. But at the moment, there are no battle-hardened Bokator guys to fight. And in grappling vs. striking. I believe an untrained striker may stand a chance against a trained striker. But an untrained grappler stands no chance against a real grappler. Grappling would be one of the biggest determinant in who would win between a Bokator guy and a Muay Thai Boran guy. Since Bokator has ground-fighting and Muay Thai Boran doesn’t, Bokator would win.

About the author:

Antonio Graceffo holds a black karma in Bokator. He lives in Thailand and has practiced Muay Thai for a number of years. He trained in Cambodia for several years in boxing, Bradal Serey, and Bokator. In Philippines he has studied Kuntaw and Yaw Yan. IN Lao he studied Muay Lao. He has also trained at the Shaolin Temple, in China, and in schools and gyms in Vietnam and Korea. He is a frequent contributor for both Black Belt and Kung Fu magazines. His book, The Monk from Brooklyn, available on amazon.com tells about his experiences at the Shaolin Temple.

He is a qualified Emergency Medical Technician, as well as an adventure and martial arts author living in Asia. He is the Host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” Currently he is working inside of Shan State, documenting human rights abuses, doing a film and print project to raise awareness of the Shan people. To see all of his videos about martial arts, Burma and other countries: http://youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo&search=SearchAntonio is the author of four books available on amazon.com. Contact him – see his website. Antonio is self-funded and seeking sponsors.

Antonio

“If you wish to contribute to the “In Shanland” film project, you can donate through paypal, through the Burma page of my website.”

Extreme Sports in Thailand

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Extreme Sports in Thailand
Extreme Sports in Thailand
Extreme Sports in Thailand

Just how extreme is this?

The only thing more amazing than the rapid development of extreme sports in Thailand is its roots. Thai extreme sports didn’t emerge from grunge culture or a pursuit of hedonism and excess, but from a gauntlet laid down to society’s youth at risk – those dabbling with drugs, underperforming at school or otherwise losing their way. The challenge was for change… The challenge was for greatness.

The man in charge of extreme sports in Thailand is the same man responsible for promoting them here in the first place – Khun Apichat Rutnin, former drugs rehabilitation officer, gymnast, and Secretary General of the Extreme Sports Association in Thailand. To him extreme sports represented an opportunity to challenge rule breakers to push the envelope and in 1994 he scoured department stores and other youth hangouts to invite youngsters to take part in informal in-line skating programs. Whether slum kids or middle-class errant youth, it made no difference – these kids got the right kind of addiction and with it the life changing drive and self-imposed discipline that comes from a passion for something good.

Fast forward to 1998 and the Asian X-games were held in Phuket. Out of nowhere, Thailand established its credentials as an extreme sporting nation and began a series of achievements that saw the country’s extreme sportsmen and women travel the world in pursuit of competition and victory.

Today, the success of Khun Apichat’s programs for the young at risk have guaranteed their continuation, but with 2,000 youngsters on his books, things obviously haven’t stopped there.

“These days our focus has changed,” suggested Khun Apichat. “Thailand’s extreme sportsmen and women are at a level where they are competing with the best of the best. Our emphasis now is on ‘sporting excellence’ – on ensuring extreme sports in Thailand keep developing at the rate they have over the last years. What we need now are people with skills and experience willing to devote their time and energy to help us get to the next level and further.”

And that’s where you might come in…

If you have the skills and experience to offer (and you will know if you are good enough), this is a chance for you to turn your trip to Thailand into a genuine contribution both to extreme sports and the development of Thailand’s youth. You will teach them the tricks you have learned and also pass on English language skills. In return you will learn Thai and get an insight into the Thai way of life few will ever experience.

At this stage the details have not been hammered out, but it might be possible to assist those able to stay for an extended period with visa arrangements, but even a couple of days will do. Although free accommodation won’t ever be part of the package, it may be possible to arrange home stays for those offering training at centers outside Bangkok.

Think about this… does it get much better? At this stage we’d like to hear from people who are planning a trip to Thailand and feel they might have enough to offer to help out. Use the form below to let us know when you might be heading out this way.

Click here to contact the Thai Extreme Sports Association of Thailand.

Fairtex Bangplee Muay Thai Training Camp in Thailand

Fairtex Bangplee Muay Thai Training Camp, ThailandLike, Red Bull, Fairtex is one of those Thai brands that has gone global. Unlike its compatriot, the Fairtex name has become such an international brand, that to some extent it has just as much associated with the US as with Thailand. Truth is, despite its international appeal, Fairtex is just as much at the heart of Thai boxing as it has ever been. Fortunately for those with a passion for Muay Thai, the Fairtex training camps in Thailand are open to foreigners as well as Thais. The organization’s Bangplee center offers training options to meet all needs.

Click here for more about Thai Boxing (Muay Thai) Training Courses at Fairtex Bangplee Muay Thai Training Camp, Thailand.

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.

Malaria Map of Thailand

BNH Hospital is has sent us this malaria map – a useful source of information about areas in Thailand where you have to take precautions against malaria.

Thailand Malaria Map

Koh Chang Notes


Koh Chang, Thailand
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Koh Chang, Thailand
Koh Chang, Thailand

Koh Chang?

Yes, you know you’ve heard the name before, most travellers to Thailand have.  It’s that big island near the Cambodian border, about 300 km from beautiful downtown Bangkok.

So it’s busy then, loads of tourists?

No, although the name is now well-known most people seem to follow the herd to Koh Tao or Koh Phi-phi  – the backpackers’ Costa del Sol.  Even in high season Koh Chang rarely appears busy.

Why?

No idea. I’m the wrong side of thirty-five (just) so relating to the minds of youthful backpackers who’s idea of a goodtime is to blow their wads of eurodollars on buckets of vodka + Redbull and then boogie the night away to underground dance noise is beyond me. A small Heineken, ‘Sex in the City – series two’ DVD and I’m all set for the evening.   But, to hazard a guess at answering your question,  I’d blame a combination of Leonardo Di Caprio; a love of small, dark bungalows and the allure of well-chiselled Scandinavian scuba instructors of both sexes.

That sounds enticing, I mean the booze, tunes & Scandiavians rather than a sad evening in. . but why should I go to Koh Chang instead? 

For a start you wont be subjected to a screening of the ‘The Beach’ every evening during which the hippy next to you will claim loudly to a) have been paid $100 a day as an extra and b) that Leo is an OK guy for a movie star.  the other islands: decent fruit shakes, ticket agencies, Thai food made for farang palates, real coffee, a wide choice of new accommodation, ATMs, dive schools, a private clinic and the chance to hear the latest Coldplay album in every restaurant on the island.

Plus you will find that all your traveller requirements are catered for on Koh Chang as on You can also purchase souvenirs e.g. t-shirts bearing the still hilarious ‘McShit’ slogan or with the name of your favourite Thai beverage emblazoned in Thai script on them.

The difference is that Koh Chang is a ‘real’ island not just a dot on the map, therefore you won’t be walking around the island or even walking from beach to beach as on the smaller islands.  This means that the scenery is big: big hills, big jungle, big waterfalls.  This also means you can’t see all the island in a day.  Rent a motorbike, you will be able to find a beach, waterfall or fishing village to yourself simply by getting off your arse and doing a bit of exploring. You won’t get lost as there’s only one road. 

That doesn’t sound too bad . . . how serious is that big badly written roadside warning sign on way into Whitesands beach?

When not to go? The ‘Oriental Eden of the East’ welcomes visitors to paradise 365 days a year!  More realistically, high season is from December – April.  But you’ll find that you’ll almost certainly have good weather and no crowds at all in October, November and May.  Unless you have a backpack full of paperbacks; enjoy spending every other day feeling warm and wet; or can find ways to amuse yourself within the confines of your 6 square metre hut, it might be better to stay away during the rainy season which runs from June to September.
 
I’ve heard ‘The Treehouse’ is the place to stay, is that true?

Seemingly for most travellers the choice of accommodation is a toss up between The Treehouse on Lonely Beach and The Treehouse on Lonely Beach – so it was a pity it closed in Aug 2004.  Yes, it was a nice place to stay and five years ago it was a very nice place to stay but there are now plenty of alternatives for anyone wanting to sleep before 4am or who would rather not have to endure their fellow guests, overloud retelling of their riveting traveller’s tales during breakfast.  It’s extremely rare that you can’t find a room on Koh Chang, so take a look around before checking into the first cheap hovel you come across. Unless you’re on a really tight budget, why not choose a bungalow with glass in the windows, a bathroom and walls which aren’t paper thin?  It’ll only cost you 100 -200 baht / night more than a mini version of the Black Hole of Calcutta.

Briefly . . .

On Whitesands beach, cheap beachfront bungalows, 150-200 baht/night, a stone’s throw from a 7-11, are available at ‘KC Grande Resort’ as are aircon bungalows for around 600 baht/night.

The long and almost always deserted Klong Prao beach is home to ‘KP Huts’, an ever expanding assortment of over 30 huts of varying styles, sizes and prices right in the centre of the empty beach. 

Moving on Kai Bae offers a mix of tourist & backpacker accommodation, you wont find too many flophouses but there’s plenty of nice beachfront bungalows to choose from although the price is at the top end of a traveller’s budget (400 baht/night & up) ‘KB Bungalows’ is convenient, friendly, clean and affordable.

If it has to be Lonely Beach you’ll find that you can find a place to lay your head for 100 baht or less/night but you get what you pay for i.e. f&%k all in terms of decor, ambience, location and service.  A couple of decent places to stay are ‘Nature Beach’ has a wide expanse of beach on its doorstep and the clean, airy, cheap and new ‘Paradise Cottages’.

Bailan Bay is the quietest stretch on the west coast and is a good bet if budget peace and quiet are what you’re looking for.  New resorts are springing up here all the time, all within 10 minutes walk of each other and all after your custom as comparatively few visitors stay in this area.

At the very south of the island there are a few hut complexes near Bangbao, but as the ‘songtaews’ (converted pick-up truck taxis) rarely venture as far south as Bangbao you’re forced to hire a motorbike if you don’t want to be confined to your immediate surroundings.

And would it be correct to assume that there’s a veritable host of mid-price accommodation, including some very nicely designed boutique hotels and resorts, for anyone not into skimping and saving in order to stretch out their meagre savings for as near to eternity as possible?

Not surprisingly, it would.  ‘The Mangrove’ on Bailan Bay, ‘Saffron on the Sea’, ‘Keereeta’ & ‘Remark Cottages’ on Hat Kai Mook beach,  ‘Bhumiyama Resort’ on Lonely Beach, ‘Tropicana’ on Klong Prao beach and Bang Bao Sea Huts, beautiful but pricey wooden huts built, as the name suggests in the sea at Bang Bao, to name but a few.

OK, so ‘beaches’, ‘accommodation’, ‘beer’, ‘stuff to do’ . . . I’ve just got ‘culture’ and ‘food’ to tick off my checklist.  Can you help?

Sure.  There are a few temples on the island, none of which merit a visit unless you plan on cremating a close relative.  So culture wise we’re left with modern Thai culture in the form of the karaoke lounge.  The flyers, in Thai, for the ‘Milky Way’ karaoke pub on the outskirts of Whitesands promise visitors footie on a 150″ TV screen.

Being an island, seafood features almost as prominently as banana pancakes on restaurant menus but it’s worth remembering that a seafood meal for two will probably cost the same as a three nights accommodation in a moderate backpacker bungalow.  ‘Cookie’ restaurant on Whitesands beach is deservedly popular as it serves decent sized portions at decent prices.  Down in Bangbao, ‘The Bay’ restaurant is my favourite place for a 40 baht lunch in laid back surroundings.  Wherever you are staying it’s worth venturing further than your resort restaurant to eat as you’ll always be able to find a good local eaterie where you can get a meal for 20-25 baht.  If my missus doesn’t feel like cooking then we always get food from a no-name restaurant in Kai Bae.

As you head into Kai Bae from the north, go past the 7-11, on the opposite side of the road you’ll then pass ‘Oxygen bar & restaurant’ (itself a nice place for an evening meal), ‘Bee’s Coffee’, a tailors shop, a hairdresser’s and then a small open sided restaurant on a corner plot.  Try it, you won’t be disappointed, the menu’s in English too.  Also located in Kai Bae is ‘Papa’s Deli’ – the only place on the island you can get a baguette that not only looks, but also tastes like a baguette, a not inconsiderable feat.

Well, you’ve convinced me.  How do I get there?

Depending on how much of an independent traveller you really are you can either:

Pop down to any travel agent’s office on Khao San Road, say the magic words ‘Koh Chang’, point at the photo of a minivan designed to comfortably seat six but refitted to seat ten, hand over around 250 baht and then return at the day and time stated on the ticket to board the van.  The drive to the ferry pier will take around 5 hours by which time you’ll have probably lost all feeling in your legs.

Or

Find your own way to either Ekkamai or Morchit bus stations, buy a ticket to Trat, it’ll be about 170 – 190 baht.  The bus takes around 6 hours to get to Trat, depending on the number of toilet stops the driver requires.  From Trat, the passenger ferry pier at Laem Ngop is a 20 baht, 20 minute songtaew ride away.  Bus company staff will point you in the direction of the songtaews.

The ferries to the island takes around 40 minutes and once on the island you’ll see the white pick-up songtaews which are the island’s poor attempt at providing public transport.

Thanks for the info.  Can I buy you a beer?

Of course you can, I live on the island.  If you need more comprehensive info on Koh Chang please visit www.iamkohchang.com , or, if spending some of your time clad in a skintight rubber outfit is a prerequisite of your travel plans, you’ll find all you need to know about scuba diving off Koh Chang at www.divekohchang.com.

Sticky Rice with Mango

Mango and Sticky RiceDo have a go at this rather interesting Thai dessert. It isn’t as dainty as the usual Thai sweets one is familiar with, and quite unusually, it can be more filling than the entire meal. And if one knew just how tasty Sticky Rice with Mango is, one would surely have to leave room for dessert.

What is most curious is the combination of a staple food, rice, together with mango, a Thai tropical fruit, to create this delicious sweet dish.

This popular dessert is served as a large clump of sticky rice, with a sprinkling of yellow beans known as Mung beans. By the side of the plate are sliced chunks of ripe mangoes, to be eaten as an accompaniment to the rice. This dish comes with a small saucer of seasoned coconut milk that is poured over the sticky rice as a rich and so creamy topping.

The sticky rice is steamed with the leaves of a particular plant (Pandan) which imparts a characteristic but lovely fragrance. It has a tinge of sweet since the rice is boiled with some sugar. This coupled with the rich salty, creamy coconut milk, allows for the contrast of tastes which makes Thai food so unique.

Tropical Fruits

Thai FruitTropical fruits are abundant in Thailand. Some are vaguely familiar; others are curious and worrying even to look at. Have you heard of Bael fruit? Most probably not, let alone taste a juice made out of it.

Bael tree is indigenous to Indochina and South East Asia. The fruits have a firm outer surface that turns yellow when ripe. The inside of the fruit has a hard central core and triangular segments, filled with a pale orange, sweet pulp. Seeds enclosed in a mucoid sac are lodged in the pulp.

Ask for ma-tuum or matoom which is the local name of the fruit. The Bael fruit drink is an effective thirst quencher. It tastes rather bland, with sugar added to taste. It created no remarkable impression when I first tasted it.

I would not suggest having the drink together with food because by nature of its very bland taste, drinking it after a mouthful of curry or any other spicy morsel can actually overpower its taste so much that the bael fruit juice can be rendered tasteless.

The very helpful waiter brought me a little sachet of brown Matoom powder from which the drink was prepared. Just the addition of water and ice! I learnt that it was available at herbal and medicinal shops, since bael fruit, considered as having health giving properties, is used variously for digestive, laxative and tonic properties. Quite useful if you are a backpacker!