Other Travel Articles

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Riverside School bus on the Orinoco

Sailing up the Orinoco River in Venezuela

A while back I was sailing in a 36 foot cutter with two other sail boats up the Orinoco River in Venezuela. We were going up the river through the jungle as far as you could go.
Right at this point we ran aground. We had tricks using the other two boats to pull one another off. We tried everything, no luck. So we waited all night for the water to rise enough to get off.
In the morning we were greeted by the school boat. How cool! Here come the kids with mom watching from the top of the bank. It’s the same everywhere. We hooted and waved. They all waved back.
It was time to try again. We ran a line from the top of our mast to one of the other sail boats. That boat pulled us side ways hard and we tipped over sideways raising the keel out of the mud. Then all three powered dinghies pulled us forward. It worked. We were on our way again.

– Bill Stanhope

farang guard wat pho

Then and Now: Wat Pho – Farang Guard

During a recent trip to Thailand we “retook” some pictures that we had taken about 10 years earlier. Great fun!

Farang Guard at Wat Pho (Temple in Bangkok, Thailand). Wat Pho has lots of archways guarded by statues of different people around the complex. Mostly they have Chinese or other Asian features. But one set of them are “farang” (caucasian), basically an exaggerated caricature of what caucasian features were thought of at the time. Big nose, round eyes, top hat, long coat and cane.

The picture on the left was taken in 2005 and the one on the right was taken almost 10 years later in 2014. The same people are in the same positions in the picture. The black mold/mildew/or pollution stains seem to be getting darker and darker.

Wat Pho (วัดโพธิ์) is my favorite Wat to visit in Bangkok. It is very close to Khao San Road, just on the far side of the Grand Palace/Wat Pra Kaew complex. It is a bit more casual, less expensive, and less crowded than the Grand Palace and Wat Pra Kaew complex next door. The major feature is a giant reclining Buddha (initially built in 1832) that is 15 meters tall and 46 meters long (45 feet tall and 150 feet long).

Visit Thailand now! Khao San Road Area Hotel Recommendations

Traveling China

Travelling in China
Travelling in China
Travelling in China

For all its beauty, mystery, and excitement, China is one heck of an intimidating mass of land. The country itself is huge and diverse; the languages aren’t even remotely familiar for most Westerners, and China’s self-described “smaller cities” boast several million people. So where does a traveler begin? Dozens of tour companies have made a nice bundle on this intimidation, selling organized tours to curious-but-overwhelmed travelers. At first glance, a potential traveler might be tempted to do the same. After all, China doesn’t have the compact size of Japan, or the backpacker circuit of Southeast Asia. Here, KSR gives you the low-down on traveling China, with a group or with oneself.
Time

If you have a two-week time frame and a mile-long list of Chinese must-sees, a tour will allow you the luxury of enjoying the moment without worrying about sold-out trains, odd museum hours, and researching each new hotel. A traveler who knows exactly what they want to do on the trip may feel relieved when the details of accomodation and transportation are arranged.

If your schedule is more flexible, a solo trip allows you the luxury of staying as long or as briefly as you like in each new spot. Lone travelers are free to change their timetable if something unexpected comes their way; a kite festival, a rafting trip, or a volunteer spot in a panda sanctuary. A traveler who is prone to falling in love with new places (especially cities off the beaten path) will benefit from this kind of malleable timetable.

Sightseeing

When it comes to building an efficient schedule, you can’t beat the convenience of a private tour bus and guide. With a tour group, you can hit all the sights on your must-see list without the fuss of ticket queues and city buses. Many companies offer various tours that cater more specifically to a traveler’s interests. Athletes can hike, bike, rock-climb and kayak, while history buffs can sign on to a tour of temples and monuments.

Solo travelers have to work a bit harder to find their way around, and information in guidebooks can be subject to change.
    
Without the guided tour, however, the traveler can spend as much time as they like seeing the landmarks of China that really speak to them.

Travelers who stick with a group might not like every part of their tour, or want more time at some stops (like the buffet) and less time at others (like the demonstration of 17th century pottery). If your idea of travel involves people-watching and unstructured exploring on bicycle or foot, then a tour itinerary might cramp your style.

Socializing

A lot of lone travelers enjoy tour groups, as if offers them the company of fellow adventurers with varying backgrounds and similar interests. Because you will travel with the same group throughout the journey, there aren’t as many sad goodbyes and tedious introductions (what’s your name? where are you from? have you tried wontons yet?). You can get to know your fellow travelers, and you can also take advantage of your guide, who will serve as a teacher, translator, and insider on Chinese life.

Solo travelers can find good company in hostels, which often draw livelier and more diverse crowds (though some dubious characters will inevitably crop up). However, between these meetings come some lonely patches when you’re between hostels, or in a quiet hotel. Chinese people are kind, helpful, curious and friendly, but most speak no English at all, especially in smaller cities. Travelers might meet earnest Chinese students who are looking to practice their English. These folks are usually charming and harmless, but solo travelers are more susceptible to tourist scams or overcharging.

Travel

Again, those on a tight time frame might not want the added stress of tracking train station addresses, checking the schedules, making a reservation with a language barrier, etc. Chinese trains and buses are reliable and comfy enough that an organized traveler can move from city to city with ease. Many big-city bus and train stations have one ticket booth with an English-speaking attendant. If you have the time and patience to make these arrangements yourself, the flexibility can be freeing. If you know ahead of time that you’ll be sticking to a plan, then the ease of a tour means that travel details are out of sight, out of mind.

The same applies to getting around a Chinese city. Most urban areas have great, reliable buses and subways. City types who don’t mind wandering and getting a little lost might enjoy going at their own pace. Travelers who want simply to go from point A to point B might benefit from a tour group, to avoid the stress of navigating new places.

Eating

With a tour group, you are guaranteed the opportunities to try a wide range of Chinese dishes. Some groups will shepherd their tourists to western-friendly hotel restuarants, where the food is more bland and gentler to the western palette. Others will get to try fresh and authentic dim sum, duck, soups, and famous regional dishes. A group has the asset of the omnipotent guide, who can help travelers with dietary issues and allergies.

The solo traveler has to use the luck of the draw with their eating. Adventurous foodies will love the challenge and reward of navigating food stalls, communicating from the phrasebook, and eating exotic new dishes without knowing all the contents. Some may be alarmed by the cultural barriers and recess to the safety of grocery store dinners or familiar sights like Subway or McDonalds. If you’re one who doesn’t mind taking a gamble on your supper, solo travel can open the door to hole-in-the-wall gems, amazing new flavours, and the local culture of dining.

Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com

Confessions of a Coward: An Indian Adventure

confessions_of_a_coward

The book describes a nine month journey through India and Nepal, focusing on the interesting and often arresting characters encountered along the way. The book is unusual as it is written from a female point of view. The narrator is an inexperienced and nervous traveler, which makes a change of pace from accounts by the well-travelled and intrepid.

Touching on the humour Bill Bryson infuses his travel writing with and the narration of Paul Theroux, also perhaps reminiscent of the Cambodian novel Gecko Tales

If you want to know what India is really about I can thoroughly recommend this book. The authors budget of 10 dollars a day and interest in people means she saw so much. From eating true Indian vegetarian food, travelling hundreds of miles on buses and trains and staying at budget guest houses she saw a side of India that tourists never do. With boundless energy and an irrepressible sense of humour she shows how to cope with all that India can throw at you and how much it has to offer.

From a nervous traveller landing at Delhi to a confident seasoned backpacker leaving Goa, this is also a voyage of self discovery.

Don’t miss Poopi the monkey, the camel safari, the village cricket match and Nepal in winter.

Review by Michael Johns.

The book is available at www.lulu.com. Type in the book title or author in the search bar to locate it.