Travel Articles 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!
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Chaiyaphum, Thailand

Barely heard of and even less touristed Chaiyaphum makes the ideal base for nearby stunning national parks.
Barely heard of and even less touristed Chaiyaphum makes the ideal base for nearby stunning national parks.
Barely heard of and even less touristed Chaiyaphum makes the ideal base for nearby stunning national parks.

Though not as rich in attractions as its neighbouring provinces, barely heard of and even less touristed Chaiyaphum makes the ideal base for nearby stunning national parks, and has a few worthy spots of its own too. CHRIS WOTTON gets under the skin of this undiscovered slice of Isaan.
 
Never heard of Chaiyaphum? That’s little surprise, as few people have. Tucked up in Thailand’s north-eastern Isaan region and bordered by Khorat and Khon Kaen, this largely untouristed province barely registers a foreign face. Still very Thai in appearance and character, the main industries here are rice and sugar production, while the province is also renowned as a silk centre. The capital city of an otherwise largely rural province shows the signs of some limited urban development, but venture here and you will still discover somewhere pleasingly quiet and low-key, the perfect antidote to the Bangkok lifestyle.

The primary attractions here, the Jao Pho Praya Lae monument and Prang Ku, are largely unimpressive and at most worth a passing glance. In fact, you will probably pass the former several times before even realising what it is. Jao Pho Phraya Lae was the eighteenth century Lao ruler of Chaiyaphum, and this statue in his name is the centrepiece of a roundabout in the centre of town on Bannakan Road. He switched sides to fight with Bangkok when Vientiane declared war on Siam at the start of the 1800s.

Jao Pho Phraya Lae lost his life in the ensuing battles, but was kept in high esteem in Chaiyaphum and today has two annual festivals celebrated in his name in January and May.

The Khmer Prang Ku further along Bannakan Road past the entrance to Siam River Resort, meanwhile, is really equally disappointing as a sight. Poorly preserved and not much to look at at all, in its heyday it was a temple on the route that connected Angkor Wat with the (far more impressive and better restored) Prasat Muang Singh just outside of Kanchanaburi.
Today, if nothing else it serves as a reminder of just how small Chaiyaphum proper really is – particularly at night, by the time you’ve walked just a short way east to this site, you feel like you’re well out of the city and into Isaan village life.

Tat Ton National Park makes for far more of a reason to visit Chaiyaphum. Twenty-three kilometres away and easily reached by 30 baht public songthaew share taxi from a stand at the north end of the city on Non Muang Road, it boasts amongst other sights an impressive waterfall that stretches to 50m wide in the rainy season – take care as it is easy to sip by the water’s edge. Group tours aside, you are likely to be almost alone in the park, and pretty much certainly the only foreigner. The 100 baht entrance fee gets you access to the whole park, which also includes the smaller Tat Fah waterfall.

The park as a whole is the perfect spot for a dose of back-to-nature relaxation sure to enliven the senses, and if you want to drag it out a little longer there are bungalows to rent too. The return journey to Chaiyaphum is a bit more of a pain than getting there, since songthaews don’t take this route after the morning - but you can hitch a ride back to Chaiyaphum quite easily. If all else fails, walk some way along the road you came down, make yourself look tired and wait for a few women to start shouting, asking if you need a lift back to Chaiyaphum (for a price). They came to our rescue, so they’re bound to for you as well.

Back in Chaiyaphum proper, picnics are the order of the day at a secluded, peaceful spot at the side of a small lake in the streets behind the Tesco Lotus supermarket on Sanambin Road. Roll up on a bike or on foot, having stopped at food stalls on the lanes nearby for giant Isaan-sized grilled chicken skewers and fresh pineapple with dried chilli and sugar, and soak up the goodness of some fresh Chaiyaphum air from the shade of the many trees lining the lake. As is the beauty with so much in this city, aside from the odd local fisherman you will likely have the place to yourself.

GET THERE: Buses run by at least three different companies connect Chaiyaphum with Bangkok’s northern Morchit bus terminal in about six hours. On the return leg, the three companies unhelpfully all have their own departure terminals dotted around town, but there are also local bus connections to Khon Kaen and Khorat, both linked to Bangkok by trains and planes.

WHERE TO STAY: Most western tourists stay at the five-star Siam River Resort, towards the far end of Bannakan Road, where 990 Baht will bag you a plush room with balcony and breakfast, and access to the pool. There’s free wi-fi and bike hire and staff are excellent. The Deeprom Hotel is also worth a look, with its pleasing pastel exterior, though staff speak little English. Expect to pay 800 Baht for a double air-con room.

MOVING ON: Khon Kaen is two and a half hours away by local bus – great for foodies, it also boasts the Bueng Kaen Nakhon lake which makes for a great walking spot. Buses to Khorat take two hours.

CHRIS WOTTON is a twenty-something crazy about Thailand. After a first visit in 2008, he fell in love with the country and has since travelled its length and breadth, searching out local life – and local food! – while writing and researching for SE Asia travel guides and magazines. When not discovering and writing about Thailand, Chris studies French and German in his native UK, and runs an online shop selling authentic Japanese and Thai cooking ingredients.

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Koh Yao Noi

Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
Koh Yao Noi, Thailand
Koh Yao Noi, Thailand

You don’t have to spend very long on Koh Yao Noi to start to feel like you have stumbled upon that elusive traveller dream “the best kept secret”.  Why aren’t there more people here you wonder?  While also secretly hoping they don’t suddenly arrive.  Even locals working in resorts and restaurants obviously built for tourists ask, “how did you find us?” with a touch of surprise in their voice.  Like someone who has decorated their home for a party but never actually sent out the invitations.
 
The answer to their question?  Well, how does anyone find anything these days?  Google!  Qualifying our search of the Phang Nga region with words like “remote”, “peaceful” and “away from the crowds” Koh Yao Noi is where we happily found ourselves.
 
Koh Yao Noi (meaning small long island) and it’s sister island Koh Yao Yai (big long island) are located in the Phang Nga bay between Krabi, to the east, and Phuket, to the west.  Koh Yao Yai is the larger of the two islands but Koh Yao Noi is the more developed and more tourist friendly of the two.  It covers an area of about 50 square kilometers.  Speedboat ferries leave Bang Rong Pier in Phuket around 6 times a day and will whisk you out to this tropical refuge within an hour.
 
Most of the accommodation is on the east of the island where perfect little sandy strips of beach look out across tranquil water to a group of impressive limestone karsts a few kilometers from shore.
 
The majority of Koh Yao Noi’s 3,500 or so inhabitants are Muslim.  Their attitude is open and moderate.  Many, but not all, of the local women cover their heads.  You will still be able to get a beer or a cocktail if you desire, though bacon with your morning eggs might be harder to come by.
 
While crowds of holidaymakers have inundated nearby Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga and Koh Phi Phi in the last decade Koh Yao Noi has escaped any significant development.  Tourism contributes to the islands economy but it’s not the only source of income.  Traditional industries like fishing and rubber plantations remain important.  Locals are laid-back, friendly and quick to greet you with a warm smile.  This feels like a very tight-knit, authentic rural community and you feel privileged to be welcomed into it.
 
So what can one do here?  Well it’s the type of place you can quite happily do very little.  Slow down your pace, quieten your mind and breathe in the beauty around you.  Let the days drift by with a bikini, a sun lounger and a good book as your companions.  Take intermittent dips in the warm ocean floating on your back admiring the changing colours of the karsts as clouds waft in and out.
 
You’ll more than likely get the urge to have a closer look at these nature-made monuments, and that can be easily arranged. 
 
Most accommodation providers will be happy to arrange boating excursions for you, but you might save yourself a few baht by booking directly with one of the local operators. 
 
Husband and wife Kong and Poom run Saferoh Tours close to Tha Khao Pier.  They offer a range of day-trip options to nearby islands in their traditional Thai dragon boat and can supply snorkelling and fishing equipment and/or a kayak on request.  Lunch is also provided on daylong excursions and you can expect tasty home-cooked delights like chicken with cashew nuts and crunchy tempura vegetables.
 
Your first stop should be Koh Hong, about a 20-minute boat trip from Tha Khao Pier.  “Hong” translates as “room” and refers to the islands large interior lagoon walled by towering limestone cliffs, which can be accessed by boat at high tide.  But this islands real gem is its picture perfect white sandy cove where clear turquoise waters reveal a dazzling array of tropical fish.  In fact you don’t even need your snorkel to see some of them as schools of little black and yellow fish swim around your legs in the shallows.  Koh Hong has a small picnic area and toilet facilities and although it’s popular with day-trippers remains surprisingly quiet considering it’s beauty.
 
Hopping in a sea kayak for a leisurely paddle is a great way to explore these archipelagos even closer up as you’ll be able to get into nooks and crannies your dragon boat can’t.  Around Koh Panak is particularly interesting to explore, as there are a number of sea caves you can paddle into. 
 
If you’re starting to miss the crowds take a daytrip to Koh Ping Kan (better known as James Bond Island).  This narrow pillar of rock has been attracting visitors since it starred alongside Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974.  A constant stream of boats pull in from Phuket and Phang Nga and it can be a bit of a shock to the system after the peacefulness of Koh Yao Noi.  In high season you’ll have to queue to get your photo taken in front of the famous rock.  Unlike the other small islands there are a number of stalls here selling jewellery and touristy trinkets (but surprisingly little James Bond memorabilia).
 
After your 007 pilgrimage it’s a short trip to Koh Panyee, a 200-year-old Muslim fishing community whose stilted homes rise out of the sea clinging to a rocky outcrop for support.  These days there are a number of large restaurants on the waterfront that cater to the boatloads of tourists who disembark for a look around.  There are also numerous souvenir stalls vying for your tourist dollar, but it’s an interesting little place and still worth a wander.  Check out the small floating soccer pitch built from old scraps of wood and read the community’s list of rules (and punishments).  You don’t want to get caught with a beer in your bag here - the fine is 5,000 baht plus a goat.
 
Back on Koh Yao Noi the sun loungers beckon, but if you’re feeling a bit more energetic there are also opportunities to try rock-climbing, Muay Thai boxing, yoga or a Thai cookery class.  Or rent a scooter and seek out secret beaches down traffic free dirt roads.
If your idea of a perfect holiday involves shopping and nightclubbing this isn’t the place for you.  But if you want blissful relaxation combined with a bit of healthy activity, in a place that still has a firm hold on its traditional way of life, then this is it.  Locals are happy they’ve avoided the rapid development seen on other islands and are proud of the relaxed piece of paradise they have to share.  You get the impression they intend to keep it that way.
 
Leah Carri is an Irish freelance journalist currently based in Australia. She has kindly shared her experiences in Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com visitors. If you’d like to check out her blog you can see it here. Leah is currently available for writing projects and can be contacted by email.

KhaoSanRoad.com enjoys promoting the work of new writers and writers new to Thailand. If you would like to see your work on this site, contact us and we will see what we can do.

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Odd Stuff

Miss Puke, Siam Square, Bangkok, ThailandNot sure this is the place I want to get a massage… “Miss Rose”, “Miss Nice”… something like that would be better than “Miss Puke”!

Have you seen any odd stuff around Thailand? Got any photos? Let us have them and we’ll share them with our visitors…

Use the form below to send us what you’ve got.

Miss Puke
Traditional Thai Massage
Siam Square
Bangkok
Thailand 

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Guiding Jumbo

“You’ll have to jump, she won’t listen to me,” came the inspired words of the mahout. I was somewhat dubious of clearing the space between the rickety platform and the leathery back. The giant eye looked me up and down, and then gave me a mischievous wink. I figured it was only a matter of time before the platform would collapse, so I took my chances. This was my first experience with elephant rides, over a decade ago. Today, visitors to Thailand are no longer required to content themselves as pachyderm passengers with no control.

Beyond those flirty eyelashes are intelligent creatures with their own thoughts, memories and even a sense of humour. These old souls form a unique bond with the mahouts that guide them – and this world is now accessible to visitors of the National Elephant Institute (formerly known as the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre), a division of the Forestry Industry Organization, in Lampang. Working with these clever creatures is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most tourists.

Homestays and mahout training courses help people to get closer to elephants and learn more about the mahouts’ way of life. The homestay programme has been going for approximately five years and has become especially popular with foreign visitors. “There are about 100 participants each month coming from the UK, Australia, America and other far away destinations,” says Wilawan Intawong, Homestay Coordinator. Visitors can choose to stay from just one day, up to three days and two nights.

The institute tries to provide each customer with their own elephant for the duration of the programme, however, sometimes guests must share if there is a large group. “There are only 10 elephants in the homestay programme at this time,” says Intawong. “We only use the best trained elephants to ensure the safety of our customers.” The 50 or so elephants at the institute are raised ‘semi-wild’: they work at the centre during the day and are returned to sleep and feed in the jungle at night.

Homestay guests sleep in one of three rustic homestay bungalows, each with three bedrooms – one for the mahout and two for guests to share. The open-air common area and kitchen come together to form an ideal space where the group can cook with the mahout and everyone can get to know each other in the evenings. “We have many guests who say the accommodation is too comfortable,” chuckles Intawong. “They are looking for a rougher experience – but they all have a good time anyway.” Other activities include: watching the mahouts as they make woodcarvings of elephants, visiting the Elephant Hospital, learning how to make elephant dung paper, and participating in the elephant show. “Many homestay participants become repeat customers in following years,” says Intawong, testifying to the quality of the programme.

A slightly different, but equally exciting programme is provided by the Mahout Training School, which was established to train real mahouts – not just tourists. Today, the centre receives significant interest in mahout training from visitors, who can take part in programmes lasting from one day to one month. Mahout trainees sleep at the school and in the jungle with their elephants. The school allows those interested in experiencing the life of mahouts and elephants firsthand to do so in a natural but relatively safe environment. Guests not only learn how to ride an elephant but also how to care for it. One of the most important aspects of the course is learning elephant behaviours and commands used by the mahouts. Mahout trainees learn actual commands in Thai so they can communicate with their charges. Intawong says “It takes about three days to learn all the commands, but putting them into practice might take longer.”

“There are typically two mahouts to each elephant,” says Intawong. The word for ‘mahout’ in Thai is kwaan, and there is a kwaan kaaw (neck mahout) and kwaan theen (foot mahout). She explains, “This dates back from the logging days, when there was one mahout on the elephant’s neck to guide it and another by its feet to coordinate the movement of the timber.”

There are no women mahouts at TECC, and in fact, Intawong has never seen a female mahout at all. She says, “Being a mahout is like being married to the elephant, and this makes it difficult, if not impossible, to have a [human] family.” Mahouts form a deep bond with their elephants, spending the majority of their lives with them. When the elephants are chained in the jungle at night and one of them cries out, that elephant’s mahout can distinguish its voice from all the others and will go to its aid.

A mahout at the centre for 20 years, 55-year-old Pbun is now working with his third elephant since the age of 15, when he first started training to be a mahout at another village. He says, “I wake up at 5am every day to collect my elephant Tantawan (‘Sunflower’ in Thai) from the jungle and then bathe her.” Tantawan, along with many other elephants at the centre, has the important task of giving rides to tourists and other visitors. She works a few times a day, taking turns with the other elephants and finishing at 3.30pm to head back to the jungle. Mahouts at the centre only get four days off per month to go back to their hometowns. “Being a mahout is fun, but it takes a lot of dedication and true love of your elephant,” says Pbun.

Thai Elephant Conservation Center
KM 28-29 Lampang-Chiang Mai Highway
Hangchat District, Lampang 52190

Tel. 054-247-875

Email

By Chantana Jasper

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Flying Trapeze Adventures

Flying Trapeze Adventures
Flying Trapeze Adventures
Flying Trapeze Adventures
Flying Trapeze Adventures
Flying Trapeze Adventures
Flying Trapeze Adventures
There are many different activities to fill your day if you stay on Koh Tao. Most people come to dive or snorkel but you can rock climb, cliff jump, kayak, play mini golf, go 10 pin bowling, take a cookery course or even shoot your mates in the jungle playing paintball.

Recently a flying trapeze rig has been erected which means that for at least an hour you can pretend that you really have run away with the circus. Rather than being a clown or a lion tamer though you can be a powerful trapeze artist yet without a sequin in sight! Located in the popular area of Sairee and close to many bars and restaurants it's easy to get to and fit into your plans.

The rig is full size and exactly that which is synonymous of big top shows and the basis for a Cirque du Solei performance. Just looking at the rig will give you shivers of anticipation and draw you in.

Flying Trapeze Adventures are offering hourly lessons to those thrill seekers wanting to learn this adrenaline loaded activity. Lessons last an hour, cost 950B and skilled performers from all over the world are your instructors. They teach you techniques that will have you flying through the air and performing tricks in no time.

Instruction starts with a demonstration of a position called a knee hang. The flyer hops off a 10m high pedestal holding onto the fly bar and once at the top of the swing, they hook their legs around the bar, let go with their hands and fly back to the top of the swing dangling from their knees. You'll be surprised, it's easier than it looks and really nothing to do with strength but all about timing.

Hit the right beat and the tricks are a simply matter of gravity, or lack of it, because at the top of your swing you are weightless making it simple to master the techniques. Of course you have someone shouting instructions to you while flying but harnessing the laws of physics is up to you!

Your first attempt of this is on the practice bar suspended just over 1 meter high, where you are able with the assistance of your instructors, to have a go at getting this position statically, from there you move up. Ascending, up the ladder, to the pedestal, wearing your safety belt can be a vertigo work out in itself and once there you certainly see life differently. You are well above tree height and look down on the roofs of the surrounding buildings and your mates suddenly look hobbit sized.

Safety lines are attached as you chalk up your hands before assuming your pre-flight position. Leaning forward over the catch net with your arms straight and hips forward is akin to teetering dangerously on the edge of a cliff. This suspension last seconds before you are instructed to fly. Sailing through the air is such a rush that it's very easy to forget that you are supposed to be trying to get into position, but once remembered, flying upside down is higher octane. You get to practice this a few times, along with a back-flip dismount from the bar which is far easier than it sounds and looks wicked.

Nail it and then you are up for a catch.

One of your instructors will fly from the bar you were just using and get some incredible height from the swing. He'll drop to the net and use the bounce to grab on to the second trapeze. With some cool-cat moves he'll slide onto the bar which is called the catchers trap and then time his swing to match yours. You'll meet mid-air at the top of your swings and he'll catch you by the wrists and you'll sail together to the end of the rig. This is the pinnacle of achievement and an awesome feeling that will have you buzzing for days and wanting more.

Trapeze has become popular all over the world with the biggest school located in New York and those Sex and the City addicts may remember a certain episode where Carrie was finding it difficult to let go. Rigs have been part of summer camps and large resorts for some time but the one on Koh Tao is one of the few independent schools and is open to everyone with a little bit of dare-devil in them.

It's a great activity if you happen to find yourself at a loose end while your mates are off learning to dive and a better kick start to a night out than a vodka-red bull. Beware though as the rush is addictive, the more you fly the more you want to fly and learn more tricks. Flying Trapeze Adventures know this and have a frequent flyer program so that you can develop your skills and learn new tricks.

Your mates will certainly be amazed when they return from diving and a team of videographers are on hand to capture your style for eternity. It's certainly a video to send home to scare the pants off mum!

If you are the type of thrill seeker who would love to bungee jump or freefall then this is certainly for you but it easier on the budget, lasts longer and has way more style.

Flying Trapeze Adventures is located on the north side of Sairee Beach. It is situated right next to Oasis Pool Bar, directly behind Choppers Pub and Grill. There are two main entrances to Flying Trapeze Adventures, one from the beach front path opposite Silver Sands Resort and the other from Sairee Main road, just next to Sairee Plaza.

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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.

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Bird Watching in Thailand

Bird Watching in Thailand
Bird Watching in Thailand
Bird Watching in Thailand
Bird Watching in Thailand
Illustrations by Yurie Ball
You think that's overkill? Just wait till you hear your first Great Hornbill with its harsh and almost deafening call, wait till you hear it take off with its "whoosh-whoosh-whoosh" and then accuse me of overkill! Your hair will stand on end!

But let's start at the beginning. Thailand has more than 960 documented species of birds and of these approximately one third are migrants but it's not as simple as that. Some species are migrant, resident and breeding visitors in different parts of the country.

There are well over 100 protected areas in the country and they are categorised as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation areas or non-hunting areas. Some of these have breeding programmes which include the breeding of species on the endangered list. The infrastructure is such that most of these places are easily accessible by road, train or plane. Some are closed to the public, which to my mind is good as it means that Thailand is taking it's conservation of wildlife seriously but even these can be entered with special permission, for research and other such reasons. The main ones, though, are definitely open to the public and very well run with the welfare of the fauna uppermost in the minds of the national parks officials.

Probably the most popular national park is Khao Yai and for the very good reason that it is overflowing with birdlife. Birdlife apart, the park is also noted for its tigers and elephants and if you were to pop into the visitors centre you would see the stuffed remains of a man-eating tiger that attacked two park officials and was shot for its sins. There are said to be about twenty tigers (I very much doubt that) in the park and possibly around two hundred elephants, signs of which can be found in the shape of their huge droppings along-side the road.

Khao Yai national park covers an area of 2168 sq.km. and 318 species of birds have been documented in the area. The highest point in the park is 1351 m. so some montane species can be found. Most birdwatching is done around the head-quarter's area and you don't really have to go much farther afield to find most of the different species. There are 11 trails for the more adventurous and all of these were made by elephants which still use them, most of them are marked with different colours of paint applied to the trees.

Some of the more spectacular birds you will see are the hornbills and there are 4 species in the park, the Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis, 122 cm.), the Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus, 100 cm.), the Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris, 70 cm.) and the Brown Hornbill (Ptilolaemus tickelli, 74 cm.). 5 different species of Barbets (family Megalaimidae) with their brightly coloured plumage abound in the park, their ringing, repetitive calls will be heard more often than the bird is seen. Flocks of Fairy Bluebirds (Irena puella) will be seen in flowering or fruiting trees, they are very noisy birds with their piercing whistling call. The list is almost endless. Accommodation in the park is difficult to come by and special permission must be obtained in advance but there are plenty of hotels and other accommodation just outside the park. The park itself is a 3 hour drive from Bangkok. 
     
Next you would move up to the north and base yourself in Chiang Mai, a city built around a beautiful old moated town. Parts of the old wall remain to this day and altogether it is a very attractive place, in 1997 Chiang Mai celebrated it's 700th. anniversary. Here you will certainly want to visit Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest mountain at 2565 m. and although in winter it can be extremely hot in the plains, on the summit of this mountain the temperature can go down to close to 0 degrees centigrade, warm clothing is strongly recommended. This national park is 60 km. south-west of Chiang Mai and can be treated as a day trip but for the serious birdwatcher 3 or 4 days would be more appropriate. 382 species have been documented on Doi Inthanon, as many as the total bird population of some countries.
  

Birdwise everyone comes to see one bird in particular and that is the Green-tailed Sunbird (Aethopyga nipalensis-angkanensis). This bird is endemic to Thailand and can only be found in the upper reaches of Doi Inthanon and there it is very common. But the other birds are not to be ignored; there is the Ashy-throated Warbler (Phylloscopus maculipennis) which, again, in Thailand can only be found on the upper reaches of Doi Inthanon. This is one of only two Leaf Warblers that are resident here, the rest are migrants, one wonders why. One of the best birdwatching sites is the jeep track at 37.5 km. (ca. 1700m.) and it is here that you might be lucky enough to see the rare Purple Cochoa (Cochoa purpurea), I have seen it there 3 or 4 times, you might also see it's relative the Green Cochoa (Cochoa viridis). This bird is listed as uncommon and I have only seen it once, so maybe I was lucky with the Purple Cochoa. This jeep track is good at any time of the day as it is well shaded with some very thick primeval looking forest. Here also you will find 2 skulkers, the Pygmy Wren-Babbler (Pnoepyga pusilla) and the Slaty-bellied Tesia (Tesia olivea), these two are more often heard than seen. One of my favourite birds can also be found here and that is the Long-tailed Broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae), it is straight out of a Walt Disney cartoon with its finely delineated multi-coloured markings. I have found it to be a very curious bird and sometimes I find myself peering up at it as it peers down at me. Its colours include black, yellow, light green, dark green and blue, working from head to tail.
  
Other places in the north of Thailand worth a visit are Doi Angkhang and Tha Ton, both on the Burmese border. I mention these because they are the southernmost overspill area of the north Asian birds and some of the birds can't be found anywhere else in Thailand. Tha Ton is noted for the rare Jerdon's Bushchat (Saxicola jerdoni), the Paddyfield Warbler (Acrocephalus agricola), the Long-billed Plover (Charadrius placidus) and the Black-faced Bunting (Emberiza spodocephala). The Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius), abounds on the sandbars of the Maekok river where it breeds. I really could go on and on but the best thing is to come and see for yourself. If you do decide to come and 'discover' Thailand and its birds please feel free to contact me in Chiang Mai, after 16 years of living in Thailand I can put you on to the best areas for the different birds.

By Tony Ball: Email | Tel. + 66 53 223128

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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

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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
bokator_muay_thai_boran_11
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."

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Extreme Sports in Thailand


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extreme_sports_in_thailand_1
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.

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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
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Ghost Festival


ghost_festival _1
Ghost Festival, Thailand
Ghost Festival, Thailand
Ghost Festival, Thailand
Walking down the narrow, dusty road in the village center, I suddenly feel someone pinch my bottom. I spin around and am faced with a brightly-coloured demon. The demon grins and waves a large phallic weapon in my face.

At first, I am unsure whether to laugh or run as the stranger stares at me in silence, but then he advances, weapon waving and forcing me to take a step backwards. The feeling of menace intensifies and I find myself running away. Backwards; you NEVER turn your back on a demon!

Several other demons join in the pursuit and before I know it I am being chased down the road by more than a dozen demons. I suddenly trip on a stone and fall down as the group descends on me.

Then, all at once the crowd begins to laugh and someone reaches out a hand to help me up. Masks are removed to reveal friendly Thai villagers beneath.

I am in the tiny, picturesque village of Dan Sai in North-east Thailand to witness Phi Ta Khon, or the Ghost Festival. This unique celebration takes place over three days each year sometime between May and July, at an auspicious time divined by the town's mediums, of which there are many.

During the festival of Phi Ta Khon, villagers dress in elaborate costumes made to look like ghosts and monsters. Emboldened by their disguises, the villagers embark on much mischief and merry making during the celebrations, and this is perhaps the area's most lively and colourful event of the year.

The history of this spooky festival has strong roots in Buddhism. Legend tells that Lord Buddha's mist recent reincarnation was a royal Prince. During this reincarnation, the Prince embarked on many long journeys. Whenever he even returned, the overjoyed villagers would celebrate so loudly that they woke the dead, who would then join in the festivities.

Phi Ta Khon is a way for the spirits to be remembered and let off some steam, before being laid to rest once more for another year.

The first day of the festival is known as Wan Ruam, or Assembly Day. Before dawn, the village elders and Jao Paw Guan - the head holy man - make their way to the Muan River. On the banks of the river, these men perform a sacrificial ritual to awaken Phra Ub-pa-kud, a highly revered monk who spends his time meditating beneath the flowing river waters. The water bubbles vigorously at the end of the ritual, signifying that Phra Ub-pa-kud has awakened once more.

The procession moves to Wat Ponchai in the village center, where food is offered to the many monks in attendance and worshippers say prayers as they wait for the spirits to appear.

First on the scene are the small spirits, children dressed in colourful clothing and wearing wooden masks and hats made from rice steamers and palm leaves. The small spirits prance gleefully through the crowd, posing for pictures and making mischief.

Later, when these small spirits have had their time in the spotlight, the entire village becomes possessed by demonic spirits and wreak havoc. Many of the demons carry large phallic weapons and other devices for casing chaos. The atmosphere is charged with excitement and expectation. Absolutely anything could happen at this time; all rules of behaviour have been abandoned for once.

The next two days are filled with madness, mayhem, drink and debauchery. There are demonic processions through the streets, singing, dancing and general merrymaking as ghosts and ghouls flock to the town from all over the province. Many have cowbells, known as mark-ka-lang attached to their elaborate costumes to maximize the noise levels.

Each costume is unique, cleverly crafted by the wearer. The costumes come in all shapes and sizes from large, menacing demons to cute little pixies.

And then there are the mud men. These pillars of dirt stumble through the crowds, coating all they come across in mud and grime. There is no escaping these determined demons as I soon discovered. Tired of running, I surrender and allow myself to be liberally coated in mud as the mud men cheer in triumph.

One of my favourite events takes place on the second day. In between sporting events and dance contests, a procession of giant bang fai bamboo rockets are launched. The festival takes place in the hottest and driest season and it is hoped that these rockets will bring the rain.

On the third and final day of the festival, Jao Paw Guan summons his powers and drives the naughty demons back to the underworld.
 
The ghost masks are thrown into the river and the rest of the day is filled with Buddhist sermons and merit making.
 
People who visit Dan Sai at any other time of the year describe the tiny village as picturesque and tranquil. Little are they aware of the demonic debauchery that bubbles just beneath the surface.
 
Getting There: To get to Dan Sai it is best to first travel to the province capital city of Loei, which is about 520 km from Bangkok. There is an airport at Loei with regular flights from Bangkok and other parts of Thailand. Alternatively, there are regular buses from all over the country including Bangkok (10 hours), Nong Khai (6 hours) and Phitsanulok (5 hours). Buses run between Loei and Dan Sai from 5 a.m to 5 p.m and the journey takes about 1.5 hours.
 
Where to Stay: Dan Sai is generally a cheap place to stay, although prices can double during the festival. Phak Thanapho on Soi Thetsaban 4 has clean and basic rooms in a traditional Thai wooden house. Rooms cost around 200 baht per night. Tel: 04289 1702 There is a good selection of elegant hotels just out of town, so it is a good idea to hire your own transport to get around.

A top pick is Rangyen Resort on Route 23. Here you will find an extensive and well decorated resort with facilities including tennis and badminton courts, a swimming pool, good restaurants, satellite TV and a karaoke bar. Fan rooms cost around 1,000 baht, while a two bedroom bungalow with all the usual mod-cons costs around 4,000 baht. Tel: 04289 1089 fax 04289 1423.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is currently living in Bangkok where she she is a travel writer.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Health Issues for Visitors to Thailand

bnhlogolargeBNH Hospital is one of Thailand's leading hospitals, dealing with the health isses of visitors and locals for over a century. If anyone is in a position to give good advice on health issues for visitors to Thailand, they are. Whether you simply need to know how to prepare for your trip, your concerns are current health scares, or you want to know how to benefit from the excellent medical services available to you while you are in Thailand, drop them a message and they will do there best to answer. All questions and answers will be shown on this page. Simply put your query in the form below and press send. If you have news on health issues, or simply want to pass on some good advice of your own, let us know what you have to say using the same form. Use the form below to have you health queries answered:   

Frequently Asked Questions answered here:

Yelena writes: "Hello, I will be traveling to Thailand Summer 2008 for three weeks. I think for the most part I will stay in the major cities, but i would also like to see the jungle. I know that i need Hepetitis A and Typhoid vacination. What about Japanese encephalitis? Thank you."

BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your inquiry. Japanese encephalitis is an important when you will be staying in Northern of Thailand for long period of time (more than 1 month). However, if you aren't to stay for long period of time you should protect of yourself by During the hours of darkness wear long trousers (pants) and long sleeve shirts. Using mosquito repellent. Staying in air conditioning room because this disease spread by mosquito. The illness is most prevalent in rural areas especially near pig farms. If you have any father inquiries, please, do not hesitate to let me know."

Nigel Andrews: Hi, I'm traveling to Thailand for ten days in two weeks time I'm spending 5 days in Phuket and 5 days Bangkok is it to late for jabs but what jabs do I need? Many Thanks Nigel.

BNH Hospital answers: Thank you for your inquiry. I would like to explain you about vaccinations you should get when you stay in Thailand. However, you should get before you come to Thailand 7-10 days. Are you traveling in Thailand now? So, it is too late. Therefore, I explain to you for next time. 1. You should receive Hepatitis A, Typhoid because these diseases transmission is primarily via person to person, generally through fecal contaminated and oral ingestion. The virus can be spread through contaminated food (such as uncooked fruits and vegetables), shellfish, ice and water. 2. If you like tattooing you should receive Hepatitis B also because this disease exposure to contaminated blood and blood products; use of contaminated needles, razors, dental and medical equipment, tattooing and body-piercing devices; and sexual contact with infected individuals. 3. Tetanus transmission typically occurs via contamination of wounds, burns and punctures so if you can protect yourself from these, you don't need tetanus vaccine. 4. Most of Thailand is malaria free except near the border areas of Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, national forest and Koh Chang. There is no vaccine available for malaria yet. Also malaria prophylaxis medicine is not 100 % protective against malaria. Currently dengue fever is a problem (there is not medicine or vaccine for dengue.) Best are repellents, long sleeve clothing, and sleep in netted areas. If you would like to take medicine, Malarone would be the best but is not available in Thailand and South East Asia. It would be the best if you can buy it from home.

Christine Carver writes: "Dear Sir/madam, my friend has visited Chiang Mai, Krabi and Phi Phi, leaving Thailand on 14/2/07. Over the last 10 days she has had high temperatures, headaches, nausea and general aches and pains. The nausea has settled but she now has a slight cough. she has been generally very weak. There is no rash. Could you advise us if she is at risk of any tropial diseases from visiting these places in Thailand? We wondered about malaria or dengue fever. is there anything else we should be concerned about? We are very grateful for any advice you can give. Thank you so much."

BNH Hospital answers: "Dear Ms. Carver, In this case it might be a viral infection. We would recommend you to see your doctor and have blood tests to confirm.

Finn Hjelmstrom writes: "We are going to stay for approx 3 weeks at the eastern part of Koh Chang in Jan/Feb next year. We do not know whether there is air con or not. Will this demand for any malaria prevention? Will our further trip to Cambodia (Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh) increase this demand? Thanks for your speedy reply Finn Hjelmstrom"

BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your inquiry. We recommend travelers to take anti malaria when they have to stay in forest or risk area for long periods of time (more than 1 month). Anyway anti malaria for Koh Chang and Cambodia is Doxycycline may cause photosensitivity, an increased frequency of candida vaginitis, nausea, vomiting. You should take 1 tablet one day before you leave your country and continue1 tablet daily during your stay in the risk area. On your returning home you should complete another four weeks course of tablet. So if you aren’t staying in forest or risk area for long periods of time, you should protect yourself from mosquito by wearing long trousers (pants) and long sleeve shirts, and using mosquito repellent."

Bob writes: "We are travelling to thailand with our 22 month old daughter and plan to stay for two months. we would prefer to avoid malaria risk areas so our daughter need not take any malaria pills. can you tell us whether any of the following possible travel destinations should be avoided: khao lak, koh lanta, kho phangan, kho tao, in the south and chang mai and pai, in the north... do you have any other recommondations for travelling with baby, other than sunscreen, mosquito nets and - repellent...?? thank you very much for having this forum available..."

BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your inquiry. We send file about risk area of malaria in Thailand for you. (See Malaria map in Thailand) I think this map can help you avoid malaria risk areas. We recommend travelers to take anti malaria when they have to stay in forest or risk area for long periods of time."

A visitor writes: "My daughter is visiting Koh Phi Phi Island and was bitten by a monkey. Does she really need the vaccine? Has there been rabies on that island?"

BNH Hospital answers: Vaccinations are available at every hospital in Thailand. There is no case of mokey bite but last year there was a dog found with rabies on the Island. To be safe she should take Rabbie vaccine and Tetanus as the monkey is wild monkey, you can never be sure if it has rabie or not. The wound should be wash throughly and make sure that it is clean. If the wound is very bad, or the monkey that bite your daughter is suspected to have rabbie, she should take Immunogloblin which is stronger than rabie too. The contact number is Phi Phi Hospital contact number is 03-501-7228 I tried to contact them but no one pick up the phone. They should have Rabie vaccines at ER. (Embedded image moved to file: pic22704.jpg) Another option is Krabi Hospital (2hrs from Phi Phi Island by boat) 075-611212 I have checked with Krabi Hospital. They have all the vaccines available at ER.

Samantha Edelsten writes: "I purchased a course of Malarone tablets(42) in the UK prior to travelling to SE Asia but have now decided to stay longer but need to purchase some more tablets. Is there anywhere in Bangkok I can do this or will I need to visit a doctor to get a prescription?"

BNH Hospital answers: Thank you for your inquiry. Malarone tablets is not available in Thailand. We available doxycycline (anti malaria tablet for SE Asia) may cause photosensitivity, an increased frequency of candida vaginitis, nausea, vomiting. You should take 1 tablet one day before you leave your country and continue 1 tablet daily during your stay in the risk area. On your returning home you should complete another four weeks course of tablet. I think if you aren't staying in forest or risk area for long periods of time, you should protect yourself from mosquito by wearing long trousers (plants) and long sleeve shirts, and using mosquito repellent.

Shari Lemieux writes: "Hello We will be travelling to Thailand from Canada on Dec.15th/ 2006 to Jan.2nd /2007. Probably to Bangkok and then down south and back up again to Bangkok (Phuket, Chang mai, river Kwai & Phi Phi). I am a nurse and I already have had my Hepatitis B vaccination and also my Tetanus. Should It be wise for me to also receive the HepatitisA and Typhoid vaccinations? Would you recommend the TWINRIX series of shots for me? IS there any problems in any area of Thailand that we should know about before visiting? Thanks for your help in advance.

BNH Hospital answers: "Yes, we always recommend vaccination against hepatitis A and Typhoid for traveller before come to Thailand. Twinrix is a vaccine that protection from Hepatitis A and B thus if you already have had hepatitis B vaccine, you should only receive Havrix (1440) vaccine for Hepatitis A."

Simona: "Do I need a prescription to buy Doxycicline from a chemist in Thailand? Will I find it in Koh Chang?"

BNH Hospital answers: "Yes, you will find it in Koh Chang. We recommend travelers to take doxycycline when they have to stay in forest or risk area for long periods of time because doxycycline may cause photosensitivity, an increased frequency fo candida vaginitis, nausea, vomiting. You should take 1 tablet the day before you leave your country and 1 tablet each day of your stay, if in a risk area. On your return home you should complete the course of tablets by taking one each day for a month.

Victoria Smith writes: "I will be travelling to Thailand in Dec/ Jan. I will be visiting Chaing Mai, Phuket, Khao Sok, Koh Lanta & Bangkok. Will I need to take Malaria tablets? What other precautions can I take other than wearing long sleeves to ensure I do not get bitten??"

BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your enquiry. Regarding malaria tablet, it's depend on how long is your trip? And where will you stay? If you stay in a hotel, no problem but if you do camping in jungle you should to take anti Malaria tablet and bring mosquitoes repellent with you."

Rik writes: "Hello. I am travelling in November 206, to Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Phi-Phi Don and Koh Samui. Please advise if I should take malaria tablets or any other vaccines."

BNH Hospital answers: "You should have HepatitisA and Typhoid vaccinations against diseases from food and water but not necessary for malaria tablet in Samui and Phuket because they are not risk areas."

Adam writes: "Myself and my girlfriend are travelling to Thailand in November for 3 weeks, we will be in Bangkok for 3 nights, Phuket for 4 nights, Krabi for 4 nights, Koh Samui for 6 nights and then back to Bangkok for 2 nights before flying home! Am I correct in thinking that we will need vacinations against HEP A and TYPHOID? Do we need to take any other precations apart being careful what we eat? Any help would be greatly appreciated!"

BNH Hospital answers: "Yes, you should have vaccinations against HepatitisA and Typhoid. The places you are staying are not malaria risk area so using mosquito repellents, wearing long sleeve shirts and stay in air-conditioned or netted aread should be sufficient."

Tracy Brown writes: "I am going to Bangkok and Pattaya for 11 days do I need to take malaria tablets?"

BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you very much for your inquiry. Regarding on your visit to Bangkok and Pattaya, both areas are not risk area. Wearing long sleeve shirt and apply the anti-mosquito lotions to prevent mosquito bite would be sufficient. Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccination is recommended on your visit as infection of these can be through food and water."

Laura Ient writes: "My daughter age 16 has just returned from Thailand. She tells me that during one or two days (she has not told me exactly!) of her trekking phase she did not take her malaria tablets. Please can you advise what the likely risk is. She has had lots of bites to her legs and ankles. Also should she take more malaria tablets for longer given the laps?"

BNH Hospital answers: "Regarding the mosquito bites that your daughter has, she need not take any malaria tablet as it is only use for prevention. Observation is recommended, she should seek doctor's consultant in case she has any symptoms like fever or severe headache."

Maxine writes: "Family & friends (20) from New Zealand are coming to Thailand for my sons wedding in Burirum. We will be spending 4 days in bangkok & 5 days in Burirum and the day of the wedding in a village 45 minutes from Burirum. My questions are; 1 Is Burirum a Malarious Area. 2 For such a short stay is Typhoid & Rabies prevention required I have recommended to family & friends that they should have Hep A&B, Tetanus/diptheria."

BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your letter. Burirum is not a risk area. The vaccinations needed vary according to the length of time you are going to stay and the place where you are going to visit. For a visit less than two weeks Hepatitis A and Typhoid are required. JE Rabies and Tetanus/diphtheria are needed if you are staying over 3 months. The vaccination should be taken 2 weeks before the trip. However for a very short stay, paying more attention on food and drinks by not eating food from roadside and drink only from clean water bottles should be sufficient."

Camilla writes: "I am travelling to Thailand at the beginning of November for two weeks, i will be visiting Phuket, Phi, Phi and Krabi after flying into Bangkok - wondered whether there were any specific precautions to take for that area - eg vaccinations before hand."

BNH Hospital answers: "Camilla. Vaccinations recommended for a two and a half weeks visit are HepatitisA and Typhoid which can be infected through food and water.The vaccinations should be taken 2 weeks before the trip.If you are concious about malaria, wearing long sleeve shirt and apply the anti-mosquito lotions to prevent mosquito bite would be sufficient."

Kevin writes: Hello I need a Hep A boost before travelling around asia and also to take malaria tablets. Is it too late to do this on arrival to Bangkok or should i need to do it before i leave home.

BNH Hospital answers: "We would recommend you to take the vaccine at least 2 weeks before the trip for the vaccine to be fully function."

Amanda writes: "We are travelling to thailand for 6 weeks what vaccinations do we really need? do we need to get malaria tablets?

BNH Hospital answers: "Ms. Sheridan, Thank you for your letter. The vaccinations needed will vary according to the lenght of time you stay and the place you are going to visit. For a six week visit in Bangkok the vaccinations needed are Hepatitis A and typhoid. If you plan to visit the jungle or staying over 3 months, it would be necessary to take JE, Rabies and Tetatus/dihtheria too.The vaccinations should be taken at least two weeks before the visit. Bangkok is not a Malaria risk area. If you plan to stay only in the city, try to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long sleeve shirts and apply anti mosquito lotion would be sufficient. Again if you are going to visit the jungle or island we would recommend you to take malaria tablets. Malarone would be the best choice with the least side effect. You should purchase it from you country as it is not available here in Thailand and SEA. Doxycycline is cheaper and available here but may cause some side effects such asphosensitivity, Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip."

Linda writes: "I am going to Bangkok for one week at the end of October. Do I need any injections, I am staying at the Amari Watergate Hotel,also what about malaria tablets. Thankyou."

BNH Hospital answers: "For a business visit of one week in Bangkok vaccinations is not required. Some recommendation would be to pay extra attention to food and drink. Try to avoid street side food and drink water only from clean clear bottles. Regarding malaria tablet, Bangkok is not a risk area. Try to avoid mosquito bite by waring long sleeve shirt and apply anti-mosquito lotion would be sufficient as Malaria tablets may cause some side effects."

Ms Collard writes: "Can we get our travel vaccinations while we are in thailand. as we are spending 6 months in thailand before we do a round the world trip? Where can we get them done (we will be staying near mbk) and how much?"

BNH Hospital answers: "Dear Ms. Collard, Thank you for your letter. We would recommend you to take the vaccinations before coming to Thailand as some vaccinations needs to be done two weeks before the trip. The list of the vaccinations needed for a six months stay here are as followed:-
1. Influenza
2. Hepatitis A
3. Typhoid
4. JE
5. Rabies
6. Tetanus/diphtheria

Regarding the round the world trip, vaccination required will be according to your destination and length of stay at the particular place. You can get your travel vaccinationation here in Thailand. The Internal Travel Medicine Clinic (ITMC) Located at the BNH Hospital Hospital can provide you the service. It is not far from MBK and it has the update of any disburst and news directly from WHO weekly. For any further information please contact the International Travel Medicine Clinic (ITMC) BNH Hospital Hospital Tel: 02-686-2700 ext 1165.   

Darren writes: "Hi there can you confirm if Koh Chang is Malaria free or not .Thank you for your help?"

BNH Hospital answers: "Koh Chang is still a Malaria Risk area. For a short stay we suggest wearing long sleeve shirt and apply anti-mosquito lotion and try to avoid mosquito bite would be sufficient. If you are to stay over 15 days, you should take some malaria tablet. Malarone is the best choice but not available here in Thailand and SEA. We suggest Doxycycline, hospitals will have them in stock. Some caution is that it may have some side effect of phosensitivity,Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip."

Marie writes: "Dear Sirs/Dr I will be in Bangkok from 17th till 24th of this month, I will be staying in the bangkok area and will be staying at night in a hotel. During the day I will visit the city a bit. I would like to know if I need to take some malaria tablets. If Yes, could you please indicate which ones ( I beleive there are different ones for different degrees of resistance of the virus). Do I need to cover my skin with mosquitos repulsive lotion everyday? I beleive there will be 80% humidity so the lotion might go away quickly! thanks a lot for a precise answer. yours sincerely, Marie MORELLI"

BNH Hospital answers: "Regarding your visit here in Thailand, Bangkok is not a Malaria Risk area, for your length of visit we do not recomment you to take any Malaria tablets. We suggest that wearing long sleeve shirt and applying mosquito repulsive lotion would be sufficient. (Mosquito repulsive lotion normally last around six hours. For your information, there are a few types of Malaria tablets available. The best option would be Malarone which is not available here in Thailand and South East Asia, you should try to buy it from your country as It has the least side effect. The best available here are doxycycline, it is cheaper but may cause side effects such as phosensitivity, Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip."

Sarah writes: "Hello I am travelling to thailand at the beginning of November staying 3 nights in bangkok and 8 nights in Koh Samui could you please tell me do i need any vaccinations before i go and if so when should i take them."

BNH Hospital answers: "Dear Ms. Brooks, We are very sorry for the delay in reply. Vaccination required are .Hepatitis A and Typhoid, they should be taken two weeks before the trip. For your information Samui is still a malaria risk area, we suggest that you should wear long sleeve shirt and apply anti-mosquito lotions."

Marcus Mehlkop writes: "I will be in Thailand for one week and plan to visit Koh Samet. Is Koh Samet a malaria risk area? Do I need to take anti malaria tabletts? Is it a good advise to buy malaria tabletts for standby in Germany? What tabletts should I buy for standby in Germany? Many Thanks

BNH Hospital answers: "Regarding our question, yes Koh Samet is a risk area. However if you are well protected from mosquito bite by wearing long sleve shirt and apply anti mosquito lotion would be another option than having malaria tablets. If you would like to take malaria tablet there are a few choices, buying malarone from your country would be the best choice as it is effective and has the least side effect and is not availabe in South East Asia. Doxycycline is available here, it is cheaper but may cause side effects such as phosensitivity,Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone."

Michelle McCarthy writes: "Is it possible to buy Doxycycline for anti malaria over the counter at a chemist in Bangkok?"

BNH Hospital answers: "Michelle, Thank you very much for your enquiry. Doxycycline is not available at the chemist counter. At Khaosanroad most of them provide Metfloquin which is not so effective as there are resistant. However most of the hospital in Bangkok do have them in stock."

Denise Hoey writes: "I will be in Thailand for two and a half weeks and plan to visit Bangkok, the River Kwai, Chiang Mai (including trekking to hill tribes), Ko Samui and some of the National parks (including Khao Yai and Khao Sok). What vaccinations or protection do you advise for these areas? many thanks."

BNH Hospital answers: There are a few choices available for the anti-malaria tablets. Malarone is the best choice with the least side effect also the most expensive,( it is not available in Thailand and South East Asia.) Doxycycline is cheaper but some side effects of medicine could be make you phosensitivity,Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis although not everyone will get this side effects. We would suggest you to buy Malarone from your country. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip. Other vaccinations recommended for a two and a half weeks visit are Hepatitis A and Typhoid which can be infected through food and water. If you have any further queires please don not hesitate to contact me. I hope you have an enjoyable holiday here in Thailand. Currently there are flood in some area of the North I suggest you should check it out before coming."

Coco writes: "What's happening with the bird flu? is it dangerous to eat eggs or chicken in Thailand?"

BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you very much for your inquiry. Regarding the bird flu I have checked with the BNH Hospital Hospital ITMC (International Travel Medicine Clinic) in Thailand so for there were no recent report, the latest incident report was 2 months ago in Karnjanaburi province. It is safe to eat eggs and chicken in Thailand provided that they are well cooked."

Heidi Henderson writes: "I am travelling to Thailand from Canada. I am 4 months pregnant and healthy. I want to be careful and ensure I have the vaccinations that are possible/necessary in my condition. I plan to travel north and to the islands. Any recommendations on what I should be doing/avoiding in terms of locations/food?"

BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you very much for your inquiry. We do not recommend vaccinations as it may have side effect with the baby. If you already have Hep B vaccination that would be good enough. Recommendations would be additional attention on food and water, make sure that the food is well cooked and drink clean water (available in bottles)."

To send your question, use the form below to contact a BNH doctor:

 

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Hospitals in Thailand

BNH Hospital, Bangkok, ThailandThailand's hospitals are workd renowned for their quality including the expertise of doctors and the level of facilities they offer. Here's a list of hospitals around Thailand (excluding hospitals in Bangkok).










Ayutthaya Hospitals:

Navanakorn Hospital
111 Rojana Road Khong Suanply
Ayutthaya 13000
Tel: (035) 335-555
Fax: (035) 335-555

Chiang Mai Hospitals:

Lanna Hospital
1 Sukkasem Road Nakhon Ping
Chiang Mai 50300
Tel: (053) 357-234-53
Fax: (053) 408-432, (053) 408-428

Chiang Mai Ram Hospital
1 Chiang Mai
Tel: (053) 224-851, 895-001
Fax: (053) 224-880, 224-860

Maharaj Hospital
10 Suthep Road, T Suthep,
A Muang Chiang Mai
Tel: (053) 221-517-8

McCormick Hospital
133 Kaewnawarat Road,
A Muang Chiang Mai
Tel: (053) 24-1311
Fax: (053) 241-177

Pattaya Hospitals:

Bangkok Pattaya Hospital
301 Moo 6 Sukhumvit Road KM. 143
Muang Pattaya Chonburi 20150
Tel: (038) 427-777
Fax: (038) 427-777

Pattaya International Hospital Pattaya International Hospital Co., Ltd.
Soi 4 Pattaya 2nd Road
Pattaya City, Chonburi 20260
Tel: (038) 428-374-5
Fax: (038) 422-773

Kanchanaburi Hospitals:

Kanchanaburi Memorial Hospital
111 Moo 5 Saeng Chuto Road
Kanchanaburi 71000
Tel: (034) 624-191
Fax: (034) 624190

Khon Kaen Hospitals:

Khon Kaen Ram Hospital 1
193 Village # 1 Srijan Road
Khon Kaen 40000
Tel: (043) 333-800, 333-900
Fax: (043) 333899

Loei Hospitals:

Muang Loei Hospital
546 Village # 1 Maliwal Road
Tumbol Na-arn Loei 42000
Tel: (042) 833-400-19
Fax: (042) 832-522

Phang-Nga Hospitals:

Phangna General Hospital
Phang-Nga
Tel: (076) 412-032; (076) 41-1617

Phuket Hospitals:

Bangkok Phuket Hospital
Phuket Island
2/1 Hongyok Utis Road
Phuket 83000
Tel: (076) 254-425
Fax: (076) 254-597

Phuket Adventist Hospital
P.O. Box 53 4/1 Tepkasatri Road
Phuket 83000
Tel: (076) 212-386
Fax: (076) 212-149

Phuket International Hospital
44 Chalermprakiat Ror 9 Road
Phuket 83000

Rayong Hospitals:

Bangkok Rayong Hospital
8 Moo 2 Soi Saengchan
Neramit Nernpra
Rayong 21000
Tel: (038) 612-999
Fax: (038) 610-777

Songkhla Hospitals:

Bangkok Hat Yai Hospital
54/113 Moo 3 Klongrean 1 Road
Kohong Subdistrict
Songkhla 90110
Tel: (074) 365-780-9
Fax: (074) 365-790

Samui Hospitals:

Bangkok Samui Hospital
57 Moo 3, Thaweerat Phakdee Road Bophut
Koh Samui Surat Thani 84320
Tel: (077) 429-500
Fax: (077) 429-505

Samui International Hospital (SIH)
Northern Chaweng Beach Road
90/2 Moo 2 Bophut
Surat Thani 84320
Tel: (077) 230-781-2
Fax: (077) 230-049

Trang Hospitals:
Trang Hospital
Trang
Tel: (075) 212-241-3, (075) 218-018

Koh Chang / Trat Hospitals:
Koh Chang International Clinic
9/14 M 4 White Sand Beach
Koh Chang Trat 23170
Tel: (039) 551-151-2 / 0-1863-3609
Fax: (039) 551-150

Bangkok Trat Hospital
376 Moo 2 Sukhumvit Road
Wangkhrajae Subdistrict
Trat 23000
Tel: (039) 532-735
Fax: (039) 530-374

Ubon Ratchthani Hospitals:
Bangkok Aek-Udon Hospital
555/5 Phosri Road
Muang Ubon
Ratchthani 41000
Tel: (042) 342-555
Fax: (042) 341-033

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Embassy Contact Details

embassy_largeMoving on? In trouble? Here's a list of embassies that might help... Various consulates exist outside Bangkok... Let us know any details you find out so we can broaden our listing.  
International telephone code: '66' (drop the first '0'); in Thailand dial as is. The Embassy of the Argentine Republic Suite 1601 Ban Chang Glas Haus Building 1 Sukhumvit Soi 25 Sukhumvit Road Bangkok Tel: 02-259-0401, 259-9198 Email The Australian Embassy 9 Floor, Kian Gwan House 140 Wireless Road Bangkok Tel: 02-251-4173-4 http://www.austembassy.or.th/ The Austrian Embassy 14 Soi Nandha Soi Attakarnprasit (Soi 1) South Sathorn Road Bangkok Tel: 02-287-3970-2 Email http://www.austriacom.or.th/ The Embassy of Belgium 175 South Sathorn Road, Sathorn City Tower 17th Floor Bangkok 10120 Tel: 02-679-5465 Email http://www.diplomatie.be/bangkok The Embassy of The Federative Republic of Brazil 34 Floor Lumpini Tower 1168/101 Rama 4 Road Sathorn Bangkok Tel: 02-679-8567-8 Email The British Embassy 1031 Wireless Road Patumwan Bangkok Tel: 02-305-8333 Email www.britishembassy.gov.uk/thailand The Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria 64/4 Ekamai 10 Sukhumvit Soi 63 Wattana Bangkok Tel: 02-391-6180-1 Email Embassy of Cambodia 518/4 Pracha Uthit Rd. (Soi Ramkamhaeng 39) Wangtonglang, Bangkok 10310. Tel: 02-254-6630, 253-985, 253-9851 The Canadian Embassy 15th Floor, Abdulrahim Place 990 Rama 4 Road Bangrak P.O. Box 2090 Bangkok Tel: 02-636-0540 http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/bangkok/ The Consulate of the Republic of Chile 19 Sukhumvit Soi 43 Sukhumvit Road Bangkok Tel: 02-261-5400-3 Email http://www.chile-thai.com/ The Embassy of the People's Republic of China 57 Ratchadapisek Road Dindaeng Bangkok Tel: 02-245-7043-4, 2472122-3 The Consulate of the Republic of Croatia 18th Floor, ITF Silom Palace 160/347-348 Silom Road Bangkok Tel: 02-238-5112 The Embassy of the Czech Republic 71/6 Ruam Rudee Soi 2 Ploenchit Road Bangkok Tel: 02-255-3027, 255-5060 Email http://www.mfa.cz/bangkok/ The Royal Danish Embassy 10 Soi Attakarn Prasit South Sathorn Road Yannawa Bangkok Tel: 02-213-2021-5, 679-9349-50 Email The Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt 42nd Floor, Las Colinas Building Sukhumvit Soi 21 (Soi Asoke) Sukhumvit Road Bangkok Tel: 02-262-0236, 661-7184 Embassy of East Timor 1550 Thanapoom Tower, 7th Floor New Petchburi Road Makassan-Rattewi Bangkok 10400 Tel: 0-2654-7501, 0-2654-7502, 0-2624-7504 Email The Consulate of the Republic of Estonia 62 Soi Yodsuwan Pracha-Uthit Road Huaykwang Bangkok Tel: 02-690-3779 The Embassy of Finland 16th Floor, Amarin Tower 500 Ploenchit Road Patumwan Bangkok Tel: 02-256-9306-9, 256-9511-3 The French Embassy 35, Soi Rong Phasi Kao (Soi 36) Charoen Krung Road Bangrak Bangkok Tel: 02-266-8250-6 The Consulate of the Republic of Ghana in Thailand 976, 3rd Floor, Promsuan Rimklonsamsaen Road Huay Kwang Bangkok 10320 Tel: 02-641-5214 Fax: 02-641-5215 The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany 9 South Sathorn Road Yannawa Bangkok Tel: 02-287-9000 http://www.german-embassy.or.th/ The Embassy of Greece and Consulate General 30th Floor, Thai Wah Tower II 21/159 South Sathorn Road Bangkok Tel: 02-679-1462 Email The Embassy of the Republic of Hungary 20th Floor, Oak Tower President Park 95 Sukhumvit Soi 24 Sukhumvit Road Prakhanong Bangkok Tel: 02-661-1150-2 Email The Consulate-General of the Republic of Iceland 2nd Floor, Sivadon Building 1 Soi Convent Silom Road Bangkok Tel: 02-237-8010-9, 289-1121-5 The Embassy of India 46 Soi Prasarnmitr Sukhumvit Soi 23 Sukhumvit Road Bangkok Tel: 02-258-0300-6 Email The Embassy of The Republic of Indonesia 600-602 Phetchaburi Road Bangkok Tel: 02-252-3135-40, 254-2563-4, 252-3180 http://www.kbri-bangkok.com The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran 602 Sukhumvit Road (Soi 22 and 24) Bangkok Tel: 02- 259-0611-3, 258-9322 The Embassy of The Republic of Iraq 47 Pradipat Road Samsen Nai Phayathai Bangkok Tel: 02-278-5335-7 The Consulate of Ireland 11th Floor, United Flour Mill Building 205 Rajawong Road Bangkok Tel: 02-223-0876, 226-0680 The Embassy of Israel 25th Floor, Ocean Tower II Building 75 Sukhumvit Soi 19 Sukhumvit Road Bangkok Tel: 02-204-9200 Email The Italian Embassy 399 Nang Linchee Road Tungmahamek Bangkok Tel: 02-285-4090-3 Email The Embassy of Japan 1674 New Petchburi Road Huay Kwang Bangkok Tel: 02-252-6151-9 Republic of Kazakhstan JTC Building 919/501 Silom Road, 43rd Floor, Suite 4301 Bangkok 10500 Fax: 02-433-4253 The Embassy of the Republic of Korea (South) 23 Thiam-Ruammit Road Ratchadaphisek Huay Kwang Bangkok Tel: 02-247-7537-41 Email Lao Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic 502/1 3, Soi Ramkamhaeng 39 Wangthonglang Bangkok Tel: 02-539-6667-8 The Consulate of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg 57/1 Sukhumvit Soi Aree Sukhumvit Road Klongton Bangkok Tel: 02-260-4838-40 Malaysian Embassy 33-35 South Sathorn Road Sathorn Bangkok Tel: 02-679-2190-0 The Embassy of Mexico 20/60-62 Thai Wah Tower, 20th Floor South Sathorn Road Bangkok Tel: 02-285-0815/8, 285-0995 Email The Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco (Office hrs. Mon.-Fri. 8.30-16.30) 19th fl. One Pacific Place, 140 Sukhumvit Rd., Bangkok 10110 Tel: 02-6532444-6 Fax: 02-6532449 Email Embassy of Mongolia in Bangkok 100/3 Soi Ekkamai 22, Sukhumvit 63 Road, Klongton Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110 Tel: 02-381-1400 Fax: 02-392-4199 The Embassy of The Union of Myanmar 132 North Sathorn Road Bangrak Bangkok Tel: 02-233-2237 Email The Royal Nepalese Embassy 189 Soi 71 Sukhumvit Road Prakhanong Bangkok Tel: 02-391-7240, 390-2280 Email The Royal Netherlands Embassy 6 Wireless Road Bangkok 10330 Tel: 02-254-7701-5 Email http://www.mfa.nl/ban Royal Norwegian Embassy UBC II Building, 18th floor 591 Sukhumvit Road, Soi 33 Bangkok 10110. Tel: 02-302-6415 Fax: 02-262 0218 Fax visa: +66-2262 0219 Email www.emb-norway.or.th New Zealand Embassy 93 Wireless Road Bangkok Tel: 02-254-2530 Email The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 100 Sukhumvit Soi 38, Sukhumvit Road Prakhanong Klongtoey Bangkok Tel: 02-391-5197, 712-0812, 712-0813 The Islamic Republic of Pakistan Embassy 31 Soi Nana Nua, Sukhumvit Road Bangkok 10110 Tel: 253 0288-9, 254 9702; Fax: 253 0290 The Embassy of the Republic of Peru 16th Floor Baan Chang Glas Haus Building 1 Soi Sukhumvit 25 Sukhumvit Road Wattana Bangkok Tel: 02-260-6243, 260 6245, 260 6248 Email http://www.peruthai.or.th/ The Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines 760 Sukhumvit Road Klongtoey Bangkok Tel: 02-259-0139-40, 258-5401 The Embassy of the Republic of Poland 8A Sriyukhon Building Sukhumvit Soi 5 Sukhumvit Road Bangkok Tel: 02-251-8891/3 The Embassy of Portugal 26 Bush Lane (Soi New Road 30) New Road Bangrak Bangkok Tel: 02-234-7435/6, 234-2123 The Embassy of Romania 150 Soi Charoenpohn 1 Pradipat Road Phayathai Bangkok Tel: 02-279-7902 Email The Embassy of the Russian Federation 78, Sap Road Suriwongse Bangrak Bangkok Tel: 02-268-1169, 234-9824 Email Saudi Embassy Thailand Kingom of 10th Floor, Sathorn Thani Building 90 N. Sathorn Road Bangkok Thailand Tel: 02-639-2999 Fax: 02-639-2738 The Embassy of Switzerland 35 North Wireless Road Bangkok 10330 Tel: 02-253-0156-60 Email Embassy of the Republic of Singapore 129 South Sathorn Road Yannawa Bangkok Tel: 02-286-2111, 286-1434, 286-9971, 286-2253-4 The Embassy of the Slovak Republic Thai Wah Tower II, 22nd Floor 21/144 South Sathorn Road Bangkok Tel: 02-677-3445-6 Email The Consulate of the Republic of Slovenia 294/4-5 Silom Road Bangkok Tel: 02-234-2481, 234-7637, 237-8452 Embassy of Spain 7th Floor Rooms 701-2 Diethelm Tower A 93/1 Wireless Road Bangkok 10330 Tel: 02-252-6112, 252-8368, 253-5132-4 Website The Consulate-General of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka 5/105-106 Soi Rattanaprahm 2 Sukhumvit Soi 54/1 Sukhumvit Road Bangkok Tel: 02-331-6384, 333-7761 The Embassy of Sweden 20th Floor Pacific Place 140 Sukhumvit Road (Sukhumvit 4 and 6) Klongtoey Bangkok Tel: 02-302-0360 Email Embassy of Taiwan in Bangkok, Thailand 20th Floor, Empire Tower 195 South Sathorn Road Yannawa 10120 Tel: 0-670-0220 Email The Consulate of the Republic of Tunisia 212 Rachadapisek Road Huay Kwang Bangkok Tel: 02-692-5071/2 Turkey Embassy of the Republic of Turkey 61/1 Soi Chatsan Suthisarn Road Phayathai Bangkok Tel: 02-274-7262-3 Email The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates 25th Floor Seng Thong Thani Building, 82 North Sathorn Road Bangkok Tel: 02-639-9820/4 The British Embassy Wireless Road Bangkok Tel: 02-253-0191/9 Email http://www.britishemb.or.th/ The Embassy of the United States of America 120-22 Wireless Road Bangkok Tel: 02-205-4000 http://www.usa.or.th/ Chiang Mai Consulate, Vidhyanond Road (Tel. 02-252-629/30-33) The Consulate of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay Sing Sian Yit Pao Building 267 New Road Bangkok Tel: 02-225-3718/9 Fax: 02-224-4139, 225-4663 Email The Consulate-General of the Republic of Uzbekistan 138/5 Thonglor Soi 11 Sukhumvit Soi 55 Sukhumvit Road Bangkok Tel: 02-712-8883 Email Vietnam Embassy in Thailand Add: 83/1 Wireless Road , Lumpini, Pathurnwan, Bangkok 10330 Tel: 02-251 5838 Fax: 02-251 7203 Email Syrian Consulate 53-1 NanaNeua, Sukhumvit 3-1 BKK. Tel: 02-254-7961, 02-251-4517  
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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

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World War 2 – Thailand

world_war_2_thailand_1World War Two came to Thailand by agreement between the Japanese and the Thai's - otherwise it was coming by force, but the Thai government in 1942 agreed to allow the Japanese passage and signed an agreement effectively saving it (Thailand) an invasion. This was opposed by many Thai's including the Thai Attache to the US (Khun Seni Promoj) who refused to deliver his declaration of war to the US. Due to America gaining supremacy in the Pacific with the Battle of Midway etc, Japan was struggling to send supplies back home via sea and to supply it's forces in it's ever expanding empire; this included essential supplies to Burma and any future foray into India. The Pacific was increasingly risky for shipping, so there had to be another way.

world_war_2_thailand_2Only several months before on 15 February 1942 - the impregnable fortress Singapore fell - enslaving thousands of allied troops - who began their 3.5 years of occupation. Having secured the Thai tenure, the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) compiled the bold plan to use that labour to build a rail link from Ban Pong (near Bangkok) through some of the worst jungle in the world to Burma joining rail services to Moulmein and Ye - giving the IJA the ability to supply their depleted forces. A railway that would end up taking over 100,000 lives - as one author penned, 'A Life For Every Sleeper'. Over 6,000 British perished, 2,710 Australians, 2,600 Dutch, 400 Americans, and a combination of coolie labourers (Malay, Tamil, Burmese and Chinese etc) who lost great numbers of people. Deaths came to the prisoners from malnutrition, malaria, tropical ulcers, cholera, dysentery and murder.

world_war_2_thailand_3There are two allied war cemeteries in Thailand - Chungkai and Kanchanaburi War Cemeteries (about 80kms NW from Bangkok). Chungkai War Cemetery holds British and Dutch servicemen and Kanchanaburi War Cemetery holds Australian, British and Dutch men. Kanchanaburi has over 7,000 boys buried in it's war cemeteries across many nations including men who were unable to be identified - and they have plaques referring to them as 'Known Unto God', it is the burial ground for the southern aspect of the railway. Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is managed by an Australian - Mr Rod Beattie and recently I interviewed Rod for my new travel guide to WW2 Thailand on his life, the cemetery and other interesting odds and ends. Rod is a busy character who not only manages the largest Allied War Cemetery in Thailand, but is the Director of Research of the Thai-Burma Railway Centre (museum) next door to the war cemetery.

World War 2 ThailandAn Interview with the Curator - Rod Beattie (Curator of the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and
Director of Research of the TBRC among other things...)

Q. How did you first hear of the Thai/Burma Railway? In Australia or abroad?

A. Whilst in Australia I knew no more or less than anyone else. I got my first book about the railway as a school prize in 1966. My real knowledge started after moving to Kanchanaburi to work for a Thai company mining sapphires at Bo Phloi.

Q. Have you served in the military? 

A. Yes, six years in the Army Reserve (1969-76).

Q. What is your profession? (OK Jack of All Trades - but what does your CV say?)

A. Jack of all Trades. Three tertiary qualifications. Two in Civil Engineering. One in Gemmology. Trade qualifications as Heavy Plant Operator and Truck Driver. Master gem cutter. I am multi qualified.

Q. Why your passion for the TBR?

A. I don't know other than a desire to learn more and to help other people.

Q. What year did you get to Kanchanaburi?

A. 1989.

Q. Was it the same year you started as Curator of Kanburi Cemetery?

A. No. It was not until 1994 that I got involved in the railway. 1995 appointed Manager of the War Cemeteries.

Q. How did you get the job?

A. The British Embassy contacted me to ask for help in finding a new Manager. I gave them local advice which they passed on to CWGC. CWGC came back and asked if I was interested in the job. I said 'Yes'.

Q. What is your relationship with OAWG like? Is it very bureaucratic?

A. Since my contract as Project Manager of the Hellfire Pass Museum Project finished in 1998 I have had no formal relationship with OAWG. Unofficially I work closely with the Manager of the Hellfire Pass Museum.

Q. Do you think political correctness is a thing that has little place in the TBRC or the HFP Museum etc?

A. Absolutely. The truth would be better and more appropriate.

Q. I know you cleared a lot of railway with your wife, how much did you clear and how long did it take?

A. A total of 8 kilometres. Two years. Only 4 and a bit kilometres are now maintained by OAWG as the walking trail.

Q. Were you ever concerned about the tropical diseases etc, that our predecessors suffered, occurring to you whilst working there?

A. Not at all. I was brought up in the Australian bush so felt completely at home in the jungle. The
diseases are still here but in our present state of health we will not be affected provided we use normal health precautions. The son of one of my labourers had a tropical ulcer which was only cured after I put him in Kanchanaburi's best private hospital.

Q. How is your relationship with exPOWs that visit - there must have been many over the years - who sticks in your mind as the typical bloke you connected with most?

A. Excellent, with those who know me personally. I really can't pick out any one individual of the very large number. They are almost universally wonderful men. A tiny number use their status as former POWs to their own advantage. The one who I owe the deepest debt is Tom Morris. He was the one person who had the courtesy to discuss with me what was going on in Kanchanaburi three years ago, when I and my plans for the TBRC were the subject of so much bad press. He believed in what I was doing and stood by me - unlike many others who have not met me and simply believed what they read or heard.

Q. What was Weary Dunlop like when he was in town?

A. I never met Weary.

Q. What about Japanese? Have you had many dealings with them visiting over the years?

A. Yes, many visit Kanchanaburi. Most know nothing of the true story. As an historian I put aside my personal feelings in an attempt to get the Japanese side of the story. It is important that a balanced story be recorded for historical purposes. I have a close relationship with a senior Japanese Engineer and other Japanese interested in the story being told accurately.

Q. A little birdie tells me that you may have had an altercation with some 'characters' in the cemetery playing up and being disrespectful? What happened - who were they and why did they make it out alive?

A. Only a minor one, two or three. I am very mindful of the position I hold and only extremely distasteful behaviour will provoke me. Like people running around climbing trees. Like a bus load of tourists using the hedge as a toilet. Like some ignorant people sitting on headstones.

Q. How long are you going to stay in Thailand? Will you ever leave?

A. Totally dependent on the future education of my three little girls. Secondary education in Kanchanaburi is not good so I may move back to Australia for this.

Q. The TBRC has been a long time coming. Has other museums like JEATH even Hellfire Pass (HFP) Museum been annoyed at this new one or have they been supportive.

A. Terrified would probably be a better description. I have a close relationship with the Manager of the HFP Museum so we actively promote each other. I offered a space in my TBRC to OWAG for a HFP display and this offer was accepted.

Q. What is your project at Chungkai doing? What have you unearthed?

A. A huge 'dig'. Hundreds of items. Personal possessions, camp items, tools, numerous medicine bottles, the actual fireplaces etc.

Q. What do you miss about Australia? (Rugby, AFL, Fish'n'Chips, Meat Pies?)

A. The ease of travelling and going on holidays. Packing up the car, trailer and boat and heading off in any direction. Camping by a western stream and fishing for yellow belly. Pulling into a caravan park anywhere on the coast and putting the tinnie in the water. Cleanliness and order of daily life. But there are also many things I don't miss.

Q. Have royalty shown interest before in the Thai-Burma Railway and its history etc?

A. Very little interest shown by any Thais. Khun Kanit is an exception. No Thai royal visit in the offering. We have just had a visit by the Queen of the Netherlands.
Kanchanaburi is about a two-three hour trip by bus from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal, cost 79 baht one way. The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is located on Sangchuto Road about 15 minutes walk from the bus terminal. The Thai-Burma Railway Centre is located in a street that overlooks the cemetery - a two storey building with the upper storey overlooking parts of the war cemetery, it costs 60 baht to enter.

The title of my travel guide is 'A Different Brand Of English' and is available at www.poseidonbooks.com/a_different_brand_of_english.htm (ISBN: 1-9208-8490-4) An A5 Paperback with 367 pages including over 150 photographs of Singapore and Thailand. This comprehensive travel guide has an emphasis on WW2 Singapore and Thailand. It guides the traveler around Kranji, Chungkai and Kanchanaburi War Cemeteries and includes many graves of war time luminaries to visit with next of kin permission and in some cases includes photographs of the deceased all with information on how and where they died etc. It guides the traveler to cuttings, Bridge Over the River Kwai, Hellfire Pass, POW Camps, Changi Prison etc.

The travel guidebook also consists of Ex Prisoner of War (POW) interviews of men who toiled on the Thai-Burma Railway & includes an interview with the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and Museum Director/Curator. Along with never published before prison camp reports marked SECRET and released before the end of the war for Australian Prison Camp Investigators. The Australian Prime Minister provided comments exclusively for the book about his travel in and around Hellfire Pass. Has over 150 photographs from many and varied luminaries including many of George Aspinall's war time collection, exclusive pictures of the Queen of Holland in the Thai War Museum, contemporary shots of Singapore and Thailand's memorials, plaques and places of interest, including Australian War Memorial photographs and maps etc.

The guidebook also discusses the main touristy attractions in both countries including Raffles Hotel, Singapore Cricket Club, Merlion, Bangkok Palace, Bangkok Prison, Patpong Market to Phuket etc. It has a recommended restaurant guide, a hotel stay guide and tips and travel advice down to scams to avoid with up to date foreign office warnings.

This type of book on this combined issue has never been written before and it goes where no guidebook has gone before on this subject. The journey the book takes is one of wonder, excitement, sadness and reflection.

Andrew Mason

Australia

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Koh Chang Notes

Koh Chang, Thailand
koh_chang_notes_2
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.

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Thai Fried Bread

Thai Fried BreadThai food includes a fascinating array of appetisers. Some of these, by themselves are substantial enough to constitute an entire meal. Just like their western counterparts, meat and seafood are commonly featured.

Fried bread is one such interesting dish that on initial impression may appear more appropriate being served at breakfast. But like many Thai foods, first impressions can prove to be quite incorrect.

If this was a prelude to the main dish, it certainly deserved better than being delegated to the rank of a breakfast item.

The aroma of this freshly fried dish was indeed tantalising, There were about ten portions of bite sized golden brown squares measuring about an inch and a half each, all nestling on a bed of shredded salad.

Well-fried bread has no greasy drip and should not be soggy at the base. When prepared well, it should be hot enough yet comfortable when chewed into. It should appear very light to taste in spite of the oil and batter. When bitten into, the crispy flavoured exterior gives way to the very pleasant chewy consistency of the white bread beneath.

A small salad accompanies the fried bread, acting as a pleasant contrast. The diced cucumbers and slivers of carrot in a vinegar-based dressing act as a wonderful counterbalance, adding a zing to this predominantly greasy and possibly heavy dish.

This appetizer with its salad accompaniment is a fine example of how different foods and differing flavours harmonize in Thai cooking. The crunchy salad complements the crispy bread, while the cool sensation of the salad contrasts with the hot bread. The vinegar-based salad dressing provided for yet another contrast against the greasy taste of the fried dish.

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Pomelo Salad

pomelo_saladOne fascinating aspect of Thai cuisine is the liberal use of its many exotic fruits in its dishes. Mango, coconut, papaya and even banana are some famous examples.

Pomelo is a large conical fruit about the size of a small coconut. It has a firm peel which allows the fruit to be peeled neatly, like a mandarin orange. Quite strangely, it tastes very much like grapefruit except it is much sweeter and will not make one cringe. The segments, which may be a pale yellow or even pinkish, are laid out like those of an orange or grapefruit and are easily removed to be eaten.

Yam Som - O is a pomelo salad. This curious dish comprises segments of juicy and plump pomelo teased into small morsels. It is tossed with sliced raw cabbage, cooked shrimp and sprinkled with fried shallots. The dish is moistened with some spicy sauce. To top off the experience, the salad is generously sprinkled with freshly roasted and crushed peanuts, which impart a fragrance to this dish which is otherwise mildly spicy.

Like many Thai dishes, the pomelo salad offers a hybrid of tastes and sensation. The cabbage imparts a crispness which is interrupted by the soft and juicy segments of pomelo whose unique taste, whether sweetish or mildly sour, colours the entire dish. The varied texture of the shallots and the crunchiness of the roasted, crushed peanuts, add to the eating sensation.

Nick Lie


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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.

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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!

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Try a Thai Set Meal

Thai Set MealOrdering a set meal for dinner may appear to be the lazy way out of ploughing through a foreign menu. But there are certain advantages. One evening, three of us decided on a set meal each at a restaurant in Patpong. The price for each set meal ranged from 255 to 400 baht. Each set meal included FIVE dishes and white rice."

Unlike Western set dinners, the Thai set did not come with dessert and coffee, which was fine since there wasn't much room left after the meal. Each of us ordered a different set and yes, FIFTEEN dishes appeared quite promptly. And yes, the table was big enough indeed.

Although each dish was small, there were enough contents for the three to partake, and more. The set comprised a starter ( salad, dressed crab, spring roll ) a soup ( spicy shrimp soup, chicken with coconut soup ) a vegetable dish ( asparagus fried with shrimp, baby corn fried with shrimp ) a meat dish ( fried chicken with chili and cashew nuts ) and a curry ( green curry with chicken, curried pork ).

There were dips and sauces for the dishes, hence more palate-challenging experiences. Since I am no food critic, it suffices to state that the meal was thoroughly enjoyed by all. We felt we had tasted a wide range and style of Thai food, and this was all the more enjoyable without the tedium of a buffet meal which would normally be where such a wide selection can be sampled at one meal.

So, to the purists who feel that set menus are for the unimaginative, lazy or indifferent, Thai set dinners can alter your mindset. It is good value, exciting and allows a sampling of the foods you've always read about but never had a chance to try out. And allows you to pick out that special dish to order at future meals.

Nick Lie - Singapore

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And yet another coconut goodie!

Yet another coconut goodieCoconut and its derivatives are used in many aspects of Asian cooking, and this is no exception in Thai foods. Coconut-based foods include coconut rice, curries which use coconut as a milky base for the chillis, fragrant coconut oil, desserts and drinks.

The creative ways in which coconut is used for cooking never fail to amaze. I had ordered a 'coconut juice' one night during dinner. Expecting a cool glass of cloudy coconut water, I was surprised when I was brought a glass of thick, milk-white liquid. What I tasted impressed me so much I felt the recipe ought to be shared.

Crack a young coconut; pour the coconut water into a blender. Use a spoon to scrape the tender white flesh from the inside walls of the coconut. Place some scraping into the blender. You may add sweetened condensed milk for a sweeter, creamier drink. Blend the mixture thoroughly with some ice into a smooth thick drink.

Very simple to procure, elegant to create and excellent for the palate!

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An Introduction to Thai food

An introductin to Thai foodEvery self-respecting city in the world has a Thai restaurant. Happily, this is the extent of how international and pervasive Thai food has become. Therefore, no trip to Thailand is complete without an appreciation of this great eating experience and this short article hopes to introduce the newcomer to it.

Long before the term 'fusion cuisine' appeared in the vocabulary of food lovers, such a culture had already been well established in Thailand. Thai food incorporates other Indochinese food styles. Its larger neighbours especially China and the Indian subcontinent contributed significantly to the evolution of Thai food. Chinese cuisine introduced stir fried dishes and deep fried dishes. Rice noodles, a prominent component of Thai cuisine, is distinctly Chinese. Curries are certainly evidence of Indian influence. The Portuguese are thought to have introduced the use of chilli. There are also regional differences in Thai food, though this may not be immediately apparent.

A simple dish such as a soupy noodle with meat and vegetable slices is commonly eaten as a no frills and quick meal by individuals. Families or groups are more likely to enjoy a more elaborate meal whereby several dishes are ordered and portions shared out. This is ideal when trying out different categories of food e.g. meat, soup and vegetable dishes. Diners have a serving of rice or noodles which act as an anchor dish to which portions from the several dishes are added and eaten.

Unlike Western cuisine where food is served in courses, Thai food is served simultaneously. Shortly after placing your orders, the selected dishes would make their appearance, a colourful and aromatic display. The presence of multiple dishes allows a myriad of tastes and textures, mild or overpowering, to assault the senses all at the same time. Interestingly, as in many eastern cultures, soup is consumed concurrently with the rest of the food.

The culinary experience should be a treat for all the senses. From the colourful and perhaps curious mix of a papaya salad to the pungence of kapi, to the ultimate assault on the tastebuds from a tom yam and concluding with the pretty, dainty dessert snacks, eating Thai food ought to be a sensory experience. An ideal meal should achieve a blend of subtle, spicy, bland and sweet and sour.
  
The concept of ying and yang (simplistically, hot versus cold, warm versus cool, strong versus mild) is clearly featured in Thai cooking. Some dishes are 'cool' e.g. salads. They represent refreshment to the palate and the rest of the body. The use of strong chilli or spices, which make the dish fiery and 'hot' (in abstract terms, create a burning sensation to the gastrointestinal system) would represent the 'yang' component. Soups, traditionally 'ying' or 'cooling' (since water, even when warm, is considered a 'cooling' agent), can be subverted by the strong spices added to it as illustrated in tom yam or curried soups. A 'ying' salad may be garnished with strong, fiery spices, hence having a 'yang' component and consumed with a mild soup or a curried dish. Hence, Thai food creations exercise a concept of compatibility and harmonization individually and between dishes.
  
Nick Lie - Singapore

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