Tag - beautiful

Northern Laos

Northern Laos

Northern Laos
With lush forests, high plateaus, sparkling waterfalls, caves, mountains and rice fields, northern Laos is intensely beautiful. This area of Laos is very diverse and offers travellers a range of different experiences. Although travelling through this region is challenging, the rewards are significant and a warm welcome awaits those who venture off the tourist trail to explore the villages and small towns scattered throughout northern Laos.

This is where you will find the mysterious Plain of Jars, the enormous stone containers that cover the landscape. This is the perfect place to go trekking, especially around Luang Namtha and Phongsaly, while the Gibbon Experience offers visitors a rare opportunity to view these magnificent creatures in their natural environment.
This region of Laos is home to many of the hilltop tribes, each with their own unique styles of dress, culture and belief systems. Exploring northern Laos provides to opportunity to get to know a little about this interesting people and discover traditional village life.

Although this area has only been open to tourist for around 10 years, there are already a number of vibrant tourist hangouts in northern Laos. Top of the list is Vang Vieng, where travellers can indulge on Western food, explore the caves and float down the river in a large rubber tube. The nearby temple town of Luang Prabang is also particularly tourist friendly and there is plenty to see and do here.

Adventure sports are popular in northern Laos and this is a good place for white water rafting, hiking, cycling, rock climbing and a number of other activities. Simply walking through the countryside is a great way to spend a day or two as the scenery is always striking and many surprises await the adventurous.

The mighty Mekong River flows through northern Laos and into Thailand. A good way to continue exploring is to take a slow boat from Luang Prabang along the river into Thailand. The journey offers spectacular views of Laos and the chance to stay in the pretty village of Pakbeng along the way.

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Central Thailand

Central Thailand

Central Thailand

Central Thailand

Central Thailand
Most visitors to Thailand begin their journey in Central Thailand. Although many find the bustling capital city of Bangkok a little bit too populated and overwhelming, there are many beautiful locations close by. Whilst in the metropolis, check out the large lush parks, chill out at a rooftop bar and take a trip down the river to discover the sleepy Mon settlement of Koh Kret, which is famous for its pottery kilns and abundant beauty.

There are 19 provinces in Central Thailand, of which most are widely visited by tourists and international travelers. Perhaps the most well known province is Kanchanaburi, famous for the Bridge over the River Kwai, tiger temple and stunning natural scenery such as the Erawan National Park.

There are also several beautiful beaches in Central Thailand, and Hua Hin should not be missed, especially during the Jazz Festival, when thousands of people flock to the beaches to listen to some of the best jazz music from around the world.

Dotted around the region are some enchanting islands and especially worth visiting is the pleasant beach area of Cha-am, which is just a two hour bus journey from Bangkok. However, the island is very popular with Thai people and can become very crowded on the weekends and during major holidays.

whilst lovers of history will find their heart's desire amongst the interesting ruins of the Ayutthaya Historical Park and Nakhon Pathom, which is Thailand's oldest city and features the largest stupa in the world.

Generally speaking, travel within Central Thailand is undemanding as there is a good road and rail network. Catering to tourist tastes and taste buds, this is a good region in which to take it easy and acclimatize to Thailand.

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Beaufort, Malaysia

Beaufort, MalaysiaA great place to spend the night while passing through Eastern Malaysia, the town of Beaufort is just waiting to be explored. This is a great destination to just wader through aimlessly, as pretty wooden shop houses and other buildings can be found at every twist and turn and the town’s sleepy atmosphere gives it a rather enchanting feel.

Those who enjoy taking place in adventure sports will be able to try their hands at white water rafting on the Pandas River, which is just a short trip away. This river is not for the faint of heart however, as it varies between Grade Three and Grade Four, and those who dare to paddle a kayak along the nine kilometre run will have seven rapids to negotiate.

Other good ways of seeing all that the area has to offer include taking a train ride through the countryside and a cruise on Klias River. Dinner cruises can also be arranged and this is the perfect way to see the area’s wildlife in style and comfort whilst dining on delicious Malaysian dishes.

Another popular attraction near Beaufort is Pulau Tiga Marine Park. Situated on one of Malaysia’s most picturesque and interesting islands, the first season of the reality-TV series Survivor was shot here. This area of diverse natural beauty features mud volcanoes and sea snakes.

The train ride that takes passengers along the Padas River Gorge to the traditional village of Tenom is particularly pretty, and this makes an excellent daytrip activity for those who have the time to spare, while visitors who travel here on Friday evening will be able to dine in style at the weekly night market.

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Eastern Malaysia

Eastern Malaysia
Eastern Malaysia
Eastern Malaysia is divided from Central and northern Malaysia by the South China Sea. East Malaysia consists of the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, which are located on the island of Borneo, as well as the Federal Territory of Labuan, which lies off coast of Sabah. Although less populated than Peninsular Malaysia or West Malaysia, East Malaysia is much larger and contains more of the country’s natural resources.

Most visitors to Malaysia tend to head straight to East Malaysia to enjoy adventure activities such as trekking, caving, white water rafting and camping. There are a number of spectacularly beautiful national parks in this region of Malaysia such as Kubah National Park and Bako National Park.

East Malaysia is home to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, and thousands of people come here each year to interact with the old men of the forest. There are a number of beautiful beaches and islands to discover in this region of Malaysia as well as pretty towns to explore.

The people of East Malaysia are warm and welcoming and visiting the region’s villages is a rewarding experience. This region is famous for its diverse cuisine, and top of the menu is fresh fish, which is especially delicious when eaten on the beach at sunset.
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Champassak, Laos

Champassak, Laos
Champassak, Laos
Champassak, Laos
Situated in south-western Laos, The province of Champassak is stunningly beautiful and has a lot to offer visitors. The people who live here have a distinctly different language, culture and life style to people in the rest of Laos and this is an interesting place to explore.

Pakse is the capital of Champassak province and it is here you will find the enchanting irriwaddy dolphins. Take a boat trip on the Mekong River for a chance to spot these shy mammals as they play in the water and leap through the waves.

Situated on picturesque Done Khone Island, the Mekong Dolphin Conservation Centre is a good place to find out more about these interesting animals and how to protect them. Nearby you will find Wat Phou, which is located high atop a mountain and considered to be one of the most important sights in Laos. The temple dates back to the same period as Cambodia’s treasure Angkor Wat and offers spectacular views from the top.
Champassak is also home to the largest waterfalls in Southeast Asia. Known as Khone Pha Pheng, these pretty falls are easy to get to by boat or road and are a great place for a swim and a picnic, surrounded by dense jungle and a colourful array of wildlife.

Another great day trip is the Dong Hua Sao Forest reserve, which is a great place to spot a wide variety of wildlife. There are a large number of waterfalls to explore here such as the Li Phi falls and it is possible to spend the night.
The town of Champassak itself was home to the royal family until about 30 years ago and you will still find a large number of grand buildings here, including a collection from the French colonial-era, which make an interesting contract beside the traditional wooden Laotian houses and shining temples. The town has a sleepy feel to it these days and there are few vehicles to clog the streets.

There are plenty of things to do in Champassak such as elephant riding, trekking and boat rides. Champassak’s rich and fertile land is perfect for growing crops and you will find large coffee, cardamom and bananas plantations here, which make the perfect backdrop for a scenic country walk.
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Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos
Luang Prabang was formerly the capital of Laos and is situated at the meeting point of the Mekong and Mae Kok rivers in northern Laos. Most travellers in Laos make it to this large and inviting city at some point during their journey and this is a great place to spend a few days.

Luang Prabang Province is considered by many to be Laos’ cultural and heritage centre and here you will find a large collection of Buddhist monasteries, temples and monuments. The town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers some stunning examples of French architecture and traditional temple art.

Surrounded by dense jungle and sparkling rivers, Luang Prabang Province is extremely beautiful. The earth is a rich brown colour and to the north rocky mountains make an impressive backdrop. Trekking is popular here and there are a good range of activities available such as rock climbing and boat trips.

Among the largest and most impressive of Luang Prabang’s temples are Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Visoun and Wat Ou Tay, while the 24-metre high stupa of That Chomsi is an impressive sight. For spectacular views over the city climb to the top of Phu Si, which is also one of the best places to watch the sun set over the city.

There are plenty to see and do around the province. 30 miles north of Luang Prabang city is the cave of Tham Ting, which is filled with large Buddha images and is a prominent place of worship for the local people. The cave is situated right on the river and combined with the two hour boat trip to get there this is a great way to spend a day.

Another good day trip destination pretty the Tad Sae waterfall and Kuang Si waterfall, while the National Museum is a good place to learn more about the local culture and history. Topped by an impressive golden-spired stupa, Luang Prabang’s former royal palace has been transformed into the Palace Museum, and here you will find an impressive collection of regal artefacts and royal portraits

There are a large number of cheap guesthouses available in Luang Prabang and plenty of restaurants serving international food. A great time to visit is during one of the country’s festivals, when the streets are filled with colourful and noisy processions.   

Getting around Luang Prabang is easy and this is a great place to take it easy before venturing into the more remote areas of Laos.

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Chi Phat, Cambodia

Chi Phat, Cambodia
Chi Phat, Cambodia
Chi Phat, Cambodia
A popular destination with nature lovers who want to wander off of the beaten track, the charming village of Chi Pat can be found in the centre of the Cardamom Protected Forest. Chi Pat offers visitors a wide range of amenities such as accommodation and excellent restaurants, making this a great place to use as a base while exploring the area.

This is also a good place to get back to basics and retreat from the modern world for a while, as there is currently no running water here and electricity is often only available for a few hours a day. Nature lovers are sure to be in their element here, as they sit on the porch of their guesthouse and gaze at the freely wandering wildlife and listen to the sounds of the birds in the trees.

A large number of the local people here double as tour guides, and visitors to Chi Pat can take a walk through the Cardamom Protected Forest to discover a wide range of flora and fauna. Those with a little patience and good eyesight will be able to watch monkeys swinging through the trees and may also spot flying squirrels, lizards and hornbills.

Travellers who have a strong sense of adventure will want to take their turn at riding along one of the aerial ziplines, while canopy walks offer visitors the chance to take in the Cardamom Protected Forest from a bird’s perspective.

Or why not ride the rapids along the Stung Proat River for the ultimate thrilling experience. Those who prefer to explore independently can also hire a bicycle and cycle through the forest to destinations such as the local elephant rescue centre and waterfall.

Khmer people love to eat and despite the village’s remoteness there are a number of places where you can find a good meal. There are plenty of cheap food stalls in the covered market, while beside the river are a couple of restaurants beside a pool hall.

Getting to Chi Pat is simple and adventurous, as buses regularly complete the four-hour road journey from Phnom Penh. Travellers will be deposited at the side of the road, where they then take a three-hour boat ride up the river, which is the perfect way to see the surrounding countryside.
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Kep, Cambodia

Kep, Cambodia
Kep, Cambodia
Often overlooked by visitors to southern Cambodia, the sleepy town of Kep is a great place to spend a little time. The town is surrounded by the intense natural beauty of dense jungle, rolling hills and stretches of golden sand, and nature lovers are sure to be in their element here.
Known as the ‘Riviera of Asia’ when it was established at the turn of the 20th century by French colonists, Kep served as a vibrant beach destination for several decades, before the Khmer Rouge arrived in the area and turned things on their head. However, Kep is slowly and surely being restored, and this is the perfect time to visit the area.

Those who can bear to tear themselves away from the beach for an hour or two will want to take in the stunning views from the summit of Kep Hill. To get there, visitors simply need to wander along a gently looping trail through the jungle, perhaps pausing to gaze at wildlife such as playful monkeys along the way.

The pretty tropical Rabbit Island is situated five kilometres off the coast of Kep, and can be reached by hiring a boat. Those who want to escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life can spend the night in a tiny wooden hut on the island before returning to Kep the next day.

Water sports such as snorkelling and scuba diving are popular activities among those who visit Kep, and a large number of companies offer to rent out equipment, while those who like messing about on the water should rent a speedboat or a catamaran from the Sailing Club.  

Kep is a great place to eat, with fresh seafood being top of the menu. Fresh crab is particularly popular here and Kep to offer to tastiest crab in Cambodia. There are a good number of restaurants and bars here, most offering a variety of international dishes as well as traditional Khmer cuisine. Grab and good meal and a drink or two and watch as the sun slowly slips behind the horizon. Pure perfection.
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Kratie, Cambodia

Kratie, Cambodia
kratie_4
Situated on the banks of the Mekong River in eastern Cambodia, Kratie is a pretty colonial town surrounded by natural beauty. Although not a major tourist attraction in itself, large numbers of people flock here for the chance to spot the beautiful Irrawaddy Dolphins.

It is possible to visit Kratie on a day trip from Stung Treng, which is three hours away. However, Kratie’s quiet charm and the warmth of the local people coaxes many people to extend their stay for several days in order to explore fully and enjoy the tranquillity.

Kratie was developed by French colonialists towards the end of the 19th century and as you explore you will discover a number of French colonial buildings nestled alongside traditional wooden Cambodian houses.

Tragically, there are less than a hundred Irrawaddy Dolphins play in the waters of the mighty Mekong. A good time to spot them is at sunset and you can hire a boat and driver to take you out onto the river.

Perhaps the best way to fully explore Kratie is by hiring a bicycle from one of the many guesthouses. Cycle to the pretty pagoda of Sasar Moy Roy with its 100 pillars. According to legend this pagoda holds the ashes of a princess who was killed by a crocodile more than 500 years ago.

 Climb the steps to the top of Phnom Sambok for fantastic views of the river and surrounding countryside and visit the traditional Cambodian temple of Wat Roka Kandal. Forget about noisy motos, horse and cart is the main form of transport in Kratie and this is an interesting way to get around and see the sights.

There are a number of pretty islands close to Kratie such as Koh Trong and Kho Pdao. As you explore you will also discover a number of floating villages, where you can watch fish being caught in the traditional way and perhaps buy the catch of the day to be cooked at one of the local restaurants.

The sunsets over Kratie are simply spectacular and many people gather in the evening to watch the dying of the day. Enjoy freshly caught river fish at one of the many riverside restaurants and wash it down with a beer or two for the perfect end to a relaxing day.  

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Pursat, Cambodia

Pursat, Cambodia
Pursat, Cambodia
Pursat, Cambodia
This picturesque and peaceful town is a great place to unwind for a while and it serves as a base for those wishing to explore the stunningly beautiful Central Cardamoms Protected Forest. Pursat is also a transit point Battambang and Phnom Penh and this is a pretty place to pause and slow the pace a little as you travel between the two cities.

One of Pursat’s most famous features is its marble carvers, and visitors will have the chance to watch local craftsmen honing their skills in various workshops as they explore and it is even possible to purchase finished pieces to take home as gifts and souvenirs.

The floating village of Kompong Luong is a great place for a day trip. Situated on the mighty Tonle Sap Lake, this is a pretty place to explore and watch the fishermen at work. There are also a number of good restaurants here serving fresh fish and traditional Khmer dishes.
 
Another good day trip destination is Nhek Ta Khleang Moeung, where people travel to of worship the spirit of Nhek Ta and ask for his assistance. The site is situated 3 miles from Pursat and is a particularly pleasant walk.

Slightly further away, the sacred site of Baktra is also worth visiting. Climb the high hill for spectacular views of the area and see the pretty forest stream and natural wells. For an alternative way to see the countryside, take a trip on the traditional bamboo railway before returning to Pursat for a good meal in one of the local restaurants.

As you explore the area you will discover a number of pretty waterfalls, which are the perfect place to cool down after hiking in the heat of the day. In the evening, join the local people who gather in the small park near the bridge to enjoy the cool river breeze and relaxed atmosphere.
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Koh Phi Phi, Thailand


Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
An area of incredible natural beauty situated in Krabi Province, there are actual two main islands of Koh Phi Phi; Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh. The Phi Phi Islands are believed by many to be among the most beautiful tropical islands in the world and have become one of Thailand's most popular tourist attractions.

Koh Phi Phi Don is the area's tourist hub. This is where you will find the majority of the hotels, beach bungalows, bars and restaurants. Koh Phi Phi Don covers an area of 28 square kilometres and features the twin bays of Ao Ton Sai and Ao Lo Da Lam with their stunning curving white sandy beaches, the perfect picture of an exotic tropical paradise. A great way to get an idea of the island's true beauty is to tackle the 1000 foot vertical climb to Viewpoint. Although slightly challenging, the climb, which takes you through a lush leafy jungle, and the view more than make up for it.

There are many interesting activities to engage in on Koh Phi Phi Don, and it is easy to spend a week or more there. Fire jugglers and beach bars make up the evening entertainment, and there are plenty of restaurants showing western movies throughout the day and late into the night. There is dancing on the beach most nights. To experience a true touch of hedonism, visit the island around the full moon.

The sunset yoga classes on the beach are a good way to unwind, and you can learn a new skill and impress your friends by taking Thai cookery classes.

When it comes to food, just about every taste can be catered for, whether you fancy a fish barbecue on the beach, an all-you-can-eat feast or traditional Thai cooking. There is also a small market where you can eat with the locals at dramatically reduced prices and this is a good place to buy fresh fruit.

The clear waters, beautiful coral and colourful fish mean that the area is popular for diving and snorkelling, whilst many visit the island to climb the limestone cliffs. Boat trips are extremely popular and are usually combined with snorkelling and a visit to the extremely striking island of Koh Phi Phi Leh.

Koh Phi Phi Leh is famous for Ao Maya - the location where the movie "The Beach" was filmed. The island covers a mere 6.6 square kilometres and is surrounded by limestone mountains and sheer cliffs, which plunge hundreds of metres to the sparkling blue sea. The sea is around 20 metres deep and the deepest point to the

south of the island is approximately 34 metres. There is no accommodation on Koh Phi Phi Leh, and the only way to see it is by an arranged boat trip.

Koh Phi Phi Other islands in the area to explore include Koh Jam (also know as Koh Pu) and Koh Si Buya. Although extremely pretty, both of these small islands are less popular with tourists and are great places to stay if you want to avoid the crowds.

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Surat Thani, Thailand

surat_thani_1
Surat Thani, Thailand
Surat Thani, Thailand
Surat Thani, Thailand
Surat Thani is the largest province in the south of Thailand and is located 685 kilometres from Bangkok. The name literally means "City of the Good People" in the Thai language and features high plateaus and richly forested mountains, low river basins and numerous pretty little islands. This is the perfect place for losing yourself for a week or two and simply drifting away for a while.

Surat Thani Province is home to several great tourist destinations, including Ko Samui, Ko Pha-ngan, Ko Tao and the stunningly beautiful Ang Thong Marine National Park.

Although to many people the town of Surat Thani is simply a stop off point on the way to one of the area's beautiful tourist destinations, the town and surrounding area actually has a lot to offer and is worth looking at more closely.

Worth exploring is the tiny village known as Chaiya. In the village you will find Wat Suan Mokkhaphalaram, which is a tranquil forest temple founded by Ajahn Buddhadasa Bhikku, who is perhaps Thailand's most famous monk. The temple holds monthly meditation retreats, and this is a perfect place to get in touch with your spiritual side and discover a sense of inner peace and harmony.

Also situated in the village is the Chaiya National Museum, which is a good place to discover the area's interesting history. Another interesting place is the Folklore Museum, which is located around 300 meters from Chaiya, whilst Ban Phumriang is a small handicraft village, which can be found 6 kilometres east of Chaiya.

The stunning Khao Sok National Park features 646 square kilometres of thick rainforest and mountains. With its sparkling waterfalls, mysterious caves and cool lakes, this area has an ancient feel about it. Elephant trekking is a great way to explore, and you can spend the night on a floating lodge if you find yourself reluctant to leave and return to the 'real' world straight away.

When it comes to eating, just about anything is possible in this province of plenty. If you love oysters, pay a visit to the Oyster Farms, where you can buy large fresh oysters for a bargain price.

The Chak Phra Festival is an interesting event which takes place each year immediately after the end of the three month rain retreat in October. Although widely celebrated, Surat Thani's festivals are particularly vibrant and long anticipated. The festival features elaborately decorated floats, which are pulled across the town by the eager participants. At the same time, a float decorated

with colorful Thai design carries an auspicious Buddha image across the water. The festival also features an exciting boat race and traditional songs, dancing and games.

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Ranong, Thailand

Ranong, Thailand
Ranong, Thailand
Ranong, Thailand
Ranong, Thailand
Ranong is a province located on the western coast of south Thailand. Located 568 kilometres from Bangkok, is next to the Myanmar border, and many people cross from Ranong into Myanmar. However, Ranong is an area of intense natural beauty, and there are many reasons to pause here for awhile. Indeed, many visitors plan to stop over for the night and extend their stay for several days.

Ranong Province is known for having the highest rainfall of all Thailand and its rainy season lasts for about 8 months, as apposed to three or four months of relatively light rainfall in much of the rest of the country. This means that the rest of the year Ranong is particularly beautiful, blessed with waterfalls, sun kissed islands, pristine national parks and unspoiled mangrove forests.

Affirmed as a national park in 1983, Laem Son National Park should be top of the list for visitors to Ranong Province as it contains more than 20 pretty islands, mangrove swamps, birds, fish, deer and monkeys. Key attractions in the park are Hat Bang Ben, which is particularly good for swimming, the friendly island of Koh Phayam and Koh Kam Yai, where you can camp or stay in a beach bungalow. Koh Kam Yai is a great place to stay if you like snorkelling, while you can watch sea turtles lay their eggs on the beautiful beach of Hat Praphat.

Another area of natural beauty is the Khlong Phrao National Park, which is near the pretty waterfall known as Namtok Ngao and the Ngao Mangrove Forest Research Centre. Also worth exploring are the Punyaban Falls, which are a good place to swim after trekking through the forest.

With only 18 homes on the entire island, Koh Chang is a very peaceful island just waiting to be explored, while the Ranong Mineral Hot Springs are revered for their sacred water, which is believed to have healing powers and is certainly a great place to ease aching muscles after a day or two of exploring.

The live-aboard diving trips offered in this area offer a new type of experience to people who love diving and snorkelling, while you can climb to the top of Khao Fa Chi for an excellent view of the area.

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Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand

Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
Located roughly 280 kilometres south of Bangkok, Prachuap Khiri Khan was established during the reign of King Rama IV in 1845. The province is well known because of its beautiful natural scenery, which includes stunning sandy beaches, cool caves, limestone cliffs and mountains.

Most visitors are draw to the province by the pretty town of Hua Hin, which was previously a royal resort, and is an excellent seaside location with an incredible beach. There are many large designer shops in Hua Hin as well as seaside souvenir stalls, making this a good place to indulge in a little retail therapy.

The Hua Hin Jazz Festival takes place around the first week in June and usually lasts two or three days. With well known bands and solo artists from all over the world, this is an event not to be missed.

Another great seaside town is the capital, also called Prachuap Khiri Khan. Here you will find Wat Thammikaram, which is a temple set atop a steep hill. Although climbing to the top of this hill is a bit of an effort, the spectacular views of the bay and surrounding countryside more than make up for it. There are a large troop of monkeys living in the temple grounds, which has earnt the temple the nickname of 'Monkey Temple'. The temple is located at the top of Khao Chong Krajok (Mirror Tunnel Mountain).

Another area of great natural beauty is the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, which was established in 1966 to protect Thailand's largest freshwater marshes and contains pretty limestone cliffs and beaches.

Other beaches in the area include Ao Bang Nam Lom, Ao Noi and Ao Manao. Hat Ha Kaw is another lovely beach, whilst next to it is the King Mongkut Memorial Park of Science & Technology, which commemorates the 1868 solar eclipse that the great king witnessed from this spot with his son.

Nature lovers can pay a visit to the Wildlife Friends of Thailand Rescue Centre, which has committed itself to looking after animals of every species and another good way to spend an afternoon is to visit Wat Khao Tham Khan Kradai, which is a small cave temple situated at the end of a long, beautiful bay.

Like in most of Thailand's beach resorts, snorkeling and scuba diving trips are readily available, and another good way to get an idea of the true beauty of this area is to go on a boat trip around the coast.

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Phetchaburi, Thailand

Phetchaburi, Thailand
Phetchaburi, Thailand
Phetchaburi, Thailand
Phetchaburi, Thailand
Located in the central region of Thailand, Phetchaburi Province can be found approximately 160 kilometers south of Bangkok. This is an area of rich historical and archeological interest as well as surrounding nature such as caves, waterfalls and beautiful sandy beaches. Phetchaburi, also known as Phetburi, is the capital of the Phetchaburi Province. This old royal city dates back to the Mon period of the 8th century. The style of the buildings in the city and surrounding area can be seen to reflect the style of the ancient Mon people, the Khmers and also the traditional Thai style. Phetchaburi province is well known for its large number of beautiful caves. Particularly of interest are the Khao Luang caves, which are located 5 kilometers north of the capital city. There are several Buddha statues inside the caves including a magnificent large reclining Buddha statue.

The area is also well known for the mysterious cave of Khao Wang and the Phra Nakhon Kriri Historical Park, which includes King Mongkut's Palace. A great way to explore the Historical Park and to conserve energy is to make use of the quaint tram which circuits the large park area.

Phra Ratchawang Ban Peun is an interesting temple located 1 kilometre south of the city inside a military base, whilst the local night market is a great place to get a good meal and do some shopping.

Many people stop off in the province in order to visit the beautiful beach resort of Cha-am, with its sparkling sea and inviting golden sand, just a 40 minute bus ride from the city of Petchaburi. Cha-am is very popular on the weekends and during holidays, but visitors will find that it can be very peaceful during the week.

Another great day trip is the Kaeng Krachan National Park, which features the amazing Pa La-U waterfalls and with its lush jungles is a good place to go trekking and discover some of the area's rich flora and fauna.

It is worth trying to time your trip to coincide with the Phra Nakhon Khiri Fair. This vibrant festival takes place in early February, lasts for eight days and includes a colourful sound and light show and displays of classical Thai dancing. During the fair the town takes on the feel of a fairy tale as the temples are decorated with lights and people dress in traditional costume to perform the unique dances.

If you are in Cha-am in late September, look out for the Feast-Fish-Flock Seafood Festival, when the seaside town celebrates the wealth brought to it from the fruits of the sea and displays all it has to offer

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Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Kanchanaburi is the largest of Thailand's central provinces. Just two hours from Bangkok by bus or train, Kanchanaburi makes a great place for a day trip, although the stunning natural beauty of the area, combined with its intriguing turbulent history often entices people to stay for several days or even a few weeks.

There are two main towns in Kanchanaburi Province that are popular with visitors; Kanchanaburi city, which is the capital of Kanchanaburi Province, and the picturesque border town of Sangkhlaburi.

Located on the banks of the Kwae Noi, or River Kwai as it is popularly know to travelers, Kanchanaburi city is the home of the famous Bridge on the River Kwai, which is visited each year by thousands of tourists from every country.

Surrounded by beautiful mountains, lush paddy fields and farms, there is no limit to what can be seen and done in this interesting region. A great way to view the countryside is to ride the Death Railway to Nam Tok. Once there, make sure you visit the Sai Yok National Park with its two Sai Yok waterfalls, the perfect way to cool down on a hot sunny day. Whilst in Sai Yok, check out the Mueang Sing historical park, where you will discover the ruins of a Khmer town and temple.

The spectacular seven-tiered Erawan waterfall, situated in the Erawan National Park must not be missed, and climbing the 1,500 feet to the very top offers incredible views out over the top of the jungle. It is easy to combine a visit to Erawan National Park with a trip to the nearby tiger temple of Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, where many tame tigers reside and roam freely under the watchful eye of the gentle monks who also live there.

Of course, Kanchanaburi is famous for its World War II POW camps, and visits to the JEATH War Museum and the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum are good places to find out the facts behind this sad period of history, whilst people can pay their respects at the Kanchanaburi War Cemeteries.

There is plenty for the adventurous to do and activities such as trekking, cave exploration, elephant riding and canoeing are all popular. Kanchanaburi's roads are good and clearly sign posted, so a good way to spend a day or two is to hire a bicycle or a motorbike and drive off into the countryside.

It's worth trying to time your trip to coincide with the River Khwae Bridge week, which is celebrated around November with sound and light shows at the Death Railway Bridge.

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Chiang Khan, Thailand

Chiang Khan, Thailand
Chiang Khan, Thailand
chiang_khan_2
Chiang Khan, Thailand
Situated in the northern part of Loei Province, Chiang Khan is the perfect postcard destination. This quaint little town is full of traditional timber houses and boasts a beautiful riverside location. This is natural location is a great place to unwind for a while or prepare to take a meditation course.

The village is easy to walk around and the many temples make good places to stop and explore. Wat Pa Klang is interesting as it is more than 100 years old, whilst Wat Mahathat is the village's oldest temple. Also worth visiting are Wat Santi, Wat Thatkhok, Wat Si Khun Meuang and Wat Tha Khaek.

12 kilometers to the east of Chiang Khan, the monastic centre of Samnak Song Phu Pha Baen is a great place for a day trip. Here you will witness the rare and unforgettable sight of monks meditating in caves and on tree platforms.

Another great day trip is the Tai Dam village of Ban Napanard, where you can interact with the Tai Dam people and learn all about them at the Tai Dam Cultural Centre. You can even choose to stay on in one of the home-stay rooms to get a real feel of the culture and general way of life of these people, who originally migrated from Laos more than 100 years ago to live peacefully in Thailand.

For the adventurous, the opportunity to ride the rapids at Kaeng Khut Khu might prove irresistible. The rapids are located 6 kilometers from Chiang Khan. It is easy to hire a bicycle and cycle to Kaeng Khut Khu, or you can easily arrange a boat trip from Chiang Khan and enjoy a relaxing boat trip along the Mekong River.

Although valued for its peace and quiet, this little village definitely knows how to party. Those arriving during wan awk phansaa at Buddhist Rains Retreat in late October will experience an entirely different atmosphere. Chiang Khan marks the end of Buddhist lent with a week of celebrations. The boat races can get especially wild, and the giant carved wax candles are extremely beautiful. Definitely an event not to be missed.

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Buriram, Thailand

Buriram, Thailand
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Buriram, Thailand
Many places in Thailand are given poetic names and Buriram, which means City of Happiness, is no exception. The town of Buriram is the capital of Buriram Province in Isan and is located roughly 410 kilometers northeast of Bangkok.

Located on the northeastern railway line and with a regional airport; Buriram Airport, Buriram is easily assessable. Buriram Province is steeped in history and the beautiful backdrop makes this a good place in which to chill out for a few days and to get to know Thailand.

The Phanom Rung Historical Park, 40 kilometres south of Buriram town is situated on the summit of an erupted volcano and has spectacular views of the surrounding paddy fields. This thousand-year-old site contains one of the most important Khmer sites outside Cambodia, the magnificent Phanom Rung temple, which is also the largest Khmer monument in Thailand.

The Khmer temple at nearby Prasat Meung Tam is also well worth a visit, and there are dozens of other interesting Khmer ruins in the area such as Kuti Reusi Nong Bua Rai, Kuti Reusi Khok Meuang and Prasat Khao Praibat.

Bird enthusiasts should check out the Buriram Bird Park, and the ancient kilns at Tao Sawai ancient kilns offer an insight into the craft of pottery.

The Lower Isan Cultural Centre is a good place to visit to learn more about the rich and interesting history and people of this unique area, and the beautiful Khao Kradong Forest Park, with its enormous Buddha image crowning a hill offers spectacular views over the lush green countryside.

Buriram Province is some what cooler than most of Thailand and a great way to explore the region and pass a few days is to hire a bicycle and explore.

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Halong Bay: Vietnam’s Jewel on the Water

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Halong Bay: Vietnam's Jewel on the Water
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The legend of Halong Bay is a fine one. In the time of Chinese invaders, the gods sent a family of dragons to Vietnam's coast in order to protect its people. The dragons spat jewels and jade into the water, forming beautiful islands which densely filled the Gulf of Tonkin, forming a barrier against invaders. Today, the only foreigners occupying Halong Bay are curious travellers from around the world, who come in peaceful hordes to see Vietnam's finest natural wonder.

Spanning 1500 square kilometres, the "Bay of the Descending Dragon" lies east of Hanoi and attracts tourists of all forms. Visitors can choose from a simple daytrip boat tour, a 5-day blitz of island exploration, or something in between. If you have time, we strongly encourage a 2 or 3 day tour of the bay to best witness its beauty. While the sky's the limit in terms of cruise luxuries (and costs), this traveller took a comfortable all-inclusive (minus alcohol, naturally) 2-day trip for 30$USD.

Because tour options are varied, travellers should have no trouble choosing a package to suit their tastes. Couples can soak up the romance of a smaller cruise; nature-lovers can opt for expensive cave tours, and sporty travellers can hike, bike, kayak and swim, all in one trip. When booking a tour, we recommend that you ask the agent to write out everything included in the package; sights to be toured, kayaking and biking options, et cetera. Some tourists are stuck with boat crews cutting back on activities to save travel time.

Once off the mainland and upon a tourboat, options are plentiful. Between big, delicious meals prepared by the boat crew, tourists can relax on the sundeck, swim, kayak, and snap pictures aplenty of the scenic islands. The boats make stops for guided tours of Ha Long's famous caves, full of stalactites and stalagmites and steeped in local folklore, explained by friendly guides. At night, tired tourists can put their feet up, taste some of Hanoi's local wine or beer, and looc up at the stars while chatting with other passengers. Your boat crew may speak of a a post-dinner karaoke affair, though be warned that the music is mostly tinny Vietnamese pop. Feel free to decline a turn on the mic, or else dive in and chalk it up to a cultural experience.

After a peaceful sleep in your ship's cabin, don't be alarmed if you wake up to the chipper "good mornings" of vendors rowing up to your boat on rafts laden with cigarettes, Coke, biscuits and other western staples. Despite its idyllic appearance, Halong Bay remains an iconic point on the tourist trail, and local people from nearby towns and floating villages know the value of this economy.

The next morning, those on 2-day tours can enjoy more swimming and scenery before the journey home. Travellers on longer trips disembark on popular Cat Bat island for hiking and cycling through its jungle terrain. Depending on the tour, they might also take a kayaking tour through Ha Long's caves. Whatever the itinerary, and whatever your tourist tastes may be, Halong Bay is a stunning, relaxing, must-see excursion for any traveller.

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

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A Solo Woman’s Guide to Thailand

Sisters Are Doin It For Themselves!A Solo Woman's Guide to Thailand
  
I salute any woman who travels Thailand alone. On a solo trip, she faces the challenges of navigating an exotic country, language and culture. In addition to this, she will notice that while Thailand can be fawningly friendly to visiting males, it's harder for the lady tourist to find her place in the scheme. Still, every girl's experience of Thailand should be a great one. From the bustle of Bangkok to the blissfully lazy islands, here are a few tips I've amassed along the way.
  

DO be prepared to get stared at

  
For Westerners this may seem rude, but in Thailand, it's appropriate to comment frankly on a person's appearance. Step into a clothing shop and your body will no doubt be scrutinized aloud by saleswomen. This is sometimes done with whispers, sometimes with an uncomfortable poke in the stomach. Back home it would be invasive and rude. In Thailand, however, this is not unusual behaviour.
  
Likewise, a white woman will hear the line "you're so beautiful" on a daily basis. While it might make you blush, this comment is mostly harmless, made by leering men and gawking schoolchildren alike. Many Thai people don't bother concealing their fascination with other races. Don't be alarmed when people touch your lighter skin or wavier hair.
  
DON'T be careless when it comes to possessions
  
Bag theft is common in Southeast Asia, and women are especially vulnerable, since purses are worn over one shoulder, and can easily be grabbed or cut. If you're using this advice as an excuse to shop for new purses, I'd recommend a bag with thick straps that fastens or zips shut. Hold your bag close to your body, especially in tight crowds, and remember to carry a one-shouldered bag on the inside of the street. Thieves will sometimes attempt a drive-by grab by motorbike
  
DO know when to blow the budget
  
It's true that by Western standards, goods and services in Thailand are fantastically inexpensive. Still, any tourist worth her malaria meds can tell you a story or two about getting ripped off. Few things are more frustrating than trying to haggle a price with a smugly unsympathetic cabbie or waiter. Sometimes, however, it's best for your own safety to suck it up.
  
Walking at night to avoid inflated taxi costs is a bad idea, period. Opting for a guesthouse that's cheap but shady is also unadvisable. You'll likely be fine, but the risk just isn't worth it. If you must compromise something on the budget, try eating at local foodstalls instead of tourist restaurants for a few days. There's no point in compromising safety to save a few baht.
  
DON'T be afraid to lie a little
  
East or West, there are some universal truths. Despite cultural differences, any man should know that "I'm meeting my boyfriend" is a nice way of saying "stop talking to me, please." However, there's no need to whip it out like a can of mace for every man who tries to speak to you. Sometimes you'll meet solo male travelers looking to chat, or local men who are simply trying to be kind. While it's smart to keep some details to yourself, like your guesthouse and room number, many of these conversations will turn out to be harmless. Despite what your grandmother might have warned, men aren't always after one thing.
  
DO seek the company of other solo females
  
You'll not only have an ally in finding cheap rooms and worthwhile sights, you'll be in great company. It takes an independent spirit to embark on a solo trip, especially as a woman exploring cultures in which gender roles are so different from those in the West. Nine times out of ten, women who travel alone are a cool, confident bunch. Don't be shy about striking up a conversation at random, as most solo travelers are also seeking to socialize. You can also share your insights on other woman-friendly travelspots, or laugh over tales of trying to pronounce the Thai word for "tampons." (It's tairm-porn)
  
DON'T get too disheartened
  
Yes, Thailand boasts beautiful landscape, humbling temples, and fantastic cuisine. However, one can't help but notice that some tourism is geared at less innocent pursuits. The prevalence of hostesses and go-go dancers in the most relaxed of bars can make a girl uncomfortable. Most women who travel through Thailand leave with a new perspective of Asian tourism, often a negative one. While it's hard to ignore, I can only advise that female travelers seek out good company and take it in as a learning experience. Bear in mind also that this industry is a small portion of Thailand's national identity. At the very least, it gives a girl a new appreciation of equal rights.

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

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Dusit Zoo

Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
Dusit Zoo
I am not usually a fan of zoos. The though of powerful and beautiful wild creatures confined to cramped, macabre-looking cages gives me the urge to storm into the nearest zoo and release the mighty beasts. However, for a long time my Thai friends had been singing the praises of Dusit Zoo. "You must go," they would enthuse. "It is so wonderful." Finally, my curiosity got the better of me. And so, feeling extremely skeptical and a little guilty, I found myself at the zoo entrance one Friday afternoon.      

As soon as I enter, I am greeted by the arresting natural beauty of the lake. Dozens of ducks and geese waddle on the grassy shore and float freely in the cool water. Over-hung with lush trees, the lake is a piece of Eden in Bangkok's bustling metropolis.

Following the signs, I make my way over a bridge and find Bird Island. I push through the mesh-covered door and simply stare in amazement. I seem to be in the middle of a dense jungle! Overhead, birds and butterflies flutter and flap freely. In amongst the rich exotic plants, peacocks and other brightly-hued birds wander.

This is so far from the image in my mind that I feel my heart soar. As I explore, I find a few beautiful hornbills in cages. However, these cages are large and full of vegetation. As the graceful birds demonstrate, there is plenty of room for them to shake a tail feather.

Feeling elated, I leave Bird Island and find the gorgeous big black bears. They reside in a large, grassy compound. I am delighted to see that there are no cages in use here. Instead, the bears are surrounded by a moat filled with live fish; lunch on demand. The bears are enjoying a midday snooze, lazily stretching and wiggling their noses.

Next door, the mole-like sun bears are showing off their bellies by standing on their hind legs. They stay on a similar island, this time with a waterfall providing a natural shower.

Taking a left, I discover the impressive white Siberian tigers. They too live on a natural grassy island, sheltering from the heat in the shade of a natural rock cave.

So far I have been impressed by the zoo's natural approach to animal captivity. However, when I wander through the tiger tunnel I am met by the more traditional zoo scenes; tigers, leopards and lions confined to somewhat small, metal cages. In one, a lioness is lovingly licking the back of her mate. She seems unaware of her cramped conditions, but my heart goes out to her nonetheless.

Feeling rather irate, I find one of the zoo workers and question him about the animals' conditions. "Why are some of the animals in such natural-looking enclosures, whilst others are cruelly confined?" I demand angrily. "It is a shame, I know," the friendly Thai man calmly replies. "But we are trying to change the cages. We must wait for more money, you understand?" The man points to the gorillas, who also relax on their own natural island. "In many zoos, these beautiful animals would have cages too, but not here. Here they are freer." As I watch the gorillas swinging through the trees, I cannot help but agree.

Dusit Zoo covers an area of more than 47 acres and is home to over 300 mammals, 1,300 birds and 190 reptiles. It was formerly part of the Royal Dusit Garden Palace, or "Khao Din Wana" in Thai. Established by King Rama V, this was his private botanical garden.

In 1938, the Prime Minister of Thailand asked King Rama VIII to grant him the land so that he could open the zoo to the public. The king consented and, once it had been established by the Bangkok Municipality, the zoo was opened. It was turned over to the Zoological park Organization in February 1954.

The zoo has employed many field-trained zoologists, who have helped design the enclosures. The idea was to ensure that the instincts and behaviours of the wild animals were preserved as much as possible.

Wandering around the grounds, I come across the lemurs. These too are housed in mesh cages, although rather larger with tree trunks to climb and rope to swing from.

As I watch, a cheekily confident ring-tailed lemur springs onto the mesh right in front of my nose, making me jump!

A little further into the park, I come across a family of happy hippos wallowing in a large muddy pool. I watch transfixed as the male and female play with the tiny - well, tiny for a hippo - baby. The way their ears swivel is enchanting in way a way I could never explain.

After a lot of searching, I finally track down the elephants. Their enclosure is currently being transformed, although the keeper doesn't know the plans.

Finally, it is time for me to leave. I cannot resist visiting the sun bears once more before I leave. One stands on his hind legs and wriggles his nose in farewell.

Information:

Entrance to Dusit Zoo costs just 100 Baht. It is open 9 am - 6 pm daily.

Getting There:


The main entrance is off Ratwithi Road. You can take many buses, including 70 from Chosen Road, 18, 28 or air-con bus number 10.   

About the author:

Kirsty Turner This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

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