Tag - food

A Month in the Floods of Salaya – Part 7

The return - (23/11/11)

A month in the floods of Salaya
A month in the floods of Salaya

When I arrived at Bang Sue station to take the train back to Salaya, it was a much livelier place than it had been two-weeks previously.  The ticket seller sold me a ticket for the 4.08 pm train without a moment’s hesitation.  As we reached the flood-zone on the western side of the Chao Phraya river, the water seemed to have receded slightly in places and the speed of the journey took me by surprise as I suddenly saw the Salaya sign and quickly scrambled off the train less than an hour after departing.  The water appeared slightly lower but the platform community seemed to have grown.  There were also a lot of people waiting for a train to Bangkok.  I was ushered into a wooden boat paddled by a young bare-chested man.  He negotiated the flood waters expertly with his single oar.

I paid him 20 baht and stepped onto the road at the bottom of the bridge.  There was a fleet of motor-bike taxis waiting at the bottom of the bridge in the shade of a tarpaulin roof on a metal frame.   I walked with my bag to Pitchaya Apartments and found Tu and Ter, Ter’s mother, brother and a friend.  They offered me some dinner and I gave Tu the cigarettes she’d ordered from Bangkok. 

I popped in to see U and Pui at the coffee shop.  Their plank walkway was well above the water and I was offered a tot of whiskey. U informed me that my soi was dry.  Their latest estimate was that the water would be down to near-normal levels in about seven days.  As I walked home, I noticed that the roadside dwellers had a few smoky fires lit on the grass verge and guessed they were to fend off the invasive mosquitoes.  As I continued down the traffic-free road followed by some curious dogs, I passed two or three small snakes, their light-coloured bellies squashed on the tarmac.  A man with a torch was cruising the edges of the flood water with a trident-spear.

I arrived at my soi and was relieved to see that U was right and that my soi was dry and dusty with the sediment of the vanished waters.  My front yard was a mess with the debris of the receded water.  My bin on the wall was still full, my plants sat up there too, looking like I’d abandoned them during a drought and  when I opened my fridge it gave off a nauseous odour.  But all-in-all, I could only reflect that I had got off very very lightly .. this year.

Paul Wilson is a some time actor, stand-up comedian and cartoonist.

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Paul Wilson is a sometime actor, stand-up comedian and cartoonist. Visit Paul's Top Man Tone Facebook Page...

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A Month in the Floods of Salaya – Part 6

A month in the floods of Salaya
A month in the floods of Salaya
Salaya to Bangkok by train (10/11/11)


When I checked the water level at my doorstep, it had receded another centimeter.  I packed my bag for a trip to Bangkok by train.  As I splashed up the soi, one of my neighbour’s, Yui, informed me that she and a couple of other residents were also going to Bangkok by train and that a train was due to leave Salaya station at 2pm.  I thanked her for the information and said I would see her on the platform. 

The 20-baht boat ride from the bridge over khlong Maha Sawat was paddled by an out-of-work office worker.  As we made our way slowly past flooded houses and store-fronts and through trees to the station, she told me that a large crocodile had been spotted further down the flooded railway track.  When I arrived at the station, only the two platforms were above the floodwater. The right hand side platform was a bustling community with the flooded market as a backdrop. There were food sellers, the odd pick-up, tents and tarpaulins accommodating families and dogs as well as a few would-be passengers all sheltering from the afternoon sun.  I was greeted by my neighbours from the soi and was offered a place in the shade.  I was informed that the train was not due to arrive until about 4pm so I had plenty of time to wander up and down the platforms.  I bought some food and drink though there was no drinking water to be found.  I was generously offered whisky as well as a ‘boxing’ by some of the men.  
The train finally arrived making its way slowly through the water covering the track.  People loaded their bags and there was plenty of available space on the wooden bench seats.  I found a spot next to a window facing the front of the train.  We pulled out of the station and were on our way to Bangkok, normally an hour’s journey.
The spray from the wheels of the train gave the impression of being on a boat.  The train made its way gingerly along the submerged tracks.  Birds with striking white V’s swooped down low over the water.  The train slowed to go through slightly deeper water.  A man, chest deep, was coaxing some hens out of a tree.  Some washing was strung on a pole, but the bottoms of the garments were dangling in the water. Two telephone boxes stood three-quarters full.  At the next station, a couple of dozen cars were lined up on the platform, two or three of them having been converted into not-so-temporary homes.  On the opposite platform there was a row of motorbikes.  Some small boats were waiting for passengers from the train.  We passed a big walled estate with nobody home.  At a raised level-crossing, there were stacks of garbage accumulating.  Two majestic herons flapped low against the setting sun, inspecting the damage done.    A shouted salutation from the train startled a man in the water.  Over a dozen people were perched on a stack of girders and scaffolding eating dinner.  Two men on an ice-berg of foam were doing the same as the sun sank lower.  A shouted “Su su” from the train directed at no one in particular was followed by the creepy sound of rattling corrugated iron walls protesting against each other as the wave from the train swept through long-abandoned workers’ hovels.  On an unused siding, a community of tents and wigwams had developed.  A little further, a family was cooking dinner under a canvas awning outside a big house.
Some people were gathered on the steps of an empty up-market condo.  The doors were locked and there was washing hanging from the ground floor window bars.  A small bamboo raft loaded with two big bottles of water and some other provisions was being pushed along.  A woman, being rowed in a small boat, filmed the passing nine-carriage train.  An ‘Everglades’ boat manned by the army was waiting for the train to pass, the officer in charge sitting contentedly up high.  A teenager belly-flopped into the green water as the train floated past a dead-end bridge loaded with bull-dozers and other heavy works vehicles.  We passed a a solitary sentinel spirit house standing defiantly atop its shortened pole.  The full moon low in the east watched malignantly as a man almost up to his neck made his way trying to keep a small plastic bag and bottle of M150 valiantly above water.  The train slowed down as we approached Taling Chan junction, which was under renovation and home to many.  The floodwaters were pink and black in the sunset as we passed homes of blue and white plastic tarpaulin.
The glow of a charcoal burner under a canvas roof silhouetted a group of children with their sparklers.  There was a startling bang from the train as someone let off a firework, joining in the Loy Kratong celebrations.  Suddenly there was a new sound; the clack clack of the train as it found dry tracks.  Crickets joined in as we approached the overflowed Chao Phraya.  There was a welcoming fire-works display, red and yellow, above some buildings not too far away.  The train swayed as it passed a dry level-crossing and dry roads.  The mosquitoes were out in force as we arrived at Bang Sue, where an hour and a half after leaving Salaya I alighted the train.

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Paul Wilson is a sometime actor, stand-up comedian and cartoonist. Visit Paul's Top Man Tone Facebook Page...

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A Month in the Floods of Salaya – Part 5

A month in the floods of Salaya
A month in the floods of Salaya

Bangkok – Salaya by lorry (7/11/11)

After three days in a mainly dry Bangkok, I went to Bang Sue train station to find out about trains to Salaya.  The train station was so deserted I was slightly surprised to see two ticket sellers at the ticket counter.  I asked about trains to Salaya, but was informed that there were floods there and therefore no trains.  As I had previously been told that it was possible to go to Salaya by train I decided to persist and told the man at the counter that I knew that Salaya was flooded but that I wanted to go there anyway.  He curtly informed me that there would be a train leaving at 9 o’clock the following morning.

About an hour later, I received a call from Chai.  He told me that a lorry would be leaving Bangkok at 3pm for Salaya.

There were only about a half-dozen of us waiting for the flat-bed truck to depart.  There were boxes of provisions such as soft-drinks already on board. At the last moment, two boats were loaded, taking up nearly half the available space.  However, there was still enough room for everyone to have their own white, plastic chair to sit on.  We left Bangkok on the lorry at just after 5pm.  When we reached the floods it was already dark and the flood waters had a more sinister veneer.  We picked up and dropped off several small groups of waders, laden with bags of groceries, who loomed into view on their way back to their homes. On this return journey in the dark, I did not feel any of the excitement or euphoria I’d felt three days previously going the opposite way.  Perhaps this was partly because I was voluntarily going back to a flood zone and felt a little trepidation and foolhardiness. The other passengers also seemed subdued and there was not much chatter as everyone tried to make themselves comfortable in the limited space.  We arrived in Salaya after about three hours.

I found Tu and gave her the cigarettes she’d ordered.  M was there and informed me that at the Royal Gems Resort and Golf Club, not two kilometers away, a 2.5 metre crocodile had been found in a flooded building.  I popped in to see U and Pui.  U offered me a whisky and then showed me his infected foot.  It was an ugly sight; most of the sole of his foot was covered in angry red spots. He said he’d got the infection from the flood water and the day before he’d been unable to walk.  Today was his second day of anti-biotics and he was feeling a lot better.  The water level had gone down slightly.  They told me that on the TV they said the water would go down in two weeks, but that that really means a month. 

I cycled home and found the flood water at my doorstep had dropped by one or two centimeters.

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Paul Wilson is a sometime actor, stand-up comedian and cartoonist. Visit Paul's Top Man Tone Facebook Page...

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A Month in the Floods of Salaya – Part 4

A month in the floods of Salaya
A month in the floods of Salaya

Lorry trip from Salaya to Bangkok (4/11/11)

I popped in to the coffee shop on my way to the pickup place for the lorry to Bangkok.  I asked what ‘ROFE’ written in ink on the cling film of one of the loaves meant.  It quickly became clear that it meant ‘loaf’.  On another was written ‘Made by Italian chef’. While I was drinking my coffee, a customer came in and remarked on the ‘bang mii’ on sale.  She bought a couple of the small buns.  I arrived at the pickup place by 8 am, the agreed time.  Five hours later, it arrived stacked full of stuff and not a few people.  I climbed up and made a place for myself amongst the people, bags and other paraphernalia being transported to Bangkok. 

We turned left in front of Mahidol University and passed the flooded market and a boarded up 7-11 with a broken window.  A dog stood forlorn on a dry patio.  We went over a bridge, part of a network of circular flyovers which was full of cars and red and yellow municipal trucks, ranging from dustcarts to fire engines patiently waiting.  People were being picked up in ones and twos until I was perched on the top of the stack of bags.  We made our way slowly through the floodwaters in the scorching dry heat. 

There was a man sleeping on a foam mat on the roof of a car, itself perched on tyres in a so far successful attempt to keep the engine above water in the limited shade of a roadside tree.  A lone person with a plastic bag sat on a bus stop bench, feet above water.  A trials biker valiantly negotiated the flood, his bike fully loaded.  There were trucks full of people going the opposite way.  At one point I saw a modern townhouse estate partly underwater with workers still building though it was unclear if they were building the complex or flood barriers.

It was starting to get uncomfortably hot on the top of the lorry with no hope of finding any shade.  Everyone wrapped themselves up in long clothes, hats and scarves.  On the right, three young guys were spotted on a float hitching a ride behind a lorry.  We overtook a man wading through the water pulling a cockerel along perched on a black inflated ring.  Seven young men casually pushed a car on a wooden raft.  On the opposite side of the road a boat with a huge fan motor on the back like in the Everglades droned past.  “Bao bao!” shouted a man from the side of the street for the lorry to slow down as it passed his ‘riverside’ dwelling.  Some people filmed us on their phones as we passed by.  There was some friendly banter from sellers in their flooded shop houses and we were even serenaded by a man sitting on his pickup tail gate.   At one point I saw a man casting his fishing net in the middle of a three-lane highway.  A lorry going in the other direction was stacked high with three or four different types of boat.  Cars were triple parked on both sides of a flyover bridge and then I saw my first moving public bus in while; a red 189 ploughing its route through the flood. There were occasionally lots of shouted instructions to the driver as passengers were picked up or dropped off.

All of a sudden, there was a pleasant breeze as we picked up speed on a dry patch.  I saw sand bags being filled but also people picking vegetables in a roadside field.  It was an unexpected relief not to be able to see water for the first time in weeks.  We started dropping off more people than we picked up.  Now we had to hold onto our hats as we were going fast for the first time since leaving two hours before.  There was quite a lot of traffic and when we came up to a traffic light that was working it seemed strange to think how quickly normal things can become quite alien. 

When we arrived in Bangkok, the remaining passengers and I got off.  I asked what time the lorry would be going back to Salaya the next day.  This was met with some derision as the ‘pilot’, who had been directing operations from the top of the lorry just behind the cab, while shaking my hand, asked me where I was from and reminded me that they had just brought me from Salaya where there was flooding.  When they realized I was being serious, they explained that they were in fact headed to Uttaradit and wouldn’t be going back to Salaya until Monday.  Chai, who seemed to be officially in charge, and I swapped phone numbers and it looked like I would have to extend my stay in Bangkok by a couple of days.

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Paul Wilson is a sometime actor, stand-up comedian and cartoonist. Visit Paul's Top Man Tone Facebook Page...

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A Month in the Floods of Salaya – Part 3

A month in the floods of Salaya
A month in the floods of Salaya

Bread Day – (3/11/11)

Today was the day I decided not to watch any more news on TV.   After a banana breakfast, I attempted to clean my front yard as there was a worrying amount of small flies accumulating.  I didn’t have any water proof boots so decided to use black plastic bin liners instead.  I put my plants that were on my doorstep, or still in water in the yard, onto the chest-high walls on either side of the yard.  I also put the black bin there too.  So my front step, which is the width of the house, was now empty except for one-storey of sand bags.  I got a hard-brush with a long handle and started to push the dark green sediment slowly out into the soi.  I swept and mopped the front step.  When I took the plastic bin liners off I discovered that they were not as water-proof as I had thought.  After showering, I received a call from Paolo.  He called to say he had successfully baked 11 loaves and some rolls.  I decided to have a second, more substantial breakfast in preparation for the day ahead.  I heated some baked beans and threw in some leftover rice, my anemic pet gecko giving disapproving looks.  While my food was digesting, I jotted down the sounds I could hear from my kitchen.

A passing helicopter
The splutter of a boat’s engine
Distant voices
The boat revs up then fades
As it passes down the klong
Relative peace now
Birds chirruping
The hum of a water pump
The voices and birds barely distinguishable
A scratching on the roof
A bird or a squirrel
A water bird trilling
I made it through my gate without having to put my foot down.  I decided not to stop at U and Pui’s semi-submerged coffee shop as I felt time was pressing.  I left the bike at Pitchaya apartments and saw Tu and a guy at the entrance to the apartment complex selling bottles of water, coke and ice under a big umbrella.  I went to have a chat.  Tu suggested I wait with them in the shade for a lorry.  I suggested we swapped flip-flops as mine rubbed my feet.  She kindly obliged.  I got bored of waiting for a truck and decided to head off on foot.  After five minutes, I arrived at the bridge over klong Maha Sawat.  I arrived at the top of the bridge in time to see a fisherman fire his catapult spear down into the klong below.  His line being pulled in different directions as the fish tried desperately to get away; there was little chance.  As the fish was pulled up from the water, the 10 inch spear dangled on the end of the line having cleanly gone through its body just below its head.  A friend of the fisherman threaded the spear back through the fish and the fish was dropped onto the hot tarmac of the road to flap about in desperation.  I crossed the bridge to the awaiting flood water.  I was hailed by a gaggle of people with boats.  They were offering me a ride through the flood water over the railway to Mahidol University, about 500 metres away.  The price was 10 baht; someone suggested 100.  I got in the designated boat and was pulled along by Ming, a 13-year old school girl who wasn’t at school because it was closed.  I felt a bit uncomfortable sitting in the boat like a mandarin and urged Ming to get in so that we could paddle.  She refused as it was easier to pull the boat than to row it.  In no time, I was at some metal steps up the sandbag wall outside the Mahidol entrance.  I took the dry long-cut through the Mahidol campus.  I rejoined the flooded road in front of the university further up but used the sand bag wall alongside the flooded road as a footpath and made it nearly all the way to Big C without having to go in the water.  I passed the Tesco Lotus, closed because of staff shortages.  I went into Big C but discovered that they’d obviously not had a delivery since I was last there two days ago.  I bought some cream.

I went into the water and got my shorts wet for the first time that day.  I waded towards Poalo’s, passing the Mahidol Arts Faculty on my left, and a bit further up the Royal Thai Navy School with the guard in full uniform inside his sandbagged kiosk.  Four navy cadets were playing in the water, showing off to four girls who were sitting in the floodwater.  “Pai nai?”  I am asked a bit further along the Salaya – Nakhon Chai Si road.  “Durn len” I reply, using one of my stock responses, which hit the target.  On the right was an outside depot of flood goods.  I popped in to see if the price of a boat had come down.  5,500 baht, so the price hadn’t changed.  As I turned to leave I heard ‘4,000 baht’ and was informed that another type of boat was 4,000 baht.  Unfortunately, it was made of metal and weighed 30 kilos which would be too heavy to carry over dry patches alone.

I passed the Ministry of Culture on the left.  The last two hundred metres of the trip were the deepest at chest-level and I was glad to get to Paolo’s restaurant at Rangsee Place without being attacked again.

Paolo poured me a glass of beer while I had a quick shower and put on some dry clothes.  I took my beer into the kitchen of the restaurant and Paolo proudly showed me his bread. It smelt and tasted delicious.  He explained that it had cost him about 300 baht (not including his time) to bake the 7 kilosish of bread.  There were 11 huge loaves weighing almost 700 grammes each as well as eight small buns.  He reckoned the big loaves would cost about 100 baht at a supermarket.  I paid him 500 baht for the lot, though we both agreed we weren’t in it for the money.  Paolo cut one of the loaves in half and then cling filmed all the loaves. I had another beer but said I’d better not stay too long as I didn’t want to get too drunk.  Paolo informed me that it was the last of the beer anyway.  I insisted he keep one of the loaves and we packed some of the bread into my bag and the rest I had to carry in a black plastic bag.

I retreated into the water very carefully as I didn’t want to slip and waterlog the bread and started my journey back home.  Paolo had revised up my previous estimate of the distance and I now realized that I had to cradle the bread above the water line for seven kilometres and not the five I had previously guesstimated.
I hoisted my two bags of precious cargo above the water and felt relieved to get through the initial part of the journey without slipping and the bread still dry. 

I passed the Navy College on the right and then the Faculty of Arts.  I negotiated a couple of fast flowing tributaries and was happy to reach the sandbag wall just after Big C on the right with the bread still safe.  This was the half-way point, or at least psychologically, as I knew that there was a real possibility of not having to go into the water again until I reached my flooded soi. At a bus stop I encountered a couple of women eating.  I offered them one of the two half-loaves.  They were appreciative though one of them did ask if there was anything inside it.  They offered me a couple of bottles of water which I declined.  A hundred metres later, I was at the gas bottle shop and dug out the other half loaf to give to the woman there.  I stepped down into the Mahidol University campus and started along the long-cut.  Immediately, a young guy on a motorbike offered me a lift.  This was much appreciated as it was hot and the bags were getting heavier.  When we got to the exit with the sandbag wall truck pick-up/drop-off point, I delved into my bag looking for a roll to give him.  He waved me away saying he had plenty to eat and then he was off.

I felt greatly encouraged when I realized there was a fire engine about to depart that was going to turn right.  So, without having to wait on the grassy knoll, I was transferred to the fire-engine and clambered up the ladder on the side of the truck.  I got off at the bridge-cum-car park and walked towards Pitchaya Apartments where the school is.  I passed the boat-makers on the left side of the road welding metal panels to the boat frames.  Just ahead on the same side of the road was the closed post-office whose grounds were now home to some families.  When I arrived at the Pitchaya complex, I encountered one of the municipal workers who was camping out in front of the school and gave him a loaf.  He suggested to the security guard that they could share it.  I popped in to see if Tu or any of the gang was about.  I gave a loaf to Ter’s mother. Ter, Ter’s mother, M and one of the cleaners all immediately tasted it and agreed it was delicious.

I retrieved my bike and pedaled to the coffee shop down the road.  I gave U a loaf of bread and then suggested he might like to buy some of the remaining loaves to sell in his coffee shop.  He asked how much I was selling them for.  I told him 70 baht a loaf.  He immediately agreed to buy the remaining five loaves that he could see in the black plastic bag.  I fished around for the buns and pulled out five which I sold to him for ten baht each.  He telephoned Pui who came along and paid me the 400 baht.  I had a can of Leo and after the mandatory tot of whisky I was on my way.  I arrived at my soi and bumped into Thip and her housemate who were out for a stroll in their wellies.  I showed off the bread and told them I’d leave them some on their gate.  I stopped at Oum’s and gave her a loaf.  She gave me a lime that she explained I should use to ward off snakes from my house.  Safely home, I checked the contents of my bags.  There were three small rolls left.  I put two in a small bag and paddled opposite to hang them on their gate.

I came back home and went upstairs to fetch the peanut butter.

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Paul Wilson is a sometime actor, stand-up comedian and cartoonist. Visit Paul's Top Man Tone Facebook Page...

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A Month in the Floods of Salaya – Part 2

A month in the floods of Salaya
A month in the floods of Salaya

Notes from the Flood Zone – (1/11/11)

“One month we’ve been waiting for the water” Thip, a neighbor, said as she stood at my gate in her short black wellies in three inches of water.  I was on my doorstep not venturing to put my feet into the perturbingly murky water stagnating in my yard.  Thip then informed me in her near perfect English that there was a possibility they might cut the electricity and water.  We agreed that that would probably be the time to evacuate.  “Anyway,” she said “they will give us two days’ notice.”  My next-door neighbor came out and started sweeping out the floating muck from her front yard which then flowed into mine.  Thip pointed out that I had some mushrooms, indicating a floating stick with some fungus growing on it.  I thought that sweeping the muck out of my front yard could be a sensible thing to do, but maybe not today.

That morning, I had woken up at 7 am in my friend Paolo’s Italian restaurant, Mamma Mia at Rangsee Place on Nakorn Chaisi Road about five kilometers or so from my house.  I felt a bit rough because Paolo had insisted the night before that I drink as much of his keg of beer as possible as it wouldn’t keep much longer.  As soon as I opened my eyes, I inspected my feet which to my relief were not swollen as I had been convinced they were before falling asleep a few hours previously.  This paranoia had been mostly due to the sting or bite I had received from an unidentified water creature while I was wading to the restaurant the previous day but also possibly partly fuelled by the beer.  Mario was already up too, and Paolo made the three of us coffee.  We surveyed the water level around the restaurant and apartment complex island. The level, although high, was not as high as I’d feared it might have been.  Two of the three pumps were working to get rid of the shallow water in the car park and out into the street-cum-canal on the other side of the wall of sandbags.  It was a beautiful morning and it was clear that it was going to be another hot day with clear blue skies.  The usual circular discussion ensued about water levels and whether they would rise or not and for how much longer the water would stay.  As Paolo needed a new gas bottle for the restaurant the plan was that Mario, who was staying at Rangsee Place, and I would leave together with the empty gas bottle by boat.  I was hoping we would take the biggest boat so that we could sit in it and not have to wade through the chest high water on the road in front of the restaurant, especially after my incident the previous afternoon.   My hopes rose as we were allotted the biggest of the three boats, well two really, because the wooden one had obviously seen better days and did not look ‘road’-worthy.  However, my hopes of a dry trip were dashed as the bottle, the size of a small man, took up nearly all the place in the boat, meaning Mario and I had no option but to wade through the water guiding the boat along.

There was little traffic, by which I mean boats and waders.   The going was quite smooth and the bottle reclined magisterially in the bottom of the boat with its neck propped up on the back seat as if to better admire the view. The water became less-deep after a short-while.  We had some bemused looks and some lovely smiles too as we pushed the boat along. A bit further, the canal became very shallow and the road re-emerged for a couple of hundred metres. 

We parked the boat at high and dry Sabai Boutique Apartments where I was relieved to find an ATM that wasn’t flooded and was still working.  We met a guy who lived nearby.  He said he was living on the second floor as his ground floor was flooded.  He also casually mentioned that he’d seen a crocodile that morning and hunters had shot it, which perhaps explained the loud bangs we’d heard earlier at breakfast.  It wasn’t really what we had wanted to hear, though the man explained that there was no danger of there being any crocodiles where we were going and reassured us that any snakes would only be small ones and not big.  When he enquired about a meal at Mamma Mia’s, I generously agreed that he could eat for free, but then forgot his name and didn’t inform Paolo of his unwitting generosity.  We left the boat and bottle attached to a lamppost and continued unencumbered towards the gas-bottle shop.  We thought that perhaps they might have a car or truck big enough to come through the flood waters to pick up the empty gas bottle.  After 200 metres, the road dived back into the flood waters again and we continued through water up to our thighs.  There was a Big C so I went in to see what, if any, food they had left. 

There was lots of instant coffee, whitening cream and shampoo, but nothing that could sustain anyone for very long.  I rang Oum, a neighbor, anyway to see if she might like some sauce or such like: “Mii kanom bang mai?” she enquired. “Mai mii.” was pretty much the extent of our conversation.  I thought I should pass her over to the lecturer of criminology who I’d just met wandering between the bare shelves, but apparently their conversation was as equally straightforward.  I bought some nuts, a chocolate bar and some instant coffee as well as some shampoo, and though my skin was turning an alarming shade of red, forwent the whitening cream.  Mario and I carried on through the flow. 

There were people paddling small boats, sometimes metal, sometimes plastic.  Some boats were being pulled and some had engines though these were rare.  People were being pulled on rafts made from bottles, big black inflatable rings, or even tubs.  Some people were evidently on their way out of the flood zone as they were carrying their most precious or essential belongings; clothes, dogs and the ubiquitous electric fans.  People were floating their dogs along in plastic containers. 

Plastic boats were being sold for 5,500 baht or more.  People hitched rides on the big trucks which came past occasionally trying not to send tidal waves over the sandbag flood barriers on the right-hand side of the road.  Some people were playing in the water.  Sometimes, at a junction or soi entrance on the left, the water flowed quite strongly into the main thoroughfare.  A few men were fishing with trident-like spears at one point where the flow of water cascaded down a short waterfall.  We watched for a while and though we spied a couple of fish, we didn’t see a catch.

We finally found the relatively dry gas-bottle shop on the right-hand side behind the sandbag wall which doubled as a pathway for people who preferred to try and stay out of the water.  The woman who ran the place with her husband said that it would be impossible for them to collect the bottle as the water was too high.  Her eyes lit up as I handed her my shopping.  As Mario pointed out, she had evidently misunderstood my explanation; I was handing her my stuff to look after while we went back to fetch the boat and bottle.  After clearing up the misunderstanding,
Mario and I started to make our way back to Sabai Boutique Apartments.

We soon stopped at a street restaurant and had a quick meal sat at a table in ankle-deep water.  We then continued along and then happened upon a higher som tum restaurant with healthy looking vegetables on display.  We quickly agreed to stop and have some more food.  We asked to use the toilet but ended up washing our hands in the kitchen instead. 

We stopped to watch the trident-fishermen again, and this time we witnessed a catch.  The fish looked like it came from the sea; it was by Mario’s estimation about 5 kilos which he later upgraded to possibly 10.  (It was later explained to me that this fish had probably escaped from a local temple). By now, the sun had reached its zenith and I was worried about getting too sun burnt.  We got back to the boat and took out the gas bottle, rolled it down the dry part of the road to the wet, then went back to fetch the boat.  We carried the boat over the dry stretch of road, put the bottle back in the boat and carried on to the gas-bottle shop. 

The empty bottle was exchanged for a full one and Mario paid the woman the 940 baht Paolo had given him.  I think she was impressed with our efforts as she gave him a discount.  The new bottle loaded into the boat, we turned around and went back the way we had come.  The current was in our favour.  A few people seemed slightly amused to see us passing by for a fourth time.

When we got to the dry part, we stopped and decided to wait for a big orange lorry that was coming our way.  The lorry had a huge winch which the driver expertly manouevred and with the help of a rope hauled the bottle upright and onto the back of the truck.  Mario and I passed the boat up to the people on the back of the lorry and Mario climbed in the cab.  As my help was no longer needed, I bid Mario farewell, thanked the lorry people, turned around and started off in the opposite direction home.

I stopped off at Tesco Lotus as it was open.  It had slightly more food options than Big C.  A bit further along, I took a long-cut through Mahidol University which had been kept dry by a huge wall of sandbags and came out at the exit opposite the Salaya – Bang Len road, the road to my soi.  On the sandbag wall some people had organized an official looking pick-up/drop-off point for people.  I was kindly offered a boat to sit in for the three metres to the waiting truck.  As soon as I had climbed aboard, the lorry pulled away and we passed the flooded police station on the right.  We made our way slowly down to the railway crossing, which although raised, was under shin deep water.  After the lorry had climbed like an amphibian up onto the bridge over the flooded khlong Maha Sawat, everyone disembarked onto the dry road.  I crossed the bridge and made my way on foot.  At Pitchaya apartments, I saw Tu, the manager, outside her office with a couple of guys hauling packs of bottled water.  I told her that I’d slept at Mamma Mia’s and she urged me to go and check my house as she thought it would be flooded after the previous night’s surge.  I picked up my bike and then stopped off a hundred metres down the road to have a coffee at my usual place.  They filled me in on the latest news.  There was another customer in the shop who summed things up by saying nobody knew what was really going to happen because they never tell the truth on TV.  I suggested that it was sometimes stressful, sometimes boring and sometimes sanook.  They agreed that it was sanook.

I rode the short distance to my soi wondering how much worse the flooding in my soi was going to be compared to 24 hours before.  To my relief, the water level had not risen too much and was now about 3 cms deep at my doorstep.

Part 1Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Paul Wilson is a sometime actor, stand-up comedian and cartoonist. Visit Paul's Top Man Tone Facebook Page...

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A Month in the Floods of Salaya – Part 1


A month in the floods of Salaya

A month in the floods of Salaya
Sand bags - (end Oct ‘11)


There had been a continuous crawl of traffic along the Salaya to Bang Len main road for about a week.  Pickups packed with families, their possessions and pets, the usual volume of 10-wheel trucks but also trucks carrying cars out of the flood zone from further up north. 

I walked home past the traffic jam going the other way and as I entered my soi I could sense an atmosphere I’d never felt before.  There were more people out in the street than usual and it was clear something was afoot.  A neighbour came over and explained that they had had an hour’s warning from the police that the flooding was coming.  Before long, a lorry delivered a huge pile of sand.  There was a frenzy of activity as everyone helped fill sandbags and cart them off to their front steps.  A car’s headlights were used to light up the scene as the sun had already gone down.  The mosquitoes were voracious, relentlessly attacking our legs.  After the pile of sand had been devoured, inspecting my now blistered hands and rubbing my sore back, I watched a police car approach slowly.  I did not know the hierarchy of the soi, and perhaps neither did they, but they pointed out that some people had higher levels of sand bags than others.  What is more, some houses, whose owners had the misfortune of not being present, had none. 


An hour later, there was no sign of water coming up through the drains as had been feared.

A few days later, though, water appeared at the bottom of the soi nearest the klong, which is just the other side of the wall at the end of the soi.  Each day, a nervous eye was kept on the size of this puddle.  Some neighbours built knee-high walls in front of their homes. The water, silently, slowly, almost imperceptibly, spread up the sides of the soi, obeying the camber of the road.  I had images of the future, when I would be looking at higher and higher reference points to judge how much the water had risen.

As the days progressed, the traffic jam on the main road became more desperate with more and more families and lorries crawling along.  Some families decided to go no further and simply stopped and set up camp on the grass by the side of the road creating ‘Grapes of Wrath’ type images with homes made from corrugated iron, pieces of tarpaulin or advertising banners, albeit with an opposite foe. 

Back in my soi, the water had crept into my front yard.  To gauge the pace of its advance, I decided to retreat my potted plants away from the water, nearer my doorstep a tile at a time.  Alarmingly, I found myself moving the line of plants more and more frequently until after just a few hours they were sitting on my front step, a penultimate line of resistance in front of the sandbags.  As the water then continued to rise up the step, I thought I’d better take some hitherto neglected emergency measures.  I started boiling water and filling buckets and moved some of my remaining stuff upstairs.   I stocked up on black bin liners as possible substitutes for the toilet. 

My neighbouring sois were not so lucky; they already had substantially more flooding.  To get to my local grocery store two sois away, for example, I had to wade through knee deep water.  The shop was slightly elevated and they had built a low wall, so for the moment they could still operate in relative dryness.  Lots of the residents from canal-side homes were evacuating to higher ground, pushing boats laden with their possessions and children.
I decided to offer space in my dry house to people less fortunate.  I offered a place to stay to some people sitting despondently on the side of the road.  My offer was declined as they said they were waiting to get picked up.  I tried down by the klong, where the exodus of people had gathered together and were already forming systems for food and sleeping.  A lot of families had chosen a huge metal platform with a roof but no walls which sat just above the canal.  Others had occupied an unfinished, two-storey indoor market also without walls adjacent to the canal.  I offered my house to different old couples or people with young children.  They all politely declined my offer explaining that they preferred to stay with their community and that they had free food and toilet facilities.
The next day, a neighbor came to my gate in her black rubber boots shouting frantically.  By the tone of her voice, I imagined we were on a two-minute warning to get out.  I grabbed a bag and shoved in some things.  I rushed out of the house as her shouts seemed to be becoming more agitated.

We got to the end of the soi nearest the main road when I realized I hadn’t needed to bring my bag.  My help was required to help unload a delivery of sandbags to build a wall at a part of the soi which had no wall to stop over-flowing water from the huge pond behind the houses opposite mine coming into the soi.

A short time later, I noticed that there was a buzz of activity at the other end of the dead-end soi by the 6 foot wall.  One or two teenagers had climbed over and were in the waist deep water on the other side.  As the plan became apparent, I volunteered to join them, thinking that being in the water might be a good option in the intense heat.  We started feeling around in the unclear water for submerged sandbags, which had evidently been overwhelmed in their previous job of protecting a wooden canal-side home half under water.  When we had retrieved a couple of sandbags each and hauled them up to people on the wall, a big plastic boat was passed over the wall from the soi.  Thus, we were able to load the sandbags, made heavier by the water, into the boat and then when the boat was full pull it to the wall.  The hardest part was then to pass these sodden, dripping weights up a small ladder and onto the top of the wall where people passed them down onto the bed of a pickup.  It was back-breaking work, but at least we could take pauses lounging in the cool murky water. 

After unloading each boatful, we had to turn the boat over to empty it of water and sand. Underfoot, one’s feet first felt the vegetation and squidgy mud of the small bank from the wall to a small canal side lane, then the comforting feel of tarmac.  We then used our feet to feel for sandbags.  When a sandbag was located, you then felt down with your hand to locate the open end of the sandbag to pull on.  As the locals seemed at ease in the dubiously coloured water and even sometimes dived under, I tried not to think of snakes, crocodiles or water-borne diseases, and tried to keep my head above water.  When, finally, it was deemed that enough bags had been pulled out of the water, we climbed back over the wall. 

It was not until later that evening when us ‘sandbag divers’ were being treated to a meal in one of the neighbour’s houses that I learned that a one and a half metre crocodile had in fact been spotted in the floodwaters on the other side of the canal earlier that day.

Part 1Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Paul Wilson is a sometime actor, stand-up comedian and cartoonist. Visit Paul's Top Man Tone Facebook Page...

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Ipoh, Malaysia

IpohPerhaps most famous for its rich and varied traditional cuisine, Ipoh is one of the largest cities in the whole of Malaysia and can be reached easily by taking the train from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Situated on the banks of the mighty Kinta River, Ipoh is also known for its picturesque gardens and charming buildings, earning it the nickname of Bougainvillea City.

The Old Town district is the perfect place to explore on foot, and there are also plenty of pavement cafes and restaurants in this part of the city where visitors can simply sit and soak up the atmosphere for a while.

Ipoh is famous for its food, and there are a wide variety of dishes to try. People travel from as far away as Singapore to dine on delicious curries, noodle dishes and a huge range of local specialities. A good place to find cheap and tasty food is at the hawkers stalls that line the road and gather by busy markets, especially in the evening.

Those who have got plenty of time to spare in Ipoh will want to take a trip to the cave temples of Perak Tong. This area was established as a place of worship by a devout Buddhist priest back in q926, and a large number of caves and grottos can be found here, many of which have been decorated with murals, which some of the chambers feature Buddha images and are used as places of worship to this day.

The cave of Sam Poh Tong is located to the south of Ipoh and contains a turtle pond. Another interesting day trip is the temple of Kek Look Tong, which also features a cool cavern. Climb into the cave and walk through to the back, where you will discover the Chinese Buddha of Future Happiness. There is also an ornamental garden with ponds and pagodas behind the cave.

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Eating Your Way Through Bangkok

Eating Your Way Through Bangkok
Eating Your Way Through Bangkok
Whether you are visiting Thailand for the first time or have been living there for longer than you can remember, there is always something new, interesting and exotic to experience. What has always been the most dear to me is the multitude and availability of local dishes and cuisines (both traditional and fusion style) that really express Thailand's culture and the Thais flavor and attitude towards life.

The Misnomer of Street Food: So often when I host an overseas visitor they are amazed at the sheer number of people eating on the street asking me "How safe is it really and do people get sick?" If you've been to India, then eating fresh fruits, noodles, grilled chickens and other curiously looking meats from the street vendors in Bangkok is nothing. I've been eating from food stalls/street vendors/push carts for years and find that dining in this manner is no more dangerous than eating in a restaurant except for the fact that you are eating in plastic chairs, perhaps share a table with another hungry patron or breath a little exhaust from passing cars here and there; but generally the food is fresh, well prepared, very tasty and overall fairly safe to eat-street vendors don't like to carry a lot of over-head; most cannot afford to so everyday they go to the fresh markets buying only the amount of ingredients that they anticipate using in a given day; very seldom do they store meats and vegetables like a restaurant.    
     
When trying to decide which food stall to eat from (as there are many to choose from) it's best to observe where the locals eat (of course using your judgment to a certain extent) and if there is a line, a lot of chaos, and definitive smells that draw a curious sense and hunger; then you are probably at the right place.

Sukhumvit Soi 38 has a plethora of street vendors hawking various dishes such as Moo Grob (crispy pork belly with Chinese broccoli, chili and oyster sauce), Ca Pow Gai (Thai Basil Chicken Fried Rice), and Kuaytiaw Raat Naa (Fried Noodles with Pork & Vegetable Gravy) among others-my favorite is Ba Mee Puu (Egg Noodles with Crab) served from a push cart about 20 meters on the right hand side of Sukhumvit Soi 38 when coming from Thonglor BTS. At the corner of Soi Convent and Silom road (Friday and Saturday nights only) P' Uan (meaning fat in Thai; not to be construed in a negative sense as in the western culture) serves up the best Moo Ping (Pork Thai Barbecue) in Bangkok-the pork is grilled and caramelized to perfection where the robustness of each bite intensifies leaving you not just tasting the Moo Ping, but experiencing it.

My Pad Thai and Noodles: The first meal that many Bangkok “first timers” order is either Pad Thai or Fried Rice as they want to compare these dishes to the familiar dishes that they get in their own home country (an normally associate these dishes as not being too spicy). Pad Thai is made up of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, and a combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu; for a slight variation of Pad Thai from the traditional sense, I recommend Pad Thai Thip Samai (Salaya, Puthamonthon, Nakornpathom, Bangkok, (0) 81630 6444); established in 1966 that serves two definitive dishes such as the Pad Thai with large prawns enclosed in an egg omelet (Pad Thai Kai Ho) or the Pad Thai Song-Krueng where the Sen Chan or grass noodle can be laced with crab meat, ground cuttlefish and/or sliced mango.

Located in Pranakorn, Somsrong Pochana’s kitchen creations originate from the Sukhothai Province serving Sukhothai noodle consisting of BBQ pork with green sprouts in the noodles and delicately sprinkled with dried chili’s for taste and intensity—for a less spicy flare the Thai Spaghetti with coconut milk, pineapple, & dried shrimp (Kanom Jeen Sao Nam) is a safe bet. Soi Watt Sangwej (Opposite Sangwej Temple), Pra Atit Rd., Pranakorn Bangkok, (0) 2 282 0972.
If you like Duck and happen to be in the Phaholyothin area, a must try is the Steamed Duck Noodles at Yothin Duck Noodles food stall (#1301 Soi Paholyothin 11 (beginning of the Soi), Paholyothin Rd., Bangkhen, Bangkok, (0) 2 278 1738) where the duck meat effortlessly falls off the bone releasing the succulent juices and natural ripeness of the duck.

Don't Be Scared - Just Eat it!: Bangkok has lots of hidden delicacies and interesting cuisines that are often overlooked as newcomers and veterans of Bangkok tend to stick to the same restaurants over and over again. There is so much great food out there to be eaten that I encourage everyone to venture away from the more touristy areas into the more unknown or 'less frequented by foreigner ones.' Talk to locals, people watch, read online reviews, get yourself lost in China town. Whether you have a strong passion for food or just like to enjoy a good meal, get out and do a little exploring. You won't like everything you taste as you'll have good meals and bad meals, but who cares-it is all part of the experience! The main thing is that you have fun and learn a lot about the Thai culture, people and food along the way.

The above are just a few examples of some places to enjoy while dining in Bangkok. For more information visit www.PekoPiko.com featuring Bangkok's Best Restaurants, Street Food and Hidden Cuisines along with restaurant information, user reviews, and saver promotions-everything you need to guide you on Where to Eat and What to Eat in Bangkok. If you like what you've read above I recommend PekoPiko's 'Old Bangkok Eateries' section for other similar restaurants.

Written By Jason Buckalew, Bangkok Foodie Photos By Pukky Churuphant.

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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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Kota Bharu, Malaysia

Kota Bharu, Malaysia
Kota Bharu, Malaysia
Although the city of Kota Bahru is often overlooked by visitors to the north of Malaysia, those who take the time to explore will find that there is plenty to see and do here. Kota Bahru is often referred to as the Islamic City, and this is the perfect place to get a feel for the rich history and culture of this part of the world.
Kota Bahru boasts a number of vibrant markets, which are ideal places to indulge in a spot of people watching, while those who are in search of something cheap and tasty will also find some of the best selections of eateries scattered in and around the city’s markets.

Wander around Independence Square - Padang Merdek – and you will find a large number of museums and the Balai Besar or Royal Palace. This elegant building is a great place to explore, while nearby is the interesting octagonal building of the Pesar Besar central market.

When it comes to seeing the sights, Kota Bahru features a number of interesting places of worship, and while most are devoted to the Muslim faith, there are also a few Buddhist temples to explore here. Sun worshippers will also be in their element, as a few pristine stretches of sand can be found on the outskirts of the city.

A great way to see the area around Kota Bharu is to embark on a two hour river cruise along Sungai Galas down to Dabong. Rafting along the river is also popular and trips can easily be arranged.

Another good excursion is the Stong Waterfall, which about 900 metres high and is said to be the highest waterfall in Southeast Asia. Combine a trip to the waterfall with a visit to the impressive collection of caves at Gua Ikan, before finishing the day with a delicious, cheap evening meal at the night market, known as Pasar Malam in the Malay language.

While the people of this conservative city are welcoming towards visitors, it is best to follow the example set by those who live here and cover up. Women in particular are advised to dress conservatively, and it is also best to avoid making public displays of affection, as this is likely to cause offense.
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Food and Drink in Malaysia

Food and Drink in Malaysia
Food and Drink in Malaysia
Food and Drink in Malaysia
Malaysia is a great place for people who love to eat and experiment with food. There are a wide range of Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes available through the country and some interesting mixtures of culinary styles. As you travel through Malaysia, look out for regional specialities and try to experience the full range of Malay cuisine.
Hawker stalls and coffee shops are good places to find a cheap and tasty meal. Hawker stalls tend to be very clean and open until late in the evening. Curry dishes and other meals in western style restaurants, while seafood restaurants serve fresh fish prepared in the Chinese style. For western food, head to the shopping malls, where you will usually find a large food court with a number of well known fast food restaurants.

Here is a selection of the numerous dishes you will find on your travels in Malaysia:

Nasi lemak – the most common Malaysian breakfast dish consists rice cooked in light coconut milk with anchovies, peanuts, a slice of cucumber and a little chilli.

Rendang – usually made with beef, this dry curry dish consists of stewed meat in a spicy curry paste.  

Chilli crab – a whole crab is covered with a generous amount of sticky, strong chilli sauce.

Laksa – this dish varies from place to place but is basically a coconut both with seafood or chicken.  

Bak chor mee – this noodle dish is cooked in a chilli-based sauce with minced pork, fried anchovies, vegetables and mushrooms.

Popiah - these delicious spring rolls can be either fried or raw. Filled with boiled turnips, fried tofu, fried shallots and garlic, chopped omelette, chopped stir fried long beans, there is usually a sweet chilli sauce to dip them in.  

Hainanese chicken rice - usually found on street stalls, this steamed chicken dish is served with special gently spiced rice and tasty ginger.

Bubur cha-cha – a traditional Malay desert with cubed yam, sweet potato and sago added to coconut milk soup.

Kuih – this sweet desert is made with coconut milk, coconut flesh and either glutinous rice or tapioca. It is often made into cute and colourful designs.

Avoid drinking tap water and drinks with ice in Malaysia. Bottled water is cheap and easy to find.  

Coffee – known as kopi – and tea – teh – are both popular and tasty drinks in Malaysia as well as a local variation known as teh tarik. Tea and coffee usually comes hot, with condensed milk to sweeten it. If you don’t want milk ask for teh o, while teh ais will get you iced milky tea.
Also popular is a drink known as kopi tongkat ali ginseng, which is a mixture of coffee, a local aphrodisiacal root and ginseng served with condensed milk.

Despite being a predominately Muslim country, alcohol is widely available throughout Malaysia. Beer and other alcohol can be bought in bars, restaurants and 7-11 shops. The local brew is tuak, which fermented rice wine that comes in many forms. Usually served lukewarm, tuak is often flavoured with sugar or honey.
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Food and Drink in Laos

Food and Drink in Laos
Food and Drink in Laos
Food and Drink in Laos

Food in Laos is similar to northern Thai food, yet with its own unique twist. Rice is as popular here as in the rest of Asia, although in Laos sticky rice known as khao niaow is served instead of long grained rice. Sticky rice comes in bamboo containers and is eaten with your hands, usually dipped in a selection of spicy sauces.

The French influence in Laos can be found in the cuisine and baguettes filled with pâte known as khao jii pat-te are delicious at any time of the day, especially for breakfast served with kaafeh thung – rich and tasty Lao coffee. Lao coffee usually comes with a thick layer of condensed milk at the bottom, or black - kaafeh dam.

International food is widely available in tourist towns and in Vientiane, the country’s capital, where you will also find a great selection of gourmet French restaurants.

Here is a selection of popular Lao dishes to get your taste buds tingling.

Laap – the national dish, an extremely spicy salad made from minced meat, herbs, spices, lime juice and a LOT of chilli. This dish sometimes uses raw meat.

Tam maak hung – know as som tam in Thailand, this is fresh, spicy grated papaya salad, where the flavours are pounded with a mortar and pestle to combine them.

Foe – Vietnamese noodles, often served as a snack or at breakfast time.

Khai phaan – this Mekhong River weed is served in Luang Prabang as a delicious side dish.

Padeck – fish preserved with salt and stored for anything up to three years. Padeck is usually eaten with sticky rice.

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Saravane, Laos

northern_laos_1
northern_laos_2
Not many travellers make it to Saravane, which is located on the Bolaven Plateau in south eastern Laos. Although they are certainly missing out, this perhaps makes the experience even more exceptional for those who do take the trouble to step off the tourist trail and explore this striking region.

Also known as Salavan, this pretty province is full of sparkling waterfalls, dense jungle, tiny tribe villages and caves to explore. This is also home to one of Lao’s best preserved prehistoric sites, and trekking to this area is rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding countryside and a nearby waterfall.

Those who do venture this far usually come to experience the stunning beauty of the Phu Xieng Thong National Biodiversity Conservation Area. This immense area of pristine jungle is home to a diverse collection of animals such as the Asiatic black bear, clouded leopard, Douc langur, elephant, gibbon, banteng, Siamese crocodile and even a tiger or two. It is a good idea to take a guide with you as the sheer size of the area makes it easy to get lost.

Another interesting feature of this province is a cave containing a number of huge stone caskets. These caskets are all piled on top of each other and although there are many theories about the reasons behind it, nobody really has the answers about how and why they got there.

Saravane’s large market is a great place to sample the region’s food and watch local life unfold. Local life revolves around the market as people turn up to sell produce, swap gossip and shop for goods. Take a break beside the river and watch this colourful street drama.

Despite its remoteness, there are a few good places to stay around Saravane. The people who live here are warm and welcoming and it is not unusual to be invited to share a meal with one of the families or even spend the night in their home.

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Vientiane, Laos

Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane, Laos
Vientiane feels more like a large village than a capital city. Pigs and cattle ramble aimlessly beside the slowly flowing river, watched over by women chatting and washing clothes. Pavements are a futuristic concept as are cinemas, shopping malls, fast food and most other types of entertainment.

Yet for many travellers this is the perfect Asian city; there is plenty to see and do here and yet the city has an approachable, unassuming feel.

Pha That Luang is the symbol of Laos and this huge, unusually shaped gold stupa is definitely worth a visit. In the Laotian language, Pha That Luang means Great Scared Stupa. The most prominent part of the temple is a 45 meter tall central tower, surrounded by 30 smaller stupas. The stupas are covered with gold leaf and shimmer brilliantly in the sunlight.

Nearby the temple is the Sok Pa Luang Forest Temple. Here you will find a sauna and massage room in a traditional wooden two-story house, where robed monks relieve your my weary muscles as you relax and listen to the gentle sounds of wind chimes, birds, cicada beetles and breath in the scent of jasmine and lemongrass.

On the way to Pha That Luang you will probably pass the Patuxai, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Climb to the top of this 7th century gateway for a great view of the city. 

Not to be missed is the very unusual Buddha Park or Xieng Khuan, which is situated on the outskirts of the city. Here you will find a large garden full of weird and wonderful Hindu and Buddhist sculptures which need to be seen to be believed.

Vientiane has a huge collection of interesting buildings and temples in a range of styles and a great way to explore is simply by walking. Take a stroll along the river and you will view a interesting collection of buildings from across the road, then simply follow the shining golden roves to find the elaborately decorated temples.

This is a great place to satisfy your craving for Western food as there are a large number of excellent restaurants offering a range of international food, especially in the area near the river. You will even find restaurants serving gourmet French food, and this is the perfect time to indulge. For those looking for cheap traditional food, a number of small carts set up trade on the bank of the river in the evening.

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Oudomsay, Laos

Oudomsay, Laos
Oudomsay, Laos
Oudomsay, Laos
Also known as Oudomxay or Oudômxa, this pretty province in the northwest of Laos was created in 1976 and is a good place to stop for a break if you are travelling between the temple town of Luang Prabang and Phonsaly or Sayabouri.

This is an area of intense natural beauty and the ideal place for trekking and to explore the neighbouring ethnic villages. Adventure sports such as rock climbing and rafting are popular here, while this is also a good place for cycling and bird watching.

Oudomsay is located close to the Chinese border and you will find an interesting mix of cultures as you wander through the province. There are 23 different ethnic minority groups living within the province, all with their own unique belief systems, customs, food and styles of dress.

A great way to spend a day is by trekking the 8 miles to the very pretty waterfall of Tad Lak Sip Et. Explore the Muong La District of Oudomsay and you will find an interesting range of temples, villages and hot spring located deep in the jungle.

One of Oudomsay’s main attractions is the Saymoungkhoune Rattana Stupa. This towering white stupa is a sacred spot and a great place to visit if you’re walking through the surrounding countryside. For spectacular views of the countryside, climb to the top of Phouxay Mountain. Gaze out at a rich vista of paddy fields, jungle, farmland and tiny villages before exploring the rest of the area.

A great place to try traditional Lao food is the Muang Xai market. People travel from all over the province to this large and vibrant market to sell their wares and this is a good place to stop eat and pick up and bargain or two.

An interesting way to travel through this region of Laos is to trek to Muang Say, then take a short bus or pickup truck ride to the picturesque village of Pakbeng. The mighty Mekong River flows from Pakbeng to Luang Prabang and the journey by large, wooden boat takes around five hours. As you sail slowly down the river you will pass limestone cliffs, mangroves and fishing villages.

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Phongsaly, Laos

Phongsaly, LaosSituated in north Laos, not too many people venture into the town of Phonsaly. However, those who do take the time and trouble will find an area rich in traditional culture and natural beauty. With more than twenty ethnic tribes living in the area, this is a good place to discover the diverse life styles, dress styles and religious practices that make these tribes unique. (more…)
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Pyay, Burma

Pyay, Burma
Pyay, Burma
Pyay, Burma
Formerly known as Prome, the town of Pyay has plenty of places to look at for those who take the time to stop and explore. For many, this is simply a place to refuel on the way to places such as Yangon, Ngapali Beach and Bagan, but there is plenty of good food and comfortable accommodation here, making it a good place to stop for a while. If you arrive in Pyay by bus you will first notice the statue of Aung San on horseback near the bus station and as you wander around the town you will come across a number of striking pagodas. The Bebegyi Pagoda is the town’s oldest religious structure, while the 45 meter high Bawbawgyi Pagoda is the oldest stupa and a pretty impressive sight. Also worth visiting are the Payagyi and Payama Stupas, which predate the stupas of Bagan, and the famous Shwesandaw Pagoda, which is constructed in the Mon style. Nearby, the Se Htat Gyi is a magnificent 10 level Gigantic Buddha Image. This Buddha image was built in 1919 and people travel from all over the country to visit it. This pretty town was a major trading town due to its excellent roads and also the capital of the Pyu Kingdom from the 5th to the 9th century. To find out more about the interesting history of this area pay a visit to the Hwa Za Archaeological Museum. Here you will discover a large number of Pyu artifacts such as terracotta pots and stone Buddha images. For those wanting to sample the traditional food of this region, head to the night market, which opens around dusk. Here you will find a fantastic range of dishes served fresh and hot at a number of small stalls. This is also a good place to pick up a bargain or two and indulge in a little people watching.
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Mandalay, Burma

Mandalay, Burma
Mandalay, Burma
Mandalay, Burma
Mandalay was the former capital of Burma and home to a number of Burmese kings. This is the country’s second largest city and is very modern compared to much of Myanmar. The city is rich with culture and history and here you will find large palaces, stupas, temples and pretty pagodas interlaced with vibrant market places, dusty streets and stunning views. Mandalay was founded in 1857 by King Mindon and there are still plenty of examples of architecture from this period such as the golden Eindawya Pagoda, collections of old wooden buildings originally from Amarapura and the the Shwekyimyint Pagoda, which houses the original Buddha image sanctified by Prince Minshinzaw. Near Mandalay Hill you will find the enormous Shweyattaw Buddha and the Royal Palace, which is situated in the middle of a large moat at the foot of Mandalay Hill. Climb to the top of Mandalay Hill for magnificent views across the city. As you climb you will come across a number of monasteries and temples, while there are a collection of pretty pagodas and temples at the very top. Venture just outside Mandalay and you will discover a number of former capital cities, each with their own unique character. A short trip to Sagaing is rewarded with views of the pretty Tupayon, Aungmyelawka and Kaunghmudaw pagodas, while a trip along the river to Mingun gives visitors the chance to see the Mingun Bell, which is believed to be the world’s largest uncracked hung bell. The bell was cast in 1790 to be hung in the giant pagoda of King Bodawpaya and is an impressive sight. Mandalay is certainly a record-breaking city and in addition to the world’s largest uncracked bell you will find the world's largest book in the Kuthodaw Paya at the foot of Mandalay Hill. The Kuthodaw Paya comprises more than 700 white stupas and the complete text of the Tripitaka, which is the most sacred text of Theravada Buddhism. Mandalay is a good place to pick up a souvenir or two as the large markets are full of local produce and handicrafts. Alternatively, a short trip south of Mandalay will take you to the city of Amarapura, which is famous for cotton and silk weaving and you can watch the traditional skills being practiced here. The vibrant city of Mandalay is a good place to get a bite to eat and there are a number of food stalls and restaurants offering Shan, Myanmar and Muslin food. While you’re here, try htou moun, which is a traditional dessert only found in Mandalay. Very sweet and oily, people travel from all over the country to sample the gelatinous dessert.
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Battambang, Cambodia

Battambang, Cambodia
Battambang, Cambodia
Battambang, Cambodia
Battambang, Cambodia
The second largest city in Cambodia, Battambang makes the idea base to explore the surrounding attractions. Situated to the northwest of Cambodia, Battambang is full of interesting buildings left over from the French colonial era and has a pleasantly relaxed feeling that entices many travellers to extend their stay for a day or two.

Battambang takes its name from the legend of an ancient Khmer king, who is said to have calmed the city’s rebellions with his battambang staff. As you wander through the city streets you will see a statue representing this event as well as a number of interesting statues depicting mythical animals and religious characters.

There is plenty to see and do in Battambang. Start by climbing the hill of Phnom Sampeu to enjoy spectacular views of the city and explore the hill’s caves, stupas and monastery. Near the hill is Wat Banan, which is dubbed a mini Angkor Wat and contains a large Buddhist shrine. Just to the west of the city, Wat Ek Phnom has also been constructed in Angkorian style, while Wat Baydamran is home to hundreds of fruit bats.

Situated 70 kilometers north of the city of Battambang in northeastern Cambodia, Bantaey Chhmar is a pretty temple complex built by Jayavarman VII as a tribute to the death of his son Indravarman and four generals in battle. Dating back to the 9th century, this is a great place to explore on a day trip. A mighty battle took place on this site in 1177 when it was invaded by the Cham people. Those interested in the areas unusual history can find the story engraved on the stone ways that surround Bantaey Chhmar. The complex has been overgrown by forest, giving it a mystical quality and it features large Avalokiteshvara faces which are reminiscent of the Bayon temple near Siem Reap.

Head out of Battambang to discover the ancient wooden houses of Watkor, which is a very pretty village. Other nearby villages worth exploring include Kompong Seyma, and Ksach Puoy. These villages offer a real insight into traditional Khmer life and you will still find people engrossed in skills such as weaving and basket making.

An interesting way to explore this area is by riding the bamboo train known as the norry. The Wat Poveal Museums is a good place to learn more about the Khmer arts, while just 44 kilometres from the city is Pich Chenda, a very pretty nature and wildlife preserve.

Walk along the bank of the Sangker River in the evening and you will discover a large number of small food stalls selling traditional Khmer food and also delicious French bread. This is a great place to get a cheap meal and perhaps wash it down with a beer or two.

A great way to travel to Battambang is by boat from Siem Reap. This scenic journey takes you slowly through the countryside, past floating villages and fishermen along narrow canals and waterways.
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Phnom Bayong, Cambodia

Phnom Bayong, Cambodia
Situated in the heart of the countryside, this spectacular ancient temple is more than worth the journey, which takes you away from the usual tourist trail and offers an insight into traditional Khmer life.

A large number of people here travel to Phnom Bayong via the border crossing of Phnom Den–Tinh Bien, which is situated some eight kilometres north of the temple. Phnom Bayong measures a mighty 313 metres and those who want to climb to the very top will need to allow around three hours to complete the return journey. While this can be rather challenging for those who are not used to the heat and humidity of Cambodia, the stunning views across to Vietnam are more than worth the effort.

The best time to complete the climb is either just before dawn or at the end of the day. Those who time their trip carefully should arrive at the top just in time to see the glorious sunrise or watch the sun slowly sink behind the horizon at the end of the day. However, the climb is far from easy at any time of day and it is best to wear comfortable shoes and bring along plenty of water.

While in the area, visitors should take the time to check out Phnom Tchea Tapech, which is another ancient temple that is topped by a standing Buddha image. The temple is adorned with intricate stone carvings and also offers enchanting views from the summit.

Phnom Bayong is located 50 kilometres south of Takeo and it is possible to visit the site on a day trip. However, the pretty town of Kirivong is just 3 kilometres west and there are a few places to stay here as well as restaurants offering traditional Khmer food and a number of backpacker favourites such as sandwiches and French fries.

Within easy driving distance of Takeo and Phnom Bayong is the Kirivong waterfall, which is a great place to relax for a while or wander along the surrounding pathways.

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Eastern Cambodia

Eastern Cambodia
Eastern Cambodia
Eastern Cambodia
Bordered by Vietnam, the eastern region of Cambodia is scattered with picturesque hill tribe villages. This is a good place for hiking and there is plenty of natural beauty to discover such as waterfalls, caves and forests.

Many people head straight to the town of Kratie to watch the Irrawaddy dolphins swimming in the river, while the town of Stung Treng is also a good place to relax for a while.

The mighty Mekong River runs through this region and travelling by boat is a great way to reach many of the area’s towns and cities. Fish is plentiful here and the local market is a great place to find freshly cooked fish dishes.

The region’s proximity to Vietnam means that visitors will discover an interesting blend of Khmer and Vietnamese styles in many of the border towns, which is particularly apparent in the designs of the temples, clothes and food. Spend some time in eastern Cambodia before hopping across the border to discover an entirely different side of life.

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Prasat Preah Vihear, Cambodia

Prasat Preah Vihear, Cambodia

Prasat Preah Vihear, Cambodia
Also known as Khao Phra Wiharn or Sacred Monastery, Prasat Preah Vihear is one of Cambodia’s most striking monuments from the Angkorian period. This 800 meter temple is situated at an elevation of 730 meters and offers spectacular views across Cambodia to the scared mountain of Phnom Kulen.

Prasat Preah Vihear is an important pilgrimage site and was build to represent Mount Meru where many important deities are believed to reside. Climb the monumental stairway and pause to appreciate the detailed carvings that adorn the temple.

Look out for the Gopura on the third level, which displays an early rendition of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk. The temple sits atop Pey Tadi, which is a rocky cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains on the border between Thailand and Cambodia, providing interesting views into both countries.

Many people take a picnic with them so that they can enjoy the stunning views from the top while they eat. The large market place at the foot of Prasat Preah Vihear is a good place to buy freshly cooked food and snacks.

Prasat Preah Vihear is a great place to visit on the way into Cambodia from Thailand or just before you leave the country. For a really memorable adventure, travel to Prasat Preah Vihear by helicopter from Siem Reap.

The sunset is spectacular from the top of the temple and it is worth sticking around at the end of the day to see it. The nearest town to Prasat Preah Vihear is Kantharalak. Here you will find a number of basic guesthouses, restaurants and pretty places to explore, making this a good place to spend the night.
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Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand

Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand
Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand
Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand
Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand
Nakhon Si Thammarat is the second largest province of the south of Thailand, located 780 kilometres from Bangkok. This pretty province consists of high plateaus and mountains, lush mangosteen forests, picturesque beaches and beautiful waterfalls.

A great way to see the area's stunning scenery is to visit one of the impressive parks such as the Namtok Yong National Park, the Khao Nan National Park and the Khao Luang National Park. The area is well known for its many sparkling g waterfalls. Some of the best include Namtok Phrom Lok, Namtok Ai Khiao, Namtok Ranae and the very pretty Karom waterfall.

Nakhon Si Thammarat is blessed with a large number of powdery white sand beaches to soak up the sun on. Sun worshipers should check out Ao Karom, Hua Hin Sichon, Hat Kho Khao and Hat Hin Ngam among many others.

Many people travel to Nakhon Si Thammarat especially to visit the shadow play house of Suchat Sapsin, where there are regular performances and work shops. Other popular attractions are the Fan Making Village, the Pottery Village and the interesting Wat Mokhlan Archaeological Site.

Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan is the largest temple in South East Asia, and no visit to Nakhon Si Thammarat is complete without paying respects at the magnificent temple. Other interesting temples in the area include Wat Nantharam, the Wat Chai Na Meditation Centre and Wat Khao Khun Phanom, which is also home to the Khao Khun Phanom Scientific Study Centre.

When it comes to eating, the area's large Muslim population means that there is a lot of cheap and tasty Muslim food to be food at night from small stalls and carts. A great way to dine in style is to buy a selection of Muslim treats and eat them at one of the folding tables whilst you watch the world go by.

Nakhon Si Thammarat Province likes to celebrate, and a good way to get an idea of the area's culture is to time your trip to coincide with one of the vibrant festivals. Chak Phra Pak Tai is an interesting festival which involves the parading of Buddha images through the town, accompanied by chanting and singing.

Hae Phaa Kun That is held in the third lunar month. Most of the town turns out to see a cloth jataka painting, which is wrapped around the main chedi of Wat Phra Mahathat.

The ceremony is followed by displays of traditional singing and dancing and hundreds of small stalls selling local products such as fans, pottery, food and cloth.

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The Good Stuff: A Passage to Little India

Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
Little India, Bangkok, Thailand
One of my favourite parts of Bangkok is its Indian neighbourhood, known as "Little India". This hidden jewel in Bangkok's crown is full of gorgeous food, interesting sights, and a real impression of what it's like to walk down an Indian street.

Bangkok's Indian community first settled in the Phahurat area soon after King Rama I ordered its construction in 1898. The area has expanded over the years, and now merges into the southwestern edge of Chinatown.

The soi, or lane, known as "Little India" runs parallel to Phahurat Road. Read on for photos galore, and details of how to get there.

On entering the lane, you'll find food stalls selling hot snacks; while posters of Hindu gods sit alongside a child's bicycle. The sights and sounds of India are everywhere, as locals go about their daily business. I arrive at lunchtime, and that only means one thing: time for lunch! There's one place I go to eat every time I visit Little India: Punjab Sweets.

This fantastic restaurant is a real treat. TV programmes stop every 3 minutes for advertising: Fair and Lovely face cream, Indian Oil, Bharti Life Insurance, Belmonte Academy of Style, and Reliance Mobile Telephones (only 999 Rupees). There are a couple of dishes I like to order when I go there: chhole batore (a plate of chickpea curry, potato curry and lime pickle, served with puffed-up fried Indian bread), and samosa chana (chickpea curry with 2 crunchy, hot samosas). I'm taken right back to my memories of street-side eating in Delhi, and I wash these delectable treats down with a glass of hot, sweet masala chai. This is way better than any expensive Indian restaurant food; plus, it's totally authentic, and so easy on the pocket as well: my fantastic lunch set me back a mere 70 Baht. Icy-cold drinking water (in a jug on your table, safe to drink) is free of charge, too, so you can really cool down from the heat of the street.

I'm tempted to stay even longer at Punjab Sweets, as the sweets themselves have caught my eye. They're quite beautiful. The gulab jamun (sweet fried dough balls in rosewater syrup) nestle under edible silver leaf; the ras malai (milk curds flavoured with cardamom and saffron) also grab my attention. But alas, every time I come here l enjoy my chhole batore and samosas far too much to have room for any of these delicacies. Punjab Sweets also stocks an extensive range of spices and cooking ingredients, if you want to try your hand at making a real curry.

Out into the street I go. It's time to soak up the spectacle of this part of town. Wandering through the lane, there are so many things to look at. It's interesting to see how Indian and Thai culture blend a little bit here. Indian food stalls serve

Thai curries to Indian residents. Shop doors feature different written languages, for the understanding of all.
   
A man makes these chewy snacks which turn your mouth, and your saliva, bright red. The experience will set you back about 5 Baht, and it's like nothing else. Try one!

A beautiful gurdawara, or Sikh temple, sits a little way down the soi. This is said to be the largest gurdwara outside India, and is built of opulent white marble.

If you're lucky, you may find that your visit coincides with some special occasion in the temple's calendar, as I was when I took the pictures above.   
 
Visitors to the temple are made very welcome, and there is usually someone there to show you around - an interesting way to spend a little time.

Remember to remove your shoes and cover your head when you go any higher than the ground floor; the customary yellow headscarves are provided for this.

Little India also holds some exotic treasures for fans of browsing and shopping.

Wandering into one establishment, I am soon the proud owner of 3 CDs of beautiful Indian music (80 Baht each) and a bottle of heady rose perfume oil from Mumbai (300 Baht). Walking further, I also pick up a red beaded necklace for 100 Baht, some Burmese cooking ingredients, some natural Neem soap, a rolling pin (50 Baht), some curry pastes, and a box of saffron (70 Baht).

So that gives you an idea of what this area of Bangkok is like. I hope you will give it a try.

Getting there:

In fact, it's possible to approach the Indian district from the westernmost end of Chinatown's chaotic Sampeng Lane; from there, turn left onto Chakraphet Road, cross the footbridge, and go left along the pavement. A few minutes along on your right is the entrance to Little India.

However, to avoid the crush of Sampeng, and for a more peaceful journey along the river, here is the route I always take. The journey begins at river-taxi pier 13 (Banglamphu) on Phra Arthit Road.

Take a boat that is heading down the river: if you look to your right from the pier, you can see them approaching under the Rama VIII Bridge with its golden suspension cables. Get on a boat with an orange or yellow flag.

Orange-flagged boats charge 13 Baht per person, while on the yellow-flagged "Tourist Boat" you pay 18 Baht. Do observe the pier numbers as you make your way down the river. The numbers are on blue-and-white signs on the platforms. Look out for pier number 6: Memorial Bridge.

You can see the green Memorial Bridge as you are floating along. On the Tourist Boat, the helpful guide will announce (in English) when you are about to reach your stop, so get ready to get off. Cross the road in front of you, and you will see a huge, ornate Thai Buddhist temple, with its adjacent white spire. Walk towards it and go to your right.

Keeping the temple on your left, walk along and you will soon be in the busy Chakraphet/ Chakphet (the spelling varies) Road. 

Now you're on the home strait. Pass the Chinese temple on your left, continue along Chakphet Road, and look out for the Royal India restaurant on the other side the road. And before you know it, you'll be at the entrance to the Little India soi (lane). Look out for the "India Emporium" shopping mall that's being built, and you'll know you've found your destination. Phew! Happy exploring!

About the author: Liz Clayton

Liz Clayton has been living in Thailand for 2 and a half years. Her first year was spent in Bangkok, last year she worked in Prachinburi province near Isaan, and now she is back in Bangkok for a few more years.

She enjoys looking for new places - finding the little hideaways which aren't on the usual backpacker trail.

Fortunately, she is passing what she finds onto KhaoSanRoad.com visitors. 

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Krabi, Thailand

  • Krabi, Thailand
Krabi, Thailand
Krabi, Thailand
Krabi, Thailand
Welcome to Krabi, said by many to be the 'most beautiful province in Thailand'. Located approximately 814 kilometres from Bangkok, Krabi Province can be found in the south of Thailand and consists of more than 150 attractive islands and beaches.

There is plenty to see and do in this province, and it is easy to lose yourself here for more than a month as you hop from island to island and beach to beach. Popular activities are sea kayaking and canoeing, whilst diving and snorkelling are always popular in Thailand's crystal clear waters.

Ao Nang is the closest beach to Krabi Town. This area is mainly occupied by large, upmarket beach resorts. You can hire a sea kayak or long-tail boat and explore the uninhabited island of Koh Hong.

Just 6 kilometres away from Ao Nang is the well loved are much talked about Hat Noppharat Thara, which is a famous 3 kilometer long white sandy beach, perfect for taking it easy and soaking up some rays. Elephant trekking is popular in this area, while the hot springs at Khlong Thom are a good place to ease aching muscles. Whilst there, check out the informative Wat Khlong Thom museum.

Railay is perhaps the prettiest beach in this area. This is a great place for rock climbing, and the sunsets at Hat Rai Leh West are spectacular.

There are some interesting limestone cliffs to explore. Tham Phra Nang is named Princess Cave after a local legend. The cave is hidden in the lagoon of Sa Phra Nang (Holy Princess Pool). Climb the cliff top for spectacular views.

Nearby, Tham Phra Nang Nai (Inner Princess Cave) is a series of illuminated caverns of high beauty. A feature point is the unusual 'stone waterfall', which is made of sparkling golden quartz.

Khao Phanom Bencha National Park consists of 50 square kilometres of virgin rainforest and a whole host of pretty waterfalls including Nam Tok Huay To, Nam Tok Huay Sadeh and Nam Tok Khlong Haeng and it is possible to swim in most of the waterfalls. The park is also home to the cave of Tham Khao Pheung, which contains stunning shimmering mineral stalactites and stalagmites.

Another area of natural beauty is the large Than Bok Khorani National Park, where caving is the main activity. Caves of interest here include Tham Hua Kalok, Tham Lawt and Tham Sa Yuan Thong. If you need a break from the beach, there are many interesting temples in the area to explore. Look out for the monastery of Wat Sai Thai, which is a particularly auspicious place and very interesting around Buddhist holidays.

There are many places to get a good meal, and of course seafood is top of the menu. Barbecues can be found all along the beach and western food is widely available. If you are looking to save a few baht, the night markets are generally the cheapest places to eat and these are the best places to find tasty, authentic Thai food.

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Koh Samet, Thailand

Koh Samet, Thailand
Koh Samet, Thailand
Koh Samet, Thailand
Koh Samet, Thailand
Koh Samet is an extremely pretty island situated in Rayong Province, which is within easy reach of Bangkok. The island features 14 beautiful white sand beaches. Although a popular tourist destination and a major destination for Thai families on weekends, Koh Samet somehow manages to maintain the feel of a quiet remote tropical hideaway, especially during the week.

Although seemingly sleepy, there is still plenty to do on Koh Samet, especially in the evening when the beach bars come alive and there is loud music, drinking and dancing on the beach, especially on weekends or around the full moon.

Located in Rayong Province, the island is reached by a short ferry ride from the pretty port town of Bang Phe. Bang Phe itself can be reached in 2-3 hours from Bangkok's Ekkamai bus terminal.

A good way to see all of the island's pristine beaches is to hire a motorbike, whilst songthaews will take you just about anywhere you want to go. Another great option is to take a boat tour around the island. Boat tours can usually be combined with snorkelling or scuba diving trips.

The island largely consists of jungle in the center, and another great way to explore is to go hiking, while you can watch the sunset from dramatic cliff side locations along the south-west coastline.

There are evening fire shows at a few of the islands beach bars. They are usually held after 8 pm and act as a showcase for some of the talented locals. While on Koh Samet you can learn a new skill and show off to people back home by taking fire juggling lessons from one of the experienced fire jugglers.

Yoga classes are held daily at Ao Pay beach and the yoga teacher has been practicing yoga for more than thirty years. You can also ease aching muscles with one of many types of massages on offer.

Food wise, the island is famous for seafood, and some of the best barbeques are found along Ao Phai and Haat Sai Kaew beaches. However, you can also find just about any style of food that takes your fancy, from curries to pizza.

Many of the bars show movies and football in the evening and a good way to escape the heat in the middle of the day and chill out is to order a coconut shake and tune in to a cheesy western movie.

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Beung Kan, Thailand

Beung Kan, Thailand
Beung Kan, Thailand
Beung Kan, Thailand
Situated in Nong Khai Province to the northeast of Thailand, Beung Kan makes a good stopping off point on the way to Laos. This is a quieter alternative to the interesting yet sometimes overwhelming bustling city of Nong Khai. Baung Kan may be quaint, dusty and slightly sleepy, but there is still plenty here for the adventurous to see and do.

A great attraction is the temple of Wat Phu Tok. This temple features six levels of steps, which can be slightly difficult to climb in the heat of the day - it is best to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon. However, the spectacular views over the surrounds countryside from the top more than make up for the effort. This is a absolutely enchanting place, and people are offered the opportunity to get to know it better by staying overnight in one of the dormitories.

A pleasant day trip from Beung Kan is the charming little town of Sangkhom, which looks out on the Lao island of Don Klang. This is the home of several beautiful flowing waterfalls such as Nam Tok Than Thip and Nam Tok Than Thong, which is a great place for swimming and cooling down after a hike through the countryside.

Whilst there, make sure that you check out the pretty little temple of Wat Pa Tak Sua, which is located 4 kilometers from the town and another great hiking destination. Another point of interest is Wat Silawat. Beung Kan, a great place to hire a bicycle and go exploring or go trekking to.

This peaceful village is also a good place to be lazy for a few days and just soak up the stunning scenery, fresh air and tranquility. There are a few local guesthouses where you can indulge in delicious Thai food and practice the simple art of doing nothing.

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What to do in Thailand

What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
In this exotically inviting land where the weather is usually hot and sunny, travel is easy and the food is delicious and plentiful, there isn't really much that you can't do. No matter what you are into, whether it be extreme sports, sunbathing, exploring, discovering a new culture or pure hedonism, Thailand is the perfect place to do it, whilst getting a tan at the same time.

Thailand's temples - known as wats - are big, richly decorated and contain an interesting assortment of treasures. Every town has a large assortment of temples, with perhaps the highest concentrations in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya. Some temples not to be missed are Wat Arun on the Chaopraya river in Bangkok, Wat Po, also in Bangkok and Chiang Mai's Wat Benchamabophit. Whilst in Chiang Mai, climb Doi Suthet to see Wat Doi Suthep, which offers stunning views over the area.

As well as spectacular scenery, Thailand's islands and beaches offer a good opportunity to take part in diving and snorkeling, the clear blue water offering glimpses of colourful coral and fish. Koh Tao is rapidly becoming the most popular island for diving and snorkelling, whilst Koh Phi Phi and Phuket are also popular. Other water ports available include sailing and windsurfing. At many places, bungee jumping and rock climbing are the order of the day, whilst paintballing offers a good opportunity to let of some steam.

Thailand has some beautiful golf courses, some designed by skilled international golfers. Muay Thai is the national sport and no trip is complete without watching a match or even training and competing yourself.

The amazing landscape makes Thailand a great place for walking and trekking, the hill tribe villages to the north making a great stop over or a three or four day trek.

Many come to this deeply spiritual country to learn about meditation, and there are numerous meditation courses available. Whilst here, you can also learn the ancient art of massage or join yoga classes on the beach.

Thai food is some of the best in the world, and you will find some outstanding restaurants, offering everything from international style dining, dining aboard river cruises or simply eating at a tiny table on the street.

The spas and saunas are also a great place to unwind and be pampered; whilst for many cosmetic surgery and cosmetic dentistry provide the opportunity for self improvement. Also, there are plenty of chances to indulge in a little retail therapy.

Thailand has a great selection of outdoor markets, floating markets, stores and shopping centres. Do not miss Bangkok's Chatuchak market, MBK, Paragon or the night bazaar at Suan Lum, whilst Chiang Mai's Night Market draws visitors from all over the world.

For people wishing to take in some culture there are some interesting museums, art galleries, exhibitions and displays of Thai dancing. Thailand also has some interesting theme parks, shows and zoos such as Sri Racha Tiger Zoo.

There is always something to see and do in Thailand, and the numerous festivals can add colour and life to your holiday, especially if you are lucky enough to be in the country during Songran or Loi Krathong.

There are plenty of opportunities to get in touch with nature in the national parks, such as Khao Yai where parts of the movie The Beach was filmed or Koh Samet, where the outstanding natural beauty has led to its being preserved as a national park.

Whatever you decide to do, there never seems to be quite enough time, and it is almost certain that Thailand's charms will draw you back time and again.

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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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