Tag - huts

Accommodation in Thailand

Hotels, Guest Houses and other Accommodation in Thailand
Hotels, Guest Houses and other Accommodation in Thailand
Hotels, Guest Houses and other Accommodation in Thailand
Hotels, Guest Houses and other Accommodation in Thailand

Thailand offers a wide range of accommodation options, from the flimsiest wooden shack to luxury, five star hotels. Generally, accommodation goes up by as much as a third during the peak tourist seasons and around two or three days before the full moon party on Koh Phangan. Opting for a room with a simple fan and cold water can save a lot of money, whilst luxuries such as power showers, air conditioning and satellite television are often available but don’t come cheap.

Here is an overview of what is available and how much you can expect to pay:

Beach Huts tend to be very rough and ready. If you are looking to save a few baht this might be a good place to hang your hat, although it is a good idea to keep your valuables in a separate safety deposit box – most places offering beach huts also have these. It is a good idea to make sure that your hut comes equipped with a mosquito net as insects come as standard. Prices start from as little as 50 baht per night for the most basic hut away from the beach to 1000 baht for a hut with a bathroom and ocean view.

Tents are another cheap option, especially if you are spending the night in a national park. You can generally get away with paying just 30 baht per night if you have your own tent, or tents can be hired for around 100 baht. Many camp sites have very limited facilities, so it is a good idea to bring your own provisions.

Bungalows are usually found in beach areas. They are generally more comfortable than beach huts as the mattress tends to be thicker and the amount of insects fewer. Most bungalows also have bathrooms, which saves you staggering into a tree in the middle of the night. Prices range from 150 baht for a basic bungalow with a fan and bathroom with cold water to around 500 baht for air conditioning.

River Rafts make an interesting way to view an area, especially if you are staying in a place with stunning scenery such as Kanchanaburi. Most river rafts have large wooden balconies where you can sit and watch the world go by. Expect to pay a minimum of 600 baht for a fan room on the river.

Guesthouses are generally very cheap and cheerful. Many are set up to cater for backpackers and you can get a basic room with a fan and shared bathroom for as little as 100 baht. Most guesthouses serve popular backpacker food such as French fries, pad thai and banana pancakes.

They usually have a communal garden or restaurant to chill out in, which can be a good place to meet other backpackers and swap tall tales and travel advice. Most guesthouses do not make a profit from renting out rooms, so it is a good idea to sample one or more of their other services such as food or booking a tour.

Hotels vary dramatically in terms of luxury, facilities and cleanliness. The most basic hotels rooms tend to be very small, have noisy fans and shared bathrooms. Prices start from around 200 baht, whilst the equivalent rooms with air-con start at around 400 baht.

If you have more money to spend there is no limit to the kind of luxury you could find. All the standards found in luxury hotels in the west are available, still at a fraction of the price. The best hotels have rooftop swimming pools and bars, gymnasiums, spas and saunas and just about anything else you could ask for. Be aware that most of the top hotels add a 7% government tax and an additional 10% service tax.

Although resorts often have all the same facilities as luxury hotels, with prices to match, in Thailand the term can refer to general accommodation and it is a good idea to check out the facilities before you book.

Isaan Life – New Year

New Year in Issan
issaan_new_year_2
New Year in Issan
New Year in Issan
issaan_new_year_6

There are places along Isaan’s Korat Plateau, framed by the wandering Mae Khong, dotted with centuries-old rice paddies, lumbering, long-horned water buffalo and forgotten villages influenced by the Lao culture to the north that are so stunning, so awe-inspiring that words are inadequate to describe them. Phachnadai Cliff, 45 kilometers from Khon Chiem and a six-klick hike straight up from Ban San Som, a sleepy 200-member farm community of wooden huts built on long poles, is an unusual place to greet the New Year. But then Isaan is an unusual place, a special place and teetering and shivering through the night toward dawn in a brisk, cold wind on the edge of a 15 meter black cliff with a dozen friends and 200 strangers was the perfect way to greet the New Year, a year sure to be filled with beauty, adventure and opportunity.

Our journey began 175 kilometers away at my home in Ubon Rachathani in southeast Isaan on the north bank of the Mun River, a tributary of the Mae Khong. We traveled north by motorcycle toward Ban San Som, a village that does not appear on any western map buts sits less than an hour from Laos. Neither Ban San Som nor Phachanadai Cliff produce even one hit on a Google search. It is not a destination resort. It is however a very special place to welcome the New Year.
 
Ban San Som in January is surrounded by freshly harvested rice fields and wandering water buffalo, eyeing the newly harvested rice strewn through the fields. In theory, there are two ways up the mountain. It’s a six kilometer hike straight up or a 13 kilometer overland trek by motorcycle. In reality, the hike is probably the way to go. A combination of laziness and rapidly disappearing sunlight produced a quick decision; the motorcycle seemed a quicker, less strenuous option. Unfortunately we were not ready for the unbeaten, unmarked track that lay in before us.
 
There is no visible road up the mountain. There are ruts and rocks and roots that slowed our progress to a crawl. Deep sands as shifty and slick as sheer ice blocked our path in places reminding me it’s the heart of winter back home in Vermont, USA. And at times murky brown water covered the track making it impossible to know how deep and passable it was at any given point. Nittaya Saebut, a fourth year student at Ubon Ratchathani University, described the journey charitably as “unpredictable.” Surasak Witton, a third year at Ubon Rachathani University, carried Sukie, a second year student from Rachabhat University who knew the area quite well. He said his rider made it hard to focus on the path. Surasak explained, “It was hard for me having Sukie on the bike because she would tell me about different areas of the mountain and if I took my eyes off the road for one second conditions would change and a different type of terrain would jump up in front of me.”
 
We made it to the top in darkness; the view would have to wait until morning: the New Year. A sheer black rock covered the peak, a lava-like geological formation though there is no volcano near Phachanadai Cliff. The difficult path to the summit didn’t keep some 200 others from making the journey to greet the New Year. Camp fires fueled with wood scavenged from nearby forest sprinkled across the black rock lit the landscape like lights on a Christmas tree. There was even New Year’s entertainment on the top of that mountain. A stage set up in the midst of the waving fires offered an assortment of colorful dancers and songs through the evening. There was even a “Cow Gee” eating contest which I entered immediately as the journey produced a severe hunger deep in the pit of my stomach. Cow Gee is sticky rice grilled with egg. I stuffed my face full of the deliciousness
and finished second among 16 other contestants. My stomach full I realized I’d won 200 baht! Being paid to overeat; Isaan is a wonderful place!
 
Sleeping was impossible! The wind howled constantly sending a chill deep into my spine. At 5:30 a.m. everyone that wasn’t knocked out from the New Year celebration, clustered on the 15 meter cliff to watch the sunrise. The cliff drops straight down to the ancient Mae Khong. The rising sun slowly revealed the misty mountains of Laos covered in early morning fog and produced an immense cheer from the crowd. It brought a tear to my eye, and I wished everyone “Sa Wa Dee Bee Mai.” Happy New Year 2008/2551.
 
About the author:
Eli Sherman is a graduate of Montpelier High School in Montpelier, the capital of the state of Vermont, USA, and a “young blood writer” living in Ubon Ratchathani, Isaan – Northeastern Thailand. He’s been to Isaan four times in his short life. Once on a cross cultural exchange with Montpelier to Thailand Project; once coming for five months as an exchange student at Benchama Maharat school in Ubon; and again coming as a guide for Montpelier to Thailand Project. He now works as a volunteer at the Institute of Nutrition Research Field Station, Mahidol University in Ubon Ratchathani and is writing to present Isaan Life to the world, and especially KhaoSanRoad.com visitors.

Laos Lifts Us Up Where We Belong; the Gibbon Experience of Bokeo

The Gibbon Experience of Bokeo, Laos
The Gibbon Experience of Bokeo, Laos
The Gibbon Experience of Bokeo, Laos

When globetrotters book their tickets to Southeast Asia, they usually anticipate weeks of lounging on beaches, eating delicious spicy food, and touring stunning temples. But as any traveller can tell you, the most rewarding and memorable experiences are often found off the tourist trail. For some people, it’s hard to tear through such beautiful countries without giving something back. Well, eco-minded adventurers take note of the most exciting conservation project on the map; the Gibbon Experience in Bokeo, northern Laos.
The premise sounds a bit like a boyhood Tarzan fantasy; guests climb up to treehouses and don’t touch the ground for days. Instead, they zipline between huts and throughout the conservation area in attempts to spot the elusive-but-adorable black gibbon. But as thoughts of Swiss Family Robinson come to mind, remember that this project is operated with nature and wildlife conservation in mind. The Societe Animo is the brains behind the operation, working with the Bokeo Nature Reserve to help promote environmental awareness and conscienciousness through this hands-on style of eco-tourism.

The organization is located in Huay Xai, across the river from Thailand’s popular northern border crossing. Here you can book your Gibbon Experience package and catch the 3 hour ride into the reserve (trucks leave every other day at 7:30am).

Once you’ve arrived, you can spend hours touring the camp and its environs by zipline, eat delicious fire-cooked meals, and chat with local guides who will dazzle you with their bottomless knowledge of the forest and its animals. A 3-day stay (approx. $110 USD) includes all food and accomodation, plus hiking excursions and visits to stunning waterfalls.

When you’re not swinging through the trees, monkey-style, take a moment to ask the Gibbon staff about their environmental efforts. Animo encourages grassroots conservation; a common goal that should be realized by local inhabitant, not imposed upon them by foreign organizations or NGOs. The emphasis of the project is on the protection of the black gibbon, a species that was once thought to be extinct before it was discovered again. This is different from the hilltribe tourist treks of “ethnotourism,” which Animo believes is an exploitative move to peddle a tribe’s otherness for tourist profit. Animo wishes to draw awareness and respect to the environment itself, not simply the people. All profits of the Gibbon Experience go towards the conservation of the forest, to help prevent logging, poaching, and scorched-earth farming in the area.

If you’re interested in stepping off the beaten path in Laos, why not forego the tribal treks in favour of the Gibbon Experience? Your money will go towards an important cause, and your three days of tree hut living will be an adventure you won’t soon forget, even when you’re back on the ground.

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