Tag - japanese

Koh Chang, Thailand

Koh Chang, Thailand
Koh Chang, Thailand
Koh Chang, Thailand
Koh Chang, Thailand

The name Koh Chang means Elephant Island in Thai and people interested in the island’s elephants should visit the Ban Kwan Elephant Camp or Ban Khlong Son Elephant Camp, where you can interact with the animals and go elephant trekking through the jungle. Animal lovers can also volunteer at the Koh Chang Animal Foundation.

With its many mountains, sparkling waterfalls and rainforest, Koh Chang is an island of intense natural beauty and is part of the Mu Koh Chang Marine National Park, which comprises a total of 52 islands.

There are many beautiful beaches where visitors can chill out and catch some rays or play in the water. Most of the beaches are located along the west cost of the island. Check out Lonely Beach, Hat Kaibae, Hat Klong MaKohk and Hat Kai Mook for beautiful stretches of sun lined with palm trees and beach bars. Generally, the further south you head the more secluded the beach, and there are some virtually untouched beaches at the very bottom of the island. A good example is Hat Wai Chek, which is unreachable by road, making this the perfect trekking destination.

This is a great area for snorkeling and scuba diving as the coral is beautiful and the water clear. There are lots of small islands to explore such as Koh Kut, Koh Mak, Koh Wai and Koh Kham and basic accommodation is available on most if you decide to stay for a day or two.

Koh Chang also offers plenty of opportunities for self improvement. The Koh Chang Cookery School is a good place to learn to create all the delicious food you’ll have been sampling. You can study the Japanese art of reiki healing at Jungle Way, whilst yoga and healing classes are available at Baan Zen.

But Koh Chang is also the perfect place to be lazy for a few days. There are excellent bars, restaurants and spas all around the island, so just put up your feet and relax for a while.

World War 2 – Thailand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. Have you served in the military? 

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

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

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

Q. Why your passion for the TBR?

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

Q. What year did you get to Kanchanaburi?

A. 1989.

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

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

Q. How did you get the job?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. I never met Weary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Mason

Australia

Hoi An – Strolling Through Vietnam’s Prettiest Colonial Town

Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is the type of place that, on paper, sounds like an ideal overnight stopover for travelers journeying down the long spine of Vietnam. It’s small, forever labelled “charming,” and the famed tourist sites of traditional houses and bridges are all located in a tight, walkable circuit. Ask any traveler, however, and they will tell you differently. “Hoi An,” they will inevitably say, “is a town you won’t want to leave.”
Located between the once-empirical Hue and breezy, beachy Nha Trang, this town’s multicultural architecture offers a glimpse into the foreign influences that have shaped Vietnam. In the 16th century, this town was a shipping powerhouse, attracting overseas merchants who would sometimes settle wealthily in the town. These foreign influences are still resonant in the town’s architecture, with centuries-old Chinese and Japanese buildings blending with French-style colonial structures. One of the biggest draws of this city is its historical feel, the fantastic absence of neon signs and skyscrapers. While the shops and restaurants are mostly tourist-oriented, the architecture and layout of the city remains beautifully uncompromised.

There’s no shortage of hotels in this vibrant tourist city. Hoi An, famous for its dime-a-dozen tailoring shops, is a popular stopover with bus tours and travel groups looking to score some cheap Vietnamese souvenirs. As a result, hotels and guesthouses vary from the uber-elegant to the bare-bones minimum. If you’re going to splurge, this is one of the best places to do it, with breezy, luxurious hotels like the Green Field Hotel (20$-35$/night for a double, www.hoiangreenfieldhotel.com). Budget travelers can take their pick from dozens of tiny guesthouses in the centre of the city. The popular Dai Long Hotel on Hai Ba Trung street, or the cosy Hop Yen Hotel on A Nhi Trung, offer rooms from 6$-10$ per night. These multi-purpose guesthouses will also help you with bus tickets, tourist maps, bike rentals, and even discounts on local tailors.

For sightseers, the heart of Hoi An lies over the Japanese bridge in the Old Town, where old Chinese shopfronts now boast tourist galleries and shops. For about 5$, visitors can buy a multipurpose ticket for five attractions. These tickets are available at most guesthouses. Some favourites of the tour include the Cantonese Assembly Hall (176 Tran Phu Street), whose cool chambers and ornate dragons are a photographer’s paradise. Hoi An’s three traditional old houses are a cross between museum and residences, where descendants of the founding families will show you around. The most attractive of the three is the Phung Hung house, also west of the Japanese bridge.

Hungry visitors will delight in Hoi An’s mix of tourist friendly international cuisine, along with mouthwatering local dishes made with the freshest fish and vegetables. Prices tend to be inflated in the tourist areas, but some of the best (and most scenic) spots are down by the river, either at the Blue Dragon (who also sponsor a local children’s charity), or across the water on Cam Nam island. Also on the island, the slightly-pricey Lighthouse Restaurant

offers unbeatable views along with its delicious food. Come sunset, many restuarants transform into lounges with dim lights and crowded patios. King Kong Bar on Cam Nam island is a friendly, funky nightspot. Backpackers also flock to the classy Tam Tam cafe on Nguyen Thai street, for drinks, snacks, and pool. Across the street from Tam Tam is a French-style bakery whose mouthwatering breakfasts will have you humming “La Vie En Rose.”

For souvenir-hunters, Hoi An is most famous for its 400+ made-to-measure tailor shops, who can stitch up anything from suits to dresses to robes in a few days’ time. There’s no shortage of tailors in central Hoi An, and the best way to scout the good shops is by word of mouth from fellow tourists. If you want to keep shopping, a dense cluster of galleries sits just east of the Japanese Bridge. The Central market, by Cam Nam bridge, boasts all the souvenir kitsch you’ll ever need, along with tasty local produce.

If you’re seeking a glimpse of a more authentic Vietnam, head to Cam Nam island, across Cam Nam bridge. Here, there are still hotels and cafes with all the usual amenities. But the beauty of this island comes in the winding alleys where you can stroll for hours, catching glimpses of real Vietnamese life though doorways and windows. The area around the shipyard is dotted with artisan workshops, where you can watch craftsmen make traditional Vietnamese wares.

If you’re keen to see some countryside, rent a bike from your guesthouse and head to Cua Dai beach, located a few kilometres outside of Hoi An. It’s a scenic ride, past green rice fields and winding roads, and the beach is a great spot to relax. Here, the water is clean and local vendors will keep your belly filled with fresh fruits and cold beers.

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.

Veggie Delight

Vegetarian Restaurants around Khao San Road and Bangkok, Thailand
Vegetarian Restaurants around Khao San Road and Bangkok, Thailand
Vegetarian Restaurants around Khao San Road and Bangkok, Thailand

Travelling in Thailand can be tough if you’re a vegetarian. Your senses are constantly assaulted by the myriad of meats on sticks barbecued on every street corner and the scent of fried chicken fills the air as you wait patiently for a bus to whisk you away.

Vegetarianism is definitely a lesson in tolerance, and I have learnt to turn a blind eye to the invasions of the meat loving society. Well, almost. Even more difficult, however, is finding decent veggie food, especially if you are on a budget. I spent my first six months in the Land of Smiles surviving mainly on pad Thai and boiled corn, not exactly a rich and varied diet.

But the truth is there are some excellent places for vegetarians to eat in Bangkok, if you know where to go. Here are some of my favourites:

May Kaidee, located 33 Samsen Road (Soi 1) and tucked away on 1117/1 Tanao Road, behind Burger King at the end of Khaosan Road is probably the most popular vegetarian restaurant in the area. Offering an incredibly diverse range of vegetarian Thai, Chinese and Japanese dishes, this is a great place to meet friends. All the dishes are freshly prepared and cooked, with flavours combined to perfection.

The pumpkin soup is simply fantastic, especially with ground ginger on top, and the organic brown rice is healthy and delicious. Dishes are affordable at around 50 Baht each and cooking courses are also available. Open 9 a.m – 11 p.m. daily.

Situated at the end of Soi 2, just off Samsen Road, Cafe Corner is also a great place to unwind. Converted from a traditional Thai shop, the cafe opens right onto the street and has a unique Bohemian feel.

Unusual, uplifting music is played in the background whilst you tuck into baguettes, pancakes or vegetarian Thai food. The range of cocktails makes this the perfect place to gather in the evening as well.

All the vegetables used are organic and come from farms in Suphanburi, Ratchaburi and the cafe’s own garden.

Just a ten minute walk from Khaosan Road, the recently opened Tham-na Home Restaurant can be found at 169 Samsen Road. The restaurant offers deliciously healthy vegetarian and vegan food served in a light and stylishly decorated restaurant. The restaurant’s motto is; “Vegetarian food for meat lovers,” and is a real treat for anyone who appreciates good food. The menu is filled with international favourites such as Japanese dishes, Thai food, hearty breakfasts and fresh, organic salads. There are western staples such as roast potatoes, or you can try the fried lotus root for an exotic alternative. Highly recommended is the baguette with mozzarella cheese and tangy sesame mushrooms.

Tanao Road is becoming a haven for vegetarians and Ethos restaurant brings a slightly Bohemian and cozy feel to the area. The menu is full of vegan and vegetarian dishes featuring flavours from around the world. Customers get to choose between the western style dining tables or sitting on the floor on pretty patterned cushions. Gorgeous red lamps made from red paper hang over the tables and complete the scene.

The Thai vegetarian dishes are a vibrant blend of colours and textures, fresh, crisp vegetables and tasty tofu chunks. The restaurant also serves large portions of western food such as lasagna, falafel and comfort food such as apple crumble and custard. Ethos offers free wifi, making this a great place to spend an afternoon trying the incredible selection of teas and the rich and creamy fruit lassis.

The vegetarian section of Chatuchak Market is one of Bangkok’s best-kept secrets. Also known as Chamlong’s Restaurant after Bangkok’s former governor K. Chamlong, this area features a collection of over thirty stalls selling delicious Thai, Chinese and Western dishes. Each stall offers its own speciality and fake meats are used to create dishes such as “fish” curry in banana leaf and “chicken” skewers.

Best of all, these delicious dishes are incredibly cheap, ranging from 10-20 Baht each, so you can afford to try a whole range. Run by the Santi Asoke monks, food is served daily from 8 a.m. – 2p.m.

Finding Chamlong’s Restaurant can be tricky at first. Take the subway to Kamphaeng Phet (exit 1) and turn right. Walk for five minutes and follow an alleyway between bars to a large warehouse. You can also take bus no 3 from Banglampoo.

If it is authentic Indian food you crave, look no further than Soi Rambutree, opposite Khoasan Road. Here you will find quite a few eateries offering eastern promise, all with an extensive vegetarian selection.

As you can see, there is vegetarian food to suit every taste in Bangkok. Don’t forget to try the Thai speciality Pad see-u Pak (rice noodles with egg and broccoli). Whatever you choose, remember to say arroy maak (tastes very good) at the end of your meal.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!

Khao San Road Restaurants and Cafes

Khao San Road Restaurants and Cafes
restaurants_on_kha_san_road_8
Khao San Road Restaurants and Cafes
Khao San Road Restaurants and Cafes
Khao San Road Restaurants and Cafes
Khao San Road Restaurants and Cafes
Khao San Road Restaurants and Cafes

The area on and around Khao San Road offers one of the widest selections of restaurants in the entire city. Diners can choose between a large variety of both traditional Thai and international cuisine, and most of the restaurants in this area have menus written in English, Thai and a few other languages. The waiters in this area are used to dealing with customers from all over the world, which makes dining here a simple and pleasant experience.

When it comes to Thai food, the options are endless as most restaurants on Khao San Road serve a selection of the most popular Thai dishes. It is possible to order dishes to taste. Simply ask for ‘mai pet’ if you don’t like chilli, ‘pet nit noi’ for medium spicy or ‘pet pet’ if you want to enjoy eat Thai curries, soups and Thai salads at their full fiery strength. If you’re not sure how much chilli you can handle it is best or err on the side of caution as fresh chillies can always be added when eating to increase the firepower. 

Khao San Road and the surrounding streets are perhaps the best place in Bangkok to enjoy Indian food, as there are most than a dozen different restaurants in this area serving traditional Indian fare. Most restaurants employ Indian cooks and waiters and the food is served fresh. These Indian eateries here come in all shapes and sizes, from cheap and cheerful street stalls to luxuriously decorated restaurants.

There is also a wide selection of other cuisines available here including a handful of Israeli restaurants, Japanese restaurants, Italian restaurants and eateries specialising in authentic British grub such as fish and chips.

Vegetarians will find plenty of places to choose from in this area as well. Not only do many of the restaurants offer a large selection of vegetarian dishes, there are also around half a dozen restaurants that serve purely vegetarian and vegan food. These restaurants often serve as meeting places for like-minded travellers and the atmosphere inside is relaxed and friendly. Vegetarian travellers can choose between Thai, Indian and international cuisine and some of the eateries offer extra services such as a bed for the night, cookery courses and massage.

One of the great things about eating in this area is that there are plenty of places for the budget traveller to dine. There are dozens of different street stalls to choose from, which serve light bites and meals from as little as 25 baht. Many of these stalls provide tables and chairs to allow customers to eat in comfort. Simply grab a table, place your order and watch the world go by while you tuck into dishes such as som tam, pad thai, vegetarian food and Indian cuisine. Many of these street stalls also serve beer to those who want to relax for a while and indulge in a spot of people watching.

Sometimes it is nice to be able to treat yourself to something familiar and travellers will also be able to satisfy their food cravings at one of half a dozen different well-known fast food restaurants.

When hunger strikes, Khao San Road is definitely the place to be.