Tag - money

Poipet, Cambodia

Poipet, Cambodia
Poipet, Cambodia
Poipet, Cambodia
Poipet, Cambodia

The dusty border town of Poipet is largely ignored by the people who pass through it on their way from Thailand to Cambodia. For many this is simply a place to get their passport stamped and perhaps wait for the bus to whisk them away to Siem Reap or Phnom Penh.
However, if you do need to spend the night here you will find the town is not quite as rough as it appears at first glance and there are a few things to amuse and entertain. Gambling is illegal in Thailand and so large numbers of people cross the border to try their luck at one of the town’s many flashy casinos.

Theft is quite high in Poipet, so if you do decide to spend some time here make sure you keep your wits about you and don’t give money to beggars as the young girl staring at you with pleading eyes quickly multiplies into dozens of demanding beggars once some slight generosity is shown.

There are a number of places to eat in Poipet, many serving western snacks such as sandwiches and French fries. There is also a large bustling marketplace selling clothes and souvenirs, although this is a popular spot for pickpockets, so keep a careful eye on your belongings.

The border crossing is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is a good idea to arrive early to beat the crowds and try to avoid arriving on the weekend. Queues can last for several hours, although the longest queues are usually for those heading into Thailand from Cambodia. Don’t trust anyone offering to make your visa for you, even if they are wearing official looking laminated badges. Instead, head to the Cambodian Consulate or get your visa made on arrival. The cheapest and easiest way to get a visit for Cambodia is to go online and get a e-Visa, which costs USD $25.

Once you have your visa you can travel by bus or pickup truck to a number of places such as Siem Reap, Sisophon and Battambang. You may have to wait a few hours for the bus to fill up, but once it starts moving simply sit back and relax as the worst part of the journey through Cambodia is now behind you.

Money Matters in Malaysia

Money Matters in Malaysia
Money Matters in Malaysia
Money Matters in Malaysia

Malaysia’s currency is the Malaysian ringgit, which is pronounced rin-gay and written as RM. There are 100 sen in one ringgit, which is also often referred to as a dollar. Notes come in RM1, RM2, RM5, RM10, RM20, RM50 and RM100 notes, while the available coins are 1 sen, 5 sen, 10 sen, 20 sen and 50 sen.

Costs

Generally speaking, the cost of living in Malaysia in higher than in many Asian countries, especially Thailand and Laos, although it is cheaper than is Indonesian and significantly less than in western countries. Those on a tight budget should be able to spend just $20 a day, although this will only buy the absolute basics and $35 a day will allow you a few small luxuries. Those who can afford to spend $150 each day will be able to stay in some of the country’s top hotels and dine in style, while for those with a real taste for luxury $275 a day should be more than enough to experience the best of Malaysia.

ATMs
ATMs are abundant in all Malaysian cities, especially in shopping areas. The most reliable machines are attached to banks and it is probably best to stick to these as ATM machines to occasionally swallow cards.

Travellers’ Cheques and Credit Cards
Most major credit cards are generally accepted in top of the range hotels, shops and restaurants throughout Malaysia. Check for surcharges added to your bill before you pay as these are illegal. Travellers’ cheques in pounds sterling or US Dollars can be cashed in most banks and even some shops.  

Changing Your Money
It is illegal to carry more than RM1000 into or out of Malaysia, so most of your money will need to be changed within the country. Although there are a large number of banks located around Malaysia with money changing facilities, the best deals are found at licensed moneychangers’ kiosks. These kiosks pop up all over Malaysia and tend to stay open until about 6pm.

Money Matters in Laos

Money Matters in Laos
Money Matters in Laos
Money Matters in Laos

The official currency of Laos is the Laos kip (LAK), which comes in 100, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 kip notes. Although this is the country’s only official currency, Thai Baht and US Dollars are also accepted in many places, especially tourist areas, which can make life easier if you are travelling to Laos from Thailand. You will need a ready supply of kip notes for use in smaller towns and villages as well as for small purchases.

Because it is such a poor country, the cost of visiting Laos is low, even compared to other Asian countries. Accommodation and transport are cheap and most people should be able to get by comfortably on $15 USD per day, although you can spend a lot more if you choose to eat and sleep in exclusive hotels. If you need to save money, it is possible to spend as little as $10 USD per day by eating at the local markets and staying in the cheapest hotels or guesthouses.

Make sure you bring a good supply of cash and traveller’s cheques with you as most places don’t accept credit cards and finding a cash machine can be difficult.

Changing your Money
There are banks located in all main towns and these can exchange all major currencies. The best rates can be found in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, where competition is higher than the rest of the country.

Traveller’s cheques can be cashed in exchange bureaus and banks, which can be found all over Laos and traveller’s cheques in US Dollars, are preferred.

You cannot exchange kip outside of Laos, so make sure you convert your cash before leaving the country.

ATMs
Cash machines have only recently made their way into Laos, and even now they can only really be found in Vientiane. Unfortunately, even in Vientiane the number to ATM machines are limited and they often break down. Also be aware that there is a limit to how much you can draw out at a time and there are quite hefty charges for doing so. To avoid potential problems it is best to make sure you draw enough money for your trip before entering Laos or take traveller’s cheques as these can be cashed in most of the tourist areas.

Tipping
Tipping is not common practice is Laos and will not be expected of you. However, generosity will always be appreciated, especially as the average salary is very low.

Survival Tips for Thailand

Survival Tips in Thailand
Survival Tips in Thailand
Survival Tips in Thailand
Survival Tips in Thailand

Generally, Thailand is a very friendly place to visit, however a few precautions and a measure of common sense can go a long way to making your experience smooth and enjoyable.

It is a good idea to carry a selection of change such as 20 baht notes and coins as many people cannot change large notes, especially in small towns and villages. If you are stuck for change, buying an inexpensive item at 7/11 or a similar shop usually does the trick.

Touts at airports and other tourist areas are there for one reason only: to make money. Unfortunately, this usually involves parting unwary travelers from their cash. You should always question any offer that seems ‘too good’, and get a good idea of average hotel prices before agreeing to go with someone.

Always use the meter in taxis or, if taking a tuk-tuk or motorbike taxi, makes sure you agree the price before hopping on board.

Young, fresh coconuts are much more refreshing than water, great if you are spending the day on the beach or suffering from a hangover.

Although the tap water is drinkable in large cities, it is best to stick to bottled water. The larger bottles of UV treated water are the cheapest, although not the healthiest. It is worth paying a few baht more for brands such as Singha or IO.

In Bangkok, the entire city becomes gridlocked during peak commuting hours of 8-10 am and 5-7 pm. It is best to try to avoid travelling at these times.

Essentials such as suntan lotion and mosquito spray tend to be a little bit more expensive on the islands, so it is a good idea to stock up before you go. Internet access is often much more expensive as well.

Guesthouse owners a generally a good source of local information, it is worth getting to know them.

Make sure you check the expiry date of your visa carefully as there is an overstay fine of 500 baht per day.

Many bathrooms do not provide toilet tissue, so it is a good idea to carry some with you. Remember to throw it into the bucket provided rather than into the toilet.
 
Sarongs are an essential item as they dry much quicker than towels and can also be used as a blanket, a privacy screen and an item of clothing.

Learning a few words in Thai can go a long way to getting what you want and forming friendships. Compliments and jokes are always effective.

It is a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport, especially when going out drinking as police perform random checks and may ask to see it.

It’s easy to become dehydrated, make sure you carry water and drink small sips frequently.

If you need to get away from the heat for a while, cinemas, expensive hotels and even 7/11 shops provide sanctuary.

A small dab of perfume or aftershave under your nose is a great way to avoid suffering from bad smells.

Isaan By Motorbike – Day 2

DAY 2 Tuesday

Isaan Tour - Northeast Thailand
I woke up at 6.30 am, ready for the next day. Well almost ready for the next day. After even the smallest amount of Sang Som the next day can be a dreadful affair. Sang som is not my friend. Feeling rough as a dogs arse I slowly got ready for the ride. My former sickness had been enhanced by the Sangsom and the disturbed sleep.

spider_tour_2I sat with my friend and her mother outside of the house in some kind of shed, a posh shed, but still only a shed. A few people started coming and going, money was changing hands – a lot of money. It turns out that this shed is some sort of primitive style bank. The local people seem happier to hand over the money to the old ladies than to the farmer’s bank next door.

Before I left I got a massage from a nice old lady. Well I thought she was friendly until she started inflicting great amounts of pain on me. The thought of a nice loosening massage before the next leg of my travel was a good idea. This woman was giving me a full deep tissue massage. Not a Thai style massage, but nevertheless it was ranking up there with the most painful massages I have ever had. After my pounding I said my thank yous and farewells and got on my bike.

spider_tour_3This was to be a much shorter ride than the day before. A lot easier of my ass than the day before.

The scenery was parched; clearly they haven’t had rain here for a long time. Endless straight roads cut through the barren brown and yellow. The sky was the cleanest of blues – no clouds to form any difference.

The fields for km after km were arid. This patchwork of tessellating blocks stretched on and on. It must have taken many generations to create this myriad of tiny fields. All adjoined by irrigation channels simply awaiting the rainy season to bring them back to life.

Cow herders were tending to their withered beasts, searching for shade from the searing heat of the mid-day sun. I was doing the same, rolling along the deserted asphalt. I found a disused petrol station, perfect. I took this opportunity to take a lie down in the shade and let the midday heat pass me by.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandOn on. I was not sure how long this leg was going to take. On the map it is a much shorter distance but in reality – this is

Thailand and things can be very deceiving. I opened up the throttle and got a boost along the way. Before not too long the road took a welcome change. The road changed from the long straights into a twisting turning snake.

As the road ascended through the hills I noticed a couple of dinosaurs on the side of the road. I had to stop and have a look. Full size, a diplodocus and tri-ceratops. These marked the entrance to a small picnic area close to Kalasin. The name of this small place is Pha Cliff. It is a place where the King Phumiphol of Thailand stopped to take a rest and some food in 1954. The Pha Cliff is a now a small picnic area. There were 3 or 4 small shelters there to take a rest or a refreshment break. These formed the edges to an expansive car park. The far edge of the car park is the cliff itself. It overlooks a now very brown valley. The view was wonderful; it was easy to see why the king chose this blissful place to take a rest from his travels, sitting within the shelter of the trees, looking out over a beautiful valley.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandBack on the road again I saw signs for a waterfall. Yes, this was good news. This was better than good news. A chance to completely cool off in the refreshing waters. There could be nothing better at this time. After another 25 minutes of driving I eventually got to the waterfall. The whole place was deserted. Not a soul to be seen anywhere, even the guard station is vacant. Awesome, the whole place to myself, maybe a bit of skinny dipping or something.

Well not really, as you can see from the photo it is now simply a beautiful rock formation, no water to be seen, not even a drop. What did I do to deserve this, well it is the height of the dry season.

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandOn to Sakhon Nakhon to find myself a room and a pharmacy. I looked around at a couple of places; the ones in the guide were far too expensive for what I was looking for. I wanted a place to sleep, maybe with aircon but definitely with a hot shower and a flushing sit down toilet.

After a while I asked a local guy where I could find the Araya 1 guesthouse. I was directed up the street, then helped in to find the place. It all looked ok from the outside, 180 baht for an air-conditioned room, no view to speak of but it is just a pit stop I’m not looking for a luxury room.

spider_tour_9The room – time locked in a movie. The whole guesthouse must have been featured in the lonely planet that time forgot. A meagre write up. A less than meagre room. I was too tired to look for another place by now, feeling ill and tired I just wanted to relax. I checked into the place, I didn’t survey the room before I paid up, big mistake. The cockroaches had already packed up and left for better accommodation. The newest thing in the room was the toilet; the next was the towel rack. The silver lining to this cloud was the bed. Possibly the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. I sank into its loving arms.

For food I wanted something ferringue. I opted for pizza. Nice on the stomach, easy to ask for. Not very traditional I know but it was to serve a purpose. A visit to the pizza parlour gave me a nice head twist. It was 2 for 1. What the hell do I do with the next pizza; I knew I would only be able to manage around half of the first one, OMG. I managed to eat three slices of the first pizza then donated the rest to the ladies in the opticians in the adjacent shop. I took the three remaining pieces of pizza back to the guesthouse and gave them to the som tam party that was happening in the lobby.

Back in the room the bed awaited my return, so nice to sink into softness after the day’s ride.

Note: Story author is Steven Noake.

Isaan By Motorbike – Day 1

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1DAY 1 Monday

OK this is it, almost ready to go. My bag was packed and my very loose plans were made. I had a place to stay for the night; a friend of my girlfriend put me up for the first night. This was a long ride, maybe 400 kilometres on the first day. I wanted to go this far so I could make good headway into the journey and have more time later on to look around and rest.

I got the confirmation for my accident insurance, just in time!.

Right, had a shower and breakfast, one last check of the bag then time to go. My days ride was from Bangkok to Borabue, close to Roi Et in Isaan.

Bangkok > Nonthanburi > Pathum Thani > Saraburi > Nakhon Ratchasima > Ban Phai > Borabue

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1After a confusing time trying to get out of Pathum Thani I headed out towards Saraburi, to the North East of Bangkok. The roads were awesome, nice and smooth with a steady traffic flow making it all easier to get along. I stopped after around an hour and a half, close to the Julasid Reservoir for some lunch.

A typical roadside restaurant. No frills, far too many seats, the thought of all of these seats being filled more than a couple of times a year is a constant puzzle to me. Is it just optimism that makes people build such large restaurants? The price tag went with the size of the building. 77 baht for a plate of mediocre fried rice. Serves me right I suppose for judging the price of the book by its cover.

One thing I had not really thought about was the hardness of the seat on my bike. It’s not a touring bike and was not fitted with any extra creature comforts, such as a well padded seat. Getting back on the bike after the first break was almost enough to putt me off carrying on. After all, this was only the first leg of the first day and my ass was already feeling like the morning after far too much spicy food.

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1After passing Nakhon Ratchasima (local title Ko Rat) I saw a beautiful temple a little way off the main road. It was still under construction. It is a huge project that is nearing its completion. Inside the main temple there is a huge black image of an old Thai Buddhist teacher and philosopher, Luang Pooh Toh.

After leaving the temple I notice a change in the landscape. The number of buildings and roadside business is dropping. The road really opened up into what I had been looking forward too. Not stopping for kilometre after kilometre. Nothing like riding around Bangkok and the surrounding semi developed areas. Bangkok gives me more traffic lights than I had ever thought possible in a simple journey to work.

These roads started to wind their way through the opening countryside. Bright blue skies with hardly a cloud to be seen. Burning sun was scorching me along with the tarmac and the livestock that was being tended to along the roadsides. The first time I had to stop after a terrific run was for a family of cows that had decided to cross the road. I turned on some speed after this as the light was starting to fail and I had to find my bed for the night in Borabue. These new roads long and straight, perfect.

Isaan By Motorbike Day 1I got my sore ass into Borabue. I realised at this point that I had no idea where the house was that I was staying in. I called my friend to guide me to her place, she was kind enough to pick me up and show me the way other place. I was only about half a kilometre away so just a few minutes from rest.

The place I stayed was a wedding outfitter. A huge place. I was welcomed in and given food. Thai people have such a warm way of welcoming guests into their homes. The friend I was to stay with had to spend the night in the hospital to take care for of her father, leaving me in the capable hands of her brothers and their friends.

spider_tour_5I declined the offers of going out with them as I was still on antibiotics and not feeling so energised after the long haul of the day. I ate and took my leave to sleep. I was awoken around 1 am by the younger brother. He was excited and keen for me to drink with his friends. I was not in the mood for drinking but felt rude to decline. I went downstairs to join the friends for a drink.

spider_tour_6Dem, Aem, Nong A, Pi A then the older brother and his friends came to join. I was confused by so many non English speakers all trying to talk to me at the same time. I can usually hold my own and understand some of the conversation that’s going on but this for me was a little too much. I sat, smiled and sipped at the never empty glass in front of me. Sang Som, one of the oldest drinking traditions in Thailand. You pay for it in the morning though!

After a while one of the kateouys there started to massage my shoulders. Not too bad, a free massage is a free massage. A little too much power maybe, lol. There seemed to be some mirth developing, I felt it was at my expense. Yes it was.

Finally I got my sleep.

Spider

Note: Story author is Steven Noake.