Tag - tips

Survival Tips for Malaysia

Survival Tips for Malaysia
Survival Tips for Malaysia
Survival Tips for Malaysia
When travelling in Malaysia it is important to remember that this is a conservative country. Consequently, things that may not seem like a big deal in western countries or only receive a slight fine are seen as major offences in Malaysia and receive severe punishments.
Possession of drugs in Malaysia can be punished by the death sentence, even if you are carrying a small amount for personal use. It is best to avoid all contact with drugs in Malaysia and be suspicious of any stranger who offers to give or sell you drugs. Gambling is also highly illegal and can receive a heavy punishment.

Pick pocketing is a common crime in large towns and cities, especially Johor. There are also incidents of people driving up on motorbikes and snatching bags, often taking their victim along with them if they refuse to let go. Carry your bag on the shoulder facing away from the road and keep a close eye on your possessions in crowded areas.

Vehicles do not stop at pedestrian crossings and it is safer to cross busy roads at pedestrian bridges and pedestrian traffic lights.

Buy a good padlock for your bag and hotel door. You may find that windows don’t always fasten properly and you should fasten them securely with a cable lock. Don’t leave valuables in hotel rooms: carry your passport or ID document and other valuables with you at all times or deposit them in the hotel safe.

Make sure you negotiate the taxi fare with the driver before getting in and try to avoid fake or unregistered taxis late at night by using a dial-a-taxi service.  

Although female travellers who dress conservatively will rarely have trouble in Malaysia, it is best to avoid travelling alone at night. Also, make sure you lock you hotel room door when in the room to discourage unwanted visitors.

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.


Traveling as a Couple: Some Tips in Thailand

arguing_coupleAnyone traveling in Thailand will likely come across the sad-but-typical backpacker sight. The young couple, traveling the world together, now barely speaking as they eat breakfast tensely at your guesthouse restaurant.

Traveling with someone can be challenging. Traveling with a partner? Even more so. Taking that partner to a country renowned for beautiful women, all-night parties, and hedonistic pleasures is a minefield for even the sanest of couples.

Below are some simple tips for keeping all parties happy on your couple trip through Thailand. After all, the steamy weather and luscious landscapes can be intensely romantic. There are simply a few things to bear in mind.    

1. Be prepared to get a little jealous
Thai women are famous for their beauty. Thai men won't hesitate to point out a foreign woman's sex appeal. And what about fellow travelers? Southeast Asia is a Mecca for young, toned adventurers, partying without inhibitions in skimpy beachwear.
So while lingering stares and flirtatious greetings are inevitable, your knee-jerk jealousy doesn't have to be. The best thing to do is take a deep breath, give your partner's hand a squeeze, and feel confident that you landed such a desirable mate. If you're the one getting the attention, flattering as it may be, have the sense not to flirt back. Your partner feels vulnerable when you're being lusted for so publicly. It's important to think clearly and show your mate that you only have eyes for them.  

2. Choose your destinations wisely
While it's hard to avoid the reality of some aspects of tourism in Thailand, some destinations are more notorious than others. Do your research. For some beach fun, hit pretty, relaxed Koh Chang instead of Pattaya. On a night out in Bangkok, choose trendy Silom over Patpong. Most guidebooks will be upfront about Thailand's shadier destinations. All you have to do is plan. 

3. Rent a bike
Once you're outside the big cities and their hazardous traffic, renting a motorbike is a smart travel choice. It's a great way to explore towns and countrysides at your own pace. A bonus to motorbiking is the closeness you'll feel when sharing a bike with your partner. It's more private than an organized tour, and the bodily contact is an all-day reminder of your bond.
Drivers, you can't help but feel gallant as your loved one grips onto your chest. Passengers, holding your partner for security and support is downright intimate. So grab a bike, pack some water, and don't worry about how geeky you look in your helmet. Once on the road together, your partner won't notice. Trust us on this!  

4. Volunteer together
There's no shortage of volunteer organizations in Thailand. Whether it's teaching at rural schools for a month, helping in an orphanage for a week, or even working with animal conservation groups for a few days, opportunities abound. Doing charity work in your travels is a great way to meet local people, learn more about local issues, and give back to the country from which you've derived so much holiday pleasure.
For couples, working together for a common purpose is a real bonding experience. Together, your eyes will be opened to Thailand's needs and causes that you might not otherwise understand. This work can create or compound a passion that you share, whether it's helping people or wildlife. It will be rewarding to feel that, as a team, you've made a contribution.  

5. Try some alone time
One of you is dying to get some shopping done. The other is itching for a Muay-Thai workshop. One of you wants to take a sunrise stroll on the beach. The other is keen to laze in bed and catch up on reading. With so many things to see and do in Thailand, it's ambitious to think that your partner's goals and priorities will match yours exactly.
So rather than drag your mate to a cooking class or up a steep mountain, why not agree to disagree? There's nothing wrong with spending a few hours apart if it means doing an activity you'll love while your partner does the same. Don't worry if it seems distant or uncaring not to join your mate in something they want to do. Some occasional time apart is a great sign of security and confidence in the relationship, even on vacation. Also, when you reunite later for a meal or a walk, you'll have more to talk about.   
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.


Full Moon Party

Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan
Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan
Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan
Whether you're sporting a new Koh Phangan t-shirt or concealing a new rash that needs 3 weeks of antibiotics, everyone leaves the famous/notorious Full Moon Party a little different than when they arrived. This event, after all, is the stuff of backpacker legend, with numbers averaging 10,000 and a fun-loving crowd from all corners of the world. Everyone arrives to Koh Phangan prepped with some expectations of the Full Moon Party, through travel guides or word of mouth. When I set forth to May's Full Moon Party, my head full of other people's stories and cautions, I still found a few surprises in this dance-til-dawn affair. So rather than outlining the importance of sunscreen, drug safety, and secure bungalows, below are some tips you may not hear, but which helped me enjoy the sweet debauchery of Hat Rin under a full moon.
Lessons Learned on a Full Moon

1) Don't Pull Rank

We all know that travel takes many forms, and the Full Moon Party certainly draws a mixed crowd. Indeed, on the crowded beach, sweaty bars, or confusing ferry terminal, sooner or later you'll get annoyed by fellow travellers. You might be on a gap-year trip and out of your parents home for the first time, or you might be an expat who went Buddhist long before Richard Gere made it trendy. Whatever your background, it may be tempting to roll your eyes at other SangSom-swilling beachgoers. In a group of ten thousand, you're not going to like everyone. By the same token, in a group so big, you're bound to get along with a lot of them. Don't be dissuaded by disagreement, just move on.

2) Find a Guesthouse away from it All

Because Hat Rin beach is the centre of the party, a travel agent will hype the Hat Rin bungalows for their prime location, and indeed that's true. However, while they may not be found on some Koh Phangan maps, there are some nicer, cheaper, neighbouring beaches an easy 10-minute walk (stumble....crawl....) away. Nearby Leela Beach and Sunset Beach boast cute, clean beach bungalows over beautiful turquoise beaches. Both have plenty of restaurant/bars and space galore to park your beach towel for the afternoon. If you fancy a rowdy place to party and a calmer place to recover, these beaches are a perfect fit.

3) Don't Sweat a Solo Night

Nothing is worse than the one guy in the noisy bar yelling into his cellphone because he split up from his friends. If you're with a group bigger than two, you'll likely find yourself solo at some point during the evening. The crowd is so big, if you haven't arranged a meeting point in advance, you can waste hours scanning the sea of faces in the dark, looking for your travelmates. My suggestion? The beach and the clubs are full or friendly, fun-loving peers who are delighted at the randomness of meeting new people. If you lose your friends, make new ones. It's only for one night, and for better or worse, it will make for a more colourful evening.

4) Keep your Shoes On

Every morning, stray beach dogs take their pick of abandoned sandals to adopt as chew toys. Footwear is an easy thing to misplace when it's dark, crowded, and everything is semi-covered in sand. As cheap as rubber flip-flops may be, they're absolutely crucial when walking the concrete streets, using a public toilet, or sidestepping broken glass. Let my own cut-up soles be a lesson to you, while Hat Rin is lovely by day, a big party turns the soft white sand jagged and messy, fast.

5) Remember, you're still in Thailand

You may be surrounded by goodlooking Westerners under 25, but gang, this 'aint Daytona Beach. Yes, Koh Phangan tourism caters readily to rowdy, fun-loving, hard-partying travellers. Even so, some smaller gestures can avoid offense to Thai people and keep your travel experience peachy. Though the area is littered in stray dogs, this Buddhist country believes strongly in treating animals with decency. Also, while you won't catch many Thai people correcting your behaviour, it's best to practice some discretion on the beach. Bikinis and flirting are fine, though topless female sunbathers and VERY public displays of affection might cause discomfort. The women mixing your bucket cocktail or the men painting UV-light tattoos on your arm will be nothing but friendly, but remember that there are still Eastern/Western differences, even on a raucous beach.

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.