Tag - tourism

Ngwe Saung Beach, Burma

Ngwe Saung Beach, Burma
Ngwe Saung Beach, Burma

With more than 10 miles of pure white sand and clear blue sea, Ngwe Saung Beach is a great place to recharge for a day or two after travelling around Myanmar. One of the cleanest beaches in Southeast Asia, you can guarantee rest and relaxation in picturesque surroundings where the hot air is moderated by cool sea breezes blowing through the palm trees.

Ngwe Saung Beach has only recently opened to tourism, so now is the perfect time to visit. Although you won’t find many cheap places to stay, this is a good place for those with a little extra to spend who appreciate beauty and luxury.

Although relaxation is key here, there is also plenty to do for those with energy to spare. Beach volley ball is a popular past time, and are water sports such as kayaking, wind surfing and fishing.

After a busy day of sunbathing and swimming, you can soothe aching muscles in one of the beauty spas located along the beach, or ride in a bullock cart as the sun sets. Hiring a bicycle is also a good way to explore and the narrow lanes and roads around Ngwe Saung Beach are in good condition.

Another great way to see the area is by going on a boat trip, while thrill seekers will enjoy the speed boat rides. The tropical rain forests and the towering Rakhine mountain range make an excellent backdrop to this beautiful resort and are also good places to explore.

This is a great place to eat fresh seafood and a large number of beach front restaurants have delicious seafood BBQs in the evening where you can simply choose from the catch of the day and eat at a candlelit table on the sand.

A great way to reach Ngwe Saung Beach is by taking the tourist ferry from Yangon. The ferry goes at night and the trip takes around six hours, giving you plenty of time to catch some shut eye or look at the stars as you sail.

Introduction to Thailand

thai_mapThailand, a country of interesting contradictions and rich diversity, where just about anything is possible and likely to happen.

Most visitors are instantly captivated by the famous Thai smile – Thailand is often referred to as ‘The Land of Smiles’ – and the sense of fun that runs through every situation and even the most mundane task.

Although exotic and mysterious, Thailand is a lot more accessible than many other Asian countries. There are many familiar features, such as the 7/11 shops that grace every corner in cities and large towns and many people choose to wear western clothing such as jeans and t-shirts or brightly-coloured shorts.

The role of women is noticeably more equal than in many other countries, with female family members often inheriting property and controlling the finances. Women comprise roughly 50% of the workforce and there are a large number of female professionals in occupations such as doctors and dentists.

Thailand draws more visitors each year than any other country in Southeast Asia, and with its combination of stunning scenery, rich culture and history it is easy why many find it difficult to leave. Whether you want to go trekking in the jungle, climb rocks, become a dive master, party hard in trendy clubs, explore the countryside or simply soak up the sun on a beautiful sandy beach, Thailand is the perfect destination.

Situated in the tropical region of the northern hemisphere, Thailand was previously known as ‘Siam’. In 1939 the name officially changed to Thailand or prathet Thai or Ratcha Anachak Thai in the Thai language.

Thailand consists of a total of 514,000 square kilometres, which is roughly the same size as France or about the twice the size of Wyoming in the USA. Located in Southeast Asia and bordering Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia, Thailand has a population of more than 65 million.

Thailand is a tropical country and the weather is typically hot and humid, with periodic rain during the monsoon season. Thailand has a variety of geographic regions – varying from mountainous regions, jungles, plains and plateaus, as well as a number of stunning beach areas and numerous islands.

There are 76 provinces in Thailand with Bangkok (krungthep) forming the capital. More than 10% of Thailand’s population live in Bangkok and around 60% of the country’s wealth is concentrated there.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a long and interesting political history. The current monarch is His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who celebrated his 60th year on the throne in 2006, making him the world’s longest reigning monarch. The King is highly revered within Thailand and respected throughout the world.

Thailand’s political history has proved rather turbulent, with an impressive total of 18 coups d’etat since 1932. However, not a single shot was fired during the last coup on September 19th 2006, and Thailand is generally a safe and friendly place for visitors.

Despite the economic crash in 1997, which severely affected the country’s prosperity, Thailand now enjoys a booming economy once more. Thailand’s strong export growth allowed the economy to expand by 4.5% in 2007.

Exports include computer technology, office machine parts, transistors, rubber, motor vehicles, plastic, seafood and rice.

Welcome to Pattaya/Jomtien

This well-known beach resort area is only 145 kilometers from Bangkok and would compliment anyone’s holiday to Thailand. The delightful area is nothing less than a tourist’s playground, and for that reason it should not be missed. The beaches are vastly improved and all sorts of attractions are in the area for your interest and pleasure.

The economy is strong because of tourism, which allows the provincial government to continually upgrade facilities and the city has grown steadily over the past 30 years. Pattaya residents are well adjusted to the ‘farang’ behavioral habits, yet they have genuine regard for tourists, and make them welcome wherever they go. The whole area is mushrooming at an alarming rate, and it seems to be a city of hotels, bars and restaurants; indeed from one visit to another, you can see many developments from entrepreneurs and Government recourses.

Pattaya is an exciting place for the visitor, some going there for ‘action’ and others wishing only to relax on the beach. The clean, white sand, warm water, tropical palms, and shore lined umbrellas all add to the attraction. While you are resting on the beach why not partake in refreshments and possibly a massage or manicure or just a stroll along the waters edge. Water activities are always popular which include skiing and swimming, banana rides, snorkeling, and paragliding.

All the beaches have a number of professional attendants that provide an excellent variety of services and ensure you do not want for anything. From time to time beach peddlers, ice cream and food vendors sometimes interrupt this tranquility, but at least these services are made available to everyone.

Shopping is for everyone and is highly diversified by the different types of markets, bazaar’s, shopping malls and department stores. Many concentrate on the ‘farang’ influx and prices can be pricey, however if you search around, then you will discover other outdoor markets that are very cheap [at least to western standards]. Pattaya has a huge variety of excursions and attractions to keep the tourist happy and interested. Temples and gardens, extreme sport activities, boat cruise, hang gliding, golf, cooking classes, museums, wild life parks, small islet excursions, which are all priced very well.

Evening entertainment is electrifying– restaurants, disco’s, karaoke bars, clubs, massage, all offering the best of times. And for something different why not try those in the outer roads that the Thai’s usually frequent, they are delightful, cheaper and less pressure than the ones in the tourist belt and best of all– welcome ‘out of Towner’s — In fact there is everything that you would expect to be available in a city devoted to tourism.

Jomtien beach is only 4 kilometers south and is a lot quieter and not the pressure of Pattaya, but it certainly does not suffer in the service stakes. Great hotels, guest houses, bars, clubs, parlors, vehicle rentals, restaurants, and of course wonderful beaches, equal to, if not better than other areas.

From time to time, the police in Pattaya and Jomtien crack down on motorcycle riders. All riders that do not wear their helmet are fined, even if you are the pillion passenger. The bike is impounded until you pay the fine. Strange thing is that after you have paid the fine they don’t care if you put your helmet on. This crack down only applies to ‘farangs’ and you will see thousands of Thais without a helmet, and they don’t get fined – funny that!

I have visited Pattaya /Jomtien more than 30 times and always find something new and interesting to keep me occupied.

Cheers from Down Under, Garry

Volunteering with Elephants – A Small Venture with Jumbo Benefits

Volunteering with Elephants
volunteering_with_elephants_in_thailand_2
Volunteering with Elephants

For visitors to Thailand, elephants are the epitome of exotic. We tourists can’t help wanting to feed them, ride them, touch them and photograph them. But for the elephants we meet on the tourist trail, these encounters aren’t quite so enchanting. A life of begging in urban centres like Bangkok and Pattaya often means abuse, malnourishment, and health problems from the noise and pollution. Outside the cities, elephants are used in tourist-oriented trekking companies, which can involve more abusive handling and eventual back problems. However, tourism isn’t the only industry that invites elephant mistreatment. These animals have traditionally been involved in rural logging for centuries, but just as the job is hazardous for people, so too are elephants prone to injury, illness, and disfigurement or crippling from landmines. Changes in the industry can leave elephants unemployed. When owners aren’t capable of covering the animals’ hefty food expenses, the elephant is left with few options.

This is where the Elephant Nature Park comes in. Their elephants, disabled, orphaned, blind, or simply too old to work, are purchased from private owners and brought to the park. Here, they are given medical treatment, healthy food, and spacious grounds where they can re-acclimatize to their natural habitat, and the company of other elephants.

The park’s founder, Sangduen Chailert (Lek), opened the park in 1996 near her home village in the Chiang Mai province. Along with a passionate love of animals, Lek’s park has a mandate of supporting local village economies, and does business exclusively with local farmers and tradespeople. She has a core team of local workers caring for the elephants, but also relies on volunteers to help keep the park running. In recent years, her park has received international media exposure, with celebrities like Meg Ryan paying highly-publicized visits to the camp. Among Lek’s awards are the 2005 Time magazine Asian hero of the year, the 2006 Earth Day award, and an honourary PhD in veterinary science, awarded by the prince of Thailand.
    
Since its conception, the park has spawned side projects, the latest being “Jumbo Express.” This initiative provides travelling medical care for elephants in remote areas. Guest veterinarians and volunteers travel into dense jungles, giving treatment to elephants and education to their handlers. The park has a firm policy that, regardless of politics between the people, all elephants have the right to medical aid.
    
The Park’s Chiang Mai office (209/2 Sridorn Chai Road, tel # +66(0)53-818754) organizes a variety of visitor packages for school groups and travellers alike. Individuals can book daytrips or multi-day tours to learn how to care for elephants while exploring the regional tribal folklore. Longer volunteering experiences (up to one month) allow visitors the opportunity to shadow the handlers, build an extensive knowledge about elephants, and live in a beautiful jungle setting in the Park.
    
Elephant-lovers visiting Thailand, take note – while these animals do have an exotic appeal, this park is one of the few places where tourists can see them in their habitat; happy, healthy, and well-loved.  
  
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.

Coming Together on Koh Samet

Coming Together on Koh Samet
Coming Together on Koh Samet

For passing tourists, the island of Koh Samet might seem like a small-scale version of its southern neighbours, Koh Samui, Phangan and Tao. However, this bustling beachy island should not be overlooked. Any Thai long weekend will mark a boom in Samet’s tourism. Students, young professionals, and urban-weary Bangkok residents make pilgrimages out to the island in search of sand, sun and fun. For Western travelers, this means an opportunity to holiday like Thais, with Thais, sharing SangSom buckets and bungalow accommodation with Thailand’s most diverse mix of beachgoers.

Unlike other Thailand beaches, where your interactions with natives may be limited to bargirls and tuk-tuk drivers, Samet is a place to meet peers looking for tranquility by day and parties by night. If you’re keen for a beach holiday, but still hoping to take a few steps off the Western tourist path, Samet might be your Eden.

From Bangkok, the beaches of Koh Samet can be reached by an easy 4-hour bus-ferry-taxi trip. While travel agencies throughout Bangkok will easily coordinate a package trip, the journey is a simple one. From Ekamai Station, travelers will be dropped directly at the pier in the coastal town of Bang Phe. From here, the island is an easy 30-minute boat ride away.

The beaches of Koh Samet vary from bustling to secluded, and its narrow, 2-road layout provides easy navigation. However, motorbike enthusiasts should note that outside the busy northern part of the island, the roads start to resemble motorcross courses in their uneven rockiness. Novice bikers might be better off traveling by taxi, or else choosing one beach and parking their rucksacks there. 
    
Those looking for quieter beaches are best heading south, where coral reefs populate the secluded sands of Ao Kiu and Ao Wai. More social-minded travellers are best off staying in the north. On the northeastern tip, Hat Sai Keaw and Ao Phai are Samet’s most popular beaches. Here, the scene is clean beaches crowded with a great mix of people; university students, young families, and intrepid backpackers swim and sun among vendors selling sarongs or fruit, henna tattoo artists, or masseuses patrolling the beach.
  
Here, beachside restaurants compete with extensive Western-friendly menus and nightly movie screenings. Come nightfall, parties ignite along the beach. Share cocktails in buckets at Naga Bungalows’ bar, or dance til all hours at the ever-popular White Sands Resort bar. Day or night, people-watchers will delight in the mix of Thai and foreign vacationers, traveling families and backpackers, couples and singles. This variety makes Koh Samet a unique Thai travelspot; diverse crowds are proof of the island’s diverse attractions. Divers, snorkellers, campers, partyers, relaxation-seekers, scenery buffs can all leave Samet satisfied.   
  
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.