Another way to reach the town is by boat from northern Lao areas such as Vientiane and Tha Khaek or from Pakse in the south. Travelling through Laos by boat can be very relaxing and a great way to see the countryside at a leisurely pace.
The name Savannakhet means ‘city of paradise’ in the Laos language and this is Laos’ second-largest city. This is a good place to pause for a while as the town has a lot to offer tourists and there are a good number of guesthouses, hotels and restaurants serving international food. You will also find plenty of Asian delights such as curries and spicy salads from Thailand and Vietnamese noodles.
Savannakhet’s close proximity to Thailand and Vietnam means that you will discover a number of different styles as you explore. Take a look around the city’s old Vietnamese temples, French colonial quarters and Buddhists temples. Among the most popular temples are Wat Inghang and Wat Xayaphoum, while the large Catholic church provides an interesting contrast.
If you are interested in the history of this unique area, take a day trip to Heuanehine or Stone House. This rocky house was designed by the Kham people and is thought by many to be one of the most important and interesting sites in the province. The house was built somewhere between 553 and 700 AD and contains a collection of Khmer artwork.er important site is the That Phon stupa, which was built around the same time as the Stone House. Unlike most of the religious shrines and temples in Laos, this stupa is Hindu in origin and dedicated to Phra Shiva and other Hindu deities.
Before you leave Savannakhet, drop by the Dinosaur Exhibition Hall in the town of Khanthabouly at the heart of the province. Here you will find a collection of dinosaur remains that were discovered by an intrepid French scientist in the 1930s. This is one of the few collections of dinosaur remains in Laos and they make an interesting break from exploring the country’s temples and jungles.
Khammouane province is easy to reach by bus from Vientiane in just five or six hours. There are plenty for visitors to do here such as kayaking, rafting, and caving. There are a large number of caves to explore and some of the highlights include the Buddha cave and Tham Nang Aen cave, while the Tham Xieng Lap caves are so pretty that they are worthy of a day trip by themselves.
Another great day trip destination is That Skihotabang, which is a large and interesting stupa commissioned by King Nanthasen in the 10th century. The stupa was carefully restored in the 1950s and is an impressive sight.
The province’s capital is Tha Kek and this is a good place to stay for a night or two while you explore this lush and leafy area of Laos. While in Tha Khek take the time to explore the striking French colonial architecture in the city and sample the delicious range of Lao dishes, which is slightly different to those found in the rest of the country.
Nature lovers will want to explore the Nakai-Nam Theun Biodiversity Conservation Area, where you can spot a wonderful range of animals such as elephant, tigers, lemur and turtles. For excellent views over the jungle climb the Khammouane Limestone, which is a maze of limestone karst peaks.
Pakse is the capital of Champassak province and it is here you will find the enchanting irriwaddy dolphins. Take a boat trip on the Mekong River for a chance to spot these shy mammals as they play in the water and leap through the waves.
Situated on picturesque Done Khone Island, the Mekong Dolphin Conservation Centre is a good place to find out more about these interesting animals and how to protect them. Nearby you will find Wat Phou, which is located high atop a mountain and considered to be one of the most important sights in Laos. The temple dates back to the same period as Cambodia’s treasure Angkor Wat and offers spectacular views from the top.
Champassak is also home to the largest waterfalls in Southeast Asia. Known as Khone Pha Pheng, these pretty falls are easy to get to by boat or road and are a great place for a swim and a picnic, surrounded by dense jungle and a colourful array of wildlife.
Another great day trip is the Dong Hua Sao Forest reserve, which is a great place to spot a wide variety of wildlife. There are a large number of waterfalls to explore here such as the Li Phi falls and it is possible to spend the night.
The town of Champassak itself was home to the royal family until about 30 years ago and you will still find a large number of grand buildings here, including a collection from the French colonial-era, which make an interesting contract beside the traditional wooden Laotian houses and shining temples. The town has a sleepy feel to it these days and there are few vehicles to clog the streets.
There are plenty of things to do in Champassak such as elephant riding, trekking and boat rides. Champassak’s rich and fertile land is perfect for growing crops and you will find large coffee, cardamom and bananas plantations here, which make the perfect backdrop for a scenic country walk.
This region is famous for its stunningly beautiful rainforest and unspoilt monsoon forest and no visit to Luang Namtha would be completed without a trip to the Nam Ha National Biodiversity Conservation Area. There are plenty of animals to spot here including tigers, bears, clouded leopard, and gibbons as well as a large collection of colourful birds and reptiles.
Luang Namtha is a good place to rest and relax and immerse yourself in the beauty of the area. Walking is a good way to explore and there are several villages where you can stay for a day or two and simply explore or relax by the river and listen to the wind in the trees.
The town of Luang Nam Tha is a good place to stay and you will find plenty of basic places to stay and evening entertainment at the night market. Surrounded by a pretty patchwork of rich rice paddy fields, this is a great place to stop for a day or two and get learn about the diversely different tribes that live in the villages nearby. The town sits on a hilly area and provides great views of the surrounding countryside.
A popular activity around Luang Namtha is trekking. There are a number of experienced guides available and embarking on a trek with a qualified guide can be a rewarding experience as they can provide an insight into the unique culture of the region and make can provide access to the many villages and villagers themselves.
Tranquil and picturesque, the town of Muang Xing has a great collection of friendly guesthouses where you are sure to receive a warm welcome and a good meal. This is a good place to arrange trekking and hiking trips and to meet fellow travellers to share a beer or two in the evening and swap stories with.
One of the focal points of Sittwe is the Atulamarazein Pyilonechanthar Payagyi, which is a large pagoda with a decorated Buddha statue inside. For those interested in Buddhism, the town’s Buddhist Museum is worth visiting.
There are some pretty places to visit around Sittwe. Take a boat trip and explore the three islands located nearby such as Bayonga Island where you will find a community of fishermen and coconut farmers.
Most people travel to Sittwe in order to visit the ancient temples at Mrauk-U. Take a boat trip about 50 miles along the Kaladan River and you will discover an impressive collection of more than 150 antique places of worship. Mrauk-U was a very affluent city between1430 to 1784 and the area was home to a number of kings, Japanese samurai and a fleet of 10,000 ships.
Mrauk-U’s riches were based on the fact that it was a successful trade city, with a large canal network running through it. The people of Mrauk-U traded with a number of nations including Holland, Portugal, Spain and the Middle East.
One of the charms of Mrauk-U is that despite being famous for its history the area is still a focal point for daily life. As you explore you will see shepherds leading their flocks and people cooking by camp fire. There are a number of interesting temples to explore such as the Shittthaung Pagodas, Ananda Sandra Pillar, Andaw Thein temple, Yadanarpon temple, Dukkanthein, Koe Thaung Pagodas, Pitakataik, and the Five Victory Pagodas.
Many people start their tour of Mrauk-U with a visit to the Royal Palace, which was built in 1430 and has largely been destroyed by the ravishes of time. Better preserved is the Shitthaung Pagoda, which was commissioned by King Minbin in 1535 and is intricately designed.
The best time to visit this area is in the middle of May when the pagoda festival is held. This area really comes alive during this festival, with traditional song and dance performances and the retelling of ancient legends.
Battambang takes its name from the legend of an ancient Khmer king, who is said to have calmed the city’s rebellions with his battambang staff. As you wander through the city streets you will see a statue representing this event as well as a number of interesting statues depicting mythical animals and religious characters.
There is plenty to see and do in Battambang. Start by climbing the hill of Phnom Sampeu to enjoy spectacular views of the city and explore the hill’s caves, stupas and monastery. Near the hill is Wat Banan, which is dubbed a mini Angkor Wat and contains a large Buddhist shrine. Just to the west of the city, Wat Ek Phnom has also been constructed in Angkorian style, while Wat Baydamran is home to hundreds of fruit bats.
Situated 70 kilometers north of the city of Battambang in northeastern Cambodia, Bantaey Chhmar is a pretty temple complex built by Jayavarman VII as a tribute to the death of his son Indravarman and four generals in battle. Dating back to the 9th century, this is a great place to explore on a day trip. A mighty battle took place on this site in 1177 when it was invaded by the Cham people. Those interested in the areas unusual history can find the story engraved on the stone ways that surround Bantaey Chhmar. The complex has been overgrown by forest, giving it a mystical quality and it features large Avalokiteshvara faces which are reminiscent of the Bayon temple near Siem Reap.
Head out of Battambang to discover the ancient wooden houses of Watkor, which is a very pretty village. Other nearby villages worth exploring include Kompong Seyma, and Ksach Puoy. These villages offer a real insight into traditional Khmer life and you will still find people engrossed in skills such as weaving and basket making.
An interesting way to explore this area is by riding the bamboo train known as the norry. The Wat Poveal Museums is a good place to learn more about the Khmer arts, while just 44 kilometres from the city is Pich Chenda, a very pretty nature and wildlife preserve.
Walk along the bank of the Sangker River in the evening and you will discover a large number of small food stalls selling traditional Khmer food and also delicious French bread. This is a great place to get a cheap meal and perhaps wash it down with a beer or two.
A great way to travel to Battambang is by boat from Siem Reap. This scenic journey takes you slowly through the countryside, past floating villages and fishermen along narrow canals and waterways.
There are a number of picturesque villages located in this region of Cambodia, especially in amongst the Cardamom Mountains. Although not many travellers visit western Cambodia, those that do will find waterfalls, caves and traditional villages, where the way of life has stayed more or less the same for centuries.
This is a great place to rest and unwind away from the tourist scene. Although you won’t find many bars or beaches in this area, there is still plenty to do. Hike through the forest, discover traditional craft skills at tribal villages and take a boat trip from Battambang to Siem Reap.
Formerly known as Kompong Som, Sihanoukville takes its name from the famous prince Sihanouk. A great way to reach this resort is by boat from the Koh Kong / Hat Lek border crossing that connects Cambodia with Thailand. This is a good place to relax for a day or two before travelling through the rest of Cambodia.
Sihanoukville’s main attraction is its beautiful sandy beaches, which are some of the best in the whole of Cambodia. While each of the beaches here feature their own distinct charms, the most popular tend to be Sokha Beach, Victory Beach, Ochheuteal Beach, Independence Beach, Otres Beach and Serendipity Beach. Those who are on a tight budget will find plenty of cheap accommodation around Victory Beach, while party people will want to gravitate towards the bars and restaurants that can be found around Ochheuteal Beach.
Water sports are popular in Sihanoukville, and this is a great place to try snorkelling and scuba diving. A large number of islands can be found just off the coast, surrounded by cool, clear waters. A number of local companies offer boast trips to explore the area, which also allow visitors to check out snorkelling and scuba diving around Bamboo Island, which is known locally as Koh Russei. Visitors who are enchanted by the tranquillity and natural beauty of this island also have the chance to spend the night on Bamboo Island.
One of the most popular attractions that can be found in this part of the world is the large and lovely Ream National Park, and a wide range of local companies offer daytrips here. Public transportation in this part of Cambodia can be a little thin on the ground, and those who want to really get to know the area will want to hire a motorbike.
Make sure you surrender a photocopy of your passport rather than the actual document itself in order to secure bike hire. After all the arrangements have been made it is now time to drive to the temples of Wat Krom and Wat Leu before soaking up the scenery at Kampong Pier Nup Lok.
There is a direct bus to Khao San Road from the airport, and the journey takes around an hour. The air-conditioned AE2 bus takes passengers to the top of Khao San Road for 150 baht, while there are also small local buses that complete the journey for just 35 baht. Those who are travelling in a group may find it more economical and convenient to catch a taxi from the booth outside the main entrance. The fare should cost around 350 in total, including a small charge to cover the toll way tax.
Khao San Road isn’t located near either the underground or sky rail system. However, the Chao Phraya River is just a ten-minute walk away and pier 13 is located at the end of Phra Athit Road. Taking the ferry along the river is a great way to see the sights and it stops at a number of different districts such as Chinatown and Thonburi. There is a Skytrain station at Central Pier, which whisks visitors into the heart of Bangkok in a matter of minutes.
Buses pass by Khao San Road on their way to most parts of Bangkok and those in the know will be able to get around fairly easily by bus. The travel agencies on Khao San Road are a good source of information and most are happy to give advice about which bus to take.
All air-conditioned taxis in Bangkok are supposed to use the meter, which starts at 35 baht. However, most of the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers that par at either end of Khao San Road have to pay a fee to stay there are unwilling to use the meter. The fee they charge for trips is often quite high and it is better to walk a few meters from Khao San Road and flag one of the passing taxis, insisting that they use the meter.
The three-wheeled vehicles known as tuk-tuks are good at nipping through the Bangkok traffic, which can save time in the rush hours. It is important to negotiate the price before getting into the tuk-tuk as fare prices are not fixed. The quoted fare will usually be high to start with, but with a little gentle persuasion it is possible to end up paying around half the starting price.
There are a number of tuk-tuk drivers on Khao San Road who offer to take tourists on a trip around the city for just 20 baht. While this may seem like a cheap way to see the sights, visitors should know that these drivers make their money by taking tourists to a number of different jewellery shops on the way. They make a commission for anything you buy and if you plan to make a purchase anyway this could still be a good deal, but unsuspecting travellers could end up with more than they bargained for.
Phuket is easy to get to as there are frequent flights to and from Bangkok airport as well as direct flights to many other Asia and European airports. There are also regular buses and trains from around the country and Phuket can be reached by boat from many of the surrounding islands.
As well an the enormous main island, Phuket Province contains 39 other small islands, all perfect for exploring, whether via a snorkelling or scuba diving trip or a boat tour. Located just 25 kilometres from Phuket City, Ko Nakha Noi is a popular destination for a boat trip, as are Ko Si-re, Ko Lon, Ko Bon, Ko He and Ko Mai Thon, which is famous for its unique and very beautiful colourful coral.
Also known as Coral Island, Kho Hae is located to the Southeast of Phuket Island. Reachable in just 15 minutes by speedboat from Chalong Bay, this beautiful island is a great destination for a day trip, or visitors can choose to stay overnight at the resort.
Another popular day trip is the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, which is located near the beautiful Bang Pae waterfall. This is an amazing opportunity to meet the Gibbons in their natural environment and there is a visitor centre manned by Western volunteers and English speaking Thai staff who will tell you all about the project.
If you are interested in the island's wildlife, elephant trekking is a good way to support the remaining domesticated elephants of Thailand and offers a new way to explore the jungle. The Phuket Zoo has an interesting collection of animals, whilst Phuket Submarine takes visitors on daily tours of the underwater world.
Both Khao Rang (Phuket Hill) and Laem Promthep are great places to see the sunset and get an idea of the island's size and beauty. Whilst in Phuket, pay a visit to the Khao Phra Thaew Forest Reserve, which protects a stunning area of lush rainforest.
Many visitors to Phuket like to plan their trip to coincide with one of the area's vibrant festivals. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is held for 10 days during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, which usually occurs in October. This is the time when local residents, especially those of Chinese ancestry, follow a vegetarian or vegan diet in order to cleanse their spirit and make merit. The festival features self-mortification rituals such as walking barefooted over hot coals and ascending ladders with bladed rungs, as well as much singing and dancing and of course delicious vegetarian food.Another long awaited festival is the Phuket Gay Pride Festival, which takes place in February and the Siam World Cup Windsurfing Championships on Ao Bang Thao are held in January.
If you are in the area between November and February, head to the pretty beach of Hat Mai Khao on the northwest coast. Here you will discover sea turtles laying their eggs, but be careful not to disturb them as the turtles are now quite rare.
One of the main attractions in this area is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Visitors flock to this market to discover Thailand's unique traditional way of trading. Although today the market is dominated by souvenir stands, you can still take a boat trip through the market and barter for exotic fruit.
Ratchaburi Province contains some stunning natural caves for you to explore. Just 8 kilometres from the town you will find the famous Tham Ruesi Khao Ngu, whilst Tham Khao Bin is said to be the most beautiful. 30 kilometres west of the town you will find Tham Chomphon, whilst the mountain top of Khao Chong Phran offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
There are many interesting temples in the area such as Wat Muang, Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, Wat Khongkharam and Wat Khanon, which contains an interesting collection of more than 300 traditional Nang Yai puppets.
The area is well known for its abundant history, and a good place to discover more about it is at the Ratchaburi National Museum, whilst the Bo Khlueng Hot Spring is a great place to soak away your aches and pains after a busy day of exploring.
History enthusiasts would do well to visit the Ban Khu Bua Ancient City, which displays many of the archaeological discoveries of the area. The Siam Cultural Park is also interesting as it contains fibre glass wax images of important people such as Mother Teresa, President Deng Xiaoping and Chairman Mao Tse-tung. This display has to be seen to be believed as it is certainly unique.
The province hosts some interesting fairs and festivals and it is worth trying to time your trip to coincide with one of them.
The Ratchaburi Tourism Fair is held annually during February-March in the grounds of the City Hall. Featured activities include demonstrations of famous handicrafts, such as jar making and "Sin Tin Chok" cloth weaving, folk art and cultural performances by local tribal groups.
The Sweet Grape and Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Week Fair happens around March-April each year to introduce agricultural produce to the market. This is a good opportunity for visitors to buy agricultural produce such as coconuts, pomelos grapes and lichis at discounted prices.
The Khao Ho or 'Ang Mi Thong' Festival is a Su Khwan blessing ceremony for happiness and longevity in life, held around the ninth lunar month. Karen people believe that the ninth lunar month is a bad time of the year, when ghosts and evil spirits hunt and eat the "Khwan" 'spirit' of people. During the festivals many traditional methods are practiced to ward off the evil spirits. The elders of each family tie red threads on the children's wrists and give a blessing for good luck.
Most visitors are draw to the province by the pretty town of Hua Hin, which was previously a royal resort, and is an excellent seaside location with an incredible beach. There are many large designer shops in Hua Hin as well as seaside souvenir stalls, making this a good place to indulge in a little retail therapy.
The Hua Hin Jazz Festival takes place around the first week in June and usually lasts two or three days. With well known bands and solo artists from all over the world, this is an event not to be missed.
Another great seaside town is the capital, also called Prachuap Khiri Khan. Here you will find Wat Thammikaram, which is a temple set atop a steep hill. Although climbing to the top of this hill is a bit of an effort, the spectacular views of the bay and surrounding countryside more than make up for it. There are a large troop of monkeys living in the temple grounds, which has earnt the temple the nickname of 'Monkey Temple'. The temple is located at the top of Khao Chong Krajok (Mirror Tunnel Mountain).
Another area of great natural beauty is the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, which was established in 1966 to protect Thailand's largest freshwater marshes and contains pretty limestone cliffs and beaches.
Other beaches in the area include Ao Bang Nam Lom, Ao Noi and Ao Manao. Hat Ha Kaw is another lovely beach, whilst next to it is the King Mongkut Memorial Park of Science & Technology, which commemorates the 1868 solar eclipse that the great king witnessed from this spot with his son.
Nature lovers can pay a visit to the Wildlife Friends of Thailand Rescue Centre, which has committed itself to looking after animals of every species and another good way to spend an afternoon is to visit Wat Khao Tham Khan Kradai, which is a small cave temple situated at the end of a long, beautiful bay.
Like in most of Thailand's beach resorts, snorkeling and scuba diving trips are readily available, and another good way to get an idea of the true beauty of this area is to go on a boat trip around the coast.
A great place to get an idea of the natural beauty of this province is to visit the Khao Laem Sing Forest Park, whilst Khao Khitchakut National Park contains a breathtaking waterfall and is a good place to spot wild elephants. Another great reserve is the Namtok Phliu National Park which, as its name suggests, contains a large number of enchanting waterfalls to splash about in.
If you are interested in water sports, Khlong Pong Nam Ron is a great place to go white water rafting, the best time being between July and January. Another breathtaking experience is the view from the top of Khao Phloi Waen, which means Sapphire-Ring Mountain in the Thai language. The mountain is an impressive 150 metres high and has a Sri-Lankan style chedi on the top. Many visitors to Chanthaburi Province go there in order to pay their respects at Wat Khao Sukim, which has a famous meditation centre. Other interesting temples in the area include Wat Phlup, Wat Hai Lom and the very pretty Wat Mangkon Buppharam, which has been built in the Chinese style.
The Chanthaburi Cultural Centre is a great place to go to get an idea of the area's diverse history and culture. The ancient city of Khai Noen Wong also makes an interesting day trip and you can combine your visit with a trip to the Underwater Archaeological Office, which is a kind of maritime museum.
The province is home to some extremely pretty beaches and the quiet, shaded beach of Hat Ao Yang is great for relaxing on, while the larger stretch of sand at Hat Laem Sing is also a good place to hang out.
There are plenty other interesting attractions in and around Chanthaburi. The Chamsom Crocodile Farm and Zoo offers visitors the opportunity to see different crocodile species and a range of other animals. Another good way to see Thailand's wildlife is to pay a visit to Oasis Sea World, while the King Taksin Park is a great place for a picnic.
When it comes to food, there is plenty to be found, especially if you enjoy fresh seafood. A good place to find a cheap meal is at the local night market, and there are plenty of restaurants around catering to every taste and budget.
Chanthaburi Province is well known for some special festivals, and a good time to visit is during the Gem Festival, which takes place in early December and features jewellery shows and a gem design competition Another interesting festival is the annual fruit festival in the first week of June.
There are regular buses to Trat from many parts of Thailand, and a direct journey from Bangkok should take 5-6 hours.
Particularly of interest to visitors is the immensely beautiful island of Koh Chang, part of the Mu Chang Marine National Park and the smaller but no less attractive Koh Kood. There are both regular ferry and speedboat services to the surrounding islands, and both Koh Chang and Koh Kood can be reached in an hour or less.
The smaller and less visited islands of Koh Kham, Koh Mak and Koh Phi can also be found in Trat Province. These islands are all exceptionally beautiful, although somewhat less developed, and make a good option for those who want to slow down a pace or two and simply relax on the beach.
But the town of Trat itself, although often neglected by travellers, has many interesting features and is definitely worth a second look. Trat is most famous for its gemstone mining and trading, and many a good bargain can be picked up at one of the town's gem stores. There are also some excellent restaurants in the town, serving fresh seafood expertly cooked in a range of Thai and Western styles.
Trat's vibrant night market is a good place to pick up a bargain and get a good, cheap meal cooked in the local style, and whilst in the town you can pay a visit to the pretty temple of Wat Plai Khlong.
In addition to the islands, there are a multitude of beaches with pristine stretches of sand just a stone's throw away from the town. Amongst the best are Hat Sai Si Ngoen (Silver Sand Beach), Hat Sai Kaew (Crystal Sand Beach), Hat Thap Thim and Hat Ban Cheun, while Hat Ban Cheun is located at the southernmost part of Trat.
A good way to pass a day or two is to hire a motorcycle and visit each of the beaches in turn. Of course, snorkeling and scuba diving are readily available at all the area's islands and beaches. Another good way to get an idea of the vastness and beauty of the area is to go on a boat trip.
There are many popular tourist destinations in the province, including Koh Samet, Koh Mun and Koh Kodi. All of these islands feature stretches of golden sand, beach bars and a variety of western and Thai food.
Naturally, snorkeling and scuba diving are major activities in this province, whilst many people like to go on a boat tour of the islands. Other smaller sun kissed islands which are just waiting to be explored include Koh Man Klang, Koh Man Nok and the often overlooked Koh Man Nai.
While in the area, pay a visit to the Khao Chamao/Khao Wong National Park. Here you will find several pretty waterfalls where you can swim amongst the fish, as well as seeing tigers, wild elephants and bears.
Nearby is the Rayong Turtle Conservation Centre, which cares for the area's endangered sea turtles with a view to releasing them back into the wild. You can learn more about the now rare and beautiful turtles at the visitors' centre, which contains pictures of the turtles and shells from their eggs.
Suan Son 'Pine Park' is situated just 5 kilometers from the pretty port of Ban Phe. This is a great place to spend a couple of hours walking when you need a break from the beach. Incidentally, Ban Phe is the port from which to catch the ferry to the large and beautiful island of Koh Samet.
11 kilometers east at Suan Wang Keaw you will find yet more sandy beaches and the island of Koh Thalu, which is particularly good for diving as the waters are home to some pretty colourful coral and shoals of exotic fish. This is also a great place to hang out if you happen to arrive on the weekend and want to avoid the crowds that tend to congregate on many of the other islands and beaches at the end of the working week
The province's main industry is fishing, and a good way to start the day is to get up early and walk along the beach, where you will see the fishermen spreading their freshly caught fish, sparkling and shimmering on the sand.
The village is easy to walk around and the many temples make good places to stop and explore. Wat Pa Klang is interesting as it is more than 100 years old, whilst Wat Mahathat is the village's oldest temple. Also worth visiting are Wat Santi, Wat Thatkhok, Wat Si Khun Meuang and Wat Tha Khaek.
12 kilometers to the east of Chiang Khan, the monastic centre of Samnak Song Phu Pha Baen is a great place for a day trip. Here you will witness the rare and unforgettable sight of monks meditating in caves and on tree platforms.
Another great day trip is the Tai Dam village of Ban Napanard, where you can interact with the Tai Dam people and learn all about them at the Tai Dam Cultural Centre. You can even choose to stay on in one of the home-stay rooms to get a real feel of the culture and general way of life of these people, who originally migrated from Laos more than 100 years ago to live peacefully in Thailand.
For the adventurous, the opportunity to ride the rapids at Kaeng Khut Khu might prove irresistible. The rapids are located 6 kilometers from Chiang Khan. It is easy to hire a bicycle and cycle to Kaeng Khut Khu, or you can easily arrange a boat trip from Chiang Khan and enjoy a relaxing boat trip along the Mekong River.
Although valued for its peace and quiet, this little village definitely knows how to party. Those arriving during wan awk phansaa at Buddhist Rains Retreat in late October will experience an entirely different atmosphere. Chiang Khan marks the end of Buddhist lent with a week of celebrations. The boat races can get especially wild, and the giant carved wax candles are extremely beautiful. Definitely an event not to be missed.
This is a great place to visit if you appreciate cool weather, walking amongst attractive natural scenery, good food and chilling out in a city that has all the charm and atmosphere of a small village.
The city of Chiang Rai has a rather sleepy, relaxed feel to it, and exploring the streets can yield some interesting sights. The pure white temple of Wat Rong Khum has to be seen to be believed, whilst Wat Phra Kaeo is the original home of the Emerald Buddha, now located in the temple of the same name in Bangkok. Also worth exploring are Wat Pa Sak and Wat Phra That Doi Tung.
Although not as large as its neighbour in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai's Night Bazaar is a great place to pick up a bargain or two, whilst the sleepy village of Chiang Saen with its interesting history, warm welcome and architecture is a great place for a day trip.
But it is Chiang Rai's natural beauty that draws most visitors to the area. As well as enchanting jungle waterfalls such as Khun Korn Waterfall and Pong Phra Bat waterfall, there are also dozens of hot springs scattered around the area, where you can soak up the goodness of meltingly hot water and natural minerals either in public pools or secluded in your own private tub. Look out for the Pha Soet Hot Springs and Huai Hin Fon Hot Springs and Waterfall with its stunning jungle backdrop. What could be better than listening to the insects and wind in the trees as you enjoy a good soak?
The Hilltribe Museum and Education Centre is a great place to learn about the local people before going on a trek, and The Hall of Opium museum also provides a lot of interesting information about life in the area, both past and present.
No visit to the area would be complete without a trip to the absolutely stunning Phu Chi Fa Forest Park, and animal lovers can get up close and personal with the elephants at the Mae Sa Elephant Training Center.
Frequently Asked Questions answered here:
Yelena writes: "Hello, I will be traveling to Thailand Summer 2008 for three weeks. I think for the most part I will stay in the major cities, but i would also like to see the jungle. I know that i need Hepetitis A and Typhoid vacination. What about Japanese encephalitis? Thank you."
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your inquiry. Japanese encephalitis is an important when you will be staying in Northern of Thailand for long period of time (more than 1 month). However, if you aren't to stay for long period of time you should protect of yourself by During the hours of darkness wear long trousers (pants) and long sleeve shirts. Using mosquito repellent. Staying in air conditioning room because this disease spread by mosquito. The illness is most prevalent in rural areas especially near pig farms. If you have any father inquiries, please, do not hesitate to let me know."
Nigel Andrews: Hi, I'm traveling to Thailand for ten days in two weeks time I'm spending 5 days in Phuket and 5 days Bangkok is it to late for jabs but what jabs do I need? Many Thanks Nigel.
BNH Hospital answers: Thank you for your inquiry. I would like to explain you about vaccinations you should get when you stay in Thailand. However, you should get before you come to Thailand 7-10 days. Are you traveling in Thailand now? So, it is too late. Therefore, I explain to you for next time. 1. You should receive Hepatitis A, Typhoid because these diseases transmission is primarily via person to person, generally through fecal contaminated and oral ingestion. The virus can be spread through contaminated food (such as uncooked fruits and vegetables), shellfish, ice and water. 2. If you like tattooing you should receive Hepatitis B also because this disease exposure to contaminated blood and blood products; use of contaminated needles, razors, dental and medical equipment, tattooing and body-piercing devices; and sexual contact with infected individuals. 3. Tetanus transmission typically occurs via contamination of wounds, burns and punctures so if you can protect yourself from these, you don't need tetanus vaccine. 4. Most of Thailand is malaria free except near the border areas of Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, national forest and Koh Chang. There is no vaccine available for malaria yet. Also malaria prophylaxis medicine is not 100 % protective against malaria. Currently dengue fever is a problem (there is not medicine or vaccine for dengue.) Best are repellents, long sleeve clothing, and sleep in netted areas. If you would like to take medicine, Malarone would be the best but is not available in Thailand and South East Asia. It would be the best if you can buy it from home.
Christine Carver writes: "Dear Sir/madam, my friend has visited Chiang Mai, Krabi and Phi Phi, leaving Thailand on 14/2/07. Over the last 10 days she has had high temperatures, headaches, nausea and general aches and pains. The nausea has settled but she now has a slight cough. she has been generally very weak. There is no rash. Could you advise us if she is at risk of any tropial diseases from visiting these places in Thailand? We wondered about malaria or dengue fever. is there anything else we should be concerned about? We are very grateful for any advice you can give. Thank you so much."
BNH Hospital answers: "Dear Ms. Carver, In this case it might be a viral infection. We would recommend you to see your doctor and have blood tests to confirm.
Finn Hjelmstrom writes: "We are going to stay for approx 3 weeks at the eastern part of Koh Chang in Jan/Feb next year. We do not know whether there is air con or not. Will this demand for any malaria prevention? Will our further trip to Cambodia (Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh) increase this demand? Thanks for your speedy reply Finn Hjelmstrom"
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your inquiry. We recommend travelers to take anti malaria when they have to stay in forest or risk area for long periods of time (more than 1 month). Anyway anti malaria for Koh Chang and Cambodia is Doxycycline may cause photosensitivity, an increased frequency of candida vaginitis, nausea, vomiting. You should take 1 tablet one day before you leave your country and continue1 tablet daily during your stay in the risk area. On your returning home you should complete another four weeks course of tablet. So if you arenÃ‚Â’t staying in forest or risk area for long periods of time, you should protect yourself from mosquito by wearing long trousers (pants) and long sleeve shirts, and using mosquito repellent."
Bob writes: "We are travelling to thailand with our 22 month old daughter and plan to stay for two months. we would prefer to avoid malaria risk areas so our daughter need not take any malaria pills. can you tell us whether any of the following possible travel destinations should be avoided: khao lak, koh lanta, kho phangan, kho tao, in the south and chang mai and pai, in the north... do you have any other recommondations for travelling with baby, other than sunscreen, mosquito nets and - repellent...?? thank you very much for having this forum available..."
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your inquiry. We send file about risk area of malaria in Thailand for you. (See Malaria map in Thailand) I think this map can help you avoid malaria risk areas. We recommend travelers to take anti malaria when they have to stay in forest or risk area for long periods of time."
A visitor writes: "My daughter is visiting Koh Phi Phi Island and was bitten by a monkey. Does she really need the vaccine? Has there been rabies on that island?"
BNH Hospital answers: Vaccinations are available at every hospital in Thailand. There is no case of mokey bite but last year there was a dog found with rabies on the Island. To be safe she should take Rabbie vaccine and Tetanus as the monkey is wild monkey, you can never be sure if it has rabie or not. The wound should be wash throughly and make sure that it is clean. If the wound is very bad, or the monkey that bite your daughter is suspected to have rabbie, she should take Immunogloblin which is stronger than rabie too. The contact number is Phi Phi Hospital contact number is 03-501-7228 I tried to contact them but no one pick up the phone. They should have Rabie vaccines at ER. (Embedded image moved to file: pic22704.jpg) Another option is Krabi Hospital (2hrs from Phi Phi Island by boat) 075-611212 I have checked with Krabi Hospital. They have all the vaccines available at ER.
Samantha Edelsten writes: "I purchased a course of Malarone tablets(42) in the UK prior to travelling to SE Asia but have now decided to stay longer but need to purchase some more tablets. Is there anywhere in Bangkok I can do this or will I need to visit a doctor to get a prescription?"
BNH Hospital answers: Thank you for your inquiry. Malarone tablets is not available in Thailand. We available doxycycline (anti malaria tablet for SE Asia) may cause photosensitivity, an increased frequency of candida vaginitis, nausea, vomiting. You should take 1 tablet one day before you leave your country and continue 1 tablet daily during your stay in the risk area. On your returning home you should complete another four weeks course of tablet. I think if you aren't staying in forest or risk area for long periods of time, you should protect yourself from mosquito by wearing long trousers (plants) and long sleeve shirts, and using mosquito repellent.
Shari Lemieux writes: "Hello We will be travelling to Thailand from Canada on Dec.15th/ 2006 to Jan.2nd /2007. Probably to Bangkok and then down south and back up again to Bangkok (Phuket, Chang mai, river Kwai & Phi Phi). I am a nurse and I already have had my Hepatitis B vaccination and also my Tetanus. Should It be wise for me to also receive the HepatitisA and Typhoid vaccinations? Would you recommend the TWINRIX series of shots for me? IS there any problems in any area of Thailand that we should know about before visiting? Thanks for your help in advance.
BNH Hospital answers: "Yes, we always recommend vaccination against hepatitis A and Typhoid for traveller before come to Thailand. Twinrix is a vaccine that protection from Hepatitis A and B thus if you already have had hepatitis B vaccine, you should only receive Havrix (1440) vaccine for Hepatitis A."
Simona: "Do I need a prescription to buy Doxycicline from a chemist in Thailand? Will I find it in Koh Chang?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Yes, you will find it in Koh Chang. We recommend travelers to take doxycycline when they have to stay in forest or risk area for long periods of time because doxycycline may cause photosensitivity, an increased frequency fo candida vaginitis, nausea, vomiting. You should take 1 tablet the day before you leave your country and 1 tablet each day of your stay, if in a risk area. On your return home you should complete the course of tablets by taking one each day for a month.
Victoria Smith writes: "I will be travelling to Thailand in Dec/ Jan. I will be visiting Chaing Mai, Phuket, Khao Sok, Koh Lanta & Bangkok. Will I need to take Malaria tablets? What other precautions can I take other than wearing long sleeves to ensure I do not get bitten??"
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your enquiry. Regarding malaria tablet, it's depend on how long is your trip? And where will you stay? If you stay in a hotel, no problem but if you do camping in jungle you should to take anti Malaria tablet and bring mosquitoes repellent with you."
Rik writes: "Hello. I am travelling in November 206, to Bangkok, Phuket, Koh Phi-Phi Don and Koh Samui. Please advise if I should take malaria tablets or any other vaccines."
BNH Hospital answers: "You should have HepatitisA and Typhoid vaccinations against diseases from food and water but not necessary for malaria tablet in Samui and Phuket because they are not risk areas."
Adam writes: "Myself and my girlfriend are travelling to Thailand in November for 3 weeks, we will be in Bangkok for 3 nights, Phuket for 4 nights, Krabi for 4 nights, Koh Samui for 6 nights and then back to Bangkok for 2 nights before flying home! Am I correct in thinking that we will need vacinations against HEP A and TYPHOID? Do we need to take any other precations apart being careful what we eat? Any help would be greatly appreciated!"
BNH Hospital answers: "Yes, you should have vaccinations against HepatitisA and Typhoid. The places you are staying are not malaria risk area so using mosquito repellents, wearing long sleeve shirts and stay in air-conditioned or netted aread should be sufficient."
Tracy Brown writes: "I am going to Bangkok and Pattaya for 11 days do I need to take malaria tablets?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you very much for your inquiry. Regarding on your visit to Bangkok and Pattaya, both areas are not risk area. Wearing long sleeve shirt and apply the anti-mosquito lotions to prevent mosquito bite would be sufficient. Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccination is recommended on your visit as infection of these can be through food and water."
Laura Ient writes: "My daughter age 16 has just returned from Thailand. She tells me that during one or two days (she has not told me exactly!) of her trekking phase she did not take her malaria tablets. Please can you advise what the likely risk is. She has had lots of bites to her legs and ankles. Also should she take more malaria tablets for longer given the laps?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Regarding the mosquito bites that your daughter has, she need not take any malaria tablet as it is only use for prevention. Observation is recommended, she should seek doctor's consultant in case she has any symptoms like fever or severe headache."
Maxine writes: "Family & friends (20) from New Zealand are coming to Thailand for my sons wedding in Burirum. We will be spending 4 days in bangkok & 5 days in Burirum and the day of the wedding in a village 45 minutes from Burirum. My questions are; 1 Is Burirum a Malarious Area. 2 For such a short stay is Typhoid & Rabies prevention required I have recommended to family & friends that they should have Hep A&B, Tetanus/diptheria."
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you for your letter. Burirum is not a risk area. The vaccinations needed vary according to the length of time you are going to stay and the place where you are going to visit. For a visit less than two weeks Hepatitis A and Typhoid are required. JE Rabies and Tetanus/diphtheria are needed if you are staying over 3 months. The vaccination should be taken 2 weeks before the trip. However for a very short stay, paying more attention on food and drinks by not eating food from roadside and drink only from clean water bottles should be sufficient."
Camilla writes: "I am travelling to Thailand at the beginning of November for two weeks, i will be visiting Phuket, Phi, Phi and Krabi after flying into Bangkok - wondered whether there were any specific precautions to take for that area - eg vaccinations before hand."
BNH Hospital answers: "Camilla. Vaccinations recommended for a two and a half weeks visit are HepatitisA and Typhoid which can be infected through food and water.The vaccinations should be taken 2 weeks before the trip.If you are concious about malaria, wearing long sleeve shirt and apply the anti-mosquito lotions to prevent mosquito bite would be sufficient."
Kevin writes: Hello I need a Hep A boost before travelling around asia and also to take malaria tablets. Is it too late to do this on arrival to Bangkok or should i need to do it before i leave home.
BNH Hospital answers: "We would recommend you to take the vaccine at least 2 weeks before the trip for the vaccine to be fully function."
Amanda writes: "We are travelling to thailand for 6 weeks what vaccinations do we really need? do we need to get malaria tablets?
BNH Hospital answers: "Ms. Sheridan, Thank you for your letter. The vaccinations needed will vary according to the lenght of time you stay and the place you are going to visit. For a six week visit in Bangkok the vaccinations needed are Hepatitis A and typhoid. If you plan to visit the jungle or staying over 3 months, it would be necessary to take JE, Rabies and Tetatus/dihtheria too.The vaccinations should be taken at least two weeks before the visit. Bangkok is not a Malaria risk area. If you plan to stay only in the city, try to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long sleeve shirts and apply anti mosquito lotion would be sufficient. Again if you are going to visit the jungle or island we would recommend you to take malaria tablets. Malarone would be the best choice with the least side effect. You should purchase it from you country as it is not available here in Thailand and SEA. Doxycycline is cheaper and available here but may cause some side effects such asphosensitivity, Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip."
Linda writes: "I am going to Bangkok for one week at the end of October. Do I need any injections, I am staying at the Amari Watergate Hotel,also what about malaria tablets. Thankyou."
BNH Hospital answers: "For a business visit of one week in Bangkok vaccinations is not required. Some recommendation would be to pay extra attention to food and drink. Try to avoid street side food and drink water only from clean clear bottles. Regarding malaria tablet, Bangkok is not a risk area. Try to avoid mosquito bite by waring long sleeve shirt and apply anti-mosquito lotion would be sufficient as Malaria tablets may cause some side effects."
Ms Collard writes: "Can we get our travel vaccinations while we are in thailand. as we are spending 6 months in thailand before we do a round the world trip? Where can we get them done (we will be staying near mbk) and how much?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Dear Ms. Collard, Thank you for your letter. We would recommend you to take the vaccinations before coming to Thailand as some vaccinations needs to be done two weeks before the trip. The list of the vaccinations needed for a six months stay here are as followed:-
2. Hepatitis A
Regarding the round the world trip, vaccination required will be according to your destination and length of stay at the particular place. You can get your travel vaccinationation here in Thailand. The Internal Travel Medicine Clinic (ITMC) Located at the BNH Hospital Hospital can provide you the service. It is not far from MBK and it has the update of any disburst and news directly from WHO weekly. For any further information please contact the International Travel Medicine Clinic (ITMC) BNH Hospital Hospital Tel: 02-686-2700 ext 1165.
Darren writes: "Hi there can you confirm if Koh Chang is Malaria free or not .Thank you for your help?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Koh Chang is still a Malaria Risk area. For a short stay we suggest wearing long sleeve shirt and apply anti-mosquito lotion and try to avoid mosquito bite would be sufficient. If you are to stay over 15 days, you should take some malaria tablet. Malarone is the best choice but not available here in Thailand and SEA. We suggest Doxycycline, hospitals will have them in stock. Some caution is that it may have some side effect of phosensitivity,Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip."
Marie writes: "Dear Sirs/Dr I will be in Bangkok from 17th till 24th of this month, I will be staying in the bangkok area and will be staying at night in a hotel. During the day I will visit the city a bit. I would like to know if I need to take some malaria tablets. If Yes, could you please indicate which ones ( I beleive there are different ones for different degrees of resistance of the virus). Do I need to cover my skin with mosquitos repulsive lotion everyday? I beleive there will be 80% humidity so the lotion might go away quickly! thanks a lot for a precise answer. yours sincerely, Marie MORELLI"
BNH Hospital answers: "Regarding your visit here in Thailand, Bangkok is not a Malaria Risk area, for your length of visit we do not recomment you to take any Malaria tablets. We suggest that wearing long sleeve shirt and applying mosquito repulsive lotion would be sufficient. (Mosquito repulsive lotion normally last around six hours. For your information, there are a few types of Malaria tablets available. The best option would be Malarone which is not available here in Thailand and South East Asia, you should try to buy it from your country as It has the least side effect. The best available here are doxycycline, it is cheaper but may cause side effects such as phosensitivity, Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip."
Sarah writes: "Hello I am travelling to thailand at the beginning of November staying 3 nights in bangkok and 8 nights in Koh Samui could you please tell me do i need any vaccinations before i go and if so when should i take them."
BNH Hospital answers: "Dear Ms. Brooks, We are very sorry for the delay in reply. Vaccination required are .Hepatitis A and Typhoid, they should be taken two weeks before the trip. For your information Samui is still a malaria risk area, we suggest that you should wear long sleeve shirt and apply anti-mosquito lotions."
Marcus Mehlkop writes: "I will be in Thailand for one week and plan to visit Koh Samet. Is Koh Samet a malaria risk area? Do I need to take anti malaria tabletts? Is it a good advise to buy malaria tabletts for standby in Germany? What tabletts should I buy for standby in Germany? Many Thanks
BNH Hospital answers: "Regarding our question, yes Koh Samet is a risk area. However if you are well protected from mosquito bite by wearing long sleve shirt and apply anti mosquito lotion would be another option than having malaria tablets. If you would like to take malaria tablet there are a few choices, buying malarone from your country would be the best choice as it is effective and has the least side effect and is not availabe in South East Asia. Doxycycline is available here, it is cheaper but may cause side effects such as phosensitivity,Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis, thought it does not happen to everyone."
Michelle McCarthy writes: "Is it possible to buy Doxycycline for anti malaria over the counter at a chemist in Bangkok?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Michelle, Thank you very much for your enquiry. Doxycycline is not available at the chemist counter. At Khaosanroad most of them provide Metfloquin which is not so effective as there are resistant. However most of the hospital in Bangkok do have them in stock."
Denise Hoey writes: "I will be in Thailand for two and a half weeks and plan to visit Bangkok, the River Kwai, Chiang Mai (including trekking to hill tribes), Ko Samui and some of the National parks (including Khao Yai and Khao Sok). What vaccinations or protection do you advise for these areas? many thanks."
BNH Hospital answers: There are a few choices available for the anti-malaria tablets. Malarone is the best choice with the least side effect also the most expensive,( it is not available in Thailand and South East Asia.) Doxycycline is cheaper but some side effects of medicine could be make you phosensitivity,Nausia/vomitting and increase candida vaginitis although not everyone will get this side effects. We would suggest you to buy Malarone from your country. For Malarone you have to take one week before the trip and one month after the trip. For doxycycline, 1 day before the trip and one month after the trip. Other vaccinations recommended for a two and a half weeks visit are Hepatitis A and Typhoid which can be infected through food and water. If you have any further queires please don not hesitate to contact me. I hope you have an enjoyable holiday here in Thailand. Currently there are flood in some area of the North I suggest you should check it out before coming."
Coco writes: "What's happening with the bird flu? is it dangerous to eat eggs or chicken in Thailand?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you very much for your inquiry. Regarding the bird flu I have checked with the BNH Hospital Hospital ITMC (International Travel Medicine Clinic) in Thailand so for there were no recent report, the latest incident report was 2 months ago in Karnjanaburi province. It is safe to eat eggs and chicken in Thailand provided that they are well cooked."
Heidi Henderson writes: "I am travelling to Thailand from Canada. I am 4 months pregnant and healthy. I want to be careful and ensure I have the vaccinations that are possible/necessary in my condition. I plan to travel north and to the islands. Any recommendations on what I should be doing/avoiding in terms of locations/food?"
BNH Hospital answers: "Thank you very much for your inquiry. We do not recommend vaccinations as it may have side effect with the baby. If you already have Hep B vaccination that would be good enough. Recommendations would be additional attention on food and water, make sure that the food is well cooked and drink clean water (available in bottles)."
To send your question, use the form below to contact a BNH doctor:
After speaking to all your friends especially those who had traveled before, a short list of destinations was considered. At some stage over a month or so you decided on the destination and the method of travel. For the young it nearly is always backpack, because a greater experience can be had on a smaller budget, and lets face it you are fit and can more easily cope with sleepng on the floor, and as statistics show you stay longer on holiday.
For those who are in the 35-50 age group other priorities are clearly defined, with other interests other than rafting or elephant trekking. Suitable literature should be obtained on the country of destination, to prepare you for differences in cultures, language, and day to day existence. As a seasoned traveler I cannot stress this 'preparation' highly enough. Especially in a country that speaks a tongue that is not your own.
If you think that it is going to be easy 'just a walk in the park' -- think again. Every country has its wise guys and they seek out vulnerable persons and take advantage of them. So being armed against that type of situation by reading books will help you understand. I am not going to promote any books but there are many around that shed light on to every subject.
Anyway... Why did you select Thailand?-- Was it the history, food, nightlife, the beach? Whatver the reason, it was the right reason. Remember tourists descend on Thailand from all over the world, most with a good deal of money. The Thai government welcomes you to swell their coffers with your foreign currency, and hope you have a great time and return soon. The Thais only see a walking money bag. They do not resent you, but your presence only reinforces their position, that they are not as well off as you. So, in their attempt to raise their standard of living sometimes surharges are applied to foreigners, and in many instances quite a lot.
It is often said 'you farang, you have money too much' They only see the holiday aspect of your life and can't understand that you have saved money for a long time to travel. This is their pleight, most cannot save money. Now that we understand that you are a "rich farang" and nothing will ever dissuade them from their belief you can get on with your holiday, remembering always that you have the money and the Thais will do their best to separate you from it.
I am writing this from serious experience, having fallen into every trap that was about. A few simple rules will help enormously- never bullshit about your wealth or status, try not to overdress. Neat casual, but not dinner suite with all the trimmings. Dont try to impress by offering to buy drinks for everyone.
Thailand is a country of many faces. Wherever you go in the country they'll be smiling. Bangkok has some very wealthy inhabitants who spend their time sat in very expensive cars with the windows up and the air con on full while they watch their poor cousins scooting by. It also has some seriously impoverished rural parts, and the whole gamut of socio economic grades in between.
There are no material things I can think of that you can't get in Thailand. Most of the things one might need are considerably cheaper over there than they are in the West, the only exception being up-to-date electronic goods. So if you really can't live without your twenty-six inch wide screen TV or Intelligent Washer Drier, take it with you. I'm not sure on the charges you'd incur at the airport but I'm sure the airline would be happy to supply you with that information.
You can buy most thing's that you'll need when you're there but people like to feel prepared and take things like toothpaste, sun tan oil, mosquito spray etc with them although you'll be gutted when you see the price of them there. I think the only thing that's more expensive over there is deodorant. I'm told the Tampon's available there are bit like hand rolled cigarettes if you are used to buying them in packets, but being a bloke it has rarely been of any great consequence to me. The condoms available in Thailand are at best described as a little "snug". A friend of mine who isn't well regarded in feminist circles described the usage of a Thai brand condom as "Like fitting a roll of carpet in a babies sock".
So stock up on Johnnies and Tammies before you go, although there are branches of "Boots" dotted around the larger conurbations selling Western Toiletries and medicines for Western pallets at astronomical prices. I think the best way for me to go about explaining things is to make a list for you.
1) A smile (or the ability to perform one)
2) Common Sense
4) Your time
5) A tolerance to alcohol (Although one can be acquired in situ)
6) The ability to communicatesee ( "An extensive glossary of phrases, colloquialisms and head movements essential for visitors to Thailand"
1) Your ego
5) Bad Temper (although this may become history if you take it with you)
6) Lots of clutter
AN EXTENSIVE GLOSSARY OF PHRASES, COLLOQUIALISMS AND HEAD MOVEMENTS ESSENTIAL FOR VISITORS TO THAILAND
1) Yes - a positive affirmation used in a linguistic context
2) No - a negative affirmation used in a linguistic context
3) Move your chin and the rest of your head fifteen degrees to the left, back to centre and fifteen degrees to the right then back to the centre in a continuous movement-a negative affirmation in a non-linguistic context. (If you are Peter Beardsley completing this correctly may prove difficult so stick with "No")
4) Move your chin upwards fifteen degrees along the vertical axis, back to the centre, down through fifteen degrees then back to the centre - a positive affirmation in a non-linguistic context
5) Mai ow crap - it means "No Thank you" in Thai. If you are female say "ka" instead of "crap" (Yes Thai men do walk round saying "crap" all the time. Stop giggling at the back)
6) Mai Pen Rai - it means it doesn't matter
7) F**k off - catch all phrase which can be used if item "5" on the "Don't Take" list has found it's way into your hand luggage. Also comes in handy if you miss packed item "2" on the "Don't Take" list thinking it was item "2" on the "Take" list, and have been taken to a jewellery store where you can make a fortune buying discounted emeralds.
Thai people differ greatly from Westerners. They're nice. Nothing is too much trouble. I suppose I should explain the list. Thailand is a chaotic place. The idea of planning isn't something they're comfortable with. We're starting to get the picture. In the West you'll have got used to things happening within five or ten minutes of when you expect them to. Thailand is similar just replace the word "minute" with the word "hour" or possibly "day". Now lets run through a few scenarios:
Yesterday you booked into "Smiling Guesthouse/Internet Cafe/Massage Parlour (traditional of course)/Restaurant/Travel Agent/Laundrette/Motorcycle Repair Shop" and paid the handsome sum of $5.50 US to spend the night in the room where "Ducky" from "The Beach" killed himself (it's true you can still see the bloodstains). You also booked onto a "Luxury Air Conditioned Coach" to Surat Thani for $10 US. From there you will catch the ferry to Kho Samui or Kho Pha Ngan. The coach is due to leave at 10 am.
Today you've woken up. You have a cold shower (good for the soul) dress and go and wait for the "Luxury Air Conditioned Coach".
It's 09:55, you have an American Breakfast (it's good to get into the customs of a country) and wait. Some other people with back packs turn up.
It's 10:25. You ask the Lady in the apron you bought the ticket off for the coach, who served you your breakfast after fixing the Internet connection where the bus is.
"Is coming soon" she smiles.
10:55 a 15-year-old Toyota Hi Ace pulls up. It only has one headlight. The rear bumper is held on with blue string, it has a large "Manchester United" sticker in the back window. One of the rear tyres is almost flat and one of the front ones looks like it was stolen from a handcart. The people with rucksacks jam themselves into the vehicle. You go for a slash. When you return the vehicle is trundling off in a large black cloud of diesel smoke.
The lady you bought the ticket from sees you laughs uncontrollably points at the vehicle through the smoke and says, "You miss bus."
Take item "1" from the "Take" list. Use it as genuinely as is physically possible. Make sure item "5" from the don't take list doesn't rear it's ugly head and use item "6" from "Appendix b".
You have established that no refund is available. Your ticket is valid for tomorrow. You have decided to stay another night. Have a walk round. The traffic is very busy. You become thirsty. Ensure that item "5" from the take list is fitted and functional. Sit in a bar and try some of the local beer Singha is very good. Once you've tried seven of them try a Beer Chang or 6, then move on to the Mekong the Thai's call it a whisky (but is technically a rum for all you grog snobs out there).
Walk around in the sun. Come very close to being killed by a scooter. Use item "1" from the "take" list liberally. It must be pointed out that failure to fit item "5" from the take list correctly will seriously interfere with function of item "6" on the take list and may lead to item "2" on the "Don't Take" list creeping up on you.
You wake up the next day having misplaced item "6" from the take list. You check your rucksack again. You look at your watch it's 11:45 am and realise your "Luxury Air Con" has left again without you. Stroll downstairs for breakfast.
Scenario 3 Run back to your room. Unfortunately you brought item "1" from the "Don't Take" list and it has been torn from your back and stamped on by a family of laughing Thais. Say to your self, "Fuck this for a game of soldiers". Get a taxi to the airport and pay $130 US for a flight to Kho Samui that afternoon. Whilst on the plane use item "3" from the "take" list while wondering if it is possible to catch Aids when using a condom and mulling over that article you saw on the telly about a plane crashing at Samui Airport killing all but two of the passengers.
The pedantic among you may notice that item "3" on the "Don't Take List" also appears on the "Take" list. Paranoia can save your life and also ruin it. I believe there are different brands available in the west. If you can only find a brand which must be fitted like a steel plate in your knee and can't be removed don't bother. If however you can find a brand similar to Bic Razors, which can be used once and thrown away this is ideal. Carry it with you at all times.
Once you've got to Kho Pha Ngan. If someone stops you in the street and offers you something/anything grab item "3" quickly out of your pocket and wave it at them in conjunction with item "7" from "Appendix b". If your dancing away at the Full Moon Party and your vision has become distorted after a shake, try and get one of your friends to look after "item 3" for you.
Enjoy your trip!
Jungle Immersion for the Nature Fan
From Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal, head to Khao Yai National Park for a few scenic days of jungle treks. Thailand's oldest natural park boasts 2172 square kilometres of rainforest, evergreen forest, and countless wildlife. A few guesthouse spots make you safe from the park's natural population, which includes elephants, deer, black bears, tigers, gibbons and macaques, and leopards.
Next on the list is historic Kanchanaburi. This town is an easy homebase for your daytrip to the Erawan Waterfall. This seven-tiered waterfall, located in nearby Erawan National Park, is considered one of the most beautiful in Thailand. Visitors can trek up the side of the falls, or like local people, hop right in to swim and climb at the same time.
An overnight bus to Chiang Mai may leave you worn out, so take some time to rejuvenate before bussing to Doi Inthanon National Park. The challenging treks around Thailand's highest peak are rewarded with fresh mountain air and breathtaking scenery. The mountain boasts hundreds of bird species, and is one of the last remaining homes of the Asiatic black bear.
A History Tour for Temple-lovers
Start in Bangkok, which offers countless temples and wats to feed your curiosity. Take your time touring Wat Phra-Kaew and the Grand Palace, more commonly known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This property contains hundreds of buildings and represents architecture and art from 18th and 19th century royalty. Have your camera ready for gilded chedis, mosaics, and murals. From here, stop at Wat Pho, Bangkok's oldest wat, to see the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand.
A two-hour train ride to Ayutthaya drops you in the
middle of Thailand's compact and walkable former capital. During the 14th-18th centuries, this city was the hub of the Siam empire, and the "Ayutthaya-style" architecture, made popular by the royals of the time, is still a prominent influence on Thai design. Rent a bike and circle the river for some temple-spotting, then head to the centre of the town to Ayutthaya Historical Park, where a small entrance fee lets you explore the expansive grounds of temples, gardens, and statues.
Go north to Sukhothai, Thailand's first capital, for a glimpse of royal architecture in the 13th and 14th centuries. Sukhothai Historical Park boasts Khmer-style and early Thai architecture, with popular lotus-bud and bell-shaped stupas. This park offers 70 sites within the old city walls.
Scenic R&R for Beachgoers
Your trip starts in Phuket, the island nicknamed "pearl of the south" for its sparkling beaches and exotic beauty. Once you fly onto the island, you can settle in Phuket Town for some snorkeling and diving in popular nearby beaches, or spend a couple of days beach-hopping to the island's more remote beaches in northwestern Mai Khao, Nai Yang, and Nai Thon.
From Phuket Town, hop a ferry to Ko Phi Phi Don, an island of long white beaches and pretty coral reefs. Ao Ton Sai is the tourist hub, while smaller beaches with modest bungalows dot the coastline southeast of the city. while pricier resorts occupy the beaches on the eastern coast.
Catch another boat to Ko Lanta for denser wildlife as pretty beaches neighbour mangroves and crops of wide umbrella trees. The island's booming tourist economy means that diving, snorkelling, and boat tours are readily available to visitors. Take a day tour of Koh Lanta National Marine Park for easy island-hopping to the coral-filled beaches of Koh Ha and Koh Bida, or cliffy Koh Rok Nok. The latter beach allows camping.
From here, outdoor athletes can move on to Krabi to make use of its famous limestone cliffs and caves for rock-climbing. Slower-paced travelers can explore the pretty mainland beach of Ao Nang. Visitors can follow the main road to the waterfront, which is lined with bungalows and tourist-friendly restaurants and shops. The landscape is pretty and fairly unspoilt, despite the beach's popularity. Those in search of peace and quiet can head a few hundred metres north along the coast to Hat Noppharat Thara, a 2-kilometre strip of shallow emerald waters and clean sand.
A Weeklong Crawl for the Life of the Party
Starting in Bangkok, you'll have no shortage of nightlife options. Sukhumvit (around soi 20-26) and the head of Silom street are packed with bars. Go-go bars line the streets of Patpong. Silom soi 4 is considered the main artery of gay nightlife. Those in search of live music should try the concert venues around Siam Square. Those hoping to dance should go to the trendy strip of bars known as RCA.
Next to the city nightlife, popular beach parties are another popular way to let your hair down. Head south to the well-known islands of the Gulf of Thailand, starting with the popular Ko Samui. The island boasts beautiful mountainous landscapes, long beaches, and enough tourist amenities for many nights' entertainment. Hat Chaweng, on the east coast, is the longest beach with the biggest concentration of accomodations. As a result, it offers the best nightlife on the island, with a main strip running parallel to the beach that stays lively well into the night. Hat Lamai, though smaller than Chaweng, has the same lively atmosphere and dance-til-dawn nightlife.
Hop a ferry to the infamous Koh Phagnan and you may be in time for one of the famous full-moon parties on popular Hat Rin. If the timing isn't right, you may stumble across a half-moon, quarter-moon, or new moon party. Visitors to this island will cook up easy excuses for all-night festivities, where beachside bars spill onto the sand and partygoers dance, mingle, spin fire, drink potent cocktails from plastic beach buckets, and lose time until the sun rises.
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.
This temple was converted into a tiger sanctuary in 1999, as a home for tigers who have been rescued from poachers in the jungles west of Kanchanaburi. Around the Thai-Burmese borders, these beautiful animals are coveted by hunters, which can leave orphaned cubs fending for themselves in the jungle. Managed by a team of monks and volunteers (both Thai and western), the Tiger temple provides a protected habitat for these coveted animals. The Abbot Pra Acharn Phusit Khantitharo, who founded the sanctuary, is in constant interaction with the tigers.
The grounds themselves are a dusty 30-minute drive from downtown Kanchanaburi. With the admission fee of 300 baht (and a waiver to be signed at the gate; a standard procedure when tiger-touching is involved) visitors are led through the wide, sparse grounds. While visitors may be stumped in a search for a real temple (the word seems to be synonymous with "sanctuary" in this case), there's no shortage of awe-inducing tigers.
The tigers are taken to a quarry each day to enjoy the sun, stretch their legs, and bathe in the small pool. It is here that tourists can watch the tigers interact with each other. Separated only by a thin rope, volunteer will guide visitors close to the tigers and invite them to pet the animals and pose for photos. The presence of the volunteers is valuable, as tourists can get nervous in such proximity to the tigers. The temple staff with explain that the tigers are raised from infancy by the monks, and so they adapt to the presence of humans and the daily routine of being approached by temple visitors. It is true that in this unique environment, the tigers seem genuinely unfazed by human company. These nocturnal animals are restful in the quarry, often sleepy or sleeping, while the head monk sits with them. The tigers will often be slow to acknowledge the people around them, even as they're being approached and touched.
Tourists are forever in dispute about the tigers' tame demeanor, which seems so contrary to their natural instincts. The temple staff will assure visitors over and over that the tigers are pacified by the calming influence of the Buddhist monks, instilled in them since they were cubs. Still, animal-conscious visitors will argue that the tigers must be sedated by more than just meditative power, and are in fact fed drugs which render them sluggish and passive.
Despite these speculations, it is clear from the temple environment that the animals are well-fed and healthy. Visitors to the temple receive a souvenir booklet which profiles each of the 17 tigers and cubs in the tiger temple family, explaining the animal's birthday, the origins of its name, and a lovingly-written description of its personality. The temple staff maintain the ultimate goal of expanding the temple grounds and facilities into a 12-acre area where tigers can live in a safe version of their own habitat, free from cages. Details of the "New Home for Tigers" project can be found on the temple's website, http://www.tigertemple.org/Eng/index.php, a site which also cites quotations from the Abbot on his compassion and respect for animals.
In addition to tigers, this temple hosts a family of boars, goats, birds and other creatures. The monks exercise a policy to feed all hungry beings who approach them, animal or human. Volunteering opportunities are available for English-speakers with a background in biology or animal care and a respect for the Buddhist ethics exercised at the temple. Please contact the temple for more information.
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.
I salute any woman who travels Thailand alone. On a solo trip, she faces the challenges of navigating an exotic country, language and culture. In addition to this, she will notice that while Thailand can be fawningly friendly to visiting males, it's harder for the lady tourist to find her place in the scheme. Still, every girl's experience of Thailand should be a great one. From the bustle of Bangkok to the blissfully lazy islands, here are a few tips I've amassed along the way.
DO be prepared to get stared at
For Westerners this may seem rude, but in Thailand, it's appropriate to comment frankly on a person's appearance. Step into a clothing shop and your body will no doubt be scrutinized aloud by saleswomen. This is sometimes done with whispers, sometimes with an uncomfortable poke in the stomach. Back home it would be invasive and rude. In Thailand, however, this is not unusual behaviour.
Likewise, a white woman will hear the line "you're so beautiful" on a daily basis. While it might make you blush, this comment is mostly harmless, made by leering men and gawking schoolchildren alike. Many Thai people don't bother concealing their fascination with other races. Don't be alarmed when people touch your lighter skin or wavier hair.
DON'T be careless when it comes to possessions
Bag theft is common in Southeast Asia, and women are especially vulnerable, since purses are worn over one shoulder, and can easily be grabbed or cut. If you're using this advice as an excuse to shop for new purses, I'd recommend a bag with thick straps that fastens or zips shut. Hold your bag close to your body, especially in tight crowds, and remember to carry a one-shouldered bag on the inside of the street. Thieves will sometimes attempt a drive-by grab by motorbike
DO know when to blow the budget
It's true that by Western standards, goods and services in Thailand are fantastically inexpensive. Still, any tourist worth her malaria meds can tell you a story or two about getting ripped off. Few things are more frustrating than trying to haggle a price with a smugly unsympathetic cabbie or waiter. Sometimes, however, it's best for your own safety to suck it up.
Walking at night to avoid inflated taxi costs is a bad idea, period. Opting for a guesthouse that's cheap but shady is also unadvisable. You'll likely be fine, but the risk just isn't worth it. If you must compromise something on the budget, try eating at local foodstalls instead of tourist restaurants for a few days. There's no point in compromising safety to save a few baht.
DON'T be afraid to lie a little
East or West, there are some universal truths. Despite cultural differences, any man should know that "I'm meeting my boyfriend" is a nice way of saying "stop talking to me, please." However, there's no need to whip it out like a can of mace for every man who tries to speak to you. Sometimes you'll meet solo male travelers looking to chat, or local men who are simply trying to be kind. While it's smart to keep some details to yourself, like your guesthouse and room number, many of these conversations will turn out to be harmless. Despite what your grandmother might have warned, men aren't always after one thing.
DO seek the company of other solo females
You'll not only have an ally in finding cheap rooms and worthwhile sights, you'll be in great company. It takes an independent spirit to embark on a solo trip, especially as a woman exploring cultures in which gender roles are so different from those in the West. Nine times out of ten, women who travel alone are a cool, confident bunch. Don't be shy about striking up a conversation at random, as most solo travelers are also seeking to socialize. You can also share your insights on other woman-friendly travelspots, or laugh over tales of trying to pronounce the Thai word for "tampons." (It's tairm-porn)
DON'T get too disheartened
Yes, Thailand boasts beautiful landscape, humbling temples, and fantastic cuisine. However, one can't help but notice that some tourism is geared at less innocent pursuits. The prevalence of hostesses and go-go dancers in the most relaxed of bars can make a girl uncomfortable. Most women who travel through Thailand leave with a new perspective of Asian tourism, often a negative one. While it's hard to ignore, I can only advise that female travelers seek out good company and take it in as a learning experience. Bear in mind also that this industry is a small portion of Thailand's national identity. At the very least, it gives a girl a new appreciation of equal rights.
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.