Backpackerbird

An insight into the world of travel

Thailand on a Shoestring. February 14, 2010

Filed under: Thailand,Travel — backpackerbird @ 3:53 pm
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For any of you planning to travel to Thailand here is a running tally of where I have been, what I have seen, accommodation I have stayed in and the travel I have done. Use this as a tool, a benchmark to compare, if nothing else prices to.

Note I travel in high season so some prices may vary. High season in Asia is generally November – March this is when the weather is more bearable, not as hot or humid. So if you travel at other times of the year you my find the prices I  quote to be cheaper.

£1 = 50B

Bangkok:

Accomm: Sawasdee Bunglamphu Guesthouse, Khao San Road, 650B per night for a twin. Quite pricey but staying on Khao San is. This guesthouse is clean and well looked after. In each room there is a TV, hairdryer, bathroom with complimentary shampoo and body wash and aircon. The staff are friendly and breakfast is included. The location is perfect, right in the middle of the busiest backpacker road in Bangkok.
D and D’s Khao San Road. I’m not going to review this guesthouse apart from to say don’t stay here. Too expensive for what you get and the staff aren’t friendly.
Green House, Bunglamphu, 590B for a twin. Basic but clean with private bathroom. Free wi-fi.

Experience: Trip to Kanchanaburi to see the bridge over River Kwai Noi, the tiger temples and an elephant trek, 750B.

Nightlife: Whilst Khao San Road offers all you could ever ask for, inc bars, food carts and markets, just around the corner is the more chilled Soi Rambuttri. The street is lined with lanterns and the bars more sedate, you can smoke shish in the street and drink till the sun comes up.

Eating: Try the street food. Its cheap and very tasty. 30B will buy you Pad Thai, a fried noodle dish with stir fried veg. Add a spring roll for 20B. Green guesthouse on Bunglamphu Road offers a wide range inc falafel if you fancy a bit of western food. Not expensive. A lot of the restaurants have the same menu and offer the same prices. This is prob due to competition. I didn’t have a bad meal in Bangkok.

Travel: Bus and Boat to Koh Tao, 500B. The 12 hour over night bus ride wasn’t at all unbearable. The bus was a VIP and air conditioned, blankets were provided. We arrived at Chumphon at 5am and waited for our boat which left at 8am. The boat was basic but the 3 hour ride was made easier by sunbathing on the roof.

Koh Tao:

Accomm: SB Cabana, 500B per night for a twin. Basic beach bungalows set just off the beach set amongst colourful flowerbeds. Extremely well kept gardens. Only 20metres from Sairee Beach. Fan and private bathroom.

Experience: Koh Tao is renound for its deep sea diving. A day diving will only set you back £30.Hire out mopeds for 200B a day. Explore the island. Head for the hills to take in the breathtaking views and discover all the beautiful secluded beaches which are sheltered by huge boulders. be careful of the rugged turane there is only one road through the middle of the island so dirt tracks are the only option. Head home before sunset as there are no street lights!

Nightlife: Kho Tao doesn’t offer too much but what it has got is excellent. Head to the beach bars Fizz or Lotus for the sunset (5pm) after a day on the beach, before heading back to your guesthouse for a spruce up. The party doesn’t get going until happy hour at Lotus bar at 9.30pm, buy one get one free buckets at 200B. The bar has rugs and Thai cushions on the beach with fire dancers to get the night rolling. By the end of the night everyone is dancing on the beach or in the sea!

Eating: Along the beach front there are many restaurants offering fresh fish, some with lobsters in tanks still alive waiting for you to pick them. Sairee cottages is good for breakfast., cereal, yogurt and fruit,60B or a fry up for 150B. Seashell offers similar, for lunch or tea choose from traditional Thai curries and soups or opt for western dishes, it up to you. A Thai dish will cost you 100B and a western dish perhaps double.

Travel: Boat and bus to Krabi 750B, boat to Railay 200B. The over night boat from Koh Tao to Surat Thai was probably the roughest I have been on. The boat was a sleeper so very comfortable. A group of us had to stop our game of poker to lay down and try not to feel sea sick. The boat rocked vigorously. The bus to Krabi as VIP and air conditioned but we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere forced to buy an onward ticket. This is the typical Thai con. Once you arrive in Railay you need to head for Ton Sai, the next beach on. Railay is now full of resorts and families on holiday. Ton Sai is totally travellers and a haven for climbers. The only way to get there is to climber over the mountain or wait for the tide to go out (3pm) and walk around the huge rocks separating the beaches.

Ton Sai, Railay.:

Accomm: Mambo Guesthouse, 500B for a double. Very basic bamboo hut set in the woods with private bathroom but out side. Cold shower. Electricity from 5pm till 7am. (this is true for the whole of Ton Sai) The staff are very friendly.

Experience: Climbing is the only thing you can do really. This will set you back quite a lot of money especially if you need to hire equipment and a guide to show you where to climb. Around 5000B for the day. This does include kayaks and lunch too.

Nightlife: Limited… Ton Sai is very laid back. Climbers are tired after a whole day on the rocks. Head away from the beach to find the livelier bars. Reggae bar is set on quite a large piece of land. Loads of hammocks and cushions to sit on. fire dancers walk the slack line whilst showing off their skills. Space cakes are available at the bar.

Eating: Any of the bars and restaurants serve a standard menu but try the traditional Thai BBQ’s if you are into your meet. You can pick your fish or meet from a wide selection and pay by the lb. I haven’t heard a bad thing said about this food.

Travel: Boat to Koh Phi Phi, 350B. A long tail boat will take you to the main boat anchored out at sea then a 3 hour sail.

TBC…

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Reviews Bangkok January 19, 2010

Filed under: Thailand,Travel — backpackerbird @ 2:52 am
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I thought I would compile a review of where I have stayed and the transport I have taken on my travels so far. Just a little guide for any of you planning to travel.

Note: £1 = 50 Thai Bart

Room prices are for doubles or twins so split price between 2.Bangkok:

On arrival its best to get on a mini bus to the centre for a few reasons… you share the cost of the ride with others on the bus. You get to meet people straight away, you might even decide to stick together and stay in the some guest house or at least meet them later for a drink. And it is safer if you travel alone. Another option is to take a taxi which suits some, if you a travelling in a group or if money is no object. If you do take a taxi ask to be on the meter if its not rush hour but if the traffic is bad ask for the flat rate. This rate is usually about 400B to Khao San Road (the main backpacker hub).

Depending on whether you are up for a mad night in Bangkok or a more mellow night will determine where you stay. I will always advise you to stay in the Khao San area but there are 2 main roads you can stay on. Khao San road is the obvious option. Its is a fun packed, mental never sleeping road full of bars and street vendors selling clothes and food. Stay in Sawasdee Bunglampoo or Sawasdee Bangkok Inn both offer a clean spacious room with air con, and even have a fridge and a hairdryer at your disposal. They also concentrate on the finer details like mini shampoo an conditioner. Perfect after a long journey. This all comes at the price of 650B which isn’t too cheap for Bangkok but is by far the best place I have stayed in the big city. Don’t stay in D & D’s, also on Khao San Road. It likes to attract you with is rooftop pool and its hotel looking exterior. For 750B you get a sweaty windowless box of a room with inadequate air con. I didn’t even get to use the pool, there was an electrical storm, I wasn’t about to dive in the water to get electrocuted! Waste of money, don’t be fooled.

If you fancy a more chilled atmosphere or have had enough of the crazy Khao San opt for Soi Chana Songkhram, a road just round the corner from Khao San. Personally my favourite place in Bangkok. The street is lined with pretty multicoloured lanterns and is full of chilled out bars and restaurants. There are no Tuk Tuk men hassling you to go see a ping pong show and no lady boys luring you into their cabaret shows like on Khao San. For basic accommodation stay in My House. Its clean and well presented. They play films every night at 8pm and is a great place to meet people. Prices start at 500B. Or if you fancy a pool go for Rambuttei Guest House, a large and hotel like. Prices start at 750B.

Things to do whilst in Bangkok:

Take a boat ride up and down the river. Khoa San is near pier 13. There are 30 piers so plenty of river to cover. it’s a bargain at 13b a ride. If you fancy, visit the Golden Palace or the reclining Buda easily reached on the river, only a few stops down. Go to the Prison at stop 30, but pre book your visit. You can obtain the name of an in mate through the British embassy and visit them for free to chat about their experiences behind the Bangkok bars. Just take along a few treats like cigarettes and food. Take a day trip to Kanchanaburi, prices start at 750B pp for a full day tour depending on what you want to see. Options include The bridge over The River Kwai, Floating markets, The Tiger Temple, Elephant Treking, and Bamboo Rafting. All in all a brilliant day out.

 

Advice to a Traveller.

Filed under: Thailand,Travel — backpackerbird @ 2:43 am
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The best advice I can give to all you budding travellers,…never book ahead. I have come across friends who have booked flights or accommodation whilst at home before they set foot into the unknown, not knowing what to expect of the world. They have regretted every minute of their premature actions. Say for example you book a flight from Koh Samui to Bangkok on the 23rd Jan, you have got to be there on that date but many find they want to change their plans according to who they meet and what the crowd is doing. Or you may have booked a few nights accommodation on a remote island that you we advised to do in STA because ‘Its high season and you might not find anywhere to stay’ this will restrict you to having to stay in that beach hut at that time even if you want to stay with the friends you have made.

There is always accommodation to be found everywhere you go, even if you do have to trapes the streets with your 20kg backpack to find the best deals, you will always pay less when you are out here too. And flights are easily obtained on the internet. So book things only when you are out in the big wide world. Plans always change.

Take me for example. I planned to go North after Bangkok to Chang Mai to trek the mountainous jungle for a few days before heading into Laos: However I met up with a girl and get on like a house on fire, we gathered a group together and fancied some island hopping 1st so that is what we did. We will head North after discovering what the islands have to offer. If I had booked a flight to Chang Mai at home or a trip up North I would have had to sacrifice my trip or my newly found friends. Nether would have been ideal.

 

Straight in. Get on it. January 4, 2010

Filed under: Thailand,Travel — backpackerbird @ 5:05 pm
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I was the first to sit on my row on the plane. Would I be in luck? would I have all three to myself? No chance, the plane was packed out. I was joined by Chris and Nadia, like minded seasonal travellers. We chatted about where we had been and where we were heading. We gassed until dinner arrive. Great, I had forgotten to order a veggie meal. I had to settle for two starters from the meat dish which luckily didn’t contain meet.

After watching (500) days of Sumer, which made me laugh uncontrollably and embarrassingly, I fell asleep until breakfast was served, I opted for the healthy choise: cereal, gotta keep my figure this time.

I didn’t recognise the airport at all to say I had flown into Bangkok 3 times now. It wasnt until I realised it was only build 3 years ago that i knew why. I walked through arrivals with my bags weighing me down like a pack horse and was supposed to be meeting a transfer man, you know the type, waving a card with my name on it. He was nowhere to be seen. A slight sence of panic set in. A realisation that I was truly on my own in Asia. After waiting by a taxi rank which clearly wasnt the correct place I wandered back inside the airport only to be greeted by a women holding my name up. Phew.

I met Paul and Kate on the mini bus. They were staying near me. Perfect. We arrived on Khoa San Road at 6.30pm local time and agreed to meet in half an hour outside the hostel. A quick turn around, just enough time for me to freshen up. but we just had to get on it.

Khoa San Road was starting to get busy. All the market stalls were selling Thai pants and knock off watches. Street food made the smells I remember from before so tempting. Walking whilst eating we saw a fish massage bar and had to give it a whirl. 290 Bart bought me a beer and unlimited time in the pool. Dipping our feet in the water the fish instantly nibbled my toes. Expensive but worth it. The next bar was advertised with a sign saying ‘ Very Strong, We Dont Check ID’!!!  to be continued…….

 

Asian Food On The Go. November 29, 2009

Filed under: Malaysia,Singapore,Thailand,Travel — backpackerbird @ 10:03 pm
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Discover the delights of  food Asian food on the go. 

One of the biggest questions before a long train ride is about eating. By that I mean not only what food there will be, but whether there will be any at all.

On long-distance trains in America, Japan, China and Siberia, I feasted on delicious finds en route, but journeys like these always start with a stock-up of unfamiliar snacks at the station kiosks.

In Singapore’s art deco terminal, bound for Bangkok, I spied something unusual: durian flavoured popcorn.

Now, the durian is a fruit which provokes abject delight or utter disgust. Its pungency is legendary: a mixture of cheese, onions, sherry, rotting meat and drains.

Author Anthony Burgess wrote that it was “like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in a lavatory”. The celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain described it far worse: “Like French-kissing your dead grandmother”. Oddly, he is still a huge fan.

So potent is the aroma from its large, fleshy lobes that the green, spiny fruit is banned from hotels, hospitals, planes and most other public transport, trains included.

Novices, like me, start the relationship cautiously.

I first sampled it as an ice-cream flavouring. So how could I resist durian popcorn? I bought one of the luridly coloured packets, tucked it into my bag and started my two-day journey.

Spicy rice

Inside train carriage
Sitting in the dining car with mugs of teak-coloured tea and fresh papaya, time flew by in a jungle tunnel.

The first part of my trip to Bangkok began on the jungle train, which burrows through the heart of Malaysia to the east coast.

Rail aficionados love the west-coast route from Singapore via Butterworth and Kuala Lumpur, a journey through British colonial history.

But I fancied fewer rubber plantations and more mystery.

I clambered into my second-class sleeper.

It was comfortable but the upper berth was a little cramped for a picnic of snacks, so I went in search of spicy rice in the dining-car.

Back in my bunk, night fell quickly and the train powered into the dark, as Rudyard Kipling’s jungle tales worked on my imagination.

The dawn barely broke through the dense vegetation.

Sitting in the dining car with mugs of teak-coloured tea and fresh papaya, time flew by in a jungle tunnel.

We reached the end of my first line at Wakaf Bharu, and the durian popcorn was still intact in my rucksack.

Off the train and to the border by taxi.

Thai green curry

I crossed into Thailand on foot.

At Sunghai Kolok station, I bought a ticket for the afternoon train to Bangkok. It was a long wait, I was hungry and the durian popcorn was burning a hole in my bag.

Map showing Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia

But the prospect of something freshly cooked was suddenly more compelling. I walked into town and feasted on Thai green curry, watching the world go by.

Back on board, I had joyfully snagged a lower bunk in second class.

“Dinner?” A young Thai man with a long pony-tail and eyes made up like a peacock’s tail came to my seat with a menu.

It was one of my most enjoyable train meals ever, memorable also because this time armed guards were patrolling past my plate.

The previous month a train had been targeted by terrorists. But my tensest moment was a light one: a soldier got his rifle trapped in my compartment door and we shared a nervous smile.

Later an attendant – with a magician’s flourish – conjured my seat into a single bed, with fine white cotton sheets and a thick white throw as seen at boutique hotels.

I smiled “goodnight” to the woman across the compartment, drew the curtain and slept better than I have in many a stationary bed.

Dawn broke on villages, paddy fields and limestone crags. Children were walking to school, motorbikes coursing across the landscape. Soon we were cruising up the east coast of Thailand, in sight of the sea.

Fishy porridge

We were running two, maybe three, hours late.

Packet of durian-flavoured popcorn
Three weeks later, back in England, the durian popcorn is still unopened

My fellow-travellers were getting tetchy and I was getting hungry. I searched for the durian popcorn.

But I wondered whether I should risk unleashing this incendiary flavour.

As I deliberated, the train stopped at a station full of hawkers bringing food onboard.

“Try!” said a fellow passenger pushing a bowl of fishy porridge into my hands.

Glutinous rice, shrimps and spicy green vegetables. Delicious.

I arrived at Bangkok station still reclining on my white-draped sofa-bed. I had promised myself a Thai beer and the noodle classic, pad Thai, before heading for my plane.

Three weeks later, back in England, the durian popcorn is still unopened.

I gave it to a friend and it has pride of place on his mantelpiece. He loves the lurid illustration on the packet and is waiting for an occasion to open it.

But he has never heard of durian. So, how much should I tell him?

Source BBC, From Our Own Correspondent, Christine Finn.