Monday, April 3, 2017

update note






Just a quick note to let anyone reading these pages that all of the posts are still current and accurate ...

Be sure to open the journal dates on the side to see all of the articles created so far.



Saturday, December 17, 2016

recommended apps

I'm going to provide a listing here of some recommended apps to pick up before you arrive in Thailand.  These can be useful in a variety of situations for various platforms.  This is not a complete list and their availability on your device is subjective. 

Travel apps
There are a variety of ride hailing apps available in Thailand.  They all comes with their pros and cons to them.  Download a few and see which ones you feel more comfortable with.  

TukTuk travel app - This app will help you to hail a tuktuk at a pickup locations similar to other ride-hailing programs.

All Thai Taxi - This app will help you to hail a taxi for your trip.

Grab Taxi - This is another taxi hailing app which is used in the country.

Touring apps

Google maps - This map app also shows the major tourist destinations and routes to get between them from various transportation.   Bringing the app into street view helps to see the surrounding area.


Security apps

DLT Check In - This app is for those unfortunate times where you may have had a taxi encounter go bad.  This app is a way to report the taxi drivers. 

Money apps

XE - This app helps you in finding the common exchange rates with Thai baht and your local currency in the country.  Some transaction locations may provide higher or lower rates than what is provided by the app.  Those specific bank apps should be used in those situations.

Super Rich - This is a banking app for one of the best exchange banks around.


Airline apps

Check my Trip - This app will help you to keep track of your flights and schedules.


Communication apps

Google Translate - Translate Thai to your language and back. This also has a camera feature to allow you to translate signs.

Line - This is a popular communication app in Thailand and it's free to use.

News

The Bangkok Post - Highly recommended for keeping up with local events which may impact your vacation.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

price fix



Totally tossing my live report out the window and instead I'm going to change this to reflect what things cost in Thailand.  Use this as a guide for haggling or negotiating prices with.  None of these rates are set in stone but they are what I have come to expect over these many years.

Taxi Costs - The first rule is to never get into a cab unless they turn the meter on.  Sometimes you may find you have no choice in the matter and have to negotiate.  Or, if things go south you may need to rely on  your hotel to talk with the taxi driver about the fair.   This is a simple breakdown of some of the common costs around Thailand.  All fares also work when returning.

BKK airport to Downtown Bangkok - 400-500 baht, includes tolls
BKK airport to Pattaya - 800 baht
Downtown Bangkok to Pattaya - 1,200 baht

Shirt Costs - Generally this is how I stay clothed in the country and I barely bring any clothing with me.  When you arrive in the country there are a few good places to get shirts from.  The three shirt types I'll cover are the simple single-sided tshirts, fancier tshirts which are usually double sided or have something special about them, and the tailored pre-made work shirts.

Simple tshirts - 100 baht
Fancy tshirts - no more than 250 baht
Pre-made tailored shirts - 300 baht
Hard Rock tshirts - 1,050 baht

Collapsible luggage - 200-300 baht

DVDs - 100-200 baht

Clubs - Entry fees from nightclubs to bondage clubs to various drinking venues
BarBar  in Patpong - 1,500 baht
Insanity - 120 baht


Short Timers - Generally 2-hours of entertainment
Freelancer - 1,000-2,500 baht
Gogos - 2,000-4,000 baht

Long Timers - Generally all-night entertainment until the next day, sometimes breakfast
Freelancer - 2,000-3,000 baht
Gogos - 3,000-5,000 baht



Saturday, November 5, 2016

ayutthaya day trip

Day trip to Ayutthaya





If you've done about all you're comfortable with in Bangkok then you may be looking for some other alternatives to do before you have to fly out or get a hotel in another town. One of the popular options is to take a day trip to Ayutthaya. This can easily be done during the daylight hours to see the ancient capital of the Siam empire. After a roughly hour trip you can visit the ancient ruins of the old capital, visit the museums, and interact with some elephants on the site.

How to get there

As with any trip make sure you have set up your travel to get to your destination and back.  It can be a bit tricky going anywhere that you are not familiar with.  Make sure you know where your dropoff point is located and where you will need to be for your return trip.  If you don't think you are in the right area then always ask to be taken to the historical park where there should be many signs around to confirm your location.
  • The Bus - At Bangkok's Northern bus terminal in Mo Chit you can take a bus for under 100 baht.  The trip will take under 2-hours one-way.  Make sure you get the right bus as they provide both AC and non-AC (air conditioned) buses. 
  • Minibus -  At Victory Monument in Bangkok there are many queues for the minibuses.  These small vans run all over the country.  The cost will still be under 100 baht but it will take about 90-minutes to reach your destination.  Make sure the minibus takes you into the island and not just the town and some may try to leave you with tuktuk drivers they have worked a deal out with.
  • Taxi - As the most expensive option this will set you back about 1,000 baht but it will take only an hour to get to the town.  One good item to note is that you can be pretty sure you'll get exactly to your destination without any side diversions, stops, or being let out early.  Make sure they take you to the island and to the historical park so you are sure you have made it.
  • Train - The trains can take up to 2-1/2 hours to make the trip North to Ayutthaya.  The rates can be as little as 20 baht where it may be standing room only with no AC and up to 400 baht for a reserved seat with air conditioning. If you do take the train it will stop outside of the island and you will probably need to take a ferry the rest of the way in for 5 baht.
  • Boat - While there are boat trips to Ayutthaya these will take a day to get to the destination and must be scheduled in advance.  These trips will need to be set up individually and are not a recommended mode of transportation at this time.

Parks and Museums

     There are many historic attractions to visit inside the park.  As with any temple make sure you follow the rules and regulations.  There may not be signs at every temple so I have included a basic primer on the right with the basics.  Click on the image for a large display.  Some locations will have fees and others won't, they all vary but feel reassured that any fee will help to preserve the site.  While you are out and about be careful of any wildlife you may encounter and treat them with respect, especially the large monitor lizards in the waterways.  

     Below is a small list of sites that are available to visit within the Ayutthaya Historical park, a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site.  All of these sites can be found on the main island of the park.
        Wat Chaiwatthanaram
        Wat Kasatrathiraj
        Wat Kudi Dao
        Wat Lokayasutharam
        Wat Mahathat
        Wat Phanan Choeng
        Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bopit
        Wat Phra Ram
        Wat Phra Sri Sanphet
        Wat Ratchaburana, Ayutthaya
        Wat Chai Mongkhon
        Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
        Phra Chedi Suriyothai
        Ayutthaya historical Study Centre
        Japanese Settlement
        Wat Phu Khao Thong
        Elephant Camp

    Navigation
    At the bottom of the page I've provided a map of the main historical sites in the town.  This is where the temples, museums, tuktuks, taxis, tour guides, elephants, bikes, etc can be found and where you will likely be dropped off.  The main road which goes around the island from the inside is Uthong road.  One way to tour all the sites and surrounding area is to go along the road and see everything.  Another option is to cut down the middle along Pa Thon road.  While there is a lot to see on the island there are also more temples and ruins located outside the island but they will be more spread out.  As with my other posts, you only need to click on the map to see a larger representation to read.



    Saturday, October 22, 2016

    Pattaya Redlight

    An introduction to the main redlight adult oriented zones in Pattaya



    Pattaya is a very popular city in Thailand and is well known for its entertainment venues. Since Google does not permit explicit details this will be a quick and general rundown.  As a tourist you should always do further research into these areas and anything more specific.  In this fast industry the rules will change over time.  There are some excellent websites out there which can provide more specific information. In this section I'll provide a small briefing on the four main adult entertainment venues in the city.  There are several other venues located in the city but they are not as established as the locations here.  These areas are also very distinct in their types of entertainment they provide.

    So let's look at the map to the right and get to know this place.  I know the blogger only shows a small map there with a few landmarks and street illustrated.  If you click on the map with your mouse you will be able to display a much larger map which I would highly recommend printing out.  As most tourists will likely stay along Beach Street or Second street you can get to every venue by taking the baht buses for 10baht each way.  It is possible to walk between each of the main areas I've pointed out but it can take 15-30 minutes to get there.

    Between all of these venues are a plethora of massage parlors, restaurants, malls, plazas, clubs, bars, gogos, and more scattered about. Just walking between all of these locations during the day and yield a ton of new entertainment during the day, and sometimes even the night.

    Saturday, October 15, 2016

    Beach Street


    What to find on Beach Street in Pattaya



    Pattaya is a very popular city in Thailand and is well knows for its entertainment venues. In this section I'll go over Beach Street which is a main road going along the beach in Pattaya where many venues are located. This is likely to be the first street you will get to know and spend a lot of time on to get around the town.

    I've included a map on the right which shows where Beach Street is located.  To the left of the street is the beach and water.  At the top is the main road many vehicles will use to get to your destination if you are coming from Bangkok.  At the bottom of the map is Walking Street which is one of the most famous entertainment venues in the world.  The main street to the right is Pattaya Saisong, or more commonly known by it's English translation as 2nd street.  Most of the people who come to Pattaya will stay between these landmarks, especially first timers.  Feel free to click on the map to get a closer look at the main roads as this is the primary route for most transportation while you are staying in Pattaya.  One other important note, Beach Street is a one-way street which goes from the Teddy Bear museum at the top to Walking Street at the bottom.  Vehicles then head one-way to 2nd street from Walking Street.  Once at 2nd Street you are on another one-way street with heads back up.  This is a common route which people take all the time.

    Baht Bus -  A baht bus is a covered truck which goes around in circles along certain routes.  One of the most common routes is from the top of Beach Street down to Walking Street, where everyone gets off, and then from the bottom of 2nd Street back up to the top of Beach Street.  If you stand by the road the bus will come by and wait for you to get into the back.  When you approach your destination there will be a button you can press which will make a ringing or buzzing sound.  This let's the driver know that you need to get off.  The bus will pull over to the side to let you out.  Before you leave you will need to pay 10 baht to the driver for the trip.  This is a great way to explore the city for 20 baht, 10 baht one-way and then 10-baht going back the other way.  If you watch the video at the bottom you can see a few baht buses being passed.

    Side Sois - Between Beach Street and 2nd Street are several side streets (alleys), or sois as they are commonly called.  Many of these sois are popular entertainment venues with hundreds of clubs, bars, hotels,  and restaurants down them.  They start with Soi 1 at the top and continue all the way down Beach Street and through Walking Street until you reach Soi 16.  Soi 6 is one of the more popular sois in Pattaya due to the heavy congestion of bars along the road.  A person would be hard pressed to take a drink in each bar going from one side of Soi 6 to the other.

    I've provided a video below which I shot from a baht bus.  This was taken during the day going to Walking Street.  The video starts at the top of the road where we are going past the Mantra restaurant until we get all the way down to Baywalk Residence which is just before Walking Street.  As you can see the bus will bounce around and it can get pretty noisy at times.  Most of the people travel around on mopeds which are clearly visible parked next to the road and down many of the side streets.  The further down the bus goes the more congested the city gets.  There are a lot of different restaurants, hotels, bars, clubs, shops, hotels, ATMs, money exchange booths, banks, malls, shopping stalls, and a ton of tourists relaxing and having a good time.




    Saturday, October 8, 2016

    Bangkok Redlight


    An introduction to the main redlight adult oriented zones in Bangkok



    This is a small briefer on the main red light areas of Bangkok which are adult oriented.  Since Google does not permit explicit details this will be a quick and general rundown.  As a tourist you should always do further research into these areas and anything more specific.  In this fast industry the rules will change over time.  There are some excellent websites out there which can provide more specific information.  But for now, we're going to concentrate on the big four entertainment zones in Bangkok.  There are a lot more places to visit but none are as compact and recognized as these are.

    So let's look at the map.  I know the blogger only shows a small map down there with a few landmarks, streets, and the SkyTrain illustrated.  If you click on the map with your mouse you will be able to display a much larger map which I would highly recommend printing out.  As most tourists will likely stay on the Sukhumvit street you will notice you are within walking distance of two prime locations, Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy.  The other locations are long walks over 15-minutes away or a small taxi ride under 200 baht.  I'd take the taxi unless you really like walking down empty streets by yourself late at night.

    PATPONG -  On the bottom-left section of the map you'll notice a small green shaded area called Patpong.  This area is named for the two streets which cut across the block: Patpong 1 and Patpong 2.  These two streets are full of adult venues along the multi-story buildings which line the street.  Parallel to these streets is Silom 4 where a large number of Japanese bars and karaoke clubs can be found.  If you can speak Japanese then you can get by pretty well on Silom 4.  If you go down Patpong and look across the Silom street to Soi 2 you will see a small area of nestled neon clubs which represents the major gay club scene in the city.
      
    This is a great area to wander, check out the clubs, and chill.  Beware of places that try to get you to see a ping-pong show or don't tell you the drink prices before you order as there are some notorious places which will charge you over 1,000 baht for a drink.  If you're into the bondage scene there is a well known club called BarBar which can cater to your tastes or provide some shows.  BarBar is also an excellent place to take a bachelor to or for some couples fun.

    To get to Patpong you can either take a taxi for under 200 baht from Sukhumvit, or take the SkyTrain. To take the SkyTrain (BTS) to Patpong from Sukhumvit get a ticket to the Sala Daeng platform.  From your departure platform on Sukhumvit you'll take the Skytrain which goes to the Mo Chit platform.  When your train gets to the Siam platform you will need to get off.  Next, you will need to go downstairs to the next level and take the Skytrain going to the Bang Wa platform.  At the second stop your train will arrive at the Sala Daeng platform where you will need to depart the station at exit 1.

    To return to Sukhumvit go back to the Sala Daeng station and go to the National Stadium Platform to go back to Siam.  When you get to the Siam platform go upstairs and take the To Bearing line which will take you to the Nana, Asoke, etc stations on Sukhumvit.


    NANA PLAZA - If you look towards the top-center area of the map you'll find a green shaded area called Nana Plaza.  This is a fairly new establishment set up inside a three story plaza with an open inner courtyard.  Once you enter the plaza from the small alley entrance you'll be greeted by an array of neon signs for all the various clubs inside.  On the outside of the plaza at Soi 4 are a variety of beer bars where customers can socialize or play some pool for the evening.

    While the plaza is a friendly establishment one will need to keep their radar on at all times.  Some of the clubs cater to ladyboy customers and a few others have been reputed to mix ladyboys in with the normal staff.  If you are ever uncertain about the person you are with then there is no harm in just asking them.  Remember, if you are friendly then people are likely to be friendly back to you.  Around 10pm each night a number of the clubs inside will have shows and acts to entertain the crowds so don't miss out.

    The plaza is easy to get to if you are on Sukhumvit by walking to Soi 4 and going less than a block down the street.  If you need to take the SkyTrain you will need to get off at the Nana platform and then walk about 5-minutes to Soi 4 on Sukhumvit.

    SOI COWBOY - Looking back at the map you only need to go a bit to the right and you'll see the green shaded area called Soi Cowboy.  This is an old and historic area of Bangkok and known all over the world more than any of the other locations in Bangkok.  This is a single lane street with multi-story buildings on either side.  The sheer intensity of the neon lights brightens the place up a lot.  On the side streets leading up to Soi Cowboy are a variety of beer bars where travelers can relax and chill.

    While Cowboy is quite famous it has recently added its first ladyboy bar.  There are also a multitude of girls outside the clubs who are very persuasive to get you into them.  Just like at Nana Plaza, several of the clubs and bars on Soi Cowboy will usually have some sort of a show or event which starts around 10pm.  This is an iconic street in the city which any first-time traveler must visit.

    If you are staying on Sukhumvit it's very easy to just walk over to Soi Cowboy.  After you walk past the Terminal 21 building the neon sign of Soi Cowboy can be seen from the intersection of Sukhumvit and Asoke roads.  This is a major road crossing so be careful crossing the street.  If you are taking the SkyTrain then get off at the Asoke platform and you will be 1-minute away from the venue.

    ARTISTS ALLEY - On the far right side of the map towards the middle  is the green shaded area called Artists Alley which gets its nickname from a large number of the bars named after famous artists.  This area is not well known or as popular as the other venues but it does have a small concentration of clubs and massage parlors in the area.  Along the street there are also a variety of other stops and restaurants along the way.  If you're looking to get off the beaten path for a bit then this area will work for you.

    This area is a stark difference from all of the other venues.  There are no large neon lights or people out on the streets trying to get you into their establishments.  The prices, on the other hand, are quite cheaper in comparison.  For those who are curious about the BDSM scene there is the Demonia club further down the street.

    While you can walk down Sukhumvit to Soi 33 where Artist's Alley is located it is not advised.  This is a long walk to get too.  A better option would be to take the SkyTrain to the Phrom Phong platform and then walk about 10-minutes back up Sukhumvit to Soi 33.  Taking a taxi may be even more convenient if this is your first time to the area.




    Thx to MrFreeze from PA for the direction updates to Patpong.

    Saturday, October 1, 2016

    Siam Shopping

    Siam shopping in Bangkok





    This travel report is about shopping.  Everyone who comes to Thailand should do some gift shopping.  If your friends and family are lucky then you may remember to pick them up an item or two as well.  Many people will say that there is shopping everywhere in Thailand but I want to concentrate on just the shopping venues located in Bangkok at the Siam SkyTrain terminal which has some of the most fascinating options all grouped in a single area for convenience.  During this review please refer to the map at the bottom of the page for directions and orientation.  I've also added links to the main shopping centers in their underlined titles so you can take your time to get the latest information on what shopping options are available.

    This area is very convenient to get to by many transportation modes.  One of the easiest ways to get in is by the SkyTrain platform.  This is one of the busiest platforms out there as it is also where many commuters will transfer between two different SkyTrain routes.  As most tourists will be coming from the Sukhumvit area of the city you could get off at the Siam station, or continue on to the end of the run at the National Stadium to avoid the crowds.  For the rest of this article I'll provide a shopping route which assumes you have taken the Skytrain to the National Stadium platform and we'll go around to all the venues which you can enjoy.  

    Once you get off the SkyTrain at the National Stadium platform you want to walk across the bridge to the MBK shopping center.  The SkyTrain platform has a walkway above the street which extends all the way down the road.  At each mall the walkway will connect you to the stores right above street level.

    MBK Shopping Center
    The MBK shopping center is one of the highlights of any trip I take into Thailand.  I always make it one of my first stops on my first day into the country as I travel with just about no clothes.  This is a great place to pick up some good tshirts and other sundries to wear over the next few days.  I also enjoy the fact that there is a shop selling a wide variety of tshirts for only 99baht with no hassling or negotiating.  This mall is also well known for clothing, electronics, food outlets, touristy trinkets, and there's also a cinema on the top seventh floor.  If you're into phones and other portables then the 4th floor is a must-stop location.  On the 3rd floor on the far side is the 99baht tshirt stands.  Recently I've also discovered the 5th and 6th floors, which are much smaller, are also doing the touristy trinkets and 99baht tshirts.  This usually gets me everything I need in shirts while in country. 

    Siam Discovery
    To get into the Siam Discovery center you'll need to exit the MBK shopping mall on the overpass walkway and make your way to the other side of the street.  There will be a set of stairs going down to the street level where there is an entrance into the building.  The Siam Discovery store is mostly about clothing and beauty products.  The items featured here are fresher than at MBK and priced higher in comparison.

    Exiting Siam Discovery it's just a short walk down the street to the Siam Center, which is another clothing and fashion trend store.  Most of the clothing here are name brands with frequent fashion events being promoted.  The first three floors are dedicated to clothing styles.  There are a few food outlets on the fourth floor but not many options.

    Siam Paragon
    At the Siam Discovery exit you can walk along the street level into Siam Paragon or take the overpass walkway.  Siam Paragon is noted as being one of the very high-end shopping excursions in the city, if not the whole country.  With 9 different floors there is a lot to entertain everyone.  In the basement you can spend a few hours at Ocean World where there Asia's largest aquarium can be found.  The ground flood has a huge selection of restaurants from the simple grills to high-end eateries and several food markets as well.  Among the many floors of fashion, accessories and trending clothing there are also several electronic shops to visit.  Best of all, there is also an automobile section on the second floor where you can check out the latest from Lamborghini or Bentley (I told you this was high-end).  On the top fifth floor there is a cinema with an imax theater, and a bowling alley.  

    Across the street from Siam Paragon is the Siam Square One center and surrounding boutiques or shopping booths.  You will need to leave Siam Paragon at the SkyTrain platform and go across the overpass walkway to cross the street.  The shopping center is a mix of clothing booths and small eateries located across it's seven floors.  In the back of the center is the famous Hello Kitty store.  The fourth and fifth floors are dedicated to established restaurants for a bite to eat.  The sixth floor is the professional floor with a medical clinic, dentistry, and other healthcare services.

    Around the Siam Square One center is a plethora of shops and booths.  Everything is down here from the Shark Fin Soup restaurant, 7-11 stores, Hard Rock Cafe, a theater, and more.  A lot of bargains can be found and negotiated at the smaller shops along the alleys.

    After hitting all the shops around the Siam station  you can talk a stroll down the SkyTrain  walkway (SkyWalk) to Central World.  There is a Wat between Siam Paragon and Central World on your way to the entrance.  Once you get into the mall you will find a mix of name brand stores and food shops scattered across the mall.  At the far end there is a cinema complex, a supermarket, and even an outlet for the Jim Thompson silk store.  Be sure to take advantage of their tourist discount card.

    This mall is located behind Central World.  I heard there was now an overpass walkway from Central World which can be taken to get into the Mall.  The Platinum Mall is actually two buildings from 6 to 7 stories each.  Building A has 6 floors with hundreds of booths selling clothing and other items among them.  Scattered throughout the building are small eateries.  The main dining floor on the top sixth floor can seat up to 1,500 customers.  If you brought your car then there is a basement in building B for parking.  Building B is the same as building A where there are booths and stores of various types everywhere.  This is a store where tons of deals can be made an unique items found from clothing to tourist gifts and even a winter jacket.

    If you are still looking for more shopping then right down the street is the Pratu Nam Market.  There should be an overpass to cross the road to the market location.  This is a mix of booths throughout the store offering deals to customers that come by.  Prices here will be some of the lowest possible in our shopping circle.  Better bargains can be obtained by purchasing multiple items as this is considered a wholesale market.  There is a scattering of shopping items all over the store to peruse and wander through 24 hours a day.  While they do not have an official website I was able to get a tourist link for the location. 



    After all of your shopping has been finished you may find yourself carrying too many shopping bags.  If that is the case then please be considerate of others on the SkyTrain.  If you are carrying two arms worth of shopping or more then get a taxi for your benefit and those of the SkyTrain commuters.  It will also help to ensure that you do not lose any of your bags as you head back to your hotel.

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

    Lumpini Park

    Lumpini Park in Bangkok








    Lumpini Park is the first public park in Bangkok, given for community use by His Majesty the King Rama VI in the royal occasion of his 15th anniversary of accession to the throne in 1925.  His Majesty's contemplation was to provide a park with various types of plants and trees for his people to relax in and gain knowledge of.  The name 'Lumpini', given by His Majesty, was taken from the Lumpiniwan District in Nepal, the birthplace of Buddha.

    Later, during His Majesty the King Rama VII's sovereignty, ninety Rai of the southern part of the park was leased to build 'Wanaremgrom' enjoyment park to raise funds for Lumpini Park's restoration.  His Majesty explicitly ordered the government to maintain its condition and only use it for public purposes.




    Visitors to the park can enjoy a wide range of recreational activities.  People can be found routinely jogging, doing aerobics, tai chi, fencing, yoga, or other activities.  There are also paddle boats available to go out on the water where one can go down the water banks to watch the monitor lizards. 

    A map of the part is provided below.  There are ample paths for the public to use within the park free of any motorized traffic.  Centers are located within the park for both the elderly and youth to enjoy.  There are several pavilions around the park where a variety of leisure activities can be found.  The park also hosts a public library, food course, swimming pool, outdoor gym, school, radio station, playground, tennis court, basketball court, and restrooms. Multiple entry points exists from all sides of the park.


    Saturday, September 10, 2016

    Dining in Thailand

    Dining in Thailand



    One of the enjoyments of Thailand is sampling the varied cuisines and dishes that are available. There is a wide sampling from the grotesque and exotic, to the savored and certified. As a hub for tourists all over the world and ex-pats there is a wide abundance and variety of food at multiple price points. It would be difficult for a person not to find that special location for food they are into. What is presented below is just from my experiences and barely covers the tip of the gastronomical variety available.

    ASIAN CUISINE


    Thailand is a big melting pot of the world so they would naturally have an extensive menu of food to sample.  On the right is a popular setup called shabu shabu.  Not only does the food come out to your table, but it's still cooking in the pot!  This piece was served on the Baiyoke Balcony in Bangkok.

    The dish shown in the bottom-right is from the Gulliver's restaurant in Bangkok.  They have hollowed out a pineapple and filled it with scented jasmine rice and shrimp.  The top is covered in shaved cinnamon.

    At the bottom-left is a full meal of spring rolls, prawns, soup, salad and spring rolls from the Cabbages and Condoms venue in Bangkok.





    On the right is a typical sushi place.  This is from the high-end restaurant Mantra in Pattaya.  Above the sushi is an appetizer plate of creamy goat cheese presented in a multi-layer presentation.  It is very easy to spend over 3,000 baht at Mantra for just the food.


    At the left is a typical group meal from May's Urban Thai restaurant in Pattaya.  The restaurant is outdoors with a covered roof.  The authentic thai food is also one of the top rated in the area.  Dishes of jasmine rice complement the stuffed fish and the bowls of Thai curry and soups.

    FRANCHISE EATS


    Even the global franschise restaurants have their own unique Thai flavor to some of their dishes.  I'm sure many of us have thought about the taste of popcorn on our pizza (right).  If not then you can always try the pork burger at McDonalds (left).  But, I would highly recommend the Thai curry burger at the Hard Rock.  It's a pricier burger with a juicy flavor to wash down with a local Red Bull.



    UPSCALE DINING


    The high-end dining is one of the best offered in the world.  The left side shows some appetizers, cappuccino, and prosciutto (top-left)  from Ruffino's restaurant on Jomtien beach.  From the same restaurant (bottom-left) the main course consisted of braised lamb over potatoes served with vegetables.

    On the right side you can see the size of the prawns available at the walking street seafood restaurant in Pattaya.  Just look at how big those monsters are compared to the woman next to them!

    The last selection (bottom-right) shows 120-day grain fed beef tenderloin with truffle risotto, asparagus and dried fig jus from Mantra in Pattaya.







    STREET FOOD

    No review of eating in Thailand would be complete without mentioning the various street vendors and dining options which are available.  As the photos below show there is a wide assortment of options whether you want to grab a bite on the go, or sit down at a street-side stall for a snack.  And the range of food is huge.  There are elaborate setups for soup with various broths, meats, vegetables and spices to add.  Or, you can grab a squid on a stick to munch on while you're walking down the road.  In the early morning you might want to pop over to get some eggs or some fruit to start the day  off.  But it might be better to just pick up a cooked chicken to take home and cut up yourself.



    ERRATA

    There's also a variety of food that caters to the Middle Eastern appetites to try out.  One of my favorites to try every time I arrive in Pattaya is the Lebanese restaurant in CentralFestival.  The meat skewers, flan, and drinks really help to get your energy up after a 2-hour ride in from Bangkok.



    Now some of you may be wondering how much a lot of this food costs so you can adjust your budgets.  Several of the photos show the prices listed in them, but for the rest the range can go anywhere from a 30baht meal on the side of the road up to thousands of baht.  For example, on the left is a receipt my group had for one meal at Mantra between the three of us.  The final total came to 13,029.39 baht.  So as they say in the country on where to eat, 'up to you' ...



    Monday, September 5, 2016

    Getting from Bangkok to Siem Reap

    How to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap (Ankor Wat)



    We're going to talk about the two options that will get you from Bangkok to Siem Reap, where the Ankor Wat temples and ruins are located.  While it might be possible to leave Bangkok and tour Ankor Wat in one-day and return on the same day it's not preferred and may run you into trouble with the airlines and Thailand as they generally don't allow this.  The optimal choice would be to spend one day getting to Siem Reap and enjoying the evening around town.  One the second and any subsequent days you would get a driver to take you around Ankor Wat and any further ruins around the jungle you want to visit.  If you are a history buff then a tour guide would be recommended.  Your last day in Siem Reap would give you time for a good meal, checking out of the hotel, and flying back to Bangkok.

    1. Getting to Siem Reap by Air - This is by far the preferred method I have found.  This will take less time and the cost isn't that much more than going by road.  Both the main BKK airport and DMK offer flights to Siem Reap for roughly $150 round-trip.  If you are lucky and get your tickets well in advance the cost can drop as low as $100.  The flight itself takes only 1-hour.  Once you arrive in Siem Reap you will go through immigration and pay a fee under $30 for processing.  Once you get your luggage a taxi into town should cost around $10 to your hotel.


    2. Getting to Siem Reap by Land - There are multiple options for getting to Siem Reap by land which are covered below.  In all cases you will need to get through the Poipet crossing to enter Cambodia.  A map is provided below to assist you in getting through the border crossing as it can be tricky and a few individuals will attempt to 'help' you even though they have no authority except to try and take your cash.


      • Train - If you take the train from Bangkok it will stop in Aranyaprathet, Thailand.  It will cost less than 50 baht and take 6 hours to get there.  At the border you'll exit Thailand and enter Poipet, Cambodia.  From there you'll need to negotiate a ride into Siem Reap.

      • Bus - The bus should cost less than 1,000 baht to take.  The ride will last over 12-hours usually due to the many stops it will take along the way.  One of the advantages of the bus over the train is that it will take you all the way into Siem Reap.  They will make all of the passengers disembark in Poipet and go through the Cambodian immigration but you will be able to get back on the same bus once you are cleared.

      • Taxi - A private ride will cost around 3,000-3,500 baht for a taxi to take you from Bangkok to the Poipet crossing in 4 hours.  Once you get through immigration control there will be taxis on the Cambodian side which can take you to Siem Reap for $40 in a 2-hour ride.
    This section will cover the actual border crossing from Aranyaprathet, Thailand into Poipet, Cambodia. Avoid anyone who comes up to you as they are only trying to take you out of the official immigration system and into their way to scam you.  They will try to pass themselves off as officials or able to help you get your visa stamps.  Just follow the steps below and you'll save time and money.

    The map below shows the Thailand Immigration office in the top-left corner.  This is where you will start.  Whether you arrive by train, bus or taxi you will need to talk to this office in order to get stamped out of Thailand. 

    Once you have exited Thailand you are technically in no-man's land.  You will be in Cambodia, but you have not entered the country.  This is why, as you go down the road, you will notice all of the casinos.  Gambling is illegal in both countries but since you have left Thailand and not entered Cambodia you are now in a loophole.  Just pass down the road.  There will also be money changers along the way but you really won't need the Cambodian riels as US dollars are accepted everywhere.

    As you go under the gate welcoming you into Cambodia there will be a small office to your left.  This is the Cambodia visa office.  You will need to stop in here and get an official visa stamp for entry into Cambodia. 

    After you get your stamp you will need to continue down the road past all of the casinos.  Up ahead you will see a gatehouse.  On the right hand side is another Cambodian office where you'll need to fill out some forms and then officially enter Cambodia. 

    After you leave the Cambodian office there will be a large round-about outside.  This is where you can get back onto your bus, or find a taxi to take you the rest of the way into Siem Reap.  It is very unlikely that you will find anything of interest in the actual town of Poipet and should be avoided.  The town can get very dangerous at night.  Just remember, Poipet rhymes with 'toilet'.


    Thursday, September 1, 2016

    Bangkok - One-day tourist option


    How to get through the essentials of Bangkok tourism in one-day



    While in Bangkok there are several tourist options available in the city.  This plan should take 1-day to complete and will hit the main attractions Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace.  Enough time should be left over after visiting these locations for a possible side trip to Khaosan road, an evening shopping in MBK, and a bite to eat in Siam Paragon.

    1. We're going to go through the trip I've done many times by myself, with friends, and then with family who all wanted to experience the sights and sounds from the city.  Based on that we're going to assume this trip will start and end on Sukhumvit road where most of the tourists generally stay at.  If you don't stay in this area then skip straight away to step #2.  For now we're going to get over to Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn.  Our first objective is to get to the Tha Thien pier on the Chao Phraya river and then cross it to the temple.
      • Taking a TukTuk - Never do this, it's just bad.  These little vehicles would take too long to reach the destination and the price is based on what they think they can get you to pay.  There's also the issue that they may divert you to other venues where they can get a commission or other distractions.  While some drivers are okay, the distance is too far for these unsafe vehicles.  In Bangkok you should never have one of these vehicles take you more than a few blocks and never for more than 100 baht in my opinion.
      • Taking a Taxi - One of the fastest ways to get to the pier is by taxi, more or less.  Bangkok is notorious for its traffic  but if you are a typical tourist you should be out and about after the morning rush is mostly over.  Before you get into the taxi make sure the driver will use the meter, don't negotiate a fair as it will never be in your favor.  The ride over to the pier should take about 10 minutes and cost less than 150 baht.
      • Taking Uber - A modern option which is about the same as a taxi.  With a ride-hailing service you won't have to worry about taxi meters or prices as they are all preset.  The drive will take about the same 10 minutes and cost about 100 baht to get there with the basic service.
      • Taking the SkyTrain/Ferry - This option will take a bit longer but you will also get rewarded with a more adventurous trip to the temple.  The first thing you'll need to do is find one of the SkyTrain stations on the Sukhumvit road.  The common locations to enter at are on Sukhumvit soi 4 (Nana station), or Sukhumvit soi 14 (Asoke station).  At the station you'll need to go up to the ticket machine and find Saphan Taksinr, this is where you'll want to end up at.  There will be a circle over Saphan Taksin on the route map indicating your ticket.  On the ticket machine you press the button matching the number on the map, enter your amount in coins, and it will spit a ticket out.  Take your ticket over to the entrance and feed it into the turnstile.  It will let you pass but don't forget to take your ticket  when it spits it back up  you'll need it to exit.  Head up the stairs to the 2nd level indicating the train which is heading to Mo Chit.  This is the direction we want to go on the line.  When the SkyTrain arrives enter in relaxing air conditioning and enjoy the ride.  Pay attention along the way as you will need to get off at the Siam Paragon station.   Once you depart from the train at Siam Paragon head down one level to the next line.  From here you'll want to get on the train going back the way you came.  This will take you on the next line where you'll want to get off at Saphan Taksin.

        The picture below shows a typical ticket machine for the SkyTrain - coins only.

        Now that you've made it to the Saphan Taksin stop you want to exit the Terminal.  At the turnstile you'll enter your ticket again and it will let you out.  It will keep your ticket as it has been used up.  Exit the facility and head towards the Sathorn pier, it's in the same direction the SkyTrain was moving towards.  After you exit and see the river ahead you will need to pass under the SkyTrain to your left and down to the pier.  At the pier you do not need to get into any special boats, just wait at the pier until a ferry boat comes up with an orange flag on it.  The flags all look red to me but it's the same ferry boat you want to get onto as they don't have a red line.  Make sure you exit to ferry at the Tha Thien pier.  Along the way enjoy your cruise up the river.  This route will take anywhere from 30-45 minutes and cost about 100 baht.
    2. Now that you've made it to the Tha Thien pier you'll want to get across the river to Wat Arun.  There is a ferry here at Tha Thien pier which will take you across for about 5 baht in a matter of minutes.  After you cross the river you will need to exit the pier and turn to your left.  You are now at Wat Arun.  Take some pictures of the demon guardians, visit the gardens, explore the temple, and get some drinks as it will be hot outside and we don't want any tourists passing out at the temple.

      Wat Arun shown across the river with a ferry boat parked at the pier
    3. Now that we've taken a ton of pictures at Wat Arun we're going to head over to Wat Pho.  This is going to be a lot simpler than our trip to War Arun was.  The first thing we need to do is to get back to the ferry by the river and cross over to Tha Thien pier on the other side.  Once you get off the ferry head down to the street until you see a 4-way stop.  If you look forward and to your right you will be looking at Wat Pho behind some tall walls.  So, we need to cross the street the same way we have been walking after we got off the pier and stay on the right side of the street.  Head down a little bit until you see the entrance into Wat Pho.  This should take you about 5-minutes to get from the pier to the Wat Pho entrance.  Once inside the current entry fee is 100 baht.  Inside you'll see the temples, the large reclining buddha, Many more buddhas, a lot of gold, and other historical items.  There is also a massage parlor on the location where they train students and provide services for the tourists for a modest fee.

      A row of Buddha statues inside Wat Pho
    4. Our next tourist spot is the Grand Palace.  To get there we want to exit Wat Pho the same way we came in.  Once you get outside just take a look across the street and you will be looking at the back side of the Grand Palace.  The entrance is on the other side of the block which can take 10-minutes to walk around on the right or left side.  The Grand Palace is always open so pay no attention to anyone along the way who comes up to you and tries to steer you away from the entrance or off to another location.  If the distance is too far then a tuktuk should be able to take you around to the entrance for 20 baht.  If they want to take you anywhere else just refuse and make sure they know you only want to go to the entrance.  Sometimes the tuktuk drivers will try to take you off to a shop so they can get a bonus for bringing a shop customers, don't let them take you anywhere else. 
      At the entrance to the Grand Palace you'll need to make sure you are dressed appropriately.  While they used to be strict about the rules to this historic temple area I have noticed a few people slipping into the grounds in violation of the religious rules.  Make sure your legs and shoulders are covered.  Women may need to wear a long skirt.  If you did not dress correctly then there is a station that will rent some appropriate clothes to you for your visit.  The Grand Palace entry fee is 500 baht, the most expensive entry fee for the day.  Once inside you will get to see the emerald buddha, several temples inside, the royal palace, and historical artifacts from Bangkok.  There is a small shop inside which sells water and frozen treats so make sure you don't get dehydrated.  It is a very open space and you will be outside quite a bit.

      A view from the inside of the Grand Palace at the entrance
    5. If you still have the energy then the next stop is Khaosan road.  This is where a lot of backpackers stay and hang out while in Bangkok.  It may not look like much, but the place gets very lively at night.  If you want to visit Khaosan a taxi ride from the Grand Palace should take less than 5-minutes at a cost around 100 baht.  There are also several good restaurants in the area at a very reasonable price.  Along the side streets there are also several silver and jewelry shops which are well known in Bangkok.  This is a good place to relax for a bit and maybe get a massage, or pick up a few shirts from the local vendors.  If you're really adventurous then you can get a tattoo from one of the local artists.

      An afternoon shot looking down Khaosan road
    6. Now we come to the real shopping part, heading over to the MBK mall.  The MBK mall is located right next to Siam Paragon and has a lot of clothes and tourist trinkets at very good prices.  Lately there have also been a number of new malls opening up with competing prices bu the MBK mall is a well known location.  The taxi from Khaosan road to the MBK mall should take less than 10-minutes at a cost under 100 baht.  The roads will be very busy around here with a lot of people.  The mall itself is well known for tourist tshirts around 100 baht, which I always stock up on every visit.  There are also several restaurants with a huge food court on the top floors. 
    7. Depending how your day went it will be either the afternoon or evening.  At this point you can get on the SkyTrain and head back to the hotel or head over to Siam Paragon.  From MBK you can take the stairs up to the National Stadium or Siam Paragon SkyTrain terminals and take the SkyTrain back to Sukhimvit road for about 60 baht.  Another option is to take a 3-minute taxi ride back for about 100 baht.  Or, since you're right next to Siam Paragon, you can explore this high-end mall.  Outside the mall there are several shrines to Erawan and Ganesh.  Inside in the basement is the Oceanworld Aquarium with a huge tank.  The first floor also has about 50 different restaurants from the simple to the elegant.  If you explore further you  may even find the Bentley and Lamborghini dealership inside. 



    If you've made it through the whole day and seen all the sights listed above in the 7-steps then you have hit most of the major highlights of Bangkok in one day.  Some people will always say a person should spend more time at each venue while others can't be bothered.  It's all a personal choice to what you feel satisfied with.  I've done this circuit multiple times and everyone has always loved it.  Just don't forget to treat yourself at a good restaurant at the end of the day and post all those wonderful pictures you took.  Make sure you bring someone along with you so you can get into a few of those good shots.