26 Apr - 29 Apr 2013 Prachuap

Southeast Asia
Kingdom of Thailand aka The Land of Conditional Smiles
Prachuap Khiri Khan
Klongkiat Road 115
Yutichai Hotel +6632611055 yutichai_hotel@hotmail.com
Clean double room with private bathroom for THB 250.- or US$ 8.50. Free but agricultural wifi. Indifferent Sino-Thai staff, friendly enough.
Beer: 330-ml cans of ice-cold Singha Lager Beer (5.0 % alc./vol.) for THB 27.- or US$ 0.92 per can from the hotel.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Yutichai Hotel in Prachuap Khiri Khan, which we would recommend, and for directions:
N 11° 48.47' E 099° 47.73'

Exploring the relaxed coastal town of Prachuap Khiri Khan along its “corniche” from Khao Chong Krajok at the northern end via the city pillar all the way to Koh Rom, a steep limestone headland at the southern end, and afterwards enjoying great-tasting seafood delicacies at reasonable prices (e.g. steamed mussels for THB 20.- per generous portion) at the busy weekend-night market which springs alive every Friday and Saturday.

Entertaining the people-watching hordes of well-fed temple monkeys whilst climbing to the hill-top stupa of Wat Thammikaram Worawihan (established by Rama VI) on top of Khao Chong Krajok, enjoying stunning views of the town and the pretty 8km-long bay of Ao Prachuap and chatting afterwards with friendly monks and nuns at the main temple "downstairs".

Taking a public a/c van from Prachuap Khiri Khan’s downtown bus stop along the sandy bays, lagoons and mangroves of the Gulf of Thailand to the “junction town” of Chumphon (185 km, 2 ¾ hours, THB 180.- or US$ 6.15 per person), jumping into another public a/c van at the Chumphon Travel Service office and turning west towards the friendly frontier town of Ranong (130 km, 2 ¼ hours, THB 120.- or US$ 4.- per person), thus swapping oceans and rushing from the “Pacific Ocean” to the “Indian Ocean”, thereafter clopping into one of the many patrolling săwngthăew, literally “two rows”, which dropped us after 15 minutes (THB 20.- per person) near the bustling Ko Chang/Phayam Pier aka saphaan plaa, c. 8 km southwest of Ranong, and, lastly, securing two seats (THB 150.- or US$ 5.- per non-islander, departure time: 02:00 p.m.) for the hour-long ride on the daily long-tail boat aka reua hăang yao, so called because the propeller is mounted at the end of a long drive shaft which extends from the engine, destined for the tiny and relaxed island Ko Chang (not to be confused with the much larger Ko Chang in the Trat Province), a police-and-Nazi-free retreat for both baldheaded and dreadlocked dropouts as well as for escapists and eco-neurotics across almost every age, gender, complexion, physique and mother tongue, but mostly for poor representatives of the austerised West.

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

Recommended books – click below for your Amazon order from the United States:

For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here
For Amazon bargains from Canada, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United Kingdom, please click here

From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to look behind;
It’s good to scan ahead.
Keep your bearings!

22 Apr - 26 Apr 2013 Hua Hin

Southeast Asia 
Kingdom of Thailand aka The Land of Conditional Smiles 
Hua Hin 
Naresdamri Road 31/2
Bird Guest House +6632511630 birdguesthousehuahin@hotmail.com
Clean but rather small double room with fan and spick-and-span private bathroom in a traditional stilt house, built on piers over the edge of the sea, for THB 500.- or US$ 17.50 per night. Great sun deck overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. Free but unreliable wifi.
Friendly and well-organised staff.
Beer: 630-ml bottles of ice-cold Singha Lager Beer (5.0 % alc./vol.) for THB 60.- or US$ 2.10 per bottle from the guest house.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Bird Guest House in Hua Hin, which we would recommend, and for directions:
N 12° 34.31' E 099° 57.62'

Exploring resorty but still nice enough Hua Hin (once a humble fishing village which has turned into a “Pattaya Lite” with fat Russian sexpats, clever Thai bargirl-turned-contract wives, hungry Nepali tailors, seasoned Isaan masseuses, and mendacious South-African estate agents) and having a look at its (i) dilapidated fishing piers and smelly squid-drying wooden racks, (ii) casuarina-lined and food-vendor infested sandy beaches with hundreds of lined-up thatched umbrellas and long chairs, and (iii) cheapish, unsightly shophouse-apartment buildings with bad plumbing and overpriced "German", "Spanish", "French", "Italian" and even "Indian" fast-food eateries downstairs.

Feasting on the creatures of the sea at the colourful and inexpensive Chatchai Market in the centre of Hua Hin where vendors gather nightly to fry, steam, grill, parboil or bake fresh gulf seafood for hordes of starving tourists, both international and domestic.

Getting a glimpse of the seedier side of tourism and throwing ourselves into Hua Hin’s slightly diluted but still exciting enough nightlife, hoisting a few undiluted, MickeyFinn-free brews and having many highly concentrated, tickled chance encounters with nocturnal professionals of all sorts of sexes, implantations and amputations (…to say here “boy, oh boy” wouldn’t be correct anymore).

Chillaxing on our guesthouse’s shady sundeck, burying ourselves into and agreeing with Elizabeth Becker’s excellent book Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism, and thinking about the fact that the 6.5-trillion dollar tourism industry, from the mandarins in the ministries of tourism to moneygrubbing travel agencies and on to the millions of totally useless touts and wannabe guides, has actually developed into the number one obstacle for the independent traveller (very closely followed by government bureaucrats and petty crooks); the game seems to be over and unfettered individual travelling might soon come to an end...

Taking an ordinary train in 3rd class (c. 90 km, 1 ¾ hours, THB 19.- or US$ 0.65 per person) from Hua Hin’s dollhouse-like, cute railway station to seaside Prachuap Khiri Khan, a less touristed and perhaps more sustainable alternative to Hua Hin.

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

Recommended books – click below for your Amazon order from Germany:

For Amazon bargains from the United States, please click here
For Amazon bargains from Canada, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United Kingdom, please click here

From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to see a doctor;
It’s good to love your body.
Keep your bearings!

18 Apr - 22 Apr 2013 Phetchaburi

Kingdom of Thailand aka The Land of Conditional Smiles
Klong Gra Chaeng
Sheesra-inn Road 1
Rabieng Rimnum Guest House +6632425707 rabieng@gmail.com
Basic, somewhat rugged and run-down twin room with fan, private terrace (with partial river view) and shared, mosquito-infested bathroom for THB 240.- or US$ 8.40 per night. Wifi between 08:00 a.m. and midnight.
English speaking, but indifferent and uncaring staff.
Beer: 640-ml bottles of ice-cold Chang Classic (6.4 % alc./vol.) for THB 40.- or US$ 1.40 per bottle from a friendly, well-stocked Sino-Thai bottle store east of Chomrut Bridge.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Rabieng Rimnum Guest House and for directions:

Peeling back many intriguing layers of Thai history and exploring the traditional town of Phetchaburi with her (i) century-old teak houses, (ii) old Buddhist temples and (iii) delicious culinary heritage (our favourites: thin rice noodles with fried spicy fishcake aka khanom jeen tod man for THB 25.- per plate at the local night market and spicy banana-blossom salad from our guest house’s excellent restaurant by the river).

Deepening our knowledge about Thai temples, spending many hours in Phetchaburi’s atmospheric old wats and listening to the monks’ electronically amplified praying and chanting at (i) the 17th century Wat Yai Suwannram with its well-preserved murals and beautifully designed old tripitaka library aka haw trai located in the middle of a pond, (ii) the important and busy Wat Mahathat with a tall white prang which can be seen from a distance and (iii) the brand-new Wat Khoy where we met our Thai friends Tanya & Paul together with Watcharavich, the brilliant designer of this architectural marble who showed us the temple’s many interesting and challenging subtleties (without him we would never ever have spotted the graphic presentation of an iPad in the classic murals).

Exploring the wats and various components of King Mongkut’s palace (Khao Wang) on the Holy City Hill aka Phra Nakhon Khiri (entrance: THB 150.- or US$ 5.20 per person), enjoying great views from the top and fighting off the most brazen monkeys ever.

Converging almost to the centre of the earth and visiting the cave sanctuary at Tham Khao Luang, 5 km north of Phetchaburi (mini-săwngthăew for THB 40.- per person, one way), which is filled with old Buddha images, many of them already put in place under King Mongkut aka Rama IV.

Taking together with fellow traveller Martin a fast public bus (1 ¾ hours, c. 100 km, THB 50.- or US$ 1.75 per person) from the comfortably situated bus stop in downtown Phetchaburi to the modern, relatively low-key resort town of Hua Hin, famous for its 5km-long sandy beaches, umpteen seafood eateries and umpteen plus girlie bars.

Click below for more blog posts about Southern Thailand 

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

Recommended products – click below for your Amazon order from Canada:

For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United States, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United Kingdom, please click here

From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for our Grand Children's Journey of Life: 
It’s bad to march;
It’s good to dance.
Keep your bearings!

13 Mar - 18 Apr 2013 Bangkok

Kingdom of Thailand aka The Land of Conditional Smiles
Bangkok aka Krung Thep Maha Nakhon aka The Big Mango
Khlong San
58 Soi 1, Sarapee 3, Krungthonburi Road
Decent and economic double-bed studio (no. 603) with kitchenette and air-con for THB 9,000.- or US$ 304.- per month (plus utilities: THB 6.85/kWh and THB 21.4/cbm), including free access to a large, 30m-long swimming pool (big enough to do laps) and a heated out-door Jacuzzi.
Wifi for THB 550.- or US$ 18.00 per month.
Excellent service. Friendly, helpful and professional staff.
Beer: Convenient two-pack cardboard carriers with 500-ml “mega cans” of ice-cold, blue Cheers Beer (5 % alc./vol.) for THB 69.- or US$ 2.40 (per pack) from any of Bangkok’s c. 3,500 7-Eleven convenience stores (but only between 11:00 a.m. and 02:00 p.m. and between 05:00 p.m. and midnight).

Click below for an interactive road map of the Aiya Residence & Sport Club in Bangkok, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:

Settling in the good practice of our tried and trusted "Aiya Routine" (e.g. catching up with admin work and emails, doing semi-daily laps in the club’s sparkling swimming pool together with co-swimmers from all over this water world, feasting on lekker vegetarian/pescetarian Thai food, washed down responsibly with ice-cold Thai beer; see also our previous Aiya visits [1], [2], [3], [4]) and forging out plans for both (i) this upcoming sojourn in Bangkok, our favourite megalopolis in Southeast Asia and one of Asia's most cosmopolitan and traveller-friendly cities with magnificent temples and palaces, authentic canals, busy markets and a vibrant nightlife that has something for everyone, and (ii) our travels to South Korea, Japan and Taiwan later this year.

Socialising and having fun aka sanuk with both international and Thai inmates of the Aiya Residence & Sport Club, together tossing down far too many beers and generally doing very little to question the popular urban legends of many Thais about those uncivilised faràngs from the West: (i) “they can not eat spicy food”, (ii) "they can not squat", (iii) "all of them are looking for a Thai wife", (iv) “they receive regular financial hand-outs from their governments” and (v) “their IQ rarely exceeds Bangkok’s air temperature on a cool day”.

Watching graceful, transgendered Thai dancers at the downtown Erawan Shrine, an only 1956 CE built but already history-charged and much frequented Hindu shrine, supposedly a very powerful defensive measure against bad karma in politics and economics, and thereafter feeding our positive karma at the excellent vegetarian food stall in the MBK Mall (stall number no. C8 in the food court on the 6th floor).

“Within every man and woman a secret is hidden,
and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can.”

Exploring the huge Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest (flea) market in Southeast Asia with over 8,000 stalls selling anything and everything under the sun, and recruiting our strength afterwards at the excellent Buddhist vegetarian restaurant Banana Family Park +6622797838 (delicious meals from THB 30.- each), one of the best vegetarian-only dining options in Bangkok.

Temple-tramping in the scorching sun during Bangkok’s “hot season” (in March and April daytime temperatures hover around 35°C, sometimes rising into the 40's °C) and visiting Thonburi’s much frequented river temples (but only three out of the total of 40,717 Buddhist temples in Thailand of which 33,902 are in current use, according to the Office of National Buddhism): (i) Wat Arun with its distinctive central prang (Khmer-style tower) which is encrusted with colourful porcelain, (ii) Wat Kanlayanamit with its gilded 15-m high and nearly 12-m wide sitting Buddha and (iii) Wat Yannawa with its unique junk-shaped chedi.

Temple-cruising Bangkok’s less visited temples on the banks of the heavily polluted Khlong Saen Saeb thus using the rugged express boats on steroids as inexpensive (fare from Saphan Hua Chang Pier: c. THB 20.- per faràng, one way), vibrant and noisy means of transportation to travel to Wat Thepleela, Wat Klang and Wat Sri Bunruang where both monks and devotees were busy with preparations for the upcoming Thai New Year aka Songkran.

Learning about the alarming news that criminal European politicians (their motto: “Borrow! Print! Steal!”) in accompliceship with their Cypriot government cronies, leading the field, have agreed to force a “levy” on bank deposits in order to receive a so-called bailout, thus marking the end of the rule of law and the beginning of arbitrary rule in the Western “welfare states”, and concluding: When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty…

Visiting one of Bangkok’s lively floating markets, the least touristy Khlong Latmayom Market (bus no. 146, THB 10.- per person), feasting on fresh fish and seafood and buying two seats in a 2-hour long relaxing canal tour (THB 60.- per person) with entertaining pit stops at atmospheric Buddhist temples, busy country markets and fascinating orchid farms.

Partying together with boisterous locals during Songkran and sinning against an undisclosed number of the Royal Thai Police’s dampening “Ten Commandments for Songkran” without ever being caught: (i) Thou shalt not drink and drive; (ii) Thou shalt not drink and douse; (iii) Thou shalt not put foreign substances into the throwing water; (iv) Thou shalt not use high-pressure water guns or other assault weapons; (v) Thou shalt not do topless or dirty dancing; (vi) Thou shalt not buy drugs from pavement vendors; (vii) Thou shalt not paint faces white; (viii) Thou shalt not use pick-up trucks or tanks for the water war; (ix) Thou shalt not grope the fair sex; (x) Thou shalt not waste drinking water - honi soit qui mal y pense.

Bidding farewell to our decidedly un-faràng suburb Khlong San (
and knocking back, together with our friends Laine & Matthew and Monique & Allan, a few last Chang and Leo brews at our favourite shebeen), taking city bus no. 57 (THB 8.- or US$ 0.30 per person) to Thonburi Railway Station aka Bangkok Noi and from there an ordinary train in 3rd class (c. 150 km, 4 hours, THB 32.- or US$ 1.10 per person) to Phetchaburi, one of the oldest settlements in Thailand; anchors aweigh after five weeks of sloth!

Click below for more blog posts about our visits to Bangkok
01 Oct - 29 Oct 2014 Bangkok
01 Jan - 22 Jan 2013 Bangkok
19 Dec - 31 Dec 2012 Bangkok
08 Feb - 06 Mar 2012 Bangkok
01 Mar - 01 May 2010 Bangkok

Click below for a summary of this year's travels 

2013 Map Konni & Matt

Recommended books – click below for your Amazon order from the United Kingdom:
For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here
For Amazon deals from the United States, please click here
For Amazon deals from Canada, please click here 

From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to rely on security;
It’s good to take risks.
Keep your bearings!