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วันอาทิตย์ที่ 5 กรกฎาคม พ.ศ. 2552

Spirit Houses Thai culture



Spirit Houses can be found in nearly every home, school and business premises in Thailand. They look like minature tempes or elegant birdhouses as some people have described them. They come in different shapes and sizes though all of them are on a raised platform. The spirit house is for the chao tee or guardian spirit of the land. Thai people believe that by keeping the chao tee happy with a comfortable home and daily offerings of food and drink that their lives will be more safe and successful. As the teachers and students arrive early in the morning, you will see many of them raising their hands in a wai as a form of respect to the chao tee. Some of them might offer food or a flower garland if they are looking for luck to pass an exam or win an important football match. They usually promise a special gift if their wish is granted.

วันอังคารที่ 16 มิถุนายน พ.ศ. 2552

Safe Place in bangkok

Is Bangkok a safe place ?

In comparison to other major cities around the world, Bangkok is very safe and, in all probability, you will have no problem even if walking alone at night. Nevertheless, it always pays to use common sense and it's worth remembering you are likely a lot richer than the average Thai - don't flaunt it.

A bigger problem are the various types of scams and stealth crime that you will likely encounter - watch out in particular for smooth talking con artists and talented pickpockets that operate in crowded conditions such as markets and the Bangkok buses. Keeping your your wallet or purse in a money belt can be helpful at preventing the the thieves.

Comments: Having spent 6 months in Bangkok in 1999, I am pleased to say that it is safer than most large cities. I felt safer there than anywhere I have visited and I have travelled to many world cities. As mentioned thievery is the only real concern which common sense precautions will alleviate.

Sandie Kerridge

Where's a good place to stay in Bangkok ?

It's worth planning what you want to spend most of your time seeing and doing in Bangkok and staying near there, as Bangkok's traffic makes getting about a struggle to say the least.

Backpackers tend to head for Khao San road in Banglamphu, which has dozens of cheap guesthouses, cafes, and basically everything that you could need to buy. It's in a great location too, near the river and the top sights such as the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and others in Banglamphu and Ko Rattanakosin. It's completely dominated by foreigners and so it's hardly the most authentic place to stay in Bangkok though. Decent mid-range places in this area are scarce, pretty much limited to the Royal hotel and the Vieng Tai.

A lot of mid range and upper mid range hotels are across the city on Siam Square and Sukhumvit road, which is a good place for shopping and nightlife but a long way from the traditional sights and the river. They do have the advantage of being on the skytrain route, which makes getting about a lot quicker.

Some of the top hotels in Bangkok(e.g. The Oriental, the Shangri-La) are located by the river, and in business district around Silom road.

Is it safe ? How about for women ?

While not unknown, incidences of violent crime and rape of tourists are very rare in Thailand. Occasional cases are reported, but are often where tourists went into remote areas against current travel advice and struggled against their attackers. Take care if you go to Ko Pha-Ngan's Full Moon Party, as rumors of rape and crime persist here. If you do happen to get caught up in a violent incident, you're well advised to not fight back. Also bear in mind that any passing Thais who don't know the situation may well side with the other Thai person / people out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.

If you use common sense and check the safety of any suspect places you're heading to, you're likely to be much safer in Thailand than you would be in your home country.

While violent crime is not really a problem, you should keep an eye out for pickpockets and be wary of Bangkok's skillful con-artists. Thailand has an efficient Tourist Police service, who you should contact if you run into any problems (Tel: 1155, 24 hour, freephone).

วันพฤหัสบดีที่ 11 มิถุนายน พ.ศ. 2552

Bangkok Bars and Nightlife

Since Bangkok is big you can't just go out the door and walk around to find a bar, you have to know where to go. The government puts heavy regulations on bars and nightlife though, therefore most bars close at 1 am, unless you know where to go of course. And if you're planning on going to a Thai bar you better make sure you like whiskey with soda and coke since this is their favorite drink.

Make sure you bring your passport ot at least a copy of it! If you cannot present your passport in case of a police raid you can spend the night in a "nice" Thai jail. Moreover: Don't do drugs as the police has a tendency to close of entire area's and check everyone by taking urine samples, I just managed to escape once in RCA when we got tipped by the barcrew. Also dress up a little bit decent, on Khao San you can get away with flip-flops and shorts but don't try this in most other places. Below are the party area's with some of their bars:

Click on one of the below areas for the bars around!

Khoa San Road : This is probably the most famous street in Bangkok, it's locate din the old city and renowned for backpackers.

Sukhumvit : Sukhumvit is one of the longest and biggest streets located in the Central Business District, a favourite hangout for expats.

Silom : Silom is one of the oldest party areas in Bangkok, bars are generally small here. Soi 2 and Soi 4 are (in)famous for being gay.

Ratchada : Want to go local, this is the place to be.

Thong Lor: Street connecting to Sukhumvit with some nice, mostly local bars.

Ekamai : Next street after Thong Lor with some decent clubs.

RCA : Little further from the city center but worth the journey, huge party area with upscale clubs.

Other bars : Outside of the above places there are more venues for nightly entertainment.

Afterparty places : Yes bars normally close at 1 or 2 but that does not mean we want to go home.

วันศุกร์ที่ 5 มิถุนายน พ.ศ. 2552

Hotel California(Ghost Hotel) Translate to Thai

Warm smell of colitas, rising through the air
กลิ่นอบอวลของต้น COLITAS ลอยขึ้นสู่อากาศ
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimering light
ผมชูศรีษะขึ้นมากลางทาง(คล้ายๆชะเง้อมองละมั้ง) แลเห็นไฟสลัว
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim,
ผมเริ่มรู้สึกมึนหัว และการมองเห็นก็เริ่มมัวลง
I had to stop for the night
ผมคงต้องหยุดพักสำหรับคืนนี้เสียแล้ว

There she stood in the doorway, I heard the mission bell
ที่นั่นมีหล่อนยืนอยู่ตรงทางเข้าา ฉันได้ยินเสียงกระดิ่งเรียก
And I was thinking to myself: this is could be heaven or this is could be hell
และผมก็พลันนึกขึ้นกับตัวเอง "มันอาจเป็นเสียงเรียกแห่งสวรรค์ หรืออาจจะเป็นเสียเรียกแห่งนรก"
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
ทันใดนั้นเธอก็จุดเทียนไขขึ้นมา และบอกทางแก่ฉัน
There were voices down the corridor,
"เสียงของพวกเขาอยู่ทางใต้ระเบียงลงไป"
I thought I heard them say:
และผมก็คิดว่าผมได้ยินเสียงของพวกเขาว่า


Chorus :

Welcome to the Hotel California
"ยินดีต้องรับสู่โรงแรม Caliornia
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place), such a lovely face
ซึ่งเป็นดั่งสถานที่แสนรัก และรูปลักษณ์อันเป็นที่รัก
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
มีห้องมากมายที่โรงแรม California
Anytime of year (any time of year), you can find it here"
ทุกๆปี คุณสามารถพบมันได้ที่นี่"

Her mind is Tiffany twisted, she got the Mercedes Benz
ความสนใจของเธออยู่ที่ Tiffany twisted เธอขับรถ Mercedes Benz
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys, that she calls friends
เธอมีผู้ชายหน้าตาดีมากมาย นั่นเธอกำลังโทรหาเพื่อนของเธอว่า
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat
"จะเป็นอะไรไหม หากพวกเขาจะเต้นรำที่สนามหญ้า ท่ามกลางความหวานของฤดูร้อนและหยาดเหงื่อ
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget
สำหรับการเต้นบางครั้งเพื่อจดจำ และบางครั้งเพื่อที่จะลืม..."

So I called up the captain, "Please bring me my wine", He said
ดังนั้นผมจึงโทรไปหา กับตัน เขาพูดว่า
"We haven't had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine"
"เราไม่มีวิญญาณที่นี่ตั้งแต่ปี 1969 แล้ว
And still those voices are calling from far away
และเสียงร้องของพวกเขายังคง เรียกหาจากที่ๆแสนไกล
Wake you up in the middle of the night, just to hear them say:
เพื่อปลุกให้คุณตื่นตอนเที่ยงคืน แค่เพื่อฟังพวกเขากล่าวว่า..."

"Welcome to the Hotel California
"ยินดีต้อนรับสู่ โรงแรม California
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place), such a lovely face
ซึ่งเป็นดั่งสถานที่แสนรัก และดั่งโฉมหน้าอันเป็นที่รัก
They livin' it up at the Hotel California
พวกเขายังคงอยู่ที่นั่น ณ โรงแรม California
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise), bring your alibis"
อะไรคือสิ่งยอดเยี่ยมที่น่าประทับใจ นำข้ออ้างคุณมา"

Mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice, and she said
กระจกบนเพดานห้อง และแชมเปญสีชมพูบนน้ำแข็ง และเธอกล่าวว่า
"We are all just prisoners here, of our own device"
"พวกเราทั้งหมดเป็นเพียงนักโทษของที่นี่
And in the master's chambers, they gathered for the feast
และใน Master's Chamber พวกเขาต่างสะสมเพื่องานเลี้ยงอันใหญ่ยิ่ง
They stab it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beast
พวกเขาแทงมันด้วยมีดเหล็กล้วของพวกเขาเอง แต่พวกเขากลับไม่สามารถฆ่าความชั่วร้ายได้.."

Last thing I remember, I was running for the door
สิ่งสุดท้ายที่ผมพอจำได้ คือฉันกำลังวิ่งไปยังประตู
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
ผมต้องหากระเป๋าเดินทาง เพื่อกลับไปยังที่ที่เคยอยู่ก่อนหน้านี้
"Relax," said the night man, "We are programmed to receive
"สบายใจเถิด" พนักงานกะกลางคืนกล่าว "พวกเรามีกำหนดการรองรับไว้เป็นที่เรียบร้อย
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave"
คุณสามารถ Check out ออกจากที่นี่ได้ทุกเวลาที่คุณต้องการ

...แต่คุณไม่มีวันได้จากไป!!!!...."

IF WHO DON'T COMMENT.
THEY WILL SLEEP BESIDE YOU TONIGHT
AND ASKING YOU TO
"WELCOME TO THE HOTEL CALIFORNIA"

วันศุกร์ที่ 22 พฤษภาคม พ.ศ. 2552

Getting about Bangkok

Getting about in Bangkok has traditionally been a bit of a challenge. Seemingly endless traffic jams, taxis with 'broken' meters, tuk-tuk drivers who take you to a clothes shop even though you asked to go to the Grand Palace and the ever present heat which makes walking any significant distance next to impossible. The fact that almost every guidebook on Thailand says they "drive on the left - most of the time" gives some idea of the general driving standard, too. It could never be said though, that Bangkok lacks options for getting around - with a range of taxis, tuk-tuks, canal boats, river boats, the skytrain and an extensive bus system. With a bit of knowledge about all of the choices, it is definitely possible to get around easily, cheaply and even quickly.

วันเสาร์ที่ 18 เมษายน พ.ศ. 2552

Is it safe ? How about for women ?

While not unknown, incidences of violent crime and rape of tourists are very rare in Thailand. Occasional cases are reported, but are often where tourists went into remote areas against current travel advice and struggled against their attackers. Take care if you go to Ko Pha-Ngan's Full Moon Party, as rumors of rape and crime persist here. If you do happen to get caught up in a violent incident, you're well advised to not fight back. Also bear in mind that any passing Thais who don't know the situation may well side with the other Thai person / people out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.

If you use common sense and check the safety of any suspect places you're heading to, you're likely to be much safer in Thailand than you would be in your home country.

While violent crime is not really a problem, you should keep an eye out for pickpockets and be wary of Bangkok's skillful con-artists. Thailand has an efficient Tourist Police service, who you should contact if you run into any problems (Tel: 1155, 24 hour, freephone).

วันอังคารที่ 14 เมษายน พ.ศ. 2552

Where's a good place for left luggage

Almost all hotels and guesthouses that you stay at will store luggage for you, either for free or cheaply (around 10B a day). If you don't trust your guesthouse/hotel, it might be worth spending one night at a better one so you can benefit from this facility. The main Hualamphong train station is also has left luggage facility, and it's good value at 7B a day.

There's a left luggage facility at Bangkok Airport, but it's expensive.

วันเสาร์ที่ 4 เมษายน พ.ศ. 2552

Thai Beer brands

Thai Beer brands test

Nothing is more important than a good glass of beer especially when you're in Thailand relaxing on the beach. Basically every beer is available somewhere in a specialized bar but since you probably don't go to the same bar all the time lets discuss the most widely available beers in Thailand meaning you should be able to buy them at any 7-eleven.

There are two major Thai brewers; Singha and Chang, Singha also has a cheaper brand named Leo. Furthermore there are the international brands Heineken and Tiger brewed by Thai Asia Pacific Breweries. They recently introduced a new lower market beer named Cheers.

Singha Beer

Singha BeerSingha is the oldest Thai beer and used to have a 80 percent market share until Chang came along. The white and gold can looks nice with a sign of a lion, the color of the beer can be said to be medium yellow and there are sufficient bubbles in there. The taste is really "normal" meaning it could go for almost any other brand you know and there is no specific character for this beer.

Look: A golden lion, cool!

Price: Average

Taste: Beer taste

Status: Good

Alcohol: 6%

In Thai: Bia Sing

Overall: It's BEER!!


Chang Beer

Chang BeerNow this is what I call beer, weighing in at 6.4 percent alcohol it's nice and strong. The can shows 2 elephants but the colors look a little bit cheap. The color of the beer itself is a bit darker than usual what probably explains the bitterness and strong taste. The get drunk quick factor combined with their low prices has made Chang one of the most popular beers in Thailand. In high class bars people frown upon it though so it won't be sold in there but the criteria here was 7-Eleven availability.

Look: Elephants, fun!

Price: Cheap!

Taste: Strong and bitter

Status: Bad

Alcohol: 6.4%

In Thai: Bia Chaaang

Overall: We have a winner!


Leo BeerLeo Beer

Singha's second brand aimed at the lower end of the market and they made it taste like this! Adding as many bubbles as possible to hide the real taste (watery and chemical) does not fool us (I'm not that drunk yet)! Perfect however for getting those nasty stains out of your carpet and removing dirt from your windshield.

Look: A Panther?

Price: Cheap!

Taste: Soda water

Status: Bad

Alcohol: Is there any? 5.5%

In Thai : Bia Leeohh

Overall: Boooohhh


Heineken Beer Heineken Beer

You probably all know the taste of this one, Heineken is promoted as a premium brand and became extremely popular mainly because of their excellent marketing. It is actually classified as a local beer since it's brewed locally under the name of Thai Asia Pacific Breweries.

Look: Green like grass

Price: Expensive

Taste: Good

Status: Excellent

Alcohol: 5%

In Thai: Bia Heineken

Overall: A fine beer


Cheers Beer

Cheers BeerA newcomer on the Thai beer market brewed by Thai Asia Pacific Breweries meant to get a share of the lower end market. The taste is not bad at all although opinions differ, smooth, sweet or fruity are terms to describe it probably. It could remind you of white beer like the Belgium brand"Hoegaarden" The can looks simple, bright blue with Cheers on it. I agree, why all these difficult names? Cheers mate!


Look: Blue Blue Blue

Price: Cheap

Taste: Sweet, fruity

Status: Unknown yet

Alcohol: 5.6%

In Thai: Bia Cheers

Overall: You either like it or not


Tiger Beer

Tiger BeerA couple of years ago Tiger was bought by Thai Asia Pacific breweries and now serves as their middle market beer. Another one with a predator on the can, it seems to go well with the Thai public. The beer itself is a little bit more bitter than Heineken but not as bitter as Chang. I find hangovers from this beer to be the worst so be careful.

Altogether Chang is the best choice if you want to try a Thai beer as it has a nice strong taste, is cheap and gets you drunk quickly due to the higher alcohol percentage. Cheers is a good runner up with it's distinct taste that will keep you puzzled for a minute before you decide if you like it or not.

Look: Tigerblue

Price: Average

Taste: Weird aftertaste

Status: Normal

Alcohol: 5%

In Thai: Bia Tigehhh

Overall: Not spectacular


Thai Whiskey

Sangsom Thai whiskeyBesides getting drunk on beer you could also be brave an surrender yourself to a good bottle of Thai "whiskey" God knows why they call it whiskey as in fact it is just a cheap kind of rum. Most popular (and infamous) are Sangsom and Mekong, both available at any 7-11 in either a small bottle around 100 Baht or a larger one around 300 Baht. One of these bottles is all you need, make sure to mix it well with plenty of soda and coke as taste was not the brewers priority.


train in Thailand


How do I catch a train in Thailand?

It might be only a slight exaggeration to say that no trip to Thailand is complete without spending time on the rails. Thailand's trains are an economical and comfortable means to get around, and a great way to see the countryside and rub elbows with your charming hosts. They are safer than the bus, cheaper than flying, and the most stylish way to get to where you want to be.
Destinations

A map of the Railway routes in Thailand -- click here to see a larger versionThe train doesn't go quite everywhere, but it can get you from Bangkok to, or close to, most major destinations in Thailand. This includes Chiang Mai in the north; Nong Khai in the northeast (for Vientiane, Laos); Ubon Ratchathani in the east; and Surat Thani (for Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui), Trang and elsewhere in the south, continuing to Malaysia and Singapore. The train does not go to Phuket, Krabi, Trat (for Ko Chang) nor Chiang Rai.

For longer routes, try the overnight sleeper train. This saves time by traveling as you sleep, and money by skipping a night's hotel fee. There are a few people who prefer the day trips, not wanting to miss a single km of countryside. But, a little scenery goes a long way, and those few hours gazing outside before and after the beds are made up are enough for all but the most hard-core window jockeys.

Shorter, 3rd-class-only routes include the special tourist train to Kanchanaburi along a section of the WWII Death Railway, Aranyaprathet (and onward to Cambodia), and the popular day trip to Ayutthaya, the latter accomplished as a round trip from Bangkok or as a fantastic stopover on the way to Chiang Mai.

For those insisting on taking a longer daytime trip, check out the Special Diesel Railcar options on the State Railway of Thailand webpage. These trains are faster and better designed for extended daytime travel.
Third Class Travel

If you are considering taking a 3rd class car for an overnight train trip, don't. While it's a great scenic adventure to Kanchanburi or Aranyaprathet, it is not appropriate for longer trips. These cars have thinly padded wooden or plastic seats that will reduce your bottom to tears. Worse, there is no guarantee of a seat in a 3rd class car, and they often become standing room only nightmares, particularly during peak periods. If 3rd class is all that is available for a long train journey, you are better off taking the bus instead.
Second Class Travel

The backpacker gold standard for train travel is the 2nd class Pullman car. These cars contain 40 seats facing each other in sets of two, which convert into reasonably comfy beds for the overnight trips. Each berth gets its own reading light, pillow, blanket, and a fresh set of sheets.

Your luggage travels with you on the train, stored in convenient racks next to your berth. Security on board is generally good, but it is still smart to place valuables like money, passport, and electronics in the bunk with you. Use a simple cable lock to secure your pack while you sleep.

When making reservations, keep in mind that the lower berths are the even numbers, while the cheaper upper berths are odd numbered. The best seats/beds are in the middle of the car, numbering from the mid-teens to the high 20's, where you'll be far from the constant foot traffic, the toilets and the noisy doors at either end of the car.

Many folks prefer to get an upper and a lower berth, meaning you'll be sitting across from your travel partner before and after the beds are made up. This is tops for talking, playing cards, sharing meals, or just putting up your feet.

The more expensive lower berths are larger and more comfortable. Both upper and lower have curtains for privacy, but the curtains on the lower berths do a much better job of screening out the lights, which stay on all night. An easy fix is earplugs and a sleep mask. Even so, don't plan on your best night's sleep ever.
To air-con or not to air-con

For most people, unless you are traveling during the heart of the hot season (mid-March to early-May), paying extra for the air-con cars is unnecessary, as the air-con cars quickly turn into chilly meat lockers. The fans in the non-air-con cars are normally enough to keep you cool while you sleep. As an added bonus, the windows in the lower berths on the fan cars open, which makes it easier to interact with vendors and the countryside as it stretches by. The air-con cars, on the other hand, tend to be a bit newer and therefore a bit nicer. If you travel 2nd class air-con, be sure to cover up with your warmest clothes and ask for an extra blanket.
First Class Travel -- A Special Treat

If your budget can absorb it, then 1st class is the way to go. First class compartments accommodate two people in equal-sized upper and lower berths, and boast a sink with running water, in-room luggage racks, and lots of space. Even better, you can adjust the flow of air-con in the room to the level you want, the door fastens shut for added security, and you can turn out the lights when you are ready to sleep.

Adjacent 1st class compartments have a pass-thru door, so you can party with your mates in comfort and style. For those traveling alone, an entire first class compartment is available for an added single supplement charge of about 300 baht -- less than the price of an additional first class ticket. Value for money, the first class berths are a world-class bargain.
Onboard Dining

There is food for purchase on board, served at your seat in 1st and 2nd class, but it is no great shakes and not cheap either. Plan ahead and bring a few snacks and munchies with you.

Breakfast on board starts at about 90B for an uninspired standard, while dinner runs 150B. Besides meals, stewards carrying buckets filled with ice cold soft drinks and beer will pass by endlessly. You'll also enjoy a never-ending parade of independent food vendors who board the train or approach your window at stations and other stops.

It is important to note that the food servers on the train work on commission, so if they seem to take it personally that you don't buy something, that's why. A small tip for the food servers and the people who make up your bed is well deserved and much appreciated.
Other Logistics

There are bathrooms on board, located on either end of the train car. Toilets are usually arranged in pairs, with one western and one Asian-style toilet. That's an important safety tip, since for the novice, a squat toilet is a challenge to master even when you aren't on a moving train. In first class, there are also cold-water shower sprayers if you wish to clean up. With all toilets, your waste pretty much falls directly on the tracks. Because of that, it is bad form to use the bathroom while the train is in a station.
Bangkok's Hualamphong Station

Most all trains depart or arrive at Bangkok's Hualamphong Station, with the exception of the train to Kanchanaburi, which departs from the Bangkok Noi station in Thonburi.

Navigating Hualamphong is easy, with arrival and departure boards inside the terminal in both English and Thai. There are also English-speaking staff at information booths at both entrances and inside the terminal if you need guidance.

Trains board via announcement, just like at any airport. Train personnel check to make sure you have a ticket before you enter the boarding area, but there is otherwise no security check or x-ray scan. The conductor will come to your seat on board to punch your tickets after the train has left the station.

Hualamphong has many amenities too, including newstands, mini-marts, an internet cafe, food court, and even western favorites like Dunkin' Donuts and KFC. There is also luggage storage, so you can explore the area if you have a few hours to spend before your train departs. Chinatown and Wat Traimit, the Temple of the Golden Buddha, are nearby.

With Bangkok's infamous traffic, be sure to leave yourself extra time to get to the station. If possible, take the new subway to Hualamphong station.
Buying Tickets

As train travel becomes more popular with tourists and Thais alike, the era of buying your ticket the day you travel is over. This is particularly true on the more popular Chiang Mai and Surat Thani routes, and any time during Thai holiday periods, where the trains will be sold out well in advance.

A good rule of thumb is to make your reservations once your travel plans are certain, although some of the lesser-traveled routes, such at Nong Khai or Ubon often have seats available at the last minute. It is possible to make reservations before you arrive in country.

State Railway of Thailand website at http://www.railway.co.th/english/index.asp has information on routes, timetables, fares, and availability. Request reservations by email at info@railway.co.th.
Arriving at Your Destination and Other Tips

The trains depart on time, but the overworked single track in most areas means that you'll more than likely arrive an hour or two later than scheduled. This is important to know if you have follow-on flights or other arrangements planned at your destination.

A final word. When boarding the train in Nong Khai, do not repeat not order the cheese sandwich from the cafe' across from the station. It makes for a long trip, even with toilets on board. You've been warned!

วันเสาร์ที่ 21 มีนาคม พ.ศ. 2552

Boats and Ferries in Bangkok

Information On Boats And River Cruises Iin Bangkok and Thailand



Bangkok, Thailand could be considered the Venice of the Orient. Some may argue that that is what it is called, but I don't think Venice would like the comparison. Bangkok also sits on the Chao Praya river which means The River of Kings. Both offer a means of getting around Bangkok and can lead to some very interesting places

Klongs / Canals


Bangkok has a maze of canals that allows travel around the city to be fairly possible. In fact, it's how I used to get to work but now that there is the skytrain and the underground I can see no reason for taking the canal.

Canals in Bangkok and Thailand are called Klongs and there are many of them but they are now so dirty and polluted that you really want to stay away from them unless they are slightly out of the city and take you to the snake farm, royal barges and the floating market.


Canals or Klongs in Bangkok, Thailand Some Klongs are cleaner than others.
Klongs / Canals are not very clean

Some are cleaner than others

It is quite often that you can see dead animals floating in the canals and so you really don't want to have that kind of water splashing over you. However, there are still some canals that splinter off from the Chao Praya river and these canals are "cleaner" and not bad to travel on.

The main and best known Klong is Klong San Sap and it's possible to travel all the way from Bangkapi to Banglampoo which is fairly close to the grand palace and only a few meters away from the Golden Mount temple.

To take one of the canal boat services that run through the center of Bangkok, you need to find a pier stop and wait for one of the boats to pull up to the pier going in your direction. When it stops you let everyone get off first and then VERY carefully get into the boat and pay the ticket collector the small fee for the journey.

You might need to change boats at Pratunam but you'll need to ask someone about this when you get on the boat. However, unless you have a real burning desire to travel on the world's largest toilet / sewer I recommend that you chose other modes of transport for getting around the city.

River Cruises & Ferries in Bangkok

Other boat rides can be had on the Chao Praya river. The Chao Praya or "River of Kings" is Bangkok's main river and is still a hub of life and it can be very interesting to grab a table at The Oriental, Shangri La and other river side hotels and just watch life on the river go by.

Take the bangkok river cruise from Saphan Taksin to Grand Palace
Boats often get busier in the evenings
The river cruise that costs 18 Baht

General ferry boats

One trip I highly recommend is the boat trip from Taksin bridge and then go up the river to the Grand Palace, passing Wat Arun ( Temple of Dawn ), Oriental Hotel and some other temples and places of interest. This river cruise is a simple boat bus that you get on and get off at the various stops.

Catch the boat at Taksin Bridge, pay 18 Baht per person ( assuming you get off at The Grand Palace ) and enjoy a cool ride up the river.

There are other river cruises that offer a similar ride but they charge 100 Baht per person, so avoid paying too much and take the same boat that the Thais use.

Getting on and off the cruises.


Hotel Ferries in Bangkok

A number of the hotels that line the river operate free faerry services that will pick you up and take you to their hotel or their restaurants. The Oriental Hotel, the world famous Thailand hotel, for instance has a restaurant on the opposite side of the river from the actual hotel. To catch this ferry, you need to go to The Oriental and make your way to the river side restaurant of the hotel. The Oriental has a nightly buffet and so you'll need to walk past all the mouth watering food on display and wait at the very small pier and a splendid looking Thai style boat will pick you up and take you to the other side of the river and to the other restaurant.

The Penninsula Hotel in Bangkok also offers this service as do some others, but my favourite is to take the Marriott Hotel and Spa's ferry that will pick you up from Taksin Bridge and take you for a 15 minute ride, down the Chao Praya to the splendid Marriott hotel which is home to a number of restaurants.

A temple along the Chao Phaya river, Bangkok, Thailand Wat Arun
One of the temples along the river

Take the boat on a sunny days is you can.

TukTuk


Pros Cheap, fun and nippy in traffic

Cons Loud, not easy to see the sights, pollution


Tuk Tuks

The Bangkok Tuk Tuk ( pronounced took-took ) is probably every visitor's favourite means of transport. They have an undeniable appeal and quality to them that makes them irresistible to all that come to Bangkok or Thailand.

The Tuk Tuk is a three wheeled, motorised rickshaw and can seat, comfortably, two adults but it is not uncommon to see 6 or 7 students crammed in, all sharing the fare; and the drivers don't seem to mind.

Bangkok Tuk Tuks are a great way of traveling short distances and as long as you are not expecting to do any sight seeing along the way. We say this because the canopy that covers the Tuk Tuk slants downwards towards the front slightly as well as curving round the sides at exactly eye level and so the journey is void of any ability to see what is going on around you unless you travel in a doubled up position.






Tuk Tuks can be found almost anywhere. You can either hail them as they come towards you or walk up to the driver if one is waiting on the side of the street. A lot of the time, if they see you walking down the street, they will drive up to you and drive at your walking speed in the hopes you decide to ask for a ride. Either that or you'll hear " hey you..you". THis sounds rude to us but it's a direct translation of what they would say in Thai and in Thai, it's normal, formal, and polite.

In the rainy season, most tuk tuks have polythene sides that drop down and provide some sort of protection against the heavy Thailand rains, but you'll almost certainly get wet.

The cost of a tuk tuk all depends on whether you know where you are going and how much that journey might cost in a taxi. If you'd normally pay 50 Baht in a taxi, ask for 30 or 40 Baht and this is based on the fact that a taxi is more comfortable, has air conditioning etc.

Rather than take the very first Tuk Tuk that come along, ask a low price and wave them on if they refuse. It doesn't mean you've got the price wrong, it could mean they aren't willing to go for that amount, so try again with the next one. You'll eventually get it right.

One note of warning Tuk Tuk drivers, and others too, make extra money by taking tourists to certain shops. The shop owner will give the Tuk Tuk driver money for bringing in new customers and so you could find yourself being taken somewhere whether you like it or not.
Also, Tuk Tuk drivers can almost always be found outside large hotels waiting for tourists. They do this because they know they will make more from tourists who don't know how much they should be paying. Avoid these drivers if ou can and walk on down the road and stop one that's passing. You'll get a better deal and won't have as much "trouble".


The famous three-wheeled taxi of Bangkok.

วันอาทิตย์ที่ 15 มีนาคม พ.ศ. 2552

Thai Classical Dance

The diverse arts and culture of Thailand have a fascination of their very own, and one of the most fascinating is Thai classical dance and its rituals and traditions. Visitors don't really feel they have seen Thailand until they've witnessed at least one performance of Thai classical dancing--but many understand very little of what they see. It's beautiful and it's different, but its background escapes them.

In "A Descriptive Catalogue of the Siamese Section at the International Exhibition of Industry and Labour" held at Turin, Italy in 1911, H.M. King Vajiravudh wrote the commentary on the theatre of Siam. He classified contemporary entertainment into five types:

The Likay

The Hun

The Nang

The Lakor (Lakon)

The Khon

The Hun has survived in a different form as the Hun Krabock or marionettes; and the Nang as Nang Talung, or Shadow Play. According to the late Highness Prince Dhani Nivat, however, this Nang Talung bears no resemblance to its classical prototype except that both are exhibited on screens which are lit in such a way so as to cast the shadows. Today very few troupes of these performers remain active and the art is dying. The Lik ay is most often seen in travelling shows at temple fairs, or in rural Thailand where it is popular entertainme

King Vajiravudh classified legitimate theatre as being two distinct types--the Khon and the Lakon. His Majesty wrote:--"The theatre where the Khon and Lakon are performed ... possesses the beautiful simplicity of an ancient Greek theatre ... neither stage nor scenery is required ... Costumes and properties however, are very elaborate, and are made as accurately as possible. The costumes are made to resemble those worn in Siam in olden times, and have not changed during successive generations, because they have been found most picturesque and suitable. Queens or royal personages wear crowns or coronets; others have various kinds of headdresses suitable to their rank and station. Character parts, such as demons, monkeys, or yogis we ar distinctive masks of different colours and designs. Each mask is a good example of Siamese decorative art, and is distinctive and characteristic, so that each character may at once be recognized by the mask worn by the actor."

In earlier times there were no theatres for public entertainment in Siam. Kings, princes, noblemen and high-ranking officials maintained their own troupes of classical dancers and musicians--many of them trained at the palace. Performances were given for occasions such as birthday, important visitors, cremations, or simply the wish of the patron. Theatre programmes weren't necessary because almost all those who were invited to attend already knew the story--always portions of the Ramakian. Ordinary people found their entertainment at temples, cremations or other special celebrations. As recently as 1935 there were troupes of court dancers.

Many of the costumes, although very beautiful, are heavy and uncomfortable--especially the female headdresses and the masks of the male characters.

Since many roles of the khon demand extremely boisterous performances, the costumes are often fitted and sewn on the dancer prior to the performance. The different positions demanded of each character must be posed while the fitting and sewing are bein g done. This not only assures the proper drapes and folds, but helps to avoid an embarrassing rip of a seam during the action.

The most popular characters of males are Totsakan (the Demon King), Rama (the Righteous King), the Hanuman (the Monkey Warrior). Students are often selected to train for specific roles because of their size or build. The formalized movements of khon perfo rmances make the acting and dancing inseparable. Each step has a meaning, emphasized by the appropriate music, narration and song. Each is practised over and over again until it is mastered. Mom Rajawongse Kukrit Pramoj once called the khon training "inhu man". In many of the dances, the head cover identifies the character being performed. The jewelled crown headdresses (chada) that are worn are all much the same, but for the khon, the mask is the character.

Masks were not worn by khon performers before the Ayutthaya period (1350-1767). Instead the faces of the characters were painted on the dancers. Mask making evolved from the wish to have a more permanent means of identifying the characters; one which would retain the basic characteristics and features, and be easily recognized.

During the Ayutthaya period, khon performances were held in palace halls or courtyards lighted by torches. Complete performances of the Ramakian could continue for days. Often those who watched would leave for a while and then return to pick up the sto ry, since it was already familiar to them.

While each part of a khon costume has its own significance, the mask is the single most important piece. Contrary to popular belief, masks for each character can vary from troupe to troupe yet all maintain the necessary identifying characteristics. Eac h mask maker has a certain artistic leeway in his interpretation, however there are certain fundamentals of the character masks which remain constant. Blunt, curved tusks on a demon mask signify old age; straight, blunt tusks that point upward indicate th at even though he is a demon, he has mellowed and become kind-hearted in old age; curved, sharp tusks are those of a middle-aged demon and sharp pointed tusks which point downward are those of a youthful demon.

There are other decorative details which are used in differentiating between the masks. Eyes of the demons are not the same as the eyes of other characters. Demon eyes are of two type--"crocodile eyes" with half eyelids, and bulging "fish eyes". Tusks were formerly made of ivory, but today it's both scarce and expensive so other materials are used in most cases.

The major distinguishing characteristics of khon masks are the bald head and the crowned head. Monkey characters and soldiers of the demon army belong to the "bald head group". Whatever other differences may appear however, Hanuman is always white. The characters of Rama, his brothers, gods, rishis (wise hermits), Totsakan, his relatives and allies, and some of the generals of the monkey army wear crowned masks. An obvious difference between the demon and monkey masks is the long tusks of the de mons and the canine teeth of the monkeys. Some khon mask artisans believe the demon masks must also have the three characteristics: round chin, a glaring expression and eyebrow and moustache tips "in harmony."

More than 10 styles of crowns are to be found on khon masks. Some characters, such as Rama and his brother Lakshman use more than one type for their roles as the scenes change. (In modern versions of the khon, Rama and Lakshman may be without masks, we aring chadas instead.) As the mask of Hanuman is always white, the crown of Totsakan always has three tiers.

There are altogether more than 100 different demon masks used in the khon--these are divided into 14 groups to avoid confusion. To avoid further confusion, eyes and mouths are different for each character and facial colouring is also different. If the colours are too similar, other means of identification are used; for instance, masks with purple faces are worn by both Phya Thut and Khun Prachat, so to help in identifying them properly, Phya Thut carries a lance and Khun Prahat, a club.

Those who watch khon performances often wonder how those wearing the masks can breathe. Admittedly, it isn't easy. The masks have little ventilation and they're hot. Some of the actors--particularly those in the monkey roles--must perform acrobatics an d somersaults and to prevent their masks from falling off, cords are sewn inside the masks at the mouth. These cords are then held in the teeth of the performers to keep the mask firmly in place.

Since the people wearing the masks cannot speak, there is a narrator or khon phak who has not only to know his subject, but also the rhythm of the dancers' movements. A khon performance has to rely on the proper coordination of dancers, narrator and orchestra. (The clowns are the only characters who speak for themselves; even those who wear chadas do not speak.)

An artisan who makes the khon masks must fully understand the character and personality of the mythological being the mask will portray. It is said that a good mask maker requires three basic qualifications--he must be able to draw, to sculpture or mou ld well enough to prepare a model of the character, and to be able to engrave the delicate ornamentations. A sure and steady hand is a decided asset.

Originally models were made of wood or clay, but some mask makers today use more modern materials for making their models.

Before an artisan begins working on a new mask, he performs a ritual ceremony to invite the spirits of his old teachers, the gods, and the angels, to help him succeed at his work. The model is then covered with several layers of sa paper or papi er mache. Then it is thoroughly dried. Depending on their personal preference or method, mask makers do only a couple of layers before drying, and then add more material to the mould. Other prefer to do several layers at one time, and then add more mater ial to the mould. Others prefer to do several layers at one time, and then allow them to dry. Some of the artists also advise sticking the last couple of layers with a glue made of flour, to which they add a locally made insecticide. This helps to preven t the finished masks being damaged by insects and weevils.

Quite a large number and assortment of models are necessary--not only for the different facial expressions added, but in addition to humans, demons, and hermits, there is also a need sometimes for masks of elephants, horses, and mythological animals.

After being completely dried, the mask is cut from the mould and stitched together. The "scar" is covered with thin paper. The mask next receives a coating of rak samuk--a semi-hard lacquer, to sharpen and bring out the facial lines. Making a ma sk takes about seven days with most of the time taken up by the drying stages. Most mask makers work on more than one mask at a time, each one in a different stage of completion.

The art of mask making--and it is an art--is usually passed down from one generation to another; or a respected craftsman (chang sip mu) may accept apprentices who come to study and learn from a master and who show artistic talent. Today the num ber of old masters has dwindled and relatively few young artists aspire to the craft, for the financial reward is small compared to the time and experience necessary. The old-fashioned way of making khon masks has joined the growing list of endangered cra fts.

After a khon mask has been completed it must be initiated in the time-tested rites before it can be worn by a performer or a dancer. Gods are believed to give their protection to each mask and, without the propitiative ceremonies, all sorts of disastro us catastrophies may assail the one who dares to wear the mask.

The completed masks must also undergo a rite to "open their eyes"--the "Beuk Phra Netra" ceremony. Following this ritual, the masks are always kept in a high place as is proper for any object of reverence.

Before the first performance of a mask it is customary for the master, or head teacher, to personally place the new mask over the head of the performer. It is also customary before the debut performance of a khon dancer for an elder or respected teache r to place his mask on the dancer for a moment. The senior, standing before the novice, repeats sacred words and presses gold leaf onto the centre of the mask's forehead.

Since performers treat their masks with such reverence, periodic rites are held to pay homage to the spirits of the masks. Both craftsmen and performers look on the masks as "teachers", and therefore worthy of respect. Khon masks are always preserved a nd some that still exist are well over 100 years old. There are in fact, masks made by King Rama II which can be seen in the National Museum in Bangkok.

All teachers in Thailand are highly respected persons; and teachers of the classical drama and arts enjoy a special status--not only during their period of teaching, but for their entire lifetime. Khon performers show their est eem not only to their own teachers but to all the elderly masters as well. Thai arts and craftsmanship have a long and traditional history, and while all teachers in Thailand are honoured each year by a Wai Kru ceremony, the rites of honour for tea chers of the classical drama, music and arts are very elaborate.

The annual Rite of Homage (Wai Kru) for teachers of the arts includes a religious ceremony which is followed by an invocation inviting the divinities (Thevadas) to partake of the feast which gas been provided for then. An elder, usually the senior teac her or principal of the school, presides over the ceremony. On the auspicious day the elder is dressed entirely in white (or at least, wears a white coat).

A Buddha image is placed on the altar tables along with the traditional flowers, candles and incense sticks. Another table holds the food offerings which include a pig's head, duck and other fowl, both cooked and popped rice, beverages, folded leaf arr angements and flowers.

A Piphat orchestra plays specific musical scores as each divinity is invited to attend the ceremony. Following the departure of the divine spirits, another ceremony is held to include all those who are in attendance. All come together to form a cir cle and a lighted taper is passed form person to person. From the president, who begins the ritual, the candle is passed from one to another until it has completed three circuits. The rites are concluded by the president marking the forehead of each stude nt with a specially prepared white paste and sprinkling each one with lustral (holy) water.

Novice students are not accepted for initiation until after they have mastered both the fast and slow tempos of the dance well enough to appear on stage in minor roles. Some steps and postures are not taught until after the student has been formally i nitiated.

Another important rite for students comes after they are well advanced in their training, when they are elevated to the status of teacher. From that time, a student who continues to study and acquires greater expertise and ability, becomes eligible for higher rank, respect and honour.

It's not too surprising to learn that the presiding teacher or president of the Wai Kru and initiation rites must be a man; a female in this position is believed to bring about grave misfortune. All male teachers, however, are not eligible to perform i nitiation rites--only those who have been appointed by former senior teachers are allowed this honour.

Most old masters were always very careful in choosing 'worthy' pupils, and they jealously guarded their manuscripts of the rituals. The homage and initiation rites are always performed on a Thursday, for in Thailand Thursday is accepted as " Teachers D ay."

The performing artists and teachers believe that the Wai Kru Day is their special day and its observance is ethically and disciplinarily binding. Those who consciously stay away from this rite are sinning and drawing upon their heads the curses of thei r teachers. They also go to hell after death.

The great importance of the ritual and rites which are a part of the classical theatre in Thailand was given added significance in October 1984, when King Bhumibol Adulyadej presided over the presentation of khon masks and head gear to five newly appointed presidents of the "Traditional Paying Homage Ceremony" for khon and dance drama.

The five senior artists ranged from 37 to 50 years of age. They were appointed by His Majesty following the unexpected death of Kru (teacher) Arkom Sayakom who had died without preparing anyone for his position. Anyone who achieves this prestigious p osition must not only have great expertise in his field, but must also be of the highest moral character, merit the respect of society and have been ordained as a Buddhist monk. (Ordinarily he should also be selected by the pa st president and presented with the Prayer Book.)

As already mentioned, all khon masks are revered and considered sacred. This is even more stringent for the khon masks made especially for the Wai Kru ceremony. Their facial expressions are different from others, and some of these masks are entirely gilded.

Many years ago, an artisan who was commissioned to make a Master mask was required to be dressed all in white on the day he began work, and the work was usually begun on a Thursday. When a Master mask was completed the mask maker prayed to the sacred spirits to enter the mask.

As one can easily see, there is a lot more to the Thai Classical Dance than meets the eye of a casual viewer. And however an 'outsider' might view all the rituals and regulations, they do have significance to the teachers and performers. The traditions have evolved over many decades and while some may have been altered in some of their small details, they have certainly helped in the preservation of the classical theatre in this country.

วันอาทิตย์ที่ 8 มีนาคม พ.ศ. 2552

Krabi Rock Climbing



Krabi Rock Climbing

Rai Leh (also known as Rai Lay) is the major rock climbing site in Thailand and Malaysia and probably also in the whole of South East Asia.

It offers a unique combination of breathtaking scenery, beautiful beaches with soft sand, an excellent tourist infrastructure, many climbing shops and schools and an overwhelming number of routes suitable for both absolute beginners and experienced climbers.

Rock Climbing

The limestone cliffs that dot the entire area surrounding Krabi are heaven for rock-climbing enthusiasts, who come from all over the world to take up the challenge of climbing.
Over 150 odd routes have developed since the late 1980's when Krabi first witnessed the sight of people scaling it's craggy mountains. Routes include high quality limestone, steep, pocketed walls, overhangs and hanging stalactites, with some accessed by boat belay, others involving jungle walk approaches or abseils into the sea.

The headland between Tham Phra Nang and Rai Leh Beaches harbours some particularly popular spots, with good climbing for beginners and more experienced climbers alike. Guided climbs and instruction are available in most of the more populated tourist areas, particularly in the resorts and bungalows of Ao Nang and Rai Leh Beach. Climbing gear is readily available for hire as is information on routes and bolting. Extreme care must be taken however, to ensure that your guides and equipment are reliable.

Hiking

The interior of Krabi's mainland is covered with richly forested lands much of which is designated national park area and ideal for avid hikers. A favoured area for hiking is Khao Phanom Bencha National Park, featuring caves, waterfalls, streams and rock pools. Easily reached by Songteaw, motorbike or mountain bike, the park has several trails leading to it's scenic spots and provides ample opportunity to observe abundant plant and animal life along the way.


Another good hiking spot is at Khao Pra-Bang Khram next to the Bang Teao Village. A 2.7 km forest trail - the Thung Teao Trail - begins and ends at the Khao Nor Chuchi Sanctuary Headquarters. Information can be obtained from the no-hunting zone office at Ban Bang Teao.