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The essential magazine for all travellers through South East Asia.

BIKING IN VIETNAM: Wild Adventures on the Northern Hanoi Loop!

! l e v a r T o t d i Get Plia orld sh All Over the W ISSN 1906-7674

Teach Eng


A V I V on the beach

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Koh Phangan, Thailand

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der Unforgettable living utrnees, the shade of the palml bay of right on the beautifu Chaloklum! Muay Thai!


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The most important lesson that travel has taught me is that there are many different ways to live your life. The longer I stay in Asia the more open-minded I become and the more I lose grip on what I once considered to be the path to aspire to. Many people in the West tend to follow a similar route - we leave school, go to university and get a job. Student loans, mortgages, relationships and careers are the commitments that keep us on the straight and narrow. Stuck in the day to day bubble of routine and security, it becomes harder and harder to break free. In the Western mindset, success is measured in assets and achievements. It can be scary and daunting to imagine a life that strays from this structured ladder. Stuck in the office in the UK I kept thinking - what is at the top of the ladder? Backpacking is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s a time when you break away from the regimented order of Western society and get a taste of a different way of life - adventure, excitement, spontaneity. Once sampled it may be hard to go back to ‘normal life.’ I decided not to. Earlier this month I was interviewed by a journalist who was writing an article about young people who had left the UK to pursue a different path. It appeared in Company Magazine as a feature called ‘Hello World - Say Goodbye to the 9 to 5.’

Do not g o where the path may lead ...

d where a e t s in o G th and a p o n is there rail. leave a t (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Alongside my story about starting S.E.A Backpacker Magazine was the tale of a girl who had set up her own film and events company in Ho Chi Minh City - competing with over 3,000 applicants for one job in the UK - she’d decided to leave it all behind and live life on her own terms. These are the types of people I meet every day here in South East Asia. I am constantly inspired and intrigued by life stories I hear that would make page turning novels. Ambitious entrepreneurs, enthusiastic journalists, designers, artists, photographers, DJ’s, founders of NGO’s, adventure companies, passionate volunteers and teachers. Not millionaires, but people making a difference to the world in their own way however big or small. There are many young people who have discovered Asia as a place where they are able to forge their own paths and pursue their dream against the convention of their home countries. With the recent downturn in the economy making it difficult to find a job in places such as the US, the UK and Europe, there is a growing trend of young people escaping overseas to seek out new challenges and exciting opportunities. Fed up with selling themselves short, working long hours, paying high rent and saddling themselves with debt; this new group of pioneers head east with open eyes. What begins as a backpacking adventure becomes a whole new way of life! For me, South East Asia was that land of opportunity. Since leaving an office job two and a half years ago to go backpacking with no clue about where I would end up, I was able to accomplish one of my dreams. Bound by red tape, rules and expensive set-up costs, starting a travel magazine would have been impossible for me back home with my limited funds. It’s not until you leave the cubicle behind do you start to realise that there is a whole world of opportunity to explore! At times life can be bound by what you ‘should’ do in the eyes of parents, peers, teachers, employers and by society itself. It takes initial courage to step back, ask yourself why you ‘should’ do something. You might just realize to your astonishment that you actually don’t HAVE to do what you think you do! Going against the grain and doing things just a little bit differently than everyone in your hometown may not be as difficult or as scary as you may think. In fact, once you get started - it can be easier! For those of us who are lucky enough to have been born in a free and safe country with access to clean water and food let alone the luxury to travel - the world is an adventure playground. We must never forget that our biggest privilege is choice - something that millions of people in the world do not have. It is up to us to make the most of it - by living your life to the full, helping other people along the way and being a part of something that you are proud of. When people say to me that they would love to travel the world, be a travel writer, live in Thailand or own their own business, I say - you can!

(By Nikki Scott)


S.E.A Backpacker


a , Thail n a g n a Koh Ph

Beach Bar - Thai Massage - Cinema - Yoga Free wifi - Parties every Thursday - Water Poloo Budget Fan & AC Bungalows for flashpackers Tel: +66 (0)77 238 855 - +66 (0)82 275 6199 Email:

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C ontents : Features : 8

We’re Jammin: At the Pai International Reggae Festival


7 Epic Journeys in South East Asia: From the Slow Boat to Tuk Tuk Rides...


Get Paid to Travel! Teach English All Over The world (TEFL)


Couchsurfing: Hanging out with Locals in Indonesia


Body, Mind Spirit: Checking In

D estination spotlight : 26

Mud in the Sky,

Biking in Vietna

m.... 34

My Life as a Teacher in Thailand Mud in the Sky:

34 The Northern Hanoi Motorbike Trip 42

Off the Beaten Track: The Forgotten Ghost Town of Bokor Hill Station, Cambodia

R egulars :

South urneys in

7 Epic Jo

10 Map & visa info

... 12

East Asia

18 Losing Track of Time! 28 Events & Festivals: What’s On? Word on the Soi:

32 40

BACKPACKER PHOTOS: The PowerKicKin’ Revolution Traveller Stories, Thoughts, Tips BACKPACKER GAMES:

44 Crossword & Sudoku 46

BACKPACKER FOOD: Taking it to the Streets in Thailand



52 Visas, Exchange Rates, Climates & More Cover Photograph by Courtney Muro.

Teaching E

nglish all ov

er the world

... 20

S.E.A Backpacker Co., Ltd. Registration Number 0205552005285. ISSN NO. 1906-7674

Tel: 081 776 7616 (Thai) 084 553 8996 (Eng) Fax: 038 072 078 E-mail: Backpacker South East Asia is Published by S.E.A. Backpacker Company. Managing Director: Nikki Scott. (E-mail: Editor: Nanchaya Jaikaew. (E-mail: Design & Layout: S.E.A. Backpacker Company Limited. Artwork: Saksit Jankrajang. Sales & Marketing: Rujirapat Wad-udom, Kitti Boon Sri. Accounts: Yanisa Jaikaew. Contributing Writers & Photographers: Courtney Muro, Elliott Cappell, Frances Tate, Penelope Atkinson, Michael Welch, Tejs Povlsen, Humphrey Desmond, Mark Wiens, Ren Robles, Patrick Choeng-See, Amar Hussein, Danielle Walker, Lottie Butler, Lucy Hird, Ren Robles, Charla Allyn, Laura Luca, Chris Alloway For advertising enquiries: Tel: +66(0)81 776 7616 (Thai), +66(0)84 553 8996 (Eng) Email: For writing opportunities: Email:

S.E.A Backpacker Magazine Legal: All material is strictly copyright and all rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Opinions expressed in S.E.A Backpacker Magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher. S.E.A Backpacker Magazine does not accept responsibility for advertising content. Any pictures, transparencies or logos used are at the owner’s risk. Any mention of S.E.A Backpacker Magazine or use of the S.E.A Backpacker Magazine logo by any advertiser in this publication does not imply endorsement of that company or its products or services by S.E.A Backpacker Magazine. (c) S.E.A Backpacker Magazine, December 2010.

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“We’re jammin, I wanna jam it wid you… ooh yeah!” The Pai Reggae Music Festival is just one of the many incredibly cool things to come out of the beautiful bohemian valley of Pai in Northern Thailand. For backpackers in search of some fantastic live music in a chilled out setting – look no further. Dig out your yellow, red and greens, don your baggies and let your hair down rasta style! The brain-child of local Thai musician, Dang Cowboy, the festival began five years ago as a small gathering of locals and backpackers in a field in Pai to share a love of Reggae and Ska Music. As bongo beats and guitar riffs resonated into the fresh mountain air – everyone knew that something special had been born. Since then, the festival has grown at a phenomenal rate to the point that it expects more than 60,000 people to attend this year’s event at the end of January. After outgrowing humble roots, the festival this year will take place over three days and three nights in the cultural city of Chiang Mai. Conscious of the environmental impact from the huge influx of visitors during the festival on the small countryside valley of Pai, the organisers decided Chiang Mai was a much more suitable venue. In-keeping with the nature aspect, they have chosen ‘Huay Tueng Tao Lake’ a beautiful scenic area just half an hour’s drive from the city.

The festival concept is that of any good reggae faith – a promotion of social peace and awareness of the environment. As well as raising money for Pai’s local school which recently suffered great losses in the monsoon floods, the festival will be the embodiment of an ‘eco-festival.’ From seating areas to festival shops and restaurants structures are made of bamboo and coconut shells and there’s daily tree planting for campers to get involved in. As well as the music, there are heaps of other alternative activities taking place, from fire dancing contents, graffiti art, tattoo competitions and a homemade indie car show. And if you’re feeling in the mood you can get involved in creating some world music yourself with an afro-beat drum circle and even ukelele lessons! There are also handmade arts and crafts on sale from hill tribe ethnic minorities from the local area, not to mention an abundance of delicious local food. “We want to bring people out from their busy social lives once a year to experience the peacefulness, love and joy of reggae music” says Dang Cowboy “we hope to see you at the festival!”

After gettin’ your groove on all day and all night there’ll be no heading back to the city. Festival goers can enjoy camping in the festival grounds in authentic native american style teepee tents and later singing around a bonfire in the early hours of the morning in true festival spirit! World renowned reggae and ska acts include over 40 Thai and international artists including headliners ‘Easy Star All-Stars’ rumoured to be the best dub reggae band in the world today, and Sister Carol – one of the original reggae artists who brings with her the soul and backbone of Jamaican music. There’s also the famous Thai act Job2Do, whose song you will have already hummed in your head even if you don’t know the words or who he is! (Doo doo doo doo ter tam...)

Joe Sora p co-creato an and Dang Cow rs of this year’s fes boy tival

mo m e ne Go

M ap : south east asia Myitkyina

ling !

Travel x

Myanmar Sapa Fansipan Mandalay Bagan Kalaw

Taunggyi Inle Lake


Udomxai Chiang Rai

Luang Prabang

Mae Hong Son

Vang Vieng



Chiang Mai

Nong Khai


Udon Thani

Yangon Pathein

Halong Bay

Tha Khaek




Hoi An

Four Thousand Islands


Angkor Temples


Siem Reap Tonle Sap





Koh Chang

Gulf Of Thailand

Andaman Sea

Phnom Penh

Dalat Mui Ne


Koh Tao Koh Phangan Koh Samui

Ho Chi Minh C

Phu Quoc

Surat Thani Phuket


Koh Phi Phi

Pulau Penang

Pulau Weh

Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Medan Berastagi


Lake Toba

Singapore Pulau Nias

Riau Islands

Sumatra Bukittinggi


Indian Ocean


S.E.A Backpacker


V isa I nformation

Brunei Darrussalam: Nationals of most European countries, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand do not need a Visa for visits of up to 30 days. USA citizens can stay for up to 90 days. Cambodia: Most nationalities can obtain a 1 month tourist visa upon arrival which costs around $20. At land border crossings, notably the Thailand/ Cambodia border, the fee can be more expensive as the cost is paid in baht and is sometimes rounded up considerably. East Timor: Nationals from Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA do not need to arrange a visa in advance. They can be granted upon entry into East Timor and cost $30 for 30 days. Portuguese nationals can stay up to 90 days on a tourist visa. Indonesia: Nationals of Australia, Canada, USA, UK and most European countries are eligible for a 30 day visa upon entry, which costs $25 USD. You can also obtain a 7-day visa at $10. Laos: Most nationalities can obtain a 30 day visa for Laos at international airports and land border crossings. The cost ranges from $20 - $42 depending on nationality. At the Thailand/Laos border if you pay in Thai baht the fee will be more expensive. Malaysia: Most nationalities are granted a free 30-90 day entry pass upon arrival at international airports and border crossings. Myanmar: Visas should be arranged in advance at a travel agency or Embassy. Costs can range from $20 - $50 for a 28 day visa, depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting. Philippines: Tourist visas are free of charge for most nationalities for a stay up to 21 days. For longer stays you should apply for a visa before you arrive at a Philippine Embassy. Visas for 3 months, 6 months or 12 months are available. Cost depends on duration of stay. Singapore: Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the UK and most other European countries are granted either a 14 or 30day tourist pass upon entry to Singapore. Thailand: Most nationalities, including Americans, Australians and most Europeans receive a free 30 day tourist visa upon arrival into Thailand by air. However, if arriving by land you will only receive 15 days. Vietnam: Visas must be arranged in advance. You can do this at a Vietnamese embassy in whichever country you are in and some travel agencies also offer the service. Depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting, it can cost anywhere between $35 and $65 for a 30 day visa. • See the information pages at the back for more detailed information, visa extensions and penalties for late departure. (At S.E.A Backpacker we try to ensure that all information provided is as accurate and up to date as possible. (Checked 20.12.10) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)


Pacific Ocean

Laog Vigan


Philippines Donsol


a Trang



South China Sea

Davao Zamboanga Kota Kinabalu


Mt Kinabalu


Bandar Seri Begawan


Sarawak Kuching Pontianak


Berau Putussibau

Kalimantan Balikpapan



Sula Islands

Sulawesi Pangkalanbun


Banjarmasin Buru


Puncak Jaya


Indonesia Java Gili Islands Bali


Nusa Tengarra Flores


East Timor S.E.A Backpacker


Some involve arduous days travelling, some consist of a five minute breezy ride... but no matter how long or short, there are some journeys that you will never forget. We spoke to backpackers to find out the most unforgettable trips in South East Asia... how many can you tick off?

Slow Boat on the Mekong: They will tell you not to take it. That you will catch malaria, that you will get robbed, that you will fall in the murky depths of the Mekong never to return. Backpackers who choose to take no notice of the sales dudes trying to get you to take their bus over the two day slow boat on the Mekong will breathe a sigh of relief as they realise they made the right decision. Although cramped wooden seats make for very numb bums, the pins and needles are worth it and the slow boat is without doubt one of the most legendary backpacking trips in South East Asia. START: Chiang Khong, Thailand FINISH: Luang Prabang, Laos JOURNEY TIME: 2 days / 1 night FUN RATING: 9/10 TIP: Take guitar lessons in Chiang Mai and learn to play before you get on the boat, it will help you make life long friends. Invest in a cushion.

Leaving Thailand in a small speed boat with the necessary ‘sticker on vest’ you are escorted over to Huay Xai on the Laos side of the Mekong where your journey on the mighty Mekong begins. Feet dangling over the boat, face in the sun as you float through the Laos wilderness - you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time. There’s not a 7-11 in sight! Passing through steep jungleclad hillsides with bamboo huts clinging precariously to the rocks, you’ll wave at children playing on the banks of the river. You’ll stop now and again in a remote villages whose only access to the wider world is the famous river. You might even glimpse an elephant if you keep your eyes out – as locals use them as they have done for centuries as a working animal. Spend the night in the tiny village of Pak Beng you’ll get your first taste of Laos, not to mention Beer Lao - and a night spent getting to know fellow backpackers, hanging out with locals and playing some guitar in the middle of the jungle of Laos is a night you’ll never forget. As you leave the wilderness behind and get closer to your destination of Luang Prabang, the scenery becomes truly spectacular as the grey limestone cliffs rise from the dense jungle. Arriving in Luang Prabang as you’ve spent your time ambling down a river that is the life-source for many people in South East Asia, you’ll have learnt to appreciate the beauty of a slower pace of travel.


S.E.A Backpacker

The Laos - Vietnam Bus It’s a tough decision that many a backpacker is faced with when taking the popular circular route around South East Asia; whether to bus it from Vientiane to Hanoi or to fly. One route taking a potential 30 hours, but costing just $18, the other taking a cool 40 minutes, accompanied with a soft drink and a packet of peanuts – but, will set you back about $150. You only need glance at a few of the stories in travel blogs on the net to be totally put off taking the bus. “It took 30 uncomfortable hours!” “We were dropped off in the middle of nowhere!” So what to do? After chats with backpackers who’d done the trip in both directions, the consensus is that it’s just one of those journeys that has got to be done. They’ll make T-shirts soon. START: Vientiane, Laos FINISH: Hanoi, Vietnam JOURNEY TIME: 27 hours FUN RATING: 4/10 TIP: Take plenty of food. The places you stop off at on the way are not the best, unless you’re a big fan of dog that is.

Leaving from Vientiane to Hanoi around 7pm in the evening, they’ll tell you that it takes 24 hours, it’s 27 – if you’re lucky. The advice is to get there early to get your seat as the bus is often packed and at times there are not enough seats for everybody. Don’t be one of the unlucky travelers who end up sitting on a plastic chair down the aisle for the entire journey! And there are not only people, but rice bags too - upon which mounds of luggage are piled, so that getting off the bus includes a hilarious obstacle course for passengers! The last few hours are definitely the hardest as you sit impatiently watching the kilometres on the road signs counting down to Hanoi. As well as being able to stretch your legs at last - arriving in Hanoi is a wonderful experience as you’ve slowly witnessed the change of pace leaving behind laid-back Laos for the ever lively and intriguing Vietnam. It’s a crazy journey but one that you will definitely laugh at amongst fellow travellers much later when you are in Hanoi sat at a Bia Hoi junction exchanging stories. What story will you have to tell if you took the flight. Call yourself a backpacker? Take a good book, charge your ipod and go for it!

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Longtail to Railay Beach With sea spray on your face as you approach via long-tail from Ao Nang, the first time you lay eyes on the staggeringly gorgeous Railay Beach is surely one that you will never forget. It's picture postcard Thailand - towering limestone cliffs, golden sandy beaches and deep turquoise seas. Although you'd be forgiven for thinking that Railay is part of an island, it is in fact part of the spectacular Phra Nang peninsular and is cut of from the mainland by jungle covered jagged peaks. START: Ao Nang, Krabi FINISH: Railay Beach, Krabi JOURNEY TIME: 20 minutes FUN RATING: 8/10 TIP: Neighbouring Ton Sai is a cheaper, down to earth version of Railay, so consider perching yourself here for a few nights too!

of motorbikes, buses cars have completely drifted away and have suddenly been replaced by cool Reggae beats. Get ready for adventurous days and chilled-out nights in this celebrated traveller's paradise.

Chicken Buses in Indonesia The woman next to you is chewing betel nut, there’s a chicken on someone’s lap on the other seat and every time the bus drives over a pothole your head wacks hard against the ceiling. These are just some of the joys of Indonesian public bus travel – dubbed ‘chicken-buses’ by many. You may wonder why they are called chicken buses? Is it because many of the passengers seem to be carrying an unusual amount of chickens squashed into wire cages or START: Banda Aceh, North Sumatra FINISH: Bandar Lampung, South Sumatra JOURNEY TIME: Unpredictable. FUN RATING: 2/10 TIP: Girls - ask the driver to make toilet stops at your peril. Bathrooms may consist of dirty bucket in a field with a farmer and the rest of the bus watching you at your business – if you’re lucky.

There are no roads to Railay and no accessible tracks through the dense jungle. The only way to reach the shore is via the colourful and distinctively Thai longtail boats which serve as water taxis for backpackers to and from Railay to Ao Nang, Ton Sai and Krabi Town. The area is rock-climbing heaven and no doubt you'll be sharing your longtail with travellers who have come here for that sole reason. Look closely at the sea cliffs as you pass by and you may be able to spot a daring 'deep water soloist' working their way up the limestone only to leap 30 metres into the ocean below. As your boat comes into shore and you wade through warm translucent water to finally step foot on Railay Beach – you're already relaxed. The sounds


S.E.A Backpacker

10 Baht Tuk Tuks, Bangkok An iconic image of Thailand, the tuk tuk - so called because of the sound of it's chugging engine is the mode of transport that is very often a backpacker's first introduction to Asia. As a wideeyed rookie on your first day in Thailand, you'll have been easy prey for the tuk-tuk drivers lining the streets of Bangkok's most famous tourist street, Khao San Road. “Tuk tuk, tuk tuk, tuk tuk, sir, madame, you want tuk tuk? I take you see Temple, Emerald Buddha, Grand Palace... only 10 baht, 10 baht for you sir!” You work it out in your jet-lagged, yet to acclimatise brain – wow that's like 20p! Why not at that price!? What the Tuk tuk driver failed to mention is that although the trip will include the famous sights it just may include a few gem shops, travel agents and tailors as well! “Just looking” the driver will say and it's true, you won't be forced to buy anything, although you will definitely wonder how the hell you ended up wandering around a jewelry store pretending you're interested in the latest costume piece. Trust me you'll laugh about it later. START: Khao San Road, Bangkok FINISH: Khao San Road, Bangkok JOURNEY TIME: Half day FUN RATING: 6/10 TIP: Avoid rush hour 6pm – 8pm and take a scarf to avoid breathing in too much pollution. The fumes can be pretty bad when you’re sat in traffic.

is it due to the fact that every time you pass another vehicle you are immediately engaged in a game of ‘chicken’ as daredevil drivers seem set to steer each other off the road. Who knows? Stopping seemingly in the middle of nowhere to pick up even more passengers on a bus that’s already bursting to the seams, people are now having to stand precariously in the gaping doorway of the bus one foot on one foot off. Locals jump on to sell eggs? Pancakes? What – more chickens? We’ve got enough thanks! As you sit wide-eyed in disbelief, the other locals seem perfectly at ease and much more interested in the novelty stranger on the bus i.e. YOU! Two giggling girls on the front seat turn around every five minutes to wave and take a photo of you with their mobile phones. But incase you were thinking of trying to engage in any sort of conversation with your new co-passengers, there’s the Indonesian Techno-pop to contend with, blasting from speakers at a deafening volume. It’s either that or back to back greatest hits of The Scorpions - ever so popular in Sumatra.

As you whizz around Bangkok, weaving in and out of the chaotic traffic, off main roads and down back alleys - you'll experience a side of Bangkok that's a million miles away from Khao San Road. One minute passing by glitzy shopping malls, the next crossing over canals and waterways lined with old Thai wooden houses. Everywhere you look there is life. Offerings of red fanta and fruit being made being made at golden spirit houses, markets, street vendors, businessmen in suits going to work, kids coming home from school, street cleaners sweeping the streets covered head to toe in clothing so as not to darken their skin from the intense sun. And then there's the street food. Wafts of exotic smells drift from the steaming pots and pans of the street vendors... pad thai, noodle soup, fried chicken, kebabs, spicy som tam. It's a city of contrasts and surely one of the most vibrant and buzzing in the world. There is no place quite like Bangkok, or Krung Thep as it is known in Thai, which translates as ‘The City of Angels.’ You'll never forget your first tuk tuk ride.

While all this may sound like absolute torture – it’s one of those cultural experiences that you just can’t miss. Peering out of the window on your long journey you’ll get to see diversity of the beautiful Sumatran countryside; dense steamy jungle, tropical vegetation, gushing rivers and lush green rice fields leading up to volcanoes that pierce the landscape on the horizon. You’ll pass busy markets that look like they are out of the 19th century, locals playing cards in doorways, kids sat on the tops of buses going to school, cows, buffalo and yes more chickens! A living museum and a real off the beaten track adventure - there is nothing quite like Indonesian bus travel.

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S.E.A Backpacker


Easy Riding in Vietnam Shades, leather jackets and two wheels... no it's not the Vietnamese reincarnation of the T-Birds. They go by the name of the Easy Riders and this group of cool dudes are ready to take you on a journey to see the 'real Vietnam' as they so adamantly insist. Sounds cliche? Once on the road with the wind in your hair as you leave the travel agents and tourist traps behind you'll begin to see what they mean. Backpack firmly strapped to the back of the bike it's just you, your driver and Vietnam. Roads open up to reveal the beautiful scenery of rice paddies, cashew nut trees, mountain backdrops and the cool fresh air of the central highlands – an area once dubbed the 'Alps of Vietnam' by the French. START: Dalat, Vietnam FINISH: Nha Trang, Vietnam JOURNEY TIME: 2 days FUN RATING: 10/10 TIP: Don’t worry about where to find an easy rider – he will find you!

Although you can hop on an Easy Rider pretty much anywhere from Hoi An going South or vice versa – one of the best journeys has to be from Dalat to Nha Trang. Here the countryside is at it's most beautiful, rolling hills interspersed with cascading waterfalls and scenic villages. Stopping off at various points along the way to visit tea and coffee plantations, silk worm farms, traditional Vietnamese markets (not for vegetarians) and rice wine distillations. You'll see local Vietnamese people hard at their day to day work and glimpse a way of life that many backpackers fail to see. As your driver swerves to miss a wayward chicken clucking it’s way across the road (why does the chicken...?) you'll see pot bellied pigs with their huge stomachs

Local Banca, The Philippines START: One pristine beach FINISH: After another FUN RATING: 8/10 TIP: If you are hiring a banca for the day – make sure you agree on a price with the boar driver before-hand and that it covers the cost of the boat not per person!

scraping along the dusty roads and water buffalo ploughing the fields. Every kilometre is a photo opportunity. One of the best things about the trip is getting to know your driver. Stories of their interesting lives are bound to come out after a few rice whiskeys around the fire later that evening and you can get an insight into local Vietnamese culture first hand. At roughly $75 per person from Dalat to Nha Trang, the Easy Riders aren't the cheapest transport available for backpackers but the experience is definitely worth it. You see so much in just a few days. The real Vietnam? There's only one way to find out!


S.E.A Backpacker

In comparison to the shores of Thailand, the Philippines is a country that seems cut off from the popular backpacker trail in South East Asia - but one seems to know why. With over 7,000 islands (7,107 to be precise) which enclose pristine white

beaches, virgin rainforest and some of the best diving sites in the world – it’s a tropical paradise that you better put on your backpacker ‘places to go list’ soon! As an archipelago, life and travel naturally takes place on the water and upon landing in the Philippines it won’t be long before you are setting foot on one of the traditional outrigger fishing boats, also know as ‘bancas.’ Coming in all shapes, sizes and colours, the bancas are the taxis of the Philippine Sea that will take you island-hopping around the beautiful islands of Palawan, Puerto Galera, El Nido and beyond. If you’re feeling more adventurous - getting away from the tourist beach isn’t hard to do and there are thousands of islands that are literally untouched when it comes to tourism. Hiring a banca and slicing through unchartered waters to visit deserted tropical beaches you’ll feel like a true sea-faring adventurer. You’ll also catch a glimpse of a local way of life in the fishing villages that has gone unchanged for centuries.

ne Vientia : LAOS hou P r Nam ark a e N  p Water At

 In Hanoi  D ien Bie VIETNAM  nP   T

hu c Van

o Ngo

Luang Prabang : Near the Post Of fice

S.E.A Backpacker


W ord on the soi: The last time When you’re travelling, time becomes an entirely different concept than when you’re at home. With none of that routine job malarkey to interfere with your days, no longer is time measured by seconds, minutes and hours. Days of the week and months of the year don’t seem to matter anymore. Life becomes measured in memorable events and moments. We asked backpackers some important questions to find out more about the upside down routine of a backpacker!

“When was the las

t time you got chatt ed up?” I was in Koh Tao las t week with a few girl s I’d met travelling the beach at Lotus . We were sat on Bar admiring the fire show (and the gorgeo fire dancers!) and us bodies of the one of the guys in par ticu lar caught me eye. Wh show had finished he walked past me en the fire and giggled like a teenag very like you.” he sai er “I very d. It’s the cutest cha t up line I’d ever hea rd! (Zara, USA)

“When was the last time you wore a pair of socks?” Last night actually. I’ve only got one pair of wooly walking socks and the only time I get them out is on the overnight buses. Air conditioning makes for arctic conditions! (Debbie, UK)

“When did you last


know. Although s morning I’ll have you wer You cheeky bugger. Thi le days without a sho who r fou for t wen I ia your trekking in Northern Ind the mountains to take in cold too far just It was ed. We all smelt the – that was pretty bad. her bot one noso cold shower ry of clothes off and have a untain we had the luxu ing down from the mo I’ve ever wer sho t same so it was fine! Com bes the was the hostel and it a luke warm shower in reciate the small sure does make you app had in my life. Travel Zealand) New , son (Ja life. in s comfort

“When was the last time you bought a souvenir?” I didn’t buy it. But this morning I woke up with three wooden frogs in my bed. (Patrick, Ireland)

“When was the last time you felt embarrassed?” back from Halong A few weeks ago I fell asleep on the bus coming rs and a cat nose on Bay and my friends decided to draw cat whiske got back to the hostel my face, and ‘meow’ on my forehead. When I I only realised night. all ne everyo to talking around I walked g.” mornin next the er hangov a with awoke when I (Courtney, California)


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you ime st t ?” a l the rcise xe was ? en any e this h “W did ig in b k loo d) an bum my im, Irel s e (T Do


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d yo hone

e ade m she m om two e ft im t le I fr last efore got back e nearly s the and b h st n wa orrier ek. I’ve ju t – God! S ce! I w “Whe r jo la a ma r every we in contac the first p e. ’s m r u p e My m pe with h ard to kee g there in like out he . o g h ky oin ’s sa 5 day I would S ere it was me from g se what it est! ali p wh ise dw to sto st don’t re s wild wil prom in Burma ju s ou r here week right ove ome they e danger flew s back h ink it’s th , UK) th (Tom gues They you p


he Brother Bar & Restaurant Sairee Village, Koh Tao, Thailand

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se u o H t s e u G i a R n e P Mai “When was the last tim e you lo I know th st your ey’re on temper? ly trying with a m ” to make otorbike a living – driver in motorbik b H u e o t a I C n g h d o i Minh C h already ity. I was t angry last wee arrived in e asked me if I k literally g wanted my desti minutes another! etting off nation? showing Couldn’t a H e th m e e n h testimon had enjo follows m e see I h ials in a yed ridin a e down little boo g with h the stree d lost it. S im k t for five from . Afte ome day s I can ta r saying no abo other travellers who ut a hun ke it – b day! I did d u re t h d e ti just got mes I feel bad m later. (M ike, USA e on a bad )

Khlong Prao Koh Chang Thailand

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“When was th e last time y I cried ou crie la st wee d?” to Ban k when gkok. I’ I misse I’d don m usu d my fl ally a la e every ight thing s s made o perfe t-minute kin from Hanoi sure I d of pe got the c arrived rson, b bus ins t this time – at the u or so I tead o airport for me though t f a tw taxi to ) Then o h t. I’d o u s rs earl to my ave m the gu y h oney a orror, I for my esthou nd realise fl se! T in time d I’d le ight. (A mira to catc here was no h my fl way I c ft my passpo cle ig o rt h u next d ay losin t, so I had to ld make it b at ack g $20 re-bo (Jo, Ho 0. I was gutt ok for the ed. lland)

“When w as the you ate somethin last time g unusu al?” A few da ys ago, in ‘jungle sk Chiang M ill surviva a i, I went trekk l’ techniq were skin ing ues – it w ning mon as amazi and learnt key and The most ng. The g sq u ir rel for us adventuro uides to eat for grilled on us nibble ou was the the barb ecue tha tarantula r dinner. t night in that we the jungle (Sebastia . Cruchy! n, UK)

: 180 bt • DORM ): 280 bt TE (FAN A 80 bt IV R P • -CON): 3 IR (A ITE • ENSU ! included ailable! Breakfast s room av ed b k n u 3b

Located on upper Rachamankha Rd. Inside the old city moat. 5 minutes on foot to Sunday Night Walking Street & Wat Phrasing TV - Cable TV - Hot Shower - Free internet & WiFi All profits fr om Time for goes to the Lime charity Lant a Animal W So come on elfare. , cook, eat and drink an d sleep your hearts out :-)

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GET PAID ! L E V A R T TO Teach English as a Foreign Language All Over the World!


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Sooner or later, many of us who have been well and truly bitten by the travel bug are faced with the harsh truth - travel costs money. And no matter how cheap those fruit shakes are in Laos the cash is going to run out sooner or later. Most travel addicts battle with the game of to and fro. They travel to exotic destinations, soak up all the adventure has to offer, spend a load of money and then return home to work and save up for their next jaunt. But have you ever thought that you could have the best of both worlds? Could there be a way to travel and get paid at the same time? TEFL stands for ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’ and it’s the magic formula that many backpackers are using right now to fund their ongoing globe-trotting adventures. S.E.A Backpacker Magazine visited a school on the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand where there are currently eight students taking a TEFL course to become fully certified English Teachers. The certificate will grant them the power to earn money teaching English not just in Thailand and South East Asia but all over the world! Many backpackers are under the impression that they have to do a TEFL course in their home country before they embark on their travels. Andy, 25, one of the students agreed. “Being cooped up in a dim classroom for a month in the UK wasn’t my idea of fun, so when I discovered I could do the course here in Koh Samui I was thrilled! It meant that I could start my Thailand adventure straight away and get authentic experience teaching in local schools.” The TEFL course takes four weeks to complete, Monday to Friday 9am – 3pm, consisting of a mixture of classroom teaching and practical training. Whilst people of all ages take the course from retirees to school leavers, the eight students here at the school today range from 22-28 years old and they are mainly from the UK. (Something to do with the weather?) It’s a fun and friendly atmosphere as the students tell me stories about exploring the island together during their weekends and evenings. For firsttimers to Thailand, Koh Samui with it’s gorgeous white sandy beaches, colourful markets and buzzing night-life is a great place to get integrated into the unique Thai way of life. And it seems that the students are doing pretty well at adjusting to the laid back island vibe as they take a ‘lunch time dip’ in the pool right outside their classroom! Today is the penultimate day of their course and the day of their final “Teacher Practice.” I tag along on a visit to a local primary school where

the students practice their skills with an enthusiastic group of 9-10 year olds. The kids are enthralled and giggle as Vicki, 27 jumps around demonstrating different careers and asking the children the million-baht question. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ “Do you want to be a teacher?” “Do you want to be a doctor?” For the children here in Koh Samui and in many parts of Asia, learning English is key to a successful career in whatever field they choose. One thing is immediately apparent, in contrast to visions of unruly Western classrooms with bored and disruptive kids... the pupils here are incredibly attentive, polite and eager to learn. For the new teachers, the lesson is a pleasure rather than a chore. “Teaching English can be a great way to immerse yourself into a different culture.” Says Rosanne, the TEFL Course Instructor. “As a traveller, at times you feel like you are just passing through a place, seeing sights, going to bars and meeting other travellers. But if you really want to get to know a country and it’s

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locals, teaching English is a fantastic means of interaction. As a teacher, there’s a real sense of giving something back. Giving the children the gift of English language can make a difference to their future and seeing their English improve week on week as they grow in confidence and start to string sentences together... it’s incredible. The feeling is so rewarding.” Looking around at the captivated smiles of the children, I could see exactly what she meant.

“Giving the children the gift of English language can make a difference to their future and seeing their English improve week on week as they grow in confidence and start to string sentences together... it’s incredible.” At the moment, Asia is literally crying out for English teachers. It’s an essential skill for many youngsters in developing Asian economies and there are literally not enough teachers to fill the jobs! Thailand, Vietnam, China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines are amongst the countries with the


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highest demand at the moment and finding work is a breeze. For those looking for a job in Thailand there’s good news – the government have just passed a new law which states that all school students must be taught English by a native speaker. Job opportunities are about to rocket! We were told that most TEFL graduates here at Island TEFL find a job within one week of completing their course. But how much do you actually get paid as an English Teacher? Can a career in teaching realistically fund your travels? The answer from all of the students past and present seems to be yes, although the wages can vary depending on what location you decide to teach. In Thailand, wages can be as high as 50,000 baht per month in Bangkok and averaging around 30,000 baht in other areas. Wages in the more rural areas will be the lowest, although cost of living will also be much lower than the city and the more tourist-oriented areas. Depending on whether your primary purpose is to save money or to immerse yourself in an authentic Thai cultural experience, the choice is yours. There are also private lessons to consider. One major part of the TEFL course is learning how to market yourself by advertising to local business whose staff need to improve their English. Helping to turn “Hello Masaaaaaaaaaage?” into “Excuse me sir, I can see the tension knotted in your shoulders, may I advise a relaxing, stress relieving massage?” has got to be a good thing right? For private lessons you can earn from 300500 baht / hour in Thailand. So depending on how many you’re willing to add to your weekly routine – you can boost your income greatly.

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of your choice. The word jealous doesn’t even come into it for those stuck at home in the office! We also discovered that many fully fledged teachers only work on average four hours a day - leaving plenty of time to invest in getting to grips with a different culture, developing creative skills, hobbies and of course travelling! Many young people do in fact use their TEFL course as a supplementary income whilst they explore other life passions, such as travel writing, art, sport and exciting entrepreneurial ventures. Emma, 25 is a freelance photographer. She plans to use her TEFL certification back home in the UK to teach foreign nationals as she continues to pursue her photography career. Many others rely on their TEFL certificate as an important skill to fall back on, particularly with the ongoing threat of redundancy and unemployment in the UK, the US and many parts of Europe. With the booming Eastern economy, those with a TEFL course in Southeast Asia are unlikely to ever be unemployed. Saying goodbye to the rat race has never been easier! If you’re looking for the big bucks, some TEFL graduates take their certificate to Taiwan, Korea or China. With booming economies in these countries, learning English is taken very seriously and there is a very high demand for qualified English teachers. After completing her TEFL course in Koh Samui, Nicki, a former university employee from the UK, plans to teach in Taiwan. “Teachers can earn up to a whopping $3000 dollars a month working in the bigger cities plus accommodation and 10 weeks paid holiday a year! A year working in Taiwan and not only will I be able to travel Asia in school holidays but I’ll be able to backpack non-stop for the next year!”

“A year working in Taiwan and not only can I travel Asia in school holidays but I can backpack non-stop the next year!” It seems that the best thing about teaching English is the amazing flexibility and mobility it offers. Once you have the TEFL certificate you can literally move around the world to teach in different exotic locations


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! r e h c a te g in ll e v a tr a e m o Bec Here at S.E.A Backpacker Magazine we think that TEFL is such a fantastic idea that we’ve teamed up with Island TEFL in Koh Samui to offer you this life-changing opportunity! In just four weeks you could be qualified to Teach English as a Foreign Language anywhere in the world. Start your dream today!

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By Michael Welch

My Life as an English Teacher in Thailand Buzzing Bangkok living, weekend breaks to tropical islands & exploring South East Asia!

Call it what you will; a just past quarter life crisis, wanting more out of life than being stuck behind a desk in an office or just wanting to travel and see all the magnificent places planet Earth has to offer. These were only a few of the thoughts running through my head as I put a stable career in corporate America to rest in exchange for teaching English abroad and traveling through as many countries as I could. I departed to Thailand with a one-way ticket from San Francisco Airport in late July 2010, Aside from unexplainable excitement, the thick tropical weather was the first feeling I experienced upon arrival in Bangkok. This was the moment when the reality finally hit me; my adventure had begun. An overnight train journey, followed by a bus to Phuket, where I would begin a one month’s TEFL program, further confirmed everything I had seen in pictures and heard of Thailand to be true. Lush green vegetation, a colorful sunset and sunrise on the train, the overall breathtaking landscapes and a spicy dinner of Thai fried chicken and a cold Chang on the train to wash it down... and this was just day one! Once settled in Phuket I rented myself a motorbike for the month to venture out and explore the island. From Promthep Cape and Rawai in the south, to the beaches of Kata, Karon, Patong and Surin along the western coast... nothing was off limits. Seeing the Big Buddha on the hill, the many unique day and night markets, Muay Thai schools run out of local people’s homes and the Phuket Aquarium were just some of the amazing sights, sounds and smells from around the island. Meeting my fellow TEFL teachers; Dan from Virginia, the South Africans, Kyle the swim coach, Mike from dirty Jersey, Cleo from Devon England and Julio (who was dubbed the Don of Patong); as well as other Phuket party-goers made for an amazing month of learning/teaching and sight seeing. The beauty of the beaches with their bright blue waters was one of the first things to jump out at me when I began to explore my new “home.” Realising that I was living in a real tropical paradise that people from all corners of the earth come to visit; I knew I had to get out and see as much of Thailand as I could. A short weekend venture to Koh Phi Phi from Phuket had my mouth watering for more travel. Arriving by ferry into the main harbor was comparable to looking through an issue of a NatGeo magazine’s best locations. If this is what it


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means to be an English teacher in Thailand, I’m glad I signed up and can’t wait to enjoy the perks! And so a month and a half later after a cheeky jaunt to “Incredible India”, I arrived in Bangkok where my position as an English Teacher would begin. On the journey from the airport to my new apartment I was able to gaze out the window and see the expanse of Bangkok; the mix of an ever growing and industrializing city spawning amidst the traditional ways of farming country life. Quite diverse lifestyles, priorities and frames of mind seeming to co-exist. I spent the next day unpacking, getting settled and sorting out my bearings in my new surroundings before an orientation / get-to-know-you info assembly. I was looking forward to getting a glimpse into exactly what it was I had gotten myself into! I shared very similar feelings prior to learning what to expect of and from the students, what was expected of us as teachers and a brief discussion on signs and symptoms of the varying degrees of culture shock one can go through when living in a foreign country. These were just some of the topics meant to help prepare us for the impending Day 1 of classes! I also met my group of fellow new teachers. Spanning the U.S. from coast to coast, we had so many things in common and hit it off immediately. After orientation our group was shuttled to the Piyavate Hospital in Bangkok to have our mandatory physical check-ups prior to beginning the semester. Aside from finding out that according to the Thai Body Mass Index I was four kilos overweight and deemed “fat” by the Doc; I was feeling like 30 million Baht, the equivalent of $1 million bucks! It sure didn’t take long to find out that the Thai people are straight shooters with when it comes to not sugar coating their opinions on physical appearance. Let the good times roll! Leaving my apartment and riding the coach to campus in Bang Na on day one, the pre-game butterflies were definitely alive and well. When the coach pulled up at the sprawling University in the middle of the country I felt as if I was brought back in time to the height of the Roman Empire. The architecture of the colossal buildings, the fountains, bridges, staircases, statues and floors all had an extremely Romanesque feel to them. I almost forgot for a minute that I was in Thailand. Absorbing this along with receiving first day rosters and classroom assignments was the equivalent of taking a drink from a fire hose. Looking over my class rosters I quickly realized that while teaching ten classes averaging twenty or so students each; I was about to be responsible for bringing roughly 200 students from the dark into the light. I felt up to the challenge knowing that I had my TEFL program prep in my back pocket which gave me an idea of how to handle a classroom as well as put together lesson plans. The camaraderie between us new teachers grew strong in week one. We shared similar stories of classroom situations as well as our coping techniques in the teachers lounge. It did not take long to realize that while the students

are a clever group and willing to test you in the classroom to see how you handle yourself; they are also a great group and extremely fun to work with. They want the ability to read, write and speak English and are willing to put themselves in front of the class, or scenarios which may be out if their comfort zones, to help them practice speaking the language and gain the understanding of how it is used. Our entire group also picked up quickly one commonality all these students seem to share; that while very willing and able to learn, they are extremely resourceful when it comes to missing class and creating excuses for the absence. Learning to sift through the unfathomable, the ‘well, maybe this happened’ to the ‘there is no way you have five grand mothers and all of them have passed away this week’ type of excuses became part of the learning curve. An additional challenge is the age of the students, 18-23. Being not far their seniors, commanding respect in the unviersity classroom can present a challenge. You learn quickly to be firm but fair, to carry a sense of humor with you and not be to proud to laugh at yourself, because you will make mistakes and a quick laugh can make all the difference. Employing the ability to shift with the likes and personalities of the different classes is a challenging, exciting and educational way to perfect how to think quickly on your feet and adapt lessons in different was for each class. Life outside the classroom is great. With housing covered in the teaching contract and overtime hours calculated and paid out on a monthly basis, the salary of a teacher can make for an honest living in Thailand. Frequently eating out at western food restaurants in a sure fire way to chew into your monthly salary; however most of us came to Thailand to experience food other than McDonalds and KFC, right? With Pad Thai, Pad Ga Prow and varieties of Tom Yum soup ranging from 30 to 80 Baht per meal, you can eat extremely flavorful and filling meals here for roughly under $10 a day. This will definitely leave the average teacher with a decent piggy bank full of Baht each month to travel the country or, if you like, indulge in the glitz Sukhumvit Road has to offer! The academic calendar runs from October to March, then again from May to October. With a substantial summer vacation period, the time available to explore the many surrounding kingdoms of South East Asia is an appealing point to many who wish to teach, including myself. One particular trip currently in its incubation stage is a motorcycle ride from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam during March and April. I plan to make this ride with a group of fellow teachers to explore the beauty of the coastal roads as well as the mountain villages of Vietnam.

time to leave many of us were wondering what we needed to do stay here permanently... then “reality” kicked in and we realised this is vacation and we had to be back in the classroom Monday. A trip back is in the works for sure! There was a lot of angst and questions running through my veins in the weeks and days prior to my plane departing San Francisco International Airport. Was this the right move or not? Would I regret leaving my job, would I miss out on things back home or is this the right time in my life to be doing something like this? After being here, meeting people I would never have met and having the amazing experiences I would never have had I can firmly say that I have absolutely no regrets! I realized that office jobs could come and go; they will always be there. As each day goes by I am having the time of my life. Helping to brighten the future of students and the future of another country is quite an amazing feeling. Watching the progression and the lights turn on while having the ability to see the beauty and history of this fabulous land is quite a monumental experience. Given the opportunity to repeat, I would happily do it all over again.

Throughout the semester weekend trips are plentiful and thrown together by different groups of teachers looking to explore the many regions of this expansive country. I recently decided to take to the bright blue water and white sandy beaches of a magical little island in the Gulf of Thailand called Koh Samet with a group of teachers. Trading the city life for a weekend of sun, surf and scooter rides was a very welcome change! Eating hamburgers, baguette sandwiches and soaking up the warm rays was a treat, even if only for a weekend. Scootering the length of the island on roads that defy the actual definition of “road” was quite the challenge. However, arriving to view the sunset at the southern tip of the island was well worth the anxiety of the navigation to get there. By the time Sunday came around and it was S.E.A Backpacker


W hat’s on: Festivals and Events The Moon Parties Koh Phangan, Thailand Full Moon

31st December (New Year’s Eve) 19th January 19th Febrary

There are various stories about the origin of the Full Moon Party, but so one rumour goes, it all started with a group of backpackers playing guitars on the beach to celebrate someone’s birthday. Today, up to 30,000 people congregate on Haad Rin Sands each month for a frenzied concoction of dance, drink and devilishness from dusk until dawn. Smear that multicoloured paint all over your body, get a glow stick in one hand and a bucket in your other and get ready


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to party! And for those wanting to bring in the new year with a bang, there’s an added bonus bash on New Year’s Eve!

Black Moon Culture 6th January 3rd February

Half Moon Festival 12th, 26th January 11th, 24th February

Don’t miss this huge professional dance event taking place twice a month amidst the atmospheric setting of Baan Tai Jungle, Koh Phangan one week before and one week after the Full Moon Party. Playing an eclectic mix of tech house, progressive beats and psychedelic trance, the all night party showcases the island’s finest resident DJ’s, with regular special guest appearances. With a huge sound system, unique UV illuminations, fire dancers and live visuals.

Underground trance and progressive beats resound through the air as party goers dance on the beautiful sands of Baan Tai Beach once every month. With amazing décor, live visuals and an international DJ line up every month, including special guests, the Black Moon Culture is an intense dance experience. Party animals watch out!

International New Year:

South East Asia 31st December / 1st January Chances are that as you backpack

around South East Asia, you’ll find yourself at more than one New Year’s celebration in 2010! The lunar calendar, the Buddhist calendar, the Chinese calendar… its party party none stop! However, this, the international new year, on the 31st December is a big event everywhere in this part of the world. Wherever you’ve chosen to spend the night, rest assured you’ll have a ball! Fireworks in the cities, carnivals in the towns, house parties in the villages. Beach destinations cram with backpackers revved up for a night they plan to remember (but will most likely not to after the first bucket!) In the last issue of S.E.A Backpacker Magazine we spoke to travellers to find out where they’d be spending their new year’s eve. The most popular

1 1 0 2 y r a u r b e F January answer was the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan - you party animals! Close seconds were the funky beach bars of Koh Tao, Koh Chang’s Lonely Beach or chilled out Sihanoukville in Cambodia.

Trang Underwater Wedding Ceremony: Trang, Thailand

and suits) plunge 12 metres beneath the water to perform this innovative marital ceremony and (somehow) exchange bubbly vows. I boo.

Chinese New Year: All over South East Asia 3rd February 2010

eat lots of delicious food! Homes are cleaned for the welcoming of spring, floral decorations and red paper lanterns are raised. Children are given gifts of money in ‘lucky’ red envelopes and adults see it as a time to settle old debts and start afresh. Year 2011 is the year of the rabbit, a sign of sensitivity and intuition.

13th February – 15th February 2010

Met the love of your life whilst backpacking? Why hesitate a moment longer? Spontaneity is the way to go in 2011. Give your folks at home a heart attack and tie the knot in a truly unique way at the Trang Underwater Wedding Ceremony. Held over Valentine’s Day, couples (some dressed in traditional wedding dresses

the attacks and would use loud firecrackers to scare him off. In time, the people also learnt that the ‘Nien’ was afraid of the colour red, as on one occasion the beast was frightened by a little girl in a red dress.

The Chinese New Year marks the first day of the new moon and is a massive event that is celebrated by Chinese communities all over the world. Lasting for 15 days with unique celebrations and rituals taking place on each day, traditionally, it’s a time for families to get together, exchange gifts and

According to legend, the New Year rituals date back to the battle between a village and a mythical monster named ‘Nien’ The beast would always come on the first day of the New Year to kill livestock, eat crops and devour children! The villagers would put food outside their houses as offerings to prevent

Today, in cities, towns and villages all over South East Asia, a festive atmosphere fills the air. Colourful dragon and lion parades take to the streets, dancing to the rhythm of beating drums and cymbals which are said to drive away any evil spirits. Fireworks and firecrackers can be heard for weeks in celebration of this significant time. Chinese temples are blanketed by clouds of incense smoke as people pray for good fortune in the New Year. Bangkok, Penang and Kuala Lumpur are all great places to witness the festivities, take in cultural performances and gorge on the huge variety of food and drink stalls that line the streets. It’s undoubtdely one of the most vibrant times of the year in Asia.

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W hat’s on: Festivals and Events Tet Nguyen Dan (Tet) Vietnam 3rd - 7th February

the skin and the carrying of huge metal frames (kavadis) attached to the body. Some devotees become entranced, entering meditative states during the procession, believed to cleanse them of their sins.

Aguman Sanduk Manila, Phillipines 1st January In Vietnam, there’s a three day public holiday to celebrate the New Year, ‘Tet Nguyen Dan,’ literally meaning ‘The Feast of the First Morning.’ Derived from the Chinese New Year and celebrated at the same time, the celebration also marks the beginning of spring. The rituals and festivities are very similar to the Chinese New Year in terms of their focus on family reunions and the concept of starting afresh and. In Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and other cities, you’ll find street parties and parades; market stalls bustling with people buying decorations, food, clothes and stocking up on goods for the New Year. All night drumming and fireworks also make this an extremely noisy festival and a lively and highly spirited event to experience.

Thaipusam Malaysia 20th January


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family in Laos to gather together. Tales of Buddha’s penultimate life as Prince Vessantara are recited throughout temples across the country and it’s considered a favourable time for Laos Men to be ordained into Monkhood.

Marha Puha / Makha Pucha Thailand, Laos, Cambodia February 2010

Bun Pha Vet Laos January 2010 Manila’s men have a very unique way of bringing in the New Year. A walk through the city on the 1st of January 2011 will have you wondering what on earth’s come over the usually macho Manilan chaps as you see them sporting ladies dresses and prancing around in a huge cross-dressing parade! It’s a fun event with an exuberant atmosphere and a lot of laughs from the delighted crowd of sisters, mothers and daughters. The festival dates back to 1934 when a group of playful blokes fuelled by copious amounts of alcohol pulled the stunt, which quickly became a novel and popular way of welcoming in the New Year! You’ll find even the most respectable of townsfolk casting off their inhibitions, cladding a dress and getting involved in the frolics.

Phangan Film Festival Koh Phangan, Thailand Thaipusam is one of the largest and most extravagant Hindu Festivals in Asia that is celebrated by millions of followers worldwide. Held in honour of Lord Murugan, also known as Lord Subramaniam, Kuala Lumpur and Penang are two of the most colourful places to observe the festivities, in particular at the Batu Caves on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. It’s a truly incredible spectacle to witness as participants perform incredible feats of devotion as they offer thanks to the Lord for good fortune during the year. Feats including the piercing the body and face with skewers, dragging chariots with hooks attached to

related topics which hold great significance for the future of our planet today. Held over three days, tickets are 300 per night or 700 baht for a festival pass. A donation from the ticket sales will be made to ‘Green Phangan’ a non-profit organisation that advocates sustainability on the beautiful island of Koh Phangan. Screenings take place at Holiday Beach Resort in Baan Tai. Visit for more details. And, this year S.E.A Backpacker Magazine are proud sponsors of the event!

4th - 6th February

Started by world travelers with a love of independent film making and cross cultural learning, the Phangan Film Festival offers travellers and locals the unique chance to see a variety of high quality independent films produced all over the globe. The themes of the festival are nature and spirit - two inter-

Bun Pha Vet is an important Buddhist Festival and a significant time of the year for friends and

Taking place on the night of the Full Moon in February, Marha Puha is a festival which commemorates an inspirational speech given by the Buddha, in which he dictated the first monastic rules to a group of over one thousand enlightened monks. In the talk, he also prophesised his own death.

1 1 0 2 y r a u r b e F January Grand parades and the circling of Wats (Temples) with candles take place in many towns across the country. Religious music and chanting can be heard from worshippers during this sacred Buddhist festival. In Thailand the festival is known as Makha Bucha and ‘Tum Boon’ or ‘Merit making’ is a common practise. The day is recognised as a public holiday in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

Chang Pai Reggae International Music Festival Chiang Mai, Thailand 21st- 23rd January 2011

Taking place at the new venue of Huay Tung Tao Lake, just outside Chiang Mai - this year’s Pai Reggae International Music Festival expects a whopping 60,000 people. With world renowned acts such as ‘Easy Star All-Stars’ ‘Sister Carol’ and rumours of an appearance by Bob Marley’s son Stephen Marley, reggae fans will be in their element. Camping on the festival grounds in teepee tents and singing around bonfires will add to the festival atmosphere. There’s also fire dancing contests, tattoo and graffiti art competetitions, an afro-beat drum circle and even ukelele lessons! (See page 8 for more details)

Mahākād Festival Epic Arts in the Market Chiang Mai, Thailand

25th December - 20th February Starting Christmas day and lasting two months - the Mahākād Festival is set to be a huge celebration of Art and Culture. Taking place in two key locations in Chiang Mai - at Warorot Market and the

Lomban Festival Indonesia 25th January

area opposite Buddhastan (The Buddhist Association) on Thapae Road. The festival was created by Chiang Mai local and internationally acclaimed artist, Navin Rawanchaikul, to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Chiang Mai’s historical Warorot Market. The festival is a community based project intended to create awareness of the local identities and unique cultures of Northern Thailand. The title of the festival ‘The Mahākād’ derives from the ancient Indian epic, the Mahābhārata which suggests the multi-cultural nature of the event. There are exhibitions by local and traditional artisans plus youth workshops, street music, performances and an exhibition presenting the history of Chiang Mai.

The Lomban Festival is an ancient annual tradition in Indonesia where fishermen give thanks to the seas for all it has provided them during the year and ask for good fortune in the coming year. Offerings are made to the sea such as heads of buffalo, fruits and flowers and processions take place in many towns. In some areas, impressive boat races are held and mock sea battles are staged between fisherman and fake pirates in memory of less peaceful times in Indonesia. The vibrant festival takes place all over the country and you’ll come across unique rituals in different locations.

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Great Pyramids, Great PowerKicKs! - Egypt

How many of you have got photos of you like this on your camera right now? Well did you know that all this time you’ve actually been engaging in a unique sport known as ‘PowerKicKin’? There’s a phenomenon that’s sweeping the travelling world - you’re already a part of it and you didn’t even know! We met Michael Welch, the creator of a unique website which aims to document unique jumps from around the world... Basically he wants your ‘PowerKicKs’ now!


a Taj M At the ia d - In

On the Pacific Coast Highway



Powe rKic over th Kin’ e sun !

By Michael Welch

“Powerkick (noun): The moment when one is fully airborne forming a pose resembling a cross between a leaping air guitar and a flying snap kick.”


Micronesia Po

The PowerKicK was born flying off the top of a single story houseboat into the cool, early summer waters of Lake Shasta in Northern California. Serenading it into existence was AC/DC and their 22x multi platinum classic “Back in Black.” From that day forward anywhere and everywhere my friends and I from back home in San Francisco found ourselves, a PowerKicK was not far behind. Whether it was a night on the town, or one of us heading out on vacation we always made sure to document the experience with a PowerKicK photo. When I moved to travel and work in Thailand last year, I carried the momentum of the “Power Kick” with me and founded the website,, which would be my exclusive way to document and remember the times, people and places visited along the way in lieu of the traditional travelers blog.

Get me more rocks to karate chop Hya!

The world is a beautiful place full of amazing sights and interesting people from many different backgrounds and all walks of life. If I have learned anything through my travels thus far it ís that people from all over the world can be connected, or come together through even the simplest of ideas, such as the PowerKicK, and share thoughts, feelings and best of all laughs. Just like the ‘language of love’, everyone speaks the language of the PowerKicK, you may just not know it yet!

So, travelers; as you travel and explore the beautiful South East Asia, we encourage you to memorialize your travels with a PowerKicK at your favorite destinations. The possibilities are limitless! Post your photo to and you may just make it into the featured Top 10 PowerKicKs. And remember like a snowflake, no two powerkicks are ever the same. And that’s a fact.


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Ali Ba

ba and the firs 40 Po werKic t of Kers!

Sunset Beach PowerKicKin’



Cape, Phu


ket - Thaila


+66(0)75 684 118, +66(0)89 738 7710

Klong Dao Beach, Koh Lanta, Thailand

Mai Pen Rai Bungalows

Than Sadet Beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand



g, Powe

Man, do

Bungalows from 350 – 950 Baht per night Tel. 077 445090 / 158 or 081 999 4000 or 081 894 5076 Regular boat trips out to Angthong National Marine Park.

Action in the Khao

San Road, Bangkok

4 elements to creating a world class PowerKicK: 1.Form:

Can be anything from a Kung-Fu kick to a kflip. Find your unique style ollie-kic out tweaked 2.Height: Whether jumping straight from the ground, you can. off of a bench or a rock, the goal is to get as high as 3.Facial Expression: Personalise your kick with a smile, sour puss or best Zoolander pout. 4.Location: Like a good film, the unique setting of exotic. your powerkick can add atmosphere and a hint of the


So go for it travellers! Express your individuality and you exuberance for life and show the world you’re here and mean business. (Or just jump in the air and shout woohoo I’m a backpacker I have no job!)

S.E.A Backpacker


Mud in the Sk

North Loop H


anoi Bike Tri


By Humphrey Desmond Someone once said that “Meditation isn’t about following directions down a mental highway: it’s an off-road adventure.” I am not much of the meditative zen type, but my last off-road adventure along the classic track of Saigon in the south of Vietnam to Hanoi in the north left me with one nudging contemplation. I want more.

to sell my old Minsk. Dubbed as “The Beast from Belarus”, my Minsk was a lot of fun but the two-stroke engine left too much noise and smoke and I was thinking of having something more fuel-efficient. Other than that, I also needed to find a new travel buddy as my old friends had all returned back to their home countries.

Five chaps, five classic Minsks and no biking knowledge whatsoever other than our maps in hands, and a lust for ‘real’ adventure. Sure, Vietnam is a charming country with beautiful sights and attractions, but we were greedy. We had listed down all the spots we wanted to probe, but figured that our desire would not be satiated by just simply waiting for our sleeper bus to arrive in those spots. Each road passed had unexplored tracks with potential interest too precious to be missed. So there it was, we decided to ride our first motorbike trip.

First problem, though might seem trivial, can be a bit tricky. Hanoi is not short of various types of garages that allow to you to buy and sell used bikes. They even have street markets selling second hand bikes, which would seem like a good place to start. However, after just an hour walking through the markets, I began to panic that I was being the victim of a “let’s rip off this naive foreigner as much as we can’ sensibility. More research was needed.

Long story short, the three and a half week trigger-happy ride from south to north was an incredible adventure. We tried to escape highway as much as possible and stopped at many little towns and villages along the way inbetween the tourist traps suggested by our travel guide books. The fun and adrenaline stayed in my system in such a way that my first thought upon arriving at Hanoi, our last stop at that time, was to plan my next offroad bike trip. At that point I’d heard so much about the “Northern Hanoi Loop” from fellow travellers I’d met on the road and their stories made my cravings worse. But before I could embark upon the north loop adventure, I had to make sure I got several things done. First, I needed to find a place


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Luckily, the hostel that I was staying at that time pointed me out to a garage called Vietnam Motorbikes. I checked their website several times before I decided to visit and sell my Minsk. In the end, I got half price, not too shabby considering the trials I had put it through! After several friendly beer sessions with the owner of Vietnam Motorbikes, fuelled with Vietnam off-road 101, I decided to get Honda Win 110cc for my next trip. A special one too, I might add, I am diffable in one arm and they went all the way to custom-build the grips for me. The next task was much easier of course, I found my new travel buddy in no time... and before long, I found myself on a beautiful misty morning, leaving Hanoi to Ninh Binh, a town located in the plains of the Red River Delta. Driving at full speed passing dawdling buses and loaded trucks on the highway, I instantly felt the thrill of adventure again. On the way, we crossed through a small commune named Hai Hau where gigantic churches stood ridiculously amongst bonsai trees and earth-colored local houses. The scenery was out of this world. That first night, we stayed in an ancient house resort called Co Vien Lau near Tam Coc and I could hardly sleep knowing that my second adventure was now well and truly underway. The next day we prepared for the big ride from Ninh Binh to the village of Mai Chau which was a little more than 150 km away from Ninh Binh. The scenery along the way was very different from the previous day’s ride in the Red River delta and for the first time we began to see mountains. We got completely lost on some dirts roads along the way and by the time we arrived in the outskirts of Mai Chau the sun had already set.

We decided it was too dangerous to continue driving on the curvy muddy roads into the village to find a guest house, so we wandered into one of the Thai ethnic minority villages and they were more than happy to give us a roof over our heads for the night. We spent the night being plied with home-made rice whiskey by the village drunks! The next morning we woke up with major headaches and began to regret the whiskey. But it was really nothing that a good old traditional pho bo (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) couldn’t cure. We continued our ride to Son La, which was a bit touristy but interesting as we started to see the Hmong and Thai ethnic minority people in their traditional clothing. The real deal came after Son La. The road between Son La and Dien Bien Phu, our final destination for that day, definitely held the most beautiful views of the trip up until that point. We passed a really picturesque Hmong village with a smattering of traditional watermills and children ran from houses to greet us. It felt really special to be out in the countryside and away from the well trodden backpacker route.

What had started off as a nice highway suddenly ended to become a real dirt track. The terrain was so difficult that we had two spark plugs burnt during the day’s ride. However, the burnt plugs were worth it and Dien Bien Phu was a treat. Historically famous as the site for an epic battle which took place between the French colonial forces and the Viet Minh, Dien Bien Phu is located in the bowl of a vast valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. The battle which took place in 1954 was a decisive victory for the Viet Minh which led to the downfall of French rule. There’s a museum in the town for those interested in finding out more. Upon leaving Dien Bien Phu, the next day we suddenly we got two flat tires. As if by magic a Vietnamese guy pulled up next to us on his bike with tools and a new tube and kindly offered to fix the tyres for us. And this was when I knew my Vietnam off-road 101 beer sessions had been worth while! No smart biker dude with an IQ more than 70 like myself would be caught dead traveling off the beaten track without my own kit! So I proudly told the guy “No” and 45 minutes later, I was fixed and ready to go!

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After the false start and a long day’s drive, tired and hungry, we finally managed to reach Lai Chau late at night. On the border with China, the town itself was nothing special but was fascinating nonetheless because of the many different crowds of ethnic minority groups. It turned out to be a good place to base ourselves for the night. We left Lai Chau for Sapa the next morning. This was so far my least favourite place so far. Everything seemed fake and manufactured for tourists, so we left as soon as we could. We headed for Cau Son, where we took a little detour to Phalong, deemed to be one of the more ‘authentic’ ethnic minority markets. The road to get there was a little bit windy and felt weird, with an even more weird shaped mountain ahead of us wich almost looked like a crooked witch’s hat. After a while we found ourselves in the market with countless ethnic minorities, Nung, Pasi, Hmong, Dzao and many others, selling all sorts of random goods, from veggies to horseshoes, from livestock to chinese cassettes. It was an overwhelming experience. In true local style, we bought a small mountain pig and took it with us to continue our ride to Cau Son. Of course, the journey was cut short for the pig as we arrived at one of the traditional bamboo houses in Cau Son and the villagers were more than happy to prepare and join in our feast! We left Cau Son after spending another night in a small village called Muong Lum, a Dzao ethnic minority village. Riding fast towards Bac Ha, 70 km from Cau Son the views were splendid. Everything felt serene as we could even shut our engine down on neutral for 45km going downhill, before crossing the river so we could ride up again to a height of about 2800 metres in altitude. We spent the night in Bac Ha village. The next destination was Ha Giang, where we found ourselves on a tiny trail, probably around 1 metre wide. It was pretty tough to balance, but doable as we had become accustomed to weird tracks and difficult dirt roads by this point. There was one interesting occurrence on the road to Ha Giang. Out of nowhere, we found a small traditional hot spring pool with an old lady stood by to give towels to the patrons. We decided to try the pool and found that it had one of the most spectacular views of our trip! The pool


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was overlooking a beautiful valley and as you dipped yourself in the hot spring, the emitting steam lucidly fused with the mist from the air, making the whole view to the valley even more magical. We found comparably mystifying views as we crossed the road with the highest altitude in Vietnam as we left Ha Giang to Dong Van. It’s nicknamed ‘Heaven’s Gate’ and it almost seemed like places around the mountain had different ecosystems. One one side it was full of green and on the other side it looked barren and rocky. We had lunch at Meo Vac, which was a big plateau, full of cattle and people and then rode our way to Pac Bo where we found forest with lots of birds and lots of little streams once again after miles of barren roads. Then after spending some nights at the brown, carstic mountain of Cao Bang, we went to Lang Son and had one of the most sinful dinners of our lives. Pork dishes so greasy that they had to put it in a hot pot to keep the fat from becoming glutinous. Nasty. But superb. Lang Son was the last stop in our amazing motorbike adventure. We drove back to Hanoi after 15 days of riding through mud in the sky. Literally sky. 2800 km high above sea level, passing through lazy clouds from time to time.

S.E.A Backpacker


COUCHSURFING! Your mother would go mad! Staying on people’s couches that you’ve never met - sounds like trouble. But for many savvy traveller’s it’s a fantastic way of traveling around the world and saving a packet on accommodation! If you haven’t heard about it yet, ‘Couchsurfing’ is an online community where you sign up, create a profile and contact people to stay on their sofas for free. The idea is that you would return the favor for them if needed - or pass the favour on to another member of the Couchsurfing crew. According to Couchsurfing stats there are currently over 2.3 million couchsurfers representing communities in over 245 countries in the world! So would you try it? We hear about the experiences of a keen surfer and on the other side of the coin, ‘a surfee’ to find out what all the fuss is about…

Story of a surfer! By Mark Wiens It was in South America in 2008 when I first heard of this genius idea of making a connection through a website called and sleeping on someone's random couch for free. My budget was pretty tight and my biggest daily expense was none other than spending the night.  What I initially thought of as a “free place to stay” turned into a much more valuable set of travel experiences. My rapid traveling schedule and lack of organized planning made it next to impossible to make online contacts and my first attempt at couchsurfing failed on my part. I decided that down the road, I would give it another try. When I arrived in South East Asia in March of 2009, I was determined to give couchsurfing another shot with a full intent of making it truly happen this time.  I was on a flexible schedule and had time to organize and make contacts.  About 30 minutes of couch searching and I had contacted 3 or 4 decent looking profiles to find a place to crash. I encouragingly received a number of replies and a few days later, I was hanging out in disbelief at a condo in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia overlooking the famous Petronas Towers. With a flexible attitude and a friendly nature, my host graciously allowed me to stay for a few weeks before flying out to Indonesia. I contacted a few couchsurfers in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, set everything up to stay with a host, and received all the information (email, telephone number) I needed to get in touch.  When I arrived, I got to a pay-phone to call my host, dialed, but didn't get through.  I called a few more times, each time receiving the dreaded “this number in not valid,” message (I think) in Bahasa language.  No problem, I thought, “maybe she is at work and can't pick up her phone right now, I'll walk around and get in touch later.”  A couple more attempts...failed.  Not a big problem, I checked into a cheap Indonesian guest house for the night.  Before sleeping, I wrote a quick email saying I couldn't get through and I just checked into a guest house, misspelling the name of my guest house on accident.      The next day was filled with big plans of climbing Mount Merapi so I left at about 2am to await the rising sun on the summit.  I returned back to my guest house in the morning to collapse for a few hours of rest.  “Boom, boom, boom,” on my door, awakened me in my drowsy daytime slumber and I wondered if I was dreaming or if it was reality.  I sprang out of bed to see a completely random guy, I had never ever seen in my life.  “Are you Mark?” from Couchsurfing?  “Yah, I'm Mark, what's going on?”  “I'm a friend of your host, she sent me to search


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for you, but it took a little while because you misspelled the name of the guest house.” She told me to tell you, “I'm soooo sorry, I accidentally wrote you the wrong phone number in the email... check out of your hotel now!” From that point on, things turned into a full on incredible Indonesian cultural immersion with my host and with the Yogyakarta Couchsurfing community. I was passenger on the back of a motorcycle zipping from place to place, hanging out with locals and eating the finest delicacies in Yogyakarta (you have got to try the “hot plate” restaurant).  I was able to do all kinds of tourist unheard of activities like catching fish from the pond for dinner, trekking through an abandoned cave in the middle of nowhere, and seeing ancient temples, hidden from the world. My new friends were equally excited to practice their English and ask me questions about the world outside of Indonesia and what I thought of their country.  I was happy to speak with them, answer their questions, and simply tag along to see their daily lives.        What was going to be two days, turned into 1 week (and longer if my visa hadn't run out).  Instead of living the normal backpacker routine and hanging out at the places frequented by all foreigners, I was introduced to the real side of Yogyakarta.  This Couchsurfing experience led me into a new way of traveling, a raised level of personal interaction and cultural immersion. Couchsurfing is now a vital resource for all my trips to new countries so I can quickly get in the scoop, learn things, and get internal advice. I hope you have the opportunity to make couchsurfing a part of your travels too! Mark Wiens is a world traveller and a blogger currently living in Bangkok. He’s passionate about crossing cultures, street food dining, durian, and unique travel ideas. You can find out more about Mark’s food adventures at and or follow him on Twitter at @migrationology

A word from our host...

Mark’s Top Couchsurfing Tips! 1.

Don't be afraid to make contacts: The bottom line is that nothing will happen if you don't jump at making a contact so take the first step!


Give the host a good two weeks notice or so: Not only are you more likely to get a granted request, it's courteous for everyone.


Try to contact locals: Staying with or meeting locals is a truly and enriching way to Couchsurf and way to find those out-of-thebook things to do!


Be friendly: This is simple but important. If you are friendly and willing to get along well with anyone, you just might be invited to stay with someone for a more extended period of time.


Be accommodating and flexible: Remember that you are the guest, be grateful for an awesome place to stay no matter what the condition.


Work around your host's personality: If your host wants to hang out as much as possible, that's great, if your host lives a pretty independent life and wants you too as well, that's ok too.


Show respect to everything: A lot of Indonesians don't drink, in cases like this, try to adapt to your host and live like they do.


Have a backup plan: Before you travel, quickly research a guest house or hostel in case you have a problem contacting your host and absolutely need a place to sleep.

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I have had many fun and rewarding experiences since joining CouchSurfing about a year and a half ago. While I initially joined in order to save on accommodation, I have discovered that there is so much more to CS than just saving a few dollars per night. Indeed, if that's your only goal for joining CS, you might be missing the point. It's about sharing knowledge and experiences with your host or guest. It's about being part of a community of travelers, explorers, adventurers, and other like-minded individuals. As a host, CS has been a great way of "traveling without moving," so to speak. You get to meet so many people from all over the world, and they bring with them experiences, stories, and sometimes even gifts from their hometown; through my guests, for example, I've tasted authentic German sausages and sauerkraut, as well as locally-produced German alcohol that's so local and authentic that most Germans haven't even heard of it! (It's Killepitsch from Dusseldorf, by the way.) They bring tales of their own travels, and inspire you to plan trips to those locations. In turn, as a host, you hope to provide your guests with a different insight to your hometown that simply following a guidebook cannot give. You also become more aware of what your own city has to offer; for example, back in Manila, my first time visiting Intramuros (the famous walled city) was with a couple of guests from Austria. You share and recommend places and parties that only locals or those "in the know" would know about. Then, hopefully, at the end of a guest's stay, you've shared so much that the relationship becomes more than just host and guest, but close friends. (By Ren Robles)

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travel writers: t Asia Calling all buddinbygtrav Eas ellers passing through South

is written eriences and viewpoints S.E.A Backpacker Magazine fresh new writers with new exp e hav to right now. It’s our aim contributing every month. r from you. el writing, we would love to hea cy your hand at a spot of trav or any random scribbling you like to fan you if So ies, book reviews Please send any articles, stor cke kpa bac sia info@southeasta with articles you submit. If possible try to include photos y with news of whether your We’ll get back to you right awa t issue. nex words will be appearing in the Happy Travelling! Thanks for your support and S.E.A Backpacker


B T Raveller thoughts, stories, tips: OF ! STORY ONTH M THE

I’ve just come back from a Thai massage…

...that got your attention didn’t it! I’m afraid to report that there was no happy ending however having my arse cheeks massaged was oddly satisfying. Nevertheless, a massage was just what I needed after the last few days I’ve had.

I’m currently in north Thailand, Chiang Mai to be precise. After a 12 hour bus journey I was eager to get stuck in so signed myself up for a two day ‘trek’ in the jungle. The clue was in the name. After a spot of shopping at a local market for supplies I was naive to think that the following hour of sitting on an elephants back was as hard as it was going to get. After lunch, the fun really began. We started our 8km ascent to the summit through the slippery jungle paths. The downside of going to Thailand in off-peak season is the monsoon rain which doesn’t stop it from being hot! The sun beat through the canopy and after a few falls I was just caked in mud and sweat. I don’t think I have ever looked or felt so bad and any sense of decorum was quickly abandoned. I’m sure that there would be some who would have found this mild but for me this was one hell of a challenge. As I turned every corner I would hope for some flat ground but there would be nothing but more steep climbs. Brilliant. Through laboured breaths and gritted teeth I dragged myself to the top where just out of relief I collapsed on some bamboo. I closed my eyes and just wished that I could no longer feel my legs. I could hear children laughing and playing. Was I dead? I pulled myself together to take in the sight. At an altitude of 1400m was the tribal village of the Lahu. So far out of the way they have preserved much of their way of life. The village was very basic and missing some ‘fundamentals’ as I would see them, namely electricity. I learnt about this one the hard way when I had to stumble down bamboo steps to find the ‘toilet’.

The descent was also challenging but broken up with a swim in a waterfall, bamboo rafting and white water rafting, it was somewhat more manageable. It was just so rewarding. Our tour guide called ‘Good’, who was actually

pretty great, said that I should do a seven day trek next time. I’ll think long and hard about that one… Despite being one of the hardest things I have ever done it was totally worth it. It was such an incredible experience. You would think after getting back a long shower and bed would be in order but not quite. Instead I decided to have a rather crazy night, which finished just shy of 6am, with a group of Kiwi’s and Irish folk. Just imagine some deleted scene from Snatch that was too crass to make the director’s cut and you get the idea. Madness. You never see an unhappy backpacker. Why? Because they are all too damn busy having an awesome time! This story was written by Amar Hussain, freelance writer and world traveller. You can follow more of his adventures at

at familiar to lose sight of all th d an s er ng ra st t us tr ality. It forces you to " - Cesare Pavese “Travelling is a brut tantly off balance… ns co e ar ember u Yo . ds ien that I will always rem fr r, of the greatest people comfort of home and in in my life; howeve el, I have met some aga see er nev to e my short time of trav I hop

During people to do, trust strangers. I have came across what you are forced ens and flowers, as for the worse. And that's is exactly It hasn't all been kitt y. turn wa a e en som tak in has son as a per k humanity were sore and and have altered me e really made me thin gh until I my cheeks ly only a few that hav , others made me lau me oss: d acr that is rare and probab pire e ins cam e e hav hav Some ones I ple on my journey. ntality, or at least the most interesting peo te the travelers' me and stra st illu ate to gre les the mp t exa e ol runInstead, I have me pany. Here are som ng out our nose or dro t lucky for their com rassment of snot flyi bar I was s, em Lao the In id up. some I have been jus avo to ak d bre room going through a har hard we both left the ships as they were s comfort the entire made me laugh so tion o wa wh rela e and sed eon her r pas som ut t ove me abo all ok, I sorrows good cry with out of bed.Again When I was in Bangk throw my tears and e we later shared a en I was unable to get was there to let me That same someon water at my door wh y known me a day . onl and ning down our face. me had rite fort o Sp wh g com dy to vin lea bud ing ryth s was a traveling s out and doing eve known me three day extremely homesick, ng to me bawl my eye eone who had only eni som list , re noi the Ha s in wa ill s e of society way. When I wa s that same someon s is the deterioration a family member pas we hear on the new All . they gain two en or wh n day in Hanoi, when I had a eve r for y the h other, even if it's onl ple have for one ano eac peo e for car re the and be hy to pat willing is the em ones who travel are sn't make the news From my experience , bad, bad. What doe is placed on the bad ion trat " cen ye. con odb the weeks later, the and t: saying "go er it be that day or two re comes the hard par say goodbye. Wheth the cheek and to e on nothing out of it. He s hav n kis ck the qui and a t it's jus r forget, neither party will eve to leave. Sometimes e 'goodbye,' the ries hav the mo n of me the ss re ch, dle sha mu so Regar meet someone, close, so fast, share eting up in the future. so me get of es You When traveling, you mis gh. pro tou h hugs wit ing, and they can get e been long tearful (Danielle Walker) 'goodbyes' are com ebook." Others hav keep in touch on Fac the way. of p ste ry eve you a "safe travels and uld mo and h wit k stic mories experience and me


S.E.A Backpacker

CYCLE BURMA! Burma, a country that has interested me since I saw the first recording of the 2007 protest against the military government. I have been fixed on finding out all the info and reading all the books I could on the country.  So when my mate Dan Kiely and I were chugging back our  fifth pint in our local pub back home and came across the idea to do some sort of adventure I quickly suggested Burma, Dan had spent his teens travelling and as I have done cycle trips before  the idea snowballed into a cycle trip across Burma to raise money for a charity that helped my grandfather in 2008, The North Devon Hospice. So a year on we have it all planned and on March 7th 2011 we will set off for Burma for a  three week ride across one of the most closed countries in the world. Flying to Yangon and cycling our way to the Thai Border down the south coast. Heat, Mosquitoes, bad roads and the risk of getting caught and imprisoned for camping is a few of the many fears! But the beauty of cycling off the beaten track territory is too good to pass up! Planning this trip has been a nightmare... Burma is very strict on where you can and cannot go, so planning a route has taken a long time and even now it may be changed again if the government decide tomorrow they don't want tourists there.  Either way we will be cycling across Burma. Please help us raise 1000 pounds for North Devon Hospice. We will be forever thankful! (Chris Alloway)

Any Tips/Advice please Email me on or check out our justgiving website -

I should have learned my lesson whilst working on cruise ships, don’t let anyone you don’t know wax you. Regardless if it is a reputable salon! By week 8 of our travels I could not put off waxing for any longer. We found a really posh hotel and the price for a half leg wax was ten pounds. Not much in UK, but very expensive out here. I was led into a room by no less than four Thai women all looking worried about the procedure they were about to administer. Laying flat on a bed I was then wrapped up tightly in towels almost to the point of mummification and blindfolded (well it was a eye compress, but not standard procedure for waxing). Although I couldn’t see what was going on, I heard even more women enter the room and a mass discussion occured. As I have been waxing for a number of years, even after 8 weeks there is minimum hair. It should have taken 20 mins max. Hot runny wax was splattered on my legs sporadically and strips placed on and simply yanked off in an upward motion. Confused mutterings continued as they realised this method was not just not removing the hair or wax from my scalded legs, but was taking off a few layers of my dermis as well. This went on for 20 minutes, and they must have pulled out three hairs. My pain threshold is pretty high and I worked out I must have done something really terrible in a previous life to receive such torture. Being English (we hate to complain) I felt as though I couldn’t say anything, but I couldn’t take anymore. I sat up, scaring the life out of them, as if they had forgotten that the legs actually were attached and belonged to someone and tried to explain I was a Beauty Therapist back home and could I help them by showing them a better method, the non-torture variety, of waxing. They marveled at the technique I tried to teach them and for a moment I envisaged a future career perhaps teaching in a Thai beauty school. With the fronts finished they looked excited to try the same on the backs. There was no way I was going through that again, and so I politely explained (lied) that I liked the hair on the back, it added character, or something. Quickly handing over the 500 Baht I “Kap kun kaah” ed whilst running from the salon. (By Lucy Hird) S.E.A Backpacker



Bokor Hill StatioN THE FoRGOTTEN CAMBODIA When visiting Cambodia there is a well-trodden path of historical sites: lines of tourists tentatively explore the barren corridors of Tuol Sleng Torture Museum and amble timidly around the Killing Fields, groups jostle for the best view of Angkor Wat’s imposing silhouette as it is illuminated by sunrise and queue for photographs alongside the weathered stones of Ta Phrom. If you are looking for a route less worn by the burgeoning tourism industry, for a site refreshingly free from tour operators and entrance fees, look no further than Bokor Hill Station. The skeleton of what was once Bokor Hill Station is spread across the undulating terrain of a Cambodian mountaintop, its various buildings nestled amongst thick, lush grasses and shrouded in rain-heavy cloud. The station was built in the 1920s by the French, designed to provide the colonisers with a sanctuary from the scorching temperatures and perceived insalubrities of lowland Cambodia. Complete with a post office, church, palace hotel and casino, it was an oasis of western decadence for maladjusted European settlers. However, less than thirty years later, at the close of World War II when the French began their retreat from Asia, the colonial town gradually became obsolete. It was abandoned for good in the 1970s as the surrounding lands became swept up in revolution, and for the next decade Bokor was a battleground, embroiled in the fierce and unforgiving guerrilla fighting between the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese. Once a hive of upper class elegance and colonial pomp, now only a war-torn shell remains, left poignantly untouched. When I arrived in the sleepy, riverside town of Kampot, situated a stones throw away from the beachside city of Kep, I primarily wanted to relax and unwind. Having spent the obligatory few days touring sites of genocide in Phnom Penh, I needed some headspace. My main reason for deciding to join a trip to Bokor Hill Station, which consisted of a two-hour trek to and from, was the appealing prospect of some exercise rather than visiting a site of historical interest. (By Lottie Butler)


S.E.A Backpacker

The trek certainly did not disappoint. Our guide, an ex-guerrilla fighter, seemed to bound effortlessly upwards, but for the rest of us it was a tough, sweaty slog to reach the 3540ft peak. More accustomed to plodding along the well-maintained, well-worn tracks of North Wales, this unforgiving scramble through the jungle was a muscle-burning challenge. However, despite roasting under a thick canopy of forest, struggling up near vertical inclines and grasping makeshift wooden handrails alive with ants, it was a challenge I enjoyed. Our group of six, a scratched and sweaty mess, eventually emerged through an opening in the undergrowth onto a road, where a jeep was waiting to drive us the remaining distance to the hill station. Gulping in the revitalising temperance of the mountain air and relishing in the cloud cover we trundled across the mountain for about half a mile. The entrance to the station was refreshingly understated: no entrance fees, no information signs and no tour operators. In fact, I hardly noticed we had arrived. We pulled up outside a small ranger station and sat on the steps for lunch, surveying the remnants of the old colonial town: the crumbling stones were half submerged in the hillocks of the mountaintop, protruding sadly through a veil of rainy mist. Whilst eating, our guide told us his story: his parents were killed in 1977 by the Khmer Rouge, following which he hid in the mountains that surround Bokor, surviving alone for two years. He was then discovered, recruited by the North Vietnamese and forced to fight the Khmer Rouge. Listening to his tale it was hard to comprehend that on the same terrain that he once fought for his life in a bloody battle, he now casually leads small groups of backpackers.

As the time came for us to leave, the prospect of coaxing shaky, aching legs down some 3000ft of rocky, unstable mountainside was unappealing to say the least. Unfortunately, the option of a jeep ride to sea level was out of the question: the site has been loaned to a Chinese company and under the guise of health and safety, tourists are not permitted to use the road leading up to Bokor – a restriction more likely to be due to the somewhat furtive redevelopments taking place. Rumours abound that they are planning to repair the old hotel and to develop a modern casino and restaurant complex. If so, it may be that the histories embedded in the shell of what was Bokor Hill Station will soon be lost to commercial growth – a very sad prospect.

We were given an hour left to our own devices, free to explore the eerie ghost town. I roamed around the crumpled buildings slowly, trying to guess the previous function of each rubble-strewn, bullet-peppered ruin and to imagine what histories those stones must have witnessed. The palace, unmistakably the centrepiece of the town, is set apart from the rest of the debris. Though now only a weathered shadow of its former self, the structure still resonates with imposing grandeur and has an aura of long-lost splendour. The entrance opens directly onto what must have been a ballroom: a lofty, arched ceiling, elegantly curved bay windows and a majestic fireplace that faces a spacious dance floor. Standing on the cracked and chipped tiles, which were covered in a thick carpet of dust, I merely had to close my eyes to picture the French aristocracy circling with wine glasses and canapés. From the ballroom I ventured to the guestrooms, the balconies, the roof and the kitchens: no room was out of bounds. Exploring the cavernous insides of the decaying palace felt like walking through history itself – a site moulded only by the past and not yet sanitised by tourism. S.E.A Backpacker




Something to keep you busy on all those long bus journeys! Answers on page 54.

Across 1. Bathroom Fixture 4. Receive 9. Communicate With 10. Speak 11. Vegetable 12. Answered 13. Unpaid 14. Capital City

(5) (6) (7) (5) (4) (7) (3) (4)

16. Near (4) 18. Spying Device (3) 20. Warm & Friendly (7) 21. Trade (4) 24. Girl From Moscow Maybe (5) 25. Invalidated (7) 26. Pamper (6) 27. Moves Swiftly (5)

Down 1. Bend Under Pressure (6) 2. Simpleton (5) 3. Type of Duck (4) 5. Axing (8) 6. Steering Clear of (7) 7. In Fashion (6) 8. Gaze Fixedly (5)

13. Eclipse 15. Paces 17. Picturesque 18. Deadpan 19. Cutting Edges 22. Go in 23. Old

1 2 5 6 9 1 7 8 2 1 9 5 6 1 6 7 8 5 8 2 9 9 8 4

(8) (7) (6) (5) (6) (5) (4)

7 2 4



Each row, column and box must contain each of the numbers 1-9.

Question From just 81,000 foreign visitors in 1960, approximately how many visitors did Thailand welcome in 2010 - 50 years later? a) 7 million b) 15 million c) 17 million


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r u o t u o Check
















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Street Vendors in thelate morning below Ploenchit Sky Train Station, Bangkok

Taking it to the streets...

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I am always hungry when I am in Bangkok. Perhaps it’s the tempting smells or the sight of the ubiquitous street carts... but this city has a way of keeping me constantly on the prowl for my next dish, even if I have just stuffed my face. I rarely look indoors though, because everybody knows that the best food in Thailand cannot be found in a restaurant. Bangkok is famous for it’s street food, but the sad fact is that many backpackers are either too scared to try it or have no idea what to order or where to start. It’s true with the abundance of stalls selling a huge variety of dishes ranging from curries, soups, noodles and rice dishes to fruit, dried squid, meatballs, kebabs and deep fried snacks - the experience can be overwhelming to say the least. “What will I order? How will I know what I’m eating?” I’ve heard people say. On an overnight bus last week we stopped at a canteen around 1am and I ordered myself a delicious chicken noodle soup from the street vendor a 30 second walk away from the bus stop. It was the perfect late night snack. I watched in horror as three buses of backpackers pulled up and each of them in turn went to the shop, bought snacks - crisps, cakes and soggy sandwiches and then complained about the food later! I can only urge travellers to be more adventurous when it comes to street food and once you overcome your initial nerves and indulge your taste buds, I guarantee you will never go back.

By Charla Allyn & Nikki Scott

1.Follow the crowd -

That noodle cart completely surrounded people wobbling on flimsy plastic stools? Yum. That hole in the wall with people pouring out of it? Yum yum. The noisy café hardly any space to sit down, a line out the door, and a symphony of shouted take-out orders? Jackpot.

2.Wander away from the tourist centers -

Although it’s a god-send when you’ve been out drinking all night, the best pad thai in the city cannot be found on Khao San Road. Venture down side streets, or soi’s, to find the best local food. Wherever you go in the city, you’ll find small open-air cafés along the soi’s. They all tend to have a slightly grungy feel, a glass box with meat and vegetables near the front, and woks busily crackling on the gas. Don’t let the décor fool you, because here you will find the best food of your trip.

3.Don’t worry about the menu -

You’ll be hardpressed to find a menu in most of these places, let alone an English menu. Perhaps your Thai language skills aren’t the greatest and you can’t ask what they have? Mai pen rai, no worries, my friend. The easiest way to order here is to check out your neighbor’s food and point to what looks tastiest. If you see a lot of people eating the same thing, there’s probably a reason, so go ahead and order the same thing.

Most Thai people eat around four or five meals a day, little and often is the You can find anything under the sun in way rather than breakfast, lunch and a big dinner. Friends and family gather at a Thai market, especially in a big one like Chatuchak, so it’s no surprise that streetside vendors and it’s very much a social affair. Like ‘pop -up’ restaurants, some of the tastiest eats also await you there. Since the majority of the city’s some can only be found in a particular spot at a certain time of day. Turn up produce comes from these markets, you will certainly find the an hour later than usual and you may find your The fam ous ‘som or papa freshest ingredients and lowest prices in the market. Work up your noodle lady is somewhere else. Their -tam’ s n y w a ra S alad fried p appetite wandering through the stalls for clothes and souvenirs, temporary nature is one of Deep the reasons why street food and then cruise to the food section to re-fuel for the next adventure. is some of the freshest food around. Don’t get stuck in the

4.Hit the markets -

5.Try everything!! -

So if you’re still feeling timid about the cultural phenomena that is Thai Street Food, here are my five guidelines to finding something delicious!


S.E.A Backpacker

same fried rice/pad thai routine when there are so many amazing things to try. Keep your eyes out for a table or counter with lots of silver rectangular serving dishes. If you’re on Khao San, venture one block over to Soi Rambuttri, where you can find several such places. There, for about 30-40 baht, you can load up on different dishes over rice with a fried egg on the side. Best wishes and dishes!


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Travels in a Book Shop: There is something magical about a second hand traveller’s book shop. The musky smell, the cobwebs on the shelves, the dim light, the silence, the sleepy assistant sat behind the front desk… to me the atmosphere reeks of history and wonder. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a big ‘reader.’ I’ve a bad habit of starting books and never finishing them for which I always feel guilty about. But someone once told me that ‘life is too short and there are too many great books to waste your time reading something you don’t like’ So that made me feel better. But the moment I walk into a second hand book shop something changes. I want to read every single book in the room. Of course, I never actually could or would but I want to. I can spend hours in there. I think about all of the books and how long they have been sitting on the shelves in that exact spot. Each book has two stories. The one that is within the pages and the one that tells the life story of the book itself. If books could speak that is. Wandering to the dark corners of the book shop, past crooked shelves with books piled unevenly. Are the books in second hand book shops in Asia ever in any kind of order? From A to T and back to G, autobiographies, fiction, travel books, dodgy romantic fiction your grandma would read, all thrown in with some random text books. German, Italian, English - all stacked together on one shelf. I wonder how long has it been since the pages in some of the books have seen the light of the day? Years? Decades maybe. The larger ones that no-one wants to carry around in their rucksacks. The old ones, the ones who have long lost their sleeves, the ones whose topic no one is interested in anymore - perhaps they were bestsellers in their day. Some of them have cobwebs on them, the pages are crispy and brown. They smell a bit. How long will they lay there for before someone wants them. I know it’s ridiculous to feel sorry for them it’s a book! On the other hand, usually at the front of the shop in prime view are the popular reads; the backpacker favourites, the guide books, the travel fiction, the chart toppers. You won’t get a cheap price for these ones - Mr Nice, The Beach, Eat Pray Love, The Dice Man, Shantaram, The Kite Runner.

Photo taken at Backstreet Books, Chiang Mai


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Well-thumbed pages, stains on the front covers. In how many hands and how many backpacks have these books been? Perhaps, they have travelled around South East Asia before you? Maybe they have already been to the city that you will take them. And where will they end up next? A good travel book can be an meaningful addition to your backpacking adventure. I still remember reading (by gaslight) about Chris Bonnington’s expedition to Annapurna South as I lay in a freezing cold trekking house at the foot of Machapuchare Base Camp. I remember reading First they killed my Father while I was in Siahnoukville on the beach in Cambodia and keeping my sunglasses on so my new travel buddies couldn’t see that I was crying. Laughing on the bus to Yes Man by Danny Wallace got me some funny looks on the Hanoi - Vientiane bus. I don’t think I could have got through some arduous bus journeys without a good book. Choosing a book is an important task. How do you select the right one? The one that will be your companion for the next day, week, month - depending how fast you read. Are you a quick picker or do you like to contemplate your choice? Like me, do you read the back blurb and the first page and then hope the rest lives up to it? Do you choose by it’s cover? Or do you sit for hours in the shop reading the first few chapters to really get a feel before you buy? ‘Dear Jane, It was great spending time with you. Good Luck with your travels’ or ‘Thanks for helping with the garden.’ or ‘Love you. Mum and Dad’ I like those books. The ones with the personal message in the inside front cover. A hint at the book’s history and it’s previous owner. Did the last reader enjoy the book? Cellophane wrapped, gleaming white pages and the smell of ink - a brand new book just doesn’t have the same feeling. While no book has ever changed my life - there have been special books at certain times that have touched my life and made me see the world just a little bit differently. These are the books that I look for when I visit a second hand book shop. And in a spooky kind of way, despite the disorganization, the dim light, the musky smell and the less than helpful sleepy assistant on the front desk, my hands always seem settle on the one book that I’ve been looking for - that I didn’t even know I had been looking for.

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Checking in….

By Laura Luca There’s a beautiful breeze, fresh and peaceful, as I sit on the balcony of my two-storey home. Vanilla incense burning, a fresh cup of coffee and my favorite tunes playing softly on my IPod. It’s 8:00am on a Sunday morning in the beautiful city of Chiang Mai, Thailand and I’m feeling pretty bloody grateful for my life right now! Initially, I would have described this feeling as LUCKY! But to me, luck represents something good that arrives unexpectedly. I don’t feel that’s the case. I feel like I have been an active and willing participant in creating this beautiful life I am currently enjoying. My name is Laura and I am from Melbourne, Australia. I left Oz in Feb 2010 to begin my journey of teaching English abroad. After working as a Social Worker in Melbourne for 3 years, I decided that there was more I wanted to learn from life and myself. South East Asia felt like the right place to start, and teaching English abroad is a great way to experience travelling while making some cash. In March 2010, my Teaching English course offered some hands on training in Vietnam, making it the obvious destination to start out my journey. I was trying to visualize living and working in Vietnam before I left Australia, but I just couldn’t, yet that wasn’t going to stop me. So I went and had an amazing 3 months travelling and enjoying the authentic culture and chaos that is Vietnam. I was offered a great job, developed great friendships, moved into a share house and even bought myself a doona and a lamp. I was sorted. This was my new home. So why did it feel so wrong? Why could I not imagine going to work even though I was about to sign my 6 month contract in 2 days? Feelings of fatigue, frustration, pain in my heart and a very unsettled feeling in my stomach, was my bodies brilliant way of telling me that this just wasn’t where I wanted to be. Once I realized and LISTENED to this inconvenient truth, I changed plans. Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai. I kept hearing about this city in Thailand. So, I followed my gut, packed up my newly established life in Vietnam and set on my next adventure. 7 months later I’m still here, chilling on my balcony and like I said… enjoying my life! In my first weeks in Northern Thailand, I went to the infamous Pai. It really is a special place. While lying in a hammock, with no effort and a lot of clarity, I began dreaming about my ideal teaching job. In my minds eye, this is what I saw; older students, me teaching in a classroom surrounded by a natural landscape and big trees, sunshine and a feeling of satisfaction throughout my day. No surprise that this really is what my daily life in Chiang Mai involves. In that moment in the hammock in Pai, I gave myself space to dream. Space away from the business of travelling or living abroad and timeout to check in and listen to what it is I really wanted.


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It may seem like such an obvious and simple realization yeah? Truth is - it is simple. The powerful ingredients of space, timeout from talking to people, natural surroundings, a hammock and the freedom to let my mind wonder wherever it wanted to, helped me to see my dreams and goals clearly. This was a very significant moment for me, as I was beginning to doubt whether I would actually find something or somewhere that felt right. This clearer vision, not too big and not too small, has created an amazing momentum in my life with so many wonderful opportunities presenting themselves all the time. Don’t get me wrong, there has been and still are some serious bumps along the road. However, these bumps have been like reminders to again… check in… see if I am on track and staying true to what I want to be doing in my life. Travelling allows you to meet so many weird and wonderful people from all different walks of life. I’ve decided that whenever I cross paths with someone, there is an unspoken exchange of gifts that takes place. Maybe the gift is an idea or some information about the next bus, maybe it’s a stimulating conversation or maybe it’s the simple reminder to be patient, just like the old Thai man at the end of my ‘Soi’ selling sticky rice at 7am every morning with a grin on his face. Whatever the gift, everyone has something to offer and share if your willing to notice it. And so do you. Even if you may be a solo traveler- as I would have described myself initially, you really don’t have to walk this road on your own. For the last 5 months I have had an idea about creating a workshop. I gave this idea life and a voice recently, by sharing it with a friend (Eliane) who also lives and works in Chiang Mai. To my surprise, Eliane feels the same passion and desire to create this workshop. With our professional backgrounds of working creatively with large groups of people and communities towards a shared goal, we would like to share this gift with you! Our one day workshop, called ‘Dream to Reality’ will be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in late January/early February 2011. This workshop will be a practical, fun, safe, creative and explorative day of doing exactly what the title suggests, ‘Making your dreams, big or small, clear or unclear, Reality. It will be an interactive yet personal workshop that includes music, movement, helpful enquiry about what ‘defers you from your dreams and desires’ as well as realistic and practical tools that can help you stay connected to what you truly want in life and in your heart. This is a day to “let go” in a beautiful environment, while learning about how you work as a dream creator. Lunch and transport will also be provided for those coming along.

From a couple of travelers to another, if this article has resonated with you in some way, send an email with your reflections and any questions about the workshop to -

Sp S. Ro E.A.Ba Disco ecial om ckpa unt s S cker for tar Rea t 2 ders, 8


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mo m e portant Im


Brunei Darussalam:

Currency: Brunei Dollar, divided into 100 cents. Exchange rate: $1 USD = $1.41 BN Dollar Capital city: Bandar Seri Bagawan Main religion: Islam (official) 67% Buddhist (13%) Christian (10%) Indigenous beliefs (10%) Main language: Malay (official) English also widely spoken. Telephone code: +673 Time: GMT + 8 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Salam (Hello) Terimah kasih (Thank you) Visa: Nationals of most European countries, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand do not need a Visa for visits of up to 30 days. USA citizens can stay for up to 90 days. Most other nationalities need to apply for a visa in advance which takes 1-3 days to process. (Single entry B$20 or multiple entry B$30) 72 hour transit visas are also available. Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. Visa extension: Visas can be renewed at embassies in Bandar Seri Bagawan. Climate: Brunei experiences a hot, humid climate all year round. Most rainfall is between September and January, peaking in November and December, but this can vary. 1 random fact: Despite it’s small size, Brunei is a very rich country whose wealth depends largely upon the export of crude oil and natural gas overseas. It is the third largest exporter of oil in South East Asia. Ambulance: 991 Fire: 995 Police: 993


Currency: Cambodian Riel (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 4,155 KHR Capital city: Phnom Penh Main religion: Theravada Buddhism (95%) Main Language: Khmer Telephone code: +855 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sua s’dei (Hello) Aw kohn (Thank you) Visa: Most nationalities can obtain a 1 month tourist Visa upon arrival which costs around $20. At land border crossings, notably the Thai/Cambodian border, the fee can be more expensive as the cost is paid in baht and is sometimes rounded up considerably. You will need 1 or 2 passport photos to apply, or you will be charged extra (usually only $1-2.) Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. E-Visa: You can now apply for an E-visa online. Preorder at: and your visa will cost $25 set price. You will need a digital photo of yourself to upload. Processing takes 3 days and you will get the visa straight to your mailbox. See official website for up to date info on which borders support the E-visa as not all of the crossings take it yet. Visa extension: Obtained at Phnom Penh immigration office, opposite International Airport. Tourist visas can be extended 1 month. (Around US$35) For longer extensions ask at Immigration Office. Penalty for late departure: US$5 / day. Climate: The hottest month is April with temperatures hitting 40 degrees. The wet season starts in May or June and lasts until October. The downpours are heavy and do not last long. The best season to visit is December to February, when there is little rain, low humidity and cool breeze. 1 random fact: The Apsara Dance is a Khmer classical dance and an important part of Cambodian culture. Performed by a woman in a tight-fitting traditional dress and crown, the apsara represents a woodland spirit and


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her graceful movements tell stories of classical myths. The dance has it’s roots in ancient Hindu forms dating back as far as the 1st century. In an emergency: Ambulance: 119 Fire: 118 Police: 117

East Timor:

Currency: US Dollars Capital city: Dili Main religion: Catholic (90%) Main language: Tetun, Portuguese, Indonesian, English Telephone code: +670 Time: GMT + 9 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: ola (hello) adeus (goodbye) Visa: Nationals from Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA do not need to arrange a visa in advance. They can be granted upon entry into East Timor and cost $30 for 30 days. Portuguese nationals can stay up to 90 days on a tourist visa. Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. It is important to note that there are no currency exchange facilities at the airport or other border posts, so you will need to take cash before you travel. Visa extension: Visas can be extended for 30 days, costing up to $45. You must have a valid reason for staying. Penalty for late departure: Penalties range from $70 US - $150 US Dollar if the period does not exceed 30 days. Climate: The wet season is between December and April and the dry season occurs between May to November, with temperatures reaching very high. The best months to visit are between April and July. 1 random fact: East Timor, along with The Philippines is one of only two majority Roman Catholic countries in the whole of Asia. The influence of Catholicism dates back to the early 16th century when Portuguese and Dutch traders made first contact with East Timor. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 7233212 Police: 112


Currency: Indonesian Rupiah Exchange rate: $1 USD = 9,330 IDR Capital city: Jakarta Main religion: Islam (88%) Main language: Bahasa Indonesia (official) There are also many regional dialects. Telephone code: +62 Time: GMT + 7 hours (Sumatra, Java) GMT + 8 hours (Bali, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara) GMT + 9 hours (Maluku and Papua) Hellos and Thank-you’s: Salam (hello) terima kasih (thank you) Visa: Nationals of Australia, Canada, USA, UK and most European countries are eligible for a 30 day visa upon entry, which costs $25 USD. You can also obtain a 7-day visa at $10. (Cost varies depending on point of entry.) Payments can be made in US Dollars only. You will need 2 passport photographs and your passport must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. Penalty for late departure: Up to $20 / day. For more than 60 days overstay travellers risk deportation or imprisonment. Climate: Indonesia has just 2 seasons, wet season, which falls between April and October and dry season, which falls between May and September. Throughout all of the year the climate is hot and humid, although there are snow-capped peaks in the highlands of Papua. As Indonesia is such a long country, the difference in the

seasons varies. In some areas, the distinction between the wet and dry season is great, such as the Nusa Tenggara when the wet season (December to February) can make transport difficult, with road floods and ferry cancellations. In Sumatra, the rain falls from October to January in the North and from January to February in the South. In Bali there is little difference between the seasons where weather is similar all year round. 1 random fact:Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. According to Indonesian government estimates, only 922 of the country’s 17,508 islands are permanently inhabited and only 8,844 of the islands have been named. Emergency numbers: (Java) Fire: 113 Police: 110 Medical assistance: 118, 119


Currency: Lao KIP (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 8,460 LAK Capital city: Vientiane Main religion: Buddhism Main language: Lao (official) Telephone code: +856 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sabaydee (Hello) Khawp Jai (Thank you) Visa: Most nationalities can obtain a 30 day visa for Laos at international airports and land border crossings. The cost ranges from $20 - $42, depending on your nationality. At the Thailand/Laos border if you pay in Thai baht fees can be more expensive. You will need 2 passport photos and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: Visa extensions can be applied for at the Vientiane Immigration Office, which costs US$2 / day for 30 days. Extensions can also be obtained from some travel agents for around US$3. 90 day extensions are available, ask at the embassy for details. Penalty for late departure: Up to US$10/day. Long overstays can lead to arrest and imprisonment. Climate: The wet season in Laos is between May and October and the dry season between November and April. Temperatures during this time are the most comfortable, and can be quite cold in mountainous areas. The hottest time of the year is between March and May, with temperatures reaching 38 degrees. 1 random fact: Sticky rice or “khao neow” is a staple food in Laos and is generally eaten with every meal. In villages and towns you may see sticky rice lined on trays drying under the sun. For sticky rice with a twist, locals like to barbecue the rice with butter and egg to eat as a tasty and crunchy snack. Emergency numbers: (Vientiane) Ambulance: 195 Fire: 190 Police: 191


Currency: Malaysian Ringgit Exchange rate: $1 USD = 3.40 MYR Capital city: Kuala Lumpur Main religion: Islam (official) Main language: Bahasa Melayu (official) Telephone code: +60 Time: GMT + 8 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Apa Khabar (How are you) Terima kasih (Thank you) Visa: Most nationalities are granted a free 30-90 day entry pass upon arrival at international airports and border crossings. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Please note that Sarawak is a semi-autonomous state and upon entry your passport

will be stamped and a new pass issued. Visa extension: Visas can be extended at Immigration offices in Malaysia. Fees depend on intended duration of stay. Climate: Malaysia’s climate is hot and tropical. The West coast of Peninsular Malaysia experiences the monsoon season from May to September, with August being the wettest month. On the other hand, the East coast of the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak experiences heavy rainfall between November and February. 1 random fact: Malayan tigers inhabit the forests of the southern part of Peninsular Malaysia, leading largely solitary lives in areas of low human and building density. According to WWF, there are an estimated 500 remaining in the wild making them an endangered species. Emergency numbers: Fire: 994 Police and Ambulance: 999


Currency: Kyat (US Dollars used) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 6.41 MMK Capital city: Became Naypyidaw in 2005 Main religion: Buddhism Telephone code: +95 Time: GMT + 6 ½ hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Min gala ba (Hello) Che zu Beh (thank you) Visa: Visa free entry is available at some border crossings for a short period. If you are going for the day to renew your Thailand Visa for example, you must enter and exit on the same day. Fees are around US$10. Longer visas should be arranged in advance at a travel agency or Myanmar Embassy. In Bangkok, at the Myanmar Embassy the cost is 810 baht for a 28 day visa, taking three days to process. Like the Vietnam visa, the cost depends on where you are and how long you mind waiting. It can range from $20 - $50. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months. Visa extension: Visas can be extended for up to 14 days in Yangon. Ask at embassy for details of costs. Weather: May to mid-October is the rainy season in Myanmar. February to April is the hottest time. The best time to visit is November to February, although temperatures can drop to freezing during these months in the highland areas. 1 random fact: Mandalay was immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in his 1892 poem ‘Mandalay’ and later in the 1935 song ‘On the road to Mandalay.’ Kipling’s captivation with the country and a beautiful Burmese woman in particular is the central theme of his poem. Emergency numbers: (Yangon) Ambulance: 192 Police: 199 Fire: 191

The Philippines:

Currency: Peso, divided into 100 centavos. Exchange rate: $1 USD = 46.1 PHP Capital city: Manila Main religion: Over 80% Catholic Main language: Filipino, English Telephone code: +63 Time: GMT + 8 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: hello, kamusta ka (hello, how are you) salamat (thank you) Visa: Tourist visas are granted free of charge upon entry for most nationalities for a stay up to 21 days. However, you may be required to show valid tickets for an onward destination. For longer stays you should apply for a tourist visa before arrival at a Philippine Embassy. The cost for a three month single entry visa is usually $30, but ask at the embassy for up to date info. Longer visas for up to 12 months are available. Visas take two to three

working days to process and passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: When in the Philippines, you are able extend your 21 day visa for up to 59 days at immigration offices. Costs apply. Climate: The tropical climate of the Philippines can vary depending on region, but generally the best time to visit the Philippines is January to May, when the dry season occurs. May is the hottest month with temperatures reaching 38 degrees. This scorching heat is followed by the downpours of June and October when the rainy season affects most of the country. The rains peak from July to September when typhoons are likely. 1 random fact: The SM Mall of Asia in the Philippines, is the fourth largest shopping mall in the world located in Pasay City. It holds an olympic sized swimming pool an IMAX theatre and a 20-seat tram to transport people around. Emergency numbers: Fire, Ambulance, Police: 117


Currency: Singapore Dollar Exchange rate: $1 USD = 1.41 SGD Main religions: Taoist, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim. Main language: English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil Telephone code: +65 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Ni hao ma? (Hi, how are you) Xie xie (thank you) Visa: Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the UK and most other European countries are granted either a 14 or 30-day tourist pass upon entry to Singapore. Duration of pass depends on nationality and point of entry. USA citizens receive 90 days. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: Extensions of up to 90 days can be applied for at the consulate in Singapore. Climate: November to January see the most rain, however there are really no distinct seasons in Singapore. The weather is very similar all year round, hot and humid. 1 random fact: A huge statue of Sir Stamford Raffles stands at North Boat Quay in Singapore, an area which is said to be the spot where Raffles, the founder of Singapore, first stepped ashore in 1819. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 995 Police: 999 Fire: 995


Currency: Thai Baht Exchange rate: $1 USD = 33 THB Capital city: Bangkok Main religion: 95% Theravada Buddhism Main language: Thai Telephone code: +66 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sawasdee Ka/Krap (m/f) / Kop Khun Ka/Krap (m/f) Visa: Most nationalities, including Americans, Australians and most Europeans receive a free 30 day tourist visa upon arrival into Thailand by air. However, if arriving by land you will only receive 15 days. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: Visas can be renewed for a fee at immigration points. The cost is 1900 baht for 7 days extra and it can be extended only once. If you leave the country and return, your visa will be renewed for free. You can exit and re-enter the country as many times as you like this way and most travel agents can arrange border runs to

neighbouring countries. Penalty for late departure: 500 baht/day. The maximum fine for overstay that you can pay is 20,000 baht after this you may face deportation at your own cost or imprisonment. Climate: Most of Thailand experiences three seasons; The cool season occurs during November to February, followed by the hot season, March to May, then the rainy season, between June and October. As with many countries in this part of the world, the wet season tends to consist of short, hard downpours. The time of the rainy season however, differs from the East coast to the West. The Andaman Coast (West) experiences monsoon from June to September (Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi, Railay) whilst in the Gulf of Thailand (East) rains mostly fall during September to November. 1 random fact: Located in Um Phang National Park on the border of Burma, Tee Lor Su Waterfall is the highest waterfall in Thailand and some say the most beautiful. The park is about a three hour drive from Chiang Mai and remains largely unvisited by foreign tourists. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 1669 Fire: 199 Police: 191


Currency: Vietnamese Dong Exchange rate: $1 USD = 18,600 VND Capital city: Hanoi Main religion: Tam Giao (Triple religion – Confucionism, Taosim, Buddhism) Main language: Vietnamese (official) Telephone code: +84 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sin chao (Hello) Cam on (thank you) Visa: Visas for entering Vietnam must be arranged in advance. You can do this at the Vietnamese embassies in whichever country you are in and some travel agencies also offer the service. Depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting, (on average from 1 day to 4 days), it can cost anywhere between $35 and $65 for a 30 day visa. You will need 1 passport sized photograph and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: 30 day extensions can be obtained from travel agents in Hanoi, HCMC or Danang. The process can take up to 5 days and the fee is usually US$30. Climate: The climate of North and South Vietnam differ greatly, with generally a hot tropical climate in the South and hot summers and cold winters in the North. The monsoon season is between May and October which brings rain to most of the country. The central coast can experience typhoons between August and November. 1 random fact:Hoi An is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage city located in the central coast of Vietnam. During the 1st century the city possessed the largest port in South Was Asia. Today it is famous for it’s abundance of skilled tailors and many travelers leave the town with a new suit, or two. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 115 Police: 113 Fire: 114 (At S.E.A Backpacker we try to ensure that all information provided is as accurate and up to date as possible. (Checked 20.12.10) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)

S.E.A Backpacker


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South East Asia Backpacker Issue 10  

The essential magazine for all travellers in South East Asia. Issue #10 out now

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