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The essential magazine for all travellers through South East Asia.


ISSN 1906-7674


10 Things You Should Not Miss! Free copy

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ies’ r y Ser eo Dia id their ‘V e g ll w n ie ti e xciting n om Since quit o year and Dan e y r rl u e o b f a c e stars o urtney, K pon a tw very kpacker. Meet Co eous girls are th utheastasiabac ls embarked u e ir o bracing rg s g o m g e E n o These ing to ago, th yond! e rd s atured b a k o fe e d b e n e e w a k b st t Asia from wa Watch their s soon to in California ju a E m e th th Sou bs s at rney! r office jo g trip through rld throw e hell of a jou ckpacke n t the wo kin o c a .E.A Ba e a S th b p h k y it c to it a w v g b ti Y c in L a o N g d O n ’s re a riences ades, it adventu er expe y escap on Part ackpack o b ’ M fe ll li u l F ea nd see ‘r videos a . e Magazin

5% Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach, 22 Moo 5 Baan Tai, Koh Phangan, Suratthani, Thailand 84280 Tel: +66 (0) 77 445 067, +66 (0) 77 238 538 Fax: +66 (0) 77 445 068 E-mail: S.E.A Backpacker


Introduction: The best laid plans lans p d e x fi o n s a h r e l l “A good trave arriving.” and is not intent on

(Lao Tzu)

All the best travellers will tell you that masterful attempts at ‘travel plans’ in South East Asia will often go awry. Sure it’s good to have a ‘rough’ idea where you want to go, but that’s pretty much all you need. The beauty of backpacking is that you are free to go wherever the path may take you. And by that I mean, wherever the adventure beckons, the beer’s rumoured cheap or that gorgeous guy / girl you’ve just met on the bus happens to be going! As they say in the Philippines; ‘bahala na!’ which roughly translates as ‘go with the flow!’ Some travellers will find this easier to adapt to than others. I was one of those. Ticket booked ‘one-way’ to Bangkok and a sketchy idea of the countries I wanted to visit. Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia and a flight to Oz four months later. Once on the road, my ‘next destination’ changed every day with every conversation. Meeting interesting people along the way, I ended up going to places I’d never heard of and doing things I’d never imagined. There are some travellers that take ‘going with the flow’ a little to the extreme. Not getting passports updated, jumping on buses unaware of the stop, running out of money and having to live on the streets of Bangkok begging from tourists for three weeks. Oh yes - I’ve heard some crazy stories! But for those backpackers who have an itinerary that reads like an itemised shopping list, you may just find if you throw away those coloured organiser stickers in your guide book and that typed up schedule of bus departures, there’s more adventure to be had away from the ‘ordered’ and the ‘time-tabled.’ The best travel experiences can be the ones that you least expect. For me, I know if I’d have stuck to the original plan I’d be in Australia now and you wouldn’t be reading this magazine. I’d have spent four months backpacking around Asia, flown to Perth, where I’d have chilled out for a few weeks before taking the train across the desert 48 hours to Melbourne (of which Aussies thought was completely crazy!) And in Melbourne, no doubt broke by then... I’d have tried to get a job. But, no. As it happened, I put the flight back three months...followed by another month...and then finally it was discarded completely. I wasn’t done with this part of the world yet. The idea for the magazine arose when I was backpacking on a shoe-string in Sumatra, one of my favourite spots in South East Asia and also a place I never would have gone had I stuck to the ‘plan’... (but I met a boy on a beach and, well that’s another story...) Thinking of all of the great travel stories I’d heard, all the shared experiences of life on the ‘trail,’ I wanted something to hold in my hand that encompassed all of that. All of the adventure and all of the passion of travelling, that I felt and that I felt from fellow travellers. Kind of like a travel diary for everyone. Now in the 1 Year Anniversary of S.E.A Backpacker Magazine I can’t believe all that’s happened since I quit my job and left home to travel the world - and where the magazine has taken me. Since landing in South East Asia nearly two years ago, I’ve travelled to some wild places and met some wonderful and wacky people along the way... none of which was ever ‘planned.’ When I left England, I never dreamed I’d live in Bangkok and it never crossed my mind that I’d have the opportunity to start a travel magazine! But backpacking and travel does that to you. It throws random ideas into the mix and opens up doors to new possibilities. ‘Routine-less’ and liberated, we can afford to take the chances that the universe throws at us. Happy travelling and ‘bahala na’ all the way.

From all of the S.E.A Backpacker Team, a special thank you to all businesses in Thailand and South East Asia that have supported us in our first year – this issue in particular. We can’t do this without you!

4 S.E.A Backpacker

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C ontents : F eatures : 14 Word on the Soi: Travel Blunders PHOTOS: 20 BACKPACKER 1 Year Anniversary Celebration FOOD: 34 BACKPACKER Rice = Life FASHION: 36 BACKPACKER Are you a Backpacker Fashion Victim? ARTS: 38 BACKPACKER The Art of Karaoke

D estination spotlight : 10 The Image of Thailand THAILAND: 10 Things

12 Backpackers Should not Miss! 16 BALI: Welcome to Paradise COLA BOTTLE GASOLINE:

24 Motorbike Adventures Through Laos and Cambodia

Regulars : 8 22 30 32

South East Asia Map & Visa Info Events & Festivals: What’s on? Traveller Thoughts, Stories & Tips Backpacker Games

INFO: 40 BACKPACKER Visas, Exchange Rates & More

Cover picture by Flash Parker .

6 S.E.A Backpacker

S.E.A Backpacker Co., Ltd.

Registration No. 0205552005285. ISSN No. 1906-7674 20/18 Moo.5 Soi Siam Countryclub, Pong, Banglamung, Chonburi 20150 Tel: +66 (0)81 776 7616 (Thai) +66 (0)84 553 8996 (Eng) Fax: +66 (0)38 072 078 E-mail: Backpacker South East Asia is Published by S.E.A. Backpacker Company Limited. Managing Director: Nikki Scott. E-mail: Editor: Nanchaya Jaikaew. E-mail: Accounts: Yanisa Jaikaew Artwork: Saksit Jankrajang Design & Layout: S.E.A. Backpacker Company Limited. Sales & Marketing: Rujirapat Wad-udom, Kitti Boon Sri. Contributing Writers: Nikki Scott, Penny Atkinson, Shawn Parker, Jodi Ettenberg, Oskar Lindhe, Nicole Woyski, Charla Allyn. Contributing Photographers: Nikki Scott, Saksit Jankrajang, Rattana Nilnoree, Sarah Lipman, Jodi Ettenberg, Cody McKibben, Des Scott, Lara Soltysik. 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, June 2010.

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m me


Gone avelling ! Tr x

M ap : south east asia Myitkyina

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

Phnom Penh

Mui N


Koh Tao Koh Phangan Koh Samui

Andaman Sea


Ho Chi Minh

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

8 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. At some entry points you can 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 25.6.10) 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


Nha Trang


h City

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


d n a l i a h T f o e g a The Im


ki Sco

By Nik

Photo by Cody McKibben

10 S.E.A Backpacker

Unless you’ve been backpacking on Mars over the past few months, you can’t have failed to notice the recent crisis that engulfed the entire city of Bangkok and left Thailand and it’s people in a state of shock. Burning buildings, live gunfire on the streets and angry protestors are not the stereotypical images of Thailand that come to mind when we think of this beautiful country. Garlanded long tail boats bobbing on translucent waters, twinkling temples and white sands surrounded by breathtaking limestone cliffs – these are the pictures on postcards we send home. Thailand as an exotic paradise, not a battle ground.

If you were travelling through Thailand during the time of the crisis, you’re likely to have received a panicked email or phone call from a family member, watching events on the world news at home – as the media sent out distressing images of the escalating crisis. I received the phone call when I was cycling in the countryside in Kanchanaburi from my frantic mother. As the sun shone and the birds sung in the rice fields around me - I couldn’t believe myself the things she was describing to me. Bangkok was burning. Just a two hour bus ride from the city, it was a different world. Riding through little villages amongst

During the entire episode, most parts of Thailand were unaffected. In sunny South Thailand it continued to be ‘no-shirts’ rather than ‘red shirts’ – as travellers caught the rays and frolicked carelessly on the beaches. In Northern Thailand, elephant trekking, climbing, rafting and hill tribe adventures continued as normal. For the majority of people travelling in other parts of the country, the charmed life of a backpacker was unchanged. And what now? Well, ironically for backpackers, this may just be the best time to visit Thailand! Many Airlines are offering amazing discounts on international flights to Thailand – plus low cost Asian airlines have flights going dirt cheap. Just this month Air Asia gave away 10,000 free seats from other parts of Asia to Bangkok. Not only that, many hostels and guest houses are also lowering their rates to attract more guests. And, it’s good news for party animals too as bars are giving drinks offers and extending happy hours!

a mountainous backdrop being waved at by smiling locals; this was the Thailand I knew and loved. That evening, I sat with a few Bangkok ‘evacuees’ drinking 10 baht (yes 10 baht!) whiskey & coke from a street side bar, discussing the situation in the capital. Everyone had a different opinion about what had led to the clashes between the red shirt protestors and the army - and more crucially what this now meant for Thailand. How or why it occurred isn’t up for discussion here. This isn’t a newspaper and I’m not a political correspondent. I’m just a backpacker like you, who loves this country and hates to see it in turmoil. I thought about foreign embassies issuing warnings on travel to Thailand and the damaging effects on tourism and worried for the thousands of people whose livelihood depends on foreign visitors. I thought back to my decisions to come here. Before I came to Thailand for the first time two years ago; I sat in the office on many a rainy day in England daydreaming of my backpacking adventure; heavenly beaches, mouth watering food, rich culture, tropical rain forests and a bamboo bungalow on the beach for a couple of dollars! This is what I had in mind. Since arriving here and travelling through the country extensively, Thailand as an exotic dream hasn’t disappointed. Snorkeling in clear waters around Koh Phi Phi, trekking in Khao Sok National Park, rock climbing in Railay, sitting around a camp fire in the jungles of Pai; my travel experiences have been varied and unmatched. And has all this changed? Have the reasons that brought me here in the first place suddenly disintegrated with the recent crisis?

Bangkok itself seems to be recovering well too. Just days after the gun fire ceased, citizens of Bangkok were on their hands and knees scrubbing the streets and clearing the debris; a testament to the love of the Thai people for their wounded capital. Plus, the brand new Airport link is now open in Bangkok, which takes you direct to the centre of Bangkok in 15 minutes – and it’s absolutely FREE until August! Expect more discounts and promotions all over Thailand as Thai people try hard to entice visitors once again. The fact is that it won’t take much to lure us back. Thai people are blessed with such a beautiful country that it’s pretty hard to keep us away. Thailand is still the exotic traveller dream that is always has been. Since backpackers first discovered it’s gorgeous shores, the lure and magnetic attraction of this country will continue. With amazing diversity, astonishingly beautiful landscapes, cheap and delicious street food, great nightlife and smiling friendly people it’d take a lot to keep us backpackers away!

S.E.A Backpacker


THAILAND: 10 things backpackers should not miss! Full Moon Party!

Despite being a ‘cliched backpacker experience,’ the Full Moon Party is undoubtedly a must for all backpackers to Thailand! Rumours have it that the event began in 1987 as a gathering on the beach of a few friends with a few guitars to celebrate someone’s birthday. Since then, the party has escalated into a worldwide phenomenon! Every month up to 30,000 people frolic on the sands, bodies smeared with aluminous glow paint and a bucket in (each) hand to rave it out until dawn. International DJ’s play a variety of music which blasts from sound systems on Haad Rin Beach. It’s a once in a lifetime experience – although one you probably won’t remember the next day! And now there’s the Black Moon and Half Moon Festivals too - making Koh Phangan a magnet for party animals the world over!


Diving in Thailand is second to none and with prices amongst the cheapest in the world for beginners, it’s an absolute must on a backpacking trip. Completing an ‘Open Water PADI course, (four days) will grant you an underwater license that you can use anywhere in the world. Wherever you decide to take the plunge, there are no shortage of excellent dive schools across Thailand to choose from. Once you’re carded and can dive up to 18 metres, the underwater scenes will blow your mind! Watching turtles glide by, swimming past sting rays, hunting nemo, spotting crab lurking in the crevices of the colourful coral reef, it’s an unforgettable experience. And, if you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the incredible whale shark, a seasonal visitor to Thailand’s waters.

Rock Climbing in Krabi Rugged cliffs surrounding gorgeous sandy bays make Krabi the ultimate Mecca for rock climbing. Railay and Ton Sai and even Koh Phi Phi offer climbing enthusiasts countless routes to keep you occupied for years! And you don’t have to be the world’s best climber to scale the karsts. Beginners can sign up for a half a day or a full day course with one of the rock climbing schools, where you will be taught how to belay a partner, climb and abseil. Whatever level you’re at, it’s an exhilarating experience that will get your heart beating and your adrenalin pumping as you push yourself to the top. Breathtaking views guaranteed.


Muay Thai Boxing Muay Thai is an ancient martial art form unique to Thailand with it’s origins in Chinese and Indian martial arts. It’s the national sport in Thailand and you’ll find boxing stadiums across the country. Spectating a Muay Thai fight is an exhilarating and boisterous experience that should not be missed! Sit at the back of the stadium with the rowdy Thai men as they bet on each match and passionately cheer the fighter to victory. For those interested in learning Muay Thai, there are camps where you can train with real fighters. Anyone can sign up to learn the skills and the training is a great way to improve fitness, self defense and discipline.


Where else in the world can you get a full body massage for under $5? Not only that, there’s pedicures, manicures, facials, body scrubs, mud masks, hot stone massage, waxing, aromatherapy...the list goes on. With hundreds of treatments at incredible prices, you may as well pamper yourself while you’re here! If you haven’t tried traditional Thai Massage yet, be prepared for a serious body work out. As your limbs are pulled in ways you never imagined, you may wonder if it’s torture or massage, but guaranteed you’ll walk out feeling a million dollars. Ancient Thai massage techniques are a form of Thai Traditional Medecine which include yoga stretches and the practice of moving energy around the body through targeting pressure points.

Elephants in the North The elephant is a revered symbol of Thai culture and heritage. In many places across the country, notably in Northern Thailand, you will find Elephant Homes or Conservation Parks. For many travellers, a visit to an Elephant Park turns out to be a highlight of a backpacking trip. Feed them, bathe with them, learn how to take care of them; Thailand’s sanctuaries offer the chance to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures in a natural environment; many of whom have been rescued from working in unsuitable conditions. There are also opportunities for riding elephants and even learning to control them as a ‘mahout’ through training.

12 S.E.A Backpacker

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Street food


All over Thailand, it’s difficult to walk down a street without passing by a food stall with a smiling Thai selling a tasty meal or snack. From noodle soup, to sushi, satay, fried chicken, quail eggs, coconut ice cream, dried squid, fresh fruit, papaya salad, sticky rice and more!...there’s nowhere in the world with the variety of street food that Thailand has. It’s delicious and it’s the cheapest way to fill up in Thailand, so for backpackers it’s an absolute must! Don’t be scared of tasting new things and asking locals to tell you what things are. If you ask and you still haven’t got a clue, try it anyway! And if you’re feeling daring try the crispy crickets, maggots and beetles!

Experience a Thai Festival


Whatever time of year you’re in Thailand, chances are you’ll come across a Thai Festival or celebration. Whether it’s country-wide or local, it will most certainly be an exciting, colourful celebration, where tourists are welcomed to join in the events alongside the Thai people. The recent Sonkran festival, (April) is one of the most exuberant events in the calendar, where people all over the country join together in an enormous water fight! There’s the beautiful ‘Loi Krothung’ (Lantern Festival) in November, best witnessed in Chiang Mai as thousands of glowing lanterns are launched into the sky creating a wonderful spectacle. Or for the adventurous, there’s the ‘Phuket Vegetarian Festival’ (October) where devotees take part in a demonstration of faith by peircing body parts!

9. 10.

Get off the beaten track Thailand is a popular place and it’s easy to see why. With so many attractions and natural wonders that everyone wants to cast eyes on – it can be good for backpackers to get away from the crowds once in a while. Hiring a motorbike can be a great way to explore; taking dirt tracks up country lanes passing through hill tribe villages, driving up deserted coastal roads and checking out eateries and digs only the locals know. The fantastic thing about Thailand is that it’s a really safe place to travel and everywhere you go you’ll no doubt meet welcoming locals. And, if you’re looking to get way off the beaten track, North Eastern Thailand or Issan is little visited province of ancient Khmer ruins and rice fields that go on for miles. Travel can be rewarding when you take the path less trodden and seek out places not many travellers do.

Markets Colourful, noisy and brimming with life, Thai Markets are a great cultural experience for travellers. Wander around stalls selling intriguing bits and bobs, sample weird food and put your bartering skills to the test! Anything you can imagine can be bought from a Thai Market. Amongst one of the best markets in Thailand is Chiang Mai Weekend Market, where part of the city is taken over by the huge fair specialising in hand-made products and silks from local hill tribes. There’s also street music and a chance to try home brewed wine! The mother of all markets has got to be Chatuchak Market in Bangkok. With an incredible 15,000 stalls selling everything from retro jewelry to puppy dogs, it’s one of the largest outdoor markets in the world.


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W ord on the soi: TRAVEL BLUNDERS! Woof

It’s happened to the best of us. Even the most savvy, well-heeled travellers started their backpacking life as a rookie. And, no matter how many guide books you read or how much research you do, there are always mishaps that can happen and blunders to be made along the way. But hey, if everything went smoothly you wouldn’t have any stories to tell now would you!?

oi by a nt in Han a restaura the toilet later I in b a b e at’ k y way to red a ‘me us. On m ooo!!! Being offe le next to b Noooooo ta . e s e th g t a a c t a in s s l g a c o lo st d enmark) walked pa (Jacob, D

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I’m a millionaire! ng again is not worki ke over and over piah, Dong... The mistake I ma Ru , Kip of ns llio llions and mi and after out the money. Mi handing out thous ingless as you’re an me ’ in Durbar s ide me gu co ur be a ‘to it all d in Nepal I gave de lan t firs a half I for en s thousand. Wh of a months wage du the equivalent er’ an silv thm lid Ka ‘so e re, fre ua a t Sq ge ples! But hey I did be donated uld hour tour of the tem wo him ve ga I the money necklace and half Mmmh. to the monastery. ) nia ve Slo (Jon,

Flying home! (Lucy, UK)

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14 S.E.A Backpacker

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I arrived in Pai late one night. A guy on a scoote r asked me if I wanted a bungalo w by the river for 150 bah t – usually dubious about the guys who say ‘you want room? I got room!’ I threw caution to the win d and got on the bike. Sur e enough he took me to the riverside, a love ly spot where there was indeed a bungalow for 150 baht! It seemed too good to be true. The bungalow was basic, but what a location! Sitting down on the bed looking at the view I decided that I shouldn’t just plum p for the first place. I sho uld shop around – there must be tonnes of places like this. The bed wasn’t the comfiest and I may get it even cheaper up the road. After that, I ended up walking around the whole of Pai for about fou r hours in the heat looking for somewhere to stay and everywhere was boo ked. Turns out it was the Queens birthday and a Thai holiday. The town was packed with ‘weekenders.’ I’d already gone back to the 150 baht bun galow with my tail betwee n my legs but it had obviously been snapped up! Would you believe the only thing I found that night was a tent in a field for 800 baht! And bec ause it was the Queen’s birthday the y wouldn’t even sell me an alcoholic drink to drown my sorrows ! I won’t be so picky again! (Louise, UK)


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BALI: Too much to do, too little time! Bali is no secret. It’s been on the backpacker trail for over thirty years and has since turned into a hugely popular resort destination. Ever since it was first discovered by Dutch colonists in the late 16th Century, it has been deemed a ‘paradise island’ and it’s easy to see why so many people flock there year upon year. World class surf, picturesque rice terraces, sweeping beaches, rugged volcanic scenery and a unique culture; Bali has everything that you could ask for. And, with an abundance of sights and activities to experience, your main probem will be ‘too much to do, too little time!’ With just a few weeks to explore as much of the island as possible, lawyer turned backpacker Jodi Ettenberg gives a rundown on how to make the most of this island paradise.

Born in Montreal, Canada, Jodi Ettenberg is a former new media and technology lawyer who quit her job to  chase her  dream of  travelling around the world. Starting in April 2008, Jodi has traipsed through South America, Russia and Mongolia, China and a good part of South East Asia, blogging and eating the whole way. You can read about her adventures at her Legal Nomads blog (, or follow her on Twitter at @legalnomads.

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The problem with a new destination is that there is often so much you want to see and do, that you end up limited by your time and never getting to see it all. In my three week trip in Bali, I decided to hit up Nusa Lembongan for some surfing, Sanur and Ubud for kitesurfing, culture and food, and then end my trip by summiting the most sacred mountain in Bali, Gunung Agung.

Nusa Lembongan: Surf and Seaweed We began our trip on a small island off the coast of Bali, Nusa Lembongan. The island has two primary sources of income: tourism, and seaweed. As a result, the place is jam-packed with surfers and the pungent smell of seaweed baking in the hot sun permeates your clothes, nostrils and hair. It is a delicate combination. As a small island, exploring by foot is easy and you can climb through the tangled forest to the beautiful coves curving below. The island’s main beaches are dotted along the stretches of sand that coat the 8km square island, with the main fishing village and cheap lodgings in the middle (where the ferries arrive) and smaller, more expensive places to stay flanking the village to the north and nestled in the cliffs to the south. I spent a good part of my time wandering along the full west coast of the island and through the villages in its center, stumbling upon a tiny, quiet bay where I could swim and surf. I wrapped up my days watching the sun go down with a cocktail on one of the many terraces perched at the edge of the island’s cliffs. Not a bad way to live! Although certainly not home to the most beautiful beach in Bali, Nusa Lembongan is a great place to get away from the main island for a few days. If you enjoy surfing it’s an easy jump from the ferry in Sanur and a lovely place to spend your days paddling through the waves.

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Sanur: “Kuta in a Cardigan” The Lonely Planet calls Sanur “Kuta in a Cardigan” and, for those of you unfamiliar with Kuta and its hard-partying ways, dirty streets and occasionally not-so-classy clientele: the nickname is a good thing. I spent several days in Sanur prior to Nusa Lemongan and returned to attend a traditional Balinese wedding. The main street in town curves around the sea and is lined with a slew of delicious restaurants, tiny traditionally decorated bars and quirky shops. Notwithstanding the many places to eat and drink, the town is cosy and quiet and a perfect break from the craziness of Kuta. Days were spent wandering along the rugged coast of Sanur’s beaches and kitesurfing in the water and nights were spent eating at and exploring the Night Market at the northern tip of Jalan Danau Tamblingan (where it intersects with Jalan Pungutan), Must try dishes are the delicious nasi goreng (spicy fried rice) stall in the centre of the market, and the nasi campur (rice with mixed chicken and vegetables) at the back of the market’s righthand wing. Each meal cost under a dollar, with huge portions to boot.

Ubud: Eat, Pray, Love Forty-five minutes north of the airport, Ubud is home to a multitude of Balinese artists, woodcarvers and tailors, with a bustling downtown market and dozens of rice paddies rising up from the city centre. While the area is called Ubud, it does not consist of one main town, but a series of villages all sprawling outward from the main market and linked by rice-paddy lined roads. Originally founded by a Hindu mystic, Rsi Markandya in the 8th Century, who sought to convert inhabitants of Bali to Hinduism and summit Gunung Agung, Ubud has long been the artistic heart of the island. The area has seen a meteoric rise in tourism after Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and was chock full of tourists and taxi touts when I visited. As a result, my best moments in Ubud came as I donned a kebaya and sarong and sash (traditional Balinese dress) and slipped away from the main road into Pura Desa temple. Paces from the busiest road

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in Ubud, I was suddenly surrounded by birds, stone gargoyles and creeping vines heavy with flowers. It was beautiful. Ubud is a great place to meander through temples, markets and boutique shops. Apart from this,there’s a myriad of other activities the region has on offer. Whitewater rafting is worthwhile when the river is not too low, there are an abundance of yoga studios to choose from, no matter what style of yoga you prefer to practice, and at night a variety of traditional dancing shows throughout the town. Etched in my mind is my afternoon at Elephant cave (near Bedulu village), which was nominated as a UNESCO site in 2006, and being chased by monkeys in the popular ‘Monkey Forest’. Note

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to the wise: do not take any plastic bags near the monkeys: they will assume it is food and they will come find you! Worth a mention is the delicious Ibu Oka restaurant serving babi guling (suckling pig), a Balinese specialty. This tiny restaurant has become quite a famous place to eat, but the food has not suffered as a result of their popularity: the pig is served on a heaping plate of rice, spicy vegetables, sausage and crispy skin, and was well worth multiple trips during my time in Ubud. The experience is made even more authentic by the family-style eating, sitting cross-legged under long, low tables with the other hungry customers.

Climbing Gunung Agung Climbing Gunung Agung was an important part of my time in Indonesia, and my goal was to summit at dawn on my 30th birthday. To those travelers familiar with Balinese culture, Agung’s importance is manifest throughout the island. Religion pervades everyday life in Bali and the extremely complex culture weaves a fine line between “high” and “low” spirits, an ever-shifting abacus of ceremonies and offerings. To keep the spirits in balance is the ultimate aim, and traditional villages are structured around architecture of the sacred, steeped in symbolism. Since gods are believed to live in the mountains, the most venerated area on the island remains its peaks. In contrast, the sea is at the bottom of the ceremony totem pole. Thus villages are constructed on a mountain-sea axis, with the holier portions (the temple) closer to the mountain and the less holy portions (the toilets) facing the sea. In a ceremonious culture where mountains play a critical role, it is therefore no surprise that the island’s tallest mountain, Gunung Agung, is the most important place of all. Balinese legend has it that Agung was created by the god Pasupati as a mirror of Mount Meru, the mythical mountain at the centre of the Hindu universe. A sprawling complex of temples called Pura Besakih

(the “Mother Temple”) is built high on the mountain, and serves as the primary gateway for the climb. Comprising 22 separate temples over several kilometers of land, it is a sight to behold, though it was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 1917 and was rebuilt shortly thereafter. It managed to escape mostly unscathed when Agung erupted violently in March of 1963, with the lava bubbling down Agung but bifurcating around the temple grounds. With a beautiful temple complex and a view from the highest point in Bali, it is no surprise that Agung remains a popular tourist destination. However, the mountain is also an extremely sacred destination for Balinese people, and is closed to tourists in March and April, the months where ceremonies are performed on its slopes. The mountain is also closed during rainy season, in October-May. Lucky for me, my birthday falls in August, and it was a perfect time to climb. Gunung Agung is a semi-active volcano, accessible by two main routes: via Pura Besakih, the intricate Mother Temple or Pura Pasar Agung, a smaller temple on the mountain’s southern slope. Via Besakih, the climb takes several hours longer as the trail is riddled with switchbacks and beginning with a winding route through the forest. In contrast, Pura Pasar is a straight shot up and down the mountain and is notoriously hard on the knees. I climbed via Pura Besakih, and the climb began in the middle of the night, with only my headlamp to guide the way. Past the concrete steps of the temple and into the wet jungle, my guide stopped to perform a ceremony on the trail to balance good and bad spirits around us and to bless the climb. The first half of the trail was well marked, consisting of a narrow, steep path dug into the earth. We looped around desolate trees that had fallen on the path, climbed over thick roots and brush and trudged onwards and upwards. The second part of the climb was surreal and otherworldly. The claustrophobic jungle path was replaced by the pale grey of volcanic rock when we clambered above the timberline at 3am. Around 4am, the volcanic moonscape shifted and we reached the end of an hour-long trek up a scree slope, which was replaced by larger chunks of volcanic rock. At this point, we were headed straight up, hauling ourselves up the rock face with our hands. My mind was stuck in an infinite loop of two thoughts: how beautiful this climb was under the light of the moon, and how it was going to be a real challenge to get down. Around 6am, we made it to the summit. Perched on the rocks with a sea of clouds below me, I watched the sun slowly rise over Bali and it was one of the more beautiful moments of my trip. Standing at the end of the tree line, with piles of hardened rock above me and a tropical forest below, I felt beyond lucky to cap off experience in Bali climbing a mountain so central to its existence.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US! Here at S.E.A Backpacker it’s our 1st BIRTHDAY!!

To celebrate, we asked readers to send in photos of themslves holding the magazine anywhere in South East Asia. Well you’ve certainly been busy! We recieved some awesome pics from all over the place! Thank you to everybody who sent in a photo and everybody who posed while a sneaky member of our team saw an opportune moment to capture! The TOP 3 photos have won a cool item of traveller clothing by Molecule Asia! Winners can choose from cargo pants, shorts, skirts and accessories from the website. Check out: E! Forget SECOND PRIZ u need is yo clothes, all er Mag! ck pa ck Ba SEA from the y nn Pe Thanks to rous snap mo gla s thi for UK the ‘Sea taken whilst living tyle’ in es Lif ist Gypsy Natur a whole e’s er Th . sia Malay lot more to this out! d next issue to fin

a bit of peace ths people go to just to find FIRST PRIZE!!! The dep very much to nks Tha g! Ma r cke kpa Bac and quiet to read S.E.A sent in these ster Divers in Koh Tao who Ayesha and Wilco from Ma s. amazing underwater picture

THIRD PRIZ E! SEA Backp acker mag sweeps lady off their fe boys et Eugene from in Koh Tao! (Thanks to the States. And we prom to print your ise article on M yanmar soon !)

The best of the rest...

Even Mr Thai land’s trying to get in on th e action! (Khao San Roa d, Bangkok)

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Have you he rd? Elephan t riding with SEA B ackpacker at Thai Elephant H ome, Chian g Mai.

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Winner! At Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand

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W hat’s on: Festivals and Events The “Moon” Parties Koh Phangan, Thailand Full Moon 28 July, 25 August

Each month Haad Rin sands plays host to this world renowned beach party. Up to 30,000 people rave it out to an eclectic mix of music until daybreak the next day.

Half Moon Festival 4, 18 July 3, 16 August Huge professional dance event taking place twice a month amidst the atmospheric setting of Ban Tai Jungle, Koh Phangan. Playing an eclectic mix of tech house, progressive beats and psychedelic trance, the all night party showcases the island’s finest resident DJ’s.

Black Moon Culture 12 July, 10 August

Underground trance and progressive beats resound through the air as party goers dance on the beautiful sands of Baan Tai beach. With amazing décor, live visuals and an international DJ line up every month.

Khao Phansa (Buddhist Lent) Myanmar, Laos, Thailand 27 July Khao Phansa is one of the most important occasions in the Buddhist calendar that also marks the beginning of the rainy

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season across the kingdoms of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. Also known as the ‘Buddhist Rains Retreat,’ it’s a time when monks retreat to the temple where they must remain for three months. Traditionally, this was so that they would not be in danger of treading on young plants which sprout during this season of growth. It’s a time for study and meditation and is also considered an auspicious time for ordinations into monk hood.

Phi Ta Khon Festival Loei province, Thailand 12 - 14 July

Phi Ta Khon Festival is an annual event, unique to the Isaan culture of North Eastern Thailand. Sometimes known as the ‘Ghost Festival,’ the event is similar to the Western Halloween as locals wear eerie spirit masks and don phantom costumes, while children play tricks and games in the street. The festival commemorates an old Buddhist tale, when villagers held a celebration for the return of their Prince from banishment. It is said that they made so much noise, the dead were awakened from their graves and came out to party! Musical processions pack the streets and rockets fill the sky for three days. On the last day, the villagers meet at the local temple, Wat Ponchai, to listen to monks recite the message of Lord Buddha.

Rainforest World Music Festival Sarawak, Borneo 9 - 11 July

Set in the atmospheric heart of the Borneo Jungle, Sarawak, this festival is a must attend event for all keen music enthusiasts. Featuring performances from renowned artists from all over the world, including indigenous Malaysian sounds, there’s an eclectic mix of world music, celtic fusion, socca, folk, baul, fusion and traditional. As well as nightly concerts, there are workshops, mini gigs and best of all group jamming sessions where the audience are invited to grab an instrument of their choice and get involved.

Throughout the country, Merdeka day is a day of national pride and celebration of cultural heritage. The event commemorates Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957. Particularly in the capital, there are parades, performances and events taking place. Head to Independence Square in KL to witness the celebrations.

Ramadan Indonesia 11 August - 9 September

Merdeka Day Malaysia 31 August

In Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation on the world, Ramadan is of huge importance. During a 30 day period Muslims observe fast from dawn until dusk and in many parts of the country restaurants will be closed

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during the day. Ramadan is also a time when Muslims offer prayers to Allah, ask for forgiveness for sins and attempt to purify themselves of impure thoughts and deeds. According to tradition, Ramadan marks the time when the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The fasting period ends with ‘Eid’ a huge celebratory feast, commemorated by over one billion Muslims worldwide as they say thank you to Allah for all they have been given.

Do Son Buffalo Festival Do Son, Vietnam August Two hours South of Hanoi, the small village of Do Son hosts the

annual Buffalo Festival taking place during the entire month of August. The festival showcases fights between buffalos that have been trained months beforehand by local farmers to compete in heated knock-outs. Buffalos are adorned with coloured cloth and a boisterous crowd beat drums and cheer loudly.

of cuisine and there are also cultural activities; street shows in Chinatown, riverboat cruises, music and entertainment.

streets and buildings adorned with decorations and portraits of Her Majesty. The day is also a national holiday and Mothers Day in Thailand.

Haw Khao Padap Din Laos August

Singapore Food Festival 28 June – 1 August The Queen’s Birthday Thailand 12 August The birthday of Queen Sirikit, is celebrated throughout Thailand, particularly in the capital, Bangkok. Along Ratchadamnoen Avenue near Khao San Road and around the Grand Palace, you’ll see

A festival dedicated to the pleasure of eating delicious food from all over the world. Each street serves up a unique range

Throughout the year the people of Laos have great respect for their ancestors and the deceased. However, on the night of the full moon in August, the festival of Hao Khao Padap Din, marks a specific time when the dead are remembered. In a rather sombre ritual, bones and corpses are exhumed and cremated. Gifts are offered to monks so they will chant for the deceased.

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COLA BOTTLE GASOLINE A Motorbike Adventure through Cambodia and Vietnam...

Wording and photographs by Flash Parker.

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The first thing that invariably enters your mind when a lawnmower with wheels whizzes past you at 200km/hr is just how easy they must be to crash. How many Cambodians wrap themselves around a palm tree on a daily basis? How many calamitous accidents is Saigon witness to during evening rush hour? Does anyone here have health coverage? Do I? But when my pal Adam talked me into saddling up my own dust devil and setting out on a 20-day Cambodia to Vietnam excursion, musing on crashing was the last thing I allowed into my ill-fated cranium. I was more concerned with hitting the open road, with exploration and the frontier and the penultimate experience of driving into the desert and setting Adam’s guitar on fire. It began as one half photographic expedition and one half, a half-brained testosterone-fuelled adventure; create images of South East Asia the likes of which no one has ever seen. Ride our scooters into the outback, into the unknown. Shoot on a whim, roll on fumes. Somehow, with each gust of salty wind off the coast, each city we occupied from the feral humanity-laden warrens of Siem Reap to the tranquil countryside of VĊnh Long and every musty canteen in between the odyssey became more than the sum of our whimsy musings. The road became the story of the people we met and the images a vivid diary of finite time frozen for an instant.

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I’m prone in the ditch, tangled up in my own limbs. I’ve chipped my kneecap. Dislocated my shoulder. Broken my pinky toe. My body is on fire. At least that’s the way it feels. Maybe it’s only my pride I’ve damaged. Neighborhood kids are pointing at me, giggling. Ladies washing clothes in a halved oil drum stare wide-eyed, hands covering their mouths. The guy who rented me the scooter, Srey, he’s striding across the road, a scowl riding beneath his greasy mustache. “Everything all right?” he barks. Presumably his everything is the scooter. “I hit a rough spot coming out of the lane,” I say, dusting myself off and righting the toppled moto. “You might want to check on that.” My rightside mirror has broken off. I pick it up and hand it to Srey. Srey raises an eyebrow. I don’t give him a chance to protest, to rethink renting me his formerly mint-condition machine. I hop on and hammer the gas. Blood drips from my ravaged knee and leaves a crimson trail on the road behind me. I catch up with Adam, my Canadian co-pilot in this bipedal adventure. “That was a nice wipeout,” he says. I blast my horn and toss a little nod in his direction, just enough to let him know I’m alright. Adam laughs. “You’re a crazy bastard,” he says. “Where are we headed?” In the waning light of the humid Cambodian afternoon, on the coastal highway in Sihanoukville, far from the tourist hordes and marauding hawkers, we’re free. A destination – stopping, slowing down – seems counterintuitive. I want to ride. I know deep within me that we are chasing something, something ephemeral that exists on the horizon. I need to make an image of it. I adjust the camera equipment in my lap and Adam tosses his badly tuned guitar over his shoulders as the sun dives for the horizon. We ride out to beat the setting sun to the sea. We haven’t seen the beach since Thailand and we’re not willing to pass on another opportunity. We’ve heard whispers of a beach deep down on the

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coast unlike anything we’ve ever seen before; cerulean waters, towering coconut palms with fruit ripe for plucking and an endless stretch of sand so white and so fine that you’ll vanish into an abyss of solitude should you keep still for too long. Eschewing the safety of paved roads we head deep into the back country, up and down hills along pock-marked cattle paths and through six inches of muck and filth. I topple the bike once, twice before the mud changes from cherry red to charcoal and finally ivory. Cresting one final dusty dune, the beach spreads out before us. Our reality isn’t so quixotic. Relics of Soviet opulence, bombastic seaside resorts in various stages of decay wear fragile bamboo scaffolding like funerary dressing gowns. We photograph a beached banana boat but the soft twilight is quickly giving way to dark. A haughty gloom emanates from this place. There’s dampness in the air that clings to us and won’t be wiped away. This isn’t what we came for.

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East of the coast, out into the rice terraces where the roads are untenable we push our bikes as often as we ride. We misjudged our fuel stores a little way back. Dirty, hungry, exhausted, we will our bikes into a shanty village on the banks of Ochheuteal Creek. If we’re not the first western faces these people have ever seen I’d be shocked. The children, filthy from the red clay, want their photos taken with us. The women want to show us how they broil fish. The men ask us to help them right a teetering two-storey hut wrecked by a storm that rolled through days previous. They share from their meager stores with us - kuay namuan (bananas in coconut milk), Manor Kho To Hu (caramelized pineapple and tofu) and coconut milk - and sell us gasoline for less than what they should. The fuel comes off the shelf in cola bottles, jaundiced emporiums that empty into the greedy maws of our overworked steel horses. Satiated, we roll on. We’ll remember this brief tangential trip long after the memory of the ruined beach decays into the sand and is swept into the sea.

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There’s a desert in Vietnam, but it’s nowhere near Halong Bay. It’s hundreds of miles from the Mekong Delta. Tourists don’t stumble upon it; you have to go out of your way to find it. It’s 5 a.m. and we’re going way out of the way today. I’m shivering so hard I’m about to bounce off my bike. The famed seaside heat we’ve grown so accustomed to, it vanished during the night. We’re braving these polar conditions to capture fleeting moments. Mui Ne harbor unfurls before us like a crescent moon tipped over in a bowl of water. We park our bikes and scurry down the treacherous concrete embankment to capture fishermen hauling in their catch. The sun peeks over the mountains on the horizon and bathes the shore in electric tones. The sublimity of these moments exists in their brevity. We’ve got one more to find. The highway out of Mui Ne leads to the mountains and an ancient burial ground deep in a sand swept valley. It also leads to the desert. The heat has returned and we’re sweating profusely as we whip along the coast. Two young boys scamper out into the road ahead and corral us into their parents’ roadside eatery. One wears a red scarf tied neatly around his neck. He’s younger, but he’s in charge. “You don’t wanna go that way,” red scarf says. “There’s nothing to see that way.” “How do you know what we want to see?” I ask, laughing off their game. We’ve already stopped, so in a way they’ve won. They’ll get a cut of whatever the shopkeeper can sell us; cola, fuel for our motorbikes, cigarettes, girls, automatic weapons, explosives: the list goes on. “ We want to see the sand dunes,” Adam says, as the hustlers shove him off his bike to fill it with gas we didn’t order. “Sand dunes are closed today,” red scarf says, winking at his friend. “You should stay here and have some food with us. What do you say?”

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“Maybe later,” Adam says, fixing himself for the trek across the sand. The other boy, the one without a scarf, he takes hold of Adam’s arm and gives it a tug. He opens his eyes wide and with just a hint of lachrymose he begs “do you promise?” Red Scarf winks at me and points a skinny finger over my right shoulder. “Over that hill,” he says. “Follow the sand.” We trek into the dunes, hearts pounding, sand serrating our moist eyes and our last nerves. We’ve put more than 600km on our bikes across two countries getting here and all that remains is this dusty hill. We climb upward and take the largest sandbank, galloping, persevering. I’m out of breath, I’m half blind and a boy from the eatery is trying to sell me a ride on his sand toboggan. I take one for a dollar and three more for free, the boy pushing me down the hill as fast as he can, Frosty the Snowman on my belly and he the purveyor of magic dust. Later, Adam loosens the straps on his guitar and turns to face the sunset. He plays. I make photographs. When the last glimmer of the sun slips away behind the dunes we ride back to the eatery. The kids have been replaced with their weather-worn elders, easy smiling folk quick with a kind word and an open hand. They beg us to sit with them and talk for a while. Red Scarf comes out of the kitchen with our food. “You play the guitar?” he asks, nodding at Adam. “You play me a song,” he says, smiling. He shouts something in Vietnamese and a skinny girl, maybe eight-years-old, rushes around the corner in a torrent of dust to deliver us two cold beers. She asks for money, but he shoves her away. “Leave them alone,” he says. “They’re playing for me.” It’s a close assessment of the situation. Adam’s playing; I’m gorging myself on rolls and fish sauce and chasing it with beer. Thirty minutes later, Adam’s fingers are raw and the sun is setting. I give red scarf two bucks for the gas and try to settle the rest of the bill. He shakes his hand at me and pats me on the shoulder. “Thanks for the song,” he says.

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B T Raveller thoughts, stories, tips: OFF THE BEATEN TRACK IN NORTHERN THAILAND The Golden Triangle & Beyond! By Oskar Lindhe

Many people travelling between Thailand and Laos chose to cross in the north in a city called Chiang Khong. We were crossing over from Laos after several days in Luang Prabang, and heading for the authentic northern Thai city of Chiang Rai. After almost 8 hours in a speedboat going down the Mekong River we were beat and unwilling to take a two hour bus from Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai, so we decided to stay the night in this little quaint border town which is usually just a transit point for most travellers. Well, one night turned into two, and what was supposed to be a quick stop ended up being one of the best single days we’ve had on this three month journey! The day after our Mekong journey we decided to rent a moped and explore the nearby hill villages and then perhaps if time permitted, Chiang Saen which was about 50 km’s away. Well, the drive up and down the mountains and along the Mekong was as picturesque as anything. The hill tribes were not as much tribes, as they were

villages considering they had payphones and satellite dishes in the village. We would have stayed longer but the dogs chased us out of the village. After a short stint checking out these hill tribes we headed to Chiang Saen, but upon arriving we realised we were only 6 km’s from the Golden Triangle, so we decided to kick the bike into 4th gear and go for it. To our pleasant surprise this little area was amazing. It had some of the most beautiful, grandiose, and well maintained temples we’ve seen, one in particular had an amazing view of the triangle itself. Here we also encountered a giant golden Buddha on a boat suspended several hundred feet from the waters edge, several magnificent lookouts, and some cute little eateries to enjoy some delicious Thai fare along the waters edge. It’s a small tourist attraction, but its historical significance cannot be ignored. All the hairs on your body stands on end when you‘re there. You sit high above the water and wonder what it may have looked like four centuries ago when this part of the world was bustling with excitement and trade. When the sun was about to set we headed back to Chiang Khong only to get a flat tire 10 km’s out of town. It was getting pretty dark and there was no one in sight. What to do, we thought? Well, three minutes later, miraculously, a police truck drove by and agreed to drive us back to town. Upon arriving back at the bike rental place they even agreed to take a picture with us. Neither of us had ever travelled on the back of a pick up, let alone, a police truck. I guess what this is trying to tell our fellow travellers is that a guidebook isn’t always necessary, and that amazing adventures and extraordinary sights can be found in the most unlikely of places. Sometimes you just have to deviate from your plans and let life grab you by the horns, rather then the other way around.

For most backpackers, toilet talk is a commonality. After griping about the lack of toilet paper, absence of a shower curtain, wet floors, malodorous stalls and often soap-devoid bathrooms in Asia for about two weeks, I decided to create a simple bathroom rating scale.

The score is out of five, and is comprised of the following simple “luxuries:”

are awarded for a flushing, “Western” toilet (ie no squatters or bucket 2 points flushers) 1 point for toilet paper 1 point for a sink with soap 1 final point for a hand towel

Bonus half points are distributed for luxuries such as pleasant smells, an inviting atmosphere, and heaven forbid sanitary towels.

The system is a fabulous way to warn friends of toilet conditions ahead and also serves as an entertaining distraction from the aforementioned toilet conditions. It’s always a pleasure to return from the restroom with and announce to fellow travelers that the toilet is a rare five-pointer. The average score for a Southeast Asian toilet? 2 (if you’re lucky!)

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Try our special ‘South East Asia Style’ crossword to see how clued up you are! (Answers - page 42) Big thank you to Penny Atkinson, the creator. (Of the crossword not the earth)






1. The substance responsible for old women with toothy red smiles. (5,3) 3. Who’d have thought you could have such a good kip in a huge net? (7) 6. Type of meditation. (9) 10. Primate found in Sumatra. (9) 12. Mr. Mraz. Writer of the most played (and annoying) song 2010! (5) 14. These guys have the comfiest pants! (9) 15. An unwelcome room or dinner companion. (9) 17. Angkor Wat is dedicated to this Hindu God. (6) 19. Something ladies have to do in Asian toilets. (5) 21. I f you’re drinking from this it’ll probably be a messy night. (6) 23. Fruit grown in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands. (10) 24. Ingredient in mosquito repellent. (4) 25. You can hear this woman coming in the Khao Sahn road (4,4)

6 7




11 12





2. The karsts in Krabi are made of this. (9) 4. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate or..........? (8) 21 22 5. Former name of Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam. (6) 7. You may look like a fool, but this will help you out Monsoon season. (6) 8. Stinky travellers may be in need of this! (7,7) 24 9. Ingredient in Thai soup, Tom Yum. (10) 11. Don’t forget your pajamas and earplugs if you’re sleeping here! (9) 13. Common colour for Buddhist monks’ robes (7) 16. The film ‘The Last Emperor’ is about which country’s emperor? (5) Created with EclipseCrossword — 18. Big lake in Myanmar. (Burma) (4) 20. Activity that keeps people in Vang Viang far too long. (6) 21. You can’t walk down the street in Yogyakarta (Java) without someone trying to sell you this cultural craft. (5) 22. Laos currency. (3)

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RICE = LIFE South East Asia, a rice ingrained culture

For backpackers in South East Asia rice forms part of a cheap meal. No doubt you’ll encounter it in various forms during your travels; fried rice, boiled rice, sticky rice, steamed rice, rice noodles, rice soup, rice cakes, rice porridge, you may even come across rice popcorn. There’s a good possibility that you’ve drank it too. If you’ve ever been offered some suspicious cloudy liquid by locals chances are it’s ‘rice wine’ or ‘rice whiskey.’ From Cambodia to Indonesia, most backpackers will eat rice every day of their travels without fully understanding the significance of it’s role in the survival of billions.

We begin to grasp an idea of just how inherent rice is within South East Asian culture when we look at the languages. In many countries, the word ‘rice’ is synonymous with the word ‘to eat.’ For example the expression ‘Kin Khao’ in Thailand, where Khao means rice, in Burmese “Htamin Sar” means ‘to eat a meal’, and ‘to eat rice’ and in Vietnamese ‘an com’ is used the same way. In China, the popular greeting ‘Ni Chi Le Ma’ roughly translating as ‘How’s it going?’ means literally ‘Have you eaten rice?’ There are many other metaphors within Asian languages which demonstrate the significance of rice in Asian culture.

To the people of Asia, especially for the very poorest, rice is not just a food. Rice equals life. In fact, nearly 7 out of 10 people, or two thirds of the world’s population depend on it for sustenance. For thousands of years this tiny grain has shaped the cultures, economies and environments of many countries and regions in this part of the world. Entire lifestyles are focused upon the growth and protection of this staple food.

In Indonesia, the Rice Goddess, Dewi Sri is worshipped widely in many parts of Java and Bali as a symbol of life and fertility. Dewi Sri is regarded as a kind of ‘Mother Nature’ with control over this blessed ‘food of life’. Through her influence over the harvests, she harnesses the power to grant health, wealth and prosperity or bestow hunger and famine. Offerings are given every year at the ‘Rice Harvest Festival’ as agricultural workers say thank you for an abundant harvest and all year in the rice fields you will see small shrines dedicated to the Dewi Sri called ‘Karangtengah.’ You will also see Balinese people wet their foreheads or chests and stick grains of rice to their skin in an attempt to soak up Dewi Sri’s powerful life force.

More than 90% of the world’s rice is produced by Asian farmers, Vietnam and Thailand being amongst the highest exporters of rice in the world. Just looking around us we can see how the growth of rice has shaped the landscape in many areas. Cultivated, neat rice terraces clinging to steep hillsides, shining a dazzling bright green are striking images of South East Asia that can be seen in Sapa, Vietnam, and Bali, Indonesia among other places. One of the most famous rice plantations in Asia can be found in Luzon in the Philippines, with the Banaue and Ifuago Rice Terraces claiming status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Skillfully carved out of the mountain more than 2,000 years ago using only primitive tools and an ingenius irrigation system, these rice terraces are a fascinating example of living architecture.

34 S.E.A Backpacker

Deeply embedded within the spiritual heritage of the people who tend to it, rice has become sacred and revered. Many countries in South East Asia still worship rice in the form of a Goddess (nearly always female ie. a mother figure) – whose existence predates today’s major religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.

In Thailand, Mae Po Sop, the Siamese Rice Goddess is worshipped by farmers as part of an ancient custom. Offerings known as Cha laew are bestowed to Mae Po Sop at each stage of rice production to ensure that she provides all of the village with a plentiful harvest and enough rice to eat for the coming year. The annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony takes place in Bangkok in front of the Grand Palace to launch ‘rice-growing season’ in May. Seeds are scattered by the “Lord of the Festival” and afterwards audience members rush to gather the grains to take home to mix with their own seeds for prosperous harvest. Similarly, in Cambodia, Po Ino Nogar is the Rice Goddess. In rural villages you will see food offerings in rice paddies as a prayer from farmers for protection from the benevolent spirit. But what for the future of traditional rice production? Like the descendants of the rice growers of Luzon, many young people in South East Asia prefer to work in the cities and the tourist industry rather than to cultivate rice as their ancestors have done for thousands of years. Traditional ways are being eroded by modern technology and rice production as a culture and way of life and it’s associated rituals are uncertain. And we shouldn’t just worry for the rice field itself. The rice field is a living entity – home to many animals such as fish, eels, prawn, frogs – then, there’s the insects that they eat and the animals higher in the food chain that eat them. It’s part of a delicate eco-system that many creatures depend on for survival. With modernisation it is becoming more important to develop more and faster producing grain. The use of pesticides and modern machinery threaten to tamper with the delicate balance. As rice is frequently grown more as a commercial product rather than subsistence farming – people need to make sure that we don’t lose this precious system in the larger system of modernisation and profit. As the ancient Chinese proverb states,,,,’precious things are not pearls and jade but the five grains, of which rice is the finest.’

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Are you a backpacker Fashion Victim?


By Charla Allyn

Fisherman pants

Without these, a backpacker would be naked. Perfectly suited to any traveler activity - lounging on a beach, elephant riding, trekking, and, most importantly, long trips in trains, planes, automobiles, and stinky buses. The best are the silky ones from Khao San Road and the thicker, embroidered ones from the Sunday Night Market in Chiang Mai.



Wherever you go in Southeast Asia, you’ll find beautiful scarves. In the majority of places, they are silk, but there are heaps of stunning cotton ones to be found as well. They make perfect gifts for anyone, and they take up very little space in your backpack. Like fisherman’s pants, you’ll want them in every colour as well as an extra picnic-printed korama from Cambodia to cover your face on the dusty tuk-tuk rides.



The close neighbour to the scarf but,perhaps more versatile. Beach mat, blanket, towel, wall decoration, rug, skirt, dress, hair wrap, napsack or cover up at temples. I even once used a sarong to bandage a friend’s bleeding foot at a beach party. Pick one up from the old lady selling them off her shoulder on the beach for 100 baht (3 USD) or hold out for fancier ones in Bali for 40,000 rupiah (4 USD).


Beer shirts

Singha, Chang, Tiger, Beer Lao, Bintang, Angkor. You’ve been drinking these local brews throughout your travels, so why not remember it with a shirt? Pick up the local specialty with your next beer tower.


Cheap Headgear

Headbands for girls: Add a headband to your salty locks and instantly become a Greek goddess for the night’s beach party. (Guys’ option: the Jason Mraz hat. You put it on, and I won’t hesitate no more…I’m yours!)

36 S.E.A Backpacker

A quick stroll along the Khao San Road and anyone can see that there’s a certain dress code for the backpacker in South East Asia. A uniform if you like; from the clothes to the accessories to the hair style - you can spot a backpacker a mile off. Many put their own unique twist on this conventional look, but if you didn’t get the memo - get down to the market NOW and pick up these 10 essential items to make sure you’re not the geek at school.

4. Street sunnies

Kucci, Channel, Ray Band, Ookleys, the bigger and more colourful, the better. Armed with your best bartering skills, find the best deals on branded gigs in a night market near you.


“In the Tubing” shirt

Whether you remember it or not, you’ve been on every rope swing down the river, starting with the big zip line at Bar One. You’ve played volleyball in the mud pit and experienced Slide Bar. Your friends have covered you in handwritten tattoos, and the Q bar staff have spray-painted Q’s anywhere you will let them. How else are you going to commemorate your time there than with this backpacker’s wardrobe staple?


Jewellery with a story

Many people collect a different piece from every place they visit; a reminder of places and people. Some of my fave pieces include: Cambodian silver cuffs, and, of course, the giant Chiang Mai beads. If your looking for something with a name on it, don’t forget the knock-offs to be found in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown.


Sundresses / Boardies: A sundress is perhaps the easiest outfit in the word. It’s an outfit in itself, so just throw on some of your awesome jewelry and you’re set. Extra benefit: works as a breezy swimsuit cover-up. (Guys’ option: street boardies. Where else can you pick up a pair of board shorts for the same price as your curry?)


The cloth bag

Bedazzled or not, there are size requirements to be met. It must hold at least a 1.5L 7-11 bottle of water, a copy of Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a Shoestring, camera, travel journal, wallet, spare swimsuit, and, if you’re lucky, a kitchen sink.

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The Art of Karaoke... It’s 2am, cold, dark and misty. Coats buttoned up to the necks, we march down the rocky trail that cuts through the tiny village of Huay Xai in Northern Vietnam, across a rickety bridge over the raging river, passing by silent huts and sleeping buffalo. Hands cold, bellies warm and full of the potent local moonshine, Xeo that had been generously supplied by our hosts back at the h o m e - s t a y, we march buoyantly through the night focused on our final destination -

the hot late night spot on the other side of town – the local Karaoke Bar! We roll up at a tiny joint consisting of two people, one of whom was asleep in a chair, a flickering fridge, a few chickens running around the stone floor and the prized item, the gleaming karaoke

machine! ‘Zoom’ our guide excitedly runs over to take to the stage the minute we arrive. With no English songs apart from a badly synched version of Whitney’s ‘I will always love you’ we were completely upstaged by our Vietnamese counterparts as they sung the night away to love song after love song. A favourite being ‘An Noi soi du em Suk Quok Doi,‘ translated to us as ‘I in you. Together we give life you.’ Romantic stuff. As a backpacker in South East Asia, at some point on your travels you’ll no doubt encounter the incredible Asian obsession with karaoke. (Or Empty Orchestra – as it translates from native Japanese.) From tiny joints in mountain villages in Laos to swanky establishments in bustling cities such as Singapore, you may try but you cannot escape karaoke in Asia! It’s a cultural phenomenon; an obsession that us Westerners just can’t get our heads round! What’s all the fuss about? From my experience in England, karaoke is something you do at the end of a (very) drunken night. Someone jokingly suggests the karaoke bar and the rest of the giggling party agree. Inhibitions lost through copious amounts of alcohol, it’s a ‘one-off’ ‘a laugh’ and something you’ll try to forget the next day as your friend shows you a video of yourself on their mobile phone gyrating your hips and singing to ‘Addicted to Lurve!’ In Asia, it’s a different story. I first came across karaoke in my first week in Bangkok when I stayed at a hostel with a restaurant downstairs that catered to karaoke 24/7. After being kept awake several nights in a row to sounds akin to animals being slaughtered, I decided to investigate the spot. Peering in giving everyone evils for keeping me awake, the scene wasn’t what I imagined at all. Civilised, well dressed people sat down at tables quietly eating their dinner stopped every now and again to sing a song, and then without a word go back to eating, as they passed the microphone to the next person. Karaoke it seemed was part and parcel of an average evening meal. It wasn’t performed for ‘a laugh’ by boisterous drunks like in the West and it certainly wasn’t tagged onto the end of a night – it was the night. And unlike the West, unfortunately, Asian Karaoke is not just confined to the limits of the Karaoke Bar. You’ll encounter it in the most unusual of places! Buses being one of the most fun (read: potentially suicidal) places to experience the art. Now you may ask – who the hell wants to sing karaoke on a bus? Surely it’s a time for

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 om g.c ma ker info@seabackpac 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

38 S.E.A Backpacker

sitting quietly, looking out of the window, contemplating life and the universe. Not at all! A moment of silence must be filled. We must take this opportunity to pass around a microphone and screech at the top of our lungs at a deafening decibal level to sickly love songs booming from the screen. Watching the music videos are always entertaining too (for no longer than three minutes that is.) The story usually goes something like this: girl loves boy, boy loves girl, girl texts boy, boy doesn’t text back, girl looks at picture of boy in frame, girl strokes cheek with cuddly toy, boy replies to text, girl loves boy, boy loves girl, I vomit. For long bus rides ear plugs are a good idea or perhaps a vuvuzela would drown out the noise - if you have one handy that is. When backpacking in Siem Reap, I learnt more about the obsession. I had the great honour of attending a Cambodian wedding. Sat in the guest house, the local guys were rushing around picking up suits and shirts from the launderette and getting themselves all dapper. When I asked what the occasion was they told me it was their friends wedding and would I like to go? Yes of course! The wedding was amazing. Seven courses of delicious Cambodian food and as much beer as we could drink! As the only ‘barang’ at the event, my friend and I were fussed over and weren’t allowed to sit down as we were dragged up for dance after dance. By far the most astonishing part of the wedding was the continuous karaoke routine. Right from the beginning of the night before a drop of alcohol was consumed the young male guests at the wedding were up on the stage belting out gushy love songs. Each one of them sung like a Cambodian Michael Buble, with heartfelt expressions and melodious voices. Imagine this scene at a Western wedding! Before they would even dream of taking the microphone, an average Western bloke would need about 10 pints down them and only then for a horrendous rendition of ‘we are the champions’ surrounded by a load of drunken football mates. How different things were. So, after coming across it numerous times, I decided if I can’t beat them, I’d join them and I ventured to a ‘real life’ Thai Karaoke bar with some of my Thai friends. In good hands, I was a little nervous, but being a ‘Korean barbecue’ and a karaoke all in one – I figured I was in for a treat! Sure to my research, there would be no time to get hammered beforehand and the minute we arrived it was straight to the karaoke booth to start singing. It was serious stuff! Not only were the rest of the group completely silent, observing while the singer performed, at the end of the song percentages were awarded for how well they had sung. The percentage was quite clearly selected at random as an 89% flashed up on the screen after a horrific, horribly out of tune humming of a Thai pop song by yours truly. In that moment I may have even gathered an inkling of understanding for the obsession. I felt good. Everyone clapped when I finished. I felt like I’d just performed in the ‘Eurovision Song Contest.’ I was a star even if I should have received nil points.

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mo m e portant Im


Brunei Darussalam:

Currency: Brunei Dollar, divided into 100 cents. Exchange rate: $1 USD = $1.38 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: Brunei Darussalam is one of Asia’s oldest kingdoms. Chinese documents exist dating back to the 6th and 7th centuries refer to Brunei Darussalam as Puni or Puli. Ambulance: 991 Fire: 995 Police: 993


Currency: Cambodian Riel (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 4,200 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. Pre-order 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: Cambodians greet each other by putting their palms together in front of their bodies and bowing. The

40 S.E.A Backpacker

gesture known as a ‘sompeah’ is usually initiated by the younger or lower ranked person. 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: 99% of people in East Timor are Roman Catholic; a legacy of Portuguese colonial rule. However, like in many South East Asian countries, animist beliefs are still held which have become more cultural rather than religious practice. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 7233212 Police: 112


Currency: Indonesian Rupiah Exchange rate: $1 USD = 9,050 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) terimah 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: The gorgeous island of Bali in Indonesia has been called many names; ‘Rice Island’ by early explorers, ‘chicken island’ because of its shape and also the ‘Island of the Gods’ simply because people have in mind that Gods dwell in paradise. Emergency numbers: (Java) Fire: 113 Police: 110 Medical assistance: 118, 119


Currency: Lao KIP (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 8,240 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: During the Vietnames War, between 1964 and 1973 there were over 260 million bombs dropped on Laos by the US. Today many unexploded bombs (UXO’s) remain in countryside areas which injure thousands of locals every year. Emergency numbers: (Vientiane) Ambulance: 195 Fire: 190 Police: 191


Currency: Malaysian Ringgit Exchange rate: $1 USD = 3.22 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: Salam (Hello) Terimah 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: The longest King Cobra in the world was captured alive in Port Dickson in 1937. The world record breaking snake was 5.54 metres long. 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: On the hillside of Yangon, Myanmar’s capital, the Shwedagon Pagoda is said to hold eight hairs of Siddartha Guatama. (the Buddha) The actual structure is a solid gold bell shaped structure encrusted with 4000 diamonds and a 76 carat diamond perched on the top. Emergency numbers: (Yangon) Ambulance: 192 Police: 199 Fire: 191

The Philippines:

Currency: Peso, divided into 100 centavos. Exchange rate: $1 USD = 46.4 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 capital of the Philippines, Manila is named after a white flowered mangrove plant, the nilad. The shores of Manila Bay are full of the shrub. Emergency numbers: Fire, Ambulance, Police: 117


Currency: Singapore Dollar Exchange rate: $1 USD = 1.48 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: Changi Airport, Singapore’s national airport received the honour of being named ‘best airport in the world’ several times by the Business Traveller magazine. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 995 Police: 999 Fire: 995


Currency: Thai Baht Exchange rate: $1 USD = 32.3 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: The current King of Thailand is a world renowned saxophonist who has played with jazz legends like Benny Goodman, Stan Getz and Benny Carter. He has also composed his own music. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 1669 Fire: 199 Police: 191


Currency: Vietnamese Dong Exchange rate: $1 USD = 18,970 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: It is against the law to put your hands in your pockets whilst visiting Ho Chi Mihn’s Mausoleum in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. 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 25.6.10) 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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A network protecting children from all forms of abuse. Please support the ChildSafe hotel network members. An initiative of Friends-International

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hotels and guesthouse members as follows: KU Home Wendy House Grande Ville Hotel Bangkok Siam Guest House Pannee house Hotel De' Moc New Joe Guesthouse New World City Hotel

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