OC SEP -
The essential magazine for all travellers through South East Asia.
VOLUNTEERING Real life experience & Advice
BURMA: Stepping Back in Time
B A C K PA C K E R D I A R I E S
Tales from the road in Thailand
“A journey is be
” . s e l i m n a h t r e h t nds ra (Tim Cahill) measured in frie
I’ve been on seven different forms of transport in 17 hours, my bum is numb, the Cadbury’s chocolate my friends bought me as a treat from England has melted all over my rucksack AND there’s a drunk guy next to me who keeps poking me while I’m trying to sleep on this rickety old train. Despite the situation, everything is alright. At the moment, I’m lucky enough to be travelling with some of my best friends and whatever unfortunate event occurs, guaranteed we’ll find the humour in the situation and all of a sudden our hardships don’t seem half as bad. Who knew that having traveller’s diarreoah or falling off a motorbike could be so damn funny! I started my journey as a solo traveller. Arriving in my first destination, Kathmandu, I stepped off the plane naive and nervous about the prospect of traveling alone. I’d wanted to travel on my own from the very beginning. Shunning family fears of a 24 year old girl on the road alone, not to mention my own paranoias - it was something I just knew I had to do. Half in an attempt to prove that I was grown up enough not to lose my passport, get thrown in a foreign prison or become a hippie and set up home with the hill tribes of the North. (Although I have come close to a one or two of these! This was MY adventure, MY journey. Personal development, finding myself or whatever you want to call it, that’s how it began. Me, myself and I. And although a little lonely at times, that was just fine. However, as most of you will know, it’s impossible to stay alone in Asia for very long - even if you wanted to. People are so friendly that you make travel companions instantly. I always found it amazing how you would meet someone on a bus that day and end up sharing a room with them that night. In a short space of time you get to know people so well you feel like you’ve known them forever. It was a huge difference for me coming from a busy English city where if you started a friendly chat to someone on the train in an attempt to make friends you’d be regarded as a big weirdo! Looking back over my time backpacking, I feel that each step along the way I met people that taught me something new. Learning about the different upbringings of friends I met travelling meant that I wasn’t just learning about the country I was backpacking in, but many different cultures across the world. Naama, the glamorous Israeli man-eater, Ned, the crazy beer guzzling Irishman, Serj, the Swedish philosopher, Tess and Mark, the spiritual English couple. Meeting people brought new ideas, new ways of looking at the world and new inspiration about the thousands of different ways there are to live your
life on this planet. I met people that I could never meet in the local pub back home and learnt things I could have never learnt sat behind a desk. Many people leave home for a reason and although ‘finding yourself’ may be a bit cliche, we all travel to learn more about ourselves.While travelling alone can be interesting in terms of becoming more independent and getting to know yourself, I have since discovered that meeting people plays a huge part in this development. I think that the most profound moments of my travels were moments that I shared with others. When I ask backpackers about their favourite places and memories from their travels; they rarely speak of landscapes and sights. More often than not they talk about interesting characters and great friends that they met that made a certain place wonderful for them. ‘A great crowd of people.’ ‘A fantastic group of friends.’ You’ll remember the people you met in a place long after the memories of the views have faded. And maybe I’m getting soppy in my old age (I’m nearly 26!) but through all my time travelling it was the moments shared that have become etched in my memory and have become real special. Even if you can’t speak the same language as another, it may be just a glance with a child as you both watch a lantern fly into the sky. It’s human connection and shared appreciation of this diverse, interesting world that is what it is all about for me.
By Nikki Scott.
Haad Khuad Haad Khuad Resort
Koh Phangan, Thailand
private a n o ome Find h n paradise! i beach Tel: +66 (0) 77 445 153-4 or +66 (0) 81 849 6716 154/1 Moo.1, Koh Phangan, Surat thani 84280 Thailand Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
C ontents : Features : Word on the soi: What do
14 you miss from home?
16 Volunteering in South East Asia BACKPACKER PHOTOS:
22 Around the world in your underpants FASHION: 40 BACKPACKER Which trend are you following? ARTS: 42 BACKPACKER The Best books to read on the road
D estination spotlight : 10 Burma: Stepping back in time 26 Thailand: Backpacker Diaries BACKPACKER FOOD:
38 10 Foods to eat like a local in Bangkok
R egulars : 8 South East Asia Map & Visa Info 24 Events & Festivals: Whatâ€™s on? 34 Traveller stories, thoughts, tips. 36 Backpacker Games: Crossword & Sudoku INFO: 44 BACKPACKER Visas, exchange rates, climates & more Cover photo by Cody Mckibben ThrillingHeroics.com S.E.A Backpacker 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 ownerâ€™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, August 2010.
S.E.A Backpacker Co., Ltd. Registration Number 0205552005285. ISSN NO. 1906-7674 20/18 Moo. 5, Soi siam Countryclub, Pong, Banglamung, Chonburi, 20150.
Tel: 081 776 7616 (Thai) 084 553 8996 (Eng) Fax: 038 072 078 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Backpacker South East Asia is Published by S.E.A. Backpacker Company. Managing Director: Nikki Scott. (E-mail: email@example.com) Editor: Nanchaya Jaikaew. (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) Accounts: Yanisa Jaikaew. Artwork: Saksit Chankrajang. Design & Layout: S.E.A. Backpacker Company Limited. Sales & Marketing: Rujirapat Wad-udom, Kitti Boon Sri. Web Design & Consultancy: Cody McKibben. Contributing Writers and Photographers: Nikki Scott, Katie Schouler, Eugene Lee, Dwight Turner, Jessica Bryn, Maureen Chen, Jack Gooding, Greg Christensen, Michael Horton, Brad Hoff, Courtney Muro, Kaberly Doerr, Danielle Walker, Jacqui Peters, Mark Wiens, Ant and Elise Molitic, Jodi Ettenberg, Cody McKibben, Des Scott. Advertising Enquiries: Tel: +66(0)81 776 7616 (Thai), +66(0)84 553 8996 (Eng) Email: email@example.com Writing Opportunities: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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V isa I nformation Brunei Darrussalam: Nationals of most European countries, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand do not need a Visa for visits of up to 30 days. USA citizens can stay for up to 90 days. Cambodia: Most nationalities can obtain a 1 month tourist visa upon arrival which costs around $20. At land border crossings, notably the Thailand/ Cambodia border, the fee can be more expensive as the cost is paid in baht and is sometimes rounded up considerably. East Timor: Nationals from Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA do not need to arrange a visa in advance. They can be granted upon entry into East Timor and cost $30 for 30 days. Portuguese nationals can stay up to 90 days on a tourist visa. Indonesia: Nationals of Australia, Canada, USA, UK and most European countries are eligible for a 30 day visa upon entry, which costs $25 USD. You can also obtain a 7-day visa at $10. Laos: Most nationalities can obtain a 30 day visa for Laos at international airports and land border crossings. The cost ranges from $20 - $42 depending on nationality. At the Thailand/Laos border if you pay in Thai baht the fee will be more expensive. Malaysia: Most nationalities are granted a free 30-90 day entry pass upon arrival at international airports and border crossings. Myanmar: Visas should be arranged in advance at a travel agency or Embassy. Costs can range from $20 - $50 for a 28 day visa, depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting. Philippines: Tourist visas are free of charge for most nationalities for a stay up to 21 days. For longer stays you should apply for a visa before you arrive at a Philippine Embassy. Visas for 3 months, 6 months or 12 months are available. Cost depends on duration of stay. Singapore: Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the UK and most other European countries are granted either a 14 or 30day tourist pass upon entry to Singapore. Thailand: Most nationalities, including Americans, Australians and most Europeans receive a free 30 day tourist visa upon arrival into Thailand by air. However, if arriving by land you will only receive 15 days. Vietnam: Visas must be arranged in advance. You can do this at a Vietnamese embassy in whichever country you are in and some travel agencies also offer the service. Depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting, it can cost anywhere between $35 and $65 for a 30 day visa. â€˘ 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 23.8.10) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at firstname.lastname@example.org if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)
South China Sea
Davao Zamboanga Kota Kinabalu
Bandar Seri Begawan
Sarawak Kuching Pontianak
Indonesia Java Gili Islands Bali
Nusa Tengarra Flores
East Timor S.E.A Backpacker
Wording by Katie Schouler Photography by Eugene Lee
Burma - Stepping Back in Time... “This is Burma,” wrote Kipling, “and it will be quite unlike any land you know about.” Isolated from the rest of the world, Burma retains a sensual, sultry charm. In the summer months the heat hangs low and hazy, trapping the smoke of cheroots, traffic fumes and the heady sweetness of incense. Men dress in longyis (long sarong style skirts). Women’s faces are smeared with thanaka (tree bark). Through browned teeth, men chew betel-nuts, spitting dollops of blood red juice onto the earthen ground. Down on the banks of the Irrawaddy in Yangon, men ferry back and forth loading up dilapidated 1940s flotilla ships with an assortment of wares, the loads measured out in coloured sticks. Women chatter in groups, metal lunch-boxes in hand, in the early morning mist on the way to the mines. The much herald new asphalt roads quickly give way to pot holes. Ox-drawn carts clatter through narrow streets leaving plumes of dust. Entering Burma is like stepping back in time. Those who do enter tend to stick to a kite shaped tour of the ‘big four’: Yangon, Bagan, Inle Lake and Mandalay.
Yangon In downtown Yangon (Rangoon), the decaying mildewed facades of grand colonial buildings straddling wide avenues hark back to the days of British rule. Today Yangon is a vibrant mix of Burmese, Shan, Chinese, Mon and Indian communities. Across the city Hindu temples nestle next to mosques, churches and pagodas in a surprising show of religious liberalism. Dominating the skyline, the shining glory of any trip to Yangon is the Shwedagon Pagoda. Clad in an estimated 60 metric tons of gold plates, and encrusted with over 5000 diamonds and 2000
other precious gems, the Shwedagon Pagoda is breathtaking. The pagoda is crowned by a single fist sized 76 carat diamond; pagoda proud monks guide you with pin point precision to the best vantage points to capture the diamond in its many colours. Rising 328m tall, the citizens of Yangon live out their lives in its shadow. Believed to house eight hair relics of the Buddha, it is the most sacred Buddhist site in Burma. Dotted around the vast complex are smaller temples, where the faithful worship, make offerings to Deities or simply stroll. Pretentious and showy as the superlatives might sound, the Shwedagon Pagoda
is anything but. Revered and loved by the people, the Shwedagon Pagoda exudes a beauteous serenity. It catches your breathe and slows your heart.
Inle Lake Located in the Shan Province, Inle Lake is a great placid sheet of shallow water rimmed by mountains. Inhabited (mainly) by the Intha people, they live out their entire lives in the lake. Villages are built on stilts. At the big floating markets every Wednesday goods are traded between boats. Crops are cultivated on floating gardens. Children are ferried to school by boat. The landscape is stunning and earthworldly, made even more so by the mesmerising leg-rowers, fishermen who propel the boat with one leg curled around the oar. Inle Lake is like another world. For many backpackers it serves as a calm start or ending point for treks into the mountains to visit the diverse ethnic minority groups in the surrounding areas. On the western shore is In Dein Temple, the site of hundreds of pagodas and ruins amid overgrown vegetation. Here you can live out your Indiana Jones fantasies. Like a perfectly choreographed piece of film, an old woman smoking a cheroot emerged from the ruins.
of the population are forced to live in abject poverty, devout Buddhist faith and belief in re-incarnation mean that what money people have is lavished on the temples. Deferred hope maybe.
Bagan The capital of the first Myanmar Empire, Bagan is one of the richest archaeological sites in South East Asia with structures dating from the 11th - 14th centuries. Whilst the temples do not rival those of Angkor Wat in scale, with 4000 stupas scattered across a dusty plain spanning 40 square miles, Bagan offers unrivalled vistas and uninterrupted panoramas. At sunrise and sunset the landscape is especially captivating, taking on an ethereal charm. Following a huge earthquake in 1975 some questionable restoration has taken place, however, this hasn’t dented the magic of Bagan. Low tourist numbers mean that you often have temples to yourself, enabling you to survey this stunning forever-scape in undisturbed serenity. Most people hire an authentic horse-cart with driver for 10,000 / day to take them round the temples, although if you can stand the heat cycling around the ruins is a magical experience.
Mandalay Immortalized by Kipling and later Sinatra, Mandalay is one of the most alluring place names in the world. Home to 60% of Burma’s estimated 500,000 monks, Mandalay’s streets are awash with red robes. Rumour has it that Chinese investment in the red, green and white trades - namely rubies, jade and heroin - is fuelling a boom in the city. However, seemingly playing a game of ‘musical palaces,’ it is the ancient cities of Ava, Amarapura and Sagaing that entice many visitors. Clattering through dirt tracks on horse cart en route to Ava amid plumes of dust, you experience the real ‘off the beaten track’ travel that is hard to come by elsewhere in South East Asia. Watching ox-drawn carts in the dusty fields you get an insight into ‘lived in’ Burma. Yet belying its poverty, Burma’s truly is the land of gold. At the Mahamuni Paya every day the devoted re-cover the central Buddha statute with gold leaf, with the inches of gold leaf giving the statute a lumpy, alien like appearance. Burma is a fascinating contradiction. Whilst most S.E.A Backpacker
Although Myanmar is the biggest mainland country in South East Asia and only a short sidestep from the high-trafficked Thailand, it remains with East Timor as one of the least destined countries in the region; a fact that only strengthens our perception of it being a world apart from a world. When it comes to unfolding travel plans, it seems taboo to speak of the place, as if it was disowned by the rest of Southeast Asia, a forsaken sister. Even to us backpackers Myanmar seems to approach us with this misconceived notion that it is too dangerous, ethically controversial and generally unworthy of the time and effort to commit to travel. But then hey, stereotype on backpackers—a bunch of dirty hippies, with dreaded hair and wardrobe from India, after having failed to adapt to civil society have gone into hiding in the abandoned corners of the world, ranting and continuing to survive on 150 baht a day—is a bit of an exaggeration, no? (Though we all arguably have come across an individual or two who fits the figure described.) In simple words Myanmar is beautiful and amazing, and it deserves the chance to better your soul. By Eugene Lee
Before you go...
Where you can and can’t go...
1. Book a flight!
Myanmar is divided into seven divisions and seven states. Think of the country as if it is a whole fried egg: the yellow yolk in the centre can be travelled by foreigners, but the egg whites would be restricted. Theoretically, you can travel to see all the states/divisions, though some permits take around two weeks to approve with a deep hole burning in your back pocket. You should not go venturing off into restricted zones, even if you’ve obtained a ride to there. It can get serious if you are caught in the rot. Also, foreigners are not allowed to be on school properties. It is your responsibility to know the restrictions. By land, you can travel south as far as Maylamine without an additional permit. The beaches facing the Bay of Bengal, such as Ngapali Beach, are a bit more difficult to access by land but worth it, although the price range there is much higher than the rest of Myanmar. Many travellers tend to stick to the big four, as detailed above.
Gasp! A plane ticket. But in order to travel within the country officially, you will a plane ticket into Yangon. The entry into Myanmar from Thailand by land will not permit you to travel within it as your passport will be held at the border office on the Myanmar side and you cannot go any further (borders are only good for visa runs). You can fly direct from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Air Asia is known to be the cheapest with a 2 week-advance ticket, so buy ahead of time.
2. Apply for a visa: The Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok (a short walk from Surasak BTS station) can process your application in three business days for 810 Baht. Do not dare to apply as a photographer, journalist, writer, NGO worker, or anything of those sorts because there is a screening interview as you submit your application. The interview is fairly easy unless you had already flagged yourself in the application. You don’t need a proof of a plane ticket to get your visa.
3. Bring crispy, new US Dollar bills: The USD is a currency of choice in Myanmar. You will mainly need 1, 5, and 10 bills for dollar use, other than the big bills for your initial exchange for Kyat (pronounced “Chet”). Remember to bring bills in mint-condition as creased, old, torn, or wet bills are never accepted.
There are no ATMs within the country. Make sure you prepare your budget beforehand. Although some hotels have credit card cash advance for—ready to hear it? - a 20% service charge.
While you’re there... Money Business: To your relief, the foreigner pricing in Myanmar is minimal, and aside from bus ticketing (+40%) it is hardly noticeable. The $USD can be substituted for any purchases, though you will get a less favorable rate of 1000K to $1 USD. Exchanging money is not hard, though competitive rates are in Yangon and Mandalay. If you really want to piss your money away, exchange at the banks or the exchange kiosk in the airport, for a killer rate of 7 Kyat to 1 USD. It is not hard to find as plenty of street people will ask you to come to their “shop”, where you can exchange anywhere from 1000 to 1300 Kyat per 1 USD, depending on the amount you are trading. Take your time counting and checking when exchanging money, because torn bills cannot be used in Myanmar. Beer, a popular price index, costs about 1,500K for a bottle of Myanmar or Mandalay bran, with beer stations serving draught for about 700K. You will rarely pay more than 4,000K for a meal at a normal restaurant, and having a cup of tea/coffee and samosa each day is a must!
Transport: Before you start, plan a general route. By law, foreigners are not allowed to rent motorcycles. Instead, you can hire a driver and hold onto his waist from the back seat for about $10/day. Trains are government-operated and expensive, but also slow and prone to lowspeed derailing if you are traveling outside established routes. There is a good boat service between Mandalay and Bagan to spice up your mixture of transport methods. Like many other SE Asia countries, Myanmar buses will seat aisles and about 50 more people than what-you-thought-was-already-full. The “VIP” (air-con) buses are generally much roomier, and price difference is trivial. If you don’t plan on karaoke-ing through the night with the locals, bring ear plugs. If you want an unforgettable Spartan bus experience, try the Bagan-Inle Lake or the Yangon-Ngapali Beach route. In general it is rare to see a post-1980’s vehicle in Myanmar. If you are planning a rough road route, hiring a solid car will likely require dipping past your scheduled budget.
Communication: Wealthy flashpackers aside, most of us can’t afford a mobile phone here. It costs over $2000 to arrange a SIM card. Internet is readily available, even in smaller cities. Available, but not to be confused with fast. If you are a Hotmail/Yahoo!/GMX user, welcome to the Gmail bandwagon. The latter is (supposedly) not monitored by the government and thus will deliver your Myanmar letters all 100% of the time without any delay. Youtube, Blogspot, and other opinion-announcing websites are blocked. Ironically, you can still poke your friend on Facebook.
Climate/Seasons: October marks the beginning of wet season and April is the peak of the dry heat. There won’t be any transportation obstacles arising from season changes, but it can get much colder, especially in Shan State and Sagain Division. Most of Myanmar is more north than any other SE Asian countries!
Accommodation: Breakfast is always included with your guest house stay! Singles and triples are on the rare side, and dorms are almost non-existent (we only found one dorm during the whole trip). Don’t worry about booking ahead of time (even during high season).
Photography: In one word? Unbelievable. Myanmar is a photographer’s playground. Bring some extra memory cards or film as it can be hard to fuel up on quality supplies once you are out of Yangon. Some of the best spotted sunset/sunrises—Shwe Dagon (Yangon), Teakwood Bridge (Mandalay), Nam Ban Market (Inle Lake), Temples of Bagan. For you serious goers, try the Balloons over Bagan ($250/hr) or the Northern Scenery Tour (2 weeks by train, 1200 Euros).
Ethical Considerations: We urge those who are thinking about visiting Myanmar to fully inform themselves about the governmental situation in advance and make their own judgement on whether it is ethical or not to travel. Those who make the decision to visit must be aware that best intentions aside, some money will inevitably filter down to the regime. That said, independent tourism expenditure is one of the few avenues of income for many local people.
W ord on the soi:What do you miss from home?!
What an odd thing travel is. You fly off to a strange land, eagerly abandoning all the comforts of home, and then expend vast quantities of time and money in a largely futile attempt to recapture the comforts that you wouldn’t have lost if you hadn’t left home in the first place!
(Bill Bryson) I miss real ch eese and fre herbs even sh more than fre sh coffee. W have though ho’d t? And my fa mily, of cour (Gayle Pescu se! d, Australia)
(The most popular answer! You soppy ugh lot missing your dear old mammy. Altho the verbs cooking / washing / ironing... frequently followed! )
Bagels! Or actually GO OD bagels! (Todd Wasse l, At the mom ent in Kosov o)
ans and Wearing je heels! I’m gh hi on putting packer! sh such a fla SA) (Debbie, U
HP Sauce . The hours I spent na ming every have with thing I cou good old b ld rown sauce me awake , it kept for 2 hours one night obsessing I was that much ! Nom Nom (Lucy Ash . worth, UK )
Getting up on the cold dark morning s. Driving an work in the hour to rain on the M6 motorway Want me to . go on….? N OTHING! (Bitter, Engla nd)
It has to be the roast dinn my mum mak ers es. I miss th em very muc h! (Dany K, Ban gkok)
to Being able e sure of b d n a s u get on a b n! o ti a n ti the des Zealand) w e N , n (Shaw
Iris Nothin h sausage s! g else in the come world s clo (Jona thon M se. cCow en, Irelan d)
gs... e Tea Ba w like Yorkshir re b a e k cant ma ome. they just h k c a b they can gland) nd Li, En (Raymo The two things I miss from home are ski-ing and Chipotle Burrito. Yum :-) (Chris Castellani, California)
Bill’s got a point. We are an odd bunch us travellers; sleeping in cockroach infested dorm rooms, coping with arduous bus journeys and depriving ourselves of the luxuries of our previous ‘non-backpacking’ life. But hey, you wouldn’t want it any other way! And the more you travel, the more you get used to it, realise you can survive on very little and ‘roughin’ it’ almost becomes second nature. That said, there are those specific cravings that just won’t go away…those sentimental home comforts that niggle at you as you eat your plain noodles and curl up in your sleeping bag liner. This month, we asked travellers...
“What is the ONE THING that you miss most from home?”
Despite the delicious food in this part of the world, interestingly most of the hankerings are food related!
luxu r with y of my OWN an a (Adr toil ian M ctual flu sh! et itche ll, US A)
Cadbury’s Chocolate , Heinz Bea ns and Tampax in that ord er. (Nikki, UK )
Milk Real M ilk. I’ve neve r been able to have my cornfla kes overse as. (Dan Hanev eer, Tasman ia)
da Kanda Villa Beach Resort
Koh Phangan,Thailand A hidden gem - where luxury blends with simplicity. A perfect hideaway for friends, family and couples.
All villas offer TV, air con, hot water, minibar, in-room safe and balcony with ocean view.
19 Moo 1 Baan Tai Beach, Koh Phangan Suratthani 84280 Thailand Tel: +66(0) 77 238 966 / Fax: +66(0) 77 238 967 Mobile: +66(0)8 6085 0018 / Email: email@example.com
a , Thail n a g n a Koh Ph
Beach Bar - Thai Massage - Cinema - Yoga Free wifi - Parties every Thursday - Water Poloo Budget Fan & AC Bungalows for flashpackers Tel: +66 (0)77 238 855 - +66 (0)82 275 6199 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteering in Southeast Asia The Biggest Obstacle To International Volunteering is...You!
By Dwight Turner Beautiful landscapes, amazing food, fascinating cultures - South East Asia has so much to offer that only the foolish would boast that they’ve seen and met it all. With that in mind, all of us want to make the most of the time we’re privileged to spend in such surroundings. Yet still every year the great multitude of people sculpt their travel plans without including volunteering. Many of those who do include volunteering in their itineraries have done so only as an ‘if we have time’ option.
Why is that? Why is it we fail to see volunteering as adventurous? Why do we fail to recognize it as an activity that amplifies the significance of your trip and helps you connect with local people by contributing to their well being?
way to go to jail in Thailand and every weekend I get hugged, tackled, and climbed on by kids in two poor Bangkok communities. My apologies in advance if your travel agent can’t include any of these activities in your tour package or if your guide book fails to tell you what to do if they did. But if you change the way you perceive international volunteering you’ll open yourself to opportunities to create the same type of unforgettable experiences. Travelers can do that by learning to approach volunteering as they would any other adventure in a foreign place. You should first take time to investigate organizations, talking to people to get their opinions on groups really doing outstanding work. One of the best ways to do that is by taking advantage of the blogs and social media where you’re likely to get more honest opinions. Next, become familiar with the common scams and the types of organizations who may be looking to exploit people in order to pocket the tourist dollar. Do your homework and when you arrive be prepared to stumble over a great organization that can’t afford a website or even a brochure. Donate your time and money, while being conscious of any inconvenience your presence causes. Take your experiences home and tell people about YOUR adventure and challenge people to create their own. Most importantly, don’t miss out when you’re planning your next trip. Volunteering can be as interesting, more challenging, and twice as rewarding as any temple you’re planning to visit or mountain you’re planning to climb!
I wasn’t always so confident about the volunteering experience, until I began to have my own adventure in my past two years living in Bangkok, Thailand. No, I didn’t come to be an aid worker. Nor did I fly across the world to invest my gap year in the trenches working with an NGO. And I would like to say I inherited a boatload of money and a reality television series from my dead ancestors, but that would be the biggest fib. The truth is nothing out of the ordinary, I wanted to see the world on a budget and there was no better way to do that than by teaching English abroad. So I moved to Thailand to work a teaching contract, but I brought along with me this tiny idea that giving back should be both easy and fun. When I found myself happiest playing with kids at Bangkok’s inner city orphanages and throwing big parties to raise money for the worthwhile organizations I came across, I wanted to make sure others could do the same. Eventually my tiny idea festered until it became a small volunteer organization called In Search of Sanuk. The name comes from the Thai word ‘sanuk’ which means to have fun. In the past year over two hundred people from all walks of life have come to experience ‘sanuk’ through our volunteer teaching program in Bangkok, teaming up with us to provide a safe learning environment to children who live in fragile environments. We also try our best to spread the word about other organizations. What kind of fun am I having? Well, I’ve swam with Burmese orphans bathing in the Irrawaddy. I grinned until it hurt after a Chinese refugee thanked me for bringing him to the beach for the first time. Then I skipped up and down the sand dunes with the same guy as if I was at the beach for the first time too. I’ve been kissed by complete strangers and wept in the dark thinking of the tales of their tragedies. I once threw on scrubs to go into a mobile operating room to witness an old man from the Balinese countryside have his sight restored. I had my heart broken watching a Cambodian family devour ice cream they didn’t notice had already melted. I spend an average week telling people about the best
Find out more about In Search of Sanuk by subscribing to the blog at InSearchOfSanuk.com. Dwight is also active on Twitter as @InSearchOfSanuk and you’re encouraged to contact him to donate or volunteer with one of his projects in Bangkok, Thailand.
Real Traveller Tales
BACKPACKER IN TRANSITION From backpacker to volunteer
By Jessica Bryn
I had become used to the backpacker life. I’d become comfortable spending a few days here, a few days there, drinking a few beers here, a few beers there, and acquiring travel partners and Facebook friends from all over the world. I’d become used to making huge leaps in sanitary conditions from spotless, beautiful rooms with picturesque views to places with stained walls, questionable sheets and no bathroom light. After two months in South East Asia I had a sort of routine. The routine wasn’t nearly as dull and repetitive as at home, but there were still people and things that I had grown accustomed to in the travelling world. One of those things was the freedom that comes from being across the world from everyone you know and having no real responsibilities. And then I started volunteering in Cambodia. It wasn’t a last minute decision I made while I was travelling. I knew the whole time I was hopping around from country to country that I had a commitment in Cambodia to teach English for at least two months at an orphanage called APCA . I just sort of put it in the back of my mind. Even when I talked about it, it seemed like some kind of distant plan that would whisk me away into doing something profound and positive just by attempting it. So then I finally got to APCA, which was a miracle in itself considering my new slow-motion travel habits, and realized that teaching English actually requires work. After only a couple months of unemployment, the concepts of work, responsibility, planning, and even days of the week meant so little to me that I could have used a slap in the face and a dictionary to refresh my memory. Maybe I could still use a quick slap in the face. Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me. I’m not some hooligan who just goes around drinking beer all the time and spending money from my trust fund. If I had a trust fund maybe I would do that, but actually I have worked quite a bit in my 24 years. The point is I know how to work hard, get organized, and accomplish tasks, but somewhere on the shores of Thailand that knowledge got buried deep inside my head. To begin my volunteer job I had to go to Phnom Penh to meet Molly, the girl who would take me to the village we would work in. While I was in Phnom Penh, I shot an AK-47, saw the Killing fields and Toul Sleng museum, drank beer, and spent last minute quality time with my ridiculously hot, Danish, short-term travelling partner. Even though the things I did in Phnom Penh were worthwhile, and some even educational, doing them meant I did not go shopping for supplies for the kids, read up about the organization, or prepare myself in any way for teaching English. During the hour-long ride from Phnom Penh to the Kampong Speu province where APCA is located, my mind was so full of questions and thoughts that it basically shut down to nothingness, like a fuzzy TV screen on mute. Once we got there I was greeted by tons of screaming kids and shown to the room that Molly and I would share. After I was acquainted with the place and settled in a bit, we rode bikes to the market down the street and I got some essential things there, like a mosquito net. That afternoon I jumped right into the classroom with Molly. Of course I wasn’t doing much teaching, I was mostly getting an idea of the situation and helping out Molly as well as I could. The unstructured classes and relaxed atmosphere is nice, but even though the classes are pretty informal, I actually don’t think I have worn shoes to one single class, it’s certainly not easy. For me, teaching anything to anyone at all is completely foreign. I’ve never even taught a Sunday school class or a dance class before, let alone three English classes to Cambodian kids of widely varying ages and levels of comprehension. The first couple days were fine, because my head was still in such a whirl that I couldn’t figure out what was really going on. Then Molly and I went back to Phnom Penh to take care of some business with our visas. This felt nice and familiar, leaving a place after a few days. I even had my trusty backpack on again! But it was not the same. We had things to do, stuff to buy, a place to go back to, and even a person to report to. This trip to the city let me clear my head a little. I had time to relax, I got my travel photos uploaded and out of the way, and also did some serious shopping for school supplies and food. Molly and I spent almost 2 hours in a huge book supply shop, buying organizing materials, dry erase markers, notebooks, workbooks, and flashcards. ‘Oh these would be perfect!’ I exclaimed about fruit and vegetable flashcards. Then I walked through aisles of workbooks feeling amazed and overwhelmed, excited about the possibilities for our classes. I am absolutely not the type of person who browses through children’s books and gets excited about them. In fact, in regular life I very rarely act excited about anything. I also generally avoid children. It’s almost as if some pod person took over my body once I was in this store. Seriously, even typing this I wonder if it was really me. But I do have some flashcards, markers and other materials as proof, so I guess I’ll have to believe it. Part of me still isn’t ready to switch gears and have responsibilities again. I could easily hop over to another city, find some new friends to party with and get myself right back into the swing of easy backpacker life. But the other part of me knows that I need to stay here. While I am still not the bubbliest or most fun person for kids to be around, I’m here and I’m trying my best. Hopefully the kids will benefit and learn some English from me, and I know I will learn more from this experience than I would still roaming around, sightseeing and, in my case, drinking too much. Before I fly back to the United States , I’ll probably chill out on a beach in Thailand just long enough to delude myself into believing that no obligations await me at home.
VOLUNTEERING IN SIEM REAP Why should I pay to volunteer!?
LANTA ANIMAL WELFARE Volunteering and fun in Koh Lanta
By Maureen Chen
By Jack Gooding
When I first heard of someone paying to volunteer I was rather surprised. After living in Cambodia and working with various NGOs for over two years, I would now say that it is highly recommended. There are many organizations set up as businesses using the poor vulnerable children. I have met people who have arrived here in Cambodia with enthusiasm to volunteer and experiencing that the organization is not well organized and that they are not using their time well. Another few weeks may pass in looking for another suitable organization to volunteer with. There was yet another independent volunteer who ended up paying a local NGO hundreds of dollars and being accommodated in the school in a very unsafe area of town.
Lanta Animal Welfare Center aims to relieve the pain and suffering of many stray animals in South West Thailand. As animal lovers, we felt passionate to help the cause and decided to volunteer there for a few weeks. When we first arrived on Koh Lanta, we met Junie, the owner of LAW, who had just arrived from the collection of a stray cat. After handing the cat to the vet we had a quick tour of the kennels to meet all the dogs and cats and one resident monkey! Within about 5 minutes of arriving we’d met the builder to see what we could help with and helped to change the dressings on a dog that been hit by a car. As I’ve always wanted to be a vet it was great opportunity to help with some hands on work.
By going through an agency who work with foreigners who live locally, not only are you assured of a more legitimate organization but also of help with any follow up. Many volunteers return to their countries to raise funds for the NGO they have bonded with, or wish to send materials or money for them. Communicating with NGOs who have no computer let alone electricity can be very challenging. The connection with the volunteering organizations helps to keep the beneficial links. There is also the aspect of responsible volunteering to consider. What will be the impact of my presence? Should organizations just let anyone drop in and be with the children? What about child safety? Am I taking a job away from a local by volunteering? Think about it. Many of the volunteer organizations are set up in Europe or the USA which creates a lot of overheads with regards to office space, salaries, advertising costs and money transfers. Being locally based, the Peace Café has simplified and reduced the cost of volunteer registrations by charging a set fee of $300 which provides volunteering opportunities in two organizations of your choice. The agencies range from environmental organisations, orphanages, schools, social enterprises and working with the disabled. This fee covers the airport pickup, a welcome meal at the Peace Café, free bicycle and one week’s accommodation either at a homestay or a guesthouse. Volunteers choosing to stay on can simply continue to cover their accommodation costs. The Peace Café also works with just a few organizations who can benefit from a 1-3 day volunteering experience for $30. Very few organizations are able to accomodate a short term volunteer as it often disrupts the schedule of the students. Organisations that do allow this are often not following best practices with regards to child care and it is advisable to screen these organizations and certainly not to donate funds without knowing more about their management and financial practices. For more information about volunteering in Cambodia through The Peace Cafe visit: www.peacecafeangkor.org Some of the other organizations working with volunteers in Cambodia include ConCERT, (www.concertcambodia.org) WLS International, (www.worldlanguagestudies.com) Pure for Kids, Interweave and Globalteer.
During our time there, we helped to build two wells that would catch rain water that eventually will be used to provide drinking water to the sanctuary as at the moment the water has to be shipped from the mainland. We also walked lots of dogs in the beautfiul Koh Lanta countryside, on the beaches and past some traditional sea gypsy camps and helped the vets every day any way we could. On the last night we had a free meal of a homemade massaman curry washed down with a mojito at Junie’s restaurant - Time for Lime! Time for Lime comprises of a wonderful restaurant, cooking school and bungalows, from which all the profits go to LAW. LAW are doing such a great job and I’d recommend anyone to volunteer there. If you work for a month you get your accommodation for free! Our time here was one of the best experiences we have had and we would have loved to stay even longer. For more information about volunteering with Lanta Animal Welfare visit: www.lantaanimalwelfare.com
Volunteering with orphans in Vietnam By Greg Christensen It’s not often that one gets the opportunity to combine some adventure and excitement with a truly noble and impactful cause. Something that offers underprivileged orphans a lifeline to a brighter future while leaving the volunteer with a life changing perspective. This was my experience volunteering with Orphan Impact. None of my other travels left such an impression on me as I viewed life through these fragile lives. I’m proud knowing that I helped start these kids down a path that will open up their world, possibly to college and beyond, vs. a life of hardship. The humility and excitement of the children will leave a lifelong impression, and the staff and facilities are exceptional. So ditch the traditional path for a change of pace and sign up – you won’t regret it. For more information about volunteering with Orphan Impact visit: www.orphanimpact.org
Full moon in Thailand, tubing in Laos, volunteering in Cambodia. First of all, for anyone considering getting involved in volunteering in South East Asia – it shouldn’t be viewed as just another ‘thing to do’ on your backpacking trip. Before you even think about signing up with an organisation, you should think carefully about the amount of time you are willing to commit, the skills you have which may be beneficial to others and where they can be best put to use. In other words – do your homework! There are many opportunities for volunteering in this part of the world, from teaching english to conservation projects – and if researched properly, the experience can be very rewarding for everyone involved. By contrast, inappropriate volunteering can undermine local people’s confidence, impose the volunteer’s agenda, increase the dependency on outside help, and create more problems than it solves. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your volunteering experiences, both for you, and for the communities you wish to help:
Plan ahead. Think about why you want to volunteer, what you want to achieve, how long can you volunteer for?
Research volunteering opportunities and make contact with your chosen organisation in plenty of time.
The sooner you get in touch, and the longer you can stay, the more options you will have, and the more successful your placement will be, especially if you plan to work with children.
Make sure you are committed and prepared to follow the rules of the project.
Work with, not instead of local people. No volunteer placements should ever take away jobs from local people.
If you book through a volunteer programme...
v Ask what has been achieved by previous volunteers. v Look at their responsible tourism policy. Find out what you can about the country you want to volunteer in v Ask how much of the fee goes to the project(s). before you arrive. Research on the internet, or reading some of the many travel books, will pay dividends, especially in understanding local customs and in avoiding innocent misunderstandings.
Be wary if they...
Be sensitive to the culture; dress and behave appropriately. Wear Resist putting you in touch with previous volunteers or local people modest clothing nothing skimpy; particularly women. Many cultures v Don’t clearly explain where and how you fit into their overall plans. in South East Asia are very conservative in the way women dress. v Men should always wear a shirt whilst teaching, for example. v Don’t ask many questions about you. (Except how you’re going to pay.)
Help the local economy by buying local products in preference to imported goods.
Ask what your chosen organisation needs – it’s best not to assume and buy things beforehand. Buying goods when you get here supports the organisation, and the local economy.
Remember you are a role model and ambassador for yourself and your home country. Set a good example at all times in the way your dress, your behaviour, and your time keeping.
You can play a vital part in combating child abuse and other problems. In addition to the steps taken by the organisations themselves, you have a parallel responsibility to be vigilant during your placement. Don’t hesitate to report wrong doings or suspicious behaviour relating to child maltreatment or abuse, or any other malpractice.
Contact schools and orphanages before visiting. Unplanned visitors are often welcome; just remember these are the children’s homes and schools. Similarly, be wary of orphanages that allow unrestricted visits and access.
The impact on the environment v Use water sparingly. In many places, there is is an ever increasing demand.
v Keep South East Asia clean. Dispose of your litter carefully
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The following resources and organisations have been recommended to South East Asia Backpacker Magazine by travellers.
Organisations: v www.elephantnaturepark.com Elephant Sanctuary and rehabilitation Center in Chiang Mai. An amazing experience! (Vincent Galiano) v www.volunteerteacherthailand.org Wonderful experience in Khao Lak, Thailand. (Annabelle Wilkins) v www.globalteer.com Organises overseas volunteer placements worldwide. Doing good work in Siem Reap. (Rachel Band) Organisations featured in this article:
v www.insearchofsanuk.com v www. orphanimpact.org v www.peacecafeangkor.org v www.concertcambodia.org v www.lantaanimalwelfare.com
Information and websites: v www.helpx.net Online listing of farmstays, hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteers to stay in exchange for food and accommodation. v www.nerdynomad.com (Kirsty Henderson’s blog) A traveller turned volunteer who has worked in disaster zones all across the globe. You can purchase her e-book ‘The Underground Guide to International Volunteering’ on her blog and read about her experiences. v www.volunteerglobal.com and www.volunteerglobal.com/blog Everything you need to know about international service programs. You can also download the extremely comprehensive e-book ‘Your Totally Awesome Guide to Volunteer Travel’ written by Sarah Van Auken. And it’s free!
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W hat’s on: Festivals and Events The “Moon” Parties Koh Phangan, Thailand Full Moon Party 23 September 23 October
Black Moon Culture 8 September, 8 October
Underground trance and progressive beats on Baan Tai Beach. World famous beach party on Haad Rin sands that attracts up to 30,000 people each month. Variety of music genres.
Half Moon Festival 1, 15 September 1, 14, 30 October Massive rave in Baan Tai jungle as DJ’s pump out hard progressive and trance.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival Phuket, Thailand 8 – 16 October The Phuket Vegetarian Festival takes place over 10 days with a series of celebrations in the streets, but it’s the sixth day that has long been a favourite of excited photographers. On this day, devotees, known as ‘Ma Song’ partake in incredible feats of body and face piercing,
as well as displays such as walking barefoot on hot coals or climbing ladders made of blades. During the acts of self torture, it is said that the Gods enter the bodies of the devotees and evil spirits are dispelled from town. The roots of the festival date back to 1825 when a Chinese Opera came to visit the town. When the group was struck down with illness, they turned to a strict vegetarian diet used in conjunction with ancient rituals to cure themselves. The locals were astounded as each one of the troupe were miraculously healed. Since that day, every year on the first evening of the 9th Lunar Month, the ThaiChinese community of Phuket have celebrated the festival with
the belief in its power to invite good fortune.
Bang Fai Phaya Nak (Naga Fireball) Nong Khai, Thailand 23 - 24 October
Astounding miracle or elaborate hoax? This unusual spectacle that occurs along the Mekong in North Thailand on the border with Laos has long baffled visitors. On the night of the full moon, marking the end of Buddhist lent, hundreds of spectators congregate on the banks of the Mekong, eyes glued to the river as burning red fireballs ascend from the surface of the water into the night sky. Locals believe
0 1 0 2 r e b o t c O – r Septembe that this phenomenon occurs because of Naga, the great serpent of the underworld who dwells in the murky depths. Once a year, Naga sends a powerful signal to all villagers to remind them to respect the river and the wonderful life source it stands for. Researchers have often tried to solve the mystery of the Naga Fireballs, but so far no one has been able to explain how or why this seemingly supernatural phenomenon takes place on the same night each year.
Mid – Autumn Festival Vietnam 22 September Known to Vietnamese as ‘TetTrung-Thu’, the Mid-Autumn Festival is an important time for families. The celebration originates from an old folk tale that tells of a time when parents were working so hard to get ready for harvest they forgot about their children.
Mid-Autumn Festival became a time when parents would make it up to them. There’s a festive atmosphere in many cities as lights and flowers adorn the streets, toy shops stock their shelves and people flock to buy moon cakes which are sold in shops in the hundreds. In many communities across Asia, this is a time when people believe the moon to be at its biggest and brightest signalling happiness and harmony.
P’chum Ben Cambodia 24 September P’chum Ben takes place on the fifteenth day of the tenth month in the Cambodian calendar. It is
the time of the year when Khmer people believe that spirits of dead ancestors rise and walk the earth. Offerings are made at temples as early as 4 o clock in the morning as people go to offer the spirits food to eat in an attempt to ease their suffering. Most commonly, sticky rice is thrown onto the ground for the spirits as it is said to be the easiest food for them to consume.
Awk Pansa, End of Buddhist Lent Thailand, Laos, Myanmar 23 October
marking the end of the Buddhist Lent. Rooted in agricultural tradition ‘Awk Pansa’ indicates the start of a new season and controls the planting of new crops, predominantly rice. In many parts of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, Awk Pansa is celebrated with various series of boat processions or boat races. In Isaan province huge boats are filled with offerings of sticky rice parcels, flowers, candles and lamps and are launched on the river by local villagers. In Laos, in riverside towns such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet, boat races are held in a festival known as ‘Bun Nam’ or ‘Water Festival.’ Similarly in Myanmar, boat races take place in rivers lakes and ponds all over the couintry, most notably observed at Inle Lake.
Awk Pansa literally means “leaving the period of rain” and is a celebration all over Thailand, Laos and Myanmar on the night of the full moon in October,
So, just how much untamed adventure can you get up to in South East Asia in six months? Courtney, Kaberly, Danielle and Jacqui; four backpacking girls from California are determined to find out! Full moon’s, tattoo’s, ATV’s, buckets, frog ladies, white water rafts, elephants, ladyboys, fried scorpions, ping pongs, Chang, motorbikes, long tails... oh and did I mention boys, boys, boys? These girls aren’t about to hold back one iota on their adventure of a lifetime. This issue we follow their adventures through Thailand, starting in the famous backpacker hub, the Khao San Road. Next issue, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and beyond! You can watch the exciting new video series and follow their escapades at www.SouthEastAsiaBackpacker.com. Coming soon! Watch out for them on the road and watch out South East Asia - here they come!
The three of us have been friends since grade school, but we never imagined we’d find ourselves backpacking through Asia together at age 25. The idea for the trip was conceived in a 90 minute car ride on the way home from a great weekend in Lake Tahoe, when we realized how much we didn’t want to go back to a cubicle the next day. With South East Asia accommodating every kind of traveller - from the diver, to the volunteer, to the beach bum, we decided our adventure would begin here. We moved back home and saved every penny we made working over the next 12 months. At first, our plan to relieve our ‘quarter life crisis’ and put our careers on an indefinite standby was not well received by many, but when June 21st finally came we left Sacramento Airport with the support of friends, family and with no regrets.
On the 22-hour flight from California we stopped off in Tokyo just long enough to have some incredibly expensive sushi and a US$12 small Asahi. Sampling the local beer - start as we mean to go on!
THE KHAO SAN ROAD
ets & the Ped icures, buck og lady! CURSE of the fr
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Enter the Khao San Road: a frantic, bustling hub, where many backpackers before us have started their SE Asian Adventure. The smells, the noise, the hustle, the people, the decadent opportunities on offer add up to a sensory overload. Every desire can be gratified on that road; even if only for a short while. For sale there’s cheap clothing, flip flops, belts, books, jewellery. To eat there are noodles (must try pad thai), pizza, curries, falafel, spring rolls, fruit, cockroaches, scorpions, Danielle’s favourite delicacy! (As she describes ‘crunchy and salty, with a gooey middle.’ Definitely wouldn’t have gone down without that Leo.) You can get tattoos, pedicures, massages, dreadlocks, all “Happy Hour, special price for you my friend! ” We were solicited non-stop by suit sellers, guys with big lighters / laser pens / inflatable giraffes, hawkers trying to get you to drink VERY STRONG cocktails! The second you step onto Khao San, you’ll hear “Where come from, where you go?” Those are the tuk tuk drivers. They don’t really care where you are from but they definitely want to take you where you are going! However, no salesperson in Khao San is as incessant as Frog Lady and her friends. The dreaded croak continues to haunt our days and infiltrate our dreams. The fact that our friend Toby from Manchester bought Kaberly TWO of them (to wake her up with a nice surprise), the noise is literally still with us, in Kaberly’s rucksack. We were sat in a bar one day, trying to ignore the croaks, when Danielle reckons she was cursed by one of the frog ladies. She said something in Thai and made a machete-like gesture on each of Danielle’s four limbs, laughed, and walked away. Danielle, being the neurotic hypochondriac that she is, was convinced that her arms and legs were about to fall off somehow. She walked around for the entire day looking for the frog lady / witch doctor. She had a difficult time finding her seeing as hough all 500 of them wear the same exact outfit every day. About eight hours later, she found the frog lady and paid her to revoke the spell. Danielle is sitting next to me right now (actually, we’re sprawled out on the floor of a wooden boat) and I just counted four limbs so I think the spell has been revoked.
LAMAI & CHAWENG BEACH
y Italians! s, ladyboys & craz ff -o ll fa ke bi or Mot
We made it through all the tuk tuks and craziness of Bangkok, travelled down the peninsula and arrived on one of the beautiful islands of South Thailand, Koh Samui. Koh Samui is the second largest island in Thailand and although very developed in many places, is surrounded by gorgeous white sandy beaches and there is plenty of adventure on offer and things to do. On the first day, we nervously hired motorbikes, not really sure of where we wanted to take them. We handed over our passports, paid the150 baht for 24-hour rental, and decided to head out of the alley way where we rented from and turn left. Courtney turned left. Danielle freaked out and went straight, and Kaberly barely made it but did pull off a successful left turn. After a minute of waiting for Danielle tocome back, Kaberly became impatient and attempted to turn her bike around to go help Danielle. Rather than helping Danielle, she tried to pull a U-turn, but instead T-boned a parked car and promptly fell off. All of the locals came running out to see if she was okay. She cried that she “wanted her mommy,” Danielle told her it was just one tiny scratch and to buck up. Good start. After the early drama, we travelled to the North of the island to see the Big Buddha, a 15 meter tall gold plated statue on a hill built in 1972 by the local society to give visitors a place to pay respect to Lord Buddha. One night in Chaweng, we attended a ladyboy show with some crazy Italian guys we met... The show’s slogan is “She’s more of a manthan you’ll ever be,” and it couldn’t be said better. We watched as men that are more attractive than we’ll ever be performed Diana Ross and Whitney Houston. After the show we watched as Pazzo Italiano Rudy girated around a pole with the leftover ladyboys. They were loving it! Rudy – you are a one of a kind.
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KOH PHANGAN THE FULL MOON PARTY!!!
We’d heard a lot about the Full Moon Party before we arrived here and we were going to make sure that we made it an essential part of our trip while we were here in Thailand! We caught the speed boat over from Koh Samui, which took about 20 minutes at break neck speed! Rosy cheeked and a little windswept, we arrived in Koh Phangan. The Full Moon Party takes place on Haad Rin Sands, which is a really beautiful natural beach. And it’s beautiful in a much different way during Full Moon Party because of the iIluminous paint all over every wall, bucket stand, body part and, by the end of the night – every grain of sand! We were stoked to experience the world famous rave and meet up with two of our other friends from back home, who are also on a world-wide adventure, Chrissy and Elyse. And we did all of that - except we experienced about two hours of it from indoors because around 11pm, just as the party was getting started, the sky spat out a spontaneous bout of monsoon rain. Our first thought was, “oh, great, party’s over...” Rookie mistake. That’s not how Full Moon Party goers think or act! A little monsoon would never interfere with the dancing and debauchery of the FMP! When it started pouring down with rain, every patron and DJ moved into the nearest bar and partied like it was 1999. Only one intoxicated group stayed out there regardless of the tipping rain.There is a wooden slab that is about 30 X 60 feet and on stilts about 4 feet from the ground, and the 50 or so people, covered from head to toe in brightly coloured paint, danced on that makeshift dance floor until the sun came up. If the song ‘Moonlight Party’ had come out AFTER that night I would have to assume it was about them. We looked for Chrissy and Elyse while we danced our asses off but we never found them and went home with a bad case of insomnia because whatever they put in those crazy buckets keeps you AWAKE ALL NIGHT!
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Baan Panburi Village Koh Phangan - Thailand
Paradise as nature intended...
Wooden Bungalows l Beach Volleyball & Kayaking l Island Boat Trips l Trendy, Beach Front Restaurant l Delicious food. Friendly & Fun to t a o l Snorkeling & Diving B n
Tel: +66 (0)77 445 075 E-mail: email@example.com www.baanpanburivillage.com
WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME!!!
Unfortunately we had to Bypass Koh Tao this time due to a pre-arranged date with the Hilton Hotel in Phuket, (come on you can’t blame us). But we’ve heard from so many fellow backpackers that it’s a gorgeous island with loads of adventure on offer, specially the underwater kind, great night life oh and lots of fit diving men! We have a plan to do it justice when we return to Thailand in a few weeks!
the Hilton, Flashpacking at it. ng & a sw ift ex partying in Pato
An angel from heaven (Thank you, P!) decided that our going-away gift would be two nights at the Hilton in Karon Beach, Phuket. I’ve never in my life seen a palace like this! And this palace has never in IT’S life seen anything like us! Just picture three dirty-ass backpackers, rocking up at one of the poshest hotels in Thailand, after a 16-hour trek (we accidentally went to the wrong side of the island), not sleeping the night before and, in a nutshell, looking like complete vagrants. Our rucksacks were about 70% caked in monsoon mud. Danielle has a huge tattoo covering her arm, and Courtney has blonde dreadlocks with two-inch black roots. Classy. They gave us a welcome Champagne drink - which we shot like it was Whiskey, a warm jasmine towel, which we had no idea what to do with. Kaberly and Courtney washed their hands and Danielle took a ‘backpacker shower’ (when you scrub your armpits and carry on with your life) right in front of our new host. We did our laundry in the bath and hung it all over the room on dental floss makeshift clothing lines – keepin’ it real, backpacker class no matter where we were. I bet that’s the first time anyone staying at the Karon Beach Hilton has done that. Kaberly took a bath. Danielle and Courtney went to the grotto, the underground pool (where no one can see you) and did an artistic little (half naked) photo shoot. One Hilton employee MAY have walked in on the shoot, but we assumed that the thumbs-up gesture meant that it was okay. After we overstayed our welcome at the Hilton (like we ever really had a welcome), we decided to go to Patong Beach. Still Phuket, but where all the goings-on go on! We stayed at Cheap Charlie’s Backpacker Lodge which is right by the beach, in the middle of the ‘nightlife’ (is it still called nightlife if it goes on 24-hour/day), and has a thatched roof-top bar that is party paradise. The staff were incredibly accommodating and friendly. They taught us some Thai language and served us breakfast in bed! About a week after we arrived in Thailand, our friend Jacqui randomly emailed us and said, “Where will you be in a week? I’m coming to visit.” We said, “We’ll pick you up in Phuket airport. Give us your flight number.” We got her at 9am, were back to Cheap Charlie’s at 10am, and (somehow) were on a bus headed to Koh Phi Phi by 11am. Before 10am we had NO idea where we would be going next or when we would go, but if you’ve backpacked through SE Asia before, you’ll know how these abrupt decisions are made (although sometimes you don’t know why). It was a miracle that we managed to pack. An easy task you would think! - but you have no idea what kind of a mess three backpacker girls can make in one room. It’s so bad that when we get to our threshold - when you cannot find one outfit, your toothbrush, or your mind. It was time to go.
Sairee Village, Koh Tao, Thailand
Bar & Restaurant
Thai & International Cuisine
EAT IN or TAKE AWAY Spare ribs & kebab SUNDAY ROAST DINNER Full English breakfast Steak and Burger-PastaLasagne-Pizza-Pie n’ Mash
All Live Sporting events Show
Located on the main street on sairee crossroads Tel. +66 (0) 77 456 108
KOH PHI PHI
We Fo und Parad ise!
We’d heard wonderful things about these tiny Islands on the Andaman Coast, but we’ve heard a lot of good things about a lot of places so we didn’t expect to find the mortal version of heaven when I arrived at Koh Phi Phi. The minute we set foot on the ferry we knew it was going to be our spot. But even when we disembarked and saw the endless array of beautiful people and white beaches, we were still convinced that our three day plan would be sufficient to get our fix of party, beach, snorkeling, fun, and ‘talent.’ (code for a ridiculously attractive male specimen.) We were wrong. Dead wrong. 10 or 15 days later, after two hotel changes (both in effort to leave the island), we finally decided that if we didn’t get out now we would die on Koh Phi Phi - sounded dangerous at the time but not so bad in retrospect.
In the meantime, however, we had the time of our lives! The first night was amazing. We all remember the amazingness (that IS a word in Phi Phi Land). But when morning came, we were a bit confused. An Aussie named Eric came barging in our room at 7am yelling “Let’s go to Maya Bay!” Kaberly and Courtney sat up, quite disoriented and not knowing who this specimen was. But we heard ‘snorkeling’ and ‘Maya Bay’ (where The Beach was filmed) so we threw on our bikinis and told this mystery man to get Jacqui and Danielle from the other room and let’s go! Apparently he prompted them in the same manner, to which Jacqui responded, “Ok, but who the hell are you?” Turns out he was our best friend the night before and we made him PROMISE to wake us up early so we could go snorkel Maya Bay with their group of ten Aussies and, although we didn’t remember it we were so glad we did it because they were the funnest (don’t care if it’s a word or not) people ever and it was an even funner (I know and I don’t care) day. Impossible limestone rocks, crystal clear water, fish that can shake hands and high five and... Bacardi Breezers! Those pictures of us on the long boat having the time of our lives, swimming
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in translucent water next to inverted limestone that’s Maya Bay. Danielle managed to find herself a Leonardo DiCaprio look alike too - which was very fitting in Maya Bay. His name is Tejs and he’s her Danish lover. They are seriously in love. Or at least she is with him. When we were back in Bangkok, we tried to find snake blood so we could video the Leo look-alike drinking it on Khao San Road (The real Leo does it on Khao San in the movie) but apparently they don’t do that here because it’s disgusting and very poisonous. After the 12 (or whatever) days, it seemed that everyone that we’d become close to (e.g. moving in with, sharing every personal detail that you usually keep private, planning to marry or maybe meet back up with in the next city) was moving on. So we decided it was now or never. To all of our guys; the Italians, the Aussies, the Israelis, the Brits... we love you all! With tears in our eyes, Jacqui, Danielle and Courtney dragged their feet to the ferry with Kaberly in a wheelbarrow, and said goodbye to PP Island.
BANGKOK TAKE II...
On the plane back, our bodies went into emergency shut down mode from all the alcohol consumed in PP. Courtney accidentally punched herself in the face because she had a dream that she had a Bacardi Breezer in hand, but when she went to drink it all she got was a knuckle sandwich. We used the time in BKK to do laundry and regroup. It was only the 2nd time so far that we’d done laundry on our 5 week trip! We have become disgusting humans. But we make up for our lack of hygiene through a few, superficial, methods. Hair bleaching and pedicures do wonders for a girl’s self esteem.
CHIANG MAI ATV’s, Rafting, Elephants & Confusing Tattoos!
After two weeks in Paradise, we needed to detox, and where better to do it than the beautiful,cultural city of Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, surrounded by jungle and lush countryside. Chiang Mai is one of the places in Thailand that is known for its adventures, such as jungle hill tribe treks on elephants. We had such a short space of time, but we packed in all that we could including zip lining and hanging upside down to take videos! One of the most amazing experiences was our ATV adventure! We drove through rice paddy areas in monsoon season with four-foot grass so you couldn’t see where the hell you were going! When you hit a three foot deep mud puddle, you had no warning until your face and clothing were caked in mud, or when your ATV stopped moving and your exhaust pipe looked as though it was smoking a massive cigar. Courtney almost drove off a 10-foot cliff, but thanks to the fact that Danielle traded Courtney’s little baby red go-cart for her black monster of an ATV, Courtney was able to pull a sharp 90-degree turn and jump the curb before she fell off the other side. The trip was the first time we had seen the real Thai countryside and it is one of the most beautiful landscapes we’ve ever seen. I would say that that was the highlight of the ATV adventure, but it was not. Kaberly flipping her ATV (its on film, don’t worry) was undeniably the highlight of our day and maybe even the whole week. One day we visited Patara Elephant Farm, a conservation centre that focuses on the care and breeding of healthy elephants in Thailand. It was a wonderful day where we got closer to these amazing animals in a beautiful environment. Pat and Dao, the owners of the sanctuary are wonderful people and rest assured that they are really looking after the elephants here. They know each elephant by name! It was a wonderful day that we would remember forever. We definitely will remember it forever because it was the inspiration behind our recent tattoos! After we told Pat that we are interested in Buddhism and learning more about it, he asked us if I had ever heard the saying “Walk the middle way.” To the best of his translation, it means ‘live a balanced life.’ With our lives being anything but balanced, we thought this was the perfect tattoo to have and where? Right down the middle of our spines! I had Pat write the saying down in Thai and the four of us went straight to the tattoo shop in town. There and then we had nine tattoos between the four of us. Kaberly wins the award for the funniest ones. She now has the Thai symbol for ‘tattoo’ tattooed behind her ear. She also decided to get ‘loyalty’ (in Thai) tattooed on her side. But considering the Asian accent has trouble differentiating the ‘R’ sound from the ‘L’ sound, she may or may not have gotten the word ‘royalty’ tattooed on her rib cage. (Although Kaberly will deny). Same same but different.
Laos, tubing, Vietnam, hospitals, marriage proposals, sacred ceremonies, and more adventures to follow... S.E.A Backpacker
B T Raveller thoughts, stories, tips: STOR Y THE M OF ONTH
A World Away at the Sanctuary, Koh Phangan
I’m sat on the ferry on the way to Koh Phangan. I didn’t realise it before but it’s just two days away from the Full Moon Party and I’m surrounded by a load of Chang-chugging backpackers gearing themselves up to experience the all-night rave that’s made the island world famous. Pounding dance music, lines of Sangsom buckets and half naked 20-somethings covered in illuminous body paint and getting drunk off their faces have become synonymous with the island’s reputation.
That was me a year ago – and it was awesome. (From what my alcohol pickled brain remembered!) I drank vodka until it seeped out of my pores and had to be dragged from the podium at daybreak. This time however, I’m on the way to Koh Phangan for exactly the opposite reason. There comes a time in your travels, if not your life, when it is important to take a step back and reflect on who you are and where you are heading, before you can take the next step forward. For me, South East Asia has been an overload of experience. The constant stimulus, the continuing stream of new places, new adventures, new sights, new foods, new people, hello, goodbye...hello, goodbye... left me exhausted and desperately trying to work out where it all stood in the view of the world I’d had up until now. Needless to say, I needed a break. The Sanctuary, Koh Phangan is a haven of relaxation and reflection; perfect for backpackers wanting to step of the trail for a while and regroup. Just a short long-tail ride (200 baht) from Had Rin, The Sanctuary is located on the secluded Had Tien Beach tucked in between boulders and cashew nut trees. It’s a gorgeous setting – and the minute you step onto the sands at Had Tien you sense that this is no ordinary resort. From massage and spa treatments, to daily meditation, yoga, pilates, cleansing and detox programs – everything is there if you want to get involved – or if you just want to chill out on the beach with a good book then that’s fine too! In addition to the spa, laid back resort and excellent detox center, there is also the interesting new concept of the ‘Tea Temple,’ a healing and therapeutic hub for the resort. It’s a communal space where people can
meet and share their interest in alternative therapies such as chakra balancing, past life regression and craniosacral therapy. There are weekly events at the centre, including workshops, sample sessions, demonstrations, indie cinema and even an open mic night every Thursday!
And it’s not just the exhausted backpacker that stumbles onto shore in need of a bit of R&R. One of the best things about The Sanctuary is the eclectic group of people. Due to the varied price range of accommodation (you can stay in a 200 bt /night dorm room or a 5,000 bt /night luxury tree house!) the clientele is very diverse. In the beach side bar, (over a wheatgrass shake) you’ll end up chatting to all sorts of interesting folks at different stages of their lives from high flying business execs on a sabbatical to new age travellers on a round the world trip. The resort even played host to a flamboyant gay wedding last year, complete with drag queens coming down from the rocks! Although I didn’t stay nearly long enough, I had a glimpse of a way of life here that you could really get used to, a world apart from the hectic life of a backpacker on the SE Asian trail. A place where you can chill out and meet like minded people who quickly become friends. Away from the constant tirade of activity and search for action you can really start to think about what you want to get out of your backpacking trip and reassess why you are here on this journey in South East Asia right now. And, when you find out what it’s all about – please can somebody tell me? * Instead of a flower on your pillow, every Friday night you’ll find a pair of ear plugs which are kindly provided to block out the noise from the loud weekly party on Haad Tien. Or perhaps, if you start your retreat on Saturday, by the time Friday comes, you may be so chilled out that it won’t bother you a jot!
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 aim right now. It’s our contributing every month. love to hear from you. t of travel writing, we would spo a at d han r you cy you like to fan So if you ews or any random scribbling any articles, stories, book revi d sen se Plea r.com info@southeastasiabackpacke with articles you submit. If possible try to include photos y with news of whether your awa We’ll get back to you right next issue. words will be appearing in the Happy Travelling! Thanks for your support and
You Know YoUre a SOUTH EAST ASIA BACKPACKER When...
GO AWAY PINKEYE!
You wake up at noon and chug the beer you left on the nightstand when you went to bed 6 hours before. You go from writing OMG to OMB (oh my Buddha) on your facebook page. You pop a Thai squat on perfectly western toilet.
What to do if you get it!
You automatically reach for the bum gun when you are in a nice place.
v Get to the chemist fast and get some eyedrops specifically for pink eye. v Patanol or Similisan are the most effective eyedrops v Regular lubricating ‘tear drop’ eye drops can help. v If you can’t get to a chemist immediately you can relieve symptoms with a moist warm compress. (Although home remedies like this won’t get rid of it completely.) v Don’t attempt to wear contact lenses, make-up or any moisturizing creams
You wash your underwear by pulling them down around your knees while in the shower, give them a quick rinse, wash yourself, and then pull them back up and let them drip dry. You use the acronym ‘SSBD” instead of just saying “same same but different.” You’re ‘guess-that-nationality’ game accuracy becomes 95% You start thinking in an Asian accent. You ask someone who you’ve been having a 20-minute convo with, “which country are you from?” and they tell you they’re from the same country as you. You JUST figured out the currency and you have to leave the country that day.
Dreaded pink eye is sweeping through SE Asia like nobody’s business. Rumoured to have started in that pesky river in Vang Vieng it’s probably the best thing you could have caught! Since then, backpackers all over the place are reporting the highly contagious infection, also known as conjunctivitis. Those of you who have contracted it will understand that unlike the tubing, pinkeye is no fun! Your eyes become sore, feel very itchy and start watering. If left untreated they can swell and start to emit discharge. Pinkeye is caused by infection of the membranes (conjunctiva) covering the white of the eye. As soon as you have symptoms it is best to get treatment to prevent it becoming worse.
When you don’t know what month it is, and you’re not positive that you have the correct year either.
Written by Courtney, Kaberly, Danielle, Jacqui & the gang at Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel. (The rest were too dirty to print!)
Tips to help you avoid it in the first place! v Wash your hands regularly. v Don’t touch or rub your eyes, especially on buses. v Get some of that handy travel anti-bacterial gel. v Avoid dunking your head under water in the Vang Vieng River v Choose practicality over street cred and buy some sexy goggles whilst tubing!
QUOTE OF THE MONTH:
“Don’t take life too seriously. It isn’t permanent” (The motto on the T-Shirts at the famous Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel. We like the way you think! )
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Something to keep you busy on all those long bus journeys! Be warned, this month’s a tough one! (Answers - page 46)
Across 1. Hirsute 4. Loathes 9. Sea God 10. Relative 11. Behind schedule 12. Error 13. Shy 14. Head strong
(5) (6) (7) (5) (4) (7) (3) (4)
16. Consumes 18. Spike, as of corn 20. Draw out 21. Reverberation 24. More than once 25. Prospect 26. Oppose 27. Eat greedily
(4) (3) (7) (4) (5) (7) (6) (5)
(6) (5) (4) (8) (7) (6) (5)
13. Lowers the reputation of (8) 15. Reaches by effort (7) 17. An improvement (6) 18. Moral significance (5) 19. Mollusc (6) 22. Band of singers (5) 23. Male deer (4)
Down 1. Manage 2. Contribution 3. Not our 5. Staircase part 6. Hams do it 7. Roasting pin 8. Burglar’s tool
Mai Pen Rai Bungalows
Than Sadet Beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand
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Each row, column and box must contain each of the numbers 1-9.
Question Bungalows from 350 – 950 Baht per night Tel. 077 445090 / 158 or 081 999 4000 or 081 894 5076 Regular boat trips out to Angthong National Marine Park. www.thansadet.com
Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. How many islands does it approximately have? a) 11,285? b) 15,643? c) 17,508?
bamboo BEACH hut?
Buzzing C i ty h o s te l ?
lashpa cker Hotel?
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To Eat like Foods a Local in Bangkok
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Pad Ga Pow Moo Kai Dow
(Stir Fried Chicken with Basil and a Fried Egg)
Pad Ga Pow is easily the most beloved everyday dish for locals in Bangkok. A choice of chicken, pork, or minced meat, is stir fried in oil with garlic, chilies, small green vegetables like chopped green beans, and lastly a handful of vibrant basil to give the dish its unique taste. It is highly common to eat it over a pile of rice accompanied by a fried egg. This is a Thai dish that can be trusted to turn out delicious and satisfying almost every time and at almost every eatery.
Tom Yum Gung Nam Khon
Kai Jiew Moo Saap (Thai Pork Omelet)
Though it sounds like just an ordinary omelet, many Thai’s consider their minced pork version a real comfort food and one of their absolute favorites to go along with any Thai meal spread. Eggs are beat up with a dash of fish sauce and soy sauce and mixed with minced pork and garlic. The egg mixture is fried in a generous amount of oil and made into a delicious egg creation. It is best eaten with a squirt of chili tomato sauce (sauce prik).
(Spicy Thai Soup with Shrimp)
Tom Yum Gung is a prominent local soup masterpiece teeming with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. It can be ordered creamy (tom yum gung nam kohn) or clear (tom yum gung nam sai) for a slightly extra tart and healthier version. This soup truly unifies a host of favorite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet, all in one bowl.
(Green Papaya Salad)
Variations of som tam or green papaya salad are some of the most sought after dishes in Bangkok. Garlic and chilies are pounded with a mortar and pestle before adding tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, string beans and a handful of grated green papaya. Many variations are available including one made with crab (som tam boo), one made with fermented fish sauce (som tam plah lah), and the tamest version with little fishiness known as Som Tam Thai.
Pad See Eiu
(Stir Fried Wide Rice Noodles in Soy Sauce)
An extremely popular fried noodle dish is Pad See Eiu. Wide rice noodles are fried in the wok with garlic, pork, and Chinese broccoli before being flavored with dark soy sauce. An egg is scrambled amidst the chaos of noodles to add that extra gusto of flavor. After the dish is served, locals will often add a few spoons of sugar, chili flakes, and a little vinegar to perfect the taste.
(Stir Fried Thai Noodles)
Pad Thai is not only one of the most well known and sought after Thai dishes for tourists, it’s also a favorite among locals. Medium sized rice noodles are stir fried with a host of ingredients like tofu, peanuts, shrimp, green onions, bean sprouts, garlic, pepper, fish sauce, and lime juice. A scrambled egg mixed into the noodles seals the dish together and ensures deliciousness. Pad Thai is great to eat with a squeeze of lime and a choice sprinkled sugar, chili flakes, and vinegar.
Plah Chon Pow (Grilled Snake Head Fish)
Variations of snake head fish are some of the most mainstream and crowd pleasing fish dishes in Bangkok. The snake head fish is initially stuffed with lemongrass, lime leaves, and other ingredients for flavor, then rolled in a thick coat of salt. Next it is grilled, never overcooked, to juicy perfection. The result is a soft sweet white meat fish that literally liquefies in your mouth and chewing is almost unnecessary. Plah chon pow is incredible when coated in the special salsa chili sauce provided.
(Soft Rice Noodles with Curry)
Kanom jeen are thin noodles made from fermented rice that are mild tasting and very soft. They are served with a ladle of your choice of curry ranging from nam ya kati (orange curry), nam prik (sweet chili paste curry), gang keow wan gai (green curry chicken), and others. The curry is then topped with vegetable garnishes like shredded cabbage, cucumbers, bean sprouts, and a selection of herbs.
(Hot Pot Soup)
Jim Jum is a Thai favorite dish for a night of relaxing chit-chat and often accompanies a bottle of Thai whiskey to share around. A small clay pot filled with an outstanding porky aromatic broth sits over a bed of charcoal. The host brings an assortment of raw vegetables, meats (usually pork and liver), beaten eggs, glass noodles, and the all important holy Thai basil. The vegetables and meats are thrown into the pot to slowly boil into a nourishing and hearty soup made right in front of you.
Pad Pak Bung Fai Daeng
(Stir Fried Morning Glory)
If you are Thai and don’t care for vegetables, you still most likely like stir fried morning glory. Morning glory is a stemoriented hollow vegetable with small leaves. It is lightly stir fried with garlic, oyster sauce, and chilies on a high heat to remain super crispy and retain its fresh flavor. All profits fr om Time for goes to the Lime charity Lant a Animal W So come on elfare. , cook, eat and drink an d sleep your hearts out :-)
a different concept with a Passion thai & fusion C O O K I N G C L A S S E S - R E S TA U R A N T www.timeforlime.net cozy B A R & B U N G A L O W S ON THE BEACH FRONT Koh Lanta - Thailand
: FASHION BA CK PA CK ER FA SH IO N TR EN DS WH IC H ON E AR E YO U? By Ant and Elise Milotic. PositiveWorldTravel.com
The ‘I’ve been everywhere man’ T-shirt Wearer
Maybe you are this type of backpackerfashionista? The t-shirt/singlet top one. The one who owns and buys every singlet top of where they’ve been throughout Asia. Not only that, you also like to buy a singlet proudly displaying all the brands of beer you’ve drunk in each country! Maybe stuffed somewhere in your pack is the old but still loved ‘same same, but different’ t-shirt. To you, these aren’t just clothes-they’re souvenirs! These boys love their beer singlets! It doesn’t matter that your once favourite Bonds t-shirt is now getting dumped at a backpackers in place of your new ‘Tubing in the Vang Vieng’ singlet. I take it you’ve been Tubing?
tical cand Savvy Traveler
While we have been traveling around South East Asia, I have begun to discover a few things about backpackers and their unique sense of fashion. Regardless of nationality or age, I’ve realized that there are about three broad categories that we all fall under. The question is which one are you? There seems to be an unspoken rule known by all travelers. Your pack is full of clothes from home before you set out, all neatly rolled (more space effective!) but then over time (and the more markets you visit) it starts to change and so does the way you look...
The ‘I’ve been everywhere man’ T-shirt Wearer Whether you’re actually a ‘true’ hippie (the love and mung beans kind) or just one while you travel, your clothes will be reflecting it. You know what I’m talking about. Fisherman pants, tie dye shirts, long flowing skirts, head scarves/bands, bracelets, Bob Marley t-shirts, crochet tops and endless Kaftan shirts. If you’ve been to Thailand and wandered down Koh San Road, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This is one place to get your hippie fix-dreadlocks included! (I even admit to getting my hair woven here!) Complete with Dreadlocks! Suddenly your denim shorts are getting replaced with comfy fisherman pants…
l a c i t c a The Pr and Savvy Traveler
Last but not least, if you don’t belong in the previous two categories maybe you’re this final traveler? The backpacker who wears travel labels to the nines! T-shirts that will shrink after one wash from the markets don’t interest you, and why would they? You’ve got your micro woven, keeps-you-cool, sweat resistant ‘Kathmandu’ shirt. Conveniently with buttons at the sleeves so it can be worn long or short. The same goes for your quick dry pants that zip off at the knee and your bacteria resistant, wicker woven underwear! Your clothes work for every rugged terrain and all seasons. You’re set wherever you go. Maybe you could ask Northface for a sponsorship?
c i t c a r The P and
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arts The thirsty demand for book recommendations is part-and-parcel of long term travel. While iPods and laptops are great time-wasters on endless bus journeys, nothing satisfies like the pages of a good book! When I travel, I try to limit my reading to non-fiction. After all, to travel for travel itself is so fundamentally indulgent that the least I can do is try and learn as I go! Most of the books However, I’ve been handed some great fiction to read during my journey and have included those as well!
The Best Books I’ve Read During my Travels! Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail By Rusty Young & Thomas McFadden.
Travel through Bolivia and you will see at least a dozen people furiously turning the pages of Marching Powder. Absorbing and shocking, the book chronicles the life of Thomas McFadden, a British citizen who was imprisoned for cocaine trafficking and the strange prison that houses him in La Paz. Rusty Young, a law graduate and backpacker who is drawn to McFadden’s story, becomes more embroiled in his life -and Young eventually finds himself representing McFadden in his bid for parole and in recounting the story of his life. The book is a great read outside of Bolivia, but once you’ve travelling there witnessed the chaos of La Paz and the clash of people and cultures in its tangled streets, you won’t be able to put it down.
How to Shit Around the World: The Art of Staying Clean and Healthy While Traveling By Jane Wilson-Howarth. This book might not be of the highest intellectual order, but it was extremely useful, downright hilarious and well worth reading in public places if only for the reactions of those around you. Double takes on public transportation are a given. With special sections devoted to women’s health and what to eat, the book is a perfect introduction to venturing out into the culinary unknown when travelling around the world. I particularly liked Howarth’s endorsement of street food (the turnover is quick, the food fresh and the locals know something you don’t), and the no-nonsense tips for dealing with sickness on the road.
Catfish and Mandala: A TwoWheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
By Greg Mortensen & David Relin.
I was given this book as a going away gift, and I loved it so much I mailed it to my brother from Bariloche, Argentina (garnering myself a marriage proposal from the postman in the process). You read this book for the story, not the writing – but the story envelops you wholeheartedly. An “against-allodds” tale of Mortensen’s efforts to educate girls in Afghanistan, address the cultural prejudices he witnesses in North America and tackle the crippling poverty he witnesses on his trips to the Middle East.
How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization By Franklin Foer.
Foer, an editor at The New Republic, provides an enthralling, entertaining narrative about soccer and its place in today’s global world. The title is somewhat misleading: the book is truly a series of unconnected essays about sociology, economics and politics and how each relates to soccer. But each chapter was informative and provided a snapshot into a world I would never otherwise inhabit. The chapters on Serbia’s Red Star Brigade and its role in Serbian nationalism and on the Celtics vs. Rangers rivalry, with its foundation in religious and political anger, were particularly intriguing. An easy but interesting book.
By Jodi Ettenberg
By Andrew X. Pham.
Caught in the crossroads of decisions, Pham abandons a burgeoning career in engineering (despite his parents’ wishes), and embarks on a new path of freelance writing. “I am a mover of betweens” he writes, “I slip among classifications, like water in cupped palms.” Who among us hasn’t felt this way? After his sister’s suicide, Pham decides discover his roots by travelling Vietnam by bicycle, beginning in Ho Chi Minh City. Alternating between Pham’s desperate desire to find himself and the painful, often harrowing flashbacks of his father’s imprisonment in a Viet Cong death camp, the book comes together beautifully. Disgusted by modern-day Saigon and alienated from the Vietnamese he meets on his trip, Pham tries to find a balance between his family’s haunting saga, the country he thought he loved and the person he has become.
In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams By Tahir Shah.
With one foot in the East and the other in the West, Shah’s memoir about his new home in Morocco, Dar Khalifa, and subsequent search for the teaching stories that provide a foundation of learning in the East is a captivating read. If you liked Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, this book will appeal to you immensely. I enjoyed every word.
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World
By Eric Weiner.
This book was a donation from friends and it accompanied me on my epic 36 hour trip home from Bangkok. Divided by country, the book details Weiner’s search for the origins of happiness, from Moldova (not so happy) to Iceland (surprisingly happy) and the places in between. A self-described grump, Weiner stays at an ashram in India, talks to monks in Bhutan (a particularly lovely portion of the book) and interviews the godfather of happiness research himself, Dr. Ruut Veenhoven. While some chapters did not resonate with me (notably the ones on Thailand and the UK), the natural style of Weiner’s prose and his unique perspective after years of working as an NPR correspondent vaulted this book to my favourites list.
Papillon (P.S.) By Henri Charriere. Much like Shantaram, Papillon details Charriere’s decision to escape from prison instead of serving time for a crime that he (unlike Roberts) did not commit – and there’s no false modesty here either. Nonetheless, Papillon was a wondrous read, in part because of where it took place (the penal colonies of French Guyana) and the stubborn spirit of Charriere, who kept getting caught on the run and yet still tried to escape prison each time he was reincarcerated. Published in 1968, I’ve seen several travellers reading it during the course of this trip.
The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time By Simon Winchester.
I’m not always a fan of Winchester’s style, but this book remains my favorite in his extensive bibliography. Drawn to the beauty of Ten thousand li, a stunning 53 foot scroll by Wang Hui, Winchester decides to delve deeper into the massive Yangtze for his next book. He works his way along the length of the river in reverse, from its mouth at the South China Sea to the looming plateaus of Tibet where the river begins. The history and geography of the Yangtze unfolds beautifully, punctuated with Winchester’s personal anecdotes about what he calls “the delicious strangeness of China.” The book was written in 1996, and the ruminations about the Three Gorges Dam (now essentially complete) are interesting to digest in retrospect. While the book does not paint a thorough narrative of modern China, it is a well-researched, fascinating way to discover the tangled mass of culture, people and geography along the Yangtze’s edge.
Jodi Ettenberg is a traveler and blogger who has traipsed throigh South America, Russia, Mongolia and South East Asia. More Book Reviews, Travel Tips & Articles by Jodi can be found at www.legalnomads.com
mo m e portant Im
Currency: Brunei Dollar, divided into 100 cents. Exchange rate: $1 USD = $1.41 BN Dollar Capital city: Bandar Seri Bagawan Main religion: Islam (official) 67% Buddhist (13%) Christian (10%) Indigenous beliefs (10%) Main language: Malay (official) English also widely spoken. Telephone code: +673 Time: GMT + 8 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Salam (Hello) Terimah kasih (Thank you) Visa: Nationals of most European countries, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand do not need a Visa for visits of up to 30 days. USA citizens can stay for up to 90 days. Most other nationalities need to apply for a visa in advance which takes 1-3 days to process. (Single entry B$20 or multiple entry B$30) 72 hour transit visas are also available. Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. Visa extension: Visas can be renewed at embassies in Bandar Seri Bagawan. Climate: Brunei experiences a hot, humid climate all year round. Most rainfall is between September and January, peaking in November and December, but this can vary. 1 random fact: Brunei Darussalam is ruled by a monarchy that is one of the oldest reigning dynasties in the world. The royal bloodline dates back over 600 years. Ambulance: 991 Fire: 995 Police: 993
Currency: Cambodian Riel (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 4,155 KHR Capital city: Phnom Penh Main religion: Theravada Buddhism (95%) Main Language: Khmer Telephone code: +855 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sua s’dei (Hello) Aw kohn (Thank you) Visa: Most nationalities can obtain a 1 month tourist Visa upon arrival which costs around $20. At land border crossings, notably the Thai/Cambodian border, the fee can be more expensive as the cost is paid in baht and is sometimes rounded up considerably. You will need 1 or 2 passport photos to apply, or you will be charged extra (usually only $1-2.) Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. E-Visa: You can now apply for an E-visa online. Pre-order at: www.mfaic.gov.kh 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: Cambodia has experienced one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Since 1969, Cambodia’s primary rainforest cover fell from over 70%
to just 3.1% in 2007. Since then, the Ministry of Environment, aided by international bodies, have taken steps to prevent illegal logging and encourage replanting. In an emergency: Ambulance: 119 Fire: 118 Police: 117
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: At 2,963 metres, Mt. Tatamailau is the highest mountain in East Timor. Tatamailau means ‘Grandfather of al’l in local language, Mambai. The mountain is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and there is a 3-meter high statue of her on the peak. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 7233212 Police: 112
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah Exchange rate: $1 USD = 9,330 IDR Capital city: Jakarta Main religion: Islam (88%) Main language: Bahasa Indonesia (official) There are also many regional dialects. Telephone code: +62 Time: GMT + 7 hours (Sumatra, Java) GMT + 8 hours (Bali, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara) GMT + 9 hours (Maluku and Papua) Hellos and Thank-you’s: Salam (hello) 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 Pap-
ua. 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: There are an estimated 583 different dialects spoken across the archipelago. The official language is ‘Bahasa Indonesia.’ Emergency numbers: (Java) Fire: 113 Police: 110 Medical assistance: 118, 119
Currency: Lao KIP (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 8,460 LAK Capital city: Vientiane Main religion: Buddhism Main language: Lao (official) Telephone code: +856 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sabaydee (Hello) Khawp Jai (Thank you) Visa: Most nationalities can obtain a 30 day visa for Laos at international airports and land border crossings. The cost ranges from $20 - $42, depending on your nationality. At the Thailand/Laos border if you pay in Thai baht fees can be more expensive. You will need 2 passport photos and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: Visa extensions can be applied for at the Vientiane Immigration Office, which costs US$2 / day for 30 days. Extensions can also be obtained from some travel agents for around US$3. 90 day extensions are available, ask at the embassy for details. Penalty for late departure: Up to US$10/day. Long overstays can lead to arrest and imprisonment. Climate: The wet season in Laos is between May and October and the dry season between November and April. Temperatures during this time are the most comfortable, and can be quite cold in mountainous areas. The hottest time of the year is between March and May, with temperatures reaching 38 degrees. 1 random fact: From the 8th century onwards, people migrated into Laos from South China. In the 14th century, the first state of Laos was founded, known as the Lan Xang kingdom. The kingdom ruled Laos until 1713. Emergency numbers: (Vientiane) Ambulance: 195 Fire: 190 Police: 191
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit Exchange rate: $1 USD = 3.40 MYR Capital city: Kuala Lumpur Main religion: Islam (official) Main language: Bahasa Melayu (official) Telephone code: +60 Time: GMT + 8 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: 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: Nasi Kandar is a famous and unique Malaysian dish, brought to the country by the migrating Indian Muslims. The best Nasi Kandar is rumoured to be found on the island of Penang. 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: In Myanmar, you will notice that the local women wear a pale yellow paste on their cheeks and foreheads. The paste is made from the ground bark of the Thanaka tree and is used for sun protection and as a moisturiser. Emergency numbers: (Yangon) Ambulance: 192 Police: 199 Fire: 191
Currency: Peso, divided into 100 centavos. Exchange rate: $1 USD = 46.1 PHP Capital city: Manila Main religion: Over 80% Catholic Main language: Filipino, English Telephone code: +63 Time: GMT + 8 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: hello, kamusta ka (hello, how are you) salamat (thank you) Visa: Tourist visas are granted free of charge upon entry for most nationalities for a stay up to 21 days. However, you may be required to show valid tickets for an onward destination. For longer stays you should apply for a tourist visa before arrival at a Philippine Embassy. The cost for a three month single entry visa is usually $30, but ask at the embassy for up to date info. Longer visas for up to
12 months are available. Visas take two to three working days to process and passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: When in the Philippines, you are able extend your 21 day visa for up to 59 days at immigration offices. Costs apply. Climate: The tropical climate of the Philippines can vary depending on region, but generally the best time to visit the Philippines is January to May, when the dry season occurs. May is the hottest month with temperatures reaching 38 degrees. This scorching heat is followed by the downpours of June and October when the rainy season affects most of the country. The rains peak from July to September when typhoons are likely. 1 random fact: The Filipino people are ‘text crazy.’ An estimated 400 million SMS’s are sent every day by 35 million cell phone users. This is more than the total text messages sent daily in the U.S. and Europe combined. Emergency numbers: Fire, Ambulance, Police: 117
Currency: Singapore Dollar Exchange rate: $1 USD = 1.41 SGD Main religions: Taoist, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim. Main language: English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil Telephone code: +65 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Ni hao ma? (Hi, how are you) Xie xie (thank you) Visa: Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the UK and most other European countries are granted either a 14 or 30-day tourist pass upon entry to Singapore. Duration of pass depends on nationality and point of entry. USA citizens receive 90 days. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: Extensions of up to 90 days can be applied for at the consulate in Singapore. Climate: November to January see the most rain, however there are really no distinct seasons in Singapore. The weather is very similar all year round, hot and humid. 1 random fact: The mascot of Singapore is the Merlion, an invented creature with the head of a lion and body of a fish. The fish signifies Singapore’s ancient name from when it began as a fishing village, ‘Temasek,’ sea town in Javanese. The lion head symbolises Singapore’s original name, Singapura, meaning Lion city. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 995 Police: 999 Fire: 995
Currency: Thai Baht Exchange rate: $1 USD = 33 THB Capital city: Bangkok Main religion: 95% Theravada Buddhism Main language: Thai Telephone code: +66 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sawasdee Ka/Krap (m/f) / Kop Khun Ka/Krap (m/f) Visa: Most nationalities, including Americans, Australians and most Europeans receive a free 30 day tourist visa upon arrival into Thailand by air. However, if arriving by land you will only receive 15 days. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: Visas can be renewed for a fee at immigration points. The cost is 1900 baht for 7 days
extra and it can be extended only once. If you leave the country and return, your visa will be renewed for free. You can exit and re-enter the country as many times as you like this way and most travel agents can arrange border runs to neighbouring countries. Penalty for late departure: 500 baht/day. The maximum fine for overstay that you can pay is 20,000 baht after this you may face deportation at your own cost or imprisonment. Climate: Most of Thailand experiences three seasons; The cool season occurs during November to February, followed by the hot season, March to May, then the rainy season, between June and October. As with many countries in this part of the world, the wet season tends to consist of short, hard downpours. The time of the rainy season however, differs from the East coast to the West. The Andaman Coast (West) experiences monsoon from June to September (Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi, Railay) whilst in the Gulf of Thailand (East) rains mostly fall during September to November. 1 random fact: Siam was the official name of Thailand until 1949 when it was changed to Thailand officially. In Thai language, ‘Thai’ means ‘freedom.’ Therefore, Thailand means ‘Land of freedom’ or ‘Land of the free.’ Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 1669 Fire: 199 Police: 191
Currency: Vietnamese Dong Exchange rate: $1 USD = 18,600 VND Capital city: Hanoi Main religion: Tam Giao (Triple religion – Confucionism, Taosim, Buddhism) Main language: Vietnamese (official) Telephone code: +84 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sin chao (Hello) Cam on (thank you) Visa: Visas for entering Vietnam must be arranged in advance. You can do this at the Vietnamese embassies in whichever country you are in and some travel agencies also offer the service. Depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting, (on average from 1 day to 4 days), it can cost anywhere between $35 and $65 for a 30 day visa. You will need 1 passport sized photograph and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: 30 day extensions can be obtained from travel agents in Hanoi, HCMC or Danang. The process can take up to 5 days and the fee is usually US$30. Climate: The climate of North and South Vietnam differ greatly, with generally a hot tropical climate in the South and hot summers and cold winters in the North. The monsoon season is between May and October which brings rain to most of the country. The central coast can experience typhoons between August and November. 1 random fact: 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 20.8.10) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at email@example.com if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)
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