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The essential magazine for all travellers through South East Asia.

The Philippines Island Hopping on 7,107 Drops of Paradise

SUKOTHAI

N! FANSIPetnAam ’s

Conquer Vi Highest Peak

ISSN 1906-7674

The Golden Hand

SINGAPORE

On a Budget in South East Asia’s Most Expensive City www.southeastasiabackpacker.com


A V I V on the beach

North Koh Phangan, in the heart of the old fishing village, Chaloklum, VIVA on the Beach is a modern designed beachfront hotel catering for every traveller & any budget!

Koh Phangan, Thailand

At VIVA on the Beach hotel open-air restaurant we serve only the best traditional cuisine using fresh regional ingredients prepared by our astounding Thai Chef. Plus exotic cocktails, delicious Italian ice cream & tropical fruit at the all day Cocktail Bar!

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

Diving!

We can also offer amazing discount rates for the best Diving and Muay Thai schools on the island!

Mini Apartament: 500 baht / night Single room: 600 baht / night Family room: 1,000 baht / night Suite: 2,000 baht / night Imperial: Â 4,500 baht / night Call to book: +66 (0)77 374 355 Fax: +66 (0)77 374 366 Email: viva.hotel@libero.it

www.vivaphangan.com

S.E.A Backpacker

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Introduction:

The beaten track can

en! be beat

You’ve either got it or you haven’t. That urge to see what’s around the corner. And seeing as though you’re reading this in South East Asia I’m assuming you’re one of the ones who have it.

you from?’ people shout as you whizz past on the bike too fast to answer. Hard to believe that in under an hour you can be eating an Italian meal or sat in an Irish bar back in the town.

I’ve always been a wanderer; never satisfied with staying in one place, not just the desire but the instinctive need to explore, seek new experiences and be out in the great outdoors. I just don’t feel satisfied sitting on a beach if I haven’t seen what is at each end of the beach, up the mountain and in the forest first – only then will I allow myself time to actually relax on the beach. If someone said to me ‘this right here is the most beautiful and best beach in the whole world, you will never find a beach like this anywhere else,’ well, I’d just have to try.

Sometimes we are too easy pigeonhole a place; Koh Phangan as the ‘Full Moon Party’ island, Vang Vieng as the ‘tubing’ experience and Siem Reap as a visit to ‘Angkor Wat.’ Undeniably these features are what has made each place on the trail famous, yet each spot has so much more to offer.

In South East Asia, some of the best experiences I’ve had have been during an aimless and impromptu ‘wander’ off the main tourist track. It never ceases to amaze me that even just a 10-minute walk from some of the busiest tourist enclaves you can find yourself in another world. And you know what – there’s not another foreigner in sight! Did you know that a diversion down the backstreets of Bangkok’s most famous backpacker hive, the Khao San Road, will take you through ancient alleyways where you catch a glimpse of the Bangkok of old, local street life and a completely different side of Thailand? Stepping back amongst the bustling throng of backpackers and tourists later you’ll feel privileged to have witnessed a secret side of Bangkok that incredibly many will never see, despite how easy it is to do so. A Thai friend translated the words of a young boy once who remarked as we passed by “Do farang drink water!?” as all he had ever seen were foreigners drinking beer in the bars of Khao San. On a motorbike ride just 30-minutes outside of Chiang Mai, as the traffic thins, you will start to discover beautiful rural Thailand. Local village markets, ornate Lanna style wooden homes, water buffalo ploughing the rice fields and EVERYBODY smiling. It’s obvious that not many travellers venture this far because the faces of locals are truly ones of surprise, amusement at seeing a ‘farang’ so far away from the designated tourist streets and intrigue – ‘where

Did you know that most of Koh Phangan is made up of untouched National Park and that far far away from Full Moon Party Beach, down a dirt track to the other side of the island there are remote beaches only accessible by boat? Once you’ve sobered up from Vang Vieng there’s rock climbing, trekking, cycling and exploring to be done! After you’ve ticked off the ‘must-do’ activity in each place it may be worth sticking around a while, leaving the guidebook at home and stumbling across some of your own special discoveries. So the next time your bus stops in a grotty town and you sigh at having to wait three hours while the driver has a smoke and a nap, take this as a golden opportunity! Away from the bus depot, that grotty town may just have some hidden gems that are waiting to be explored. If you miss a ferry or connecting bus – no worries! Stay a day or two in a transit town, hire a bike and make it your mission to find places and take photographs of sights that not every backpacker will have in their travel scrapbook. Sometimes, getting off the beaten track isn’t about going out of the way to ensure you’re a million miles away from the nearest white person. You don’t have to risk life and death heading to the remote jungles of Kalimantan to live with tribal headhunters to find something just a little bit different. It’s a lot easier than you may think. The most beautiful beaches, temples and mountains in the world are celebrated for a reason and I’m not saying that you scratch them off your itinerary... From the highly acclaimed to the overlooked, experience everything that South East Asia has to offer and every now and again just go for a walk… By Nikki Scott

“Don’t keep forever on the publi c road. Leave the beaten track occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do so you will be certain to see something you have never seen before. Of course it will be a little thing , but do not ignore it. Follow it up, explore aroun d it, and before you know it, something wort h thinking about to occupy your mind.” (Alexander Graham Bell)

Photograph: Vang Vieng, Laos

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S.E.A Backpacker


• • • • • • • •

falos & eat ant eggs! nds to hunt rats, ride buf Be the first of your frie ouched countryside unt ul, ys of life in beautif Discover traditional wa Vs, flying & skydiving available, including AT Other extreme sports y locals ndl frie villages & meet Explore ancient farming bt 600 from ion dat mo accom Peaceful, luxury resort d cheap “Isaan” foo Authentic, delicious & hire from 50 bt ak kay / e bik ain Mount FREE! ion & smiles = absolutely xat rela , Real Thai culture

Located near Udon Thani, only 50km from Laos border, Nong Khai. Email: blueskies.bird@gmail.com, Call: +66 8 3334 3000 Or visit: www.ThaiSkydiving.com to book your amazing “Isaan” experience now!

Haad Khuad Resort

Haad Khuad Koh Phangan, Thailand

Resort

Find home on a private beach in paradise!

Tel: +66 (0) 77 445 153-4, +66 (0) 81 849 6716 www.haadkhuadresort.com Email: info@haadkhuadresort.com or haadkhuadresort@hotmail.com 154/1 Moo.1, Koh Phangan, Surat thani 84280 Thailand S.E.A Backpacker

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C ontents : Features : on a Budget & 12 Singapore Top 10 Free Things to Do! PHOTOS: 20 BACKPACKER Sukhothai - The Golden Hand MUSIC: 50 BACKPACKER Singin’ The Thai Tune

D estination spotlight : Philippines: 24 The Land of the Pearly Whites Conquering Indo China’s 32 Fansipan: Highest Peak

20 nd... 23,000

haila othai, T

Sukh

the Beaten Track in Laos: 40 Off The Bolaven Plateau

km on a bik

e... 10

The Philippines, 7,107 islands... 24

R egulars : 8 South East Asia Map & Visa Info 10 S.E.A BACKPACKER: Newsflflflash! on the soi: What’s your 18 Word massage face & more stories

Conquerin

g Fansipan

, Vietnam..

. 32

& Festivals: 28 Events What’s On Guide GAMES: 38 BACKPACKER Crossword, Sudoku & Missed Connections

42 Traveller Thoughts, Stories, Tips FOOD: 44 BACKPACKER Noodle Vs. Baguette in Luang Prabang BACKPACKER ARTS:

48 Book Review, Magic Bus BACKPACKER INFO: Visas, Exchange

52 Rates, Climates & More

Cover Photograph: Caramoan, The Philippines by Ron Cruz

O

s.... 40

ck in Lao

ten Tra ff the Bea

S.E.A Backpacker Co., Ltd.

Registration Number 0205552005285. ISSN NO. 1906-7674

www.southeastasiabackpacker.com

Tel: 081 776 7616 (Thai) 084 553 8996 (Eng) Fax: 038 072 078 E-mail: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com Backpacker South East Asia is Published by S.E.A. Backpacker Company. Managing Director: Nikki Scott. (E-mail: nikki@southeastasiabackpacker.com) Editor: Nanchaya Jaikaew. (E-mail: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com) Design & Layout: S.E.A. Backpacker Company Limited. Artwork: Saksit Jankrajang. Sales & Marketing: Rujirapat Wad-udom, Kitti Boon Sri. Accounts: Yanisa Jaikaew. Contributing Writers and Photographers: Nikki Scott, Elliott Cappell, Kelly Hennessy, Sea Suksaard , Taryn Procyshyn, Juanse Ramírez-Lugo, Monette Fernandez, Ron Cruz, Selena Black, Lottie Butler, Stephanie Katz, Anna Costley, Mallory Knudsen, Penelope Atkinson. For advertising enquiries: Tel: +66(0)81 776 7616 (Thai), +66(0)84 553 8996 (Eng) Email: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com For writing opportunities: Email: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com

S.E.A Backpacker Magazine Legal: All material is strictly copyright and all rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Opinions expressed in S.E.A Backpacker Magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher. S.E.A Backpacker Magazine does not accept responsibility for advertising content. Any pictures, transparencies or logos used are at the owner’s risk. Any mention of S.E.A Backpacker Magazine or use of the S.E.A Backpacker Magazine logo by any advertiser in this publication does not imply endorsement of that company or its products or services by S.E.A Backpacker Magazine. (c) S.E.A Backpacker Magazine, April 2011.


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S.E.A Backpacker

7


mo m e ne Go

M ap : south east asia Myitkyina

ling !

Travel x

Myanmar Sapa Fansipan Mandalay Bagan Kalaw

Taunggyi Inle Lake

Hanoi

Udomxai Chiang Rai

Luang Prabang

Mae Hong Son

Vang Vieng

Pai

Vientiane

Chiang Mai

Nong Khai

Sukhothai

Udon Thani

Yangon Pathein

Halong Bay

Tha Khaek

Laos

Hue

Thailand

Hoi An

Four Thousand Islands

Kanchanaburi

Angkor Temples

Bangkok

Siem Reap Tonle Sap

Cambodia

Chonburi

Vietn

Koh Chang

Gulf Of Thailand

Andaman Sea

Phnom Penh

Dalat

Mui N

Sihanoukville

Koh Tao Koh Phangan Koh Samui

Ho Chi Minh

Phu Quoc

Surat Thani Phuket

Krabi

Koh Phi Phi

Pulau Penang

Pulau Weh

Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Medan Berastagi

Melaka

Lake Toba

Singapore Pulau Nias

Riau Islands

Sumatra Bukittinggi

Bandarlampung

Indian Ocean

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S.E.A Backpacker

Jakarta


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. The previous $10 7-day visa is no longer available. Laos: Most nationalities can obtain a 30 day visa for Laos at international airports and land border crossings. The cost ranges from $20 - $42 depending on nationality. At the Thailand/Laos border if you pay in Thai baht the fee will be more expensive. Malaysia: Most nationalities are granted a free 30-90 day entry pass upon arrival at international airports and border crossings. Myanmar: Visas should be arranged in advance at a travel agency or Embassy. Costs can range from $20 - $50 for a 28 day visa, depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting. Philippines: Tourist visas are free of charge for most nationalities for a stay up to 21 days. For longer stays you should apply for a visa before you arrive at a Philippine Embassy. Visas for 3 months, 6 months or 12 months are available. Cost depends on duration of stay. Singapore: Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the UK and most other European countries are granted either a 14 or 30day tourist pass upon entry to Singapore. Thailand: Most nationalities, including Americans, Australians and most Europeans receive a free 30 day tourist visa upon arrival into Thailand by air. However, if arriving by land you will only receive 15 days. Vietnam: Visas must be arranged in advance. You can do this at a Vietnamese embassy in whichever country you are in and some travel agencies also offer the service. Depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting, it can cost anywhere between $35 and $65 for a 30 day visa. • See the information pages at the back for more detailed information, visa extensions and penalties for late departure. (At S.E.A Backpacker we try to ensure that all information provided is as accurate and up to date as possible. (Checked 22.4.11) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at info@southeastasiabackpacker.com if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)

Taiwan

Pacific Ocean

Laog Vigan

n

Manila

Philippines Donsol

nam Nha Trang

Ne

h City

Palawan

South China Sea

Davao Zamboanga Kota Kinabalu

Brunei

Mt Kinabalu

Sabah

Bandar Seri Begawan

Niah

Sarawak Kuching Pontianak

Manado

Berau Putussibau

Kalimantan Balikpapan

Mnokwari

Poso

Sula Islands

Sulawesi Pangkalanbun

Misool

Banjarmasin Buru

Seram

Puncak Jaya

Papua

Indonesia Java Gili Islands Bali

Lombok

Nusa Tengarra Flores

Dili

East Timor S.E.A Backpacker

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NEWS! G MAI! N A I H C N I N A R K SONG

HAPPY

NEW New Year in start of the Buddhist Songkran marks the the craziest and wettest of one be to has it Thailand and al where at began as a gentle ritu festivals in the world! Wh water to symbolise with ed inkl spr e wer Buddhist statues lved into an the new year, has evo the cleansing of sins for er fight! Armed with wat l iona nat tic rge enormous and ene ang Mai to took to the streets of Chi 7-11 water pistols we our weapons were t tha d lise rea n soo join in the action! We drenched by we were continuously slightly inadequate as iced water zing free of kets buc ring trucks passing by pou at water! mo with ped pum ipes e-p down our backs and hos we did sins r teve wha and d the timi This is not a festival for y! awa washed have are well and truly

Where have we been this issue?

a camp owhere out of n t pink ‘budgie n e th d An tigh nd iry with s our mag a Thai fa e rs’ grab in front of th le g g u r sm with it ment fo o s e m d d ra u pa truly pro A ! d w cro er! ackpack S.E.A B

YEAR!

So while half of the S.E.A Backpacker Team stayed to get drenched in Chiang Mai, the other half set off North. First stop, Chiang Rai and a visit to the brand new Baandin Laguna Resort where we stayed in beautiful natural clay huts with leaf roofs. Located in the mountains amongst misty rice fields the resort was just a 10-minute ride from the legendary Golden Triangle. Next, we took the 2-day Slow Boat on the Mekong River from Huay Xai in Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos. Arriving in Laos, we found that the locals were also celebrating their new year. ‘Sabaidee Pee Mai!’

The Mekong Slow Boat

The 2-day slow boat is a legendary trip amongst backpackers in South East Asia. Cruising along the mighty Mekong with a Beer Lao in hand you learn to appreciate the beauty of a slow pace of travel as your boat passes by remote villages, limestone cliffs and muddy waters. And, spending 7-hours a day for 2-days with each other - you’re pretty much forced to get to know your fellow passengers. For the S.E.A Backpacker Team it was a photo opportunity - as always!

Backpacker Info: The slow boat is 1,400 bt for a 2-day trip from Thailand to Laos, stopping 1-night in Pak Beng. (Accommodation not included in cost.)

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Luang Prabang

UNESCO World Heritage City Luang Prabang has been dubbed one of the most beautiful cities in South East Asia and for good reason. Most backpackers arrive here from the 2-day slow boat and the town offers a perfect introduction to laidback, friendly Laos. Once part of French Indo China, the city is a fascinating contrast between a European and an Asian town. As ancient temples twinkle in the sun and monks walk by with matching orange umbrellas, bustling bakeries emit delicious pastry aromas into the air. (You just haven’t been to Luang Prabang if you haven’t had a bagel at Joma Bakery!) You can read more about Luang Prabang cuisine on page 44. And, for those eager for adventure there’s elephant trekking, visits to hill-tribe villages, waterfalls, rafting, cycling and lots more!


Letter of the Month: HANOI HANGOVER....

ns to end your life, the first When you wake up with a hangover that threate l inventory. Where am I? What thing you do is conduct a panicked menta d in graffiti? I realize I’m in did I do last night? Did I hit anyone? Am I covere I can stay here all day and bed. I have nothing to do today. I’m comfortable. it won’t matter a speck.

to be true. I’m in the middle of Then I open my eyes. I knew it was too good and Polish stoners. Memories ian Roman of full buttf@ck nowhere in a room drunk. We ate popcorn. I paid flock about me like little sheep. We got stupid I gave a French girl my watch. $15 for it because the lady seemed so ‘nice’. . Everything was hilariously We smoked. I smoked and I NEVER smoke at how incredibly dangerous funny. I remember how I got here and cringe (Sorry folks, last time). I don’t and stupid my mode of transportation was. name. N’ah just kidding. It’s own my know don’t I name. s know anyone Kelly. ‘friends’ stir. We go for coffee I go to cough and realize I’m incredibly ill. My by the river. Frenchie is there. and spend the rest of the day at the local pool bitch and any ass-kissing I I’m glad I gave her my watch, she is a typical taken care of by my drunken might have had to do to win her over was tolerable. I feel like shit. We generosity. She still doesn’t like me but I’m surface of the lake towards the over slide to begins storm a and get a beer begins to howl. I face wind the and te opposi city the e us. Clouds obscur away, thousands of me blow to ns threate wind the the storm front on and It is intense and I me. get to coming n, directio little waves are rushing in my and things on this earth we want to scream at it. Like so many other people we realize we are one and challenge each other with ferocity even though This is also why I like mirrors the same. I am as much this storm as it is me. . I’m talking crap because so much, it’s not strictly vanity. I am hot though but I’m afraid that if I eating d finishe I’ve rant, restau a from this I’m writing able I’m going back am I as soon as and fever a have I stand I’ll hit the floor. days. to bed. See you in a few (Kelly Hennessy)

T-SHIRT COMPETITION!

Thank you to all those who entered our competition to win an S.E.A Backpacker T-shirt and well done to our 5 winners!!! Big Thank You to proud winner ‘Sea Suksaard ’ for this suey mak mak photo of her at White Sands Beach in Koh Chang sporting her new T-shirt!

Tel: +66 2233 4144, +66 2233 4164-7 WALL STREET INN

BANGKOK SURAWONGSE-SILOM

www.wallstreetinnhotel.com 37/20-24 Surawongse Rd., Bangkok 10500

And for all those who missed out, you can buy a T-shirt (450 baht inc. P&P) here: www.southeastasiabackpacker.com/shop

Spa Service Free wi-fi Near Pat Pong Nightlife Bangkok Just 10 minutes walk form BTS-Saladang, MRT-Silom Free transfer from Airport

Or, you can try begging us for a free one, we’re a soft bunch - it sometimes works... “I promise to wear my T-shirt every day and tell every single person I meet about your life-changing magazine.” (99% chance of working) “A rabid Cambodian dog ate all of my clothes. I am naked. HELP!” (46% chance of working)

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11


SINGAPORE ON A BUDGET Travel writer and Singapore expat Tanya Procyshyn gives her advice on how to stretch those Sing dollars! Welcome to Singapore, the tropical city-state known for its rich bankers, luxury shopping, and ban on chewing gum! These things definitely are not the formula for an amazing backpackers’ destination, but Singapore’s East-meets-West atmosphere has an allure all of its own. If you can find your way out of the maze of shopping malls you’ll discover that Singapore has a lot to offer – world-class museums, tropical gardens, colonial architecture, amazing food, and bustling street markets – all with a dash of strict social order! Of course, with Singapore’s first world comforts comes first world prices and this can be a real put-off for budget travelers. If you’ve gotten used to $15 bungalows and $1 beers you’re in for some serious price readjustment. While you can still get a meal for a few bucks, accommodation rates are through the roof and wait ‘til you see what a cocktail costs! Chic waterfront bars and window displays of the latest high-tech gadgets are constant temptations to blow your budget, but with a little planning Singapore can be an affordable and fascinating place to visit. Here’s some advice how to get the most out of the city while paying the least.

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About The Writer: Originally from the Canadian prairies, Tanya Procyshyn is a long-time backpacker turned Singapore resident (3 years and counting!). She’s hitch-hiked across Borneo, helped Lao monks with their homework, luged down the Great Wall of China, and had her sandals sniffed by Komodo Dragons. She writes the Singapore blog for Travelfish.org and you can follow her own travels at www.idreamofdurian.com S.E.A Backpacker

13


Singapore’s Backpacker Neighbourhoods: There’s a good reason hostels are clustered in these iconic Singapore neighbourhoods – they’re all cheap, easily accessible by public transit, and have lots of personality. All are fine choices but each has its distinct advantages.

Bugis:

Super-central, malls and street markets, diverse nightlife, international cuisine, and near the bus station to Malaysia. The atmospheric ‘Arab Street’ with its shisha bars and great cheap food is a must visit for backpackers.

Little India:

Vibrant streetlife, temples galore, 24-hour shopping at Mustafa Centre, curry feasts, and sensory overload.

Chinatown:

Traditional architecture, infinite opportunities to try new food, Singapore’s cheapest souvenirs, and a short walk to Clarke Quay for trendy bars.

Where to Sleep: Accommodations are not cheap. As a general rule expect to pay S$20-30 for a dorm, S$100-200 for a budget hotel and over S$200 for the kind of respectable hotel you’d stay at on a family vacation. A backpacker budget will limit you to dorms but the good news is they’re clean, air-conditioned, and include freebies like internet access and breakfast. If you do insist on a bit more privacy some hostels have a small supply of private rooms with shared facilities. Hostels like The Inn Crowd and Sleepy Sam’s charge S$55-89 for a double room and you may need to book in advance to get one – they’re in high demand! Moving to the S$100+ range you can stay at a budget hotel like the chain Hotel 81 or old-school Southeast Asia Hotel. The rooms are charmless and the size of a shoebox, but include all the comforts like TV and your very own bathroom. Location is everything in Singapore and you’ll want to be within walking distance of an MRT (mass rapid transit) station. Public transit stops around midnight so if you’re a night owl you’ll want a hostel within walking distance of some nightlife or a hostel with its own bar.

Where to Eat and Drink: Singapore is a great place to be at mealtime and even on a tight budget you’ll never have to eat the same thing twice. The cheapest eats are at hawker centres – imagine an outdoor foodcourt – where you can feast on local fare like chicken rice, laksa (spicy noodle soup), and roti prata (flatbread with curry) for under S$5 a plate. Fresh seafood like barbequed stingray and Singapore’s signature chili crab cost a bit more but the big portions are meant for sharing. You’re never far from a hawker centre and favourites are Maxwell Centre in Chinatown, Newton Circus near Orchard Road, and Lau Pa Sat in the city centre.

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S.E.A Backpacker

Hawker centres are also home to the cheapest beer in Singapore with drink stalls selling big bottles of locally-brewed Tiger Beer from S$5 – ice cubes optional! Alcohol is highly taxed and if you’re planning to hit the clubs expect to pay about S$15 per drink. Most bars have a happy hour so head to hotspots like Clarke Quay around 6pm for a better deal on cocktails by the Singapore River. Exchange Rate: $1 Singapore Dollar = $0.80 US Dollar


What to See and Do There’s no way to get around the hefty admission fees to top attractions like the Singapore Zoo or the giant Singapore Flyer ferriswheel (S$20 and S$29.50), so start saving if they’re on your to-do list. Student discounts are uncommon but a valid university ID card will save you a few dollars at museums and the National Orchid Gardens. If you want to see and do it all consider a 2-day ‘Singapore Pass’ which gives you entry to 15 attractions for around S$60. They’re available online or at the Singapore Visitors Centre on Orchard Road. (Photo left: Thaipusam Festival in Singapore, January 2011)

S.E.A Backpacker

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Of course, there’s no admission fee to Singapore’s colourful neighbourhoods which are as diverse as the people who call the little island country home. Take off your shoes and explore a Hindu temple in Little India, sniff exotic herbs at a traditional medicine shop in Chinatown, or visit Kampong Glam on a Friday afternoon to hear the call to prayer ring out from the majestic Sultan Mosque.

Top 10 FREE Things To Do in Singapore!

1.

Enjoy the icy air-con while window shopping at the mega-malls on Orchard Road.

attractions on Sentosa Island 2. The aren’t cheap but the beaches are free! The silky sand is imported and there are changing rooms on site.

3.

Smell the flowers and see where bananas come from at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Only the Orchid Garden charges admission.

4.

Culture time! Get a map and do a walking tour of the Colonial District, Chinatown, or Little India.

5.

Rooms at the Raffles Hotel start from S$600 a night, but everyone is free to wander around the courtyards and shopping arcade. Don’t miss the mini Raffles Museum on the third floor.

Watch the high-rollers at Singapore’s new casinos. They’re not as

Getting Around and Out With air-conditioned buses and a subway network that covers the country top to bottom, Singapore’s public transit system is a dream come true. Fares are based on distance and vary from S$1-2 per ride or get a tourist pass and ride all you want for S$8 a day. Should you need a taxi you’ll find they’re reasonably priced (compared to a bottle of beer!) and always use the meter – just be wary of surcharges during rush hour and especially after midnight.

Getting to KL:

When it’s time to say goodbye to Singapore, many backpackers catch a bus or train 320km north to taste Malaysia’s vibrant capital, Kuala Lumpur. Flashpackers amongst you may want to catch a flight which takes just 45 minutes and can cost as little as $30 with low cost carriers such as Tiger Airways. You can also hop on the bus which takes 5-7 hours to reach KL. Super Luxury VIP buses depart from tourist spots Orchard Road, Clarke Quay and Harbourfront Centre with fares $40-$60 - expensive but these are no chicken buses! Some have WIFI, personal TV’s and even massage chairs! Buses depart every 90 minutes between 7.30am - 11.30pm. You can also get the KTMB Train departing from Singapore Station near Tanjong Pagar MRT. It takes around 6-8 hours to reach KL passing by scenic villages and palm oil plantations. Seats cost S$19-68 and sleepers S$40-139 depending on class.

Getting Elsewhere:

At Changi Airport, you can catch a flight to almost anywhere in the world. Lots of budget airlines including Air Asia, Jetstar, Cebu Pacific, and Tiger Airways operate from Changi Airport and with advance booking you can get a flight to Indonesia or the Philippines for slightly more than a single night in a dorm!

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S.E.A Backpacker

as Vegas but there is free tea. Bring your passport and dress to 6. sexy impress (no shorts or sandals).

the wilder side of Singapore at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. 7. Hike If the country wasn’t full of high-rise apartments and shopping malls it would be dense rainforest just like this – monkey sightings guaranteed. See how the creators of Tiger

spent their fortune at the 8. Balm bizarre Haw Par Villa. Words cannot begin to describe the statues of Chinese mythology and torture...

9.

Visit the Singapore Art Museum after 6pm on Friday for free admission – there’s even a guided tour at 7pm. Admission to the Living Galleries at the National Museum of Singapore is free from 6pm – 8pm daily. Head to Merlion Park for

10. harbour views and cheesy

photo ops with Singapore’s bizarre half-lion halfmermaid mascot.


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W ord on the soi: Massaaaaaaage?!

There’s certain etiquette to staying in dorms. And at some point or other, we’ve all come across those backpackers who break the code Asia is the land you of spa massage and Just there’s no doubt of conduct! Perhaps have & slipped up yourself. remember about it, South the variety of treatments on offer is incredible folks, the East Asian circuit is a pretty close-knit trail and and for such a cheap Howagain will you ever survive a you’re bound to bumpprice! into people and again... So think without twice foot a day when youface, get wander back home? You won’t. beforemassage you get hammered out of your stark naked into Why do you think weup. have left? Sometimes however, someone’s bed and throw Hey never it happens. This month, we asked that relaxing massage always what you expect. backpackers to reveal their isn’t funniest and worst dorm stories! We Like everything this unpredictable of the world, things were rewardedinwith some hilarious tales,part but sadly many of them don’t always go were unprintable! Hereto areplan… the onesread that these tales of massage

mishaps and be glad it wasn’t you!

massage in Bangkok. A friend and I went for a de, blonde, tanned, buff, Swe cal My friend (a guy) is a typi sage place, it was clear mas the ed into gorgeous. When we walk to him and they started e shin a taken the young Thai women had small, feisty lady jumped One ngst themselves. ed giggling and chatting amo ained section. I was plac curt d and took him off to a i women Tha The forward to bagsy my frien lly! stica usia friend, not nearly so enth d in the section next to my finished my friend appeare as they do. When we had chatted all the way through ’t realize is that my friend didn en wom the t Wha d. sse looking red and embarra aks perfect Thai. As she d for his whole life and spe has been living in Thailan ing every part of his crib des n bee tly aren had app was massaging him, she up and left and paid we As ds. frien her giggling ‘lor’ (handsome) body to understood had he that i) Tha (in fluent my friend politely told them embarrassment quickly the , said had they d wor every switched! (Lisa, Portugal)

just Asia are y in the t in SE d e la g ld u o o e ty fellow ges tha ed by th n answer! A massa ir neck crack a head r tu a fo p e o m n m pro the y ’t take giving n n The im nyone have ld o old lad u d o le te tt w li he just va insis t one was a ing ! Did a a it s S J a u ? o w g in ri ll n a t) s a rf hil weirde ang Vie g (restauran a wate me! n in. The bar in V sat by nds on bucket at a local waru king an aspir assage as I her ha t ng e ti g is ta m to r tw e e h wanted d funny custom en he saw m me a stomac h e really e administere king for e h w v s a e t g g u a o b mass uri wh ay no s as sh t her hand as chanab ry. I tried to s nting sound m came to visit ou in Kan Hanoi and my mu gru n held g the t. e g i to d n th in ti , ik s k I was teaching in b ic re 20 bah y after a day pacin looking s r da te l d e e 2n in r h ou fe e for my e On e ia! by av om As m ab g s to sh e a trip d e t of d n d firs bit a r a a a m was d on he She m g their nails for a massage. It s which oney! I felt ba Germany) in the lobby gettin , motion we decided to go irs y ts m sta ee n wn str n do s e kid (P oil massages’ and n ‘2 me for d wo ke h as wit t . We establishment bu ble kind of place to a room with t it was a respecta a young scruffy lad who took us done, I took it tha ls… instead he by gir irs the sta t up ge n to ow off ne were sh assumed he’d go e, were covered sit at reception and We ing ip. ild str bu to a us off d mptly told y’d both just walke pulled in-between my mum and the two beds and pro like d ke loo in was his mate (they ey slapped baby p boots!) A curta ge face? I came back with tnamese men. Th and steel toe-ca What’s your massa r skin was red addled by our Vie look that d wore dirty jeans ou str nd an d til bla st an un of du ly d wn in us kin do a d oro ne always try to create both literally pin n forbid d up and down vig in mind! The re be ave d we He rub ha ch. we ey we d mu Th e an O e. ag I TO tur ss tor ma enjoying it s not the relaxing n drool! cks and began the se situations wa ba eve shows that I’m not tho r is of ou ybe Th e ma on ity. on or s oil tiv e It wa the ac ls so good’ fac e she was scared. ed heavily from I knew we hav I me ath t it! d of tha bre tol t e I have a ‘oh that fee y m ou onc t the mu re ge as w to d my little groan of pleasu ck ferociously an n’t quite know ho ur mum ba do too d u yo h lle yo this d pu wit ut d an I’m sure I let out a in abo ke rta k ing na cu ing ppen f forget. Maybe I thin ideal situation be quite believe is ha phone an n’t my tly ca ac oh u do? ex I yo “O t . ’t never quite let mysel like up sn tha ped but it wa ple worry about this ve us both, I jum one sa any real danger, me To ! in so ’t ys et gu ren me much. Do other peo se we to me have sey) d by dusty Vietna was silent. “We (Paranoid Kate, Jer and man-handle ’re going!” We though the room we en ev up , t se Ge . cu ex um on my clothes. “M is ringing” was the the other half id hastily putting ’d come back for by the lake” I sa h the promise we r fronts, I wit t ou Photograph: Early Morning massage around Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi. lef to d on an er e’ d ov paid for ‘half tim s scrubbed, flippe ck ! ba r led ou tai th en Wi ve would ha the next day. at the other half dread to think wh S.E.A Backpacker ) UK , ica (Jess

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I’m not sure I can even te this - it is so ll you ooooo emba rrassing! Plea put a fake na me? (Erm... se can you we’ll think ab having a fant out it ;-) Onc astic Thai m e I was assage, I wa old lady was s so relaxed really hitting and the little the spot, stre even knew we tching me in re possible. to positions Back bends, leg over my I never arm round th head. As she e back of my stretched me across the ot neck, over to one her she mus sid t e ha and pulled on ve unlocked as I let out th e leg an ancient ch e most enor m asm of trapp ous fart you horribly emba ed wind have ever he rrassed that ard in your life I nearly cried my massage ! I was so through the . I think the wo remaining te man sensed massage sh n minutes of my embarra ort to save m ssment and y shame. He cut the y, I tell you wh good later th at it didn’t ha ough… now lf feel I’m as light as (Amy Louise a feather! Hopkins of 23 Whittle Clos Manchester, e, Stockport, England M23 4TY)

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sage in went for a mas for A friend and I on the island s ou m fa is really The woman on the beach, ht rig is Koh Phangan. ce pla e th en we’d d wh an r, ills ve we sage sk ing process, ho her Thai Mas lax re my friend a ld to en d be ha ould have le. The woman pa d ke beautiful. It sh s later a loo ek d we en a few assages my fri ! Sure enough finished our m … was pregnant ion e ict sh ed t pr ub ’s do e woman that beyond all st confirmed th she ate! pregnancy te en something be ve ha t us m A) US (Jenny,

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: PHOTOS

THE GOLDEN HAND Sukhothai, Thailand By Juanse Ramírez-Lugo

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I pull out the map of the site, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as I feel that there is something that I have yet to see. Earlier that day, in the lobby of our guesthouse in Phitsanulok, which we suspect was also a brothel, I had seen a postcard of a monk meditating next to a large golden hand.  Cross-referencing the complimentary map with my guidebook, I realize that this hand belongs to a large Buddha statue a few kilometers northwest of where I sat.    Lorenzo is flirting with taking repose for the day. As he gets closer to the horizon, my urge for making a photo of the golden-handed-Buddha becomes stronger. Clari senses my anxiety.  She tells me to go quickly, by myself, and we will meet back at the bike rental place.  I kiss her goodbye and hop on the bike.  Lorenzo is making his daily pilgrimage west. We usually call him “El Rubio”, The Blonde One, but our friend Suria likes to call him Lorenzo.  I like it.  Sounds poetic. As he approaches the horizon, memories of an empire are transformed into silhouettes against an orange-hued backdrop. Sukhothai was once the epicenter of a kingdom that dominated the area of present day Thailand starting in the 13th century.  Its position of influence was short lived, as the Ayutthaya Kingdom to the south, took over the region in the early 15th century.  Luckily, the remains of its old capital are relatively well preserved. They are reminders of an era of architectural brilliance in Southeast Asia.  The architectural style of Sukhothai is often compared to the ruins of Angkor in Cambodia.  I hope to corroborate this claim in person soon. We have spent the day, followed closely by Lorenzo, cycling around the ruins.  We now chill like villains under the shade of a tree, the sweat of our skins being whisked away by the warm breeze.  Travel is dominated by movement, but moments of calm are indispensible to organize the neural file cabinet full of new impressions.

I push the squeaky hunk of rusted metal as hard as I can to get there in time to take advantage of Lorenzo’s last rays of the day. My body is focused on pedaling, my eyes are looking out for signs, but the brain is lost in creating the next .jpeg file. Aperture settings, shutter speeds and ISOs running through my mind.  I notice a large structure to my left with the right thing scribbled on a wooden sign. Wat Si Chum. I approach the enormous structure through a dirt road.  I leave the bike unlocked without giving it much thought. Inside is a giant concrete Buddha covered on all sides, except for a small sliver in the front.  This space is enough for the large Buddha’s eyes to peak out.  As soon as I leave the bike, and notice those eyes, they capture me like tractor beams and pull me inside.  As I’m being pulled in, something I had not considered crosses my mind.  I have to pay to get inside, instantly realizing that I have left my wallet behind. It was in Clari’s backpack. An older Thai gentleman stands next to the ticket booth and greets me with a smile.  With puppy dog eyes I look back at him and gesture that I have no money.  Then I notice a sign that says it is already closing time.  I plea for access and he responds with a reassuring smile, while motioning that I can go ahead. 

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5 minutes is all I get. 5 minutes is all I need. I bow in gratitude, saying “thank you, thank you, thank you” accompanied by a smile. I start thinking that today karma is on my side. I enter and stand frozen in my tracks. All along, my thoughts were on lenses and remote flash settings.The bike lock. The man at the door. Never thinking what I was truly there for.  Suddenly, I am alone in this box with metric tons of enlightened stone. The Phra Acana Buddha, “one who is not frightened”. My good ol’ friend, Siddhartha stares right into my soul. I sit in front of my friend, mimicking his pose, taking in a few mindful breaths to calm my mind and steady my hand. Lorenzo’s final rays start to melt away. Light is low, but plenty. I put the strobe on the platform, crank it up to 11 and set it to bounce off the wall.  I push up the ISO as far as it can go.  I tune in to an Italian-accented voice in my head. It is Master Paolo. The photographic Yoda to my Luke. “Screw up, you must not.”  I nod in acceptance and quickly tune him out. I focus. CLICK!

Born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Juanse is a Molecular Biologist on a permanent sabbatical. In the summer of 2010, he finished his experiments in California, dropped his pipettes, grabbed his camera and headed East. After stopping in Puerto Rico to drop off his cat and give his mom a kiss, he has been collecting pictures and stories throughout India, Nepal and South East Asia.  To see more of what he’s stumbled upon visit www. bitacurry.com.

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The Philippines: Land of the Pearly Whites By Monette Fernandez and Ron Cruz

In a land of 7,107 drops of paradise where karaoke is the direct translation of fun, travel has been given a new dimension that will certainly reward the brave! The Philippines is the second largest archipelago in the world and perhaps because of that, it has often been overlooked by backpackers who seem to find comfort in running around the land-locked South East Asian region of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. To get in, around, and out of the Philippines will inevitably involve a lot of air travel, which is perhaps one reason that puts backpackers off visiting this vast island mass. However, in recent years, the emergence of low-cost carriers has paved the yellow brick road for all Dorothys and Totos to explore both on and off the beaten path destinations for a very reasonable price. If you aren’t pressured by time during your trip to The Philippines, passenger ferries and sailing ships that tiptoe from island to island offer a fantastic way of reaching the best-kept secrets of the country. And once you arrive, public buses are one of the best ways to get around the island of your choice. The fact that the stranger sitting beside you is sleeping with mouth gaped open does not take away from the spectacular scenery that unfolds before your eyes. If air travel is cheap, then bus and boat fares are free mints offered on immigration counters. In the midst of being swallowed from all fronts by the surrounding churning seas, coupled with the perpetual sudden bursts of PMS by the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines has evolved into a culture that can pick itself up after being conquered by almost all forms of tyranny and disaster - the natural ones and the self-inflicted. Two seasons prevail in the Philippines. Rain starts to shower the country during July and lasts until October bringing with it gale force winds and high seas. Certainly, the best time to visit is during the Filipino summer season between the months of March until June. Like everywhere else in the world at the moment, it seems that the weather in recent years has become quite unpredictable. The country names its typhoons after women, after all. However, due to the sheer size of archipelago and the diversity in geography and topography of the islands that make up the Philippines, there will always be pockets of land where backpackers can seek refuge, be it from the sun or the rain.

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Two Filipinio locals, Ron and Monette take us island hopping on the 7,107 drops of paradise they call home. A couple of urban slaves trying to break free from the monotony of everyday life by traveling - the travel buddies are conquering the world one payslip at a time. You can read more of their quirky adventures at www.fliptravels.com

Photograph: Ilo-ilo sand bar Calling the country a melting pot is an understatement. Much like a steaming Filipino soup that is being brought into a boil, the people have the combined taste of sweet, sour, bitter and salty. We can even throw in the umami to make one hell of a unique flavor that can only be Pinoy. The long standing trade between the neighboring countries of China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand has created a different brew of people. The Spaniards took a holiday from their route and decided to extend their stay for 333 years. The Brits had their share of paradise for two years before being brushed off the sand by the Americans. The Japanese trotted over the country for several years before the United States decided to take back the Philippines that has since developed an insane likeness and liking to Uncle Sam. The country’s incredible diversity is replicated in its fiery cuisine. Influenced by surrounding countries and the islands’ conquistadors, Filipino dishes are characterised as rich and flavourful, much like the country’s turbulent history - turning your dining experience into a culinary adventure. Yes, there’s too

much going on on your plate, you don’t know which taste you should savour first! Visitors to The Philippines will find that life is not all laid-back island living and stilt houses. The cities of Manila and Quezon are home to a vast majority of the population who head to the bright lights to seek out more peso for their hour’s work. Stifling Manila is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. For travellers, an increasing number of hotels, resorts, and backpacker lodges offer a wide range of packages that can be tailored to any type of travel and any budget. Cash is also very accessible, even the remotest of islands have an ATM carved out from the trunk of a tree. Although it is impossible to taste everything that the Philippines have to offer, there are some spots that just cannot be overlooked...

Don’t miss Manila! A lot of articles will try to convince backpackers to move away from the capital, Manila as soon as they land in the country. But that would be to dismiss a huge chunk of land that hosts 13 percent of the 92 million people bobbing on this floating group of rocks. Built by the Spanish in the 16th Century, Intramuros (literally S.E.A Backpacker

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has its own culture, where beach partying seems to be the official activity! We would not be surprised if San Miguel beer replaces the tap water that comes out of the faucets in the near future. The small quiet fishing village north of Panay Island was transformed into a prime destination over the last two decades and now arguably competes with Ibiza, Koh Phangan and Aruba in terms of number of drunk tourists sleeping on the sand after a night of good partying. Other activities like Zorbing, Reef walking, skim boarding, people watching are some of the fun activities you can do while the sun is up. Caticlan is 45 minutes flight from Manila and is the nearest airport in the island.

Ilo-ilo, Concepcion’s sand bar: Ilo-ilo’s province of Concepcion is one of the many islands to drool over in the country. Balubadiangan Island is the best place to play Moses where the tides automatically recede during the afternoons exposing an insanely long sandbar that seems to reach the next island in sight and reveal the corals you have to snorkel for. Here, it’s being laid out free of effort! Unlike Boracay, this place is freakishly quiet and serene; you would think Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins are still hiding somewhere in the bushes, discovering ways to explode the population. An unobstructed view of the moon and the stars rewards the brave who stay on the island at night. Concepcion is roughly two hours away from the Ilo-ilo city center and Balubadiangan Island can be reached after 45-minutes of boat hugging.

meaning ‘within the walls’ in Spanish) is an ancient district of Manila that should not be missed due to its rich religious art and colonial history. Surrounded by adobe walls, the fortress has stood multiple wars and administrations and is a fascinating insight into Manila’s colonial past. The San Agustin Church, the Manila Cathedral, and San Sebastian Church are three of the most stunning baroque and Roman churches that can be found in the capital of the Philippines. As a country of many firsts, Manila also is the home of the oldest university in Asia and one of the largest Catholic universities in the world, the University of Santo Tomas. Manila’s bi-polar self can be seen in Makati where the modern thrives. Towering buildings lend themselves to the techno beat emerging from the hip hangouts that attract the city’s beautiful people. Even the huge shopping malls that sprout every two major blocks in the city have attitudes that beg you to look. After drowning in neon lights, there comes a time to move out of the city and start rolling in the beach sand that The Philippines is well known for...

Boracay’s White Sands The white island of Boracay is white mainly because of the color of the coffee mate-textured sand and the Caucasian tourists that flock its beaches. It is the second most popular destination among vacationers after the Mall of Asia. Boracay

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Caramoan- Survivor Island: Visit ‘Survivor’ island and discover why the makers of this popular reality TV show and most of its foreign franchises could never be swayed from picking another destination to shoot their series. For a moment we actually felt like contestants and had to restrain ourselves from filtering sea water and killing wild pigs because of the almost-real feeling of being marooned in the virgin unknown. Backpackers won’t be able to help themselves from kissing every grain of sand that surrounds the group of islands in the province of Camarines Sur. Camarines Sur is 45 minutes away from Manila by flight. To get to Caramoan is to stare at the vast sea and looming greens on the banks from the ferry for two hours.

Banaue Rice Terraces: And if you can bear to drag yourself away from the perfect beaches, The Philippines also offers some incredible mountain landscapes to explore. The town of Banaue in the Cordillera region is a stairway to heaven aged 2,000 years old that is sometimes dubbed the eighth wonder of the world. The Banaue rice terraces were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The rough road will also lead the adventurous backpacker nose to Sagada where getting drenched in guano (bat poo) is synonymous with adventure. The hanging coffins are not to ward off tourists but serve as one of the main drags of the province. Take the 8-hour bus ride from Manila to get to Banaue. After hiking one rice terrace to emerge out of the other side of the mountain, ride on top of a jeep for two hours to enjoy the peaceful refuge that is Sagada.

Looking past the pollution of Manila, perennial flooding, unpredictable earth shakings and volcano eruptions, religions that fight like couples, crazy politics and the recent rise in temperature that can make one utter, “God must hate the Philippines!” - a resilient smile persists. Although we have just scratched the surface in this article, we hope we have aggravated a new travel itch that just won’t go away. As locals, we believe that our beautiful country is something every backpacker should see during a visit of South East Asia. A little effort can induce a big reward as one by one the 7,107 islands of The Philippines show their pearly whites. Slowly but surely you will see how The Philippines earned their title as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’.

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

experience. Party animals watch out!

Half Moon Festival:

Full Moon Party:

10th May, 24th May 9th June, 23rd June

18th May, 16th June

Black Moon Culture: 2nd May, 1st June

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

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

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

Boun Bang Fai Rocket Festival 13rd – 15th May Laos & North Eastern Thailand

Taking place over two days, with plenty of eating, drinking and dancing thrown in, the Boun Bang Fai Rocket Festival is one of the most enjoyable (and noisiest!) events in Laos. Villages all across the country gather to create huge rockets made out of bamboo, decorate and paint them bright colours and stuff them with large quantities of gunpowder ready for the big launch! As they are fired into the skies, onlookers watch to see which rocket reaches the greatest height. The owner of the highest fired rocket receives


May - June 2011 prestige and status amongst the group and woe betide those who fire a dud! The festival is held in the middle of May, in conjunction with the beginning of the rainy season in Laos. Since ancient times, the festival has been performed by all those working on the land to request rain from the ‘Phaya Thaen’ or the ‘Rain God’ to pray for plentiful rice production for that year. As North Eastern Thailand shares a similar culture to Laos expect the festival to take place in towns and villages throughout Isaan.

Hua Hin Jazz Festival 10th – 12th June Hua Hin, Thailand

of the harmonious chimes you’ll hear resonating across the coastal town of Hua Hin this June. The Hua Hin Jazz Festival is a popular event taking place every year, drawing visitors from all across Thailand. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the festival that takes place over one full weekend at the beginning of June. Live concerts are held in the tropical open-air with many artists performing right on the beach. And what’s the best thing about the festival? It’s free! And everyone knows that all backpackers love a good freebie! So don your smartest fisherman pants and get your jazz hands at the ready!

The Birth, Enlightenment and Death of Buddha 17th May Buddhists all over the world

Aaaah...the sweet sounds of the saxophone and the tingling tones of the trumpet; just some

Held on the night of the full moon in May, this important Buddhist festival is celebrated across Asia at roughly same time, yet is known by different names in

different countries. The festival commemorates three of the most significant events in the life of the Buddha; his birth as Siddartha Guatama, the acceptance of

birds, doves and tortoises on this day in particular. In Indonesia, the festival is known as ‘Tri Suci Waisak’ or ‘Three Holy Events,’ signifying the three celebrations. One of the most prominent events takes place at the spectacular 9th Century Buddhist monument, Borobodur in Yogykarta, Java. Ceremonial offerings are made such as fruit and flowers and thousands of candles, representing Buddha’s enlightenment are lit in the darkness.

divine revelation under the Bodhi tree (enlightenment or nirvana) and his passing away (death.) Across Asia, it is a time for prayer, ceremonial offerings, chanting and processions. In Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, the festival is known as Visaka Bucha and the similar, Vesak day in Malaysia. In all of these countries the ceremonies are centred around the temples and many people head there before dawn to make offerings and blessings. Some people believe that good karma is bestowed by releasing caged animals, such as

Bali Arts Festival 11th June – 9th July Bali, Indonesia

Taking place over an entire month from mid June to mid July, the Bali Arts Festival is a unique

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W hat’s on: Festivals and Events extravaganza of arts, music, dance and history celebrating the passion and pride in Balinese culture. Amongst other performances, famous masked dances such as the legong originating from tribal villages are showcased and ancient classic stories retold. There’s a vibrant atmosphere all across the island as celebrations are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. For first time travellers to Bali, it’s a fantastic introduction to the rich heritage of the spirited destination.

Chanthaburi and Rayong Fruit Festival May Chanthaburi, Thailand

take place in order to bless the harvest in the coming year and predictions are made regarding the yield. The carefully appointed ‘Lord of the Harvest’ chooses one of three pieces of cloth, the longer the cloth the greater the rainfall and hence the rice production that year. A team of oxen plough the land and at the end of the ceremony the Lord of the Harvest scatters rice seed over the furrows. People try to gather some of the auspicious grains to combine with their own rice stock back home or keep as good luck charms.

originating in Southern China on iconic rivers such as the Yangtze. In traditional Chinese culture, dragons are believed to be the rulers of the rivers, lakes and seas and dragon boat races were ritual events that coincided with water festivals on the 5th day of the 5th Chinese Lunar month, (late May to early June.) For Chinese communities in Penang, the races are an important cultural event and a fun, colourful and exciting festival for visitors. Races take place at the Teluk Bahang Reservoir against the backdrop of Penang’s green countryside from 9am – 6pm.

Succulent, thirst-quenching mangosteen or rich, creamy durian? Tangy langsat or sweet, pulpy jack fruit? Visitors to the Chanthaburi or Rayong Fruit Festival can indulge their taste buds with a delicious assortment of exotic Thai fruits. Fruit buffets offer ‘all you can eat’ including dragon fruit, papaya, coconut, rambutan, sapodilla and lots more. Held once a year, during the best season for ripeness and flavour, this unique event is a great opportunity to fill up on those vitamins whilst having a great day out.

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony Bangkok, Thailand 13th May

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is a colourful festival which takes place each year commemorating the start of the rice-planting season in Thailand. The ceremony takes place in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok and is said to date back to the Sukhothai period in Thailand (1257-1350 AD) with its roots in Brahmin origin. Today the festival is a religious and state event with Thailand’s beloved King taking part in the festivities. A number of symbolic rituals

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14th May Cambodia

The 14th May is a national holiday in Cambodia to celebrate the birthday of King Norodom Sihamoni who will be 58 this month. There will be a spectacular firework display on the banks of the Tonle Sap River in front of the Royal Palace and traditional performances of classical Khmer dancing in town halls across the country.

Flores de Mayo May The Philippines

Singapore Arts Festival 13th May - 5th June Singapore

The King’s Birthday

The 2nd Laos Vientianale Film Festival 12th – 15th May Vientiane, Laos

The Singapore Arts Festival promises to be a dynamic event showcasing local and international talent. With this year’s theme being ‘I want to remember,’ artists take a look at personal and public histories in an attempt to contextualise our current sense of place as the world races towards a modern, technologically enhanced future. There are dance and musical performances, theatre showings, talks, historic presentations, art displays and more. Expect a varied and inspirational program.

Penang Dragon Boat Festival 11th - 12th June Penang, Malaysia

Attracting competitors from all over the world, the Penang Dragon Boat Races are a famous event in Malaysia now in their 32nd year. However, the history of dragon boat racing is believed to date back over 2,500 years

The 2nd Vientianale International Film Festival aims to promote independent films for people in Laos from the well established, to the up and coming. The festival offers the chance for filmmakers from Laos, the Mekong region and further afield to showcase their work. Highlights of the festival will be the short film competition that will be based on a Lao proverb: “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”, the Rising Star competition for the best young mobile phone filmmaker, and the festival party that will host some of the best Lao rock bands! So what better way to continue celebrating the Lao New Year (Pi Mai) than with some quality independent films in one of the best backpacking destinations along the Mekong river? Best of all, Vientianale is entirely free!

The annual Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) is a Catholic Festival dating back to the Spanish colonial period in The Philippines and is celebrated across the country for an entire month. Flowers such as ylangylang, roses and hibiscus are scattered across Manila by young girls dressed in white symbolising virginity and purity. Flowers are offered to the Virgin Mary at the altar in the churches. On the final day of the festival, the ‘Santacruzan’ is held, a colourful beauty pageant passing through the streets of many towns. The pageant depicts the finding of the holy cross by Reyna (Queen) Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. Beautifully dressed ladies parade through the town in glamorous gowns singing songs of praise and sprinkling flowers.


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CONQUERING INDOCHINA’S HIGHEST PEAK! Two Kiwis and a Pom Take on Mount Fansipan, Vietnam... By Selena Black

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With a brief look at the wonderful world of Hanoi, we vowed to be back in a few days and hurriedly made tracks (literally) and settled semi-comfortably on a hard-sleeper night train chugging its way to Sapa. My heart was racing after a quick pre-journey dash from the comfort of the carriage for much needed Oreos ended in tragic ticket misplacement. A sneaky deal was made, allowing me to pay off the conductor to slyly look the other way as I entered the train with no ticket, and I was jumping on board with seconds to spare and we were rolling north. The chilling cold was not a welcome surprise at the other end, as we sleepily endured another lunatic drive to Sapa town. The surrounding mist made for zero visibility, but as to be expected on Vietnamese buses, nothing would slow our lead-footed driver down, and we spent the trip white-knuckled, uttering nervous sighs of relief whenever we made it through each blind-overtaking cliffcorner manoeuvre. Jumping shakily off the van straight into a quick and cheap deal with a local hotel owner, secured us a 2-day, 1-night trek up Mount Fansipan, starting within the hour. Hastily layering with every piece of clothing we had, (the anticipation of the tropics did not prepare me well for this), so with me wearing borrowed clothes from the boys, we were all geared up to go. Being the stingy back-packing types, we had opted for the ‘carry your own supplies’ option, and after cramming everything from 2 dozen eggs, to a raw chicken, to sleeping bags into one pack,

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some of us (me in particular) were somewhat regretting our decision. We had not spoken to anyone along the tourist trail who had attempted the mountain, and going in with mindless oblivion was probably for the best. The bag was easily heavier than anything I’d ever carried before and if I had known the almost vertical incline of the track we were about to undertake, I probably would have backed out there and then. Posing for some ‘before’ photos in front of the ominous looking mountain range, our young spritely guide Muon gave us a brief itinerary of the trek. Mostly uphill was the general gist of things. Throughout the


first morning we kept a fairly steady pace, over small undulating bush covered hills and rock-hopping over clean trickling streams via natural bridges, the path nothing more than an animal’s trail. The afternoon proved to be more challenging, earlier obstacles of overgrown roots replaced by entire trees and waist height boulders, in addition to a near vertical trail that had us cursing with every few meters. We took turns in carrying the pack, its weight dragging us off balance with every upwards haul, a few times having us teetering dangerously on rock edges. A guide for this trail is absolutely essential, as the track disappears into the afternoon, replaced by a wall of rocks and trees. Natural ladders had been carved into tree trunks to help us in our attempts, these only found by our little guide who knew the mountains like the back of his hand. Exhausted, but exhilarated, we wearily dragged our legs into the clearing to be our camp for the night. The cold set in, and it just seemed to keep getting colder. The only relief from the biting chill was the little campfire that the guides had blazing in their hut (why theirs and not ours was the question we all asked). Huddled around, and

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choosing to ignore the smoke billowing in our faces, we de-thawed our feet, dried our sweat-covered clothes (mmh) and the shivering soon ceased. Muon expertly cooked our raw chicken into a delicious array of simple dishes and we hunkered down in our sleeping bags for a few torch lit card games. Cosy sleeping mats and pillows (that we had been secretly hoping the guide was carrying) were non-existent, thus our bed for the night, situated in a large non-wind proof hut, was uneven wooden boards. It was safe to say that with the minus degree temperatures, the wind whistling past our noses, and the rock solid sleeping surface, no-one got a wink of sleep. Arising tired and grumpy, and after devouring a welcome bowl of steaming noodles, we left our bags (thankfully!) at the camp and started the 3-hour upward climb to the summit. The trail was incredible, ranging from glistening bamboo forests that clicked and clacked as the freezing wind prevailed, to views of the surrounding

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mountain ranges curled with mist. The tiny town of Sapa could be seen nestled far in the distance, but apart from that it was just us and nature at its best. As we broke through the line of trees, bare terrain had us in its windy grasp, and finally the peak looked reachable. A few more minutes of persistent scrambling, and we were there, greeted by an unbelievable panoramic of jaggedly clustered mountains, and of course a triangular plaque as proof we had reached our destination. Mt Fansipan: 3143meters. Not the highest we have been, but definitely the toughest trip to the top. Silently we took a breath-recovering minute to take in the sights. The mountain range lay huge and dormant, wisps of cloud clinging like delicate cotton wool to their jungle covered cliffs. We were lucky we had hit a perfectly clear day, and although the sun’s rays had no hope of warming us against the wind, the blue sky made for a jaw-dropping backdrop. And then it was photo time! The typical ‘take a photo of me jumping’ was perfectly captured for each of us (thank-you Tomo for having


your camera), and with that evidence in hand, we started the difficult decent. 17km and 8 hours later, no-one had slipped down that same steep path that we had struggled up the day before, and we were sitting awkwardly on red kindy stools at the tracks entrance. Flushed faces glowing in our accomplishments, we sipped the Vietnamese sweet tea forced upon us by the friendly local ladies who took pity on our sorry looking selves. Our muscles ached in places that they’ve never ached before, and it was bliss to be able to have a long hot shower and collapse into a semi-comatose sleep. For days afterwards we hobbled around like geriatrics, but to see that view and claim the title of having reached Indochina’s highest peak was well worth it. Entirely recommendable, but a tough climb, especially in two days (and in sand-shoes). Our choice to wait until we reached Sapa to book was the best decision we made, as tours from Hanoi (train inclusive) were well-over-priced. Prepare for a hard slog, but unbeatable views of Vietnam’s pristine wilderness.

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:

GAMES

CROSSWORD

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

Across 1. Stopping 5. Sleeve ends 8. Scissor Sisters hit 9. Amasses 10. Seizes and retains in legal custody 11. Astonish 13. __ Depardieu, actor

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

Down 1. Receiving (a given number of votes) 2. Take control of 3. Pressed for time 4. Endocrine and sebaceous e.g. 5. Male turkey 6. Blamed

NEW! By popular demand this brand new section has been suggested to us by backpackers ever since the magazine began. There are obviously a lot of missed connections and lost opportunities on the South East Asian Backpacking Trail, well fear no more lonely hearts - we’ve taken your destiny into our hands!

(7) (5) (2,1,5) (6) (4) (7)

15. Set going with a key 18. Delayed 19. Less-than-noble main character 22. Sentimental singer 23. Main portion of the body 24. Jaunty 25. African tusked beast 7. Lazy __ revolving tray on a table 12. Threatening, evil 14. Provisions 16. Sustain 17. One of Christ’s Apostles 18. Eats with the tongue 20. Our planet 21. No one or nothing more besides

(4,2) (4) (4-4) (7) (5) (5) (7) (5) (8) (7) (7) (6) (5) (5) (4)

4 9 3 9 6 3 4 9 8 8 7 4 1 5 6 7 4 1 2 2 1 8 6 3 2 4 6 5

SUDOKU

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

Question Which is country in Asia is said to be the birthplace of Buddha? a) Thailand b) India c) Nepal

I’ve been volunteering in Siem Reap for 3 months and have seen you many mornings drinking espresso and reading the newspaper at ‘Blue Pumpkin’. Not sure if you are European or gay. Haven’t bucked up the courage to talk to you yet. If you are European, make the first move. (Shy, Blonde New Yorker)

I met you in backpacker alley in Chiang Mai at Zoe Bar. We talked about paleantology, fungicides and the irish potato famine. Then I got sick and had to leave before getting your email. I’ve never met anyone like you - it was love!!! Get in touch. (Lovesick Tony, Melbourne)

Katie, I’m so sorry. We were supposed to meet at Vang Vieng bus station to travel to Vientiane together, but I stood you up. Bet you think I’m a dick head. I spent the whole next day searching for my friend who never made it back from tubing. Found the idiot collapsed in a bush near one of the first bars around 2pm, but by then you would have already left. We had a great night and I can’t stop thinking about you. Hope we meet again. (Dublin Steve) I met you in Koh Chang, your name is Paul Jones and you are Australian. After hours of Facebook searching, I’m spending all my budget in internet cafes with no success. (By the way this is not considered psychotic behaviour and people have assured me that everybody does it.) Help me out because there are 43,546 of you!!! (Add me: Susan Green, England)

We met in Khao San Road at 4am. You’ve got big feet but I love you anyway. Don’t treat me this way. Call me baby! (Dave, Essex)

Do you have any tales of lost love when backpacking? Stories about the one that got away because you were drunk & lost their email address! Send us your ad, you never know... And if you recognise yourself in any of the ads above - this is your lucky day! Email: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com

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B off the beaten track: LAOS

By Lottie Butle

r

In the face of the stifling temperatures of landlocked Laos, most travellers instinctively make a beeline for the boozy oasis of Vang Vieng. A statutory stop on the backpacker trail with an infamous reputation, temperature becomes irrelevant in the blurry haze that is tubing - a headacheinducing whirlwind of dubious-looking makeshift rope swings, buckets of potentially lethal concoctions and dutch courage. Others head North to the picturesque slice of French colonialism that is Luang Prabang, while those willing to bear the bone-rattling 14-hour night bus to the border are welcomed to the sleepy shores of 4,000 Islands. However, for those who can handle steamy temperatures and a lack of air conditioning, Laos is far more than a dusty desert peppered with two or three watery respites. The Bolaven Plateau, home to a cluster of small villages each within a moto ride of each other, is less prominent on the standard backpacker itinerary and, despite being only a stones throw away from 4,000 islands, has only been lightly grazed by the hand of tourism. A local bus trundles to Tadlo, a village on the Plateau, within a few hours. Instead of being squashed into a mini-bus full of fellow backpackers, you find yourself sitting amongst locals, some of whom have casually strapped their animals to the roof. On arrival in Tadlo, visitors are deposited at the edge of the dusty red, sun-baked road, marked only by two or three widely-spaced bunches of simplistic bungalows, all made from roughly hewn wood with thatched roofs. Sleepy and quiet, with not a shop in sight, the only obvious residents are the long-legged chickens clucking between the bungalows and the squeaking piglets and puppies which play in the dirt However, appearances of tranquility aside, the village community is alive and vibrant, albeit hidden from public view. You don´t have to venture far from the road before hearing the buzz of voices and glimpsing flashes of coloured clothing.The locals’ homes are scattered in clusters across the landscape, and a local will happily act as a guide to lead you around the village, explaining in broken English their curious religious beliefs and customs. The experience is a far cry from the tourist-friendly villages of North Thailand that offer guest rooms and clean sheets: the community in Tadlo is refreshingly untouched. Wandering freely, you have the chance to peer tentatively into the musty huts, where your awkard smiles are greeted by enthusiastic waves and toothy grins.

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Women squat on their haunches, arranged in a semi-circle and chatting idly, groups of men shelter under the shade of ferns, lounging in hammocks or sharpening knives on a block of wood and children patter barefoot between the huts. The older residents, their leathery wizened skin crumpled in deep wrinkles, can be seen crouched down around a long, faded, wooden pipe with a smouldering cake of herbs attached. Sucking deep gulpfuls of smoke, they barely pause for oxygen. Amidst the sweltering heat of Southern Lao, the Mekong River provides a watery sanctuary for travellers, who loll lazily in the waters to try and alleviate the heat. Indeed, it is hard to imagine being comfortable in a village that not only is a substantial distance from the nearest air conditioning unit, but is also without easy Mekong access. However, first appearances can be deceptive... In the morning, the only sign of water in Tadlo is a narrow stream that dribbles tentatively down tiered, black slabs of stone to form muddy pools. However, at 3pm every afternoon the currents of the water suddenly gather pace and strength and within half an hour, the murky trickle is flooded. White froths gather in swirling pools around what were just rockpools in the morning and the tiered black slabs become submerged under strong cascades of water, transforming dry rocks into an impressive waterfall. Mesmerising to watch, the rushing sound of the water makes it the ideal spot to sit in the jacuzzi-like currents that gather in the rocky coves, or to bask on a rock and enjoy the cool, refreshing spray.


The transformation is a daily event, occuring like clockwork when the dam located higher up in the valley is opened, and you don´t have to scramble far before you stumble across other equally impressive torrents or natural lagoons. The revitalising rush of water through the village serves villages and travellers alike. One pool in particular seems to be a popular haunt for locals. Though hidden from view by a knot of trees and tall jagged rocks, its existence is given away by loud splashes and excited squeals. Overflowing with children leaping off rocks, sliding down rapids and diving to pluck stones from the bottom, the pool is a hive of activity. Unbelievably, the lagoon is not just a natural adventure playground, but also doubles up as a bath: at least once a day a large weathered, crinkled head can be spotted amidst the children when the village´s two elephants lumber into the pool, each taking a turn to be scrubbed down by a flurry of eager hands. Though hard to imagine when sat on a bus trundling along dusty roads, the countryside of The Bolaven Plateau has something more than the warm, somewhat murky waters of 4,000 Islands. A slice of authentic Lao, it offers the chance to explore relatively untouched villages and to interact with friendly but bashful locals, not to mention the revitalising havens of hidden waterfalls. With the opportunity to hire a motorbike and explore the villages yourself, it is hard to think of a better place to go to get off the beaten track.

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B T Raveller thoughts, stories, tips:

DO NO THING: THE ART OF LAZINESS

STORY O THE MON F TH

!

Every day of our lives we are confronted with the verb “do”: do laundry, to-do lists, even “doing” Asia. But the best, yet most frowned upon, ‘do’ adverb is ‘nothing’. This may sound lazy and boring, but to those who learn to let go of conventional expectations, they will find utter relaxation and peacefulness. Back home, we get caught up in routine, appointments, and the general whirlwind of the western world. There is a constant clock ticking with a ‘gogo-go’ mentality that we are always late for something. The word ‘multi-task’ doesn’t begin to cover the gadget obsessed culture we’ve become as doing merely one task is never good enough. You have to be texting, scheduling, eating, and meeting a friend simultaneously and that’s just on your lunch hour. Don’t even get me started with the rat race of the work world. In general, as a society we have become obsessed with to-do lists, feeling accomplished and satisfied only when we check off items. Post university, lazy days of watching TV and eating in bed make us sick with guilt and we overcompensate with early morning workouts as if laziness needs to be justified. Doing nothing in particular is not lazy at all; it’s the optima of letting go and living in the moment. It sounds incredibly indolent but to be honest it’s incredibly difficult for most to do. To lie on a beach endlessly without any worries, mental planning, or any strenuous physical activity can be anything but relaxing to some. It’s downright torturous and boring. But if you let your mind release itself of all the constant focus on future plans or past events, your tension will release and you’ll feel sublimely happy. It’s a Buddhist thing really; learning to let go. No one would call a monk lazy; they’re simply finding their zen. But backpackers on the beach for days get seen as wasted bums. Sure, maybe some are nursing a hangover, but backpackers tend to release themselves of societal norms in general. That’s what’s great about travelling: learning to release yourself from daily routine and discover a new concept of reality. And Asia is the perfect place for this discovery. Anyone who has ordered food in a Thai kitchen knows never to go when starving because it will be good, long while before they even begin to cook your dish.And if you’re in a group you can never expect to eat at the same time. At first, this is frustrating. But once accustomed to the culture, you learn to relax, enjoy the beer and conversation beforehand, and always eat a tiny snack before heading out to a restaurant in a large group. (Because you never want to get hangry aka - so hungry you get angry.) But not all travelers have learned to let go of the word ‘do’. In fact, some are the worst abusers. Those with limited time tend to create schedules that keep them in overnight buses half the week. Not only are you losing sleep, but you’re losing the chance to appreciate the culture around you. Asia simply moves at a slower pace; time works in approximation rather than specifics. Buses run late and meetings get put on hold. There is no concept of “on time”, particularly since this is a world filled with sporadic random monsoons. Now that’s a situation where you can literally “do nothing”. The problem with creating an itinerary that has activities planned each day is that you’re still stuck in the mental conventional daily grind that most of us are trying

By Stephanie Katz to escape. Let go of the idea that have to do something. Whether it be visiting temples or taking boat tours, you don’t have to do anything. Simply by strolling streets endless eating when you want, wandering into grocery stores, discovering hidden alleyways while getting lost, or sipping tea by the road people watching for hours, you are releasing yourself from the active verb “do”. Sure reading a book, relaxing in a hammock, or watching a sunset can be considered something done, and rightly so. But my point is to let go of the expectations you have about what you should “do” while you’re in Asia. There is no list you need to tick off. You cannot “do Asia” by visiting the same same temples and riding elephants constantly just because some tourist office tells you that’s what there is to do. Worry less, relax more. Plan less, unwind more. Do less, be more.

Tip of the month! When you’re in an internet cafe it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to security regarding your Facebook / Email / Online Banking / Skype etc. To make sure that your information is protected here’s a handy tip! On the Menu bar in Windows, click on “Tools” and then “Options” followed by “Security.” Make sure that the “Remember passwords” is unchecked. I’ve recently started doing this and have been surprised at the number of public computers I found that were saving passwords. God forbid if someone accessed your internet banking! Worse still changed your FB status to “accidentally slept with ladyboy in Laos and liked it.” (Justin, USA)

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. to hear from you. travel writing, we would love of t spo a at d han r you cy you like to So if you fan 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

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NIGHT RIDER! As the sun goes down in Bangkok and the intense heat of the day softens, the ‘City of Angels’ takes on a new light. The traffic starts to thin and car horns stop beating just long enough for you to take the opportunity for a unique nocturnal adventure. Rather than just hanging around Khao San Road, a friend and I decided we wanted to see a different side of Bangkok and what better way than to take a cycle tour of the city by night! We’d heard about the tour from some friends we’d met in Laos. As fellow cycle lovers we decided to give it a go! Velo Thailand was the name of the company recommended to us ran by friendly Thai bike enthusiast, Ae. Embarking from Wat Chana Songhram (the colourful temple at the end of Khao San Road) around 8pm we set off on our adventure! Most of the time we stayed off the main road and our guide took us down alleyways and back roads that we never would have known existed. Night riding through Bangkok’s quiet backstreets (sois) was really a magical experience. With distant traffic noises, sleeping dogs and not a shopping mall in sight - all of a sudden it didn’t seem like we were in one of the craziest cities in Asia at all; it seemed more like we were witnessing local village life! Peeping in doorways into old Thai houses, driving by steaming noodles and fried chicken being cooked right on the street, catching glances of dramatic Thai TV shows being played to captivated audiences in cafes – I felt like we were getting a real slice of authentic local life in Bangkok. We also drove through the interesting ‘Flower Market’ (Pak Khlong Talat) that was so colourful and packed with every freshly cut flower you can imagine - jasmine, water lily’s, lotus, marigolds, orchids it was a fragrant smelling haven in the heart of the city. Even at 9pm it was bustling with people - apparently the market is a 24-hour affair and there is a fresh fruit and spices section too. This is definitely something we never would have found by ourselves.

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And then there were the spectacular temples – made to look all the more enchanting by night as they lit up the black night sky. Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn and Wat Pho (famous for the huge reclining statue of Buddha) were two of the most beautiful. My camera just didn’t capture the sight! Not to mention Rama VIII Bridge lit up across Bangkok’s most famous river, the Chao Phraya. In a magical and unusual way, the city’s sights really come to life under the cover of darkness. If you’re looking to see a different side of Bangkok the Night Ride Tour is a really fantastic way to do it…

By Jessica Partridge

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Food

n i e t t e u g a B . S V e l d o No Prabang Luang

Freshly baked pain au chocolat or steaming hot Khao Soi? Soft crusty baguette or delicately crispy spring rolls? The diversity of both local Laos cuisine and European cooking makes Luang Prabang the perfect place for a culinary adventure! Spicy or smooth, there is something to tingle every taste bud. And with street food galore, high class restaurants, local cafes and amazing bakeries, something to suit every budget!

Go local: If you don’t want to, there’s really no need to set foot inside a restaurant in Luang Prabang. An assortment of delicious street food lines many of the avenues of this beautiful UNESCO world heritage city. The popular Srisavangvong and Sakkarin Roads have pretty much everything you could need from local rice and noodle dishes, to freshly made cakes, fruit shakes, fried chicken and even salad stuffed baguettes. Many places in the city you can pick up lunch on the street for around 15,000 KIP. ($2) For those looking for a real pick and mix of local Laotion specialties look no further than Luang Prabang’s night food market. Despite the touristy nature of Luang Prabang, here at the night market is where you can still get an authentic Laos experience. Locals ride up with four on a scooter ordering Laos’ version of fast food and leave with plastic bag upon plastic bag tied to the handlebars. And if you don’t know the names of any of the dishes, bor pen yang (no worries) just point at what the locals are ordering! Here are some ‘must try’ dishes...

2. Som Tam, Papaya Salad: Perhaps the most famous dish in Laos, som tam, or papaya salad is a favourite amongst locals and tourists alike. The traditional Loas dish has every flavour you can imagine and is a sweet, sour, salty and spicy assault to the taste buds! Shredded papaya, sour lime, spicy chilli, tomatoes, green beans, crab, salty fish sauce topped with peanuts and sweet palm sugar. Once you’ve had a taste of this, every Western dish from now will taste bland. Pass me the chili!

3. Fresh or Fried Spring Rolls: Whatever you prefer, fried or fresh, Luang Prabang’s spring rolls are hard to beat. Stuffed with meat or vegetables and bean shoots, served with lettuce, herbs and vermicelli rice noodles and dipped in sweet chilli sauce with crushed peanut – delicious! Watch for stacks piled high at street vendors all over the city, spring rolls are the perfect day or night-time snack.

1. Lao Pho (Fer): Widely regarded as the Vietnamese national dish, ‘pho’ or beef noodle soup is also very popular in neighbouring Laos. Some people suggest that pho actually derives from a French soup called ‘feu’ (meaning fire) which would explain the presence of the dish in both ex-French colonies of Laos and Vietnam. Whether or not this is true, the dish has taken on its own unique identity in each country. Served with lime, green beans and Laos herbs, the Laos version is aromatic and fragrant. The soup contains white noodles, beef meatballs, slices of raw beef and garnished with coriander.

4. Larb Neua: (Buffalo Salad) Salads are usually a refreshing cool side order right? Not so in Laos where the salads are tangy, spicy and flavoursome! Larb Neua is a traditional Laotian beef salad made with ground beef, onions, chilli, mint and assorted Laos green herbs. The dish is often served with ‘Khao Niaw’ (sticky rice) and salad leaves. The best way to eat is to make a kind of parcel out of your lettuce leaf and stuff it with as much of the spicy, crunchy mixture as you can handle

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5. Khao Soy: Famous as Chiang Mai’s signature dish, Luang Prabang’s Khao Soy really has little in common with the tangy, coconut milk version of Northern Thailand. Laos have their own rendition of the delicious curry soup. The Laos ‘Khao Soy’ is comprised of white noodles, bamboo shoots, a clear broth, coriander and spring onions, with what can only be described as a dollop of Bolognese sauce! (It’s no ragu we’re talking about, this is the real deal – made fresh with minced pork, shallots, fresh tomatoes, chillis and ‘tua nao’ fermented soybeans). And on the side add as little or as much you like – curly leaf lettuce, cabbage, watercress, green beans, mint and basil. All the ingredients go to create this aromatic and healthy signature Laos dish!

Be Farang* * Farang is the name that Thai and Laos people use to mean foreigner. It literally translates as ‘French person’ as the majority of white foreigners that locals came across were French due to the colonial presence.

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Most people like to experiment with the local food whilst backpacking and rightly so! Trying new dishes that you can’t find in your home country is all part of the adventure of travel. However, the long-term backpackers amongst you will tell you that at times, sometimes the rice and noodle dishes can leave you guiltily craving for some ‘farang food.’ No matter how delicious, you can’t deny that ache for a good old spud, a pizza, burger, salad or in my case a baked potato with real cheese and beans (only Heinz!) I once heard a stuck up backpacker (you know the type) commenting on how disgusting they thought it was that foreigners came to Asia and ate Western food as she sat on the table next to a guy eating a steak in a restaurant in Hanoi. The steak guy politely told the rookie that he had been living and volunteering in remote parts of Asia for over twenty years and if he wanted a steak he would f**ing have one! So when you’re feeling this way and rice just isn’t hitting the spot. Don’t despair! Indulge in your guilty food pleasures at the many delicious restaurants on Srisavangvong and Sakkarin Road. Expect to pay more obviously, (around $7 for a main course) but travellers should release their inner flashpacker every once in a while and treat themselves to a night of luxury! With the French influence in the cuisine here in Luang Prabang, expect delicious casseroles, rich sauces and slow cooked meat. There is even a pizza place on the main road, which sells pizza at around 45,000 KIP. The atmosphere is also worth the dollar, wining and dining al fresco style, you could be forgiven for thinking you had just walked into a restaurant in the south of France. And whether you’re eating local or fine dining, everything goes well washed down with a bottle of Beer Lao (once described as the ‘Dom Perignon of Asian Beers’ by the Bangkok Post) – at only 10,000 KIP for a large bottle that’s pretty cheap bubbly if you ask me! You can also get a bottle of wine for around 110,000 KIP if you really want to splash out. But what Luang Prabang really excels at are the fantastic bakeries. The French inspiration really shines through here with a huge variety of delicious baked goods from banana cake, to chocolate croissants, crusty French baguettes, lemon tarts, apple pies, blueberry muffins and more! Head to Joma Bakery for the best bagels in town; salmon and cream cheese on a sun-dried tomato bagel, bacon and egg on a cheddar pepper bagels – is your mouth watering yet? Whatever craving you had for bread, bagels, buns, baguettes and baps can be satisfied here.

Fed up of Nescafe? For those New Yorker coffee addict types who have been craving a real cup of coffee since you set foot in Asia, you’re in for a surprise in this laid back Laotian town. Mainly grown in the Bolaven Plateau region of central Laos, the coffee served at many of the cafes in Luang Prabang is homegrown, organic, fair-trade and not bad at all! Plus it is only 10,000 kip for a large pot. Bags of your favourite coffee can later be bought at the night market as a souvenir. Café L’Etranger Books & Tea is a great place to sip Laos coffee or their fantastic variety of local teas and watch the world go by.

So there you have it – whatever your cravings, in Luang Prabang you really can have the best of both worlds... even Becon!

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Luang Prabang, Laos

Do you have what it takes to be a mahout?

On our 3-day introductory course you will learn how to ride and communicate with your elephant so that they respond to your commands. Just like a real mahout! Get up close and personal with these incredible animals as you learn how to bathe them, take care of them and ride them through the heart of the Laos jungle.

All includes: Transport, 2 nights stay in our beautiful Mahout Eco Lodge and lunch and dinner every day! And more adventures! m Bamboo Rafting m Elephant Safari m Kayaking m Mountain Biking m River Trip Kayaking m Rafting on Nam Khan River m Visit ethnic minority villages m Visit to Tad Sae & Kuang Si Waterfall m Visit to Shaman village and the old Opium Fields

Contact any Agency or Contact our Head Office: All Lao Travel Service Co., Ltd.

5/8 Srisavangvong Rd., Luang Prabang, Laos

Tel: +856 71 253 522 MB. + 856 20 5571 571 All Lao Elephant Camp at Ban Noon Savath Tel: +856 30 5140 525, + 856 30 5140 660 E-mail: info@mahoutlodge.com, info@alllaoservice.com

www.mahoutlodge.com www.alllaoservice.com www.laosfly.com S.E.A Backpacker

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arts

By Rory Maclean

w e i v e r k Boo In the 60’s and 70’s, the hippie trail was a groundbreaking journey that influenced the concept of backpacking today. Some think that there were as many as 2 million people who hit the road in search of adventure, enlightenment, sex, drugs and most of all inspiration into a different way of life. It was a revolution of sorts, a challenge to Western consumerism and the prudence of post World War II society. ‘Flower power’ and ‘peace and love’ were the slogans of a decade. Rather than a “trip” it was a powerful movement that touched an entire generation of young people who looked to the East with open-minds. Fifty years later, author Rory Maclean sets out to track the famous 6,000-mile overland route from Istanbul to Kathmandu - through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan India and finally Nepal and the result is a truly fascinating read. Impossible feelings of nostalgia arose in me as I read about what had happened to each of the ‘hippie hangouts’ over the years. Although I was born 40 years too late to be a hippie, finding out about their journey, I couldn’t help feeling pangs of excitement at the extraordinary adventure and sympathise with their perhaps naïve dreams of an ideal world. But what happened to their dream? Did their hopes of being transformed by the East actually unknowingly transform the countries themselves in a way that they could never have imagined? Over the years, their dream has been criticized as a romanticizing of poverty and their hedonistic lifestyle as having a negative affect on the conservative countries through which they travelled. Either way, the changes along the route are startling. Through decades of war, revolutions and religious dictatorship, Afghanistan’s capital Kabul has gone from ‘a city of picturesque walled castles, cultivated fields and poplar groves’ (Nancy Hatch Dupree 1976) to ‘piles of rubble and miles of nothing’ in the words of Maclean. Who cannot help but feel pain at the image of the old hippie woman sat in the museum in Kabul piecing together ancient artefacts of a glorious culture that has been destroyed? She remembers Kabul so differently. For me, the entire book is tinged with such sadness of a bygone era, of lost dreams and lost souls. The beautiful yet tragic character of Penny, desperately trying to relive her original trip. She has never been able to find contentment in the material world following her travels in the 60’s. Or the chronic alcoholic, Geoff Crowther, who practically invented the concept of the travel guidebook with his BIT Guide ‘Overland to India’ in 1970. After such a mind-blowing adventure, perhaps ‘normal’ life for these old hippies could never quite live up to their experiences or perhaps the drugs and ‘free-living’ finally took their toll. The saddest part is their cynicism of society today and their total abandonment of ‘the dream’, as Crowther slurs “in the sixties you had to believe in a better society. Now who’s got time?”

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One of the most inspirational stories to come out of the hippie trail is the story of the young couple who travelled from London, arriving in Sydney in 1972 with a combined 27 cents in their pockets. ‘Tony pawned his camera to buy food, but Maureen refused to sell her typewriter. “I bet we could do a guidebook” she said.’ And Lonely Planet was born. Their first guidebook ‘Across Asia on the cheap’ was more of an informal tip book, which included advice on where to score the best hash, rather than the extensive travel network we have today. Now Lonely Planet have around 500 guidebooks which describe almost every country in the world. Reading this book in South East Asia, it really makes you think about how travel has changed since the first hippie set foot on the trail over 50 years ago. Today, tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world that is pumped with billions of dollars of advertising each year. There is not a country in the world that has not been written about. In a bid to attract the foreign dollar, destinations sometimes become caricatures of themselves in a global tourist theme park. “Western comforts” such as Starbucks, Mcdonalds and Free WIFI have crept into even the remotest areas meaning that it can be harder and harder to find places that are ‘untouched.’ Incredibly, Tony and Maureen’s empire went on to shape the travel industry in such a way that some backpackers will not stay at a guesthouse if the trustee Lonely Planet has not recommended it. Is this what the young pioneers would have wanted for the next generation of globetrotters? In the days before guidebooks, overnight VIP buses, trip advisor or travel blogs, (when you could get all the way from Istanbul to India for $15!) I can’t help but think that things seemed all that more adventurous. Setting out on the ‘magic bus’ with no idea how long your journey would last, where it would take you or how it would ultimately change your life – the hippies had no itinerary. Scraps of paper were pinned to notice boards telling travellers which destination was next on the trail - some people lingered for months in one spot, some years, some converted to different world religions, fell in love or had life-altering experiences. The point is that the hippies wanted to be transformed rather than to transform the countries that they traveled. They went in search of something that they could not find at home. And this is still the essence of true travel today. The famous quote “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see” (G. K. Chesterton) rings true here more than ever. Deep down, I think that every backpacker has a bit of the hippie inside, you don’t have to have dreadlocks, tie-dye shirts and flowers in your hair to relate to their aspirations of wanting to be somehow touched, our minds broadened and made a better person by travel. By Nikki Scott


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MUSIC

“The Thai Tune” Whether I’m playing around in the Rockies or running around Asia, I always do my best to sniff out the heart of the local music scene. Sometimes it’s romping so wildly around the streets you can’t miss it, and other times it’s hiding out with the old boys at a dusty dive bar across town. This time, on my second trip to Thailand, I was led to the thick of it by a butterfly from Lonely Beach. It had been a year since my first visit to Koh Chang. I walked into Joy Cottage to find Tum howling a Bob Dylan song to a sloppy Finnish guy sitting at the bar. After a night of playing the ol’ Broken English Sangsom Catch Up Game, I learned that with the help of a couple of heartbreaks, Tum had transformed from the starry eyed love bird I’d met the year before to a freewheeling rolling stone. “I am like flower. I used to say pick me! Pick me! Now I say who are you? Let me grow!” Having gone through a similar metamorphosis over the year, I was happy to hear that Tum and I were on the same page. He told me he was leaving the next day for the We Be Jamming Music Festival to see Down To Earth, the reggae band his brother

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By Mallory Knudsen

drummed for. Next thing I know, I’m turning in the key to my hut and floating with Tum on a ferry toward the mainland.

Northbound... The bus dropped us off in Chiang Mai at 5am. We found our way to the Supreme Guesthouse where his brother Jaki was waiting for us at a table outside. Wild hair, skin and bones, and a pair of eyes that had done their fair share of seeing. And the cherry on his rock star sundae: a beautiful Japanese girl exactly half his age affectionately joined him in his cloud of smoke. He sucked the life out of his smoke while cracking open a fresh bottle of rum just in time for sunrise. The next day we rented bicycles and rode 16 km to the festival. Jaki hooked us up with VIP artist passes for the weekend. There was camping by Huay Tong Tao Lake, two different stages for music, and a “Shakedown Street” crammed with merch tents and late night food stands. It was set up like the festivals I’d been to in the US, but with that Thai twang electrifying the air. The Main Stage headliners were well known reggae bands like Job2Do, Sister Carol, and Ky Mani Marley, but it was the side stage’s loose end local bands that roped me in every night. Where else in the world could I be drinking Chang, listening to a Thai Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band under a sky speckled with Chinese fire lanterns? Sure thing, the Thai vibe had struck again. When the festival had finally fizzed out, we hopped on a bus with Down To Earth and rode 762 curves north to a little mountain town called Pai.


anything. Yeeow! Tum and the boys had to go back to the Island yesterday. Goodbyes always come too soon around here, but Tum of course seemed just as happy to be going.

The butterfly... But for now, I’m still in Pai, swaying to The Sticky Rice Blues like the tide to the moon and wondering where else the Thai wind will take me. One thing about music scenes everywhere, they don’t stay the same for too long. People come and go- it evolves, cools down, and heats back up again when the right forces are in tune with each other. I’m glad I had the chance to see as much of it as I did. I never imagined the humble hills of Northern Thailand would be the hub of such a happening music community, but sure enough, it’s there.

The Red Mountain Encore...

The show kept going-- around the clock. There was music everywhere: the groups of kids singing traditional tribal music at the afternoon market, the gypsy jazz band with the hip English gal playing clarinet, the late night jungle parties swarming with the local zaney artists, and the rootsy blues band I couldn’t get enough of. Keep walking and find the guy renting out 50 baht bicycles and plucking his acoustic or the street band who dressed up like policemen every day. Some afternoons I would sit on the steps of the Om Bar and listen to the guys do sound check, which was really more of a jam session. It was all improv and it sounded like they had been playing together for a long time. It was three guys on guitar, drums, and keys. They thought it was funny that I hung around the sound check in the middle of the day, but I can’t walk away from music like that. It’s hard to know what makes a rhythm funky, but having an electric piano squakin’ tasty fills at a gritty blues groove sure wasn’t hurting

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Address: 100/1 Moo4, Lonely Beach, Koh Chang, Trat, Thailand 23170 S.E.A Backpacker

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: INFO

mo m e portant Im

stuff

Brunei Darussalam: Currency: Brunei Dollar, divided into 100 cents. Exchange rate: $1 USD = $1.23 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: The Ulu Temburong National Park contains over 500 sq km of untouched, natural rainforest and is regarded as one of the best preserved in Borneo. With mountainous terrain covered by dense jungle, only accessible by long boat, the park is a refuge for threatened species. Ambulance: 991 Fire: 995 Police: 993

Cambodia: Currency: Cambodian Riel (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 4,060 KHR Capital city: Phnom Penh Main religion: Theravada Buddhism (95%) Main Language: Khmer Telephone code: +855 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sua s’dei (Hello) Aw kohn (Thank you) Visa: Most nationalities can obtain a 1 month tourist Visa upon arrival which costs around $20. At land border crossings, notably the Thai/Cambodian border, the fee can be more expensive as the cost is paid in baht and is sometimes rounded up considerably. You will need 1 or 2 passport photos to apply, or you will be charged extra (usually only $1-2.) Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. E-Visa: You can now apply for an E-visa online. Preorder at: 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: Angkor Wat is regarded as one of the world’s most astounding feats of engineering. Built between 9th and 13th centuries, by an estimated 12,000

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workers, and what would fill over 200,000 trucks full of sandstone, Angkor Wat is said to have taken just 35 years to build. One contemporary engineer suggested the same construction would take 300 years to complete today. In an emergency: Ambulance: 119 Fire: 118 Police: 117

East Timor: Currency: US Dollars Capital city: Dili Main religion: Catholic (90%) Main language: Tetun, Portuguese, Indonesian, English Telephone code: +670 Time: GMT + 9 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: ola (hello) adeus (goodbye) Visa: Nationals from Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA do not need to arrange a visa in advance. They can be granted upon entry into East Timor and cost $30 for 30 days. Portuguese nationals can stay up to 90 days on a tourist visa. Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. It is important to note that there are no currency exchange facilities at the airport or other border posts, so you will need to take cash before you travel. Visa extension: Visas can be extended for 30 days, costing up to $45. You must have a valid reason for staying. Penalty for late departure: Penalties range from $70 US - $150 US Dollar if the period does not exceed 30 days. Climate: The wet season is between December and April and the dry season occurs between May to November, with temperatures reaching very high. The best months to visit are between April and July. 1 random fact: Just one and a half hour flight from Australia’s East Coast, East Timor is a land rarely explored by travellers. With unspoiled beaches, rugged mountains and fascinating indigenous cultures, some say East Timor is a beautiful untouched gem just waiting to be discovered. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 7233212 Police: 112

Indonesia: Currency: Indonesian Rupiah Exchange rate: $1 USD = 8,625 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. (Cost varies depending on point of entry.) The previous $10 7-day visa is no longer available. Payments can be made in US Dollars only. You will need 2 passport photographs and your passport must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. Penalty for late departure: Up to $20 / day. For more than 60 days overstay travellers risk deportation or imprisonment. Climate: Indonesia has just 2 seasons, wet season, which falls between April and October and dry season, which falls between May and September. Throughout all of the year the climate is hot and humid, although there are snow-capped peaks in the highlands of Papua. As

Indonesia is such a long country, the difference in the seasons varies. In some areas, the distinction between the wet and dry season is great, such as the Nusa Tenggara when the wet season (December to February) can make transport difficult, with road floods and ferry cancellations. In Sumatra, the rain falls from October to January in the North and from January to February in the South. In Bali there is little difference between the seasons where weather is similar all year round. 1 random fact: The archipelago of Indonesia lies on the boundary of two tectonic plates, the Asian Plate and the Indian-Australian Plate, which explains the abundance of geological activity it experiences. There are 155 centres of active volcanism, with Java and Bali being among the most volcanically active islands in the world. Emergency numbers: (Java) Fire: 113 Police: 110 Medical assistance: 118, 119

Laos: Currency: Lao KIP (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 8,013 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: Khonephapheng waterfall on the Mekong River in Southern Laos, also know as the ‘Niagara of the East,’ is the largest waterfall in South East Asia. At a height of 21 metres, stretching over six miles, an average 11,000 cubic meters fall from the cataract each second. Emergency numbers: (Vientiane) Ambulance: 195 Fire: 190 Police: 191

Malaysia: Currency: Malaysian Ringgit Exchange rate: $1 USD = 3.00 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: When they were built, the amazing Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur were officially the world’s tallest buildings standing a startling 452 metres into the sky. (The Burj Dubai now holds the top spot, rumoured to be 818 metres!) Emergency numbers: Fire: 994 Police and Ambulance: 999

Myanmar: 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: Inle Lake is one of the most visited sites in Myanmar and home to the minority Intha people. These people are famous for their unique ‘leg rowing,’ a style adopted by fisherman on the lake so that they could see above the reeds in the water. Emergency numbers: (Yangon) Ambulance: 192 Police: 199 Fire: 191

The Philippines: Currency: Peso, divided into 100 centavos. Exchange rate: $1 USD = 43.2 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 Philippines is a paradise for divers, due to it’s incredibly diverse marine life. 488 of the 500 known coral species in the world, 7 of the 8 known giant clam species and 5 out of the 8 known species of marine turtle can be found in its waters. Whale sharks are frequent swimmers here too. Emergency numbers: Fire, Ambulance, Police: 117

Singapore: Currency: Singapore Dollar Exchange rate: $1 USD = 1.23 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 famous cocktail the ‘Singapore Sling’ was first served in 1915 at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel. It contains gin, cherry brandy, cointreau, Dom Benedictine, pineapple juice, Grenadine, lime juice and a dash of Angoustura bitters. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 995 Police: 999 Fire: 995

Thailand: Currency: Thai Baht Exchange rate: $1 USD = 30 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: Bangkok in Thai language has the longest name for a city in the world, consisting of 32 separate Thai words. (Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya M a h a d i l o k Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit) Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 1669 Fire: 199 Police: 191

Vietnam: Currency: Vietnamese Dong Exchange rate: $1 USD = 20,885 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: There are over 20 million motorbikes in Vietnam, more than 3.5 million of which can be found on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, which averages at nearly one motorbike for every two persons. 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 23.4.11) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at info@southeastasiabackpacker.com if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)

S.E.A Backpacker

53


SOLUTIONS: CROSSWORD

P A U S I N G O L

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A U R A

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G E R A R D

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54

S.E.A Backpacker

K

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M P O U N D S

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7

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6 5 7 4 9

8 2

9

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QUESTION

4

3

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9 8

Answer = c Nepal

5

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