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2 0 12 JAN - FEB


The essential magazine for all travellers through South East Asia.

Exploring Malaysia’s Coastline... From the Island of Penang to Pulau Tioman...

ISSN 1906-7674

Off the Beaten Track in Quirky Thailand

Living on the Wild Side in the Rainforests of Laos...

10 places we reckon you’ve never heard of! Look inside to see if you’ve won FREE tickets to the Pai Reggae Festival!


ur o t u o k c Che

! e t i s b e w


When is the Full Moon Pa r


l How can I trave budget? Singapore on a



How can I find a job in South East Asia?

he ...and what t g!? hell is Tubin

S.E.A Backpacker



“We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view.” (Mao Tse-Tung) Travel isn’t all about lying on beautiful white sandy beaches, listening to the sound of the waves and planning what delicious curry you’re going to have for your dinner that night. Sometimes travel brings with it a sense of discomfort - and I’m not talking about the type of discomfort felt by your rear end on an arduous overnight bus! I’m talking about something else. At times on your backpacking trip you may be confronted with poverty, begging, pollution and environmental problems like you have never seen before. As a backpacker, how does this make you feel? At first, you may feel angry or sad that such inequality exists in 2012. Secondly, you may feel incredibly lucky that you have money to be able to travel, see beautiful and not so beautiful things and then return home to a place that is safe, warm and secure. Thirdly, and unusually, it may make you feel embarrassed or even guilty. You are a merely a voyeur for a short time to such dire social problems that exist every day in some parts of the world. How can it be fair that you get to leave it all behind, eat a big dinner, have a beer, go for a massage and then continue your ‘round the world’ trip? Backpackers sometimes get a bad wrap for being ignorant to the impact that their presence may have on the place that they are visiting. Articles have been written about how tourism can damage the environment due to an overload of tourist transport, excessive partying, treks through delicate eco-systems or exacerbating local problems, such as begging. Recent movements such as ‘eco-tourism’ ‘voluntourism’ and ‘responsible tourism’ have been coined for those who have become more aware of their ‘traveller footprint’ and are concerned about the effects of their visit on the local area, community and landscape.

4 S.E.A Backpacker

Photograph: Northern Laos By Penny Atkinson

In my opinion, it is up to you. Opening your eyes and engaging your mind when you travel is the first step. If you are visiting a small island, consider how the island will dispose of all the garbage you have bought during your time there? If you decide to do some volunteering during your trip, take this as an opportunity to think how YOU can really help local people, rather than use it to take some cute photos of kids to show the people at home. If you are pestered by a salesperson, contemplate their day to day lives and their need to make a living before you get angry at them for ruining your walk. Always remember that you are a guest in someone else’s country. In many ways, backpackers have the greatest opportunity to see things how they really are. Staying at family-run places, talking to local people and travelling in the same way that they do, you can discover so much more than tourists staying in a five star resort. Sitting down with the girl at the guesthouse you are staying at and helping her to learn English, saying no to plastic bags in 7-11, learning a little of the language and customs to show respect in the country you visit and researching the policies of the adventure companies that you book with - are all ways that you can aim to be a responsible backpacker. And, responsible tourism doesn’t end when your trip ends and you return home. Having had the incredible privilege to travel to other parts of the world and witness a different way of life, it is up to you to use the knowledge that you have learnt and the sights you have witnessed to make you into a better person your whole life; perhaps one who is more humble, less complacent and superficial in taking things for granted. Someone who can step back and see the bigger picture. Travel is about developing an understanding for the world and is a truly wonderful thing in the advancement of our society as a whole. We must learn from each other. While it isn’t about going to another country and trying to change things you don’t think are right, it is about learning in small ways how your individual visit can cause nothing but a positive effect. While you can’t stop all the problems of the world, you can do your bit. By Nikki Scott

S.E.A Backpacker


C ontents


Cover Photograph: Shawn Parker, Malaysia

Features :

Job, Will Travel! Seven Stories 12 Have of People Who Work Overseas. Gibbon Exeperience: Living on the 20 The Wild Side in the Rainforests of Laos. Faces & Places: An Interview with 46 S.E.A Agama Yoga, Koh Phangan ENVIRONMENT: 54 BACKPACKER Protecting Paradise in Koh Phi Phi

D estination spotlight : PHOTOS: 24 BACKPACKER 10 Reasons to Fall in Love with Pai


.. 34



km on a bik

e... 10

Reap & Angkor Wat: 26 Siem A Personal Perspective. Tides: Exploring the 34 Conquering Hidden Gems of Malaysia’s Coastline The Gibbon Experience... 20

Thailand: 10 Places we 40 Quirky reckon you’ve never heard of!

R egulars : 8 South East Asia Map & Visa Info 38 10 S.E.A BACKPACKER: Newsflflflash 18 Word on the Soi: Going Home! & Festivals: 30 Events What’s On Guide 44 Traveller Thoughts, Stories, Tips GAMES: 49 BACKPACKER Crossword & Sudoku FOOD: Living Juices 50 BACKPACKER & the Healing Powers of Nature ARTS: Attempting Classic 52 BACKPACKER Reads in South East Asia INFO: Visas, Exchange 56 BACKPACKER Rates, Climates & More

Quirky Thaila

nd... 40 1

ons to 0 Reas

4 ai... 2

Love P

S.E.A Backpacker Co., Ltd.

Registration Number 0205552005285. ISSN NO. 1906-7674

Tel: 081 776 7616 (Thai) 084 553 8996 (Eng) Fax: 038 072 078 E-mail: Backpacker South East Asia is Published by S.E.A. Backpacker Company. Managing Director: Nikki Scott. (E-mail: Editor: Nanchaya Jaikaew. (E-mail: Design & Layout: S.E.A. Backpacker Company Limited. Artwork: Saksit Jankrajang. Sales & Marketing: Chanunchida Saisema, Kitti Boon Sri. Accounts: Yanisa Jaikaew. Contributing Writers and Photographers: Nikki Scott, Laura Davies, Claudia van Tunen, Marisa Charles, Danielle Walker, Stephanie Foden, Shauna Muir, Lois and ChiChi (The Sole Sisters) Anthony Bidlespoon, Shawn Parker, Megan Ahrens, Nick Round, Alicia Kidd, Rainer Gasser, Mihaiela Pentiuc, Dipika Wishart, Patrick Meijer, Phil Price. For advertising enquiries: Tel: +66(0)81 776 7616 (Thai), +66(0)84 553 8996 (Eng) Email: For writing opportunities: Email:

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

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S.E.A Backpacker


mo m e ne Go

M ap : south east asia Myitkyina

ling !

Travel x

Myanmar Sapa Fansipan Mandalay Bagan Kalaw

Taunggyi Inle Lake


Udomxai Chiang Rai

Luang Prabang

Mae Hong Son

Vang Vieng



Chiang Mai

Nong Khai


Udon Thani

Yangon Pathein

Halong Bay

Tha Khaek




Hoi An

Four Thousand Islands


Angkor Temples


Siem Reap Tonle Sap




Koh Chang

Gulf Of Thailand

Phnom Penh

Koh Tao Koh Phangan Koh Samui

Andaman Sea


Mui N


Ho Chi Minh

Phu Quoc

Surat Thani Phuket


Koh Phi Phi

Pulau Penang

Pulau Weh

Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Medan Berastagi


Lake Toba

Singapore Pulau Nias

Riau Islands

Sumatra Bukittinggi


Indian Ocean

8 S.E.A Backpacker


V isa I nformation Brunei Darrussalam: Nationals of most European countries, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand do not need a Visa for visits of up to 30 days. USA citizens can stay for up to 90 days. Cambodia: Most nationalities can obtain a 1 month tourist visa upon arrival which costs around $20. At land border crossings, notably the Thailand/Cambodia border, the fee can be more expensive as the cost is paid in baht and is sometimes rounded up considerably. East Timor: Nationals from Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA do not need to arrange a visa in advance. They can be granted upon entry into East Timor and cost $30 for 30 days. Portuguese nationals can stay up to 90 days on a tourist visa. Indonesia: Nationals of Australia, Canada, USA, UK and most European countries are eligible for a 30 day visa upon entry, which costs $25 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 3090 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 30-day 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 21.12.11) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)


Pacific Ocean

Laog Vigan



Philippines Donsol

nam Nha Trang


h City

South China Sea

Davao Zamboanga Kota Kinabalu


Mt Kinabalu


Bandar Seri Begawan


Sarawak Kuching Pontianak


Berau Putussibau

Kalimantan Balikpapan



Sula Islands

Sulawesi Pangkalanbun


Banjarmasin Buru


Puncak Jaya


Indonesia Java Gili Islands Bali


Nusa Tengarra Flores


East Timor S.E.A Backpacker


N E W S F L A S H !


It’s a Monday morning in the beautiful northern city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. As backpackers leave their hostels and trundle off down the street in the morning sun to get their regular muesli, fruit and yog’ before hitting the sights, the S.E.A Backpacker Office springs to life. Organic hill tribe coffee in hand from up the road, I say hello to my neighbours, Santose the friendly tailor and Jack, the chirpy travel agent and open up the office doors. I light some incense bought from the Sunday Market, turn on some tunes and a new day begins…

Be it in the spirit of ‘Movember’ (Moustache growing month) or not, his proud moustache entered the office 30 seconds before he did. With his vast memory bank of stories it is safe to say we didn’t get any work done that day!

The opening of the office in Chiang Mai has come as a bit of a shock to the system to tell you the truth. For me, it’s the first time I’ve had an actual place to go to work in more than three years! Used to mooching around my apartment in PJ’s or chilling in WIFI cafes playing the ‘digital nomad’, the office now means I have somewhat of a ‘proper job’! Well if you can call it proper job; backpackers coming in to chat to you about the Full Moon Party, locals bringing a “welcome to the neighborhood” bottle of whiskey at two o’ clock in the afternoon and street vendors trying to sell you garlands of flowers at your desk. No two days are the same!

Right in the heart of backpacker country, it’s the perfect location to stop by, get insider info so you can make the most of your visit in Chiang Mai and South East Asia! Discover events that only the locals know about, find things to do in the city, browse our magazine collection for inspiration, share with us a travel story, a backpacker tip or just pop in and say hello!

We’ve had visits from French fashion photographers, Thai students, adventure companies, hostel owners, eager beaver backpackers on their gap year, international teachers and expats who call Chiang Mai home and last but not least a 70-year old German hippie who was on a never-ending cycle tour of the world!

For anyone considering staying in this wonderful part of the world, we can also offer advice on taking a TEFL Course (Teaching English as a Foreign Language.) Getting a well-paid job teaching English in Asia is a fantastic way to earn money to continue your travels, whilst giving something back to the local community. You never know, your visit to the S.E.A Backpacker Office may just change your life! (Visit for more information.)


buckets of the Salvation Army in Kansas, America. One kind passer by popped not just their spare change into the tin, but a 4 carat diamond worth over £2,000!

When you’re backpacking, it is easy to lose track of what’s going on in the rest of the world. Floating down a tube on the Namsong River and you start to forget that the rest of the world exists! For those who have spent their only TV time watching Friends and Family Guy and their only reading time on a bus with the LP, S.E.A Backpacker Magazine are here to make sure that you are up to date with your world affairs! Here’s a rundown from our Overseas Correspondent, Laura Davies.

INDONESIA: 65 punks attending an Indonesian rock concert were stripped

of their piercings and made to shave off their Mohawks by police in Aceh, north Sumatra. Each punk was made to wash on the spot and handed a toothbrush for their grimy gnashers. Shame the police couldn’t round up a few dreadlocked backpackers too!


Norwegians faced a butter-less Christmas recently as a shortage struck the country. In December, a 500g pack cost around 300 Euros! Mince pies, Christmas puds and brandy butter were off the menu - oh dairy me!

KANSAS, USA: A generous donation has been found in the collecting

10 S.E.A Backpacker


A clever black bear was spotted hitching a ride in a dumpster truck in Vancouver, Canada. The cheeky chappy had to be tranquilised and released into woodland away from the city. Let’s hope he hasn’t gotten a taste for those winter leftovers.


There’s been a new entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. At just 62.8cm tall, (2-feet) Jyoti Amge from central India, has been named the world’s shortest woman on her 18th birthday.




casino crazy nun in Atlantic City, USA, has been caught red handed. Sister Marie Thornton, aged 65 was caught gambling away the £620,000 she had stolen from a Catholic college on the slot machines!


THE PHILIPPINES HERE WE COME!!! It’s 2012 and it’s about time that we visited the 7,107 islands that we’ve heard so much about! Yes that’s right folks, this January, S.E.A Backpacker Magazine jets off to the Philippines to discover what the country has in store for adventure loving backpackers like you! Unlike Thailand, which received 15.9 million tourists last year and Malaysia, which received 8.9 million, the Philippines only managed to attract 3.5 million visitors to its sandy shores. With beaches to die for, world class diving, picturesque spanish colonial cities, UNESCO World Heritage rice terraces, a rich culture AND friendly locals… we want to know why backpackers are deterred from visiting the country? We spoke to Lois and Chi Chi from the travel blog who gave the following reasons why backpackers tend to skip the Philippines from their itinerary; “Foreigners are only given a 21-day visa upon entering the country which puts people off right away - that’s nine days shorter than what most other South East Asian countries offer. As the Philippines is an archipelago, this poses a travel challenge for many tourists who can’t be bothered with the hassle of multiple flights, overnight ferries and so on... It’s a real shame because we believe that our country has as much to offer travellers as other countries in South East Asia, if not more!” If anyone’s going to accept a challenge - it is us backpackers. Since when has an overnight ferry or a few plane journeys ever put us off!? It is up to backpackers to tread those first footsteps on the sand and open up the doors for others... Like many other young, enthusiastic Filipinos, the Sole Sisters, having backpacked around South East Asia themselves, are extremely passionate about promoting tourism in their own country. In the true spirit of adventure, they have planned the ‘21-Day Pilipinas Challenge: 7,107 Islands, 0 flights’. It is a feat which has unbelievably never been undertaken before, but one which the Sole Sisters claim is not as difficult as it seems. With their unique challenge and accompanying video documentary, the girls aim to prove to the rest of the world that the Philippines is worth its clout as a world class backpacker destination!


During our trip, we’ll also be meeting Anna Cleal, a Kiwi and friend of S.E.A Backpacker Magazine who has a passion for the country akin to the locals. She has set up a homestay program where backpackers can experience authentic village life in the stunning islands of the archipelago. The funds raised by the trips go back into supporting the local community in a ‘one-of-its-kind’ project in the Philippines. We’re very excited to be taking Anna’s trip which will take us on a unique journey through Bohol, Cebu, Malapascua Island, Bantayan Island and Boracay… By the way, this isn’t an exclusive tour and others can join too! Just check out Since investigating the country for our trip, we’ve come across nothing but enthusiasm and that incredible welcoming nature and hospitality that Filipinos are famous for. A special mention must go to the lovely Ron and Monette from who offered to show us round in our first few days in Manila. Like others, they are eager to persuade more backpackers to stray from the banana pancake trail and visit the Philippines. With so many passionate hosts, we reckon we’re in for one hell of an adventure!

g... ways about movin Travelling is not al th ck in Pai, in the nor

stu rld, but I’m stuck. I’m g. After travelling I’m travelling the wo here is a good thin ck so stu ing Be d. ak. I was close to a of Thailan bre a ded nee I s e month continuously for thre ut! called travel burn-o temple of another amazing I ot on the cold floor thing positive and any l I was walking barefo fee n’t did I . felt terrible more. This made me any in Myanmar, but I ce pla y hol uty of this s go? I couldn’t see the bea myself. Where did the happy feeling ply ry at ky bastard, but I sim sad and even ang luc a I’m w kno I with rld and was travelling the wo walked out of the temple feeling guilty, re. I didn’t feel it anymo tears in my eyes. feelings in and accept these of t it is okay to give road, seeing tons the Then, I realised tha on s nth mo ds m. After nights and doing loa - or the lack of the few ry eve bed nt a differe yoga to temples, sleeping in the mountains and fun ; from trekking in many interesting and of amazing activities g etin me , ing div or in scuba ppy night buses... cooking classes and cra in ing driv rld, r the wo .. my head people from all ove s and impressions. da ny new experience e off? Did I really nee short, having so ma tim d nee lly rea I e! Did I was on holiday the ird. was about to explod we nds sou t Tha travels? rest. holiday during my ng and I needed a l I was tired of travelli whole time, but stil , at this ut moving. For me us elling is not only abo processing the previo I now know that trav and ce pla one in is staying pier everyday. This hap moment, it is about ing om bec and r. eling ce for me to recove pla t experiences. I’m refu fec per the s wa . Pai has a exactly what I needed ul village, surrounded by mountains, cef friendly It’s a small and pea air and extremely e, fresh Himalayan laid-back atmospher people. a long period? My Are you traveling for Pai, Thailand few longer stops to advice is to take a n-out. Stay in one avoid a travel bur the locals, chill out place, get to know fully here, in this and feel that you’re ready, continue feel place. When you ! your travels happily en

By Claudia van Tun

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S.E.A Backpacker


! l e v a r T l l i W . . . Have Job

Seven stories of people whose work is also an international adventure. We’ve all been there. You’re sitting at work day dreaming about travelling. Or, you actually are travelling but you just keeping wishing that your trip would never end. Usually, these muses can be written off as mere fantasies and easily whisked away by grumbles about money and making ends meet. However, the surprising news is that travel and work don’t have to be mutually exclusive! In fact, countless people from a diverse range of professions are figuring out ways to make travel and work compatible. There’s no doubt that on your travels you’ve come across a number of people whose work allows them to travel the globe. Maybe it’s the English teacher whose couch you are surfing? The aid worker who gave you a lift on his motorbike? Or the freelance journalist you sat next to on the plane? Instead of stamping a time card, these people are stamping their passports! So, just how do they do it? Is it as amazing as you imagine it to be? Does it really pay the bills? It’s time to get the real deal of a ‘job-on-the-go’. We caught up with a few of these working travellers to see what life is really like when the world of work and travel combine...

By Marisa Charles

12 S.E.A Backpacker

Name: Clynton Olds Age: 26 Nationality: South African Occupation: Dive Instructor in Fiji One year he’s on Koh Phi Phi, Leonardo’s favourite beach and the next he’s in tropical Fiji. Clynton, originally from South Africa, has the job of dreams! As a SCUBA Diving Instructor, he gets to travel the world whilst doing a sport which he loves and meeting interesting new people along the way...

Your “Blurb”: I open my students’ eyes to the world and teach them to be helpers, thinkers and doers. The Prerequisites: The minimum necessary to get a good teaching job is a TEFL or CELTA certification. You get better offers in more locations if you have a degree and/or experience teaching. Where’ve you been? I’ve worked as a teacher in both Mexico and Thailand, and have been offered work in Korea, China, Turkey, Colombia and Italy. The great thing about teaching is that it really does allow you to go anywhere. Just spin a globe! The Perks: The best thing is the people that I meet. Being able to travel around the world allows me the chance to connect with people who are very different from myself but with whom I share so many things! I also love the challenge of being in new places and the ability to learn something new at every moment. The Downside: The time I enjoy the least is the time I spend away from my students, mostly doing things like report cards.

Your “Blurb”: I help people to experience a whole new world. Diving is an escape from reality. The Prerequisites: To become a Diving Instructor you first and foremost need to have a passion for diving. In terms of qualifications, you will need all of your dive courses up to your Dive Master Instructor Course. When you are teaching you need to be extremely patient, whilst being enthusiastic and displaying role mode behavior. It’s no good turning up to teach people to dive with a hangover! In this way, you need to be self-disciplined. Where’ve you been?: I first started diving in Thailand, where I gained the necessary certifications. The sport has since taken me to Borneo, Indonesia and I am currently living and working in Fiji.

Money Matters: With good credentials (TEFL or CELTA course) you can make more than enough money to pay the bills and save a lot too! There’s a big demand for English teachers at the moment in Asia, so the pay is great, (you can earn up to $2,000 / month in places like Taiwan, South Korea and China!). Some jobs will even pay for housing, flights home, even bills. The perks can be unbelievable! Words of Wisdom: Get some type of certification and experience. Always shop around when you are looking for jobs, the good ones are out there and you don’t want to get scared into a bad contract. Apply to as many as possible and then be picky with your offers! READ your contracts before signing them. Also, make sure the school has a good go-to person that is used to dealing with foreign teachers. Next Stop: Bali! After that I plan to head to Central America.

The Perks: I get to wake up every morning in paradise, spend the day with sand between my toes and teach people something that I love. Diving is definitely a lifestyle rather than a ‘conventional’ job. The Downside: Not much. There are sometimes awkward and embarrassing situations with clients, like when you have to explain to one of your students why they need more weight belts than anyone else! That’s never easy. Money Matters: Your salary depends greatly on where you choose to work. Living in remote locations can be expensive. You can certainly earn enough to live, accommodation, food, social life etc., but it is difficult to save in the longterm. Basically, being a Dive Instructor means that you are never going to be a millionaire… but I have chosen to be poor in money, rich in life! Words of Wisdom: Find a job that you love and you’ll never have to work a day of your life. Next stop: Australia and the world famous Great Barrier Reef!

Name: Marlies Tumolo Age: 26 Nationality: American Occupation: Kindergarten Teacher, Thailand Marlies, a warm and spirited American woman, leads a class of 14 four to six year olds at a private Thai elementary school. While she is specifically certified to teach English, at her current school she delivers a full curriculum inspired by the principles of Buddhism and incorporates many creative activities such as music, art and science experiments into her lessons. S.E.A Backpacker


Name: Not given Age: 22 Nationality: British Occupation: Professional Online Poker Player

been losing. With nobody forcing me to play, it is very easy to just take several days off and sometimes get too lazy. But really the truth is that pretty much all the negatives about poker are directly related to losing money. Money Matters: Absolutely you can make money, but you have to work very hard at it and have to approach it from a professional mindset. For those who might think poker is just a gambling game of luck, let me assure you that is a game of skill and strategy. The idea is, I put in a lot of hours in games that I have an edge in skill-wise over my opponents, and the profits will come. In the short term, many things are out of my control and results can be up and down. But over longer periods of time, I win more often than I lose. It is not an easy or mindless way to make money by any means, and I always have to be reviewing and focused to remain profitable. I’ve been playing for almost four years now and supported myself with no problems for the last two and a half years or so. Words of Wisdom: The first step would be to soak up all the information already available on the internet. Someone that really wants to get serious about it needs to study intensely, learn how to manage their bankroll and control their emotions. Then it’s time to just start playing a lot of hours and making sure to review your play and look for ways to improve. With discipline and dedication, I believe most people could become skilled enough at poker to at least make a supplemental income. But it’s definitely not for everyone and it will take a lot more work to get started than most people are ready to put in. It is not do-able for someone getting into poker only because they have heard they can make money. Every pro starts off as a recreational player who enjoys the game, becomes obsessively analytical about it, then suddenly starts to make a lot of money and realises they could make a profession out of it. Next Stop: I love living in Asia and the community of friends I’ve made here with similar lifestyles. I definitely do want travel to other places, but probably on a more short term basis. I am particularly interested to see South America, and think that would be the most likely place for my next stop if I were to try living somewhere else.

Name: Berthe Age: 35 Nationality: Dutch Occupation: Founder & Community Manager of a Social Networking Website

Due to legal issues about online gambling, this professional online poker player chose to withhold his name, but he was more than happy to explain the practicalities of his work. He creates accounts on online poker websites and plays a few hours almost every day. Then, he reviews his play using software specifically designed to provide in-depth statistics for the hands of poker that he has played so that he can improve his strategy and hopefully, increase his winnings. He employs a highly analytical approach to his work and it usually pays off. Your “Blurb”: I play in online poker games against opponents that I feel I have a skill advantage over, for amounts of money that are enough to make a living. Prerequisites: The biggest prerequisites would be a very analytical and logical personality - and the ability to control your emotions. Where’ve you been? I have visited many countries in Asia. One of the most notable being Macau, China which is Asia’s version of Las Vegas! The Perks: Without a doubt, the best thing about doing what I do is having such freedom. I make my own hours and work from home. I do not answer to anyone else’s schedule or demands and I enjoy being my own boss. Having the freedom to work at home in your underwear is pretty priceless. I also have free time to pursue other things I enjoy. The ability to work from anywhere with an outlet and WIFI provides an amazing opportunity to relocate to another country, or visit many places and see the world. The Downside: Losing. Plain and simple. There are a lot of short term ups and downs in poker and you are bound to have big losing days and weeks and even the occasional losing month regardless of how good you are. Long runs of very bad luck do happen sometimes and can be very annoying and stressful. I often do not feel like playing, especially when I’ve

14 S.E.A Backpacker

Berthe is the founder and community manager of an online social network for women in Thailand called Chicky Net ( She began in 2008, by starting a simple Facebook group for women in Phuket, Thailand where she used to live. Chicky Net has now developed its own website, a platform for women all across Thailand to network through the use of forums, classifieds, events, and blogs. After two and a half years, the network has over 1,800 members and is growing steadily. Your “Blurb”: I manage ‘Chicky Net’ a social network for women living in Thailand. Prerequisites: Managing a social network means that you are managing people, managing the technique of your site, doing your own PR, marketing and sales. You have to be creative, enthusiastic and you really need to be persistent; it isn’t always easy to get the masses moving.

Where’ve you been?: Chicky Net is a national website with networks in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin and Phuket. Naturally I have spent time in these locations to organise events, meet members and to just get a feel for the place.

As a Reiki Master/Teacher/ Therapist, Hikaru provides Reiki treatments and teaches Reiki principles to others. Reiki is a spiritually-based alternative medicine practice that works in harmony with an individual’s body energy and aura. The process, which originated in Japan, involves the practitioner positioning his or her hands around or on the client in order to balance the body’s chakras and offer healing on a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level. Hikaru is also qualified to offer other alternative healing practices such as Crystal Healing, Psychic Awareness Development (guided meditation), and Pendulum Diagnosis.

The Perks: As my work is online I can work whenever and wherever I want to, this is a great luxury. A trip to the other side of the world on any given day is no problem for me. I have complete freedom to go wherever I please. The Downside: Since the beginning I have been a one-woman show so this means that I am responsible for everything. It also means that I am wearing many different hats, some of which don’t always seem to fit so well. I have now hired someone to help me out a bit. After working solo for two and a half years it is nice to have another person in my team and her progress and enthusiasm are inspiring to me. A social network is also a 24-hour business and I have to check every day if things are in order. Even on my weekends and holidays I still have to work, that can be a pain sometimes. Money Matters: In the last year I have started to allow advertisers on the site. This meant of course that I had to set up a business, which in turn required a financial investment. Also the website monthly maintenance and hosting are costly. I trust I’ll make a profit one day but right now I break even. Words of Wisdom: I stumbled into this job; it was never my intention to set up a business. Being completely inexperienced I obviously had to learn a lot and many things I just dealt with as they came along. This has, in a couple of occasions been a costly experience, personally and financially. So my advice is to work with a plan, this will save you much valued time and money. Next Stop: I am actually moving back to Europe for a while and I’ll manage Chicky Net from there. Maybe I’ll end up in Thailand again and maybe I will not, only time will tell.

Name: Miho Age: 39 Nationality: Japanese Occupation: Reiki Master, Teacher and Therapist

Your “Blurb”: I teach “hands-on” energy healing called “Reiki” as well as other healing programs. I also give Reiki treatment. The Prerequisites: You’ll need the certifications for Reiki Level 1, 2, 3 & Master/Teacher level and possibly other specialty certifications. You need to be non-judgmental, flexible, positive, and optimistic. Where’ve you been?: I have only taught in Bangkok up to now, but can travel to any other country where there are people who would like to learn Reiki. My teacher is working on the project to create an agency with centres all over the world; if this becomes successful, I will be able to travel a lot! The Perks: The more I teach and the

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more Reiki practitioners there are in the world, the energy level of the world will be heightened. The Downside: None. I enjoy my work, especially teaching. I can share beautiful and precious experiences with my students and explore the abilities within each individual life. Money Matters: I just became a freelance Reiki Teacher, and income is not steady. Sometimes I take part time jobs to keep me going; teaching English, translation jobs, etc. Words of Wisdom: Save some insurance money whenever you can for emergency cases and don’t touch it. I recently experienced a situation where I was totally broke with no place to live. Things turned out okay and I managed somehow, but it didn’t really feel nice to experience that situation. Next Stop: I am eager to travel to many places. The next place will be wherever the wind blows me. I am sailing around like the meaning of my name, “Beautiful Sail”.

Name: Josh Kearns Age: 34 Nationality: American Occupation: Environmental engineer and scientist As a specialist in appropriate technologies for sustainable water management, Josh Kearns likes to keep it simple. With colleagues in Thailand and the USA, he founded Aqueous Solutions (www.aqsolutions. org), a non-profit organization working to promote livelihood security, environmental and economic sustainability, and local self-reliance through ecological design and appropriate technologies in water, sanitation, and hygiene. He is currently spending his time at Pun Pun Farm Community ( in Thailand, leading demonstrations on how to create effective management systems for water resources. He funds his work through a mixture of grants from various donors including private and public institutions. He is occasionally paid for environmental and scientific consulting services. If he doesn’t sound busy enough, Josh is also a PhD student at the University of ColoradoBoulder studying in the Environmental Engineering and Engineering for Developing Communities program.

Your “Blurb”: I innovate and apply appropriate technologies in water resources to support sustainable livelihood security and public health for rural, remote, impoverished and marginalised communities in Asia. The Prerequisites: This type of work requires rigorous scientific training in chemistry, physics, environmental science and engineering, coupled with several years of real work experience in development and sustainability. Also handy are writing skills, public speaking, stamina for physical work, willingness to challenge authority and established convention, competence in trade skills such as carpentry, competence in laboratory and field research methods, perseverance and frankly, stubbornness! Where’ve you been?: Mainly to northern Thailand and Burma’s border regions, but also Nepal, Ladakh, and northern India.

16 S.E.A Backpacker

The Perks: The gratification of employing the scientific method to solve real world problems and make a substantial positive impact on the lives and wellbeing of many people is amazing. It’s also fulfilling to be able to use (exploit?) the most advanced university facilities and knowledge bases in the interest of under-served, marginalised people. I enjoy working with my hands and brain together, doing real work, in collaboration with amazing, skillful and wise people who have changed and benefitted my life immeasurably. The Downside: The worst parts of my work are dealing with institutional bureaucracy of all types (University, NGO, government, philanthropic, corporate), worrying about money and living grant-to-grant, going to fancypants conferences, travelling in airports and staying in hotels in “developed” areas of cities. Money Matters: Several years running the job has so far paid the bills. It can work if you are (1) doggedly committed to the work, (2) willing to live a thrifty, efficient and adventurous life, and (3) are very resourceful and creative and a real do-it-yourselfer. (Think MacGyver.) Not for sissies, new age hippie types or those who want to recline in the banality of affluent middle class comfort and consumerism. Words of Wisdom: Meditate on these words from Chris Guillebeau’s book, A Brief Guide to World Domination. He writes that “the two most important questions in the universe are: #1: “What do you really want to get out of life?” and #2: “What can you offer the world that no one else can?“ Guillebeau also recommends that we remember two things: #1: “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to”. #2: “The world is waiting for you to figure out what only you can contribute. Take as much time as you need to find the answer and then get started on it.” Next Stop: I’m in South East Asia for field research and service projects through April 2012, then back to the University of Colorado to complete my PhD dissertation. After that I hope to establish an appropriate technologies and engineering for developing communities program in collaboration with students and researchers at North Carolina State University, while continuing my research, field and service projects in Southeast Asia through Aqueous Solutions.

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W ord on the soi: Going Home! In a ‘Word on the Soi’ twist this month, we spoke to people who have finished their travels and are now back home, to find out how they have coped with life A.B. (After Backpacking.) Wait a minute… is there life after backpacking? It’s a scary thought, but one that most people are confronted with sooner or later. Standing at the airport with your six-month trip behind you, a thousand memories in the bag and a great tan to boot, fears on going back to the ‘real world’ can be terrifying. How will you cope with getting a job? Wearing socks? Heaven forbid, going back to live with your parents? You’ve become used to lazy beach afternoons, spicy curries, daily massages and hell you’ve even grown a certain fondness for Asian karaoke! Well as always, S.E.A Backpacker Magazine is here to give you some tips from the people who have made that transition successfully (and not so successfully) from Asia back to the West. And if all this is starting to make you feel a little queazy, you can always just do what we did - never go home!

After living an d teaching in for over fiv Vietnam e months I got used Vietnamese to a way of driv ing that does work back he n’t quite re in the St ates! I don’ I pull out, I t look when merge with traffic as if th I’m doing. I ey know wha honk my ho t rn repeated my horn sa ly and I feel ys it all... I ge that t sworn at at per week by le ast twice American dr ivers which happened to never me back in Vi etnam! (Danielle, C al ifo rnia) The thing I miss the most

about travelling is being able to strike up a conversation with anyone at any time. In New York the conversation on the subway would go something like this “hey, so where are you traveling.” “To work moron.” End. (Matt, US)

When I re turned ba after one ck to Engla and a half nd last ye years on ar shock. Tr the road, ust me to it was a bi arrive in th had seen g e coldest in 100 ye ar winter Eng s! It was sa would not land suffice an fe to sa y, d my tan w my pink H there was as frozen avianas the cost of off within everything “do you kn days! And ... I found ow how m then myself sa uch this w friends who ying all th ould cost would mou e time, in T ha th ‘about iland?” to how they 60p’ behi put up my my bored nd my ba moods in happy to ck. I’m no those first say that m t sure few weeks y travel bl heavy drin . However ues slowly king and , I’m fa de he d lp along with from my fr at uni now a lot of iends. I’m and I’m pl in my seco anning a graduate. nd year trip to Sou That travel th Americ bug I caug a after I ht in South is a recurr East Asia ing illness ! (Elena, Lo ndon)

South East Asia suits me dow n to the ground as I’ve never been an on time kinda guy. Being told that the bus leaves for Hanoi at 8am, then not setting off until 8.45am was just right for me. Since getting home I’ve decided that this entire country has got it wrong - not me. Who gets to work at 9am on the dot? What is the rush? Take your time, grab a fruit shake on the way. “No hurry, no worry!” I say. “Not on time, no money” my boss says. And we all know what ‘no money’ means… NO HONEY! (Patrick, USA)

After doing a Thai cook weeks in Th ery course ailand, I was during my final able to keep going for a the spirit of while after my travels I returned ho around and me. I would cook them invite friends lavish Thai green curry banquets of , massaman spring rolls , som tam… wax lyrical ab , Thai it w ou out my trave ld give me ls, where I’d an excuse friends didn to first tasted ea ’t mind me go ch dish and ing on abou delicious food my t it as they go ! It was a pa t to enjoy su y-off that wor ch and definite ked well for ly kept my tra everyone vel blues do (Jessica, New wn. Zealand)

18 S.E.A Backpacker

tely comple g only Asia I in in rr ip fe tr re g ve. itter, p still ali ge packin y back mail and Tw know I was n m rr g a n ri to a , e Du t them my friend ebook y best e bar, ek to le d Fac m e e in tt w p w o u l a c d a e c me? ce ll boy lo n a n o c e e I tt s th s o m at y forg the folk eight month ve e e ll th th a c r d g e a to g ha H er etin no lon olved. t on? ack aft e girls. Me e b ld g u g ll o ti in w s iss Gett at we with th uld we rves d h up what h so th ts. Wo my ne a catc in kno o muc saw them, matter k s s o a n n o w s c h I d d c a e n a b v te o ie u m n in sto s m st fr ansitio The m ur be eir live bout tr om your mon? a ys yo m a Had th d o lw c ie a fr orr g in are one w le help anythin st friends to any y with a litt be dvice b ) a t y Your e y n g a M ill erm ns. ‘you w cia, G happe is this friends.’ (Ali home

Backpacki ng isn’t th e end of beginning! your life, During my it is only trip, I met that I now the have a frien so many di d to stay w fferent peop Next month ith in every le I’m staying corner of th with a girl a Kibbutz e globe! I met in V in Israel an ie d tn th am en in sum to stay with who lives mer I’m pl on some budd anning a tri ies I met ro never ends p to Chile ck climbing ! Fellow ba in Railay. ckpackers, as many fri The fun use this tim ends as yo e wisely to u can. You’ make ll have holid the rest of ay s sorted fo your life! (D r avid, Fran ce)

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The hardest thing to get used to is the routine of life When you ar back in the W e backpacking est. is spontaneou every day is different, life s and you jus t don’t know next week. Ba where you wi ck home, mos ll end up t people go to every day, ea t dinner at ho work at the sa m e and drink in me time crazy when I th e same pubs first got back … it drove m ! Then, I had home, it didn’t e a brainwave, mean I had to ev en though I wa give in to a life had to stop ba s of mundanity, ckpacking! I decided that it didn’t mean and started I would explo I to make the re m m y os ho t of every we me country around my loc ekend. Going al area, I we on mini brea nt to places visiting before that I had ne ks . Stately hom ver even cons es, mountain you find a lot idered s, local fairs, of places that camping trips you never kn to act like a … ew existed wh tourist in your en you start own town. Ok far cry from ay so Newcas Koh Phi Phi, tle is a but the girls out in bars he do wear bikini re too despite s th e m inu s centigrade! (S degree teve, Newcas tle)

cided re I de ring e befo ch du m u o m h t o After a s s d n e th o g n rs . n o two m fe has cha different pe rmanently d te s pe a n li I la ook o come t I would be all centre to y outl ve be in a c n tha f urse that m t I ha o io a e is c th rs FL co de avels g my a I’ll do a TE cking e the in d a rk my tr o m I re ackpa now w onths , whe sia. B two m to Asia. I am flight back over A alia) ll y g a m in g v tr r fo hin us mo oney s teac fe! (Sam, A li earn m en find job d my e g n a and th ch

acker’s S.E.A Backpsition Tips: Top 10 Tran ur local city.

Town in yo around China d eat all 1. Hang out and forks an es iv kn ur yo l al t ou w . 2. Thro ith chopsticks urist. your meals w d act like a to an ks ea br nd ke und the ee ro w d an ke 3. Ta s trips round bu ng lo ly al 4. Take re you live. lex nture a la ‘A town where out your adve ab l ve no a e 5. Writ p. Garland.’ your next tri and save for peat. re 6. Daydream on z az yr son M tand 7. Listen to Ja d not unders be foreign an 8. Pretend to you go out. people when k. tu k g home! tu 9. Buy a . I’m not goin n? No thanks page 12) on l ve tra 10. Transitio & k le about wor tic ar r ou d (Rea

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The Gibbon Experience! Living on the Wild Side in the Rainforests of Laos...

Classic Gibbon Experience: 2,250,000 KIP. ($275 US or 220 Euro.) Departs on even days (2nd, 4th, etc.) Waterfall Gibbon Experience: 2,250,000 KIP. ($275 US or 220 Euro.) Departs on odd days (1st, 3rd, etc.) Tree Spa Gibbon Experience: 2,800,000 kips ($340 US or 280 Euro.) Departs on even days (2nd, 4th, etc.) For more information and bookings visit: What to pack: • • • • • • • •

Small Backpack: You can leave the rest of your hefty luggage at the main office. Bottle of Water: For the tough and thirsty walk into the forest - you’ll need it! Toilet Paper: So you don’t have to resort to leaves. Hiking Boots/Shoes: You’ll be using these a lot and they will also protect you from leeches. Mosquito Repellent: There are a lot of bugs in that jungle and a long-sleeved shirt is highly recommended for avoiding bites and stings. Camera: You’ll want to remember this forever. Flashlight: Your only light source at night! Alcohol: Heck, why not.

20 S.E.A Backpacker

Photographs: Stephanie Foden Words: Shauna Muir

Just like out of a storybook, I was flying among the trees of the rainforest during the day and seeking shelter in our tree house at canopy level come night. Even the images I saw before embarking on this experience couldn’t do it justice. It was an experience I will forever try to match. An experience I don’t know if I can ever quite match. A journey they call “The Gibbon Experience”. It takes place in the Bokeo Nam Kan National Park, located in northern Laos. Equipped with local guides, you are given access to an extensive network of zip line cables allowing you to explore the rainforest in the most raw and personal way. At night you retreat back to your tree house hundreds of feet in the air, fall asleep to a soundtrack of mysterious and enthralling noises coming from neighbouring trees and wake at dawn hoping to catch a glimpse of the gibbons. The gibbons were once thought to be extinct and in 1997 were discovered to have been living in northern Laos for many generations. It is not guaranteed that you will spot one while visiting their home but my group were lucky enough to see a small family of them on our last day there. The funds received by the Gibbon Experience are reinvested to protect the rainforest, replacing an industry once fueled by poaching, logging and slash and burn farming. It is in groups of about eight that you are taken to the Bokeo reserve, but only two other people joined us on our adventure - a young couple from Australia who we met the morning of departure at the main office. Registration for the Gibbon experience can be done online or like we did, at their office in the small border town of Houay Xai (pronounced “way sigh”). It is a small town with the office located on the main road, just north of the immigration checkpoint on the side of the street closest to the Mekong River. This office is where you leave your main luggage, which for us consisted of our two backpacks. So as we hesitantly parted ways with the only possessions we had known for the past month, we embarked on the three hour drive to our next point with just a small bag large enough to carry a toothbrush, flashlight, a light change of clothes and had we had known better… toilet paper! The three-hour truck drive brought us to the village of Baan Toup. It was a difficult 83km trip and I think all of us were surprised that the truck had made it through the windy, muddy terrain. From there it was an hour or so uphill on foot to reach the canopy infrastructure. We went in May and

although fairly dry, the almost vertical walk to the zip line was extremely difficult and left me feeling sorry for my frail, exhausted self. I laughed as I read, “In rainy season our tree houses are hard to reach. Depending on weather, our cars may not be able to take guests the full way into the reserve. In bad weather, please be prepared for a five hour walk to reach the canopy infrastructure.” I read this on their website when I had arrived back home to Canada. I’m quite grateful I hadn’t seen it before our trip! I’m embarrassed to say the climb was one of the most difficult physical ventures I’ve ever had to do, and I’m a fit 20-something year old (or so I thought). Our two guides, Thay Shun and Pia spoke little English but seemed so eager and excited to show us around our new home for the next three days. Our tree house was probably the most basic home I’ve ever lived in yet the richest at the same time. The only way in was zip line. The only way out was zip line. So if you’re scared of heights, I advise you to either get over it fast or close your eyes because nobody should miss out on this! For the next two nights we slept on the middle level (there were three). We attempted the top one at first thinking the higher the better, but then I spotted my first spider as big as my hand. Our guides seemed to enjoy sleeping on the top level too so I figured - hey it’s all yours.

S.E.A Backpacker


We slept on mattresses with mosquito nets draped over us - it was all we needed really. The bathroom, although a squat toilet with a simple sink was really quite luxurious when you think about how often you get to shower in the open, with rainwater. Not to mention the spectacular sunrise/sunset views. We decided to take advantage of the toilet around these times too, as to avoid the swarms of wasps that seemed to claim it during the day. Excited to explore the other tree houses, that first day of venturing out by ourselves felt almost made up. So I’m glad we have the pictures to prove ourselves otherwise. Although a little intimidated as the forest was known to be home to bears, tigers and elephants as well as the cute faced gibbons that entice you in, we went for it full throttle - taking everything we could from the experience with every jump and leap. It seemed as though we were invincible and nothing has ever given me such a rush. It seems like this sort of thing would be for adrenalin junkies

22 S.E.A Backpacker

only, but I found that to be untrue. Anybody can take anything they want away from this experience, and while seemingly falling under the category of “adventure travel” it could also be seen as a relaxing retreat away. Away from the people, pollution, noise and overall craziness of everyday life. Things just become simple. You are left to your own devices in this playground of a jungle. We found ourselves lying on hammocks in between zips or playing a game of cards. Travellers from other tree houses would swing by ours and greet us as neighbours. We even had a house cat. There seemed to be a sense of normality in a situation that was far from normal. We took turns washing the dishes in the sink attached to the massive tree trunk sprouting up the middle of our kitchen and living room. Each day there were meals delivered to us in three small tin compartments consisting of rice and some sort of meat. There were also some brittle-like snacks and tea available too. All of the food tasted just fine and there was definitely enough to go around, but I suggest you bring some of your own snacks if you’re looking for more than the basics. From Siem Reap...

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Just like the toilet paper, there was no stock of juice, pop or alcohol to dip into. So if you need something strong to keep your mind off the thunderstorms at night, perhaps pack a bottle or two of something. But keep in mind you’ll be lugging it every step of the way to the tree house! They also advise you to bring a flashlight and after our midnight escape from the tree house one night during a massive thunderstorm, I definitely know why! We had just settled into our beds when the rain started coming down pretty hard. All we could hear were pellets of rain slapping off the branches, the wind howling through our small, now seemingly unstable home in the trees and the snoring of our Australian roomies. Oh how I envied their naivety at that point. They were soon awoken by the shouts of our guides, yelling and motioning for us to leave the tree house, as it was not safe to be up here during a storm. It was a crazy scene as we all fumbled around suiting up in our zip line gear in the pitch black, ready to fly down a metal wire through flashes of lightening. The sounds and chaos from that night, although terrifying, will stick in my mind forever. It almost seemed staged, looking back and realising how hilarious yet scary that night was. It’s one that we’ll surely never forget.

S.E.A Backpacker


P hotos: I LOVE PAI Dear Pai, mark you all the time. You have left such an indelible ut abo think still I But ed. part we since ths mon It’s been pin curves ly light. You are worth braving the thousand hair love your uty, bea your me n show e hav You on me. me count the ways... that lead to you. Pai, how do I love thee? Let


Bikes bik es e decorate verywhere! Vinta ge bikes, d ricksha ws, eve box bike n plante s! r


5 2

smiles. You overwhelm me with your Pai le and I see it on your walls, your peop even your banks!


24 S.E.A Backpacker

us ur delicio d on yo sy ke rt o a ho nd e m s a You got ffee pie s, banno o in uc p p ca cafes!

y with prett are filled ur rs o e y rn re o o c d a ! Your d. I also ise of art discovere irts. a parad ing to be s and custom t-sh You are it a w st ju rd s a g c in st th o little like p souvenirs beautiful

You are a photographer’ s (and a model’s) dream setting. There are so many places to visit in this town. The Chin ese village, the Japanese WW II bridge, Coffee is Love caf e...


ve ic town. Lo uly romant Pai is a tr d! is all aroun


re’s clean. The ’s ressively ow p H ! im sh ’s e it fr n, the air is uristy tow ght. And For a to trash in si rt? no ly te lu o abso y eff communit that for a

10 7

3 words: M anual ferri s wheel! Wheeeee !

Where els e could yo u find an upside do wn house?

Did you fall in love with Pai just like us? Who wouldn’t? If you get to northern Thailand, make sure you drop by this place. When people ask me what I think about Pai, I always answer: Pai is love. Getting there: Pai is only 134 km from the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. But the ride takes three-four hours because of a steep, winding road. It was so winding that five out of eight people in our van threw up. The only ones who were spared were Chichi, myself and the driver. So make sure you take your car sickness pills and a barf bag!


wn entire to t art! An a place rful stree lo te o c a , re y c Prett er to e togeth . just cam you smile ke a m d ul that wo

Forever in love with Pai. Sole Sisters: Lois and Chi Chi (


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Siem Reap & Angkor Wat: A Personal Perspective 26 S.E.A Backpacker

By Anthony Biddlecombe

After working and travelling around South East Asia for nearly two years, it was about time we took a visit to Cambodia. The funds were in the bank and the passion for experience, as always, was embedded within. Planning our trips isn’t usually our style, but, we had just one plan in mind; to experience Angkor Wat, the temple of all temples during sunrise. Living in Asia we had grown to appreciate temples and we never got bored of experiencing the hot Asian sun creeping up from beyond the horizon. We decided that viewing the sunrise over Angkor Wat would be the perfect way to start the day. After several grueling bus journeys and a fairly hassle free border crossing, we reached the city of Siem Reap. It quickly became obvious that this was a city that was well set up for tourists. There were tons of bars, restaurants, cafes, guesthouses, hostels and hotels, with Five* star resorts scattered inbetween. Our first day took us for a stroll along Siem Reap’s river. With this being our first experience of Cambodia, our senses were working overtime with the crazy traffic, the pyjama wearing locals and the unique French colonial architecture. As we watched monks with their matching umbrellas walking two-by-two the riverside, we noticed that it was surprising clean compared to other cities in Asia.


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A journey to the center of cambodia SIEM REAP - KAMPONG THOM - KAMPONG CHAM - PHNOM PENH (OR

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+855 (0) 636 624 477 / +855 (0) 888 366 004 / As we walked on a little bit further, the neat, tree-lined river banks turned into a mish-mash of local shops, cafes, hairdressers and shop-houses. In just a few minutes the area had become very different. WIth local kids playing in the streets with no shoes, motorbikes whizzing by and an organised chaos of buildings; this seemed more like the Cambodia we had imagined. It seemed like we had walked through a portal taking us from Siem Reap to Siem Real. The locals returned your smile without expectation of you purchasing or giving them anything. Our walk took us all the way to Wat Thmei, a very used, and authentic Buddhist temple. Here, we took a rest and chatted to several monks that were eager to use us as a means to practice their English. Extremely interested about our home-countries and very different lives, the monks asked us many questions and we shared smiles and laughter. Tired and with the midday sun beating down on us, we decided to retreat back to our guesthouse and flagged down a tuk tuk to take us back to the realms of Siem Reap where we would be back amongst fellow foreigners. S.E.A Backpacker


with your inner self to politely smile and say the simple words of “no thank you”. It was the last temple of the day and we were hot, tired and hungry so we found a resting place on some cold, shaded temple stones. In the meantime, a young girl of 14 walked past selling small bamboo mouth harps and bracelets. I politely smiled and said “no thank you” hoping she would move on and she smiled back and asked us if she could take our picture. My girlfriend, Chrissie, kindly returned the smile and accepted her offer. The young girl took our picture, complimented Chrissie on her beauty and mocked my hair saying it was hair like a lady. As with all the temples of Angkor, I became fascinated and lost myself clicking away in all the nooks and crannies of the temple walls, only to find that about an hour later, Chrissie and the young girl, who was known as Suuni, had not moved. They were both deeply engrossed with each other.

As dusk began to approach, it was time to witness our first Cambodian sunset. The moment we reached the foot of the hill, we joined the pilgrimage of tourists to the temple. This was not going to be the intimate sunset I was expecting, however, we reached the top of the hill and caught not only a beautiful sunset, but my very first glimpse of Angkor Wat. This was the perfect introduction to the temples of Angkor, and Cambodia for that matter. The next morning, we walked out of our guest house at 5am to see our driver holding a smile that outshone any of ours at this hour of the morning. After a short and breezy drive, we reached our destination and the dawning sky was stunning with shades of purple and red coming from beyond the temple. I was amazed that the grass in front of us seemed more like the grounds of London’s Hyde Park on a hot summers day. All at once, children surrounded us trying to sell goods. It was still dark, so despite the sellers persistence, there was no chance of selling anything to us. We could barely see the items they were selling, let alone the dollar bills. Witnessing all of this, we took a few shots, then retreated from the hoards of tourists so we could take in the moment. Not for the perfect photo, but the moment for the perfect experience. As the sun crept up shyly from behind the five majestic towers, the colour of the sky changed with every second. I haven’t a clue how long it lasted, but it was a moment when nothing else mattered apart from the sun’s rays slowly penetrating your eyes and the heat gradually hitting your skin. Although the temples that we saw, from Angkor Wat to Bayon, to Angkor Thom, were very different in their own right, one thing they did have in common were the countless numbers of sellers, from the very young to the old. The children in particular were very persistent and by the third temple, fuelled with heat and exhaustion, you start to lose patience slightly. You battle

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Weary and intrigued, I sat down in the shade and listened attentively. The conversation involved Sunni’s entrepreneurial techniques; profits, costs of her items and the nationalities of the tourists that generally paid the most and the least amount of money. In addition to this, she mentioned that she had been in a temple as a young nun because her grandad had recently passed away, adding that this was the reason she had short hair. Such a young girl with a spirit that outweighed most of ours. Sunni had already given Chrissie a bracelet, but Chrissie wished to buy another one. She gave a second bracelet to Chrissie and flatly refused the dollar bill. Not only this, but she also gave me and our friend a bracelet. Shocked at her generosity, we expressed our gratitude and she proceeded to give us a tour through the intricate temple tunnels. As she waved us goodbye, we climbed in the tuk tuk feeling rather enlightened, yet slightly baffled. Baffled because we had just been given effectively four dollars worth of bracelets. Enlightened because a girl that, compared to us, had nothing. Yet, she had given us four bracelets and expected nothing in return. Four dollars was a lot to her and her family, though it seemed that she had been willing to exchange that for real, genuine time. This story stayed with us for the rest our our trip. We learned something valuable that all backpackers can apply during their visits around the world. We realised that time and genuine human interest in people can be equally, if not more rewarding than seeing the top ten places to see and do listed in your local travel guide. It was a lesson that would effect our Cambodian trip and the rest of our future travels.

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

8th January, 8th February

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 multi-coloured paint all over your body, get a glow stick in one

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hand and a bucket in your other and get ready to party!

system, unique UV illuminations, fire dancers and live visuals.

Half Moon Festival

Black Moon Culture

16th, 31st January 14th, 29th February

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

23rd January, 21st February Underground trance and progressive beats resound through the air as party goers dance on the beautiful sands of Baan Tai Beach once every month. With amazing décor, live visuals and an international DJ line up every month, including special guests, the Black Moon Culture is an intense dance experience. Party animals watch out!


Chinese New Year 2012: The Year of the Dragon All over South East Asia

23rd January - 6th February

The Chinese New Year marks the first day of the new moon and is a massive event celebrated by Chinese communities all over the world. Lasting for 15 days with unique celebrations and rituals taking place on each day, traditionally, it’s a time for families to get together, exchange gifts and eat lots of food! Homes are cleaned for the welcoming of spring, floral decorations and red paper lanterns are raised, children are given gifts of money in ‘lucky’ red envelopes and adults settle old

January – February 2012 debts to start afresh in the new year. Year 2012 is the year of the dragon, a sign of auspicious power and anger. However, the anger is not associated with evil, rather with the correcting of wrongs in society.

According to legend, the New Year rituals date back to the battle between a village and a mythical monster named ‘Nien’ The beast always came on the first day of the New Year to kill livestock, eat crops and devour children! The villagers put food outside their houses as offerings to prevent the attacks and would use firecrackers to scare him off. In time, the people also learnt that the ‘Nien’ was afraid of the

colour red, as on one occasion the beast was frightened by a little girl in a red dress. Today, in cities and towns all over Asia, a festive atmosphere fills the air. Colourful dragon and lion parades take to the streets, dancing to beating drums and cymbals which are said to drive away evil spirits. Chinese temples are blanketed by clouds of incense smoke as people pray for good fortune in the New Year. Bangkok, Penang and Kuala Lumpur are all great places to witness the festivities, take in cultural performances and gorge on the huge variety of street food.

Trang Underwater Wedding Ceremony Trang, Thailand

a truly unique way at the Trang Underwater Wedding Ceremony. Held around Valentine’s Day, couples dressed in traditional wedding dresses and suits, dive 12 metres beneath the water to perform this innovative marital ceremony and (somehow) exchange bubbly vows. People flock from all over the globe to take the plunge!

10th - 13th February

Tet Nguyen Dan (Tet) Vietnam

Met the love of your life whilst backpacking? Why hesitate any longer? Give your folks at home a heart attack and tie the knot in

In Vietnam, there’s a three day public holiday to celebrate the New Year, ‘Tet Nguyen Dan,’

meaning ‘The Feast of the First Morning.’ Derived from Chinese New Year and celebrated at the same time, ‘Tet’ also marks the beginning of spring. The rituals and festivities are similar to Chinese New Year in terms of their focus on family and the concept of making a fresh start. In Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and other cities, you’ll find street parties and parades; market stalls bustling with people buying decorations, food, clothes and stocking up on goods for the New Year. All night drumming and fireworks also make this an extremely noisy festival and a lively and highly spirited event to experience.

23rd January

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W hat’s on: Festivals and Events Thaipusam Malaysia 7th February

Thaipusam is one of the largest and most extravagant Hindu Festivals, celebrated by millions of followers worldwide. Kuala Lumpur and Penang are two of the most colourful places to observe the festivities, in particular at the Batu Caves on the outskirts of KL. It’s a truly incredible spectacle to witness as participants perform incredible feats of devotion offering thanks

to Lord Murugan (son of Shiva and Parvati) for good fortune during the year. Feats including piercing of the body and face with skewers, dragging chariots with hooks attached to the skin and the carrying of huge metal frames (kavadis) attached to the body. Some devotees become entranced, entering meditative states during the procession, believed to cleanse them of their sins.

5th Phangan Film Festival Koh Phangan, Thailand 24th - 26th February

The Phangan Film Festival grew out of a pure love for meaningful independent filmmaking. The founders of the festival are world travellers who rejoice in the cross-cultural expansion that transforms all those who wander far and wide. Taking place on the beautiful tropical island of Koh Phangan in Thailand, there is no better place for open-air cinema as the waves trickle onto the

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shore nearby and stars twinkle in the dark sky above.The festival will host a diverse presentation of high-quality independent films from around the world. The festival themes are NATURE and SPIRIT, two widely cherished and intimately related subjects which bear increasing relevance for both the island and our

monastic rules to a group of over one thousand enlightened monks. In the talk, he also prophesised his own death. Grand parades and the circling of wats (temples) with candles take place in many towns across the country, particularly in Laos’ capital Vientiane and in the Khmer ruins of Wat Phu, near Champasak. Religious music and chanting can be heard from worshippers during this sacred Buddhist festival.

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Pai Reggae Festival Pai, Thailand 27th - 29th January planet. The aim of the festival is to stimulate thoughtful reflection on our own ways of life and bring about appropriate attitudinal change and responsible action. Screenings take place at Holiday Beach Resort in Baan Tai and there are exclusive offers on tickets ONLY for S.E.A Backpacker Magazine readers. Tear off the coupon on the right hand side of this page and get 15% discount on entrance to the festival, making a day-pass just 300 baht and a three-day pass only 680 baht! Then, you can spread the word to fellow travellers that there is more to Koh Phangan than drinking buckets at the Full Moon Party! See website for more information:

Magha Puja Thailand and Laos February 2010

Taking place on the night of the Full Moon in February, Marha Puha is a festival which commemorates an inspirational speech given by the Buddha, in which he dictated the first

This year known as “Mai Pen Rai - Jah Rastafaria,” the Pai Reggae Music Festival is just one of the many cool things to come out of the bohemian valley of Pai in northern Thailand. The brain-child of Pai local P’Dang Cowboy, the festival began seven years ago as a small gathering in a field in Pai to share a love of Reggae and Ska Music. Since then, the festival has grown to an international affair! This year it will take place over three days and nights at The Pai TreeHouse Resort, in Pai Festival goers can camp at the festival grounds in rented tents, and you can also get free train rides to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, with prepaid tickets. This years line-up includes many international reggae acts plus Thai and Asian artists, including Thai favourites ‘Job 2 Do & T-Bone.’ As well as the IRIE reggae music, there’ll be DJ’s, fire dancing, drum circles, craft & art vendors, food and much much more. May Jah guide your travels... see you at the festival!

If you’re looking for something a bit different than your regular backpacking soundtrack of Jack Johnson and Jason Myrazz and you’re missing your indie rock and roll gigs… then look no further! Rising up from playing in rat-infested dives in Bangkok, The Standards (made up of two Brits and three Thais) decided to make some music that was as thumping as the throng of the city which threw them together. With cheeky cockney front man, Matt Smith and an accompanying band of four talented musicians, this is one travel experience with a difference! From January - March, they’ll be appearing in Manila, Hanoi, KL and Bangkok. Check out the website and their Facebook page for dates: stunes

Bun Pha Vet Laos

6th - 8th February

Bun Pha Vet is an important Buddhist Festival and a significant time of the year for friends and family in Laos to gather together. Tales of Buddha’s penultimate life as Prince Vessantara are recited throughout temples across the country and it’s considered a favourable time for Laos Men to be ordained into Monkhood.

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Conquering Tides

Exploring the hidden gems of Malaysia’s coastline... By Shawn Parker, Megan Ahrens & Nikki Scott

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My charged childhood memories of summer days spent fishing, swimming and exploring the backcountry of central Ontario are a far cry from the wild tropical jungles and lavish sandscapes of Malaysia’s island paradises, places where angel fish tango underwater, sharks and rays rub shoulders with astounded divers and the tangled webs of seemingly unending jungle demand exploration. Differences abound half a world away, yet there is something about these islands, these wild natural playgrounds, that remind me of home... Pangkor Island, the forgotten underling of posh Penang, has the power to set free that inner child yearning for adventure. I set out to circumnavigate the island, to conquer the myriad hills and hidden beaches, on a broken bicycle void of brakes and sporting two wonky tyres. I learnt that vacant beaches pine for castles of epic proportions, decrepit piers must be jumped off of no matter how precariously constructed and tropical fish are nearly impossible to catch bare-handed, no matter how quick you may think you can swim or how long you can hold your breath. The Perhentian Islands, some 20km from Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast, have long been a hub for traders en route to Thailand’s interior and a destination for sun worshippers in the know. The Perhentians are also a favourite nesting ground for green and hawksbill turtles, most on the back end of a two thousand kilometre swim; I was witness to the magic of new life my first night on the island when, according to the schedule set by the moon and the tide, dozens of baby turtles hatched from their shells below the sand and scuttled towards the sea like an army of zealous skull-capped infantrymen. Yet somehow this onshore splendour pales in comparison to what lies beneath. It is the undersea that truly inspires me. Perhentian Kecil boasts some of the finest and rarest coral left on earth, much of it existing less than two metres below the surface. With ill-fitting goggles and a leaky snorkel I explored this treasure trove for days, unsure at times if I’d ever be ready to reemerge from the cerulean depths.   There exists no substitute for the experience of the deep blue sea, whether with a snorkel on your head, a tank of oxygen on your back or a beach blanket over your shoulder. Malaysia, worlds away from my own home, rekindled in me the desire to explore the world with gentle steps and make connections that go beyond the typical, no matter how ephemeral they were ever meant to be. Travel in Malaysia is about experience, not escape...

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With a superstar neighbour like Thailand, it is easy to see why Malaysia’s more subtle coastline gets overlooked by travellers in search of a quick fix of sun, sand and sea. Yet from the cultural isle of Penang in the north to the tropical paradise of Pulau Tioman, Malaysia has a diverse and beautiful portfolio of islands that has more than enough to satisfy the ‘adventure thirsty’ backpacker. Their white powdery beaches, dense virgin rainforest, spectacular diving and surprising diversity of exotic wildlife may just make you linger on these island gems longer than you expected…

which takes one-two hours to reach the island. The journey from Kuala Lumpur to Mersing is around five hours by bus, making it the perfect distance for a break from the hustle and bustle of Malaysia’s capital. Flashpackers amongst you may like to fly from Singapore’s main Changi Airport or KL.

Pulau Tioman

Pulau Perhentian Kecil

In the 1970s Pulau Tioman was voted one of the worlds’ most beautiful islands by TIME Magazine and it is immediately apparent upon first glimpse of its impressive coastline to see why. Located 32km from the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the tiny island, which is just 39km long and 12km wide, is a well protected nature reserve, home to over 45 species of mammal, such as the long-tailed macaque, black giant squirrel and brush tailed porcupine, plus over 138 species of bird. Certain creatures, such as the soft-shelled turtle and the Tioman walking catfish are endemic and unique to the island, giving nature lovers something to rave about!

Located on the east of Peninsular Malaysia, the name ‘perhentian’ means ‘stopping point’ in Malay language, which harks back to their days as a station where traders between Thailand and Malaysia would rest for a few days. It is a wonder how the traders ever went back to work, as once you set foot on these islands, many find it hard to leave! There are two main islands; Pulau Perhentian Besar, (meaning big Perhentian) which is more popular amongst tourists and Pulau Perhentian Kecil (small Perhentian) which tends to attract more backpackers.

Most of the island is made up of dense rainforest which blankets the mountainous landscape from north to south. Miles of white palm-fringed beaches grace the perimeter of the island, while rich coral reefs lie just off shore underneath crystal clear waters. Bamboo bungalows costing as little as 20RM / night are the backpackers choice and you’ll be sure to find tranquility here, particularly in the low seasons. There are no late night parties, rowdy beach bars or restaurant chains here, even WIFI is a struggle! People head here to relax and get away from the rest of the world for a while… Like many of the worlds most beautiful places, Tioman’s existence is explained by legend. Whilst flying from China to Singapore to visit her Prince, a dragon princess stopped to seek peace in the turquoise waters of the South China Sea. Falling in love with the place and wanting to offer shelter to passing travellers, she decided to stay and her body became the island of Tioman. Getting there: Most ferries depart from the Malaysian mainland at Mersing

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Best time to visit: May to September is the season which has best chance of good weather. In monsoon season (November - March) the island pretty much clears of tourists and crossing the sea can be rough.

Apart from the owners and workers of the resorts and bungalows on the island, Pulau Perhentian Kecil has no permanent residents apart from those living in a small fishing village. Tourism is now the main industry here and since its growth in recent years, a variety of accommodation is now available from luxury resort status to bamboo hut. Nights on Kecil are subdued affairs with a few beach bars and shisha smoking joints which cater to a laid back crowd of travellers. Diving and snorkeling are popular activities here in clear, shallow water abundant with stingrays, cuttlefish and parrotfish. The island is also blessed

with a turtle nesting population which is now under the care of the World Wildlife Fund to ensure that the turtles in the whole area of Terengganu would not become extinct. Similar to Pulau Tioman, the island has protected status meaning that tourist activities are carefully monitored for their environmental impact and the construction of new buildings, hotels and guesthouses, is restricted. There is also renewable energy installed on the island in the form of wind turbines which makes the island a spectacular example of sustainable energy. If only this were the case on many other South East Asian islands! Getting there: From KL’s Putra Station, the cost is 45RM one way for an overnight bus which takes eight-ten hours to reach the jump off point to the islands, Kelua Besut. From here, it is a short boat ride to the island as long as you make it there before midday as the boats stop running at this time. The nearest airport is Kota Bahru which has daily flights coming in from KL via AirAsia or Malaysia Airlines. Best time to visit: November to March is the monsoon season and many resorts do indeed close from October to February. High season is July and August which sees the greatest numbers of tourists.

Pulau Pangkor While it is the east coast of Malaysia that is rightly celebrated for its white sandy tropical beaches, jumping over to the west you will find the tiny, but charming, Pulau Pangkor, somewhat of a different island escape. In the past, the island has been used as a small haven for local fisherman and pirates and in the 17th century a fort was built here by the Dutch as they wanted to control the Perak tin trade. A mere eight square kilometers, the island lives up to its name as ‘beautiful’ island, which is what the name Pangkor translates to in Malay and there is plenty to do here for the adventurous. The best way to see the island is to hire a bicycle and explore the small fishing villages, traditional houses and when

you get hungry stop off at the local food stalls serving delicious local delicacies such as ‘ikan bilis’’ or dried anchovies. Hornbills come out in the evening for their dinner too. The most popular beach for tourists is ‘Nipah Bay’ which has a fair amount of guesthouses and restaurants. As the island is very much a low-key tourist destination it is mostly Malaysian weekenders who you will find in the area, swimming fully-clothed in the sea. A boat trip with a local fisherman is also a great way to see the island’s treasures. You may even spot a monitor lizard grazing in the sun on the shore. Getting there: The jump off point for Pulau Pangkor is the sleepy town of Lumut, which is around a five-hour bus journey from KL’s Putra bus station. Best time to visit: When the east coast of Malaysia has its rainy season, the west coast is safe, therefore, the best time to visit is October to February. However all year round you can expect good weather as the west is not hit by monsoon as bad as the east. Weekends and public vacations can be busy with holidaying Malays.

Pulau Langkawi Langkawi is not one, but an archipelago of 99 islands on the west coast of Malaysia. The islands are situated in the Andaman Sea and separated from the mainland by the straits of Malacca. There are two areas; the more touristy south island and the north east islands which are much more peaceful due to the lack of traffic. All in all, Langkawi is Malaysia’s best known holiday destination, also known as ‘the Jewel of Kedah,’ so expect more tourists than backpackers here. With plenty of high-class hotels and resorts, (such as the Sheraton and Four Seasons) international restaurants, bars and souvenir shops - the island is no longer a tranquil haven and due to its status as a tax haven, has become popular amongst those wanting to make the most of the dutyfree, dirt cheap booze and cigarettes. It is a big island and there is plenty to do here from sporting activities to visiting shops, museums, adventure lands, or indulging in the local nightlife. Apparently, the island was thought to be under a strong curse until 1986, when it was

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rainy season really isn’t much to shout about though with showers lasting on average about two hours a day.

Pulau Penang As brightly coloured bicycle trishaws perambulate the streets alongside 18th and 19th century colonial architecture, modern shopping malls and trendy bars beckon to the tourist with money in their pocket. A fascinating fusion of east and west, ancient and modern, Penang, dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ is an interesting island destination that is full of surprises. Not so much of a sleepy island, Penang is an industrial, urban metropolis complete with beaches, mountains, rice fields and coastal plains. Its capital, UNESCO World Heritage status, Georgetown, is home to a myriad of nationalities, from indigenous Malay to Chinese, Indian, Muslim and a growing number of western expats. The island has undergone various influences throughout its rich 600-year colonial history. In the 15th Century, when the island was mainly occupied by Chinese immigrants, Portuguese sailors used the island as a stopover point on their way from Goa to the Spice Islands (Maluku Islands) in Indonesia. In 1786, Captain Frances Light, an English trader declared Penang under British rule in the name of King George III and the East India Company. The island became the first British outpost. He renamed the Island ‘Prince of Wales Island’ after the contemporary heir to the throne, but the name never stuck. A colourful legacy followed; whereupon Penang became an outpost for convicts, a location for the seat of government, a civil war site and the base for an attempted revolution of Chinese nationalists. All this history and more is depicted in the Penang Museum and Art Gallery in Georgetown - a must for the culture vultures amongst you! Penang is also famous as being the food capital of Malaysia with a huge array of cheap and delicious street food from Chinese delicacies to Malay classics. Head to Gurney Drive and Pulau Tikus to gorge your taste buds in exotic delights.

still hailed as ‘Malaysia’s best kept secret.’ In 1987, the Prime Minister decided to give the island tax free status and huge promotion on terms of tourism. Since then, there has been a boom in the number of visitors coming to the island. However, despite the boom, the island boasts certain geographical wonders that are under protection and it is still possible to be the only one strolling along a lonesome sandy beach at sunset. Getting there: Langkawi has an international airport with flights direct from Penang, KL, Singapore and Phuket. There is also a ferry from the mainland taking around an hour and a half from the main port of Kuala Perlis. You can also get there from Penang, which takes around three hours by boat. Best time to visit: The temperature on Langkawi is pretty much the same all year round, although the rainy season hits from September to November. The

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Getting there: The jump off point for Penang is Butterworth, which is a main bus port for transport from Thailand and destinations such as Phuket, Trang, Surat Thani, Koh Samui and Bangkok. The boat from Butterworth takes around two and a half hours to reach Penang and costs less than 2RM. There is also a mini van service going over the bridge to Penang. As a popular place for border runs from Thailand, with tourists able to secure a 60day visa for Thailand here, the transport options are endless. To reach Penang, the journey takes 18 hours from Bangkok, 12 hours from Phuket and eight hours from Krabi. Best time to visit: Similar to Langkawi, the rainy season in Penang lasts from September to November, but only rains a few hours each day. The sunny, dry season between December and February is the perfect time to visit the island, guaranteed the best weather.

Wish you could take photos like this? Flash Parker is a professional writer and photographer who travels from continent to continent capturing the beauty of our incredible planet. With a passion for teaching people how to make the most of their camera, he runs ‘Flash Light Photography Expeditions’ which holds indepth photography workshops and courses in South Korea and tours in Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia and Japan. Photography enthusiasts from all over the world take part in the unique adventures to take their image-making and photo-journalism to the next level. In an exciting next step, he is currently working with S.E.A Backpacker Magazine to bring the expeditions to Thailand in 2012 - Watch This Space! If you are interested to find out more, visit: or email

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B off the beaten track:

A glo-paint smeared body, bucket in each hand and a night of dance and debauchery? A perfect palm-fringed, white sandy beach, waves lapping into shore as you sip a fresh coconut juice? Or perhaps, the chaos of Bangkok; the colourful markets, bustling streets and glitzy shopping malls? What does Thailand mean to you? It was chucking it down with rain and freezing cold. “It’s too dangerous” said my friend, “we can’t ride in this”. We were in the mountains of northern Thailand and had been trying to make it another 60 kilometres to the town of Pai on a dirt track that was a slippery mud chute. After a lot of falling off, getting caked in mud, stuck in mud, skidding in mud, revving and spraying each other trying to get out of said mud, we had been forced to call it a day and were now stranded in the middle of nowhere. We left our motorbikes under a rickety shelter and trudged back to the main road with a plan to hitchhike to a nearby village. Like three drowned rats we stuck our thumbs out shivering in hope of a lift. It wasn’t long before a pick up truck stopped and a friendly hill-tribe family beckoned us in. We were soaking wet, but the mother refused to have us sit out back in the rain, instead she made us squash into the backseat of the car where we apologetically dripped on baby clothes and toys. In broken Thai we asked to be taken to a hotel if there was one in a nearby village? After driving through hill-tribe villages and huts mile after mile up here, we weren’t very hopeful of a decent lodging for the night. About fifteen minutes down the road the father stopped the car at what can only be described as a cowboy ranch. After some discussion and


enthusiastic smiles we were ushered in and fussed over by the staff. Walking in through saloon doors to the sound of Johnny Cash playing on the speakers was one of those surreal moments in Thailand where your world stands still for a moment and you have to remind yourself where you are. We spent the night drinking hot toddies, attempting small talk with some stetson-clad locals and singing along to country-music’s all time hits from Kenny to Dolly! This isn’t the Thailand of holiday brochures and postcards... but this is Thailand too. Thailand is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations on the planet receiving over 15 million tourists a year. Perfectly marketed images of tuk tuks, long-tail boats, glimmering temples and glamorous Thai dancers are what the mind conjures up when someone says Thailand. Living here for two years, I have had the immense pleasure of seeing many different sides of this fascinating country, the hugely celebrated and the unassuming, the popular and the forgotten. Each place has its unique surprises and my experience makes me cringe when I hear some stuck up backpackers say that Thailand as a tourist destination has nothing for them in way of adventure anymore! As someone once said, “only boring people get bored”. Especially in Thailand. I present to you a different side of Thailand, a quirky side...

MaeKlong Market, Samut Songkram

MaeKlong Market in the province of Samut Songkram is an unbelievable example of Thailand’s ability to thrive regardless of circumstances. The market is situated on the train tracks of MaeKlong Railway and eight times a day, seven days a week, the train passes in and out happily. The train literally goes directly through the middle of the market stalls and over the goods on sale. Rather than relocate a market which had been running for decades in this area, locals adapted superbly so that daily life was not interrupted. The vendors simply pull back any awning that sticks out too far within centimeters of where the train will pass and usher shoppers to step back. Locals know the exact time each day the train arrives and once it has passed through, the awnings are unfurled again and they are back on the tracks laying out their fruit, meat and seafood as if nothing happened!


Forensic Museum, Bangkok

Have you always wanted to see a scrotum with elephantiasis? Er… no us neither! Bangkok’s Forensic Fuseum holds a bizarre collection of everything that is weird, outrageous and just downright freaky about Thailand. For anyone looking to investigate a very different side of Thailand, look no further… though be warned this place is not for the squeamish or faint of heart! With a macabre interest in death and illness, the museum displays a collection of gruesome photographs of decapitations, deformed feotus’s in glass jars, an exhibition of skulls with bullet wounds through the head and the star attraction, the embalmed body of 1950’s Chinese cannibal, Si Quey. Next to the cabinet read the handwritten words “because he loves to eat human’s organ not because of starving”.

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Phuket Town

Most people head to Phuket strictly for beaches and all night parties, however, what most people fail to appreciate is Phuket town itself. Dating back to the 16th century, colonial powers had an interest in Phuket’s natural resources, namely its booming tin mining industry. As a result, the architecture of the town is a mix of Sino-Portuguese shop-house and Sino-Colonial mansion style. Despite it being home to the cheapest digs in town (the famous On-On Hotel was featured in the opening scenes of the movie, The Beach!) there is a surprising lack of backpackers roaming the town. Artsy tea-shops and atmospheric jazz bars have now taken residence in the old shophouses and there are some great (and cheap) Chinese-influenced eating houses. Visitors heading there in October are in for a treat as the Vegetarian Festival takes place with incredible feats of selfflagellation and body piercing.


Mae Sot or “Little Burma”

Nicknamed “Little Burma” due to the presence of over 200,000 Burmese refugees living in the area, the border town of Mae Sot doesn’t really feel like Thailand at all. Walking around the local market you will see women with a yellow paste, ‘thananka’ bark smeared on their cheeks and men, wearing the traditional Burmese wrap-around skirt, the longyi. The town is fascinating in the sense that it makes you realise just how complex the Burmese nationality is with ethnic minorities from Karen, Kachin, Mon and Shan among others; each with their own separate customs, cultures, dress and cuisine. Eat chapatis and dal in the Muslim quarter in the morning for breakfast and then feast on Karen curries in the evening. For backpackers who are considering visiting what is now called ‘Myanmar’, Mae Sot is an

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Nan province The remote province of Nan is a mountainous, forested area that for many years was an autonomous kingdom cut off from the rest of Thailand and the outside world. The area remains somewhat separated from the rest of Thailand in the fact that very few tourists venture here. Home to the largest national park in Thailand, the beautiful Doi Phu Kha National Park, the area has an abundance of impressive limestone caves, karats and waterfalls, not to mention the ancient salt mine village, or ‘Ban Bo Klua’ as it is known in Thai. The best way to get to Nan province is by motorbike from Chiang Mai on roads which are superb for riding, passing through some spectacular mountain scenery. The town of Phayao, located on the picturesque Phayao Lake is the perfect stop off point to explore more stunning mountain scenery and nearby hill-tribe villages

The Trang Islands Just four hours by bus from the tourist hotspot, Krabi, lie the ‘secret’ islands of Trang, a group of 47 separate craggy isles each one blessed with raw, untouched beauty. The area, which consists of 120 miles of beautiful coastline, remains unspoilt by tourism to this day. You will find no fast food restaurants, internet cafes or tacky souvenir shops here. During low season (June-September) the islands are completely deserted and you will have to persuade the local fisherman to take you out from the main port of Trang to the outer islands. It is quite possible that you will be the only foreigner there as you explore the beautiful white sandy beaches, limestone caves and waterfalls that were recently designated a national parkland. The accommodation is cheap and very basic but with a location so idyllic, the Trang islands are Thailand 20 years ago. If it is true escapism that you are after, the Trang Islands may just be your adventure playground.

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White Temple and Black House It is true that with such an abundance of noteworthy temples in Asia, at times during your trip you may feel guiltily ‘templed out’. After coming from Thailand’s capital of culture, Chiang Mai with its 300+ temples, the last thing you want to do in Chiang Rai is see another! Yet, the White Temple just may be different from anything you have seen before with its eerie concrete hands and ghostly heads surrounding the entrance and huge silver tusks reflecting the light as you walk up to the daunting doors. The temple is like something out of a strange gothic fairy tale and was built by artist ‘Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat’ as a Buddhist offering. Less than 2km from the White Temple, you will find the mysterious ‘Baan Dam’ or the Black House, built interestingly by Kositpipat’s former student, artist Thawan Duchanee. With an extensive collection of taxidermy, including the entire skeleton of an elephant, the Black House is a bizarre contrast to the pure White Temple. An antagonistic creation by the artist perhaps?

Khao Yai National Park and Bat Cave Every night without fail as the sun begins to set in eastern Thailand, a thick black cloud spouts from the mouth of an eerie cave on the edge of Khao Yao National Park. They are thousands upon thousands of ‘wrinkle lipped’ bats who come out to hunt at twilight creating what seems like one giant living organism in a ribbon pattern across the sky. Just four hours from Bangkok, the park is also home to 67 species of wild mammal including the Asiatic black bear, Asian elephant, gaur gibbon and even tigers! Visitors can walk the many hiking trails in the area to spectacular waterfalls, observation points and even a dinosaur footprint - a four day trek!

Tarutao National Marine Park Right on the border with Malaysia, Thailand’s Muslim deep south is very underdeveloped compared to Krabi and the Gulf islands. Today, it remains a destination which many tourists are wary of due to continued travel warnings because of anti-government fighting in the area. However, this area has more than one surprise up its sleeve, not least the stunning Tarutao National Marine Park, an archipelago of 51 exquisite islands which were the setting for Thailand’s version of the Survivor TV program. One of the first National Marine parks in Thailand, its sparkling beaches, coral reefs and virgin rainforest remain in pristine condition. It is hard to believe that the largest island, Koh Tarutao was once a huge prison with over 10,000 prisoners sent there. One of the islands here, Koh Lipe has managed to evade park protection and is beginning to develop into a popular resort. Go now before pressure from developers to build more resorts becomes too much! The park is closed May-November.

Doi Inthanon Last New Year, hoards of Thai people raced to the peak of the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon (2,565 metres) to get their first experience of frost! However, the park does have more to offer than its cold winter temperatures. Riding a motorbike through the park is the best way to explore a landscape that changes with each turn; at times rugged, misty, cold and eerie and then almost mediterranean with lush rolling hills, rhododendron bushes and smiling farmers waving as they plough the fields in the sun. On the way up the mountain (you can reach the summit by road) there is a Hmong hilltribe settlement where visitors can stay overnight in a homestead and observe the organic farming practices here which are a Royal Project initiated by the King of Thailand to stop the hilltribes growing Opium. Although the area of Doi Inthanon is well set up for tourists, it is rare to spot backpackers here.

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Traveller thoughts, stories, tips B T STORY OF THE MONTH

. . . i o n a H m o r f s C r a z y Ta l e

By Nick Round

Snake Village. To some, it sounds like hell. To others, the least imaginatively named area in the world. To us, it represented the ultimate test of our manliness. Just getting to the village was hard enough. Taxi drivers looked at us fearfully before driving away while locals claimed they’d never heard of such a place. Finally, two daredevil motorcycle drivers agreed to take us and we were off. I wasn’t sure if we should be worried by their grins. The village was hardly welcoming; cramped, dingy streets led to dilapidated houses. The place seemed deserted. There were no street lamps or lights on in the homes. It was like a town from a scary movie, you know, the sort of ones that are usually called Horrorville or Screamsborough. We finally arrived at a bright, cheery restaurant that calmed my nerves, well, for a split second, until I gazed at the eerie scene inside. Four men stood around a large box of wriggling, writhing snakes, gazing at us intently. One of the men reached into the box. Now I’m no herpetologist and I couldn’t tell if there were cobras, pythons or grass snakes in the box, but if you had to ask me what not to do when confronted by a large box full of snakes, it would be to put my hand inside. The man didn’t seem to mind however, and withdrew something resembling the inner tyre of a bicycle wheel for our inspection. ‘Forty dollars!’ the youngest of the men told us. At last, a language we could understand! I don’t care if my mother had been kidnapped; if a Vietnamese salesman came to me and offered a price of £250,000 for her life, I’d immediately laugh and offer him about a fifth of the price. We eventually settled on about $15 for the snake, which our drivers assured us was a good price. We probably still paid four times too much, but alas it turned out to be well worth it. Now for the truly spine-tingling moment of the night. The snake handler, who also happened to be the head chef and chief executioner, handed his precious burden to another man, who held the twitching animal steady as the chef drew a large, Crocodile Dundee-esque knife from his pocket. Without standing on ceremony, he slid the knife into the snake and proceeded to cut a jagged gash along the stomach of the reptile. Another youngster dashed up with a filter and began to collect the snake’s blood, which he mixed with a bottle that smelt suspiciously like a well-known Russian spirit. Suddenly we were seeing off shots of snake’s blood and vodka and the thick, gritty taste proved highly nauseating. It was to be a night full of vomit-inducing moments as the snake-hating head chef then cut out the heart

of the poor creature and slid the still-beating organ into one of our shot glasses. Choking sounds from our friend Chris as we saw off another drink provided the answer to where the heart ended up. Eventually, we were allowed to eat, and I’ll say this for the chef/executioner/ sadist; he cooks a mean snake and chips! All in all, the experience was one of the highlights of my trip, and I’d thoroughly encourage anyone who visits Hanoi to make the short trip to Snake Village. Although the whole outing only lasted about an hour, I have more memories of that strange encounter than I do of last week. All I would say is pick your taxi drivers with care; our two daredevil motorcycle drivers had more than their fair share of vodka before they drove us home and we almost didn’t live to tell the tale. But that’s all part of the Legend of Snake Village... You can also book a trip to Snake Village with Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel:

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44 S.E.A Backpacker


I’ve just necked two buckets and you’re starting to look pretty good.

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massage: (noun) the rubbing and kneading of muscles and joints of the body with the hands, esp. to relieve tension or pain.

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This week I signed up to do a course in Thai Massage. Essentially I’m paying to learn how to physically abuse people who make that fatal mistake of associating the word ‘massage’ with gentle relaxation. In reality, Thai massage involves being pummelled, punched, pulled and prodded. But surprisingly enough it does feel pretty good afterwards. Walking to the massage place I passed a man sat cross legged on the pavement taking apart a shotgun with a screwdriver. Evidently I’m rather used to Thailand now, because without so much as a double take I simply stepped over the shotgun and carried on my way.

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I arrived at the massage place to be greeted by a tiny Thai woman who spent an hour poking her fingers into my spine to demonstrate how it’s done. Then it was time to swap, which turned out to be somewhat of a challenge.  She was so skinny that I couldn’t work out where her spine was, so I ended up just prodding  blindly and hoping for the best and although I was worried I was going to snap her in two, I kept getting scolded for being too gentle. When I had to stick my knees into her back and yank on her limbs in a method comparable to ripping apart a chicken carcass, I said a little prayer that I didn’t hurt her, or that if I did then it would damage her enough to prevent her beating me up. After I’d finished I panicked, but it turned out that she wasn’t dead, just asleep. How on EARTH she managed to sleep while I was kneeling on her bum with my elbows sticking into her neck I have no idea, but hearing her snore made her a little less intimidating. After waking up she began massaging my arms and saying to another lady ‘soft, soft soft’. I gave a little inward grin at the compliment. This smile quickly disappeared when the other woman came to touch my soft soft soft arms. Upon grabbing at my bingo wings and nodding: ‘Yes, very soft’, I realised that this hadn’t been a comment on my super smooth complexion but rather a statement on how I was storing excess Pad Thai in my upper arms. Mortifying. By Alicia Kidd

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is written by eriences and viewpoints S.E.A Backpacker Magazine fresh new writers with new exp e hav to aim right now. It’s our contributing every month. love to hear from you! t of travel writing, we would spo a at d han r you you like to cy fan If you ews or any random scribbling any articles, stories, book revi d sen se Plea info@southeastasiabackpacke ’ll get back with articles you submit. We earing in the next issue. possible try to include photos If app be l whether your words wil of s new h wit y awa t righ to you ppy Travelling! nks for your support and Ha


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I NTERVIEW: Se Asia Faces & places


n a bright sunny day in Koh Phangan, I rode my bicycle to Sri Thanu where the Agama Yoga School is located overlooking a sand bank that stretches out across the Gulf of Thailand. It is an incredibly beautiful and tranquil spot, a place that you could say was the perfect home for a yoga school. There I met Austrian-born Rainer Gasser, the General Manager of Agama and Romanian Doctor of Holistic Medicine, Mihaiela Pentiuc MD. In an interesting afternoon of coconut shakes and green teas, we discussed everything from tantric yoga to Mongolia to the state of the economy in the west and methods of coping with stress. Rainer, tell us about your background and how you came to Koh Phangan? Growing up in a small, catholic Austrian town of only 9,000 people, I had always been interested in travel, spirituality and exploring more of the world around me. At 19, I started to work at ski resorts in the Swiss and Austrian Alps. As the job was seasonal and well paid, I was able to work half of the year and save money to travel for the rest of the year. By 35, I’d been inter-railing around Europe, journeyed on the Trans-Siberian express and travelled to over fifty countries extensively, including; Mongolia, China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Burma. From all of your travels, where is your favourite country and why? For pure landscape, Mongolia is incredible, as is the scenery of Tibet. Burma is also a magical place. Before you came to Thailand, had you ever practised yoga before? I had always been very inquisitive in terms of spirituality, world religions and the power of the mind. I knew that Catholicism, nor could any one religion, have all the answers. Yoga in the west never appealed to me as it seemed much more about the physical body, toning your figure aesthetically, rather than honing the mind and energy which is what I am interested in. At this time, I didn’t understand the true nature of what Yoga actually means. Tell us about your first experience of Yoga in Thailand? In 2005, I was on a big round the world trip. Even before my interest in yoga began, I liked to visit temples, spiritual places and explore the knowledge of religion in the country I was in. In Thailand, I wanted to try a 10-day Vippasana meditation retreat, but somehow the dates didn’t match with my plans. By chance, I picked up a brochure of Agama Yoga in Koh Phangan, which read ‘the path to spiritual enlightenment’ and described a type of Yoga, meditation and thinking which encompassed everything that I was interested in. I decided this was for me. Initially just wanting to try it out for two weeks, I ended up staying three months learning as much as I could. I was hooked! How did this introduction to Agama change your life? After the first three months, I tried to leave Koh Phangan to continue my onward travels to Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and possibly South America. I managed as

46 S.E.A Backpacker

far as Indonesia before I received a phone call from my boss back home offering me my old job back and the chance to save up some more money to return for longer. I went back, saved up and then had a choice; would I continue my travels as planned? Or go back to Koh Phangan to continue my journey with Yoga? Something had clicked with me so strongly during that first three months at Agama that I knew the answer was Koh Phangan. I wanted to explore more and progress through the levels of Agama Yoga, of which there are 24 in total. After a few years, in 2009, I became General Manager of Agama. Why is Agama Yoga different to other kinds of yoga? Agama Yoga is ‘totality’ of body, mind and spirit. In fact, the actual meaning of the word ‘Yoga’ itself is unity. It is much more than just movement, (asanas) which is what Yoga in the west tends to concentrate on. It is about focusing the mind, learning to control the subtle energies of the chakra system and discovering ‘mantras’ (repetitions and chants) to harness the power of the mind and body. I don’t want to be overly critical about Yoga in the west, as I believe that any type of yoga is good for you, however, for me, Yoga is much more than just exercise. Is Agama Yoga a religion? Agama encompasses ideas from all world religions but approaches them from a western scientific background. The founder of the school, Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, was trained as an electrical engineer before discovering his interest in Yoga. This in itself is a very important detail as it means that the school of thought at Agama is not based on pure, unquestioned faith. Spirituality and the metaphysical are approached with a critical, scientific mindset. For people with rational minds, yet a desire to explore the spiritual, Agama Yoga provides fulfillment. For many, it can be a dream come true... I know it was for me. How did Agama Yoga begin? Swami Vivekananda Saraswati started Agama Yoga in the holy town of Rishikesh in India in 1999. With its beautiful Himalayan setting and history as the ‘Yoga capital of the world’, Rishikesh was the perfect place to begin the course. Through a lot of hard work and dedication to teaching, practicing and spreading the word of Agama Yoga, the course became legendary among spiritual seekers passing through India. In 2002, Swami decided to move the main school to Thailand and a year later, a Yoga hall was opened in a restored candle factory in Koh Phangan. Starting over was a big process. Swami sometimes tells the story of trekking through monsoon rain to reach the Yoga hall to teach just one student in the first month here! How is Agama School developing? With the increasing popularity of Agama, we now have six yoga halls, two of which

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encompass an area of 360 square metres! In time, we hope to become officially recognised as a Yoga University offering workshops, retreats, classes and courses. There are also schools that have been set up by graduates from our 500hour Teacher Trainings in Canada, Mexico, India, Israel, Hungary, Estonia and the UK, to mention just a few locations. What types of courses can you take at Agama? There are many different courses at Agama. Many people new to the school, embark upon the First Level Intensive Course, which is an excellent introduction to many different types of Yoga including Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya and Tantra. The course also includes discussion of a variety of related topics such as diet, natural healing, cleansing techniques, Ayurveda, yin/yang balancing, meditation, psychology in Yoga and Eastern philosophy. There are six hours teaching per day and also the opportunity to get involved in evening Q&A sessions, film showings and community dinners. As well as the Intensive Course, there are regular workshops held at the school, such as Sacred Indian Dance, Belly Dancing, Yoga and Science, Tantra Yoga and Femininity Workshops. There are confused ideas about the concept of ‘Tantric Yoga’. There have been many associations, not least, the rockstar Sting’s involvement with the practice. Can you explain what it means? When most people hear ‘tantric yoga’ they just think about sex, but tantra is much much more than this. The actual word ‘tantra’ can be translated as ‘warp’ as in the base of threads on a loom. This symbolises the idea that all aspects of the Universe are connected like a web. Tantra is Yoga that uses the diverse elements of manifestation, such as the body (Hatha Yoga), colours, sounds (mantra), shapes (yantra), dreams and sexuality, to elevate the consciousness and reach spiritual enlightenment. It is true that tantra is about channelling sexual desire, but this is too narrow a definition. What types of people come to Agama Yoga? All different types of people. From students on a gap year, to married couples, retirees or high flying business people looking for a sense of calm that they are struggling to find in the west. We’ve seen students from 8 years to 75 years old! What do you think about the cliché of backpackers travelling to ‘find themselves’? Do you see that at Agama Yoga? People of all ages are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with a competitive, stressful environment in the west and are looking for meaning in their lives. We see incredible transformations all the time here at Agama. Even when people have just completed the first month, there is a distinct change in their mindset. By the third month, people have been able to make huge changes to their lives such as giving up smoking, drinking or becoming vegetarian or vegan. There was even someone here who became a ‘breatharian’ which means that they try to live on air and nothing else, taking their energy from the sun. This is one of the more extreme scenarios and we don’t necessarily promote that here! Nobody forces anyone to make changes, it is a personal journey and each student is different. Do you think that the western world is causing more dissatisfaction? Many people have just had enough. It is clear that something is going on with protests all across the globe; Wall Street protests, London riots, the Arab Awakening... Yoga is needed more than ever in our confused, economy-driven society. This is why in many parts of the world, Yoga is flourishing. People are using it as a a tool to help them cope with stress, to calm down and gain focus. Can Agama yoga help with these problems or does it preach a way to leave the western world behind completely? Not at all. We don’t preach one path here at Agama as everyone is different and needs to find their own path of self-rediscovery. It is true that some people choose to make drastic changes to their lives such as giving up a stressful career in the west and opting for a different, quieter way of life that is closer to nature. However, many people use their time here at Agama and the skills they learn to help them cope with daily life back home. The Yoga here is friendly to the real world too! So Mihaiela, tell us about your background as a holistic therapist? How did you become involved with Agama? I am a western educated doctor specialising in physical medicine, physiotherapy and medical rehabilitation. With a passionate interest in alternative therapy, I travelled to India and began studying Ayurvedic healing, homeopathy, naturopathy and yogic therapy. I

48 S.E.A Backpacker

studied there for two years, which is where I came into contact with Swami Vivekananda Saraswati and Agama. I have been working and living in Koh Phangan for seven years. For those who have no idea can you explain holistic healing? Holistic therapy looks at a disease as the problem of the whole being not only of an organ or a limb. A stomach ulcer will influence more than the digestion and can have emotional or psychological causes. The treatment will address the entire being, considering your spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing, as well as your diet, lifestyle, psychological state and sleep pattern. This way, we can heal from the core and prevent the problem happening again. As a holistic therapist, what types of treatment do you prescribe? Treatments are always a mix of different therapies; from nutritional changes to yogic therapy, massage, reflexology, acupuncture and reiki. We can also recommend herbs and supplements in the treatment of certain ailments. It is all about finding what is best for the individual condition, personalising and adapting the treatment; the most suitable diet, the kind of physical exercise, yoga practice that fits one best, to create an individual strategy for long lasting health. What conditions have you helped to treat? Unsurprisingly with people coming here, there are a lot of stress-related illnesses; chronic fatique, fibromyalgia, skin problems, anxiety issues, insomnia and depression. These are the common problems I come across on a daily basis. However, I have also helped people suffering with chronic degenerative illnesses such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis. How can people book an appointent with you? You can book an appointment through the school or website for an initial holistic health evaluation of one-hour and a half, which covers everything from your lifestyle, to the year you were born, to what you eat and how you sleep. The treatment is then prescribed according to your answers, your personal constitution and type of problem. Finally, you have both been living here in Koh Phangan for many years and I can see that it is a very special place, is the island location, a part of what makes Agama Yoga so unique? Koh Phangan is a very spiritual, magical place in itself. In fact, the first people ever to come to the island were monks who arrived in Thongsala and set up a monastery there. Some people also say that the minerals in the rock here, in particular the quartz, act like a magnet to draw spiritual people here... there are many legends about why Koh Phangan became known as “The Spiritual Island”. On the surface, however you can see the island is incredibly beautiful. While nearby Koh Samui with its airport attracts more holiday-makers, Koh Phangan remains slightly on the edge. The Full Moon Party sees its fair share of party people each month but the rest of the island, especially the west coast is becoming somewhat of a haven for yoga and meditation. More and more people are flocking here to find spiritual realisation and many find just that. As we finished our interview and the sun was setting over the sea, an incredible array of pink, red and orange, I couldn’t help agree with Rainer and Mihaiela that this island is indeed a magical island. A place which makes you wonder about the world around you, instills in you a sense of awe about nature and spirituality and could make even the most pragmatic person think in a metaphysical way. If you couldn’t find a sense of calm here in Koh Phangan, then you’d struggle to find it anywhere. I finished my coconut shake and rode back to my bungalow with a smile.



















Something to keep you busy on all those long bus journeys! Answers on page 58.







20 24








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1. Appeal earnestly (5) 4. Xtra - marital relationship (6) 9. Avoidance (7) 10. Garret (5) 11. Entrance (4) 12. Being appropriate (7) 13. Fish eggs (3) 14. Certain (4) 16. Hop-drying kiln (4) 18. Transgress (3) 20. Being born (7) 21. Egg shaped (4) 24. Person looking after another (5) 25. Dictionary (7) 26. Arranged the draw (6) 27. Relates (5)

1. Formal promise 2. Extol 3. Raised platform 5. A small piece 6. Thespian 7. Temporary cessation 8. Cutting instrument 13. Prepare to perform 15. Parid rise 17. Light meals 18. Motionless 19. Makes sightless 22. Relating to speech 23. Way out

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


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

6 5 1 4 2 6 3 7 5 1 3 4 2 7 2 7 9 6 4 5 1 6 4 9 1 6 Question When visiting Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum in Vietnam, it is against the law to... a) Take photos b) Cross your arms c) Put your hands in your pockets

Mai Pen Rai Bungalows

Than Sadet Beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Unlimited Stay in Thailand (ED Visa renewable for 1-10 years)

+66 (0)84-755-4968

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



Dipika Wishart & Patrick Meijer

By Dipika Wishart & Patrick Meijer

‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. (Hippocrates, 460 BC) Living Juices & The Healing Powers of Nature... How are you feeling? Going strong? Feeling fit, vibrant and on top of the world? Chilling out on a beach in paradise or tubing down the river in Vang Vieng? Whatever you’re doing, you’re in South East Asia and we are probably not that far away. With a fresh juice in one hand and a beautiful tropical sunset to watch, we are writing from Koh Tao, a beautiful little tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand surrounded by turquoise seas, lined with palm trees and white sandy beaches.

However, a mango is the fastest food you can get and contains nothing but pure nutrition and goodness!

We first visited Koh Tao over ten years ago whilst backpacking around the world. Just like many others, we left the island, returned and came back again several times before. As insiders call it, we got ‘stuck on the Rock’. And, with such a great central base, as keen travellers ourselves, we have taken full advantage of this, visiting almost every country in this part of the world.

Hippocrates, born in 460 BC in Greece, the founder of medicine and the greatest physician of his time, famously quoted ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. However this seems to have been forgotten as we fuel our bodies with highly processed unnatural toxic foods whilst trying to correct the resulting disease with supplements and medication that claim to eradicate the damage done. Why not be kind to your body in the first instance? Research has consistently shown that disease is directly related to what we eat and drink but we seem to ignore it and are surprised when we fall ill. Apparently in the west, people take better care of their cars than their bodies. Crazy isn’t it?

The excitement and joy of travelling will never bore us; discovering new places, meeting interesting people, relaxing and partying… However, while travelling is a natural high for the mind and soul, it can be intense on your body. Sweaty tropical temperatures, long days on buses and trains, missing meals or eating junk for a quick fix, a few big nights out in Bangkok or Siem Riep and you easily start to feel drained and low. While your head might be having a blast, your body is being challenged and begging you for some nourishment. You probably know what we are talking about.

We all know that we should be eating plenty of vegetables and fruit for optimum health, but let’s face it, how many of us can honestly say we do? Our bodies are living organisms. From the moment life begins until it ceases, we depend on the “life element” in food to nourish, rejuvenate and support us. This “life element” comes from enzymes, vitamins and minerals which are often destroyed by heat from cooking, and mainly exist in raw fruit and vegetables, but definitely not in highly processed foods - not in most of the fast food that you can get your hands on these days.

After all these years abroad, nourishment and health has become our passion and our way of life. Over the last decade, we started to notice how more and more travellers around us were putting on weight and suffering from all kinds of minor ailments. Moreover, we also noticed a change amongst the normally slim South East Asians themselves, becoming overweight and even obese. As we started looking into facts and figures we found that the same diseases killing us in the western world (cardio vascular diseases, obesity, diabetes type 2, cancer etc.) are also becoming more prevalent in Asia. It seems that this is because as South East Asia becomes more wealthy and westernised, eating habits move towards a western diet with more sugar, fats, meat and dairy and as a result, they are starting to suffer from the same health issues as we do in the west.

In fact, we even came across plenty of evidence that showed a whole food, plant based diet and/or a diet rich in raw food as a method of preventing or even reversing disease. Yes, even diseases such as cancer, cardio vascular diseases and diabetes, the three biggest killers in the developed world!  We found raw diets being used as a very successful form of treatment to reverse ‘incurable’ diabetes all over the world. In addition, raw vegetable juice is currently being used alongside other detoxification techniques with astounding success as an alternative treatment for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis at the ‘Gerson Institute’ in California.

The facts were there in black and white. It became obvious that it is important to think about what we put into our bodies if we want to live long, healthy, happy lives. Lack of time has become the justification for grabbing fast food, meals on the go prepared with preservatives and additives to keep it ‘fresh’, skipping meals and drinking coffee and a highly processed snack instead, all at the detriment of our health and wellbeing.  These quick fix foods are often nutrient poor and toxic.

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discovery into nutrition, we ourselves have become avid juicers of raw vegetables and fruit as it is the easiest way to boost your day with heaps of nutrients. One day we sourced a small manual juicer from Bangkok and started off by juicing a combination of around 10 vegetables every morning to make a small glass of juice. We felt more alive almost instantly after drinking our juice and loved it so much that we bought a professional electric juicer and started using 1kg of vegetables to make ½ litre of juice each every morning. In fact, we loved our juice so much that we decided to share the love with our fellow neighbours on Koh Tao and opened up our own juice shack early in 2011! Our signature juice, Rocket Fuel, was aptly named by the people of the Rock and is typical of our very first homemade juice which we still love drinking every morning. About us: With University degrees and post-graduate training in acupuncture, natural health, nutrition, zero balancing, business economics, marketing and ten years of working in the natural health industry between us, we have merged lifelong passions with work and are excited to provide you with simple easy access to the same health benefits that we experience in the form of Living Juices; Thailand’s only juice bar offering 100% raw, fresh fruit, green and vegetable juices pressed with special low-speed masticating juice machines. With a menu of over 20 fresh juices and various super foods (such as wheatgrass and spirulina) we will help get you back on track in no time, by recharging, revitalising and refueling your body with all the nutrients your body wants. Enjoy your travels! For more information, join us on Facebook or visit

Did you know? 10 Food Facts! 1.

Treat cancer with vegetables? For sure! Alongside an organic, vegetarian diet, coffee enema and natural supplements, raw juices are being used as a successful alternative, non-toxic treatment for cancer and other chronic degenerative diseases at the Gerson Institute in California.


Did you know that you can reverse ‘incurable’ diabetes type 2 by changing your diet? The documentary Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days shows how 6 people come off their insulin by introducing a raw diet.


Carbs are good for you! Not the highly, processed stuff like white sugar, bread, pasta, flour etc. but the stuff found in fruit, veggies, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Carbs are essential for your energy and you can’t overeat healthy carbs so start loading!


Protein is not the answer. We are obsessed with eating protein, to lose weight or to gain muscle but a high animal protein diet (above 10%) is linked to development of cancer, cardio-vascular disease and many auto-immune diseases (i.e. MS, arthritis, Crohn’s Disease).


Milk; what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, say it again… Dairy depletes your body of calcium. Our beloved cow’s milk creates an acidic effect in the body due to its high animal protein content resulting in loss of calcium from bones to buffer this. Mind-boggling hey?

6. 7. 8.

Worried about a genetic disease in your family? Research has proven that your diet affects how your genes behave. Here’s another mind-blower: fat doesn’t make you fat, but sugar does!

Did you know that scurvy, once a common disease among sailors, pirates and others aboard ships at sea for long periods is recurring in the Western world due to a lack in nutrients in today’s diet?


Mangos, a great fast-food, are rich in healthy carbs, dietary fiber, vitamins A, B, C and many minerals and phytonutrients. Burgers however, also a very popular fast-food, are rich in saturated fat, salt, sugar (!!) and animal protein.


Here’s another surprise for you: 100 calories of broccoli has twice the amount of protein, 60 times more calcium, 3 times more iron, 3000 times more vitamin A, and 140 times more vitamin C than the equivalent of steak! S.E.A Backpacker



Attempting the Classics in South East Asia:

Forget your trash y beach reads, I’ve to work my way decided that this through the classi cs of literature. Wi backpacking trip I will try and trains, not to th so many hours mention lying on on buses the beach, it fee to make the most ls on of my time and ed ucate myself in so ly right that I should try of all time! me of the greate st authors This was my pla n at the beginnin g of my trip and I’ve read the Comp one year later I’d lete Works of Sh like to say akespeare, Chau four times just for cer and Pride an the hell of it, but d Prejudice that would be a ‘Classics’ are ha lie. The truth is, rd going! No wo some of the nder they’re left shelf in book sto dusty and at the res while the like back of the s of Mr. Nice by Ho in a jiffy... A few ward Marks are sn pages in and you apped up know already tha hard slog, despite t the book is going critics over the pa to be one st 200 years callin a ‘masterpiece.’ g the book you are “It’s not you, it’s me,” you say an reading However, this wa d toss the book sn’t always the ca guiltily aside. se, some of the enthralled with an books I became d just couldn’t pu surprisingly t down! Here is my that are worth yo ur time and those lowdown on the Classics that are just one big struggle…

By Alicia Kidd

Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen RUN FROM IT! If you just love hearing girls complain at how hard life is because men simply won’t stop proposing to them, then this is the book for you. I will offend romantics everywhere when I say that with courting couples and chivalry in abundance, this classic made my Pad Thai begin backtracking while I sat in hope that one of the many Miss Bennetts would run rampage with a rifle. Yes, maybe I’m a cynic but tales of traditional English gender roles makes me grind my teeth rather than sigh with envy. However, despite my scorn, for this era of writing it was refreshing to read of a bolshie teenage girl doing what she wanted rather than what was expected of her.

Bram Stoker, Dracula READ IT Twilight, Vampire Diaries, True Blood – yes without doubt they’re all marvellous, but we all know that Dracula’s the real Daddy. Dark and captivating, for once you’ll be grateful to the snorer on the bunk below simply for the knowledge that you’re not sleeping alone. Teaching you everything you need to know about how to protect yourself from vampires, this classic is really easy to get your teeth into (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) and was one I just couldn’t put down. And really, you can’t justify pining over Edward Cullen until you’ve ticked this one off your must-read list.

Jane Eyre: Charlotte Bronte RUN FROM IT! This is a tale of an orphan girl who for some reason just has the world’s worst luck. I read this in waves ranging from not being able to put it down, to hurling it at the wall alongside a multilingual fit of swearing. Some parts are a real slog to get through, but if you make it to the end you’ll be pleased (and you’ll deserve a pat on the back). Sometimes there seem to be endless descriptions of completely irrelevant issues, but read on and you’ll be rewarded with some plot twists that will have the girl next to you on the bus next wondering what all your wheezing is about.

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Rebecca: Daphne DuMaurier READ IT Read it, oh for the love of Buddha, READ IT. This book is my favourite book of all time. After my mum told me how much she loved Rebecca I was dubious about reading it but, what do you know, mothers really are always right. I was up til 6am using the torch on my phone for light because I just couldn’t put it down. Ok, so there is some soppy romance in there, but considering there are also break ups, fires, murders, terminal illnesses and incest thrown into the mix, it’s easy to forgive Daphne for including a dreamy love scene or two.

Animal Farm - George Orwell RISK IT It’s one of those classics that everyone is expected to have read, but the idea of reading a book about the Russian Revolution totally intimidated me. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember who each character is meant to represent and I found myself wishing I was simply reading a story about cute talking farm animals, but if you keep a note of who’s who, then it’s really not as daunting as you might think. Even if it doesn’t leave you with the ability to hold a 20 minute discussion on the intricacies of socialism in the Soviet Union, once you make it to the end you’ll feel rather proud of yourself and will definitely deserve that fifth shot of jungle juice.

Catch 22: Joseph Heller READ IT Hooray! I finally understand the saying ‘Catch 22’ and now when I throw it into conversation and some flashpacker looks down on me through his genuine Ray Bans and asks me if I’ve actually read the book, I can arrogantly reply ‘Why yes, yes I have’. It’s a story of World War II where the main character is constantly faking illnesses so he can stay in hospital rather than have to go to war. Considering the seriousness of what’s happening in the background, Catch 22 is light-hearted, witty and is a classic that is genuinely easy to read.

Wuthering Heights RUN FROM IT!

1984 - George Orwell RISK IT

Although reading this meant having Kate Bush’s wailing interpretation of the book spinning through my head constantly for a week, it wasn’t the story of hopeless romance that I’d feared. It’s a bitter tale of revenge which seems to talk about nothing but relationships and marriage – but fear not, none of the romances are actually based on love, but are rather some form of attempt to either become rich or settle a score. This means you won’t be snoring at tales of couples stealing a kiss in the garden, but you’ll find yourself feeling morbidly pleased when each of the unpleasant characters fails to find a happy ending (no, not that kind of happy ending).

The Metamorphosis: Franz Kafka READ IT This one’s so short that even if you don’t enjoy it you can finish it quicker than counting your mosquito bites. But actually, it’s great. It’s a totally surreal story about Gregor, a travelling salesman who hates his job but then wakes up one morning to discover that he’s turned into a giant insect. Although his job was pretty mediocre, it certainly beat spending his time hiding under a sofa because his family couldn’t abide the sight of him. It’s a depressing tale in which Kafka’s insecurities are laid bare, and though there isn’t a happy ending, it may make you think twice about stomping that cockroach in your bathroom.

If you’re going to add this one to your travelling reads, make sure you get rid of it before you head to Myanmar where it’s banned. Reading about a world where everyone is constantly tracked and where all thoughts are monitored made me a little paranoid every time a dorm mate asked me what I had planned for my day (replies of ‘Why do you want to know?’ didn’t seem to go down too well). However, it’s great to have a classic that’s actually easy to follow!

Frankenstein READ IT Although Frankenstein discovered the secret of creating life, he decided not to share it. That’s pretty much the only disappointment about this book. I expected to be reading a tale of a lumbering yellow monster who chases round the world terrorizing innocent victims, but instead the creature turns out to be a lonely chap who just wants some pals to hang out with, but who keeps getting shunned because he’s not up there with Brad in the looks department. This is definitely one of the easier-to-read classics and is worth the space in your backpack.

The Lost Book Shop : 34/3 Ratchamanka Road. Tambon. Prasingh, Amphur Muang. Chiangmai. 50300 Backstreetbooks : 2/8 Chang Moi Kao Road, Tambon Changmoi. Amphur Muang. Chaingmai 50300

S.E.A Backpacker



Protecting Paradise on Earth... Diving is one of South East Asia’s biggest attractions. Every year, thousands of travellers plunge into the depths of Thailand’s turquoise waters to discover an amazing new world. The warm tropical seas boast an incredible array of colourful coral, fish and at certain times of year even the gentle giant, the whale shark. The beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi, made famous for its starring role in the Hollywood adaptation of Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’ is a Mecca for diving in South East Asia. Whilst recreational divers explore under the surface of the water, tourists and backpackers relax on the white sandy beaches above. The island’s popularity is understandable. This is paradise on earth. However, sadly, like so many other jaw-droppingly beautiful destinations on our planet, Koh Phi Phi is coming under a lot of pressure from an increased number of tourists. It is of utmost importance to protect the island’s delicate eco-system so that travellers can continue enjoy the utopia without damaging it for the future.

The Phi Phi Dive Association

The Phi Phi Diving Association (PPDA) is a non-profit organisation formed by eight reputable dive companies on the island to help conserve the coastal and marine life around the islands. The association has eight members who each have to maintain certain standards when they dive. One of the main projects is to donate money and time to participate in a monthly beach and underwater clean up!

Beach and underwater clean ups!

Plastic is a major issue on the island as it gets discarded into the water from boats and washed up onto shore taking hundreds of years to rot. Under the water it can injure and potentially kill sea creatures such as turtles, sharks and whales who swallow the plastic and come to a painful end when the plastic is digested into their stomachs. Whenever a dive guide sees litter they collect it immediately, but some of the less visited sites are under threat so the PPDA make regular trips to keep the areas as clean as they possibly can. Last year, the PPDA organised four beach clean ups and seven underwater clean ups. For backpackers wanting to help out and get involved with conservation work during your travels, the clean ups are a great place to start! You’ll feel better sunbathing on the beach the next day knowing that you have done your bit to maintain the beauty of the island.

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Net removal

One of the biggest emergency situations in the waters around Koh Phi Phi is the discarding of nets from fishing boats that fall onto the reef covering the gentle coral and damaging its growth. In 2011, three fishing nets were removed by the PPDA, one of the most critical situations taking place at the world famous

Hin Mouang dive site, which is 40 kilometers away from Phi Phi Don Island. The net was over 100 metres long and was 45 metres deep. It took 22 dive volunteers, 10 hours travelling and two hours to remove the net.

The safety of divers

Another important task which the PPDA monitors is the confined training area located in Tonsai Bay where the dive centers take students who are learning to dive. The water here is shallow enough for beginners to learn the necessary skills they will need in deeper waters, but the problem is, is that there is a lot of boat traffic in this area. Boats and beginner divers are not a good idea in the same locale, so the PPDA has been replacing any damaged parts of the buoyed roped off boundary that separates the training area from the rest of the bay.

Maintaining the dive site & protecting the coral

Finally, on the actual dive sites (of which there are more than 15 that are regularly dived around Koh Phi Phi) there had been some problems caused by instructors placing ascent and descent lines secured by weights. Although, the instructors tried to place the weights on sandy patches, sometimes the surge, current and wave movement would drag the weights onto the reef causing damage to the coral in places. The PPDA discovered and sourced a product called a ‘rapid anchor’ which is basically a large screw with an eyelet on the top (for attaching ropes) which is screwed into the sand and is difficult to pull out. With 20 rapid anchors now in use around the island, instructors and Divemasters can now train without the worry of damaging surrounding coral.

Being a responsible diver!

We want you to enjoy and explore Thailand and South East Asia to its full extent, but we are also keen to make you aware of your ‘footprint’ in terms of protecting our beautiful, living planet. For many backpackers, diving is a once in a lifetime adventure and part of learning to dive is learning to respect and appreciate the incredible marine life that inhabits such a fragile eco-system. We want you to go away knowing that your experience, be it diving, snorkeling, kayaking or just beachhopping has not in some way contributed to an environmental decline.

The Railay Princess Budget Wing Resort

You can do your bit by diving with reputable, eco-friendly dive centers who care about protecting the reefs, get upset when they see damage to the coral or litter in the sea. This is our world and we need to come together to protect our oceans, seas and islands.

is nestled in Railay Beach East, Krabi. With a wonderful treetop style design, you’ll immediately relax and feel at one with nature in our tropical retreat. Suitable for a backpacker budget and perfectly located near the beach for those who want to try rock climbing!

Dive with a dive center which displays the PPDA logo or visit the website to find out more information:

Welcome to our tropical resort in Railay, Thailand - without doubt one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world!

Tel:+66(0)75 819 401-3/819 407-10 Fax:+66 (0)75 819 404 Address: 145/1 Moo. 2 Aonang Muang Krabi 81000 Thailand


% discount off for A/C room for Backpacker reader magazine, just show this advertising upon check in. S.E.A Backpacker



mo m e portant Im


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: World travellers will know that each culture has its own customs and etiquettes. In Brunei, food can be served and eaten without cutlery, but should be eaten with the right hand only. It is regarded as impolite to give and receive gifts, especially food, with the left hand. 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: and your visa will cost $25 set price. You will need a digital photo of yourself to upload. Processing takes 3 days and you will get the visa straight to your mailbox. See official website for up to date info on which borders support the E-visa as not all of the crossings take it yet. Visa extension: Obtained at Phnom Penh immigration office, opposite International Airport. Tourist visas can be extended 1 month. (Around US$35) For longer extensions ask at Immigration Office. Penalty for late departure: US$5 / day. Climate: The hottest month is April with temperatures hitting 40 degrees. The wet season starts in May or June and lasts until October. The downpours are heavy and do not last long. The best season to visit is December to February, when there is little rain, low humidity and cool breeze. 1 random fact: Cambodia is the only country in the world to feature a building on its national flag. Not just any old building though, but the incredible Angkor Wat, regarded as the largest religious structure in the world

56 S.E.A Backpacker

and a powerful symbol of national heritage and pride for Cambodia. 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: The Lli Kere Kere Caves are East Timor’s most fascinating archaeological site. Perched high on a cliff top above on the eastern coast of the island, the caves house fascinating cave paintings dating back more than 13,000 years. 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 November and March. 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: Following Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945, the country became the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation on earth. Today, there are over 235 million followers of Islam in Indonesia, making up around 88% of the population of Indonesia. 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: Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan) in Laos is an unusual sculpture site located just outside of Vientiane, that is home to over 200 concrete, slightly bizarre Buddhist and Hindu statues. The park was built in 1958 by a Priest-Shaman named Luang Pu Bunleua and is visited by many tourists today. 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: The largest cave chamber in the world can be found in ‘Gunung Mulis National Park in Malaysia.’ The ‘Sarawak Chamber,’ also known as ‘Good Luck Cave’ is so big that it could accomodate a Boeing 747. Emergency numbers: Fire: 994 Police and Ambulance: 999


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: Formerly a colony of Spain, then relinquished by the United States after the SpanishAmerican War, only to be occupied by the Japanese during World War II, the Philippines has had a turbulent history and consequently, an interesting mix of cultural influences. Today, democracy thrives on its 7,100 islands. Emergency numbers: Fire, Ambulance, Police: 117


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: Myanmar Thaing is a unique and traditional form of martial arts, similar to kick-boxing, which originated more than two thousand years ago during the reign of King Okkalapa. It was a compulsary specialisation of royal princes in ancient times. Emergency numbers: (Yangon) Ambulance: 192 Police: 199 Fire: 191

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: ‘Singlish’ is an English-based creole language spoken in Singapore. The vocabulary consists of a mix of words originating from English, Malay, Cantonese, Punjabi, Australian and American slang, mainly picked up from TV and other influences. The government discourages the use of Singlish in favour of standard English. It is estimated that around 75% of the population of Singapore are literate in English. Ambulance: 995 Police: 999 Fire: 995

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.

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 (f/m) / Kop Khun Ka/Krap (f/m) Visa: Most nationalities, including Americans, Australians and most Europeans receive a free 30 day tourist visa upon arrival into Thailand by air. However, if arriving by land you will only receive 15 days. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: Visas can be renewed for a fee at immigration points. The cost is 1900 baht for 7 days extra and it can be extended only once. If you leave the country and return, your visa will be renewed for free. You can exit and re-enter the country as many times as you like this way and most travel agents can arrange border runs to neighbouring countries.

Penalty for late departure: 500 baht/day. The maximum fine for overstay that you can pay is 20,000 baht after this you may face deportation at your own cost or imprisonment. Climate: Most of Thailand experiences three seasons; The cool season occurs during November to February, followed by the hot season, March to May, then the rainy season, between June and October. As with many countries in this part of the world, the wet season tends to consist of short, hard downpours. The time of the rainy season however, differs from the East coast to the West. The Andaman Coast (West) experiences monsoon from June to September (Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi, Railay) whilst in the Gulf of Thailand (East) rains mostly fall during September to November. 1 random fact: The Hill Tribe people of northern Thailand emigrated over 100 years ago from the southern part of China, Mongolia, Burma and tibet into Thailand, preserving a way of life that has changed little over a thousand years. The seven major ethnic minority groups are Karen, Hmong, Yao, Lisu, Lahu, Lawa and Akha, each with their own distinct culture, religion, costume, language and art. 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. You can also now apply for a Vietnam visa online within 48 hours whereby you do not have to send off your passport. We’ve heard reports from many travellers who have chosen the online option with great success and convenience. 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: Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, the First Lady of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1063 was considered one of the most elegant women of the 20th Century. She was compared to the likes of Jackie Onassis, Eva Peron and Grace Kelly. 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 23.12.11) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)

S.E.A Backpacker


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58 S.E.A Backpacker















































































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