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JUL AUG 2012

Issue

#19

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EVENTS PARTY HOTSPOTS DIRTY HABITS!

DESTINATION SPOTLIGHT: CAMBODIA / LAOS / SUMATRA / UZBEKISTAN www.southeastasiabackpacker.com


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INTRODUCTION

Photo courtesy of Ocean 101 Beach Resort, Siargao, Philippines

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of” (Benjamin Franklin)

W W

e pass it, we spend it, we manage it, we while it away, we kill it and sometimes, sadly, we waste it… Most of the time, we’re terrified of it slipping through our fingers like sand in an oldfashioned egg timer. Especially when we are doing something that we love. “Time flies when you’re having fun! Doesn’t time go quick?” travellers often say. Didn’t it only seem like yesterday when you stepped off the plane at the airport in Bangkok and felt Asia’s stifling heat for the first time? “Just do it, you only live once!” “Live today like it’s your last day on earth!” - are motivational quotes that inspire us to make the most of our days, years and lifetimes. Perhaps they are also the notions that inspire us to grasp the moment and embark upon that ‘once in a lifetime trip’ in the first place? We’re so scared of missing out on things and running out of time to do the things that we want to do. How many times have you heard a fellow backpacker say: “I’ve only got three weeks and I want to do eight countries”? How you ‘do’ a country I shall never know… Back to the topic in hand, (we don’t have time to digress here) there is never enough of it; no matter how much we have, we always want more. As the end of your trip is looming and your time in South East Asia is drawing to a close, you desperately want those 60 seconds in every minute to just… slow… ...down. To anyone who has been in South East Asia for a while, you may have noticed that the concept of time is totally different here than in the Western world. At once discernible in the laid-back pace of life, the disregard for deadlines and the lack of urgency to get things ‘done’. Why rush things when there is all the time in the world? Why indeed? To Westerners, the concept of time is a linear process. Time is like a river flowing from a source to the delta - once elapsed, it cannot be retrieved. No wonder we consider it so precious, so important to use it wisely. Once it has gone, we can’t get it back. In South East Asia, on the other hand, time seems to be viewed

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differently. Concepts such as karma, reincarnation and the influence of Buddhist, Hindu, Tao and Confucian philosophy mean that time is not viewed as something which has a start and finish, but something which is a circular process. Just like the river flowing into the sea and evaporating into the sky, only to fall again onto the earth… time renews itself again and again. Time doesn’t run out. It doesn’t fly or go anywhere. There is always enough time. For example, the Chinese calendar is cyclical and the years are dated using the signs of the zodiac, which repeat every 12 years. The Buddhist notion of karma is an endless cycle whereby the deeds you do in life will come back to you in this life or the next. Even many Asian languages do not have tenses - perhaps reiterating the focus on the present, rather than a past or future? Just like the tides and sunrises, time is continuous and well… timeless. Is your head hurting yet? So, what if time is just a way of measuring things, that’s all? It is not a commodity to be used or spent. If we could get away from this idea then maybe we wouldn’t be in such a panic to get things ‘done’ all the time? Could we just enjoy the now and not worry that we won’t have the time to tick everything off our travel itineraries? If life became about the moment, ‘right now’, and you were free from planning, organising and making deadlines for a future date… would this be the only way that we can really be free? How delicious it would be to take all the time in the world to do something… After all, we do have all of the time in the world, don’t we? Of course we do. What else is there? Yes, my head is hurting now too! And yes, I am kind of regretting writing an introduction based on quantum physics and perhaps the most unanswerable question in the universe. If Einstein couldn’t work it out, there isn’t much hope for me… “…the separation between past, present and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one” and “...the only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” And if you understand this, can you pop by the office and explain it to me? Although, please can you make an appointment, I’m on a tight schedule.

By Nikki Scott


Beachfront Rooms - Air-con Rooms Honeymoon Cottage - Surfers Rooms Surfing - Scuba Diving Island Hopping - Game Fishing Restaurant & Bar - Internet Cafe Surf Trainer - Wind Surfing Motorbike Rental - Massage

+63 910 8480893 / +63 919 8268837 www.ocean101cloud9.com Cloud 9, Siargao Island, The Philippines

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TS:

CONTEN

NEW!

Features: 14: Falling in LOVE on the road... 26: PHOTOS: Cityscapes, the bright lights of South East Asia!

42:

Photography Competition! Could you make the front cover?

49:

Local Portraits: Meet Tip, the fruit shake lady of Chiang Mai

Cover Photograph: Alex Gannes, Sumatra

64: PARTY: Hotspots of Bangkok! 66: ANNABELLE: Something to declare...

28: Dive South East Asia! 40: DON’T MISS! The Rainforest World Music Festival, Sarawak, Borneo

56:

South East Asia Faces & Places: Interview with an ayurvedic healer

Destination Spotlight 20:

Sumatra, Indonesia: Losing sense of time on an epic motorbike adventure... Cambodia: Genocide, poverty, hope, beauty - memoirs of a traveller.

50:

Uzbekistan: Off the beaten track!

44:

DIVE: South East Asia ... 28

Cityscapes ... 26

Regulars: 8: South East Asia map & visa info 10: S.E.A Backpacker Newsflash! 18: Word on the Soi: Bad habits 36: Events & Festivals What’s On Guide

48: GAMES: Crossword & sudoku 54: Traveller Thoughts, Stories, Tips 60: FOOD: Silent bonds in Laos 62: ARTS: Malaysian youth music 70: INFO: Visas, exchange rates,

climates & more

onesia ... 20

S.E.A Backpacker Co., Ltd.

Sumatra, Ind

Registration Number 0205552005285. ISSN NO. 1906-7674 www.southeastasiabackpacker.com Tel: 081 776 7616 (Thai) 084 553 8996 (Eng) Fax: 038 072 078 E-mail: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com Backpacker South East Asia is Published by S.E.A. Backpacker Company. Managing Director: Nikki Scott. (E-mail: nikki@southeastasiabackpacker.com) Editor: Nanchaya Jaikaew. (E-mail: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com) Deputy Editors: Nikki Scott, Karen Farini. (E-mail: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com) Sales & Marketing: Chanunchida Saisema, Kitti Boon Sri. Accounts: Yanisa Jaikaew. Contributing Writers and Photographers: Nikki Scott, Shawn Parker, Alice Batliner, Maisa & Maria, Zach Coddington, Karsten Young, Rachel Band, Ian Marshall, Alex Gannes, Timo Klein, Dylan Goldby, Rob Clark, Laura Davies, Robin Hogarth, Edwin Roseno, Janelle Crowley, Thomas Hardaker, Sina Brunner, Dave Doyle, Alicia Kidd, Mahri Stewart, Donna Jackson, Zoë Jackson, Lisa Beaumont, Kimmana Nichols, Noah Willman, Jovo Cirkovic, Eileen Murphy, Luke Doolin, Ross Pooley, Emily Smith, Cyril Sanitas, Kiara Casley. Design & Layout: S.E.A. Backpacker Company Limited. Saksit Jankrajang, Nicco Long. For advertising enquiries: Tel: +66(0)81 776 7616 (Thai), +66(0)84 553 8996 (Eng) Email: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com For writing opportunities: Email: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com

S.E.A Backpacker Magazine Legal: All material is strictly copyright and all rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Opinions expressed in S.E.A Backpacker Magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher. S.E.A Backpacker Magazine does not accept responsibility for advertising content. Any pictures, transparencies or logos used are at the owner’s risk. Any mention of S.E.A Backpacker Magazine or use of the S.E.A Backpacker Magazine logo by any advertiser in this publication does not imply endorsement of that company or its products or services by S.E.A Backpacker Magazine. (c) S.E.A Backpacker Magazine, June 2012


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Myitkyina

MAP: SOUTH EAST ASIA Myanmar Sapa Fansipan Mandalay Bagan Kalaw

Taunggyi Inle Lake

Hanoi

Udomxai Chiang Rai

Luang Prabang

Mae Hong Son

Vang Vieng

Pai

Vientiane

Chiang Mai

Nong Khai

Sukhothai

Udon Thani

Yangon Pathein

Halong Bay

Tha Khaek

Laos

Hue

Thailand

Hoi An

Four Thousand Islands

Kanchanaburi

Angkor Temples

Bangkok

Siem Reap Tonle Sap

Cambodia

Chonburi

Vietnam Nha Trang

Koh Chang

Gulf Of Thailand

Phnom Penh

Mui Ne

Sihanoukville

Koh Tao Koh Phangan Koh Samui

Andaman Sea

Dalat

Ho Chi Minh City

Phu Quoc

Surat Thani Phuket

South C Sea

Krabi

Koh Phi Phi

Pulau Penang

Pulau Weh

Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Medan Berastagi

Melaka

Lake Toba

Singapore Pulau Nias

Riau Islands

Kuc

Pontiana

Sumatra Bukittinggi

Bandarlampung

Indian Ocean

Jakarta

Java


V isa I nformation:

Taiwan

Your passport photo here

Pacific Ocean Brunei Darrussalam: Nationals of most European countries, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand do not need visas for visits of up to 30 days. USA citizens can stay for up to 90 days.

Laog

Cambodia: Most nationalities can obtain a one month tourist visa on arrival which costs approx $20. At land border crossings, notably the Thai/Cambodia border, the fee can be more expensive as the cost is paid in baht and can be rounded up considerably.

Vigan

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 and cost $30 for 30 days. Portuguese nationals can stay 90 days on a tourist visa.

Manila

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.

Philippines

Laos: Most nationalities can obtain a 30-day visa for Laos at international airports / land border crossings. The cost ranges from $20-$42 depending on nationality. At the Thai/Laos border if you pay in Thai baht the fee will be more expensive.

Donsol

Malaysia: Most nationalities are granted a free 30 or 90-day entry pass upon arrival at international airports and border crossings. Myanmar: Visas should be arranged in advance at a travel agency or embassy. Costs can range from $20-$50 for a 28-day visa, depending on where you apply and how long you wait. 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 three months, six months or 12 months are available. Cost depends on duration of stay.

China a

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.

Davao Zamboanga

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.

Kota Kinabalu

Brunei

Mt Kinabalu

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.

Sabah

Bandar Seri Begawan

Niah

* See the information pages at the back for more detailed information, visa extensions and penalties for late departure.

Sarawak

ching

ak

Manado

Berau Putussibau

At S.E.A Backpacker Magazine we try to ensure that all information provided is as accurate and up to date as possible. (Checked 20.6.12) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at info@southeastasiabackpacker.com if information is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.

Kalimantan Balikpapan

Mnokwari

Poso

Sula Islands

Sulawesi Pangkalanbun

Misool

Banjarmasin Buru

Indonesia

Gili Islands Bali

Lombok

Nusa Tengarra Flores

Dili

East Timor

Seram

Puncak Jaya

Papua


NEWSFLASH

F F

It’s our 3RD birthday!

orget the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

There’s a FAR more exciting anniversary being celebrated here at the office... Three whole years as the best (and only!) magazine for backpackers in South East Asia!

THE COUNT forum

7,646 Users 6,968 Fans 1,602

Followers 10

To mark this momentous occasion, we decided it was time to give your beloved magazine a revamp! We’ve got more writers on board, more photographers, designers and more inspiration and ideas from the most important people you backpackers! We’ve also got some brand new juicy sections to get your teeth into: Party Hotspots, Local Portraits and some dubious declarations from our mysterious new writer Annabelle... From humble beginnings, sprouting from the pages of my travel journals, S.E.A Backpacker has gone on to become a “travel diary for everyone”. Since launching in June 2009, we’ve amassed thousands of writers, photographers and subscribers to the magazine. Now, with our new office in Chiang Mai which opened in November 2011, we have become the ‘hub’ for all travellers in

South East Asia.

and business owners everywhere.

Back in the day... as a dewyeyed backpacker drawing to the end of my travels in South East Asia, desperate not to return to England, I dreamt of a magazine in which messy-haired, braceletclad backpackers could share their thoughts, stories and tips about their once in a lifetime adventure!

More and more people want to share their stories about sweet life on the open road - from professional travel photographers, to loan-splashing students, recycled teenagers on a ‘golden’ gap year, bloggers and budding authors... That is the beauty of S.E.A Backpacker.

I began messing around on Microsoft Paint and Publisher, half dreaming, half believing that I could make something like this work. If I was following the template of ‘school, university, gap year, work, house, marriage, babies, retirement’ (yuk!) I should have gone back home, got back into the real world and got a real job. Down to my last baht, I decided as long as I could get enough sponsors to fund printing - what did I have to lose? With an enthusiastic Thai business partner, we started the magazine on a shoestring, trudging around every dive shop, hostel and cafe in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia to muster much needed support. Since that day, we’ve been overwhelmed by the response we’ve had from travellers, expats

If you send us a great story, we’ll print it! The more varied our contributions, the more diverse and delightful our magazine becomes. So, whether you’re a floaty hippie, party animal, Bear Grills wannabe, culture vulture or flashpacker... if you’re looking for inspiration then this is the magazine for you. Crammed with tales of adventure, fated encounters, beautiful moments and a real passion for the wonderful world around us S.E.A Backpacker is put together by people from all walks of life. This magazine is evidence that we can all follow our dreams. Thank you so much for your support these last three years. Keep those stories coming! Nikki & the S.E.A Backpacker team


Four ways you can join the S.E.A Backpacker Community: 1. Visit the HQ: Open Monday to Saturday, the S.E.A Backpacker office is a place where you’ll always be welcomed with a smile and a traveller tip. Pop in for a chat about your adventures, share stories or get advice. With copies of the magazine, notice boards, comfy sofas and maps aplenty, it’s a hub for all travellers passing through Chiang Mai. Come and sign the guestbook, entertain us with your tales and pick up a copy of the latest mag to entertain you on the slow boat to Laos. 23/1/1 Rajvithi, Soi 2, Chiang Mai, 50200, Thailand.

2. Share your story! We’re always looking for fresh, inspirational material for our magazine, as well as guest posts and videos for our website - so get involved! Whether you’re a keen blogger, an amateur diary scribbler or a budding journalist, send us your tips and tales of life on the road and we will share them with the whole S.E.A Backpacker community and even send a copy to your Mum. Email: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com

3. Social network: Keep up to date easily with everything South East Asia, by joining us on Facebook or Twitter. Tweet us your travel tips @SEA_ Backpacker and we’ll share them with the world (okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but we’ll at least share them with our 1,602 devoted followers)! Or, you can check out our latest news, blogs, and snaps from South East Asia via our Facebook page, which 6,968 of you ‘like’ already. Gee, thanks guys!

4. Join our Forum: Whether you’re after advice from the experts, want to meet like-minded travellers or just looking for a little inspiration, then our Forum is the place to go! Enjoyed by people all over the globe, there are over 7,646 users already - so don’t miss out! www.forum.southeastasiabackpacker.com

ckpacker, Hey S.E.A Ba for ited all day rthday! I wa me bi so my t ge h d 5t ul wo Today is June I was sure I ts... I got to get here. en n es ma pr il w ma fe e th e a mail, mily and mayb r all the junk cards from fa ise, from unde pr su my To A nothing. the new S.E. I fished out is Th . ne zi ga ma Backpacker I best present is by far the r. fo d ke as ve could ha much! Thank you so

Sean Hastingsber, New Mexico) (Mag Subscri

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NEWSFLASH

Loose Footing...

By Alice Batliner

f er o ! Lett h ont M e th

PHOTO of the Month:

Beach day bliss with dripping ripe mangoes, bananas, a large singha, late in the day. Inner dialog <get yer ass on a run, you’re getting soft>. Up and down twisty roads, sun sets, full moon yet to rise to light my path. It’s dark, sweat pours and I feel great, motorbikes pass, provide illumination. Down a hill and large taxi truck cuts too close, someone yells at me. I lose my footing and fall down the hill on my hands, knees, my side, shit man! It fucking hurts <buck up sister, don’t be a pussy> I turn around, run back. Passing a small town, passed a gaggle of boys I hear one say, ‘damn, bad ass’. I hit Lonely Beach, ready for my hut, a shower, suss the damage. Before I hit my turn off, “hey, do you need help?” <do i look that bad?> “No thanks, I’m okay”. They follow me, “seriously, my girlfriend’s a doctor”. “No thanks, I’m close to my bungalow”. Start to strip off my clothes, I don’t look good. Dirt, blood, sweat. A sharp rock falls from my jogging bra with bits of grass & dirt. My knees bleed, my back, my boob, stigmata on my hands. It takes a while to stop sweating and bleeding, a fine mix.

Photo by Maisa & Maria from Finland... “Your exotic stories keep me warm in the snow!” TO ORDER YOUR COPY VISIT OUR WEBSITE!

www.southeastasiabackpacker.com

I make my way to town, pharmacy closed, market has nothing for me. Music beats from a neighbouring bar. At first glance the owner susses my damage, hands me a shot of vodka, a cold beer & a bottle of iodine. The deep house music kicks in. Fuck it, I dance. Sarah the hostess passes, “you look so happy, so free”. Alex, the owner, passes, “I love my UK DJ”. <Uh huh, me too>.

ion lf?” The solut do it all yourse I thanked her . ar was crystal cle llow Well, I guess, the universe reminds, the moment is tenuous, it also headed off to fo profusely and ter, I realised La e. reminds, it always provides. vic ad rt her expe lked into the HQ I’d randomly wa er Magazine. I And the beat goes on... pack r-toof S.E.A Back ich I read cove e latest issue, wh work. th ed nd ha was ce Ni ! ing ng even cover the followi rked ections, I emba es of written dir lin life. y ur m fo of on d ps se e tri yBa ris t incredible da I’d planned to os at ai, m M e ch g th pin ian of (a e Ch s’ y in on on y organised r. Beers Bike On my first da stop was to ‘M ses in a full da e!) before st as m fir m na , e e e ad Th th th e n ste In joi lov . early to i Suthep d you gotta oed temple of Do unpleasant and 150 baht / day an “Samoeng Loop Road” a tw tour to the fam the th some wi on s to off ad e ro ok ing aw ain ad ynt d he I overslept an A potential da down steep mou e. d all m an ho sm up s, m e ta fro rid vis ws As hour eous unexpected ne ided tour bus! ere were gorg beautiful missed the gu hairpin turns. Th er, man”. rmland. It was m fa m of bu ruiner... AND I’d s a t re ha ac “w d t, . On the an en re fo es lam be lag uld vil en wo se The Dude e like I’d never sid for an try m un do co ng ai a Ki Th in the hopes of a stop at Tiger e se ad ou m th ading I es he ck gu re ba y fo m way coffee. On my baby tigers be I headed out of ating play with d much-needed er an hil s st ex wa kfa t ea gh br ou decent what I th Mai. ed to pop into back to Chiang As I way, I happen e travel agencies. ide t-s ee str y a an er for the uniqu s, ur one of the m S.E.A Backpack s inside about to k y wa an lad th ich ai to wh ” Th nt ys e I wa e Westerner, a “one of those da inquired with th mendous the building. Th e. I was having d tre re a vic e , te th ad all en e l in m l gir e Al rn . giv Weste eeded to ed around e of Nikki, proc completely turn e! around. Brit by the nam track experienc ly turn my day te en at ple be m e co th uld off advice that wo coddington.com) thought of an Coddington (www.zach ch Za t thrilled at the no d e an u’r yo e ll bik te or “I can a mot . Why not rent organised tour

around!” “My day turned

12


13


FEATURE

Falling in LOVE on the road...

R R

ight, let’s cut to the chase here shall we? It’s a tad different to the traditional ‘holiday romance’. (Yeah, remember those?!) Fair enough, the principles are the same, on a two-week holiday, the pair of you are generally far from home. But let’s face it, when your home is on your back and your next move sporadic (and as sod’s law usually dictates, imminent for at least one of you), this casts a whole different perspective on the notion of finding a love-mate en route. Who follows whom? Indeed, does anyone actually bother? Why not just amass a collection of encounters that (like a blog or photos) serve no more purpose than to help you piece together those ten funfilled months of adventure and discovery in more of a chronological kind of order: ‘ah, that overnight bus journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai where I spent the whole time smooching and fumbling under blankets with a complete stranger from Quebec’, and ‘oh, of course! - that was the place I had a foursome with two Israeli soldiers and a French girl’ (this isn’t just me, by the way, is it? No, thought not).

The thing is, though, where do you go from there? Well, nowhere, according to most of us! As a rule, we all approach ‘love on the road’ with a good, practical head on our backpack laden shoulders particularly if the only way of staying together at the end of the whole adventure might involve one of us uprooting our whole lives to the other side of the globe. That’s assuming of course, it even gets to that point in the first place. Our ethos is all very ‘que sera, sera’. In fact, one of the most committed responses I’ve heard is: “Well, I’m not adverse to seeing what happens. Perhaps if I’d had more time with some of my encounters, rather than just the end of a party night, then who knows where it could have gone?”

But let’s be serious for a short while, shall we? (Oh come on, let’s I’m leaving tomorrow anyway).

But come on you lot! What’s all this with the pre-planned itineraries? We’re supposed to be travellers, not a load of OCD-heads with a tick-box chart and a time-plan! Why so exact? What’s the hurry? Surely the point of travelling is that, fundamentally, there is no point? That you can change your mind whenever you like? That you can, heaven forbid, even change your plans?

What does happen when you meet someone and things go BOOM? Because it’s not like it never does - au contraire, it happens all the time. After all, when you’re free of the usual restrictions and routine of daily life back home, you do tend to pick up a far more carefree, open attitude… you just did a three day mountain trek laden with a sleeping bag, mosquito net, and a day-pack filled with water, for God’s sake - anything’s possible!

I know a girl who purposely missed her flight back home just so she could follow her new lover to Pai for an extra week of fun and togetherness. Of course, it didn’t continue once both were back at home, but there must be a lesson here somewhere? Travelling is not just about transience, is it? It’s also about freedom, freewheeling, flying by the seat of your pants, being a flutterby flibbertijibet; having a reckless, devil-may-care, happy-go-lucky attitude to life.

As opposed to when every atom of your body is focused on a computer screen and on how the hell you’re gonna get through the next meeting (let alone ‘til 6pm on Friday), everyone on the traveller circuit’s emitting those very primal scents of survival and living for the moment - and oh yes, it’s a turn-on indeed.

Sometimes, surely, we have to follow our hearts? After all we’re not robots. We can’t program ourselves to meet someone on common soil where a future can more easily take root and blossom. And besides, isn’t that the kind of vibe we were escaping in the first place?

14


By Karen Farini

Getting struck by the travel bug

LOVE

Actually, thinking about it from that point of view, perhaps it is just about transience after all. In fact, maybe this is even why we sometimes fall for people so hard whilst travelling in the first place, because - and as perfectly worded by my good friend Annie: “Time is limited and you don’t have to worry about a lengthy disentanglement from that liaison. Generally, things seem to be lighter and less burdened when outside of one’s ‘normal environment’, which I think generally makes for more intense emotional experiences and fewer worries”. Let’s face it, no-one knows where a relationship is headed at the very beginning stages, no matter what the initial circumstances, and wherever you happen to find yourselves - be it Siem Reap or, erm, Scunthorpe. And even though life on the road appears so very different to that back at home, the facts still remain: life remains life and there is no golden rule, black or white, right or wrong. No matter how many people you talk to, or how many experiences you might hear about, none of us truly know what may happen if we let it, or go for it - and perhaps most importantly without need or expectation… Instead, perhaps just for the hell of it - for a notch, a whim, a story, a lesson, a part of our journey, a snapshot of our lives. Perhaps we just need to enjoy the initial connection simply for what it is, and for as long as we can, whatever our initial ‘itineraries’ (shudder). Because this may be all you’ll ever have together. Wouldn’t it be nice to make it last as long as possible? It may not work out. But so what, anyway? This is the sheer beauty of travelling (well, one of them anyway - seeing temples and stuff’s good too). I mean, it’s not like we’re gonna be stuck glaring into the back of their skull from the other side of the open-plan office and contemplating the drama of changing jobs when it all goes wrong; on the contrary, we can just hop on a bus, train or plane and change your location instead - to another town, city - hell, even country -

almost as soon as we can say ‘yep, game set and match… over.’ So, the moral to all of this? Erm… I’ll be honest with you - I don’t think there is one. Just, you know, have a good time - you only live once. But be careful whilst you’re at it. One of the guys I interviewed told me about a mate of his who met someone for a week whilst travelling and ended up finding out she was pregnant when he got back home. To leave you on a high, though, I’m glad to inform you they are now happily living together in London with a little baby boy. DISCLAIMER: I’m not recommending this as a solution to extending that fleeting romance you enjoyed so much in Hoi An. Neither am I saying that all stories end well. By all means, follow your heart, and believe that what will be will be… though I should probably add here that I’m in no way accountable for your drama. Love can hurt. So if you end up taking the fluffy parts of this article too much to heart and spend the next six months stuck to Facebook chat wondering why she still doesn’t talk to you, then please, direct your agony elsewhere... You know what they say, after all - the best way to get over someone is...

I LUV U 4EVA I.D.S.T:

Will your love last as long as the graffiti on the hostel wall?

15


The Personals...

LOVE 50 First Dates Travel bug or love bug?

I reckon the two go together like a cough and a cold. Back home, I’d always wondered why everyone else around me had no problem meeting guys. Well, it turns out it wasn’t me - just the fact I was stuck in my hometown! The minute I stepped on a plane to go travelling overseas, well, hello boys! And it’s simple, really; everyone you meet is of a similar mindset - plus you’re all doing something you love and are more open than usual to new experiences. Struck by the thunderbolt? I met someone from Norway whilst travelling in Nepal at the end of last year. As soon as I saw him, I knew I was in trouble. And given my previous experience with meeting guys who lived so far away, I decided to leave this one alone when I got home to Oz, but he contacted me and was keen to see me. Once again, I was thinking; should I travel halfway around the world and live in a foreign country for someone I barely know? Well, the romantic in me thought - why not consider it? Yet the reality was, it was never going to happen due to lack of money. He decided I wasn’t ‘passionate enough’… and that was the end of that.

Jade, Melbourne, Australia , Love Rating: 6/10

Verdict: Needs more gung-ho (and funds)

Gone with the Wind Need a break? Hell, yes! I regularly go away without my man. I started doing it a few years ago. After a difficult period of stress comprised of work and family illness (to name just two components), I decided to book a one-way flight to Thailand to help me through. My boyfriend was totally supportive from the start. At one point, it did look like he might come and join me for a while, but, due to various commitments, it didn’t happen. And since then, well, it’s always been my long holiday! Need a re-think? Why? It’s never changed a thing between us as far as our relationship goes. We’re always in regular contact, and I trust that nothing silly will happen whilst I’m away. As for me and meeting other guys…SO not on my agenda! Do I miss him? Hell yeah, but I don’t look at guys here as a potential to fill the gap; I look at them as travel mates. What I have back home is precious, even if it’s sometimes quite complicated. But that’s just us. The downsides? Lack of affection, missing his humour, being able to share experiences with him, even if it’s just gaping at things in awe… Oh, and accommodation is way more expensive when you’re on your own, so that really sucks. But what I love about travelling solo more than makes up for it. Freedom, your own choices and decisions, not needing to compromise, if you wanna be grumpy, no-one’s complaining. I would really recommend couples getting some solo travelling in, it makes you appreciate what you have. Jo, Netherlands

Love Rating: 8/10

Verdict: They both win (especially her)

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Something’s Gotta Give

Love Actually Where did you pick him up? On Pub Street, in Siem Reap, Cambodia - way back in August 2004. Following Uni graduation, during an extended solo trip across Asia, I met up with an old friend from back home who was teaching English there. I decided to stay for a week to hang out with him, which was great… relaxing, visiting the Angkor Temples… Then, on my 24th birthday, in one of the pubs, I was introduced to one of his mates, Simon, who was planning to set up a guesthouse there. I was due to carry on to Phnom Penh on the bus not long after that, but I ended up bumping into Simon again on and off over the following few days, having drinks and getting to know each other - so I kept putting off my onward journey, even though my original plan had been to continue to Australia to work for a year! Eventually, we decided to take a trip to Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville together, and when we got back to Siem Reap again… I made the decision to let my Australian visa expire, not bother applying to study Dentistry when I got back in the UK… and then moved in with him! Was he worth it? Yes, yes, and yes! I know without a doubt now that this was the right choice. We’ve been together for more than seven years now and are happier than ever. We also have two lovely children, Ella, three and Ollie, 14 months (who’ve definitely put a hold on our trips to Pub Street!) and have been running Rosy Guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia together since January 2005. It’s been a while since we last did some proper travelling, but now we’ve finally started planning our first big family trip around Asia! And, of course, meanwhile, it’s always great to hear everyone else’s stories in the guesthouse bar!

Rachel, Norfolk, UK Love Rating: 10/10

Verdict: Sickening! (us, jealous?)

What have you had? Quite a variety. I’ve had a long term relationship come out of travelling, I’ve had some great short term flings which ended harmoniously, but I’ve also had some experience of either being mucked about myself or me leaving knowing that she would be hurt. This isn’t necessarily anything to do with ‘travelling’ though and I think you can have exactly the same experiences at home. What do you want? 

Well, my views on love have changed a bit during my travels. Now, I think 
love is about offering yourself to another person and not what you get back from them. It’s about being totally present in the moment and not judging the past or worrying about the future. It’s like anything, if you go in with expectations, then you’re likely to be disappointed and likewise, if you’re treating one person as the answer to all your problems (or even being with many people!), then you’ll find that in the same way alcohol or drugs are only a limited escape, ‘romantic love’ in this sense is the same. That’s not to say you shouldn’t enjoy the experience, but that the jealousy, possessiveness and idolisation that goes on in most modern ‘love affairs’ is all to do with satisfying the ego and nothing at all to do with love in the real sense – which I think just boils down to mutual respect.

Never Been Kissed

Ian, Leicester, UK Love Rating: 9/10

Verdict: Buddha would be proud

How was it for you? Er…seldom! In my opinion, you sometimes need at least a few weeks to get to know someone enough for feelings to grow properly. One of the problems with travelling is that you only meet people for a few days. Also, with so much going on and so much moving about, it’s difficult to ever feel settled. Sometimes, that needs to happen before you can fall in love. I guess this is another reason why it wouldn’t always work out – on top of the added complication of living thousands of miles apart from one another! But what about chemistry? Isn’t that, like, a science? Well, yeah – like you say, falling for someone sometimes does just happen. I mean, it’s hardly a career choice (bless him, he’s obviously been away from the West for quite some time now). I just really don’t think that in the long-term, travelling is good turf for finding love. Chemistry comes into it at the beginning – but after that, we’re talking some other science: psychology. Some guy in America, I forget his name, (erm, Kyle, you’re losing points here) basically says there are certain things you need to create a good base, which also gives us self-esteem. First comes health, food and shelter, then a group or community – and finally, love. So when you travel, you sometimes feel isolated and insecure about your next move, for example. So, I don’t know. In this state, perhaps your mind is just not ready for love to be able to grow. Kyle, Durham, UK Love Rating: 2/10

Verdict: Low (or more to the point) ‘no score’

Photo by Robin Hogarth

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WORD ON THE SOI: BAD HABITS “What habits have you picked up in South East

Asia that may not go down so well at home?” You’ve been raised to carefully observe the social rituals of your culture: wait for everyone to receive their food before tucking in, turn up on time for appointments - it makes logical sense and, after all, it’s only good manners, right? Then you arrive in South East Asia and the world is on its head! People STAND on the rim of the toilet? ‘Are they insane?’ you wonder as you watch dumbfounded from the side of the road as pedestrians launch themselves carelessly into a stream of oncoming tuk tuks. But they creep up on you, these curious customs and before long, you find yourself partaking of behaviours you once deemed highly inappropriate. This month we asked backpackers what habits they’ve picked up in South East Asia that may not go down so well at home…

BARE IS BETTER! Having been in South East Asia for six months, I find myself taking off my shoes before I enter anywhere! While my Mum loves this at home, the security guard in the local grocery store will think I’m a nutjob! (Nick, USA)

I’LL TUCK IN, SHALL I!? When it comes to eating in Thailand, I’ve accepted the idea that while we may sit together, we probably won’t eat together as everybody receives their food at a different time! The Thai ‘mai pen rai’ (no worries) attitude certainly applies here and if you don’t eat your grub straight away then you’ll be having cold pad thai! Apparently this is seen as rude back at home. (Lou, Canada)

CAB CULTURE I tend to take a taxi or a tuk tuk everywhere in South East Asia as it’s so cheap. If I took a cab everywhere back home I’d quickly run out of cash and most probably pile on the pounds too! (Jenny, London)

VIETNAM SPIT I’m a little ashamed about this one… I’ve taken to clearing my throat ‘Vietnam-stylee’. Kweeeeee-puhhhh! My grandma would be shocked at my lack of manners... use a hanky, boy! (Anonymous spitter)

ROAD RUNNER! Green men? Zebra crossings? Weaving my way between rickety tuk tuks and overloaded motorbikes has become an exhilerating habit of mine! As long as you walk slow and steady, don’t panic and don’t stop, the traffic will miraculously avoid you! I’m not sure that back on the motorways of home, the cars will understand! (Klara, Germany)

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SLURPIN’ Since I got back from my gap year, I’ve been told many a time I noisily slurp my spag bol and pot noodles! This can only be a habit that’s stuck from sucking up my wanton noodle soup Eastern fashion! With no spoon in sight, it’s chopsticks and slurpin’ all the way! (George, UK)

SINGHA FOR BREAKFAST Some say needing a drink for breakfast is a sign that you’re becoming an alcoholic... I say it’s a sign you’ve been in Thailand too long! Muesli, fruit, yoghurt and a cold Singha has become my morning routine... I won’t tell that to my job interviewers when I get home! (Jal, South Africa)

TOILET MANNERS I got really used to chucking my toilet paper in the bin at the side of the toilet as is the custom in South East Asia to stop the drains getting blocked. Back in Ireland, my flatmate isn’t exactly impressed! Eeewww! (Alice, Ireland)

SPOT SQUEEZING You’ve seen the Asian women sitting in a line picking each others grey hairs, well have you seen them picking each others pimples? On a long boring boat journey in Indonesia while my boyfriend lay sound asleep, I found myself mesmerised with the big black heads on his nose... picking away, no one flinched or found it mildly offensive so I just carried on. My boyfriend on the other hand was NOT happy! (Nicole, Switzerland)

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DESTINATION SPOTLIGHT

Losing sense of time

Sumatra, Indonesia

By Alex Gannes & Tina Johannessen

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O O

kay, it could seem like we fell off the grid, no? Tina and I spent a year travelling the world and during the last six months spent in Sumatra, our communication with the outside world dwindled. It was almost as though we forgot that phones or email existed. Those six months felt like several lifetimes. It wasn’t just about the scuba diving, empty white sandy beaches, pristine jungles, endless motorbiking and trekking. It wasn’t even the remoteness of some places, or being immersed into truly overlooked cultures in others. I guess it was time for my soul to breathe deeply; to allow my inner voice to guide me through the refinement of my wants, simplify the erratic and learn how to accept what I know is difference. The words that follow tell the story of a 24-day, 2,200km motorbike trip through the large tear-shaped island of Sumatra, Indonesia. It’s a story about following your dreams and pushing your limits; an experience where my core axis spun, tilted and altered the way my eyes perceive this world… Not long after the sun rose in the early morning, we were sitting on the roof deck of a cargo ferry with our backs to Pulau Weh. In the cargo bay was our chariot: a crisp red Yamaha 150cc automatic motorbike. The bike was well maintained with a freshly replaced back tyre and a recent oil change. The leather seat cushion, although scalding hot in the heat of the midday sun, allowed for comfortable riding. Where the driver usually rests their feet, was Tina’s black backpack stuffed with bathing suits and rain gear, an aluminum cooking pot, an all-purpose Malay jungle knife and a blue double sized Bali parachute hammock. Tied down on the back end of the seat was a fluorescent orange rail tent, two pairs of fins that coupled with our snorkeling gear, and my smaller backpack used for treks. We believed our only guide should be intuition, so no space was allowed for books or maps. What we did have a lot of, though, was time - a luxury that tends to dissipate as you head west towards Europe or North America. Now that we were on the other side of the world, it only ever became of significance if the sun was setting and we had not found the ‘right’ beach to pitch our tent. Driving along the Sumatran-Indian Ocean

coast for the 800km to the southwestern Aceh archipelago Pulau Banyak, it seemed like we had all the time in the world. We chose the island of Pulau Banyak because of its deserted beaches and leatherback turtles. According to our research, each night, several of them (weighing 500kgs each) glide to the sandy shore of Pulau Bangkaru, a southwestern coastal island to the Banyak archipelago. The very notion of digging into the sand and crawling on our bellies by the strength of our forearms and knees from darkness ’til sunrise to watch these ancient creatures gave me an ear-to-ear smile. Our mission, therefore: to ride our motorbike to the southwestern Aceh fishing village port in Singkil and then get on a boat to the Pulau Banyak archipelago. Simple, right? Not so! Southwest from Banda Aceh, the pavement was as close to being glued to the coastline as a palm tree grows to the ocean. The road climbed with the mountains, sunk with the valleys, curved with the coves and stared into the coastal islands… the whole tour was panoramically beautiful and utterly awe-inspiring. I don’t recall the number of times we stopped to take pictures the first few days, but it easily eclipsed 50. On our first night, we pitched our tent in a field touching the ocean. It was remote, accessible only by a thin neck of sand on a peninsula 10 minutes from the closest village. We were alone, saw no-one and heard less. That night, like many nights to follow, we cooked a chili, vegetable and instant noodle soup over a camp fire. It was the standard and we became rhythmic at building fires as well as preparing and cooking soups. This fire, like many more thereafter, would blaze well after we’d eaten and cleaned our cooking gear - in fact, usually right up until we were virtually sleep-walking into our tent. On this first night, however, just as we were about to smoulder our fire, something happened to wake us right back up! From inside our tent, all we could make out was the outline of a giant animal with machete-sharp horns! And then another. Peeking out, we saw a herd of water buffalo surrounding us, the males as large as elephants. Were we imposing on their feeding ground? Several agonising hours later, we finally conceded they were only there to graze; an

“What we did have a lot of, though, was time.” 21


understanding that never quite extended to the sudden appearance of two Indonesian men who, at 4am, showed up on a motorbike and sat quietly near our campfire, responding to neither English nor Indonesian. The duo left after some time and I never found out what they wanted, or even if they wanted anything at all. Our second night gave us a backdrop of mountains, an amazing sunset of yellows, reds, blues and greens streaked across the sky on Langeun Beach and full moon rising tides. Each evening from there on in, we set up our tent on an empty beach and watched those watercolour sunsets over endless blue oceans - the oldest dance that the earth has ever known. There was nothing we didn’t want to see. Hell, we drove down every sideroad regardless of loose dirt or fresh cement. We wanted to explore every sandy beach, every fishing village, every hidden waterfall - even a handful of abandoned bamboo huts only accessible by crossing streams and hiking into thick jungles. It didn’t matter how far we drove each day, because we had a tent and could camp on any beach, in any jungle, or even on the side of the road if the location spoke to us. On the west coast of Aceh, blonde sand beaches hugged coastal turquoise waters. It’s said that there are often fewer people than Sumatran tigers on these beaches of serenity. For a place I’d initially believed was a well-travelled land in Sumatra, it was difficult to believe that we were often the first, second or third Westerners going through some of these Acehnese villages over the past year - and in some cases, since the Boxing Day tsunami of 2006. After one week of coastal exploration, we departed the mainland from the fishing town Singkil for the islands of Pulau Banyak. We were anchored on a nearly capsizing 30-foot fishing boat at a distance of maybe six football fields away from the shoreline. The

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“We wanted to explore every sandy beach, every fishing village, every hidden waterfall, even a handful of abandoned bamboo huts only accessible by crossing streams and hiking into thick jungles.”

waves were maybe a metre in height, and since we were five hours from our destination on a boat stuffed with 30 people, motorbikes and food supplies, the Captain delayed our voyage. Two hours later, we were moving again. Staring southwest into the ocean, the grey cloud-line met the horizon. The Banyak Islands were only 32km from shore, but I couldn’t see them. What I did see though, where the murky brown coastal waters met the blue ocean currents, were curious pods of bottlenose dolphins following our boat. With all my heart, I wanted to swim with them. Over the next few hours, there was an occasional drizzle of rain, but the waves seeping through the floorboards soaked me to the bone anyway. Finally and shortly before nightfall, we arrived on Pulau Balai, the main fishing port island within the Pulau Banyak Islands. Initially exhausted and seeking comfort, we sat in a coffee shop eating rice, squid curry and chili. The chili was like a jolt of pure energy and almost immediately, we began sifting through information about how to see giant turtles and find a private island. This soon became a scavenger hunt. We learned that the Government of Pulau Banyak and the Government of Singkil were in heavy dispute. Those in Singkil wanted to build a resort on Pulau Bangkaru also known as ‘Turtle Island’, that would be tailored towards harvesting the leatherback turtle eggs for human consumption. Those in the Banyak Islands wanted to maintain eco-tourism and keep this island as a turtle sanctuary. Both, however, agreed that no tourists should be allowed on Pulau Bangkaru. Shortly after pleading for a stealth mission to no avail, we regretfully gave up our mission. The next day began with confusion because I didn’t fully understand the Indonesian concept of ‘rubber time’. ‘Rubber time’ fluctuates; it can mean five minutes, five hours, or in some cases, even five

days. When we couldn’t find the fisherman we previously organised to boat us to a small island called Pulau Biawak - no problem. We took this downtime to shop at the local market for the deserted island essentials: a five gallon drum of drinking water, garlic, onion, chili, beans, carrots, tomatoes, eggs, coffee, noodles and a litre of lamp oil. After a few more hours of ‘rubber time’, a storm approached from the northwest and we negotiated a one-way trip with another fisherman for 15 dollars. En route to Biawak, the sky was a thick dark blue, creating a stark contrast from the greens of the coral waters. The wind picked up and the waves were ricocheting off all sides of our boat. I balanced as best I could when the boat increased speed at the top of each wave and gently descended into each trough. As we were catching the tail end of the passing storm, the driver saw my arms wrapped around my torso as I struggled to maintain warmth, and without speaking a word, one hand held the steering boom and the other rummaged around in the floorboards to find and pass me a blue plastic tarp. The tarp chased away the goosebumps on my arms and kept me relatively dry from the splashing waves and light rain, but soaked me in its rich aromas of spoiled fish and what reminded me of cat wee. Honestly, though, it was an even trade-off in this situation. I gratefully accepted. Nearing Biawak, the splashes subsided. It was perfect. This small island, surrounded by coral reefs, had an obscure oval shape, maybe one acre in size, with half of it surrounded by a white sandy beach studded with seashells and the other half by elevated aged coral rock. The perimeter of the island was rich in coconut palm trees. The interior housed better firewood than palm, an abandoned bamboo platform, and direct views to the ocean through the tree line. The trees were shared by a lone eagle and a small family of tropical pigeons. It was simple - the way we wanted life to be. Fewer distractions, more awareness. This was awesome!

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“For the three days and nights we spent there, we lived as freely as Adam and Eve.”

At the beach break, I heaved myself over the side of the boat and carried supplies beyond the sand line. We waved off the fisherman and together began exploring our private tropical oasis. Fantasy island was ours! Tina and I shared reflecting smiles. Circling Biawak counterclockwise, we created erratic zig-zag patterns across the island whilst searching for a campsite, deciding to take advantage of an elevated bamboo platform and pitching our tent a metre above the damp ground. In front of our tent was a small clearing which became the basis for many fires. The clearing also gave way to narrow natural paths to various parts of the sandy beach, this enabled us to keep watch for reassurance that this was ‘our’ island.

garlic, potato, local green beans and instant noodles. Satisfying to say the least, yet later that evening, hunger returned. We were nearly sleeping in our tent when we heard scratching and clinking noises from outside. The island was deserted, so our curiosity brought us out of our sanctuary. We looked just below the bamboo platform and saw the sounds came from crabs. I don’t know if they were mangrove crabs or mud crabs, but there were dozens of them skittering through the shrubbery. We observed as one was trying to drag our cooking pot to some unattainable secure location and another roamed near the red hot coals of our fire.

On Biawak, the sun shined and lightly kissed our skin whilst whispering in our ears: “Go now,” it would tell us, “strap on your snorkel gear and explore your beaches, your reefs, your oceans…” The shallow waters near the island harboured various submerged palm trees partly buried in sand. Several meters further, soft coral reefs gave birth to life; Christmas tree worms, sea slugs, lionfish, angel fish, batfish, clown fish, sweetlips, rainbow fish and pipefish were various forms of the dozens of species of sea life we saw living in the local reefs. The afternoons and evenings also brought us close encounters with juvenile black tip reef sharks swimming in the shallows, where the water was only ankle deep. I had a personal aquarium surrounding Biawak to explore at will. It was just me, Tina and the fish; a simple recipe for calm, understanding and balance.

They were confident and curious about what we were. They nonchalantly snapped at the air with their larger claw, but did not flee. We stalked them like clumsy kittens and collected the largest two in sight by scooping them into a 10 litre yellow dry bag in a shovel motion. When the water began boiling over the orange flames, we shook the bag and guided each crab’s entry into the cooking pot with a small stick. Because we did not keep time, we ate them when we felt they were boiled. Dreaming, the only missing ingredient was salted and creamy butter! The next evening, instead of boiled crab, we wanted them barbecued - a task more difficult because we had to clamp the body with a makeshift squeegee-like press to stable their movements whilst penetrating their rock-hard shells with additional sharpened sticks. Still – a real treat to our simple noodle with vegetable soup!

For our first dinner on Biawak, we prepared a soup of carrot, onion,

Every night, after finishing dinner, we headed for the beach to wash

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to create your own journey - I wish for you a beautiful and unique experience.

Selamat Jalan! xxx About the writers: Alex Gannes was raised in Detroit Michigan, USA, the home of techno music, Motown and the first automobile. In 2005, he went on his first solo backpacking trip for six months through South East Asia. Four months into his trip, he found himself on the Mekong River in Don Det, Laos, where he met Tina Johannessen, the Swedish girl who has been his inspiration and now wife of five years. From May 2011 to May 2012, Alex and Tina hit the road, recording their tales on their blog. Read more about their journey at: http://findingmylostpulau.blogspot.com

our cooking pot, knives and the water bottles we’d been using as bowls. The heavens above Pulau Biawak twinkled like a disco ball. Solar systems, galaxies, the universe; I have never seen so many stars, so many distant blinking lights and so much life in the darkness of the skies with my naked eye. I felt humbled. For the three days and nights we spent there, we lived as freely as Adam and Eve. Clothing felt smothering and we only bothered with them when the cooling tropical rains briefly visited our island. On Biawak, life was simple: collect firewood, maintain the fire, cut vegetables, boil water, snorkel the reefs, drink fresh coconut water, rest in the hammock, enhance our nesting ground, watch the sun set. When life simplifies, you eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are tired, explore when you are intrigued, follow your instincts and accept natural order. Still, the return to civilization was imminent. We were nearly out of drinking water after all and not yet halfway through our trip. Experiencing the same kind of ‘rubber time’ feeling as we’d done on arrival, we finally managed to flag down a fisherman and get on a boat… If you’ve been wondering how these kind of experiences might change one’s perspective on life, then you might already be on your way. If venturing towards roads less known is what attracts you, then be brave, be aware and remember that comfort is always relative! Whether you travel alone, with your partner or with a handful of your friends, you will surely find your path - as well as answers to questions you never even knew to ask. And, to all those inspired

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PHOTOS

Asian

Cityscapes

Singapore, Marina Sands taken from the Hippo Ferry

Bangkok, Asok: Business District from 42nd Floor Skyscraper

T T

hreading your way through the crowded chaos of Asia’s largest cities can be an overwhelming experience, no matter how many times you’ve been there before. It charges through your senses, all of it: the mouth-watering aroma of chicken pad thai rising from one stall mixed with the fried banana from another, your moist skin in the humid air, music blaring and intermingling with the revving of mopeds, shouts of “taxi? You want taxi?!” - and the people. Always lots and lots of people. Far above all of this, however - and sometimes as high as the 500th floor - is where I like to escape. It’s maybe not a typical backpacker thing to do, but hanging out on the top of skyscrapers watching the sunset is not much different from doing it at the beach. That emotional feeling you get? It’s just the same. Asian cities may still conjure up more images of tuk-tuks and hawker stalls than the panoramic views

HCMC: View to Ben Tanh Market from Bitexo Tower 56th Floor

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Singapore: East Coast Business District


you get from its tower buildings, but some - the megacities, I call them - are quickly becoming so much more modern, more urban, more economically developed. They’re growing in height now just as much as in space. I say I venture skyward to escape the city, but of course this is impossible – you are always a part of it. In fact, my personal experience is that there’s even more limited space up here than there is on the ground – but of course, that doesn’t bother me. I’m always transfixed!

Bangkok, Asok: Business District from 42nd Floor Skyscraper

I took these photographs in Vietnam, Singapore and Bangkok during a month-long trip at the tail-end of 2011. I started off in Ho Chi Minh City, travelled through the Mekong Delta to Cambodia, then flew to Bangkok to head for the Similian Islands via Khao Lak for a short diving break. After that, I took a plane ride from Phuket to stay in Singapore for 28 hours, before touching back down again in Bangkok for my last week. Through the lens of my camera, I looked out onto neon metropolises from the top of the Centec and Bitexo Tower in Ho Chi Minh City, the Flyer in Singapore, and the Vertigo Skybar in Bangkok, to name just four. Thanks to the organisation of some local photographers I got in touch with before my trip, as well as the cooperation of the buildings’ owners, I also managed to gain access to places that require special permission first, such as the 56th floor rooftop in Bangkok just as the sun was setting straight into the luminescent skyline. That’s still one of my favourite memories, along with hanging out at District Two in HCMC to do the shots from the other side of the river. Perfect spot with good people and amazing colours!

Bangkok, Lumphini Park from Banyan Tree Vertigo Sky Bar

If colours are what you’re after, then of course nighttime is best. The experience of shooting cities in the day compared to doing it after dark is something completely different. If you use your camera with a long exposure, you’ll get to capture things the eye cannot catch in detail. Cities change their scape at night. Concrete walls turn coloured by traffic; and the traffic itself looks like endless light that leads you through streets like blood vessels. When the sounds of them reach you, they are quieter, distorted, more like a pulse. You know what I call it? I call it the ‘cityscape’ sound. And the view and the feeling you get when you’re up there looking down at it all...well. It’s just the bomb. Timo would like to extend special thanks to Hang, Chuoi, Ha and Thu; Kevin, Sharon and Eric; Roy, Suweena and Naam.

HCMC, view to Saigon Trade Center and Saigon Pearl at the back, from Centec Building, 23rd floor

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Timo Klein was born in 1980. His love for photography and his interest in communication is one of the major floating factors for his expression and his inspiration for photography.
He believeds that architecture is a unique way to communicate with people and the environment around us. www.timokleinphotography.com info@timokleinphotography.com

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FEATURE

By Rob Clark

Dive South East Asia A new addiction...

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s the world becomes more developed and globalisation sweeps through the most remote areas, it’s becoming harder and harder to imagine a place free of WIFI, cell phone rings and chain stores. Up until 18 months ago, I was working in the financial industry in the City of London - it couldn’t have been further from the peace I’d begun to yearn for. So, one day, after 10 years of working in the same sector, I decided it was time for a drastic change. I wanted to live my dreams. It was now or never. So far, my round the world odyssey has taken me through South Africa, Asia and Australia, continents I found pitted with a beauty like I’d never experienced before… that is, until I ventured underneath the surface. There, far below, I discovered a tranquility I’d never even imagined. Some people never find what they’re looking for. Others traverse deserts to find their solace, explore jungles or climb to the peaks of the highest mountains. I’ve discovered that mine resides somewhere else entirely… in the vast world under the sea.

fish, octopus, barracuda, Nemo… I almost forgot we were metres below the surface. All my problems seemed to disappear. Under the sea, you cannot speak, cannot write, cannot eat, cannot drink… all you can do is watch. You are an observer in this awesome, airless realm that belongs to silent, graceful, unusually beautiful creatures. It’s a wonderful feeling of freedom like no other and as I rose to the surface after that very first dive, I knew I was hooked. I took an Advanced PADI Course straight away on the nearby island of Koh Phangan, which meant I would learn to dive in deep water, up to 30 metres - a necessity if I wanted to experience the best diving spots in the world, most varied marine life and shipwrecks. It also meant that I could experience ‘night diving’ - something that both terrified and thrilled me. I’d heard from senior divers that it was a surreal experience and I was filled with anticipation at how my beautiful new world would feel with the lights off!

Just how much I would come to love scuba diving was something I’d never really considered. Taking the PADI Course in Koh Tao, I’d initially expected this new experience to become just a really good hobby, something I could continue once I’d returned to England, or on holidays throughout the rest of my life. I didn’t quite realise that this would become an addiction that I would avidly pursue as I went on travelling the world.

First: deep water. We were warned about the dangers of nitrogen narcosis, one of the biggest dangers to Scuba Divers, which usually occurred at a depth of around 30 metres and below. Being ‘narked’ basically means you feel drunk and lightheaded underwater. Whilst not dangerous in itself, the real danger was of you doing something stupid like taking off your diving gear underwater. My diving buddies and I were all a little apprehensive, yet curious to see if we would be affected. However, after a surprisingly quick descent and a test of our reaction skills underwater, we all appeared to be unaffected!

After two days of classroom training, when we boarded the boat for our first dive and ‘suited up’, I was shaking with fear and excitement. After a timid descent, the first 30 minutes underwater turned out to be incredible. Just like a child, I was experiencing a whole world for the first time - even breathing felt strange and new. The sensation of being underwater soon became natural though, and as I began to look around at the colourful marine life: stingrays, moray eels, puffer

After a technical navigation dive, a practical peak buoyancy performance dive and a disappointing photography dive (the visibility was too poor), it was time for the night dive! The nerves I felt heading out at the start of my PADI Open Water Course were nothing compared to what I felt now. As the sun dropped and the intense light of Thailand faded on our quiet boat bobbing on the vast ocean, we exchanged frightened glances. We felt like we were plunging into the

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depths of a scary, unknown world, unsure if we would surface safely. Placing our trust in the Dive Masters, however, we submerged. With our torches clutched tightly in our hands, we edged our way further down the rope. One of the girls vomited underwater out of sheer fear - which was great for attracting the fish but spelt the end of her dive! I persisted down the rope and became more relaxed when I realised that it was easy to see each other’s grainy torch beams underwater (without blinding each other), so getting lost wouldn’t be as easy as I’d feared. I don’t know about you, but for me there is something about being lost underwater in total spooky darkness that screams the stuff of nightmares.

"And, as in your dreams, you are flying." Karen Berger's Scuba Diving

As you can imagine, diving at night gave me a totally new perspective, particularly when we were told to put our torches face down in the sand so that it was pitch black except for the green bioluminescence from millions of glowing organisms all around us. It was eerie to see the fish looming out of the shadows and yet so peaceful at the same time, highlighted when a large school of barracudas passed close by, some over a metre-long. I even found my air lasted a lot longer than my previous daytime dives, which showed how much more relaxed I was in the dark. The feeling afterwards was even better than day diving. Although how much of this was due to the relief that we had survived the experience, is difficult to tell! The next few months threw up a host of opportunities to dive, but unfortunately, unseasonal rain thwarted my hope of diving in some of the best spots in the Philippines. I did manage one dive off the island of Siquijor in the Visayas, but sadly, storms prevented me from diving at the more famed spots such as the Mantra Bowl and Malapascua Island, famed for its sightings of hammerhead sharks. If we’d had a bigger group, the dive

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"Just like a child, I was experiencing a whole world for the first time."

operator would have made the trip to the nearby Apo Island reef, but as it was, I was just happy to get beneath the surface again and I still saw an array of marine life and coral to make it worth my while. I plan to return to the Phillipines at some point to experience the latter! My next diving experience was in the tropical island of Pulau Tioman off the Malaysian Peninsular coast. I spent a week here, diving six times in total, where I caught my first glimpse of turtles, which were amazing. They, like much of the marine life, seemed unfazed by our presence and came so close that we could almost touch them. As well as the ‘usual suspects’, I also glided by cuttlefish, lion fish, stonefish and bat fish. With each effortless push through the water, there were always yet more amazing discoveries to behold. Two of the dives in Malaysia included ‘swim-throughs’, where we glided through intricate underground rock formations, including one that was so packed with anchovies that they were literally all around me as I forced my way through the narrow passage. As a diver, I felt that every day brought new teachings. My biggest lesson on Pulau Tioman was the water currents. On one dive they were so strong, I had to use all my energy to avoid being crashed into rocks and just getting around was tiring. It was pretty scary at times. And, despite this particular dive only lasting for around 30 minutes (in contrast to my usual dive time of around an hour by now), my tank was virtually empty when I hit the surface, showing how much more air was expended when dealing with difficult conditions. Coupled with the poor visibility, this ensured one wretched dive, but that in itself is always the beauty and the gamble with scuba diving. There are no guarantees when you place yourself in the hands of nature. On our next dive, we used the current for what is known as a ‘drift dive’, being dropped off by the boat at one point and then just letting the current carry you along, sometimes pretty quickly! This was a whole new kind of fun as you just had to relax and take in the surroundings whilst letting the current do all the work, safe in the knowledge that the boat would pick you up at the end of the drift. My final dives in South East Asia were in Gili Trawanga and Bali in Indonesia. My first dive here was so disappointing, it was almost my last. The island is renowned for its fantastic scuba diving, but despite good visibility, there was nothing to see! I was bewildered as to what had (not) happened! I put it down to a poor choice of site by the dive operator that day - another risk you face when signing up for an excursion. That’s just the luck of the draw. Fortunately, my second dive a few days later totally turned everything around and was possibly my best yet! I saw turtles, eels, sea snakes, trigger fish and the highlight of the dive - a group of 15

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humphead parrot fish, each about a metre-long and half a metre tall - truly amazing! And on top of that, my dive buddy for the day had dreadlocks, which was a sight to behold underwater as they all floated around his head, giving him the look of some mythical sea creature! My final dive in Bali was on ‘Liberty Wreck’, a cargo ship that sank during World War Two in 1942. As it was only a short distance from the shore, I experienced my first shore dive, suiting up on the beach and wading in before swimming out - another interesting learning experience! The wreck went down to 30 metres, so my advance PADI was paying off already. It was a little creepy as the wreck loomed out of the distance and, whilst the only new marine life I encountered was some pygmy seahorses, the wreck in itself was brilliant with several swim-throughs and many of the ship’s original features well preserved. Unfortunately, though, that was the last dive I’ve done for a while. Scuba diving in Australia, where I’m currently living, is ridiculously expensive - though, of course, the Great Barrier Reef is a must see, no matter what the price! It’s the largest living thing on earth that you can see from space, so I’m hoping to do a three day live-aboard boat trip there as opposed to just one dive. That way, (given the sheer size of it), I’ll get to experience the parts of the reef that most people don’t get to go to. In the meantime, I aim to dive on the reefs on the western Australian coast, in particular Ningaloo Reef, which is touted as being just as good as the Great Barrier Reef, but almost completely untouched. After Australia, I hope to either travel back through Asia hitting new dive sites or head off to South and Central America to dive my way up through Panama, Honduras and maybe the Caribbean. Diving is more than just a hobby for me now – it’s turned into one of my biggest passions in life! My next goal? A night-time wreck dive, definitely! I’ll have to keep you posted…


Artwork & design

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ACE Marine Images 2003


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EM I LY

34, London UK HER CHOICE: Koh Tao, Thailand

L AU R A

21, Bristol, UK HER CHOICE: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

I travelled to Koh Tao over the Christmas holidays to learn to dive. With a three and a half day course and four nights accommodation for 9,000 baht (less than £200) I felt like I got a really good deal! I have to say it was a slightly bizarre experience to be in a classroom studying while the yuletide festivities were hotting up outside. However, we finished just in time to join in with a Christmas dinner and then a beach party until the early hours! As it was my first time diving ever, I was nervous about feeling claustrophic and although the session in the pool went fine, getting kitted out on a boat was a different story than doing it on dry land! Not only that, but breathing underneath the surface for the first time was all too much for me - I freaked out and had to rush back up! This is one of the things that they tell you not to do, but I was only two metres down and my panic was unecessary. Luckily, the second dive a couple of hours later was much better for me confidence-wise, and we went to 12-13 metres. Then, on the second day, we saw such an amazing selection of fish and marine life, including clownfish, bat fish, groupers and so many other incredibly beautiful creatures… I was completely spellbound! Persevering with the course and overcoming my fears was definitely worth it in the end.

At the end of my ‘Gap Yah’ I decided to blow the last of my budget on Scuba Diving. Having already completed my advanced PADI course in Australia, I decided that the next step was to become a Rescue Diver, so I headed south to the exotic island of Koh Phi Phi, where I’d heard that the diving was out of this world. Plus, at certain times of year, there was good chance of spotting the largest and most graceful creature in the sea, the gentle whale shark. Having chosen a dive school, I was assigned a hunky South African Dive instructor (good start) and we got to work. The highlights were scuba diving in crystal clear warm waters around beautiful Maya Bay, ‘the Beach’ and swimming beneath a whale shark for ten whole minutes - a once in a lifetime experience! Wandering down the jetty armed with flippers and a tank, I felt a bit like an underwater Lara Croft with the figure to match (I wish). The diving was the best I’d ever experienced and apart from the aforementioned, the winning moment was getting to practice CPR on a perfectly toned and six-pack hosting torso. The lowlights? Getting stung by a jellyfish. On my face.

ROSS 35, Cambridge UK HIS CHOICE: Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia

I’ve always had a passion for tropical countries and in particular, marine life and scuba diving. I’ve dived everywhere from the Dominican Republic, to the Seychelles, Egypt, north Sulawesi, Bali and Lombok. I live in Indonesia now, as a Dive Master in Raja Ampat, West Papua - so you could say I’m biased towards this as my top diving spot (particularly as one mate pointed out, I have a ladder going down from my room into the sea)! In my opinion, some of the best reefs in the world are right here. Even if you stick to just a small area, you’ll still see everything from wall dives, under sea pinnacles, fringing reefs, muck diving and crystal clear mangrove areas. If I was to dive in another country, my choice would definitely be the Galapogos Islands. There’s no coral there or massive biodiversity, just lots of big animals and plenty of sharks! But I can’t see me moving away from here any time soon! I’ve yet to dive in Wayag and Kawe in the north of the island, for example, or Kafiou and Misool down in the south – so for now, I just want to keep exploring!

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K A R ST E N

27, Durham UK HIS CHOICE: Mabul, Malaysian Borneo Mabul is brilliant. It’s got a great backpacker feel, is commercial enough to create a good vibe, and also attracts a really good mix of locals and travellers from all over the world. The course was one day of theory followed by two days of diving. It’s not particularly hard to pass, so if that concerns you - don’t let it! I was surprised how easy I found it; you very quickly start to relax and enjoy the scenes around you. Another piece of advice: don’t drink too much the night before a dive! Although, the ocean deep is a cool change from the heat of the island when you have a hangover and a headache - it’s like having a cold flannel permanently attached to your head. The best part was definitely the first proper dive. The sea had been so clear all week, but this was the first day after all the baby sea turtles had hatched and had headed for the waves the night before. This seemed to explain why, on the dive itself, we found so many giant turtles, just sitting round and hanging out - it was like they were mothers seeing off their young. All in all, we saw nine of them… I felt like I was in Finding Nemo!

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FESTIVALS & EVENTS: The “Moon” Parties Koh Phangan, Thailand Full Moon Party 3rd July, 4th August

to dance and trance, there’s a frenzied concoction of dance, drink and devilishness from dusk until dawn. Smear that multi-coloured paint all over your body, get a glo-stick in one hand, a bucket in the other and get ready to party!

Half Moon Festival 11th, 26th July 10th, 24th August

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 what is probably the most famous beach party in the world! With an eclectic mix of music, from chart toppers

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A 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 a

mix of tech house, progressive beats and psychedelic trance, the all night party showcases the island’s finest resident DJ’s, with regular special guest appearances. With a huge sound system, unique UV illuminations, fire dancers and live visuals, this is an event not to be missed!

Black Moon Culture 18th July, 17th August

Underground trance, psytrance and progressive beats resound through the air as party-goers dance on the beautiful sands of Baan Tai beach once a 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.

Other Phangan Parties... Other popular and regular outdoor parties to note on Koh Phangan are Jungle Experience, Sramanora Waterfall Party, Shiva Moon Party and the Moon Set Party at Pirate Bar – look out for signs and posters around the island advertising dates and locations.


he of t Pick th! Mon Bali Kite Festival Sanur Beach, Bali, Indonesia 13th – 15th July

Taking place every year on Sanur Beach, the Bali Kite Festival is a wonderful event to witness. Traditionally held as a religious festival, the event is thought to send signals to the Hindu Gods to create plentiful harvests in the coming year. Kites of all different shapes, sizes and colours take to the skies above Bali, with some of the kites measuring up to 10 metres in length! Teams from local villages battle it out in competitions for best launch and longest flight. You will spot

some of the more traditional kites here, such as Bebean (fish shaped,) Janggan (bird shaped), and Pecukan (leaf shaped.) Join the hundreds of spectators who come to celebrate the festival whilst enjoying live music in the form of a Gamelan orchestra.

Banana Festival Tagum, Davao del Norte, The Philippines 1st - 10th July 2012

Taking place in Davao del Norte, in the Philippines, the country’s leading producer of bananas, the Banana Festival is a 10 day festival to

July - August 2012 highlight Davao del Norte as “banana country”. There’s lots of festivities and fun, street dancing and an agricultural trade fair. Feeling hot in your vest top and shorts? Try a banana costume out for size!

Rainforest World Music Festival Sarawak, Borneo 13th – 15th July 2012

KL Festival Kuala Lumpur 1st – 31st July 2012

The KL Festival is a whole month of Malaysian culture and heritage. Around 50 performances, visual arts, traditional games and language and literature events entertain locals and tourists all over Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley.

Set in the atmospheric heart of the Borneo Jungle, Sarawak, this annual festival is a must attend event for all musiclovers! Each day there are informative workshops, ethnic music lectures, jamming sessions and mini-concerts that allow festival-goers to interact with the musicians up close and personal. You’ll be moved through beats and rhythms that’ll culminate each night in a five-hour concert line-up on the main stage next to the lake, under the open

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FESTIVALS & EVENTS: sky. (See event review on page 41 for more information.)

Singapore Food Festival Singapore 13th – 22nd July

to the Prophet Muhammad. The fasting period ends with ‘Eid’ a huge celebratory feast, commemorated by over one billion Muslims around the world as they say thank you to Allah for all they have been given.

this season of growth and new life. It’s a time for study and meditation and is also considered an auspicious time for ordinations into monkhood.

Merdeka Day Malaysia 31st August

A festival dedicated to the pleasure of eating delicious delicacies from all over the world. Each street serves up a unique range of cuisine and there’s a festive atmosphere in the air. As well as lashings of food and drink, there are also cultural activities; street shows in Chinatown, riverboat cruises, music and entertainment.

Ramadan – Indonesia 20th July – 18th August

National Independence Day of Indonesia 17th August Throughout the country, Merdeka day is a day of national pride and a celebration of cultural heritage. The event commemorates Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957. Particularly in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, there are parades, performances and events taking place on this momentous day. Head to Independence Square to witness the celebrations.

Khao Phansa (Buddhist Lent) Myanmar, Laos, Thailand 5th August

For Muslims all over the world, Ramadan is of huge importance. As a traveller, particularly in Muslim nations, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, you will certainly notice the prominence of Ramadan. During this period all Muslims observe fast from dawn until dusk and in many parts of the country restaurants will be closed during the day. Ramadan is also a time when Muslims offer prayers to Allah, ask for forgiveness for sins and attempt to purify themselves of impure thoughts and deeds. According to tradition, Ramadan marks the time when the Qur’an was revealed

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Khao Phansa is one of the most important occasions in the Buddhist calendar that also marks the beginning of the rainy season across the kingdoms of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. Also known as the ‘Buddhist Rains Retreat,’ it’s a time when Buddhist monks retreat to the temple where they must remain for a period of three months. Traditionally, this was so that they would not be in danger of treading on young plants, which sprout during

To celebrate Independence day, neighborhoods around Indonesia hold friendly contests of fun games, such as climbing oily trees to reach gifts placed in the branches, the sack race (jumping race with your feet inside a bag), biting the krupuk (using your mouth to collect coins from a melon covered in black slippery oil). Good wholesome family fun where everyone from the old to the young gets involved!

Hungry Ghost Festival Chinese Communities 17th August 15th September

Every year for a whole month, Chinese people believe that the ghosts of their ancestors descend to wander the earth

in search of food! Although you may not actually bump into one of the ghosts, you will encounter the festival alive and well in Chinese communities all across South East Asia. For example, in Malaysia’s Penang, you will see offerings left outside temples and houses to appease the hungry ghosts, as Chinese people believe that their ancestors can bring them good luck. There are also Chinese Opera performances and puppet shows taking place in lively Chinatowns everywhere.

Taung Byone Nat Festival Taung Byone Village near Mandalay, Burma/Myanmar 25th August1st September This festival is the major gathering spot for spiritual mediums (Nat-Kadaw). which attracts thousands of pilgrims every year to Taung Byone. Here stand the statues of two brothers, who died mysteriously after forgetting to provide two bricks to a shrine known as the ‘Pagoda of Wishes’. It’s the most impressive Nat (spirit) Festival in Myanmar. Offerings and dances, the inflow of merchants, the constant arrival of pilgrims and the intensive use of loudspeakers continue day and night.


The Duke & Duchess

The Sunrise

The Classic

The Glampacker

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the best packed “The grandest and one of country” shows ever staged in the (The New Strait Times) “Truly, the Rainforest World Music Festival has the most extraordinary setting I’ve ever seen for a music event, ringed as it is by dense forest and dramatically high and ragged mountains. There is no better backdrop for performance stages.” (Gerald Seligman, General Director of World Music Expo - WOMEX).

T S E R O F RAIN FESTIVAL

SIC U M D L R O W What are you doing this July? We’ve heard rumours that the only place to be will be deep in the heart of the Borneo jungle. You probably already know that this is a place filled with exotic mystery and the thrill of adventure; it’s the land of ancient virgin rainforests that house the world’s richest and most diverse ecosystem, including hornbills, orangutans and the fabled white Rajahs. It’s also home to 27 ethnic groups with their own distinct languages, culture and lifestyles, all renowned for their utmost warmth and hospitality. What you might not know, however, is that between the 13th and 15th July, one of the mothers of all global music festivals (voted one of the top 25 in the world by music mag Songlines for the third year running!), will be taking precedence here for a three day meltdown of music, culture, diversity, creativity, talent, spellbinding performances, daytime music workshops and of course, action-packed nightly shows. “Selamat Datang” (“Welcome!”), we’ve been bidden - not that the S.E.A Backpacker team need much persuading. And by the sounds of it, nor do the myriad of music-lovers who make this their annual pilgrimage. Since its launch 15 years ago, thousands of people from all over the world have descended upon this rather mindbogglingly marvellous musical extravaganza, where, under the imposing grandeur of Mount Santubong, and in the midst of the lush greenery of this mythical rainforest at the edge of the South China Sea, they’re brought the crème de la crème of world musicians from all continents, as well as indigenous musicians from the interiors of Borneo that will, we’re told, quite simply blow your mind… What to expect? Well, to name just a few, there’ll be instruments of bamboo, and gongs of all sizes; sitars, tablas, and dhol drums with Malaysian flavours. Then there’ll be lovely ladies on fiery fiddles, throat singers from Mongolia, French chansons

SARAWAK, BORNEO 13-15 July 2012 www.rwmf.net

and gypsy music, balafon and talking drums that mingle with ancient stringed instruments, traditional music from the Brazilian Amazonians, slave chants in Creole accompanied by the oh-soexotic sounding kayanm, bob and rouler (music which evokes welling emotion, spiritual intensity and ecstatic rhythmic trance) – and of course, the music from Sarawak’s very own traditional Sape, the boat-shaped lute that’s become the symbol for the festival itself. In a nutshell, music from all over the globe that will have you in some kind of lucid (we hope!) rapture. But keep some energy for the Kanda Bongo Man and his Kwasa Kwasa dance, won’t you? As the famous saying goes – “If Kanda Bongo Man doesn’t make you want to dance, call an ambulance. You’re dead.” Kicking off at 2pm every day with informative workshops, ethnomusical lectures, jamming sessions and mini-concerts that allow festival-goers to interact with the musicians up close and personal, you’ll be moved through beats and rhythms that’ll culminate each night in a five-hour concert line-up on the main stage next to the lake, under the open sky. Lay on the grass, dance till you’re done… but don’t worry if your feet won’t stop moving, because after midnight there’ll be those all-requisite ‘after-party’ vibes over at the Tree Stage. And we don’t want to give anything away – but, please… stay ‘til the end, even if you think you might need a helicopter pick-up – or at the very least, a stretcher. Because the finale will be grand. Very grand. Think all the performers onstage playing as one. Think trancing out in the jungle. Think celebrating and uniting with kindred spirits from all around the world. One more word. Unmissable.

Tickets available at: www.rwmf.net

* * *

3-day pass: RM 300.00 – advance bookings only online. 3-day ticket passes will NOT be available for sale on the door. 1-day pass (13/14/15 July) – RM 110.00 – advance bookings available online. Limited tickets will also be available on the door.

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PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITION! VER O C T N O R F e k a m to o h p r u Could yo of our magazine?

YOU CAN WIN! An Exclusive S.E.A Backpacker Travel Photography Course As travel writers and photographers, we know that there’s no better feeling than the day you get a magazine in the mail and see your work plastered all over it. That’s why we’re giving everyone the chance to see their work in print - AND on the front cover of South East Asia Backpacker Magazine, no less! In an exciting partnership with Flash Light Photography Expeditions, the winner of this competition will also get a space on one of their greatly anticipated Thailand photography expeditions. The lucky winner will get to join professional photojournalists Dylan Goldby and Flash Parker as they guide you across white sand beaches, over legendary karst peaks and into the heart of ancient Thai culture.

HOW TO ENTER: Email your winning photo to: info@southeastasiabackpacker.com The chosen shot will appear on the front cover of our Nov/Dec 2012 (Issue #21). The talented winner will be announced in an exciting unveiling on 1st November! DEADLINE for entrants: 30th September.

But if you’re not the winner, don’t despair! The tours are open to everyone who wants to see South East Asia through the camera lens. Participants can choose to attend for either a day, or the whole trip. There are two tours to choose from; Thailand’s capital of culture, Chiang Mai, from 27th - 29th November, 2012 or an island adventure in Koh Phi Phi, from 2nd - 5th December. Between stratospheric adventures, culinary swashbuckling and capturing the decisive moment, your guides will provide critique sessions and seminars that will help you get the most from your equipment, and your natural talents, day in and day out. When you finally pack your bags for that long voyage home, you will be carrying with you a portfolio of remarkable images, the ultimate representation of all the mystery and splendour of remarkable Thailand.

What are you waiting for? Join Flash Light Expeditions for one (or both) of the incredible Thailand expeditions this year. Get out there, get shooting, and get ready to share your images with us – we want the world to see what you can do!

For more information check out: www.southeastasiabackpacker.com/activities/photography 42


FEATURE

CAMBODIA: The spirit of a nation

C C

ambodia has rattled me to my core - in a way that leaves me eager to return. I had heard stories, read books, been told of the intense beauty of the country. But nothing would fully register until my own senses were set loose. As I travel along the two and a half hour red, dirt road, I see things not only in the ‘here and now’, but I also imagine them as they were 30 years before. From 1975-1979, the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in a war so horrific, I don’t have the words, or the understanding, to do a description justice. As I wander around S-21 Tuol Sleng in Phnom Phen, I look, in horror, at the evidence of a school-turned-torture-prison. Instead of desks, there are metal bed frames used to bind, torture, and kill people the Khmer Rouge saw as a threat. The children here were only learning how to survive another minute, another hour, another day. Learning what it felt like to be tortured, to starve, to be ripped away from their families.

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I step into one of the make-shift cells and imagine what it must have felt like three decades before. The freshness of it all sends chills down my back. At a time when my own big brother was being conceived, someone else’s was being tortured. I blink away a tear and continue wandering. I overhear tour guides giving their personal story. All are young and all have a story of pain and loss that has been brutally set by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Inside these walls, the memories are impossible to escape, but outside is a country that continues to fight, to hope, to yearn for a better tomorrow. It would be understandable if they remained broken, but their spirit is so uplifting, it not only carries them, it carries heavy-hearted travellers; as if they are telling the world that they have survived and that they will survive. As I stroll around the ruins of the Angkor temples, I’m overcome with emotion. The energy it brings me will be hard to beat and the


By Janelle Crowley

peacefulness fuels my ever increasing Buddhist curiosity. The pride the country has for these old sites pours out of every root-entangled inch, out of every ancient carving, out of every bullet-littered lion guardian. The increasing number of tourists is a reminder that the persistent hopefulness of a wounded nation is paying off: the Angkorian Temples are their pride and joy and the world pays homage. Each of the temples is beautiful in its own right, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the sites that have been overtaken by nature that leave me awestruck. Massive tree roots are so intertwined with the ruins that my mind cannot piece together the when or how. They wrap their finger-like branches deeply, tightly, into every crevice, as if they are clinging to hope whilst simultaneously suffocating a dark past. Rural Cambodia passes me by and the scenes that unfold evoke childhood memories of my family camping trips. Half-clothed children,

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permanently stained a reddish-brown from the inescapable dusty, dirt roads, go about their daily activities. Some run back and forth to the water pumps. Some bend over small fires, blowing encouragement to the flames. Some hang clothes on the lines and others gather wood. I remember how I felt on my family camping trips - how excited I was when I successfully hung a make-shift clothes line, or gathered the perfect firewood - how much I loved staying dirty and running around in my little-girl underwear. The memories bring a smile to my face, but when I bring myself back to reality, I remember that this is no camping trip, no weekend of roughing it for these families. This is life. I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t help but wonder what darkness lies in their hearts. Did they too lose loved ones? Did someone in their family sacrifice so they could live? Although the reality to these questions continues to break my heart, I am grateful that the people here so openly welcomed me into their Kingdom, into their painful past, and invited me to hope with them for a much brighter future.

Janelle Crowley, a 29-year-old First Grade teacher and backpacker, is determined to find a balance between settling down and experiencing the world! She moved from Florida, USA four years ago and has been teaching and travelling ever since. Her blog â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Crazy, Beautiful, Lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; is at: www.janellecrowley.blogspot.com

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GAMES

Something to keep you busy on all those long bus journeys! Answers on page 70. Across

CROSSWORD: 1

2

3

6

7

18

19

8

4 8

9

11

14

5

10

12

13

15

17

16

20 24

21

22

23

25

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

1. Urges 2. Church feature 3. Show boredom 5. Fought in a disorderly way 6. Immediate 7. High regard 8. Eagle’s nest 13. Fill with wonder 15. Cause suffering to 17. Initiate for discussion 18. Willow 19. Ornamental band 22. Layers 23. Let it stand

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

SUDOKU:

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

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S.E.A TRIVIA: 1. What collective name was given to the refugees from Vietnam? a) The Boat People b)The Migrators c) The Hat People 2. In what year did Burma officially change its name to Myanmar? a) 1989 b) 1999 c) 2009 3. Cambodia’s national animal is called the Koupray (pronounced “ko-prah”) but, what is it? a) A type of bird with a puffed, red chest b) A type of ox with long, curled horns c) A type of speckled sea turtle

Wendy House Grande Ville Hotel Bangkok Siam Guest House Pannee house New Joe Guesthouse New World City Vieng Tai Hotel

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1. Country 4. Yearn for 9. Place to walk 10. Overturn 11. Songbird 12. Aggravate 13. The night before 14. Precipitation 16. Consumes 18. Out of date 20. Improve by alteration 21. Celebrity 24. Bring into agreement 25. Drastic 26. Milliner 27. One of the senses

Down

www.wendyguesthouse.com www.grandevillehotel.com www.newsiam.net www.panneehouse.com www.newjoe.com www.newworldlodge.com www.viengtai.co.th

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


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OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

U zbek i stan C o u c h s u r f i n g a wa r z o n e

Despite being the most popular destination for backpackers, Asia is still crammed with hidden gems that can offer us more of that elusive ‘off-the-beaten track’ experience. Still, if you happen to be travelling overland from Australia to Germany, then you’re definitely going to get more of those than the rest of us! In one of their latest blog excerpts, Sina and Tom (founders of Travel4more.org) give us the lowdown on their arrival in one of the least visited countries on the planet...

By Thomas Hardaker and Sina Brunner

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T T

he only customs forms available were in Uzbek, the disorderly queue stretched to the door, it would have seemed terrifying if we had not just come from Kyrgyzstani border hell. Luckily we are helped by the same guy who was shouting “motherf***er!” at the police outside. Hurriedly, he fills in our forms while wheeling off the usual list of Premier League football teams.

Interrogation school We are pushed to the front of the queue and submit our forms. One cursory glance later and we are through to an examination table. A young woman asks us if we have reading and writing materials or foreign currency, to which we sheepishly shake our heads. She wants to see our camera and starts flicking through the pictures. “Who is this?!” she asks looking at a picture of two travellers from Turkey and Israel. “We met them in China.” – “Where are they now?” – “I don`t know; we stayed in the same hotel and hung out for a few days.” A blurry, aimless photo provokes a mixture of suspicion and photographic criticism: “What is this?!”- “Admittedly not all our pictures are Pulitzers. I can delete it.” After five minutes skipping through landscapes of Kyrgyzstan and 500 pictures of deserted Western China, the officer realizes that there are more than 1,500 photos and adjourns camera club. Her attention now shifts to the backpacks, which are unceremoniously emptied. Particular attention is paid to our medical bag (the biggest in the known universe, we have no idea what’s in it and have to call our nurse friend when we want to use anything), enquiring as to each individual pill, 10 minutes of pointing to arse and head alternatively marks the end of pharmaceutical class. Next: Literature, after finding pencils and plain writing books she gives a confused look: “What are those for?!” – “We give them to poor children along the way.” A surprised expression and a smile flashes across her tough face and the search ends immediately. “Welcome to Uzbekistan”! Luckily for us the $2,000 of foreign currency, numerous books and notepads we are supposed to declare are in one bag which is conveniently placed right in front of the desk and escapes a search. These questions as to books and writing materials were expected, yet still have an impact upon us. It brings home the type of country we are entering; a totalitarian police state with a human rights record that includes mass murder, torture, unfair trial, kidnapping, involuntary sterilisation and lack of religious and associational freedoms.

A high price for independence Uzbekistan, a country of 28 million people, was granted independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The initial reaction to freedom was rampant inflation (1000% per year), which, although finally controlled, leaves a paper legacy, making us feel like drug dealers when handing over fists full of money for the smallest things. It is the most landlocked country on earth, as each of its bordering countries are also land-locked and all are ‘stans; Kazakhstan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south. Uzbekistan’s economy relies mainly on commodity production, including cotton, gold, uranium, potassium, and natural gas. The Russians adopted a cotton producing monoculture in some regions, redirecting the Aral Sea to irrigate the land, causing a natural disaster and leaving the Uzbek economy painfully undiversified. There are apparently still ‘cotton picking’ days in Uzbekistan, on which occasion EVERYONE is forced go out into

the fields to help with the harvest. Unfortunately, slave labour is just one aspect of the abuses suffered by the Uzbek people.

Government wrongs: human rights Although not quite the worst of the ‘stans in terms of its governmental set-up (Turkmenistan is a Central Asian North Korea) President Islam Karimov has driven the country in a direction that has perpetuated his party’s growth in power and disabled any opposition. 2004 saw a spate of terrorist attacks, against Government officials and US and Israeli embassies. Factions of Islamic terrorist movements took responsibility for the deaths (mostly policemen were killed). These attacks formed the basis for a further curtailing of basic human rights and the events of Andijon in 2005 are the most potent example of this. The city of Andijon seemed a quiet, relatively prosperous town when we passed through on our first day in the country, disguising recent troubles. On 12th and 13th May 2005, protests in the city were responded to with deadly force. Uzbek government figures estimate that 187 people, made up of 94 terrorists, 60 civilians and 31 policemen were killed, while 76 terrorists were injured. Human Rights Groups estimate that 700 civilians were murdered in the street throughout those two days. The government has also stringently reigned in media freedom in a move reminiscent to its old soviet days. A BBC journalist was refused entry to Tashkent, and foreign NGOs such as Freedom House soon succumbed to increased pressure to leave. Internet is not as restricted as in China or Iran, but certain news outlets viewed as critical are inaccessible. The most striking admission of its police state status is, obviously enough, the police on the streets. The capital, Tashkent, has by far the most police of any place we have been to. Each subway station has an army of them, every junction is manned and if you are a couchsurfing traveller, you’d better watch out. As part of government security procedures, tourists are required to register in a licenced hotel for every night they stay in the country. There is a little leeway, but in practice the fewer registration slips you have, the more expensive your bribe is going to be when examined on the street or at the border. As couchsurfing hosts cannot legitimately provide registration, a certain amount of living on the edge is essential. All this really means is that the subway is off limits and we must cross the street whenever we spot an enormously bored, potentially enterprising constable. In Tashkent, going out of the hotel or hosts’ houses at nighttime is not advised, but no problem, the really interesting part of city dwells within the crumbling walls of the ex-soviet apartment building we call home for a few nights…

At home with the Uzbeks As we climb the unguarded concrete staircase to the fourth floor, locals pass us with raised eyebrows, silently suggesting that we must be lost. We take a left down a balcony overlooking the periphery wastelands of the city, counting the battered doors as we pass. Our destination looms and excitement builds as we ponder the scene that lies within. The door is ajar and through the illuminated gap, we make out a young brown eye looking up at us. “Hello,” we say, and with an awkward jolt the door opens to reveal a small boy. Extending his hand he greets us in perfect English and asks us to come in with accustomed ease. The hallway is bare and separated from a further room by a small double door where a curtain is draped to conceal a view in. We push back the cloth and step into the living room, a few metres square with blue, worn couches surrounding a simple coffee table and a large old PC in the corner. To our immediate right is a huge, three-

51


tiered, teak stained bunk bed complete with two French travellers. The mother now appears from a small kitchen and welcomes us warmly with tired eyes, again in perfect English. We take a seat and talk to the children while she prepares dinner. The father, our initial contact, is busy working his second job in an internet café across the street. We are extremely humbled by the generosity of these people to whom we are strangers. It is obvious that money is tight and that a flow of travellers constant enough to justify bunk beds in the living room is a strain to bear. Our nights here are spent talking English and watching movies with the children, seizing opportunities to help out in the house and inquiring as to why they participate in couchsurfing. “When I was in Austria I surfed for three months. I think I surfed every single couch in Vienna” explained our host, a hardworking, mechanical engineer. “I now have to give that hospitality back.” We were intrigued by the family and Uzbek family life generally. The hob in the kitchen is constantly lit because the matches to light it are more expensive than the free gas. The children go to school at 12 in the afternoon to allow teachers to work back to back shifts, teaching the first group from 7am to 12pm. The mother of the family was educated and worked at the university, which we understood to be an allowance not usually afforded to married women in Uzbekistan.

The war of the visas Although our surfing experience is priceless, our stay in Tashkent also has a strategic purpose, it is a battle arena in the war of the visas. The Iranian embassy in Beijing had been a massive waste of time and our decision to abandon hope had placed all our visa eggs in the Uzbekistan basket. We need an Iranian visa in order to collect a Turkmenistan transit visa. However, to obtain Turkmen permission to pass, it can take weeks, and due to Uzbek visa restrictions, it’s time we don’t have…

Battle one: Iran

UNESCO World Heritage Site, with good reason.

Our application numbers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have finally arrived, and as we speak to the embassy staff member behind the glass, we can feel an unusual air of congeniality that encourages and terrifies us simultaneously. Our hopes are reinforced by the appearance of a very friendly Consulate, who assures us that there will be no problem as he hands us application forms half the size of those tangled with in Beijing. Fingerprints (essential for a British application because the British require fingerprints of Iranian applicants), are taken on the spot, using what seems to be the back of a cigarette packet. One small problem remains, however, the computer that prints the visas isn’t working but this may be resolved next week… We take off to breath-taking Samarkand and Bukhara – ancient, culturally-rich cities along the Silk Road, while our passports are processed. Easy-peasy. Travel4more - 1

Visas - 0.

Samarkand is the first stop on our ‘cultural’ tour of Uzbekistan. Founded in the 5th Century it has held the title of one of the great cities of Central Asia for centuries, due to its position at the crossroads of India, China and Persia. It served as a major stop on the Silk Road from the 6th to the 13th Centuries before Chinggis Khan arrived in 1220 and destroyed it. Alexander the Great conquered the city in 329 B.C. and was quoted as saying, “Everything I have heard about Marakanda is true, except that it is more beautiful than I ever imagined.” We agree. Bukhara had been a Persian capital since around the 6th century. It was an historic Persian centre of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion, and was the intellectual centre of the Islamic world. It was incredibly wealthy thanks to trade; evidence of this is provided by the find of the largest gold coin ever minted (169 grams!). It is now a

52

Battle two: Turkmenistan There are few countries stranger than this despotic, dystopian, gas desert and its embassies like to export a little of that home-baked madness to the countries they make base in. A 5:30am visit gets us on the appointment list for the two hour opening slot. However, when we return at 11:00am they decide to scrap the list and go with a novel, yet highly technical ‘shout loudest at the gate’ roll call system. We finally get in and apply for transit visas, but they cannot give us any collection date and predict at least two weeks, probably three. No ground lost, but none gained, the score stands the same: Travel4more - 1

Visas - 0.

Battle three: Uzbekistan extension “Go to the Immigration Office at the Airport, one week exit extensions are processed on the spot”, said the Lonely Planet, coaxing us into a false sense of security. 16 hours, four meetings with senior officials and five taxi rides later we are without extensions and assured of the impossibility of attaining them. This singularly destroys any hope we have of completing our journey to Germany overland as we must now exit Uzbekistan in two days, forfeiting the Turkmen visa we are supposed to be waiting for. Travel4more - 1

Visas – 2. We lose.

Other options to navigate around Turkmenistan had been considered over the last few weeks, but all presented insurmountable difficulty: Afghanistan has Taliban checkpoints on the road we need to use; we contact an Afghan tour operator, just to make sure that there is really no possibility: “Due to security reasons, we do not operate at all in this area.”


Kazakhstan, ‘greatest country on earth’ - although a visa should be easy to get in Tashkent, an overland route back entails onward travel through Russia which isn’t possible in our time frame (Russian visa requires Letter of Invitation, etc.); a ferry to Azerbaijan and onward to Iran would be possible (although it doesn’t run regularly); however, new visa regulations force Germans to apply in their home country, our final destination. Our only option now is a flight out to Tehran, Iran. Disheartened and sour from the taste of defeat, we make the call to Iran Air that seals our fate and failure. However, after a less emotional reconsideration of our position in the departure lounge, we realise that not all is lost. We are placated by the fact that we had tried everything in our power to get the extension we needed and excited by the prospect of our next destination... ...the paradox that is Iran. ABOUT THE WRITERS: TRAVEL4MORE.ORG: At travel4more.org we believe that travelling can change the world for the better. To test our theory we decided to raise money for just-one.org a grass roots NGO operating in Kathmandu, Nepal, providing improved access to educational opportunities for disadvantaged children who are otherwise denied such benefits. The vast majority of their work involves rehabilitating the street children of Thamel, the tourist district of the Kathmandu valley. Here begging children are supported by the misguided generosity of tourists who give these children a reason to be on the streets and out of school… Find out more about just-one.org and responsible tourism at: Travel4more.org.

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TRAVELLER STORIES

Man vs Coconut: What are the chances of surviving a coconut to the head? If you have spent any time travelling around Thailand, you will have heard the cracking thud of a coconut as it falls from a tree and hits the ground. The average coconut, weighing approximately nine pounds (imagine an average-sized bowling ball), can fall with an impact velocity of 50 miles per hour and exert a striking force of more than a tonne. This is certainly enough to send shivers down your spine... and in my case, it literally did! It was a hot and sunny day on Koh Tao, another perfect day in paradise. At this time I was a struggling dive instructor, spending most of my time lying by the pool enjoying refreshing lemon shakes, waiting for work to come my way. On this particular day, it was extremely hot, so I decided to drive my motorbike to the south of the island to cool me down. With sun screen applied and sunglasses on (more than enough protection for a leisurely drive), I set off. I cherished the brief 10 minutes of feeling the breeze against my skin, as I cruised down the one main road from north to south. Before I knew it, I was in Chalok Baan Kao, a breathtakingly beautiful small town in the south of the island. Driving along without a care in the world looking for the perfect place to stop, I felt a sudden bang on my head! In a daze, I somehow managed to stop my bike, put the kick stand down, fall off gracefully, and collapse by the side of the road. After several minutes of watching the sky swirl and blur above me, my vision returned, along with the rest of my senses, and a headache unlike anything I’d felt before. I turned my head tentatively and that’s when I knew what had happened... I was head-to-head with a large ripe green coconut. This particular coconut had launched itself from the tree at the precise moment I was driving towards it, and then all I remember is the sound of the cracking thud as it hit my head. I’ve often thought people who sleep under coconut trees might

bring it on themselves... but what did I do to deserve such an attack?! Later that day, after a dip in the pool and a couple of lemon shakes, I felt fine. It wasn’t until the next day that people strongly suggested I should get my head checked out in the hospital. Koh Tao only has a few small medical clinics, so I caught the next boat to Koh Samui and went straight to the Bangkok International Hospital (yes, still on Samui). As far as hospitals go, this is a beautiful big building with all the up-todate facilities of a western hospital. The doctor recommended I had a CT scan and also informed me I was only the second person to come in to the hospital in four years with a coconut injury to the head. I couldn’t help but feel quite ‘special’! He showed me the CT scan, and I noticed several weird looking black patches, so I asked him what they were. He scratched his head, paused for a minute and said “nothing to worry about”. Mmmh. Since that day I have always held onto a healthy fear of coconut trees (and doctors). This is not to say I wake up in cold sweats in the middle of the night shouting “No! Coconut, No!”, but now I know that ‘it can happen’, I tend to steer clear of the trees. FACT: 150 people are killed by falling coconuts each year (and I was very nearly one of them!).

By Dave Doyle Co-Owner Roctopus Dive

Calling all budding tr

avel writers!

S.E.A Backpacker Ma ga right now. It’s our aim zine is written by travellers passing throu gh to contributing every mo have fresh new writers with new experiences South East Asia nth. and viewpoints If yo u fancy your hand Please send any articl at a spot of travel writing, we would love to es, storie hear fro info@ southeastasiabackpackes, book reviews or any random scribbling yo m you! u like to r.com If pos sible try to include to you right away with photos with articles you submit. We’ll get ba news of whether your ck words will be appearing in the ne

Thanks for your suppo

xt issue.

rt and Happy Travellin

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TWO MINUTES with a Backpacker: Interview by Donna Jackson

We’re complicated souls, us backpackers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a lot out about a fellow traveller in just two minutes... and we promise not to ask the mandatory where are you from / how long have you been travelling for questions that drive long-term backpackers insane!

Name: Mahri Stewart Age: 23 Flip Flop Count: 13 or 14 so far... Sunglasses Count: Seven Three Favourite Memories:

1. Camping on Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi, where The Beach was filmed. 2. My 23rd birthday in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. We went to Snake house for dinner (snakes are in the tables!), I got spoilt by my travel buddies, we went on a booze cruise and had a brilliant night dancing. 3. Mahout training at Rantong Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai.

Most Embarrassing Moment:

After a night out, I was exchanging numbers with a guy when, without warning, he wet himself. Neither of us acknowleged this, he finished putting his number in my phone and quietly walked away.

Book You’d Recommend:

The Beach by Alex Garland of course!

Something I’ve Learnt About Myself:

I can be very tolerant in unexpected situations.

Any Injuries?

Although discovering I can do perfect backflips, on attempting a front flip, I landed on my eyes (yes, this is possible).

Low Point:

Genuinely fearing for our lives on Koh Phi Phi after being warned of the potential tsunami and racing up to the viewpoint for safety.

Future Plans:

I fly to South Korea shortly, then onto China and New Zealand where I’ll be spending a year. After that, who knows…

One Thing I’ll Miss / Won’t Miss About S.E. Asia:

Meeting people with the same attitudes and of course, my travel buddies / constant perspiration.

One Tip for Fellow Travellers:

Don’t pack too much (15 pairs of knickers is too many).

Sum up your trip in one sentence:

An amazing experience I’d repeat without changing a thing.

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Interview by Karen Farini

FACES & PLACES

T T

hirty year old Kimmana Nichols, from Noosa, Australia, comes from a family of healers and consciously-minded people – his grandparents were doing yoga even before his parents were born! Having cotaught his first breath workshop to a group of more than 200 people at the tender age of five, he has since travelled all over the world, connecting with sought-after establishments and gifted healers. Now, he practises Ayurveda, an ancient holistic medicine, both at The Sanctuary on Koh Phangan, Thailand, and via his website www.kimmana.com, teaching both clients and practitioners how to access the healing wisdom they need and to unleash their own healing powers. Q: You’ve been interested in health ever since you were a young child. What, in your opinion, does it take to be healthy? A: Perfect Health is a very dynamic process with so many factors that can support or sabotage it. The most important factors would be to use all of your senses in wholesome ways, to love and enjoy your life, to know your individuality and to live a life of balance. Q: Quoting your website: “Many people underestimate the value of health and the happiness it provides until they don’t have it anymore.” Why do you think we do this? A: Human beings are often attracted to unhealthy behaviours because during their life they have been influenced by culture, friends and experience that has lead them to believe their present behavioural pattern will bring them more pleasure. It is only when behavioural

56

patterns consistently do not produce the pleasure we seek then we begin to question our lives and seek out new, healthier behavioural patterns. Q: Tell us about Ayurveda. What exactly is it? And what are the main principles? A: Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine that originates from the sub-continent of India and its main purpose is to teach us a life of individualised balance. “Ayur” means longevity, and “Veda” means knowledge, so it technically translates as “the knowledge of how to preserve life”. From this description we can see that it covers a vast area of holistic medicine, and its facets and specialties are numerous just like modern medicine. It is through these holistic systems that all of the areas of life can be easily understood, knowing even complex connections like individual sensitivity to emotions or weather patterns and how to balance them. The fundamental principle revolves around “like increases like”, so if we want more grounded stability in our life then we should surround ourselves with grounded people, eat grounding foods, do grounding exercise and think grounded thoughts. Q: Ayurveda traces its origins to the Vedas – the most ancient books of Indian knowledge and wisdom. Indian medicine itself has a long history – one of the oldest, organised systems of medicine that dates as far back as the 2nd millennium BC. Where do you think all their knowledge came from? A: Ayurvedic lessons about nature and medicine were first spread by ancient rishis (knowers) and sages who were able to tap into higher knowledge about nature. These early teachers dedicated their lives to rigorous spiritual techniques that helped their minds be pure enough to receive facts and truths about how humans and our environment


function. They collected this knowledge in writing, which became the Vedas (the oldest books we know of on the planet!). They include the wisdom of astrology, sound, music and medicine, in a coded language, so that only those motivated would understand. Many sections of this knowledge have been lost for thousands of years and we have only recently pieced it together in a way that can be spread to educate and empower the residents of this earth. Q: There does seem to be a hint of Buddhist influence in Ayurveda, too, with the concept of ‘balance’ emphasized. Does this mean we can still indulge now and then? A: It’s true that Ayurveda grew up amongst both Hinduism and Buddhism with some of the most famous ancient authors being devotees to these beliefs. This does not mean that Ayurveda is a strict system with no allowance for a good time. In fact many practitioners will encourage that you continue practices that are enjoyable to you, only that you be aware of how much long term benefit they give you and adjust accordingly if a practice such as drinking with friends is no longer giving you long term benefit. Q: I’ve read that Ayurveda is based upon the physics of the ‘five elements’ that compose the universe (including the human body), and that it also stresses a balance of three elemental energies, or doshas that must exist in equal quantities for the body to be healthy. Is this correct? Can you tell us more about this? A: Ayurveda uses systems such as the five elements (building blocks of life: ether / air / fire / water / earth), and three doshas (functional principles of reality: Vata / Pitta / Kapha) to diagnose individuality and balance in our environment. Although the balance between these elements can be used to assess the potential for disease before it manifests, they do not need to be in equal quantities to maintain health. Each individual may be expressing the more positive aspects of their individual balance of the elements, and as such not produce disease. It is only through accumulating an excess of improperly functioning dosha that a disease occurs. Q: What’s the Ayurvedic stance on food? Raw? Cooked? Vegan? Little and often? Can we eat meat? Should we steer clear of acidic foods? How, according to Ayurvedic tradition, can we eat well?

A: The fundamental principle from traditional Ayurveda is that everything can be used as medicine and it is just about knowing the time and place to apply the perfect balancing force. Therefore, Ayurvedic Nurition is very flexible and will use raw, cooked, vegan or meat depending on what balancing force is required. The best example of this is the acid and alkaline debate that is common amongst modern nutritionists. Although many will talk about the benefits and detoxifying effects of alkalising foods, not many talk about the nourishing and building effects of acid forming foods which are needed at certain times such as a cold and dry winter. Balanced Nutrition is quite a complex subject and the simplest rule is to eat locally, seasonally and without any processing so there is far less likelihood of aggravating your body. Q: What’s your view on fasting? (You do not advocate excess fasting, for example. Has this got something to do with the notion of keeping oneself in balance?) What exactly is a balanced diet? If we use the five element system of Ayurveda then fasting is a necessary building block of life in the category of the ‘ether’ element. The remaining four elements cover the other areas of necessary nutrition (such as ‘air’ being oxygen, ‘fire’ being spices and herbs, etc), and each should be applied in a manner that creates balance for the individual. For some, fasting may only be required between meals each day and at least four hours before bed, while for others, weeks of prescribed fasting may be perfectly balancing. Q: Digestion is an important topic in Ayurveda, isn’t it? A: The process of digestion is such an important topic in holistic medicine because it is one of the crossroad systems in the body where everything is coming in and out of the body. How we are digesting life defines whether we easily absorb what is beneficial from life then remove the waste products not needed. Great digestion means that even toxic substances can be made harmless, while poor digestion means that even beneficial foods can become poison. Q: More and more people are hearing about Ayurveda now. Do you think the practice of Ayurveda is starting to be taken more seriously worldwide? A: Ayurveda is a serious and ancient form of medicine - like Western

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medicine, which treats diseases and saves lives with complex pharmacy and surgery. The strenth of Western medecine lies in ‘emergency medicine’, because of the immediacy and intensity of the treatment. Ayurveda’s main strength is in treatment of chronic disease because it seeks the source of a problem to eliminate symptoms, not starting with the symptoms themselves. Treatment is subtle, with small doses over long periods. Both systems are great - it’s just knowing which to apply to the individual at the given time. Some people might find it easy to interpret the five elements system within Ayurveda as a religion. Connection with the elements unites us with our environment, with spirit and with all of creation. Ultimately Ayurveda honours the principle of individualism and connecting the individual with something larger than ourselves: the great mystery of nature. Q: You offer tips on how to live a healthy lifestyle – including adhering to a daily routine, not eating after dark, and going to bed by 9pm every night. Can you tell us more? And why are all these so important? A: There are some fundamental rules that apply to lifestyle medicine, which is one of the most important yet overlooked tools in the treatment of chronic disease. There are lifestyle choices, such as what we do and how we feel throughout the day, which have the most influence upon our health. Then there are the cycles of nature, which influence our digestive processes, sleep rhythms and daily routine. It is proven that the majority of people who live to be over 100 years old go to bed early, and get up early, following the rhythm of the day. Q: Is it really possible to use the fundamentals of Ayurveda as a lifestyle? If so, how rigidly do you stick to it? Have you ever indulged in a bucket of Sangsom? A: Well, although I’ve never tasted Sangsom, I am not a rigid crone

that clings to one belief system. I am a flexitarian in both diet and life, allowing each new day to guide me in the most beneficial choices. Some days there may be benefit from enjoying a cocktail with friends or eating that unbalancing meal because connecting with family is more balancing and important for pleasure and happiness. Q: What kind of problems do you see from your clients time and time again? What can you treat, and how do you treat them? With therapies/herbs? Do you also use prayer/meditation as well as physical techniques and products? A: The most common problems I treat seem to be digestive problems and allergies. I will treat these using a huge range of different modalities depending on the individual’s needs. These range from lifestyle medicine and coaching, dietary and herbal guidance, manual movement therapies like massage, yoga, steam and exercise, vibrational medicine technology and mental focus points that could be considered prayer or meditation. In addition, Ayurveda has been treating illnesses like cancer and heart disease for thousands of years. What we see today is an increase in these illnesses due to modern lifestyle influences like toxins and stress. Lifestyle is the most important factor in our health. It is how our bodies interact with and relate to our environment and our choices can either support or weaken our body’s natural healing capability. Q: There’ve been reports that some Ayurvedic products have not been tested in clinical trials and that scientific evidence for the benefits has not been proven. I’ve also read about the practice of adding metals, minerals or gems to herbs, which may also be the source of toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic. Is this true? A: There are more than a million different products and formulas that have been released in the thousands of years of practice, including an abundance of medicines that have been proven effective in modern clinical trials (and the number is always increasing). There are certain medicines that contain metals, minerals and gems, which are some of the most potent and effective medicines in the Ayurvedic pharmacy. It is unfortunate that they have been the subject of the most controversy because the west sees some of these substances as poisonous. To truly understand this process we can see similarities in Western medicine where certain substances that are known to be poisons in certain doses are still used because at a lower dose they give effective results. The metals used in Ayurveda have also been through a form of processing that makes them less harmful to the individual and more likely to perform its purposeful function in the body. I am still yet to see even one clinical trial that shows a properly made bhasma that contains mercury, that, when correctly prescribed, produces high levels of mercury in a human. I have seen many clinical trials showing the effectiveness of these medicines with blood tests showing that the rise of metals is minimal and creates positive bodily function. Q: Finally, what might we expect from a session with you? A: The first thing I will perform is extensive listening and questioning that leads to a clear understanding of what makes you an individual and why your condition has arisen. I then do testing with your iris or energy systems to back up my conclusions before beginning treatment. It is then through education and understanding of your condition and body type you gain more control, so I emphasise a lot of education and empowerment. I would then prescribe a multitude of different treatment possibilities that are results-driven and evidence-based. Over time, we would then work together to fine tune your treatment plan to make it realistic and achievable in your present lifestyle. You can read more about Ayurveda at: www.kimmana.com

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NEW!

: s t i a r t r o P Local

Witness the fruit dance If by chance you find yourself With a thirst for something healthy Don’t stand around… grab a stool Be poor or be you wealthy   For another show is being presented Watched by people in a trance They find their way here and stare in awe As they witness… the fruit dance   Her name is Tip she’s a single mum In exclusive hotels she learned her trade Now she works her 12 hour days Showing her skills to an endless parade   Be it banana, pineapple, papaya or mango The smoothies taste great indeed If hunger rumbles in your tummy Then fruit salad muesli will fill your need   If you enjoy… as we know you will And your experience… is fun Leave a generous tip for our friend Tip Both for her and her young son   By Jovo Cirkovic & Eileen Murphy, Australia January 2012-06-15 (Murfic Foundation, Helping Chiang Mai Orphans.)

This issue sees the birth of a new feature, ‘Local Portraits’. Our brand new section was the brainchild of Noah Willman, a 21-year-old professional portrait photographer from America. As he travels around South East Asia, he’ll capture the twinkling eyes and smiling faces of the people living in this incredible region and share their stories with us... So, meet Tip, master of fruit shakes and our first local celebrity! Smiling as she works every day you’ll find her at Sompet Market just round the corner from the S.E.A Backpacker office in Chiang Mai serving backpackers, locals and expats with exotic fruity goodness. Pop by to say hello and get your daily dose of Vitamin C for just 20 baht. Check out more of Noah’s photography at: www.willmanphotography.com or become a fan of Willman Photography on Facebook.

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FOOD

SILENT BONDS

w

W

e huddled in our camp, its timber structure shielded by the layers of bamboo leaves that our guide, Somchai, had slashed from the trees with his jungle knife. We watched as he wielded it again, more gently this time and with a more exacting focus as he prepared our dinner: a traditional Lao larb that sizzled on the fire. Larb (or laap) is the Laos national dish made with meat (that may be served cooked or raw), and tossed together with Thai Lao herbs, such as lemongrass, lime kaffir leaves from the dwarf kaffir citrus tree, galanga (a plant from the ginger family), fish sauce and mint. We were on a three-day trek in the forests of the Nam Tha NPA, Cyril and I, or Sourine, as he’d started to call himself. “It’s easier for people to say,” he told me, pouring shots from his flask. Since we were both having equal difficulty with Laotian names, due, I supposed, to the exhaustion of climbing (as well as, perhaps, the absinthe), Somchai had also been rechristened.

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“Hey, Sunshine. Come try one of these.” I gestured at Cyril, now cracking open a walnut. A French chef, he’d brought a big bag with him to introduce to the Akha tribe whose village we would stay at the next night. He didn’t want to just visit the tribe, he said, he wanted to reach them completely; make contact that was real, not one where he poked around in people’s houses, taking photos of their children. As dusk turned into night, the three of us ate our larb off banana leaves, picking at mountains of sticky white rice from the communal one in the middle. Since Cyril came from a country that reveres food with such passion, I could understand why he’d chosen this as his means to connect. But it was only on that following night, high up in the Akha village camp, that I truly recognised its power. As he sat on the ledge of our hosts’ stilted home, eating walnuts with the Chieftain, I perched on a stool in one of the rooms inside,


By Karen Farini

lit only by the fire that boiled the water, and the beam of the torch I held for Sunshine as a chicken he held bled quietly to its death. And, encouraged by the grandmother, I stayed to watch as he plucked it, opened up its abdomen, took out its entrails, then chopped up the meat. There wasn’t much of it - the chicken had been small - but soon it was all bubbling away in the pan, including the skin and bones that would make up the stock. Sunshine, I realized, was making us soup. I studied the process and noted the infusions: crushed garlic, coriander and chilli (plus the obligatory staples of fish sauce, mint leaves and lime). Our energies seemed to crackle in the silence. It occurred to me, then, that Cyril had been right: we all need contact, and we all need food. And it struck me, too – suddenly – just how easy it could be, through offering and sharing, to have both.

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ARTS

A Malaysian Youth

T T

hey are young, talented and open-minded, and they come from all over Malaysia.

I was hanging around Love Lane, looking for live music when I first met them. Love Lane is at the very heart of Georgetown - the old heritage area of Penang that’s classified by UNESCO. Aged between 16 and 23, they’d just arrived from Penang; guitars on their backs and smiles on their faces as they asked round all the bars if they’d let them play their music. Just a few hours later and they were playing at the Reggae Bar in Lebuh Chulia, on an improvised stage in the midst of all the tables. The one I noticed first that night was Andy, the oldest in the band, who plays guitar and sings like Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Amazing energy spills out from him effortlessly, whether he’s on stage or not. Despite this, my eyes are also drawn continuously to his beautiful girlfriend Hanem, an eighteen year-old Muslim girl, who plays the cymbals and whose hair is dreadlocked just like Andy’s. The first few times I speak to her, she smiles a lot, but is too shy to answer me in English, pinching her boyfriend to make him answer for her instead. The guy on the drums, as I later discover, is Ezwan. He’s also an accomplished guitarist and has a great voice to boot. When he’s not making music, he gets stuck into photography. He carries his camera everywhere he goes. There’s also a young couple accompanying them just for a few days during their school holidays. Calling themselves ‘The Republic of Sound’, they play a lot of covers. Andy and Ezwan also have their own band called ‘Smelly Shoes’, which to me sounds like it would be a lot grungier than the stuff I hear from them all together tonight. There’s a lot of The Beatles, of course, but every track gets delivered in their own particular style. They’re not often paid by the bars, which is why they go round the tables, asking for tips from the customers. Playing in the streets and in bars is how they get their money, so

they call themselves ‘buskers’ - though this is a very different kind of busking to the kind you might get elsewhere. They don’t just come and play in front of you whilst you’re eating on the street, only to stop and move on once you’ve given them some cash. These guys are in it for the love. They want to give you everything they’ve got. A few days later, and they’re already gone - headed for another city to play I-don’t-know-where, just going with the flow... I hope I’ll see them around again in a few years, still expressing the spirit of their nomadic lifestyle and ethos of Do It Yourself. I only ever heard them play a couple of times, but it was enough for me to be stunned by their fearless freedom: they dream, they want - so they do. It seems so easy for them, I think that’s so great.

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Casavilla Travellers Lodge The BEST Budget Hotel in the Heart of KL!

* 5 min to Ch ina Town * 5 min to Pu duraya Statio n * Rooms star t at RM 30! * Free WIFI, 24 hr reception

www.casavilla2u.com

No. 24, Jalan Pudu Lama, 50200, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Tel: +60 (0)3-2031-1971 / Email: casavillalodge@yahoo.com

AGOSTO INN

Brand new B&B in the heart of Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur

IRSIA B&B

Located behind Berjaya Times Square

*Free breakfast, *FreeteaandcoČ&#x201D;ee *Free cable TV + DVDs *Free luggage storage + laundry service *Free maps, travel info, airport + tours *Hot + cold shower Irsia B&B

Words & photos by Sophie of: http://lacomtesseauxpiedsnus.over-blog.com

Facebook: agosto inn agostoinn@yahoo.co.uk Tel: 603 2022 0796 177A, Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, 50000 K L

l.com ns@gmai eservatio irsiabnb.r 0 71 0 4 1237 KL A, 55100 Tel: +60 rong 1/77 No. 34, Lo

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NEW! GLOW, SUKHUMVIT

PARTY HOTSPOTS

B

B

angkok! It’s the gateway to Asia - the first place we touch down when we arrive and most likely, the last place before we go back home again. But how well do we know the party scene, really? Let’s face it, most of us only stick to the Khao San Road... Gullivers, Mulligans, The Reggae Bar, the gutter… Of course, there are some gems around and about the area, including Pranakorn Bar on 58/2 Soi Damnoen Klang Tai, a gallery-rooftop-bar with seductively low lighting and views of the Golden Mount. But if you don’t mind the shortest of tuk-tuk drives, there is so much more to experience (and no, we’re not just talking the red light district in Patpong)! So, if your stay in Bangkok is more than just a fleeting one and you are piqued by that desire to explore a little further… then please read on (and tell us what you think?). We compiled these hotspots for you…

Bed Supperclub

SAXAPHONE PUB

....

ME L L A C

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Hankering after some wicked tunes and a sweet vibe? Then look no further than Glow on Sukhumvit, Soi 23. It’s got a brilliant atmosphere, a seriously good soundsystem, plus a seemingly endless selection of top-notch drinks to help rid you of those inhibitions (in case neither those badass basslines nor the fact you’re in one of the most exciting cities in the world are enough!?). Each night of the week, there’s a different sound, so if you’re particular about your genres, then it’s worth checking to see what’s going on first. Many of the nights there are arranged by www.ubradio.net – an internet-based radio station in Bangkok that promotes the best of underground music, so whatever one you end up going to - be it hiphop, techno, house or drum ‘n’ bass, expect some seriously boshing underground beats, a wickedly deviant atmosphere and a load of happy people who are there to party hard! A man with more tips than a box of PGs (oh, tea, how I miss thee), Owen Haywood (of Fluid Bar, Vang Vieng fame!) tells us that coming soon in Soi 11 are two new clubs that offer the same underground vibe: Level, and Bash – so keep your eyes and ears open for those, because they sound like good ’uns! He also gives Q Bar (in the same area - Sukhumvit Soi 11) the thumbs-up for a good bassline-heavy club night out, as well as the very decadent Bed Supperclub (yes, it’s lined with wall-to-wall beds!). We particularly like the sound of Prosecco Sundays at Bed. But if it’s quality electronic music you’re after, then go on a Thursday and join the chic, dressed-up crowd getting properly buzzed up courtesy of the various international DJs taking on the guest spots every week.

Smile Inn

le Inn i m S t “A night a memories.” able A lifetime unforgett Tel.:+66(0)2 628 2323 www.smileinngroup.com

e-mail: info@smileinngroup.com 136-138 Damrong Rak Road, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok

Our last suggestion for a good clubnight is down the road in Thonglor (Soi 10), where you’ll find arty hipster fave Demo in a concrete Berlinstyle warehouse. Far more reminiscent of the clubscene in Europe (where underground parties in venues with glitterballs, lamps and carpets are generally frowned upon), here, treat yourself to an earful of Bangkok’s latest, most progressive (and experimental) dance music (usually house and minimal techno, for the aficionados amongst you). Of course, this is all assuming you’re actually a hardcore techno lover. Perhaps what you really like is a little bit of jazz... in which case, haul yourself over to Saxaphone in Victory Monument - a great jazz and blues pub that’s been swinging since 1987, open every day from 6pm till 2am (N.B. – Saturday’s particularly good for live bands). There’s also Tuba on Sukhumvit 63, which also doubles up as an antique shop during the day.

HI Mid Bangkok “A hostel you can believe in”

481/3, Rachawithi Rd., between Soi 6 and Soi 8, Victory Monument, Bangkok. www.midbangkok.com Tel: 662 644 5744 - Central location - Transportation hub - A great base for exploring the city

Pool parties: well, there are a fair few dotted round the city, including Aloft Bangkok on Sukhumvit 11 and AmBar on Sukhumvit 15. (In case it had escaped your attention, Sukhumvit is well renowned for its plethora of drinking, dining and clubbing, though most of them tend to attract more of a tourist/expat crowd, in particular Cheap Charlie’s. Described as ‘matey, beery and grungy’, this is the dive bar that puts the ‘X in expat’. Talking of X - we love the sound of Telephone Pub in the gay district of Silom Soi 4. It’s hardly the latest new trend on the soi (it’s been there for 22 years), but hell it sounds like a laugh! Yes, there are telephones! Yes, you can call up people on the next table! Yes, it’s welcoming to all – regardless of your sexual orientation! Finally, we must give a mention to all the seriously cool places in town. Apparently, 10 new wine bars opened in Bangkok in the last two months alone… our pick of the moment? Try diVino on Sukhumvit 55. Founded last year, it’s got over 300 wines on the list. Typical of Italy, you even get complimentary aperitivos with every glass. Bellisimo! With regards to the rooftops, of course we’re not discounting the famous Skybar and certainly not Vertigo and Moonbar at the Banyan Tree Hotel. However, the three that get our votes this time are Mojo (Thonglor: 10-19 Sukhumvit Soi 33), The Nest (above Le Fenix Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 11), and Long Table, Sukhumvit (Asok) - all with great views, great cocktails, great food and house beats all night long…

HI Sukhumvit “Not just a hostel but a home”

23 Sukhumvit, Soi 38, Bangkok. Tel: 662 391 9338 www.hisukhumvit.com

- BT S: Thong Lo Station

So there you have it. Or, rather you don’t. Frustratingly, this list barely skims the surface of what’s on offer in one of Asia’a most happening capitals - but we’ve run out of page space, and anyway, aren’t you thirsty yet? More importantly, are you THERE? If so, get yourself ready and get the hell out… The city awaits.

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NEW!

AnNabelle

Something to declare:

W W

ell, everybody… the lady has landed! I arrived in Thailand yesterday… finally, after months and months of thinking and dreaming and wondering when the hell I was ever going to break free from the confines of everyday life - honestly, that place was driving me nuts, and not just my hometown… oh no – make that the whole of the fricken UK - Europe, even. Actually, let’s go the whole hog and be pretentious: Western society was dragging me down. You know what I mean? Grey skies. Boring routines. The humdrum, monotony, my existential angst. I won’t lie to you, by the end, that’d got pretty bad. All of a sudden, it was like I’d stopped seeing the point: of doing things, saying things, of… well. Things in general. Some mornings, when I opened my eyes, I didn’t even want to get out of bed (particularly since I wasn’t always sure where it was). But anyway. That’s all in the past; a closed chapter - why am I even talking about it? Now I’m a backpacker, I’ve decided I’m going to try being a bit more hippified, which was, in fact, one of the resolutions I made up on the plane (along with trying to find out the sexual orientation of one of the stewards without being too in-his-face about it).

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Now, what I like about them (NB: backpackers, not air stewards) is the way they take things as they come (hmm, definitely not air stewards). See, backpackers don’t really think much about what happened last week, or even tend to plan for the next one - which is exactly why I think I’ll make a good one. For one, last week is over. It’s the past - and I never dwell on the past. I never get upset, say, every time I lose my purse/keys/bankcard/phone - and to the ex who implied that this was because I’d got so used to it, here’s my very own special impression of a gekko: Fuck You! Fuck You! Yep - they’re well chilled, backpackers. Easy… no, not like that! Although come to think of it, if they really do take this whole ‘living-in-the-moment’ thing as seriously as I think they do, then the vast majority must be, mustn’t they? God, I should have come away sooner. The other thing: I just abhor planning. Every time someone back home tried to ‘pencil me in’ for a ‘catch-up’ three weeks from Tuesday, I always found it such a struggle – you know, to find enthusiasm/my diary/an arrangement of my facial features that didn’t suggest I might be on the verge of bringing my chicken avocado sandwich from Pret back up all over my desk.


Seriously, though - how puke-inducing?! And what about those Planned Nights Out?! I mean, how can you plan to have fun? Look, I did used to try fitting in to such societal pressures and having a go at it myself now and then, but it just never seemed to work. My last attempt was in November last year, when I said to my mate Jay in the Dog and Duck one night: “When Colin Purchase comes back to London, let’s all of us go out on a mad one!” Top marks for effort, right? Well, that’s what I thought, too, but you know what I got for it? A feeble “Well, ok then” – on top of which was dumped the insultingly steaming turd of: “can you not do what you always do, then, please – organising the first big night for us all in ages because you’ve been feeling too Zen, then randomly going out the night before and getting completely wasted?” Honestly. Some people just don’t get it. Anyway, I suppose I did say I wasn’t going to dwell on the past. Let’s focus on right now, then, shall we? Right, ok, so… at this very moment, I’m in Bangkok, and I’m leaning out the window of my room on the top floor of this hostel on the Khao San Road, looking at all the lights and colours and crowds far below. It’s crazy! Music blaring, horns a-beeping and how many cheap clothes stalls are there? Shouldn’t have bothered buying all that American Apparel – I don’t even know what cost more now, either, the actual clothes themselves or the fee for excess baggage. My All Saints walking boots weigh a tonne; I also went and squeezed my massive peeptoe denim wedges in as well, didn’t I? - and now I’m actually here, all I can think is: well, when am I going to wear them? Everyone (and I mean everyone, apart from the odd ladyboy) I’ve seen so far is wearing flip-flops, though judging by how many of them are lying on beds right in the middle of the street having their feet massaged, you’d swear they’d been clod all day in 6-inch Manolo Blahniks.

Yeah, you read that right, by the way! Foot massages on the street! I think I might go down and get one of those for myself in a minute, perhaps whilst scoffing a large pad thai from one of the street vendors with one hand and making croaking noises with one of those wooden frogs you can buy with the other. I say ‘in a minute’, but I’ll be honest with you: I’ve been quite content right here for the past hour. I know I’m probably still a bit jetlagged and overwhelmed (and actually, a little tipsy), but ever since I got here yesterday, I’ve found it hard to leave this towering spot, looking down from the dizzying heights of my new-found liberty. There’s definitely a lot to take in, though not as much as some girls here do, I’ll give them that. I went to this show last night in this area called Patpong. All I can say is don’t sit at the bar unless you want to join in with a bat! (Oh yes, I knew I’d love it in Asia!) I turn, suddenly and look back into my room via the other window. All I see inside is the outside world reflected. It feels like I’m standing on a ledge; and that I could fall off at any moment. It gives me a powerful surge of adrenalin… and a tiny spot of vertigo. Maybe I should go out now, after all. I clearly need another drink.

Wish you were here! Love, Annabelle. PS: In case you’re still not sure about that steward? Yeah, he was gay. PPS: So was the stewardess.

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o

mem

nt stuff

Importa

TRAVELLER INFO

Brunei Darussalam: Currency: Brunei Dollar, divided into 100 cents. Exchange rate: $1 USD = $1.27 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 at least 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. One random fact: In Brunei, the head is the most important part of the body while the feet are the least important. Take off your shoes when you go to someone’s home and do not point with the index finger. Emergency numbers Ambulance: 991 Fire: 995 Police: 993

Cambodia: Currency: Cambodian Riel (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 4,092 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 at least 6 months before entering and have one blank page. E-Visa: You can now apply for an E-visa online. Pre-order at: www.mfaic.gov.kh and your visa will cost $25 set price. You will need a digital photo of yourself to upload. Processing takes 3 days and you will get the visa straight to your mailbox. See official website for up to date info on which borders support the E-visa as not all of the crossings take it yet. Visa extension: Obtained at Phnom Penh immigration office, opposite International Airport. Tourist visas can be extended 1-month. (Around US$35) For longer extensions ask at Immigration Office. Penalty for late departure: US$5 / day. Climate: The hottest month is April with temperatures hitting 40 degrees. The wet season starts in May or June and lasts until October. The downpours are heavy and do not last long. The best season to visit is December to February, when there is little rain, low humidity and cool breeze.

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One random fact: 50 % of the population is aged under 15 years old. Emergency numbers 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: Visa’s must be applied for in advance, as they are not granted on the land border. Passports must be valid for at least 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. One random fact: From the 16th Century, East Timor was a colony of Portugal until 1975 when the Portuguese dictator, Marcelo Caetano, was overthrown. Those who replaced him set in motion the wheels of independence of several Portuguese colonial outposts, including Angola, Mozambique and East Timor. Emergency numbers Ambulance: 7236662 Police: 112

Indonesia: Currency: Indonesian Rupiah Exchange rate: $1 USD = 9,395 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 at least 6 months before entering, with two blank pages. A return flight is also needed. Penalty for late departure: Up to $20 / day. For more than 60 days overstay travellers risk deportation or imprisonment. Climate: Indonesia has just 2 seasons, wet season, which falls between April and October and dry season, which falls between May and September. Throughout all of the year the climate is hot and humid, although there are snow-capped peaks

in the highlands of Papua. As Indonesia is such a long country, the difference in the seasons varies. In some areas, the distinction between the wet and dry season is great, such as the Nusa Tenggara when the wet season (December to February) can make transport difficult, with road floods and ferry cancellations. In Sumatra, the rain falls from October to January in the North and from January to February in the South. In Bali there is little difference between the seasons where weather is similar all year round. One random fact: Indonesia is the fourth most heavily populated country in the world after China, India and the United States with almost 240 million people. Emergency numbers (Java) Fire: 113 Police: 110 Medical assistance: 118, 119

Laos: Currency: Lao KIP (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 7,988 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. One random fact: The main exports coming out of Laos are wood products, coffee, electricity, tin, copper and gold. Emergency numbers (Vientiane) Ambulance: 195 Fire: 190 Police: 191

Malaysia: Currency: Malaysian Ringgit Exchange rate: $1 USD = 3.16 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 to 90day 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. One random fact: The largest cave chamber in the world is the Sarawak Chamber in Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, which can easily accommodate a Boeing 747-200. Emergency numbers Fire: 994 Police and Ambulance: 999

and passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: When in the Philippines, you are able extend your 21-day visa for up to 59 days at immigration offices. Costs apply. Climate: The tropical climate of the Philippines can vary depending on region, but generally the best time to visit the Philippines is January to May, when the dry season occurs. May is the hottest month with temperatures reaching 38 degrees. This scorching heat is followed by the downpours of June and October when the rainy season affects most of the country. The rains peak from July to September when typhoons are likely. One random fact: The Philippines was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898. After that, it was U.S. territory until 1946 when it gained independence. Emergency numbers Fire, Ambulance, Police: 117

Myanmar:

Singapore:

Currency: Kyat (US Dollars used) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 850.000 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 500 baht. 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. One random fact: The Myanmar people celebrate their independence on the 4th January. A seven day fair is held in Yangon to celebrate Independence Day. Emergency numbers (Yangon) Ambulance: 192 Police: 199 Fire: 191

Currency: Singapore Dollar Exchange rate: $1 USD = 1.27 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 and you will need an onward ticket. 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. One random fact: Symbolism of the National Flag: Red symbolises universal brotherhood and equality of man while white signifies purity and virtue. The crescent moon represents a young nation on the rise and the five stars signify the ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. Emergency numbers Ambulance: 995 Police: 999 Fire: 995

The Philippines: Currency: Peso, divided into 100 centavos. Exchange rate: $1 USD = 42.15 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 3-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 2 to 3 working days to process

Thailand: Currency: Thai Baht Exchange rate: $1 USD = 31.5 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. One random fact: We all know that underwear is pretty essential, but it’s even more important in Bangkok, where leaving the house without underwear could actually land you in jail. Going bare-chested in public is also illegal. Emergency numbers Ambulance: 1554 Fire: 199 Police: 191

Vietnam: Currency: Vietnamese Dong Exchange rate: $1 USD = 20,950 VND Capital city: Hanoi Main religion: Tam Giao (Triple religion – Confucionism, Taosim, Buddhism) Main language: Vietnamese (official) Telephone code: +84 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sin chao (Hello) Cam on (thank you) Visa: Visas for entering Vietnam must be arranged in advance. You can do this at the Vietnamese embassies in whichever country you are in and some travel agencies also offer the service. Depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting, (on average from 1 day to 4 days), it can cost anywhere between $35 and $65 for a 30 day visa. You will need 1 passport sized photograph and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: 30 day extensions can be obtained from travel agents in Hanoi, HCMC or Danang. The process can take up to 5 days and the fee is usually US$30. Climate: The climate of North and South Vietnam differ greatly, with generally a hot tropical climate in the South and hot summers and cold winters in the North. The monsoon season is between May and October which brings rain to most of the country. The central coast can experience typhoons between August and November. One random fact: Vietnam stretches 1,600 kilometers north to south, but is only about 40 kilometers wide at its narrowest point near the country’s centre. Emergency numbers Ambulance: 115 Police: 113 Fire: 114

(At S.E.A Backpacker we try to ensure that all information provided is as accurate and up to date as possible. (Checked 20.6.12) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at info@southeastasiabackpacker.com if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)

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Where people in the know, go.

Sompet Market

Ratchamankha Road

Chaisripoom Road Thapae Gate

Top North Hotel

Moonmuang Road

Montri Hotel Ratchadamnoen Road

Changmoi Kao Road Amari Ridges

Thapae Road

BACKSTREET BOOKS OVER 70,000 TITLES IN STOCK CHIANG MAI - THAILAND

Kotchasam Road

Ratchapakinai Road

Ratchawithi Road

Loi Kroh Road

34/3 Ratchamanka Road, Prasingh, Muang Chiang Mai, 50200 / 2/8 Chang Moi Kao Road, Chang Moi, Muang, Chiang Mai, 50300

SOLUTIONS:

QUESTIONS: Answers = 1.a) The Boat People 2. a) 1989 3. b) A type of ox with long, curled horns

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South East Asia Backpacker Issue 19