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Issue #25

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becoming a ‘Dude’. The Californian so-called “Dudely Lama” Oliver Benjamin explained: “Life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it. So don’t do anything about it. Just take it easy. Stop worrying so much about your life purpose. Kick back with friends, go with the flow and whether you roll strikes or gutters, do your best to be true to yourself and others.” “That’s about it,” he added with a smile. “You’ve heard the saying, ‘the early bird may catch the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese,’ right? That could be one of our scriptures.” Since the release of the Coen Brothers’, ‘The Big Lebowski’ in 1998, there have been various books written about the underlying philosophy of the film, such as ‘The Dude and the Zen Master’ (authored by Bridges himself) and ‘The Abide Guide’ written by Oliver and the ‘Arch Dudeship’ Dwayne Eutsey. The books suggest that there is deeper philosophical (or even religious) meaning within the film’s plot. The maxim of ‘take it easy’ is known to date back thousands of years, weaving its way in particular through many of the Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism.



“Life is a cycle. Sometimes you have to get off”


rinking a gin and tonic in a bar in Chiang Mai last week, whilst listening to a Nepalese political protest punk band and watching a French tribal music belly dancer, a peculiar thing happened… I met a guy who claimed that he had started a religion. It’s not every day that you meet someone who makes such a startling claim, yet due to the fact that I’m so accustomed to meeting bizarre characters and hearing weird stories in South East Asia, I simply said… “Oh right cool, which one?” He obviously wasn’t talking about any of the major religions, wasn’t old or mad enough to be staking claims on Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. And he didn’t look the type to be the head of some zany cult. “Dudeism,” he said coolly. “The Church of the Latter Day Dude. We currently have nearly 200,000 ordained priests across the world.” “Dudeism!” I spat out my gin and tonic. Seriously? Suddenly my friend next to me came over all star-struck, as she’d already heard about the celebrity in our midst and was now honoured to be meeting the extraordinary man who had founded a religion based on the lead character of the film, ‘The Big Lebowski’.

Chinese sage, Lao Tzu, who founded the religion Taoism in the 6th Century BC, is said to be the original ‘dude’ who tried to convince people to just ‘chill the F*** out!’ (I couldn’t find the ancient Chinese translation for this.) In his treatise, ‘The Tao Te Ching’, he tried to remind people something that they often forget today – that nature is beautiful and that the good life consists not in collecting assets and material wealth, but in acquiring friends and making memories. It seems that in today’s modern world of conflict, politics and economic stresses, people could do a lot worse than remembering to ‘take it easy’. “So are backpackers considered ‘Dudes?” I asked Oliver after a while. “Backpackers are Dudevangelists whether they know it or not,” he replied. “They wear flip-flops and baggy clothes, hang out in hammocks, sip mango shakes while listening to mellow Jack Johnson tunes. Free of routine and responsibility, they do little every day other than decide whether to get a chocolate or banana roti, a Singha or a Chang, and take a nap when it all gets a bit too much.” I considered this for a moment and thought back to an experience I had just a few months back in a beachside café in Koh Phangan. Perched on deckchairs in the afternoon sun, two English backpackers looked at each other. English backpacker number one said to his friend, “Hey mate, do you know what day it is?” English backpacker number two looked blank. They turned to two Swedish girls sat on the next table and said, “hey girls, do you know what day it is today?” The two girls looked at each other with confused expressions and giggled. Finally, all four of them turned to me. By this point I was laughing out loud at the dialogue. Before they could ask me the question, I shook my head and said truthfully “absolutely no idea” and we all smiled with a laid-back contentment that you just couldn’t put a price on.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (I’ve only seen it myself once and didn’t quite get it!), the Dude, (played by Jeff Bridges) epitomizes the idea of ‘taking it easy.’ A middle-aged hippie, laidback to the point of horizontal, he spends his time smoking joints, bowling, driving around and trying not to get involved in anything too complicated… such as life may throw at us.

As the Buddhists say, sometimes the way to knowledge is through not-knowing. Perhaps like the Dude, many backpackers are closer to enlightenment than they might realise.

I ordered another gin and tonic and sat down to find out more about

By Nikki Scott - Editor.


Another badge for the backpack?

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


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




Cover Photograph: Dylan Goldby

Features: 42:

PHOTOS: Logon Village, Malapascua Island, the Philippines


South East Asia Faces & Places: Daniel & Jeenal, Wise Living Yoga!


ARTS: Scope Out the Street Sculptures in Penang, Malaysia.


PARTY HOTSPOTS: More to Koh Phangan than the Full Moon Party!

54: Soul Searcher: Our new problem page! 56: FOOD: Vietnam Street Food - Top 10 62: FLASHPACKER: Stylish Sleeps 64: VOLUNTEER: Huay Xai, Laos 68: INFO: Visas, Exchange Rates & more!

Destination Spotlight: 14: MYANMAR: Yangon’s Spa Scene 16: INDONESIA: Conquering Mount

Rinjani’s Volcanic Peak - Lombok

Conquering Mount Rinjani, Indonesia...


24: CAMBODIA: Pot Holes & Rice Fields 30: THAILAND: Shark Diving, Trapeze Jumping and More in Koh Tao!

44: 58:

Off the Beaten Track: The Kelabit Highlands of Borneo, Malaysia

Malapascua Island,

the Philippines...


WHERE NEXT? Exploring Seoul

Regulars: 8: South East Asia Map & Visa Info 10: S.E.A Backpacker Newsflash



Word on the Street: The Most Memorable Place You’ve Woken Up In?


Local Portraits: Meet Ying, Koh Phangan’s Local Fire Poi Dancer

36: Festivals & Events: What’s On Guide 39: GAMES: Crossword & Sudoku 50: Traveller Thoughts, Stories, Tips

et Art... 60

S.E.A Backpacker Co., Ltd.

Penang Stre

Registration Number 0205552005285. ISSN NO. 1906-7674 Tel: 081 776 7616 (Thai) 084 553 8996 (Eng) Fax: 038 072 078 E-mail: Backpacker South East Asia is Published by S.E.A. Backpacker Company. Managing Director: Nikki Scott. (E-mail: Editor: Nanchaya Jaikaew. (E-mail: Deputy Editors: Nikki Scott, Karen Farini. (E-mail: Sales & Marketing: Kitti Boon Sri, Nichawan Keawpuang. Accounts: Thipapan Jaikaew. Contributing Writers / Photographers: Nikki Scott, Dylan Goldby, Marita Schutrup, Stephanie Cook, Maddy Memmer, Oliver Slow, Damian Lau, Ryan Olmsted, Simon Bond, Flash Parker, Jessica Phipps, Ayesha Cantrell, Tim Severino, Karen Farini, Sharon Kahati, Jeenal Mehta, Daniel Fonseca, Judi Zienchuk, Neil Rimmer, Jose Francisco Winter and Pamela Martinez, Melanie Swan, Alana Morgan, Ben Turland, Colin Roohan, Tyler Protano-Goodwin, Alec Connon, Graham Gold. Design & Layout: S.E.A. Backpacker Company Limited. Laura Davies, George Reed, Advertising enquiries: T: +66(0)84 553 8996 (Eng) 089 990 6556 (Thai) Email: Writing opportunities: Email:

S.E.A Backpacker Magazine Legal: All material is strictly copyright and all rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Opinions expressed in S.E.A Backpacker Magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher. S.E.A Backpacker Magazine does not accept responsibility for advertising content. Any pictures, transparencies or logos used are at the owner’s risk. Any mention of S.E.A Backpacker Magazine or use of the S.E.A Backpacker Magazine logo by any advertiser in this publication does not imply endorsement of that company or its products or services by S.E.A Backpacker Magazine. (c) S.E.A Backpacker Magazine, April 2013.

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Fansipan Bay of Bengal

Mandalay Bagan Kalaw

Luang Nam Tha

Taunggyi Inle Lake Chiang Rai


Gulf of Tonkin

Plain of Jars


Nong Khai


Udon Thani

Yangon Three Pagodas Pass

Tha Khaek




Khao Yai National Park

Kanchanaburi Bangkok

Hoi An

Four Thousand Islands

Angkor Temples

Siem Reap


Tonle Sap

Koh Chang





Andaman Islands (India)

Dong Hoi

Da Nang

Thailand Ayutthaya

Phnom Penh

Central Highlands

Vietnam Dalat Mui Ne


Koh Tao Koh Phangan Koh Samui

Puerto Princesa

Nha Trang


Gulf Of Thailand Andaman Sea


Vang Vieng

Chiang Mai Bago

Halong Bay

Ninh Binh

Luang Prabang

Mae Hong Son Pai




Mekong Delta Region

Phu Quoc

Ho Chi Minh City

Surat Thani

South C Sea

Khao Sok National Park



Koh Phi Phi Koh Lipe


Perhentian Islands

Pulau Penang

Pulau Weh

Koh Phayam


Bukit Lawang

Kuala Lumpur Medan Berastagi


Lake Toba

Singapore Pulau Nias

Riau Islands



Sumatra Bukittinggi

o Date isa t p U Read st Asia V te Ea bsi South on our We ckpa Guide siaba asta


.so www




Indian Ocean


Java Yogyakarta


Hong Kong

Laog Vigan Banaue Rice Terraces Luzon


Philippines Donsol


Boracay Island

Cebu Negros Bohol

China a

El Nido


Davao Zamboanga Kota Kinabalu


Mt Kinabalu


Bandar Seri Begawan


Celebes Sea

Irian Jaya

Sarawak Borneo




Berau Putussibau




Sula Islands


Sulawesi Pangkalanbun



Banjarmasin Buru


Puncak Jaya


Indonesia Timor Sea

Gili Islands Bali



Nusa Tengarra Flores

Komodo & Rinca


East Timor



Sane Same But Different Daily





! l a it ig d e n o g e v e w Celebrating our fourth birthday with

us – it’s our fourth birthday! This issue is particularly special for zine to the next level. In maga the g takin And to celebrate, we’re headline – we’re taking huge case you hadn’t twigged yet by the world of digital! Hang onto erful wond and weird the into e the plung ng yet! your ipad folks, you ain’t seen nothi packer Mag, despite all being A nostalgic bunch here at S.E.A Back for the tangible, whether it hant penc a have we old, years 30 under of holding your reading idea the like we and mag, be a book or a a sun lounger or heaven bus, a on it’s her matter in your hands - whet the past few years, Over ). squat a forbid, on the toilet (preferably not I do like the smell of a “ooh of likes the utter to n know been we’ve the feeling of flicking through a good book” and “you just can’t beat e.” coffe a brand new magazine over t five seconds, we decided However, after mulling it over for abou opportunity available every use and , world rn mode to embrace the r world and inspire wide the in there out s to get your travel storie ed to make S.E.A decid we why is people to go backpacking! This Kindle Fire and Android! , iPad on able avail zine Maga er Backpack been created by YOU the Since day one, this magazine has version, we’re able to share l backpacker... and with our new digita photos, plus link direct to our and s storie stic fanta your of more even erful businesses that support favourite travel bloggers and the wond n to the savvy, modern matio infor date to us - offering instant, up traveller. there (yes, that’s you mum!) And to all those technophobes out going to stop printing and we’re that mean ’t don’t panic! This doesn l company or café on trave e, hous distributing copies to every guest ll still be able to pick up You’ Asia. East South in trail er pack the back and, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, a copy at over 2,000 places in Thail Myanmar! and s ppine Malaysia, Singapore, Phili packer nabs the last precious All it means is that if some pesky back hunting every guesthouse go to have t won’ you copy in the pile,


a bang!


- Jun 2013 Issue #24


a News: Koh Rong, Cambodi much longer? how Backpacker paradise for

digital www.southeastasiabackp forum.southeastasiaback

er fix. You can simply ask the in town to get your S.E.A Backpack load a PDF of the latest issue down , WIFI have they if e guesthous a sigh of relief. he breat and back sit from our website,

Download Back Issues! e about Bali in Issue 9? Did Did you miss that life-changing articl boy’ in Issue 11 (and have Lady you overlook ‘Top 10 Ways to Spot a discovering ‘Top 10 Off on out miss or ) since ever it tting been regre se you accidentally becau 22 Issue in ns’ natio Desti the Beaten Track slow boat!? the of side the off dropped your copy of the mag (from issue 1-25) will soon be Our entire catalogue of magazines have to miss a thing! Become don’t you so ite available on our webs all the knowledge amidst the with rt expe a South East Asian travel , when the time comes to (digital) pages. And at least you know able to nurse your reverse be l you’l do) ever you (if , home finally go toms with an entire back symp l rawa withd l trave culture shock and And, because we’re as zine! maga rite collection of your favou every issue with new ting upda addicted to travel as you are, we’ll be ening in the place you are happ is what ly exact you tell will links that reading about! Watch this space...



Poetry Corner

Photo of the month!

Dancing on the Dunes

the Netherlands, the photo Sent in by Marita Schutrup from dunes of Mui Ne, Vietnam. sand red ible incred the on taken was 30-minutes from the are dunes the , dream s pher A photogra sunset... and se sunri at visit must a main village and


You are my loy The bane of myal travel companion existence A neon sign that sa ys ‘tourist’ My workout partner My dancing partner Sometimes my on friend A hot, sweaty huly An instant seat g on a humid day A bed A footrest The carrier of my An unforgiving balan worldly possessions 65 litres of blood, ce tester sweat and tears A knee crusher A pain in the ass A hiding place A mess A lifeline The practical friend that advises against pair of shoes buying another A place holder A seat saver The warm, familiar, station/ferry termi welcoming face at the airport/tra in Too large on my nal ba ck Too small when I’m trying to pack My hospital My closet My shield My kitchen My home An observer to the greatest adventure of my life By Stephanie Cook


OF ! R H E TT ONT LE M E People glamorise travelling. I know this because TH

Wherever you go, you’re still utterly and completely YOU!

I do it - all the time for that matter. When I hear about people’s travelling adventures or see their Facebook pictures, I have to admit that I get jealous and think, ‘Wow, I wish I had their life!’ I’m the one who always seems to believe the illusion that travelling is going to dramatically change me, as though I’ll be a completely different person when I leave home. Problems will melt away and every minute of my life will be filled with excitement, complete contentment and happiness. I know from experience that this is not really true, and yet, every time, I still convince myself that this is the case. There is a dark side to travel. There are moments when the cultural differences are so vast that you wonder if you’re on another planet instead of another country. There are times when lugging your heavy luggage around to another destination makes you want to throw it all in the trash can and adopt a minimalist lifestyle. There are times that food sickness is so bad that you want to curl up in a ball and forget this whole ‘seizing the world’ thing. And there are definitely moments of deep loneliness that make the comforts of home sound like nothing short of heaven. That being said, travelling is one of the most rewarding and worthwhile things you will ever do. It teaches you things that you cannot learn in a classroom – mainly because you’re often put into new and sometimes stressful and uncomfortable situations. Observing and experiencing other cultures helps you to have more of an open mind; it allows you new perspectives, a new way of looking at everything from the toilet to food to spirituality.

The reality though, for me at least, is that the famous saying rings true: ‘Wherever you go, there you are’ (Jon Kabat-Zinn). Does travelling expand you and help you grow? Absolutely. Does it open your mind and give you new perspectives? Without a doubt. However, I think a lot of people do lie to themselves and play the ‘I’ll be happy when…’ game: I’ll be happy when I travel or move away/when I finally get my dream job/ when I fall in love/ lose those ten pounds/get plastic surgery/make more money, and so forth. Just fill in the blank. The truth is that we can choose to be in a joyful and grateful state no matter what the circumstances are in our lives. Life is a blank canvas and we can choose to paint it any way we like. Travelling is simply another canvas, and you bring to it (like everything else in life!) one very important ingredient: you! (Including your wonderful and your, yes – less-than-wonderful sides…) You may ask if this is an argument against travel? The answer is absolutely not. It’s simply a forewarning that as you prepare to leave, you pack not only your socks and undies, but also your personality, preferences, pet peeves, beliefs, fears, dreams and love. When you board that plane, they all go with you.

By Madelaine Memmer. 11

Scuba Ju nctiion Koh Tao


Over the past four years we’ve been supported by some great businesses in South East Asia who have not only helped us financially in terms of printing the magazine, but with moral support, advice and encouragement! We don’t advertise businesses that we don’t believe offer something unique for the backpacker in this part of the world. So, we urge our readers to have a coffee, grab a bite to eat, take a dive course, book a night’s stay or take a course at the following places, and say hi to the quirky, charismatic owners who have become our friends! These are also sure fire places to pick up a copy of your favourite magazine... (no, you cheeky buggers we don’t mean HELLO Mag!) Here’s a few of our favourite photos from over the years... Deejai Ba ckpac

kers Host el - Chian g Mai

Kop Jai Ly Ly s Bar Chopper Koh Tao

Cam on!

Kop kun ka! i l - Hano rs Hoste e k c a p k Bac Vietnam

Pura Vida Divin g, Koh Tao

Mai X-Centre Chiang


Inya D ay Sp a - Ya ngon,



Terimah Kasih

Backstreet Bo oks - Chiang Ma i

Friends of S.E.A Backpacker Chiang Mai:

CLBS: Interested in living and working in Chiang Mai? Backstreet Books: Amazingly well-stocked bookshop! Wise Living Yoga Academy: Traditional Yoga teacher training. X-Centre: Adrenalin-fuelled fun from karting to bungy jumping. Asia Scenic Cooking: Authentic Thai cooking classes. Deejai Backpackers Hostel: Cheap, friendly and fun hostel!

Loei Province:

Dharma Inc: Meditation, yoga & holistic retreats in the beautiful countryside of north eastern Thailand.

Koh Tao:

Roctopus Dive: Friendly SSI Diving School. Say hi to Big Dave! Ihasia Diving: English and Spanish-speaking dive school, also offering kayaking and rock climbing. Big Bubble: Dive School located in beautiful Chalok Baan Kao. Scuba Junction: Fun dive School located in central Sairee Beach. Pura Vida Diving: New English and Spanish-speaking dive school. Koh Tao Backpackers Hostel: Fun, popular backpacker hostel. Lotus Paradise Resort & Diving: Central spot to sleep and dive! Choppers Bar and Grill: The place in Sairee to eat, drink, mingle! The Film Company: Film and video training, underwater and land.

Koh Phangan:

Black Moon Party: Rave on the beach in Baan Tai once a month! Agama Yoga: Life-changing yoga courses in Sri Thanu. Loy Fa Resort: Relaxing retreat with private beach in Sri Thanu.

Koh Phi Phi:

Ibex Climbing: Rock climbing and snorkeling adventures. Phi Phi Cabana: For those in search of luxury on Phi Phi Island.

h Tao Roctopus Dive - Ko

Asia Sce nic Cook ing Schoo l, Chiang M ai

Koh Lanta:

Lanta Animal Welfare: Volunteer to help stray cats and dogs on Koh Lanta - for free accommodation, next to Time for Lime!

Bali, Indonesia:

Yoga Barn: Yoga in a magical setting of the Ubud Rice fields. Also the organisers of Bali Spirit Festival.


Joma Bakery Café: Great coffee and food in Luang Prabang, Vientiane (also in Hanoi, Vietnam). The bagel egger is to die for! Paintball Vang Vieng: The cheapest paintball experience in Asia. Room 101: Brand new themed club, opening soon in Vang Vieng.

Yangon, Myanmar:

Inya Day Spa & Thaya Day Spa: Relax and take a break from Yangon’s busy streets.


Jeep Cambodia: Unique way to explore Cambodia’s countryside. Sister Srey Café: English-run cafe that supports Khmer students. The Peace Café: Meeting place for yoga, meditation, cooking classes and healthy vegetarian food. The Blue Pumpkin: Croissants, bagels and delicious sandwiches! Scuba Nation: English-run Dive School exploring Cambodia’s underwater treasures.

Hanoi, Vietnam:

Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel: Run by Aussies, perhaps one of the best hostel experiences in SEA!


Sleepy Kiwi Backpacker Hostel: Run by Kiwi, Kevin - great hostel!

Joma Bakery abang, Laos Pr g an Lu

Aw Kon Tran!

All SEA:

Xtreme Gap: Founded by an adventurous young English couple, Xtreme offers a variety of tours throughout South East Asia!



A Quiet Revolution:The rise of Myanmar’s


yanmar (Burma) is the hottest must-see destination right now, attracting international attention for its dramatic and sweeping reforms after 50 years of military rule. But there’s more to this intriguing country than Mandalay, Inle Lake and the Shwedagon Pagoda. Latel, the talk in the former capital, Yangon, centres on the rapid emergence of day spas. Insatiable demand is leading to a rapidly burgeoning spa scene. You can discover everything from backstreet, hard-to-find Burmese massage for the intrepid traveller, up to international-standard premium day spas, for those who wish to indulge in high-end pampering. And all this, at a pace and price set to give Bangkok a run for its money as the world’s massage capital! Details are hard to come by – whether on the internet or in the latest guidebooks – and change is rapid, with new locations opening almost monthly. Thanks to onthe-ground local knowledge and sources, S.E.A Backpacker presents what is probably the most comprehensive guide currently available to the spa scene in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon...


Described by some as a more strenuous form of Thai massage (if such a thing is possible!), experiencing Myanmar’s traditional massage technique is surprisingly difficult. Most of the places that offer Burmese massage are unregistered and thus illegal - but are clean and do not offer ‘additional adult services’. Often little more than the front room of someone’s house located down a backstreet behind a more well-known landmark, they spring up one week and are gone the next. These places are not visited by foreigners and are pretty well inaccessible without local knowledge or contacts. Only plausible for the more intrepid travellers with sufficient grasp of the local language to follow directions.


New on the scene and growing rapidly, international skin brands are opening specialist skin clinics that offer a variety of treatments professionally applied by qualified therapists. Household names including renowned Thai brand Nitipon, as well as internationally recognised brands Yves Rocher and Dermalogica, who have recently launched their respective offerings in Yangon. Aimed at promoting their products and tapping a nascent market to build-up their names, these skin clinics are already popular with locals and expats alike, along with tourists on a higher budget looking for comfort and familiarity.


You’ve heard of massage on the beach, so how about massage on the street? If your idea of what to do in Yangon involves something more local, certain locations in Chinatown offer ‘street’ massage. This involves plonking yourself down in a chair set up on the sidewalk, whilst a trained masseuse works on relieving the stress from your body as Yangon’s foot and vehicle traffic roars past. It’s certainly a massage experience unlike any other – and perhaps the only time Yangon’s increasingly bad traffic can be seen as relaxing (when you’re not in it!). Most masseuses set up in the evening after 8pm. Just be warned that the ingenuity of Myanmar’s mechanics means that vehicles that sometimes date from the Second World War are still operational in some parts of the city! It’s not the cleanest experience if a truck belching black smoke rumbles past just as you’re about to take a deep, cleansing breath...

FULL-SERVICE DAY SPAS Previous visitors to Myanmar were very limited in options when seeking world-class spa treatments. Now, thanks to top Tripadvisor-rated spas such as Thaya Day Spa and Inya Day Spa (both ranked in the Top Five in Tripadvisor for activities in Yangon) catering to tourists and expats alike, an affordable massage or skin treatment in Yangon can (and should) feature on one’s list of activities in Myanmar! Whether you seek a garden oasis (Inya) or an urban sanctuary (Thaya), an intensely relaxing experience from a menu of spa treatments that cover head to toe can be expertly delivered in five-star facilities by internationallytrained therapists. Thaya and Inya Day Spas are also the only ones that offer Thalgo luxurious marine algae facial treatments in Myanmar.


One Boy & a Massage (or 4!)

Pain isn’t supposed to feel so pleasurable. Or relaxing. The young Burmese masseuse, who is currently making me wince in a strangely enjoyable agony, may only stand around five feet tall and weigh just six stone, but there’s power in those fingers and feet. With each new pose she forces me into, my body contorts in ways I didn’t think possible. I’m at Thaya Day Spa, Yangon’s newest, up-market spa, located on the 3rd floor of a building opposite Junction Square – the city’s ultra-modern, new shopping centre. As soon as you step out of the lift and through Thaya’s doors, you’re transported into a calm, serene world. It’s completely at odds with the relative chaos of the streets below, where vest-clad, shoe-less builders throw up another addition to Yangon’s fast-developing skyline whilst kids in baseball caps and sports jackets pass by, mingling with peers wearing traditional Myanmar dress, sporting the ubiquitous longyi. Thaya (meaning “pleasant feeling” in Burmese) is the 2nd spa opened by the same group that runs Inya Day Spa on Yangon’s leafy Inya Road. Marketed as a “sanctuary of escape”, there are three private rooms, a Thai massage room and a foot massage room. The scent of lemongrass wafts across my nostrils as I enter and I’m greeted by the friendly, smiling receptionist. Already, I’m feeling serenity start to wash over me. I’m handed a list of services before eventually settling on a 2-hour Thai Massage (23,000 kyat – about 25 USD), followed by an Aromatherapy massage (37,000 kyat – about 41 USD). In the Thai Massage room, the attention to detail is exquisite. The lighting, temperature and calm music are calibrated to perfection. The environment leads me to fall into a beautifully relaxed state even before the massage begins. Then Khine Khine, my masseuse, walks in and sets to work on my stressed out backpacker body. Now, I’ve had Thai massages before during visits to Bangkok, so was quite prepared for a little bit of pain mixed with an overall good feeling, but I wasn’t ready for this! Khine Khine pushed me, prodded me, pulled me up, pulled me down, stuck her feet in my back and generally treated me to the sort of kicking I last received on the rugby field. Unlike my on-pitch pasting, however, I enjoyed this so much that I didn’t want it to end. I lay there, blissfully relaxed, until I was finally (and reluctantly) escorted into an adjoining room for the Aromatherapy. Inside the Aromatherapy room, Khine Khine handed me something that was either a shower cap or underwear. I looked at it, puzzled for a moment, before finally deciding on the latter. On Khine Khine’s return to the room, I was relieved that I got it right. The Aromatherapy was nothing but pure, blissful enjoyment. I floated out of Thaya and back to reality, vowing that I’d treat myself to more pampering soon. I could get used to this. A few days later I was ready for round two (a boy’s got to treat himself once in a while!) and visited Inya. Inya is a slightly different experience as it feels like more of a retreat, with wood terracing and small ponds, adding to the relaxed, secluded atmosphere. This time, I went for the foot massage (9,000 kyat – about 10 USD), followed by a two-hand hot stone (52,000 kyat – about 58 USD). After the foot massage - during which I enjoy a delicious Mango and Blueberry smoothie from Boost Bar - I’m treated to a foot scrub, calf massage even an arm and neck massage. Next, my newly-cleaned feet helped me across the spa complex to another building for the pièce de résistance: the 2-hand hot stone massage. I’m ushered into a small room with a massage bed and am again handed the underwear/shower cap. This time I know which part of my body it goes on, and lay face down on the bed and succumb to the remarkable sensations as a skilled masseuse works hot stones all over me. For the second time in just a few days, I lay back after the treatment, feeling so relaxed that I’m practically unable to speak. After three weeks travelling through Myanmar, this was the perfect indulgence, leaving me revitalised and ready for more travels!

Yangon Travel Tips: 1. Visit Yangon’s Pagodas: The first stop for any newarrival is the city’s focal point, the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda. This 2,600 year old “Mountain of Gold” sits high up on a hill overlooking the city and is hugely important to the local people, so much so that your taxi driver will most likely say a prayer to himself each time he passes. The best view is by night, particularly looking up toward the temple from Pyay Road. Closer to downtown there are another two pagodas that are well-worth a visit. In the southeast of the city is the Botataung Pagoda, a beautiful complex that sits on the Yangon River and is said to contain a relic of the Buddha’s hair. There is also Sule Pagoda, a striking, golden roundabout that sits in the very centre of the city.

2. Visit a traditional Myanmar market: Bogyoke Aung San Market, just north of downtown, is a bustling place selling all sorts of items, both useful and otherwise (closed on Mondays). If you want a slightly more authentic Burmese experience then head a few streets south to Mahabandoola Road where pretty much the same things are sold for about a fifth of the price. From here are the lively Chinatown and Little India districts and restaurants around the area offer great food.

3. Learn a little of the history: Museums are not exactly abundant in Yangon, but there are a couple that are at least worth a visit: The National Museum, Gems Museum, Army Museum, the newly-opened General Bogyoke Museum and Drugs Eradication Museum (I’ll say no more on this last one, just go and see it if you have the chance).

4. Relax lakeside: Kandawgyi Lake on the north edge of the city is a beautiful spot to relax, with lovely cafes to while away lazy days. Its bigger brother further north, Inya Lake, is busier but offers some relaxing spots and opportunities to sail and canoe. Inya Lake is also host to the home of the nation’s hero, Aung San Suu Kyi, the site in which she was locked up for nearly 20 years.

5. Check out the nightlife: Search “nightlife Yangon” in Google and you’d be forgiven for thinking that a drinking scene is non-existent in the city. While it isn’t exactly Bangkok, the city does offer something for those looking for a bit of drunken interaction. In town on a Tuesday? Get yourself down to the magnificently rustic Pansodan Gallery where a mixture of locals, expats and travellers get together to learn, get drunk and put the world to rights. 50th Street Bar is the place to go for a comfortable, expat scene but be prepared to pay for the privilege. If you want something a little more genuine with your beer, head further west to 19th Street where locals and expats alike sit out in the grimy street and Asian life at its finest goes on. There are also a couple of night clubs too, DJ Bar and Cafe Libre being the most popular.

Words by Oli Slow and photos by Damian Lau





“ “

You have any medicine?” asked Barca, our guide. “Medicine for what?” “For breathing.” “You mean for asthma?” I asked. “Yes. I didn’t bring my medicine.” “No. I don’t have any asthma medication.” Nor did the Dutch couple we were travelling with. By now we were all beginning to shiver from the cold and we needed to keep moving to stay warm. “I might have to go back soon,” Barca said. “Do what you have to do. We need to keep moving.” We stood up and walked a few more feet down the path. “I can’t continue. I must go back. Will you guys be okay?” Barca was now wheezing and showing signs of light headedness. We were on our own. Rinjani Mountain sits at the northern end of Lombok. The peak rests at a chilly 3,723 metres (12,215 feet). Located at 2,000 metres above sea level lies the large crater lake Segara Anak, with a new and active volcano (called Mount Barujari) in the middle of it. Our group consisted of two people from Holland, two from London, and a guy from California. Our first task was to arrange the guides and porters. Many tour companies advertise themselves as being representatives of the Rinjani Trekking Center, with prices that vary from $150-200. With some negotiation, we got on a fully equipped trek for a bargain $90 each. (The $200 trek included fold-out chairs and air mattresses – a luxury we didn’t need). We began in Senaru at 7:30am at an elevation of 600 meters. The guide promised a pretty easy climb, save for the last two hours. We were well shaded, and the path was mostly clear of debris and overgrowth... probably because there are a lot of people walking it on a daily basis (except during rainy season). In fact, you don’t really need a guide. I know this for sure because our guide did not come with us; he stayed back and waited for the English couple and the American. It was just us and the porters. Since the porters were carrying about 50 pounds of equipment – tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, food, cooking supplies, and extra water (and using a bamboo pole as a yolk with a basket on one end and a rope to hold together the rest on the other) – we were ahead of them, too. Just as we hit the clouds, about 1500 meters up, we stopped for lunch, along with the 10 other groups. By now, the English couple had caught up, though the American was nowhere to be found. The temperature had dropped to about 20 degrees Celsius: perfect for hiking. The climb after lunch steadily became steeper. Everyone was feeling the burn, and breaks became more frequent. At about 2,000 metres, the trees faded, and we were left climbing the open expanse of the mountainside. Clouds whisped over the spines that travelled up the mountain face and faded into the heat of the sun. Thick undergrowth was replaced by tall grass and jagged rocks. What looked like rivers could be seen from a distance, until you got closer and realised they were actually cooled lava flows. By now, the path was steeper, and had deteriorated into dirt and loose rocks. It became obvious at this point that one of the members of the group was having second thoughts. The air had thinned and every step felt like you were lifting a giant lead weight with your feet. The pack of wild dogs following seemed to mock us as they swiftly glided through the thick grass up the steep slope. After a gruelling two hours, we finally made it to the rim. The views from our narrow perch quickly washed away any pain we were feeling. Below us rested the calm clear lake of Segara Anak. At the western end of the lake sat the remainder of Rinjani after its huge explosion in 1994. We could see sulphur fumes escaping through some crevices in the side – and, above the volcano, the peak and the narrow path that led to it: an ominous scene for those of us planning on the peak ascent. We set up our tents in the crevice of a small valley in the rim. Others had their tents perched on the peaks of the rim, where they


seemed to sit uneasily in the strong wind. The gusts gave the tents an appearance of a crescent moon rather than a solid dome. The ridge behind our campsite offered the perfect spot to sit and watch the sun sink into the clouds. In the distance, Gunung Agung, the volcano on the neighbouring island of Bali, could be seen poking through the flat, ocean-like appearance of the clouds. Once the sun was gone, the temperature dropped by about 10 degrees, and people started to realise they were not properly equipped for the night. By now the American had made it to the top, but was angry; the tour companies that arrange these trips do tend to have a leaning interest toward profits over providing accurate information. My friend and I knew what to expect at the top of the mountain and knew that we had the right clothing for the job. It never mattered to us that the operators hadn’t ensured that this was the case. (We had of course checked that the tents and sleeping bags were in good condition: “Oh, yes. No problem. No problem.”) We both had hats, gloves, jacket, and thermal underwear, and the Dutch couple were also well equipped. Unfortunately, the English couple each had just a thin long-sleeved shirt. The American was in the same boat. He was cursing the tour operators, and, after a cold night in the tent, decided he was heading back too – and probably without a refund. On a brighter note, the moon was nowhere to be seen, and the stars were breathtaking. Planets, galaxies, constellations, satellites, and shooting stars were in abundance. Were it not for the cold, I would have stayed out longer to enjoy them. I was also aware, though, that this was the first day, and the hardest was yet to come. The morning was cold, but the crisp clean air was a refreshing start to the day. We would head down the inside of the crater wall toward the lake – a task that seemed nearly impossible given the 80 degree slope of the crater wall. The path immediately started with rickety railings, far beyond their prime, which guided us down the rocky cliff. It seemed a safer option to reach for holds in the rocks and roots sticking out instead of relying on the wobbly pole. The other challenge was to focus on the trail ahead rather than staring at the beautiful lake below, cradling the volcano. Impressively, the porters sped down the hill, wearing flip-flops and carrying baskets on their shoulders. We were left in their dust. For some reason, one of our porters took up position of guide and was now leading the way. I was concerned for his wellbeing as he seemed to be displaying some minor symptoms of hypothermia, yet refused any of my clothing. A couple of hours later, we reached the edge of the lake. Our knees felt the descent, but our pains were washed away with the distraction of such an awe-inspiring scene. The lake still smelled of sulphur, but was safe for swimming and was full of carp and other small fish. The scene actually reminded me of home and many of the camping or outdoor family trips I had been on as a kid. I experienced a brief, though welcome feeling of my dearly missed Canadian summers. The water was of course quite cold, though not the coldest I have swam in. A group of guys from Java were camping at the lake, and had been doing some fishing. They offered to let me try. Without a pole, casting becomes much more difficult. I didn’t catch anything. Before lunch, we followed the lake’s drainage river down to a waterfall. Across the slippery rocks above the fall and down a grassy slope, we found the hot springs. I put the temperature at about 40 degrees Celsius in some spots, maybe more in others. Whatever the temperature, our muscles appreciated every minute we soaked in it sitting next to the waterfall: a perfect spot to jump in and soak up the shock of the cold water before returning to the healing hot spring. Following lunch was the next ascent back up to the crater rim, just below the start point for the peak ascent. The trail started out easily enough – a level walk along the side of a grassy field. This only lasted an hour before we hit the next challenging part of the day: a steep climb up open rock faces and loose rocky paths. Rickety bridges over deep ravines helped us along, but the railings that


once lined the trail had rusted and fallen off. After about 45 minutes, progress slowed and short breaks were taken every 20 minutes or so. It’s hard to say whether not being able to see through clouds to the top is a good or a bad thing. In some cases it seems like the mountain will continue forever, and looking down the trail makes it seem as if you have made no progress at all. From the first day you can see the top – and perhaps because of that, it never seems any closer. I could feel that my legs were not happy with the work, and I was a little concerned about whether I would actually be able to make it to the peak the following morning. By now, my friend was also expressing some concern about his right knee, which had caused him problems in the past. After a slow and very difficult 2.5 hours, we broke through the clouds and were now at a ridge that led to the crater rim. The sun barely offset the cold gusts of wind blowing from the West, carrying the clouds over the lake through a break in the rim before they evaporated. The ridge led us to an exposed, grey, sandy area that was to be our campsite. Years of wind and rain had eroded the rim into jagged shelves of volcanic dirt. We spent most of the remainder of the day resting in the tent in preparation for the 2:30am rise to head to the summit. The mountain monkeys raiding the campsite held little interest in me while I ate dinner inside the shelter of our tent. 2:30am. The wind had settled, the stars shone bright, and the city lights of Sembalun could be seen off in the distance. After some stretching and walking about, my friend decided it would be a bad idea to attempt the summit climb – not because he thought he wouldn’t make it to the top, but because he was worried he might not make it down. I was worried about the same thing, but I had made it this far and decided I wasn’t going to let the mountain get the better of me. Dressed in every piece of warm clothing possible, headlight on, and honey bread and tea in stomach, The Dutch couple, Barca, our guide and I, were ready for the ultimate ascent. The path was immediately more challenging; the trail was made up of eroded volcanic rock, making for a slow and slippery walk up the first difficult part of the trail. While stars littered the sky, the moon was nowhere to be seen. We weaved through the fissures that had been carved out by years of rainfall, and grasped semi-blindly, aided only slightly by the light of our torches. The stars were more of a distraction than a help, and we had to try to focus on the trail rather than on them (and face walking off the path and plummeting to our death). Once we reached the ridge that led to the peak, the wind picked back up and despite constantly moving, I found it difficult to keep warm. The ridge was level and offered an easier walk for a short while. About an hour into the walk we dropped behind a huge rock to escape the wind, drink some water, and refuel on fake Oreo cookies. At this point our guide, Barca was having some breathing problems: “You have any medicine?” he asked. For the entirety of the trek, the group and I had tried to ignore the fact we had no need for a guide. I think part of the patience stemmed from the idea that we would certainly need a guide for the pitch-black trek up the narrow spine to the peak of this huge mountain. So when Barca turned back, the three of us were all pissed. The Dutch couple looked at each other in disbelief, and I shook my head. But I was confident we could continue without assistance. Despite the voices in our heads saying it was a bad idea to continue, we pressed on alone. Had I been with a less capable group, we might not have done so. I thought about escorting Barca back, but knew he would be passing by more people along the way. We said goodbye. Warm clothing is only helpful if you don’t cover it in sweat – and I’d been sweating from the very beginning. I probably should have walked without a shirt on to stay dry. Anyway, by the time we reached the most difficult part of the climb, I was starting to rethink my decision to continue as the shivering increased. Thanks to the support of the Dutch couple, though, I was motivated to press on. As we began the climb up the steep sandy slope, my body heat started to return and I began to feel better. The trail had turned into


a deep soup of soft volcanic sand and ash littered with rocks of all sizes. For every two steps forward we took one step back. As we completed the final 100m, the light of the sun was just beginning to make itself known on the horizon, though still not bright enough to offer any useful light. We finally made it to the top with about 20 minutes before it would rise. Just two people had made it there before us; they had started at about 2am. We cursed ourselves for being fast, because it meant we would be sitting in the dark, in the strong winds, 3,723 meters in the air, freezing. I found a small pile of rocks on the small surface of the peak and hid behind them waiting for the warmth of the sun. By now I cared less about how nice the sunrise would look and more about how nice it would feel... I wished I had brought the sleeping bag. At about 6:29am, the sun finally poked its head out from behind the distant horizon. It was an amazing sight to behold, and made all the pain and suffering worth it. On a rocky outcrop facing west, one of the guides knelt on his sarong to pray. The few that made it to the top stared in awe for seconds that felt like hours, before cameras were finally drawn and pointed in every direction in a bid to catch as many scenes as they could. The descent from the peak was fast. The deep volcanic sand was perfect for softening the impact on the knees and we were able to run most of the way down. I felt bad whirling past the people that were still climbing, but I had earned the fun part. Along the way we saw where the trail had been very narrow, steep cliffs dropped off to one side or the other; one wrong move and we would have been in big trouble. What was a three hour hike to the top turned into a one hour hike back to base camp. A quick breakfast and we headed back to Sembalun. Despite the difficulties, the hike had been manageable, though the same could not have been said if it were raining; it would have been a slippery, muddy mess. My friend had tied a bandana around his knee for some additional support. Both of my knees felt like they were ready to give out too. Later that afternoon, with swollen knees, feet covered in blisters, and clothes covered in dirt, we found ourselves walking through the vast rice fields of the village – where children played, and men and women tended to their crops. Eventually, we found our way to the back of a pick-up truck and had our ride back to our hotel. Two beers and a shower were enough to dull our physical aches and pains before turning up at our next hotel, and crashing out for a long night of sleep.

MOUNT RINJANI INFO TRANSPORT & TOURS: Everyone on the island knows what and where Rinjani is. Finding transport to the base towns will be as easy as asking at any major point of entry. Try to hold off on making any arrangements until you are in the towns (Sembalun or Senaru). Prices fluctuate a great deal. The best/cheapest thing to do is find a company and join on to another group that has already paid. This will allow you to negotiate a far better price then the ones that will originally be offered. Most guides work with tour companies and porters are included in the tour fees. To ensure some accountability (i.e. safety), arrange a trek through tour companies found in town. WHAT TO BRING: It gets very cold up there, especially after the sun drops, don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Bring a good torch/headlamp and extra batteries. Ask to see the sleeping bags before you pay for anything (mine was not warm enough). Don’t bring anything more than you need (warm clothes, camera, hiking shoes, sunscreen/hat, torch), the tour companies will provide you with food, shelter and water. It is a physically challenging endeavor, don’t go biting off more than you can chew. With that said, it is also an incredibly rewarding one and well worth the effort.


About the writer: Canadian born, and raised in Hong Kong, Ryan Olmsted was bitten by the travel bug before he could even speak. Some time later, he found himself leaving an English teaching position in South Korea to travel through Asia and write about it as he went ( ). He is now working as a scuba diving instructor on Koh Tao, Thailand. About the photographer: Simon Bond is a professional travel photographer who concentrates his time in Asia. He’s from the UK and of course made the wise choice to swap grey clouds for blue sky and sun! His first published book is now available and can be a great creative resource to improve your photography, it’s called ‘Simple Scene, Sensational Shot’. Learn more about Simon at: Unfortunately, Ryan lost his camera containing all of the Mount Rinjani pics (always a traveller’s worst nightmare!). In this case Simon was able to help out with shots of his climb.



Waking up in an open sided bedroom, with the light breeze on my face and the atmospheric sounds of the rainforest as an alarm clock in Indonesia. Now that’s how you should wake up everyday! (Darren Wells)

Staying in a hostel on stilts over the ocean on Koh Rong, Cambodia. Sleeping in a hammock on the upstairs balcony and waking up to the most brilliant storm of bone rattling thunder and lightning that lit up the sky - all right above my head! (Maxine Lee-Morath)

rable The most memo ken up in wo er ev e I’v ce pla was in Koh during my travels a beachfront in d ye Phangan. I sta fellow me so bungalow with part of the iet qu a on ers ck backpa omely delicious island, ate awes rning, and drank mo breakfast every ery day... This from coconuts ev ise! was living in parad ) an rd Jo ad ha as (R

I went to Jungle Experience a few weeks ago - this wicked progressive house festival in the jungle on Koh Phangan. I remember getting a bit over-excited on the buckets and getting thrown out of the VIP section... How I got back in is anyone’s guess (I certainly can’t remember) but that’s where I woke up, around 2pm the following day, sunburned to hell, and with noone around but one placid-looking cleaner sweeping up the debris. (Neil Donovan)

After sleeping out under the stars, waking up in my Aussie swag in the beautiful red centre was unforgettable. The hot sun on my skin as my alarm... (@JessPhipps24)

I don’t think you can beat waking up on your own deserted island in the Philippines. No roads, no houses, no people. I felt like I’d left the real world behind. Sound tempting? Download a copy of S.E.A Backpacker Issue 24 to read my story! (Martin - @madmadi_)

Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Woken Up On Your Travels? A tropical paradise island, a buzzing 24-hour Asian city or entwined in a hammock with someone you really fancy? Here are some of our favourites...

The best place I’ve ever woken up in was on the porch floor of a house in Cambodia with about 20 relatives all passed out after a day of pig slaughter, a night of dancing, and a great deal of rice wine in the early hours before dawn. Local experiences are the best! (Cathy Oldershaw)

Laban Rata, Malaysia, Borneo. I woke up at midnight to reach Lowes peak of Mount Kinabalu to watch the sunrise. Bliss! (Josh Heaven-Davies)

After three days hiking Mount Rinjani in Lombok with 40 other backpackers from all over Indonesia, we headed to Gili Trawangan... Arriving on the island in the dark, everyone else checked in to one of budget guesthouses. A close friend and I decided to spend our first night on the beach in a sleeping bag under the open sky and millions and millions of stars. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the most memorable sight I have ever seen. A true slice of heaven! (Azmi Rasa)

m, Waking up at 8a h in Koh on Haad Rin Beac th t deep in sand, wi Phangan, two-fee a where my ide no e, on ph no no money, re about realising there we bungalow is, and to me. xt ne ing rty pa up 5,000 people still e) (Jay Sanson


AMAZING! I woke up fully clothed in the lobby of a hostel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This wouldn’t have been so bad apart from the fact that I went to bed in Bangkok! WTF! (Confused Dave)

We need volunteers to help at our Happy Animal Sterilisation & First Aid Centre on the island of Koh Lanta in Thailand. You’ll help to look after our cats and dogs - stay for a month and we offer free accommodation! & Facebook

Waking up with the sunrise right on my face, the fresh smells of the sea breeze from the turquoise blue ocean of South China Sea and the cooling effect from the surrounding trees is the best thing that ever happened to me during my 1.5 months stay in Perhentian Island Kecil, Terengganu, Malaysia! (Anita Gabb)

Photo: Sunrise in Malapascua Island, the Philippines by Flash Parker



Pot Holes & Rice Fields

By Dylan Goldby


About the writer and photographer: Dylan Goldby is an Aussie photographer based out of Seoul, South Korea ( He loves to travel and photograph the people he meets. He is also one half of the dynamic-duo known as Flash Light Photography Expeditions ( You can join Dylan and Flash in Chiang Mai this November for a photography workshop with S.E.A Backpacker Magazine!


x carts bump along the sides of the road, cattle cross at will between scooters and four-wheel drives alike. Farmers zigzag across the road with loads of rice on their backs. A group of weather-worn men burst into laughter at a small eatery. Children file along the side of the road in small groups carrying satchels and backpacks. In amongst the chaos, hawkers sell sticky-rice and fruits to everyone passing by. It’s through the middle of this that we slowly make our way...


For the first four hours of the journey we have watched fairy tale Cambodia flit by the windows of the bus. Endless green plains of farmland dotted with lollipop shaped sugar palms, broken up only by the occasional village or spider-peddling roadstop. As we get closer to Phnom Penh, we are crawling along ten kilometres per hour bouncing through pot holes that would swallow smaller vehicles. Only now am I able to look out and appreciate the life happening outside the windows. Of course, this is all a silent movie for us inside the bus. The TV has been on some sort of comedy stage show the entire journey, the man behind has been snoring since Siem Reap, others are screaming into their phones – presumably telling a loved one they’ll be late - and the lady to our right may just be slurping her fortieth cup of tea, I’ve lost count. But looking outside, I know I will be back here. The sun beats down from close to its zenith, and radiates back off the pavement of Sisowath Quay. It is a hot, bright day and I am squinting even through my sunglasses. The cafes and restaurants to my left are buzzing, with their midmorning customers ordering anything from croissants and fresh mango juice to hamburgers and amok. Hawkers incessantly offer goods to those along this path. Lunch time is prime selling time, when tourists spend just as much time in barter with the sellers as they do eating their lunch. “Tuk Tuk, sir?” How many times have we heard that today? “Yes, please.” “Where are you going?” “Saigon.”

be back by 7pm. The only thing remaining is to find a guide and translator. This has proved even more problematic, and even the hotel staff seem stumped. One leather-jacket clad driver asked for $100 – a month’s wage for many Cambodians. I am starting to doubt that we will find someone. We drop back into our hotel for a cool mango juice mid-morning. The older gentleman at reception seems to have finished his shift, and has been replaced by the sharp faced, sharply dressed younger staff member from yesterday. One more shot at this, I think to myself. Maybe he knows someone. After much deliberation, he calls a man named Soksan on his mobile phone, and passes it over to me so I can make my introduction. He is soft spoken and all business. He offers a fee of $15 and to meet us in the lobby of the hotel in just under an hour. Soksan arrives on a beaten up old Honda scooter wearing a perfectly pressed black suit, maroon shirt, and perfectly polished black dress shoes. I have to stifle back a laugh. On the phone I had told him where we will be going. Those pretty clothes are not going to last long out there. We take out the maps we have on hand and show him face to face roughly where we want to go. Up National Highwway 6A into Kampong Cham Province. His eyes snap to the map. Until now he hasn’t quite grasped where we will be going, and a hint of excitement crosses his brow. The questions begin to haltingly come from his mouth. Where will we go? Who will we meet?

Laughter fills the air from both sides. One has to keep a good banter going with the Tuk Tuk drivers of Phnom Penh – it keeps both sides sane. It is true though, this is my last day in Phnom Penh and I am determined to visit the villages I saw on my way here – a Tuk Tuk isn’t going to be able to take me there, or to Saigon tomorrow.

Confidently, but slowly Soksan takes the lead out of the city, mercifully allowing us to get used to the ebb and flow of Cambodian traffic. We head along Sisowath Quay before striking left to head around the towering white Wat Phnom, taking us to France Street where we fill up for $2. Then we brave the round-a-bout next to the Old Stadium which leads us across the Japanese Friendship Bridge onto the NH6A.

We are looking for two things only. The first is a motorcycle without a 4pm curfew, and the other is someone fluent in Khmer and English to come with us on this outing to the country. The first would seem like an easy task, but we have had more than our fair share of dubious offers this morning and are headed for a travel agent on the Riverfront we have heard good things about. For $7 and a copy of my passport we walk away with a brand new steed that need only

The gaping maws of the potholes are suddenly much more real, daring us to lose concentration. Eyes on the road and arms tense, we ride for about an hour out of Phnom Penh before stopping for a drink. My wife pushes a can of drink into Soksan’s hand, which he accepts reluctantly with a small bow of his head. At this point he opens up a little and we start talking to him. It turns out that he is a student, and works at our hotel at night for the money required to



get him and his sister through school. The conversation turns to the ride thus far as we look out at the road ahead. “I can ride,” I say. “We can take it faster if you like.” We pause and gaze out at it. “This road is fucking terrible,” Soksan remarks in a matter of fact tone. I burst out in laughter. This guy is not the stiff he seemed to be. On that note, we swing back into the traffic with visors down – the air is getting dusty. Arms and shoulders aching we finally ride across the bridge into Kampong Cham Province. We pull over in Kampong Preah, a small village just over the bridge. Guessing that the local farmers will not speak a great deal of any of the languages we speak, I defer to Soksan to make our introductions to an elderly lady sitting at the front of one of the houses. She grants our request with a kind chuckle, and we make our way down to the water’s edge. A man with close cut curly hair and a traditional Khmer krama wrapped around his waist greets us with a stern face. Soksan proudly goes through the many different uses for the krama. From clothing to wiping sweat and drying off after a dip in the river. None of which could be achieved by his dress trousers today, he says! I ask Soksan to suggest that we would like to hear the man’s story and make a photograph of him. I’m biting my lip at this point, imagining the reaction I might get if I randomly approached someone like this in the western world. But Kree only shows us a big grin and a sampeah, the traditional Khmer greeting. I start by asking a few questions and taking notes as Soksan translates back to me, but it is clear that I cannot prepare for the photograph and make notes at the same time. Soksan came prepared, however, and pulls out his own notepad – on a hard file

Did you know? • • • • •


Agriculture makes up approximately 33% of Cambodia’s GDP. Many trinkets offered to tourists are produced in China, but most krama and infused rice liquors are locally made. Alibi Guesthouse provide good value for money in Phnom Penh, and even keep S.E.A Backpacker Magazine! CTT Travel and Tours on Sisowath Quay are easy to deal with and well priced. Always wear a helmet in Phnom Penh, if not for your skull, for your bank balance - it’s a strictly enforced law.

– to take notes. He asks a few extra questions of Kree and we get to know a man with three children he puts through primary school by fishing and farming rice. We are able to give him a photograph of himself – something which he has never seen. “We made him really happy,” remarks a smiling Soksan, out of breath as we walk back to the road. I agree and thank Soksan for taking the notes for me. “I’ve never been to these parts of my country,” he pipes out. “I grew up in a small village, but nothing like this. It’s beautiful here.” Again, I agree. We cross the road to the other side of the village and meet a group of women taking a rest in the shade. We are waved over the moment they see us and the rest of the village gathers to see the visitors. All said and done, twenty-six people are sitting in a circle around us and asking questions of Soksan. He answers their questions about us and why we are here, all enthusiasm and animation. For a time, he speaks to the elderly lady who was sitting with the women when we arrived. This row of houses is the domain of the woman and her daughters, who make traditional Khmer noodles to send into the cities. They live simply, and their biggest concern is that the government will expand the 6A, forcing them to move their village. We also learn that her daughters are all married, and the children here are able to attend a local school thanks to the noodle business. To hear someone tell you that their husband had been killed by the Pol Pot regime is not like reading it in a book. We are all aware of the regime and what it did to Cambodia. A good portion of the population were affected directly. What do you say to somebody whose husband was murdered by a genocidal maniac?

I tell Soksan I would like to find one last person to talk to and photograph before the sun goes down. From the road we see a man tending to his rice field, a plot of 80 square metres that he tends amongst many other similar fields. Soksan leads the way and makes our introductions, all the time glancing back at our bikes parked on the side of the road. “Don’t worry,” I tell him. “This is Cambodia, it’s not going anywhere.” “I know, but that’s my best friend. I am at school all day, and at work all night. My friend takes me everywhere.” Tha’s eyes brighten and he straightens his camouflage jacket when we ask him if we can make his photograph. He suggests that we wait a while until the sun has almost reached the horizon. “Has he had his picture made before?” I enquire. Soksan translates Tha’s response. “No, but he says the fields are most beautiful then.” He was right, of course. The sun warmed the wet rice leaves and glinted off the irrigation channel before warming our faces in the cooling evening air. We thank the man, and watch as his ox cart bumps along the side of the road. The scooters and four-wheel drives make their way along the road as we get back to our bikes, but the children and cattle are nowhere to be seen. We buy some fruit from the hawkers and wind our way between the potholes. For the last four hours of our journey we have listened to Cambodia’s stories and seen its spirit.

~ Breakfast & lunch ~ Communal Bookswap ~ Volunteer Information ~ Sunday Roast

SisterSrey Cafe

~ Boutique Store

Siem Reap’s Premiere ~ Takeaway Coffee House, supporting local young Khmer Students

+855 97 723 8001 //

200 Pokambor St, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Explore Cambodia in an American Army Jeep

Experience the real Cambodia, meeting the locals and visiting more remote places. +855 63 678 6000 Siem Reap - Cambodia



By Jessica Phipps

Shark diving,Trapeze Jumping & Great People “A day in the life of a Traveller on Turtle Island, Koh Tao.”


peaking to my Dad on the phone recently, he asked me candidly, “so what do you do all day?” He wasn’t the first person to question how I fill my days after seven months of travelling. ‘Don’t you ever wake up and think, I have nothing to do today?’ Yes Dad, I do, and I love it. But I understood his point, what have I been doing all this time?

Blearily looking at my phone a few hours later, I turned off the alarm, grabbed my bikini and headed for the local dive shop. 5am is early by anyone’s standards, but the usually vibrant Thai island of Koh Tao, was anything but at that time of morning. Piling into the back of a truck, we drove down to the pier and I was on a boat and out to sea before the sun was up. Today, was shark diving day.

And so ‘A day in the life of a traveller’ was born. I wanted to prove that giving up my job wasn’t all for lazing on a beach, sipping juice out of a coconut or chilling under a palm tree. I admit that is how I spend a lot of my time, I’m in Thailand, what’s a girl supposed to do? But lucky for me, the next 48 hours after that questioning phone call were anything but lazy and probably some of the best I have had since I set off on the travelling trail earlier this year.

I would only consider myself a baby scuba diver, having only done my open water course in Sumatra two months ago. But today, I had decided to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most dangerous sharks. Thank God I googled the Bull Shark after I had done the dive. Let’s just say, they don’t have the best ‘being friendly to humans’ track record. After a sunny two hour trip to Sail Rock, it was time to kit up and get into the dive site. I was hoping we would be given some kind of shark-proof wetsuit or a sword perhaps? Sadly, no. A normal wetsuit and the friendly advice to ‘stay calm’ was all I got from my dive master. Bobbing in the water, we descended down a few metres, only to realise the visibility was quite poor and that sharks were more than likely going to pop out from nowhere!

Hanging up the phone, and with Dad’s question in mind, I quickly changed into my pub crawl T-shirt and set out for the bars of Koh Tao with some newbies from my dorm room - a must if you’re on the island by the way. Being a pub crawl veteran, I was met at the first bar with a familiar smile, two free shots and a bucket. I’m not doing so well at dispelling the drunken/lazy travelling myth just yet, but stay with me, I’m getting there. The challenges were soon to come. After what would be considered a fairly tame night - drinking games, a few more buckets and a ladyboy cabaret show, my friend and I called it a night and headed back to our hostel in the hope of getting a few decent hours sleep before our early start. A tall order in an eight-bed dorm room.



Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand

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With the sight of my divemaster’s fluorescent yellow fins disappearing into the murky waters ahead, we set off around Sail Rock. Following his slightly panicked and pointed finger, I was met with the staring eyes of a group of three metre sharks, pointy teeth and all, circling just underneath my fins. My heart rate started pumping as if I had been on a treadmill for three hours and I

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Underwater photos by Ayesha Cantrell, Master Divers, Koh Tao

“Don’t you ever wake up and think, ‘I have nothing to do today’?” (Dad)


completely froze – or so I thought. Apparently, I was far from frozen I believe the word ‘flailing’ was used to later describe my frantic arm and leg movements. Oops. As I said, ‘novice diver’. As the dive went on, I actually calmed down and started to appreciate how lucky I was to be underwater with these amazing, if not terrifying, animals. Not an experience everyone gets to have. After our second dive - where I was greeted with quite a few more sharks and an enormous box jellyfish (think ‘Finding Nemo’) - we headed back toward the safety of dry land. It was now midday, and, back in the dorm, my 80-litre rucksack was packed and bursting at the seams. My friend and I were finally, after a week of ‘going tomorrow’, leaving the island later that night and heading for another over in the Andaman Sea. The movie-famous Koh Phi Phi was our next stop. But before it was time to set off on our long journey, I had a trapeze lesson to attend. As you do. Strapped into a harness and teetering over the edge of a 10-metre platform, I began to question how much adrenaline a little eight-stone body could take in one day. Before I had time to answer, I was soaring through the air, then dangling upside down and back flipping off the trapeze into the safety of a big bouncy net. Jumping out of the net, it was time for a delicious barbeque dinner on beautiful Sairee Beach with the rest of my Koh Tao family. Goodbyes were said, knowing we would all be bumping into each other somewhere else on the banana pancake trail soon. With backpacks on and seasickness tablets at the ready, it was all aboard the ‘slave boat’ at around 9pm. Bearing in mind I had been up since 5am and taken on enough adrenaline to last a lifetime, I was already feeling pretty exhausted. As far from lazing on beaches and chilling under a palm tree as you can possibly get, my friend and I crammed, along with a hundred others, into the bow of the Koh Tao night-boat for a ninehour journey back to the mainland. Lying shoulder to shoulder with strangers and sleeping on top of our belongings, our only saving grace was the prehistoric metal fans which, if the boat rocked the right way, showered the tips of our toes with a cool breeze. To cut a long journey short, scrambling out of the boat at 4am, we hopped in to a tuk tuk with 10 others, then sat in brightly lit café for three hours till 8am, clambered in a minibus for a ride, traipsed along what felt like the world’s longest pier, sat in a zombie-like state for a two hour ferry ride and then, following a hand-drawn map, we had a lovely hot 30-minute walk to our hostel. After 15 hours and five forms of transport, we had finally landed. Koh Phi Phi was ours for the next six days, and after the last 48 hours, I couldn’t wait to see what adventures it would hold. So in answer to your question, Dad – yes, I do wake up every day not really knowing what it will bring. I do spend a high proportion of my time lazing in the sun with new friends and a fresh coconut in hand, but I also get to be a part of some amazing and exhilarating experiences, get up close to some of the world’s most interesting wildlife, be surrounded by beautiful scenery and meet incredible local people. Travelling can be hard, confusing, stressful and tiring. You crave a comfy bed, just a few minutes of your own space, clean-ish clothes and just one good night’s sleep. But whether it is the day I just described, a sunrise trip to the Taj Mahal, a jungle trek through the dense jungles of Laos, becoming at one with a local tribe or feeling the sun’s rays warm your skin as you wake up atop an Indonesian volcano, it all makes leaving my old life of stability and a savings account worthwhile. The saying is true - ‘travel really is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer’.

“Travel really is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer”



10 Apres-Diving Activities in Koh Tao


ising up out of the crystal-clear blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand, where the shallow sandy coastline gives way to a deeper sea, the river estuaries and commercial boat traffic subside and the water becomes clear, inviting and full of marine life - sits Koh Tao. ‘The Rock’ (as the locals call it) is on the horizon to the north of its more well-known neighbours: Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan. However, here the package tourists and partying backpackers give way to a diving and adventure mecca with a relaxed feel not found on the other popular islands of Thailand. What started with a few small dive operators 20 years ago has developed into an island where more people learn to dive than in any other place on earth! The abundance of shops and courses combined with the lower prices you find in Thailand means that it’s arguably the best place to get certified as well as to continue your diving education up to instructor level and beyond. Even if you don’t

dive, an introductory dive in the sea is an absolute must and all the dive shops can take you. Whales, Whale Sharks, Bull Sharks, Blacktip Reef Sharks, Hawksbill and Green Turtles (Tao means ‘Turtle’ in Thai), along with a plethora of rainbow reef fish and many interesting invertebrates call Koh Tao home. The abundance of coral species that cover the undersea granite pinnacles provides the shelter and building blocks for a thriving ecosystem. There are also some wrecks around and dive sites with cathedral-like caverns you can swim in and out of. Indeed the diversity here within a short distance of the island is its major draw card, along with island lifestyle and suitable conditions all year (except for November). So what if you’re not a diver? Or what if you end up lingering longer on this magnetic island (as so many travellers do!) and are looking for different activities to sample. Here’s a few must-try adventures...

1. ROCK CLIMB & OTHER ADVENTURES From rock climbing and abseiling to hiking and cliff jumping, adrenaline junkies will have no trouble finding things to keep them busy. Check out Good Time Adventures in Sairee Beach for more information. There’s also kayaking, watersports, paintballing, mini-golf, even a trapeze school! And for those who want to work off the pad-thai paunch they’ve acquired during their travels check out the brand new Koh Tao Crossfit with daily fitness classes.

2. Alternative diving Did you know that you can dive without equipment, learning how to hold your breath in a sport known as ‘free-diving’ or Apnea. Then there’s Ultra-violet (UV) night diving - a new concept involving a mask cover and a special light that highlights all the light emitting from corals and fish below our visible spectrum. The result is a world of amazing fluoro greens, yellows, oranges and reds. Truly spectacular! And finally, why not capture your dive experience on camera with underwater film and video courses with ‘The Film Company’. They offer on-land courses too!


4. Treks & VIEWPOINTS 5. EAT, Eat, eat! Everyone knows the best Thai food is not on the beaches where they dull down the spices, but in the restaurants on the back roads. Get yourself a group of three or more and gorge yourselves on a Thai banquet! Koh Tao also has a great variety of Italian, Mexican and Western food as well as cute coffee shops and juice bars!

Head south past Chalok Baan Kao to Freedom Beach and walk up the small path to John Suwan Viewpoint to get a different perspective. On a clear day, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Ang Thong Marine Park are all visible. Then head down to New Heaven resort and jump into the sea to snorkel with some Black Tip reef sharks – best in the late afternoon but before sunset.

First, head to Choppers Bar to start off the night - an Aussie run bar and grill that’s the centre of the action in Sairee Beach… nightly entertainment with a live band, showing all the live sports. And it’s a great place if you’re hungry for burgers, steaks and pizzas! Then move onto the beach where trendy candle-lit bars play funky tunes by the ocean and fire dancers entertain.

6. Raw Art 'Moovment' An upstairs art studio and bar catering to musicians, artists and creative folks of Koh Tao. Have a drink and admire the art or get involved and create some art yourself! With more of a local crowd and a gardenful of arty statues and even tree houses, this is a great location to get away from the backpacking crowd for a night or two.


7. Hire a Kayak & Snorkel Hiring a kayak can be one of the best ways to explore the 21km coastline of Koh Tao. Kayaks are available to hire on most beaches, with the east side having the most dramatic sites both above and under the water. Great places to snorkel include Ao Leuk, Laem Thien and Thian Og Bay. And, just a fifteen minute boat trip from Koh Tao, at the northern tip of the island lies Nang Yuan Island, which is actually three small islands connected by a double sided white sandy beach in the middle. Day snorkeling trips can be booked here.

8. Help in a beach clean up: Many of the dive schools get together and organise regular beach clean ups where you can help out clearing up litter from the beach and do your bit for the environment. Due to its popularity, the island is under pressure so make sure you go easy on the plastic bottles, bags and straws and conserve water. Visit: for tips on preserving paradise.

9. Sairee Beach Sunset drinks The 1.7km beach faces due West, and every night can yield a spectacular sunset (clouds permitting). For an awesome view, head to Sunset View, a small restaurant on a hill between Sairee and Mae Haad.

10. Ladyboy cabaret: The Ladyboy Cabaret never fails to be an entertaining night out in Koh Tao - the perfect starter to get you in the mood for all night dancing and cocktails on the beach.

By Tim Severino - Good Time Adventures, Koh Tao.


FESTIVALS & EVENTS: The “Moon” Parties Koh Phangan, Thailand Full Moon Party 24th July & 21st August

drink and devilishness from dusk until dawn. Smear that multi-coloured paint all over your body, get a glow stick in one hand and a bucket in your other and get ready to party! Half Moon Festival 15th, 31st July 14th, 29th 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 to dance and trance, there’s a frenzied concoction of dance,


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 an eclectic mix of tech house, progressive beats and psychedelic trance, the

all night party showcases the island’s finest resident DJ’s, with regular special guest appearances. With a huge sound system, unique UV illuminations, fire dancers and live visuals, this is an event not to be missed! Black Moon Culture 7th July, 6th August

Moon Culture is an intense dance experience. Party animals watch out! For more Koh Phangan Parties check out our Party Hotspots article on page 60. Banana Festival Tagum, Davao del Norte, The Philippines 1st – 7th July Taking place in Davao del Norte, the country’s leading producer of bananas, the Banana Festival is a 10-day festival with street dancing and an agricultural trade fair to highlight Davao del Norte as “banana country”.

Underground trance 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

Pick of the Month! Bali Kite Festival Sanur Beach, Bali, Indonesia 21st – 24th July

You’ll spot some of the more traditional kites here, such as Bebean (fish shaped,) Janggan (bird shaped), and Pecukan (leaf shaped.) There is live music in the form of a Gamelan (traditional) orchestra during the festival and hundreds of spectators. Singapore Food Festival Singapore 28th June – 28th July

Taking place every year on Sanur Beach, the Bali Kite Festival is a wonderful event to attend. 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.

A festival dedicated to the pleasure of eating delicious delicacies from all over the world. How decadent! Each street serves up a unique range of cuisine and there’s a

July - August 2013 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. Make sure you try the famous Singaporean Chili Crab! Ramadan – Indonesia 9th July – 7th August For Muslims all over the world, Ramadan is of huge importance. Particularly in Muslim nations Indonesia and Malaysia you will come into contact with Ramadan as a traveller. 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 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. Khao Phansa (Buddhist Lent) Myanmar, Laos, Thailand 23rd July Khao Phansa is one of the most important occasions in the Buddhist calendar that also marks the beginning of the rainy season across the


FESTIVALS & EVENTS: Hungry Ghost Festival Chinese Communities in South East Asia 7th August – 4th September

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 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 monk hood. Celebrations take place across Thailand to commemorate the beginning of Khao Phansa (Buddhist lent).

Independence Day Indonesia 17th August Each year, all across the country every neighborhood holds friendly contests of hilarious games, such as climbing oily trees to reach gifts placed in the branches, the sack race (jumping race with your feet inside a bag), and biting the krupuk (using your mouth to collect coins from a melon covered in black slippery oil). Everyone from old to the young gets involved.

Every year for a whole month, Chinese people believe that the ghosts of their ancestors descend to earth to wander the earth in search of food! Although you may not actually bump into one of the actual ghosts, you will encounter the festival alive and well in Chinese communities all across South East Asia, for example 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 China Towns everywhere. Taung Byone Nat Festival Taung Byone Village near Mandalay, Burma/ Myanmar 8th Aug – 14th August

This festival is known as the major gathering spot for spiritual mediums. Hundreds of mediums (Nat-Kadaw) and thousands of pilgrims come once a year to the small town of Taung Byone, where the statues of two brothers (who died mysteriously after forgetting to provide two bricks for the Pagoda of Wishes), are placed in a shrine. You can still see the “Pagoda of Wishes”

with the two missing stones. It is the most impressive Nat (spirit) Festival in Myanmar. Offerings and dances, the inflow of merchants, the constant arrival of pilgrims and intensive use of loudspeakers continue day and night. Merdeka Day Malaysia 31st 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 Best winessed at Independence Square.

lent, the Candle Festival of Ubon Ratchathani is a deeply religious event that is unique to the province of Isaan. Beautifully carved candles, some several metres high are paraded through the streets of the town along with special displays, cultural presentations and music and dancing. The festival is a beautiful affirmation of belief in Buddhism and a demonstration of the unique art and culture of North Eastern Thailand. FC Barcelona Football Thailand, Malaysia 7th August- Bangkok 10th August- Kuala Lumpur

Tet Trung Nguyen (Wandering Souls Day) Vietnam 15th July Similar to the ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’, Tet Trung Nguyen literally translates as the Wandering Souls Day. It’s a Buddhist tradition which marking the annual day when spirits are allowed to walk the earth after sunset. Huge buffets and lavish gifts are offered to them at pagodas all across Vietnam.

The Candle Festival Ubon Ratchathani 1st – 31st July Coinciding with the Buddhist

Since 2004 Barcelona’s football team has been travelling to Asia as part of their pre-season training. This summer the team will be returning to Thailand for another roaring match and adding a stop in Malaysia to play their first ever game against the country.

Pro Musica Gala Concert GeorgeTown, Malaysia 6th July Part of the 2013 George Town Festival this concert highlights the talent of international opera singers. If opera doesn’t necessarily make your ears perk in delight check out the festivals other artistic offerings. From art exhibits to theater productions there is something for every creative type!


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























20 24






b. Cambodia

c. Indonesia

2. Which South East Asian location was recently declared the world’s most visited city? (And the most ‘instagrammed’ airport!) b. Kuala Lampor

c. Bangkok

3. Which country is the worlds largest exporter of cashews? a. Cambodia

b. Vietnam

1. More than enough 2. Failure 3. Miniscule 5. Repentant 6. Creates 7. Bank employee 8. Weird 13. Ditches 15. Number for position 17. Tradesman 18. Film award 19. Horses 22. Class 23. Eyelid inflammation

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

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


1. The Prime Minister of this country has written over 100 songs - turn on the radio and you just might hear one. What country is it?

a. Singapore

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


S.E.A TRIVIA: a. Vietnam

1. Flyer 4. Run fast 9. Fundamental nature 10. Umbilicus 11. Rent 12. Extreme 13. Fasten 14. Pungent 16. Inquisitive 18. Many times 20. Finales 21. Short tail 24. Meal 25. Entertainer 26. Sauce 27. Odds


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

c.The Philippines







f you happen to find yourself pulsing to the groove at any one of Koh Phangan’s renowned parties between now and the end of the year, then you’re sure to catch a glimpse of fire-poi spinner Kanyaporn Pannit. Known to her friends as ‘Ying’ (Thai for ‘Lady’), this thirty two year old ball of energy originally hails from Nakhon Si Thammarat, a city in the south near Surat Thani. Having studied art at the Ladkrabang King Mongkut’s University in Bangkok, she spent some time working freelance in the city, painting Thai original paintings in temples, before moving on to Koh Samui, where she painted for a shop gallery. Still, it took her another three years to visit Koh Phangan! And the catalyst? Picking up a can of coca cola and glimpsing the Full Moon party dates on it! Since then, she’s never looked back. “People think Koh Phangan is all about the parties – and yes, there are some incredible ones here on the island – but there are so many beautiful, quiet places all around. When I first moved to Koh Phangan, I lived in a little house on the jungle road between Thong Nai Pan and Baan Tai. For four years, I varied my time between two places. I spent six months living in Koh Phangan, and the other six living and working in Khao Lak (about 100km north of Phuket), where I earned my money painting for a gallery and also performing fire poi for some of the big resorts.” It was in Khao Lak where she began learning fire poi properly. “I first went there at the start of the season, and a friend of mine who owned a bar saw me practice with tennis balls and asked me to


do a show.” So, using her natural sense of rhythm (and the help of YouTube!), Ying practiced until she picked up the skills she shows off today. “It’s beautiful,” she says. “When I played with it for the first time, I thought – wow! You can make so many shapes, you can make flowers, you can draw… I got burned many times, but the pain wasn’t so bad!” Any tips? “Practice every day,” she says, firmly. “But, enjoy the music first and foremost – then you can enjoy the poi. Dance, and feel free. Poi is good for so many things. It can also make you more limber; it can make you fit and healthy.” Now living in an apartment overlooking the sea between Thong Sala and Sri Thanu, Ying will be performing until the end of the year everywhere on Koh Phangan from Jungle Experience, Merkaba, and the Full Moon Party. After that? She doesn’t know – and that’s exactly how she likes it. She shows off her tattoos to me (the one at the bottom of her back symbolizes death – which reminds her to be as free as she can be, at all times). “After this, I just want to travel with my tattoo kit (I’m learning bamboo at the moment), the things I need to paint, and my poi. I like to move, I like to be on the road, but I don’t like to make too many plans. I’m spending my life enjoying the moment!”

Photos by The Phanganist Words by Karen Farini

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER Sharon Kahati has been living on Koh Phangan for five years, in the Baan Tai area. Leaving behind a 10-year career in High Tech back in his home country of Israel, he left to travel through India and Nepal, before finding Koh Phangan, where he now gets to focus on his main love: art and photography. “There are so many different ways to photograph parties at night,” he says, “with the combination of strong lights and dark background.” You can take a look at more of Sharon’s work on his popular website - - which launched three years ago. The website gives a ‘face’ to Koh Phangan night life, and is a great space to find out everything you need to know about the party scene on Koh Phangan. When he’s not out taking photographs, Sharon is busy fixing or editing them. “It’s more of a lifestyle than a job, and I’m happy to devote all my time to that,” he tells us. “We are happy to write another chapter of Koh Phangan party history every day!” 41



By Flash Parker

Nikon D800 | 85mm | f/1.4 | 1/250 sec. | ISO 100

Logon Village, Malapascua Island Cebu, The Philippines

hotography is a lot like swimming. Most people claim they know how to swim, but hold a hundred people underwater for more than a few seconds, and more than a few are going to squirm. Same deal when you give people a camera. Success is the result of careful preparation and an exacting approach. Dive too deep without knowing how to swim, and you may not come back up. Try to force a good photograph into existence and your images may leave a lot to be desired. It may also leave you frustrated with the entire experience of taking pictures. Lucky for you, South East Asia is a great place to practice swimming. The Philippines is a great place to swim, but the fact that there are plenty of sharks in the water probably lingers in the back of your mind. It shouldn’t. If you know how to swim properly, you won’t have much to worry about. And if you know how to use your camera properly, capturing stunning travel portraits is easier than you think. A good imagination doesn’t hurt, either. I always have an idea of how an image is going to look long before the camera comes to my eye. I don’t let my machine surprise me; I tell it exactly what I want it to do. When I met Edita here on the island of Malapascua, I knew that I

wanted to make a portrait of her. I knew I wanted a razor thin depth of field, to make her pop against the natural background, so I rolled my aperture to f/1.4. I also knew I had plenty of smooth, natural light at my disposal (thanks to the tree cover) so I dialed my ISO back to 100 for a crisp, clean image. By the time I was ready to click the shutter, all I had to do was frame the image in my viewfinder; all the technical work was done, and I didn’t miss the moment or distract Edita from her work by fiddling with my camera. Knowing your gear is more important than you realise; moments come and go, and if you spend all your time twisting this dial or pressing that button, you’re going to miss them. Notice something else about this collection of images? None of them are posed; I was simply reacting to the scene. I wanted to capture the friendly folk of this island doing the things they do, and was happy to see that so many of them go about their business with a smile on their face. I shot each of these images in aperture priority mode, and used spot metering to get a correct exposure for each individual’s face. I don’t care whether or not the rest of the scene is blown out or cast into shadow, so long as I’ve got the right light on the face.

Want to learn to take photos like these? Join the FlashLight Photography Expedition! November 2013 Professional photojournalists Dylan Golby and Flash Parker are returning to Chiang Mai this November for the Loi Krathong Festival and Thailand’s second ‘Flash Light Photography Expedition’. Expect wild adventures, quirky encounters, lots of laughs and most importantly expert knowledge and insider photography tips. Check out: Or email: for more info!





By Karen Farini

The Kelabit Highlands,Sarawak



rapped in a seat, in a tiny Twin Otter with 15 other passengers, the wind pushes us through dips and surges. Never before have I been so aware of the power of the elements. The man to my right nudges me. “Not nervous, are you?” But as my gaze falls, almost hypnotised, through the clear blue skies to scan the endless miles of Sarawak Borneo’s dense tropical jungle, I’m thinking that if ever there was a time to leave the world, then I think I might be ok with this. It’s quite the paradox, isn’t it? That it’s when you feel the most alive that you’re least afraid of death? I was travelling from Miri, the second largest city in the state of Sarawak, to Bario, in the Kelabit Highlands, at the very far north east of the state, near the border of Kalimentan, Indonesia; 3,280 feet above sea level. There was another way of arriving, but it involved up to 16 hours in a 4-wheel truck from Miri via logging road – a journey I’d actually tried my utmost to make just the week before, which would have got me there in time for the Pesta Nukemen Food Festival. A three day celebration of local and traditional foods, interwoven with the Kelabit culture, community and identity. It sounded captivating, and I’d been determined to be a part of it, but the planes had all been full – and so, it soon transpired, were the trucks. What, all of them? As a Westerner used to event organisers laying on extra transport to crowd in as many tourists as possible, I’d found this almost impossible to comprehend. Hey, but I’m a journalist? No score. But I wasn’t so deterred. The spellbinding images of the remote Kelabit Highlands had already captured me far beyond the point of shrugging my shoulders and going someplace else. This isolated region in Borneo was insistent in drawing me in, regardless of the fact that even if I took the first plane I could, I’d still be missing that festival. I got on it anyway.


One statement worth observing: You don’t ‘end up’ in Bario. Not only is it hard to get to, it’s not even on the way anywhere else. Ok, you can do numerous multi-day trekking forays through virgin rainforest from village to village, staying in the jungle, homestays or traditional longhouses en route. If you’re feeling very adventurous, you can even plump for a trek that can take up to nine days to complete, leading you all around the Highlands, and finishing up in a village in the northern tip, Ba Kelalan. From there, you can take a flight in another Twin Otter to Lawas (just 200 km from Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Malaysian Borneo’s other state, Sabah). But the point is, the only way out of the Kelabit Highlands is pretty much the way you come in. Once you are here, you are here. A fair question, though: Where the hell is ‘here’? How do you describe Bario? The main entry point to the Highlands? The ‘central’ village? In any case, the word ‘capital’ can only be applied as a joke. As we drive the short distance to the homestay, I am silenced by the landscape. Mountain ranges, rolling hills, sun setting on the rice paddies. I’m pointed to the direction of the central Marketplace. I’m told this is where the villagers congregate: to eat, to socialise – and the only place you can get WIFI. I find this central hub... eventually. It’s so tiny, I walk past it three times, only realising my mistake when, whichever direction I take beyond it leads me to a never-ending path, its tarmac almost melting in the blazing sun; curtained by greenery and shrouded by mountains. No end in sight. The middle of nowhere. Within 24 hours, I am on first name terms with the locals. I’m also fast friends with the other travellers here – which is none too difficult, as there are only a handful of us around. One of them is Rob, who is travelling the world on his massive motorbike and has been here for weeks on end since there appears to be a problem with it that neither he nor anyone else know how to sort out – or

even seem particularly inclined to in the first place… I can see how you might get stuck here. Life is effortless, and the Kelabit people are all so warm. Their hospitality is a far cry from the fearsome reputation they yielded less than a century ago. Along with the majority of other indigenous tribes in Sarawak, the Kelabit were headhunters. They took the heads of their rivals after killing them, and preserved them – and some say, just for the sake of prestige, although other reports suggest that this was more of a custom attributed to the beliefs of animism. And of these customs, of course there were many more, including those linked to aesthetics, and style. Earlobes that stretched, weighed down by huge brass earrings till they reached one’s shoulders; those incredibly intricate tattoos on womens’ forearms and lower legs that signified beauty and, more practically, that they had come of age to marry.

(everything is powered by generator), nothing stays the same forever. Apparently, most of the young people born and raised in the Highlands don’t want to stay and live in longhouses with their parents anymore. They don’t want to learn about the old forest traditions, how to farm, or the secrets of self-sufficiency. They leave when they are old enough; they go away to study and, in most cases, forge great careers for themselves. The Kelabit are, arguably, the most successful people of Sarawak. According to Wikipedia, they ‘include lawyers, doctors, politicians and professionals. They are high achievers, highly educated and extremely bright. In the mid 1990s, the heads of the legal departments of all the major oil companies operating in Malaysia were Kelabit… In 2001 the Bario community was named as one of the Top Seven Intelligent Communities by World Teleport Association.’

“They say the only certain thing about change is that it’s constant.”

I don’t know what I was expecting in 2012, really. I’ll admit I was surprised at just how little of these customs seemed to remain. Still, the traditional Bario Asal longhouse enchanted me: the way you could just walk in freely, first through the long hallway, its walls covered by official family photographs, then round the corner to the other side, where, again, you could walk down the length of it, watching families prepare their food in their little kitchens, separated by a thin piece of wood, maybe, or perhaps just a piece of furniture. Leading off from each individual section were the private quarters, to which of course we were not granted entry. But the flickering fires burning from each family’s kitchen, and the clinking of pots and pans all piqued my imagination, even if the place was emptier than I thought it would be. And, as I passed some members of the older generations, I noticed the blunt snip where their long earlobes had been cut. Notwithstanding the fact that electricity still hasn’t caught on

The Kelabit are also the smallest ethnic group in Sarawak, numbering less than 7,000. It’s currently estimated that just 1,200 are still living in the Highlands.

Old customs and ancient folklore are always replaced by the new, eventually. The effects of globalisation seep into the cracks of even the remotest of places, to alter traditions and belief systems forever.

Here’s just how isolated the Kelabit were from the rest of the world: it wasn’t until World War II that this self-sufficient mountain range was actually discovered, by Australian Tom Harrison, leader of the British and Australian commandos, who literally parachuted down into it by accident one day. After that, various Kelabit settlements were used as bases during a guerrilla war against the occupying Japanese. Shortly afterwards, the Kelabit people were introduced to perhaps one of the strongest, most enduring messages the world has ever known. Christianity.


One afternoon, I have a cup of tea with Lucy (an ex-school teacher) at her longhouse, and ask her about the arrival of the missionaries in the ‘40s. Conversion hadn’t taken long. But what about the old ways; all that ancient wisdom that’s slowly being lost?

““We’ve never stopped being thankful to those missionaries.”

“Christianity freed us,” Lucy tells me, firmly. “Animism was filled with superstitions, and suspicions. In many cases, these led to awful brutalities.” I’m told how twin babies were seen as a bad omen, and were routinely killed at birth. And, less severe, but just as destructive all the same, were all the other little omens. A bird flying in the wrong direction, for example, meant you couldn’t harvest that day, it was just too risky. It would mean bad luck, you’d just have to turn back and go home. And if that happened too many days in a row – well, then you’d miss your chance to sow what you needed for that year. And then, what? Then there was every chance your family would starve to death, that’s what. “Back then, we believed in the power of everything around us; that everything had a spirit, and that it could affect us – either positively or negatively,” Lucy continues. “But with the message of Christianity came the understanding that we didn’t need to fear anything, not even the elements. God controls everything – the birds, the direction of the wind. All we had to do was trust in Him, and keep our faith. It made our lives easier. In many cases, it saved us.” Lucy’s mother, now almost 94 years old, passes the table in her wheelchair. She was one of the first women to create a group for all the women in the Highlands. The sense of community is the one glue that has kept the connection strong amongst all the Kelabit people, despite a walking distance of up to one day from one village to the next. I’m transfixed by her tattoos, and have to apologise for staring. They must have taken ages. “Did they hurt?” I ask, via Lucy. Yes. Her earlobes have been cut too. I’m told that most Kelabit people turned their backs on all such ways with the advent of Christianity. They were taught such customs were unclean. In fact, the notion of cleanliness was a huge gift the religion gave them. Along with those others that freed them from limiting superstitions, I’m assured such teachings would have absolutely saved lives. Countless lives. “We’ve never stopped being thankful to those missionaries,” Lucy says. As a traveller, it’s always so easy to want things to stay as they are. In these Highlands, you can feel the old traditions fade, as slowly and methodically as the sun sinks behind the mountain ranges, leaving the sky a vast painting of pastel pinks and reds, and turning the entire landscape into a vision so captivatingly beautiful that it barely seems real.

Local Food BARIO RICE: The highland rice – smallgrain, and very delicate and fragrant. Grown organically in the more remote villages, and conventionally in some of the more central villages, then from the rice there are a few signature dishes, such as… NUBA-LAYA: Mashed rice wrapped in a palm leaf. The rice is the heart of the meal; you take it, unwrap it into the leaf and put the ingredients around it, such a farmed and wild vegetables wild spinach - tengayen – fernshoots, midin (common around Sarawak) pa-oh, durey (certain varieties of bamboo shoots), palm shoots, and tapioca roots…

Don’t Miss

The Pesta Nukenen Festival 2013 WHAT: Otherwise known as the Bario Food Festival, the event celebrates the remarkable food, farming & forest heritage of the highland. WHERE: Bario WHEN: 25th to 27th July


But, as Jason, founder of the Pesta Nukenen festival points out to me, the real, solid traditions of community spirit are going nowhere. Born in Kuala Lumpur, Jason grew up on a farm in Suffolk, and returned to Malaysia in the 80s. In 2005, he came to Bario to begin a food project in collaboration with Councillor John Tarawes that would soon become known as Pesta (meaning ‘festival’ in both Kelabit and Malay) Nukenen (Kelabit for ‘food’). “The one tradition we need to conserve is how deeply the food we eat is rooted in place. It’s about our roots and identity; our sense of togetherness, the sense of ‘conviviality.’” A global movement that is integral to life force, this idea of ‘conviviality’ is linked to the slow food movement in Italy. Jason points out the Italian translation of ‘conviviality’: ‘con’ – with; ‘viva’ – life. He also explains why it had been so impossible for me to actually get here while the festival had been on the other week. Pesta Nukenen is first and foremost a celebration for all the villagers of the Kelabit Highlands, and for their families who have moved elsewhere in Malaysia who come back home for those three special days. “There are stalls from each of the villages, the Penan community (the last semi-nomadic ethnic group in Borneo) have a stall; there are workshops, highland games – including one where

we test the strength of young men by getting them to bend a piece of hardwood… “The celebration of Pesta Nukenen is one of self-agency (lyuk), and knowledge, and of the core values of sense and goodness.” When I ask Jason about the professional success rate (and the subsequent migration) of the Kelabit people, Jason remarks that, perhaps because of its isolation, there has always been a strong tradition of building oneself up within the community, usually in one of two ways. Some advance educationally or professionally – which has resulted in a vast network of global connections. “The person you pass in the shops is more than likely to have a son who is the CEO of a national company, for example.” And the second way? “By doing community work and helping one’s neighbours. You know that Bario’s 25 kilowatt hydro-electric power station was built by the community itself? Quite humbling.” It’s a beautiful idea – this global – and local – connectedness in such a very remote part of the world – and I pause to fully take it in before asking my next question. But that question has to come, of course. What if everyone’s son wants to become the CEO of a national company? Says Jason, “the last two generations started to leave – that is certain. However, now we are starting to see the rekindling of a connection. Those people who left a generation or two ago – or even more recently – are starting to see the Highlands as a place of opportunity and learning. They’re starting to come back.” Well, I tell him, I can understand why. This place is beautiful… They say the only certain thing about change is that it’s constant. And, maybe like nature, could it be true to say it’s almost always cyclical? Jason is smiling. “We’re starting to see the beginnings of a homecoming,” he nods, quietly.




his month, we caught up with Jeenal Mehta and Daniel Fonseca, husband and wife team and founders of Wise Living Yoga Association based in Doi Saket, Chiang Mai. Together they have trained more than 1,500 students to become Yoga teachers and have taught workshops and courses in India, Hong Kong, Bali, Thailand and Brazil. They consider Yoga a holistic way of life which incorporates everything from diet, exercise, mindfulness and being more compassionate on a day to day basis. The Yoga they teach is very traditional as they are part of the oldest organised Centre of Yoga in the World – the Yoga Institute of Santacruz, Mumbai India, founded in 1918 by Shri Yogendraji.

it came to the practise of Yoga I always found that standing on my head was never a big deal but to sit quiet and enjoy the inner silence was something that I only achieved in India after learning traditional Yoga. India is also where I met Jeenal.

When did you both first discover Yoga? Tell us your unique experiences... Jeenal: I’m genetically a Yoga baby born into a Yoga family in India. My great grandfather was a Fakhir (mystical saint). Both my grandmothers worshipped Krishna, also both my parents (including myself) are sincere devotees of the Krishna who is the Lord of Yoga in Bhagavad Gita. My parents taught me to respect all faiths, beliefs and religions. They taught me to look at my own life rather than to criticise another person. I’ve been highly influenced spiritually by my parents. I ate Ayurvedic Yoga food all my life and followed a disciplined yogic life since my childhood and all my teenage years. I remember my days as a four year old child with my grandmother. I would sit with her in front of her little temple at her home and we would pray together. I feel I am blessed by my ancestors.

Daniel: There are so many interesting episodes which reinforce that the fates wanted us to be together. It seems that I was destined to meet an Indian woman. For example, even before coming to India, I’d been granted a spouse visa from the Indian high commission in London even though I applied for a student visa! Did they know that I would meet Jeenal and get married? Coincidence? Or maybe we could say that there is a higher purpose and power behind everything.

Daniel: As a teenager growing up in Brazil I questioned my existence and purpose of life and sometimes would lie awake the whole night until morning curiously searching for the truth as I waited for the sun to rise. These were times of mental agitation. I kept on searching by travelling around my native country and eventually went abroad. After hard work in London and my pilgrimage in the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I finally went to India. I changed my life and diet completely. I studied and practiced Yoga in India for five years and made several tours to holy spiritual places practicing Yoga. When


Jeenal: We have been married seven years and practice and live the life of Yoga together. We are blessed by our Gurus Hansaji and Dr. Jayadeva of The Yoga Institute in India. It is only with their blessings that we are progressing on this spiritual path. Tell us about how you met? Guessing it was through Yoga? Jeenal: We met in the The Yoga Institute of Santacruz in Mumbai between all the chaos and noise, but it was just perfect. It seemed that we had already known each other for many years. Daniel has actually been told by two spiritual masters that he was an Indian in his previous life! We feel there is a deeper meaning behind our union and we have met to share and accomplish something higher together in our lives.

Is Yoga in your separate home countries different from what you teach now? How so? Jeenal: There are very few selected schools which teach traditional Yoga nowadays. There are many schools in India and all over the world that teach Yoga without depth and principles. Mixtures and fusion have become so common and people get carried away by colourful marketing strategies. With internet and Facebook anyone can sell Yoga. Sadly in some areas, Yoga is now becoming a limited form of fancy exercises, sequences and alignments only. Daniel: We are fortunate to receive authentic knowledge on traditional Yoga from our Gurus. We have a holistic and very traditional approach to Yoga and we go to a deeper level to understand the subject. We do not attach any name or brand for the Yoga we teach. Yoga is Yoga and we teach as we have received it.

Do you feel that Yoga is a lifestyle rather than just exercise? In your own lives - do you stay true to this always? Daniel: Of course Yoga is not only exercise. It is a practice of an entire lifetime where one needs to change to a vegetarian diet, avoid intoxicants, keep away from negative thinking, lead a nonviolent, truthful and peaceful life. What we preach, we try to follow to our best. Not just by doing a few poses. Doing fancy Yoga poses is easy but following the moral ethics prescribed by Yoga is a challenge. It would be wrong to call yourself a Yoga practitioner or teacher if you are not dedicated to its values and principles. Just because someone does an asana or breathing technique, it does not make them a Yoga practitioner. Are there any cases you have witnessed of students changing their lives through your teacher training programs? Daniel: Of course, so many have changed their lives! Our method of imparting Yoga education is utmost disciplined and organised. There is hard work involved. All our students go through a very deep inner transformation. Our course shows the students their purpose of life. They understand deeper laws of existence and of spirituality and choose to impart Yoga in a meaningful way after they complete our training. For example, one of our students, Myllene from Brazil, teaches Yoga at a drug rehabilitation centre. Another, Jessica, from Hong Kong teaches Yoga at the cancer foundation to the cancer survivors. Most of them start to teach and practice it daily. Many of them realise the non-violent and healthy aspects of a vegetarian diet and choose to completely adapt to vegetarianism. Our Yoga diet plus routine is highly impactful. Jo from Ireland completely turned vegan like many others. They learn to eat and live healthily. They give up their addictions. Yoga is such a wisdom that without any doubt will change your life but only if is imparted in a truthful way. With the grace of the divine, our path is truthful, and it brings real happiness in the lives of many.

in our asana class which makes the experience deeper and beyond the physical. We include group dynamics and conceptual activities. Our approach is holistic focusing on mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual development of a human personality. What do you think makes a great Yoga teacher? Or a great teacher for that matter? Daniel: Spirituality says we are all learners and our Gurus say that the learning remains till the last breath. It is the divine to decide who is great, not us. To be great or to be a Yogi we have to work for several lifetimes to eradicate our mental structural defects like ego. Only by stretching on a rubber mat one calls himself a Yogi. The word has become so casual and in its meaning loose. Yogi means an accomplished master and there are hardly many around.

“ Yoga is the training and control of the whole human personality. One has to start from the body, which is more gross and available. Next, one moves further deeper inside, using the breath. Eventually thoughts and feelings will also be available.” (Daniel Fonseca)

If you weren’t running WLYA what do you think you would be doing? Jeenal: Yoga teaches us to surrender to a higher power and accept that a higher law governs our life. We are convinced that things happen for a reason as according to Karma Yoga philosophy. So a Yogic answer to this question is to be in the present and not to dwell on things that are out of our control. So we should just learn to relax breath with ease and watch our lives with a witness like attitude without doubting anything. So, whilst we are here in Chiang Mai and not anywhere else, we will focus in keeping the doors of Wise Living Yoga Academy open for anybody interested in traditional Yoga!

Check out Wise Living Yoga Website at: and www.teachertraining. or follow them on Facebook: www. for insightful and inspirational daily updates!

Tell us about your new centre in Doi Saket. Why did you choose Thailand as a place to base WLYA? Jeenal: Our new centre is in a cute little Thai village surrounded by rice fields, 30 minutes from Chiang Mai international airport. We have a very traditional local Thai community around us. It is very green, quiet, comfortable and perfect for deep Yoga studies. We do not use air conditioners here. Here we preach simplicity and economy of a Yogic lifestyle. We have lovely Thai staff and are trained to make nutritious Yoga dishes. Beautiful birds, flowers and fishes are part of our Yoga Centre. We taught in different countries and always felt a spiritual connection with Chiang Mai. Nature made everything smooth and perfect for us to come to Thailand. Also our focus is to keep our prices affordable without compromising on quality. Tell us about your focus on ‘the traditional’ - why is it different from other schools? Jeenal: Our teaching methodology and tradition comes from the oldest Yoga organisation in the world – The Yoga Institute of Santacruz, India founded by Shri Yogendra in 1918, being the first centre to teach Yoga and teacher training program to the common man. We directly received the teachings from our Yoga Gurus, Dr. Jayadeva and Hansaji J. Yogendra, and we are so grateful to them. We have carefully designed our Yoga syllabus to fit in history, background, ideology and philosophy of Yoga.

The Doi Saket WLYA Centre

Daniel: Apart from Yoga relaxation, detoxification techniques and diet we also follow a very scientific plus safe approach while teaching physical practices. We use breath and ‘Bhavas’ (attitudes/feelings)



RAINY SEASON SPECIAL! How to Take a Whirlwind Trip Through a Monsoon... Ideally, all travel plans would be made to happen during the “on” season. However, when time is of the essence, chances are you might just have to buckle down and travel through – gasp – the rain. Fortunately, showers don’t have to put a dampener on your travel plans, even if you’re set on trekking somewhere off the beaten path, like Tioman Island in Malaysia (as I was just recently!). South East Asia’s monsoon season hits different areas at different times. While most of the region is wet from around July - October, there are micro-monsoons in certain coastal areas. I booked a weekend trip in Pulau Tioman, Malaysia, for mid-February. With Monsoon season taking place on the east coast of Malaysa March - September, I knew that I’d most likely be meeting one of these storms. Although this meant I wouldn’t be spending as much time soaking up the sun as you normally would on a beach holiday, it gave me room for bigger, better plans. The first day of my trip took me on a rainforest hike to a waterfall. The hike itself was a bit damp, but I’m still one of those kids who loves splashing through puddles. There’s definitely a feeling of freedom in letting go and simply embracing a rainfall! To be fair, this was a lot easier to do since I knew I’d be going for a swim in the natural pool at the base of the falls as soon as I reached my destination and that the stormy weather created a surge in the falls, making the pool deep enough to jump into. The next day consisted of my main reason for travelling to Tioman during a monsoon: SURFING! Compared to Indonesia and the Philippines, Malaysia isn’t exactly a well-known surfing destination. It’s only possible in certain locations along the east coast during the rainy season and even then, most of the waves are smaller and better for beginners. Although these criteria are too selective for most surfers, they fit my needs perfectly. My friends and I were able to take advantage of some great waves on a beach we had virtually all to ourselves. So if you’re ever in a similar scenario where you find you’ll be travelling through a storm, you can follow these five tips to avoid getting rained out: 1) Do your research. Rain won’t ruin every trip. It might even make some better, case in point, getting to surf in Malaysia! 2) Look for seasonal deals, since less people travel during off-seasons, you should be able to find some good deals on hotels and tours. 3) Check out local museums or other indoor activities. Lots of museums or galleries are free to get into, and give you the chance to learn more about the place you’re visiting. 4) Waterproof your electronics. If you’re anywhere close to as much of a shutterbug as me, invest in a waterproof camera case and make sure other electronics like phones and iPods are kept in a dry bag. 5) Take advantage of any sunshine you get. Rainy seasons have unpredictable weather; so if the sun decides to peek out, take advantage right away because you never know how long it’ll be around for.

By Judi Zienchuk


5 Things To Do in the Rainy Season in S.E.Asia 1. Wear your poncho with pride

Buy a different colour for every different day of the week. Put a belt round it, decorate it; give it an asymmetrical hemline, draw spots on it, wear it with patent leather heels and go naked underneath to ensure you really turn heads. Girls, you can try that too!

2. Re-enact the kissing scene from the film, ‘The Notebook’

“It wasn’t over. It still isn’t over!” Grab the nearest person you can see and kiss them passionately as dramatic music plays (in your head). Haven’t you always wanted to take part in a Hollywood kissing scene?

3. Get out your shower gel

It’s a well known fact - er sorry myth - that regular folk think that us backpackers smell. Who, me? So grab your shower gel, get right under those pits for the most natural shower there is and prove them all wrong.

Local street selle rs carry on regardless...

4. Run outside like you’ve just finished rain dancing and say “it worked, it worked!” Is more effective if you are wearing a loin cloth with tribal face paint. Everyone will mistake you for some sort of Weather God and you will spend the rest of your life as a worshipped Guru in South East Asia.

5. Get drunk

Stuck in a bar and it’s started to rain? Oh dear, what a pity. The rainy season lasts three months and it’s the perfect excuse to get drunk and stay drunk for three months. The electricity has just gone off, boats have stopped running and I need another beer.

Caught on Camera by Neil Rimmer



TRAVELLER STORIES An Unexpected Tur n of Events...

One of the most fun (and sometimes scary) things about travelling is the way that plans suddenly shift and turn upside down. I’m travelling with my wife. We got married the 1st of December 2012, and just three days later, we left our home in Santiago Chile, for a 7 month trip around South East Asia. Whilst in Siem Reap, Cambodia, we decided to visit a school so we could spend some time playing music with the children. I’m an accordion player, and my wife plays the ukelele. As soon as we placed one foot inside the school field, we were completely surrounded by a noisy crowd of little boys and girls, asking (in perfect English) our names and where we were from. After this cosy welcome, we went to the Head’s office, and asked for his permission to play some music for them. We wanted our music to be our present to them. The Head was very interested in our proposal, and after making a few phone calls to a couple of the teachers, showed us the way to a classroom that, to our complete surprise, was full of instruments. It was their music room. They explained to us later that, in fact, this was the only school in Siem Reap that gave music classes to its pupils. After a few minutes, at least 20 little smiling kids came into the room carrying their own instruments. Small melodic pianos, guitars, drums, and even two accordions formed this particular orchestra. The children placed themselves in two rows in front of their music conductor (a sweet eight year old little girl) and invited

us to join them with our own instruments. After a moment of silence waiting for the sign from their conductor, the children started playing a very original version of Jingle Bells, while we tried to improvise our way into their melodies. Suddenly, in the middle of the song and all at the same time, they put their instruments down, and performed a perfectly coordinated, choreographed dance, complete with such funny steps that neither my wife nor I could play anymore for laughing. We put our instruments down while we enjoyed this one-of-a-kind personalised show. To conclude, two typical Cambodian songs were played to us, with true passion and devotion. It was a moment we won't forget. We went over there to try to give those children something, but ended up receiving this huge gift instead. It was a beautiful and spontaneous shift of plans... aren't those the ones that make your trip unique?

By Jose Francisco Winter and Pamela Martinez. To follow the trips of Pamela and Jose, visit http://labrujulagitana.

Calling all budding travel writers!

S.E.A Backpacker Magazine is written by travellers passing through South East Asia right now. It’s our aim to have fresh new writers with new experiences and viewpoints contributing every month. If you fancy your hand at a spot of travel writing, we would love to hear from you! Please send any articles, stories, book reviews or any random scribbling you like to If possible try to include photos with articles you submit. We’ll get back to you right away with news of whether your words will be appearing in the next issue.

Thanks for your support and Happy Travelling!


6 Things you NEED to know before renting a scooter in SE Asia!

RENTAL QUALIFICATIONS EMust know how to properly utilise horn function (press a minimum of three times per minute).

ESpends more time driving on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic than in the designated lane.

EAbility to multi task is essential; using a cell phone while

Scooters are to Asia like backpackers are to hostels - made for each other. Also like hostels, scooters can be amazing or downright brutal. If you’re planning on renting a scooter in South East Asia, here are a few tips to make the journey a smooth one...


Take a ‘before’ video (or photos) of the scooter. You’ll have proof of the original scooter condition if there is a disagreement. Make sure to document every scratch even if the rental agent says it’s nothing. Be especially wary of bikes that appear to be in mint condition - the owners will always know if you’ve accidentally dropped the bike!

2. Avoid giving your passport as collateral. The majority of scooter rental shops will ask you to leave your passport until you return the scooter (and settle up any ‘damages’). Often the shops leave passports in unlocked drawers or equally cringeworthy places. Offer to leave cash and another type of ID instead. If you must leave your passport, ensure the shop you’re renting from is reputable. Check for online reviews and with your hostel or guesthouse for recommendations.

smoking, driving a manual and honking the horn is required. EKnowledge of how to maximise profits is an asset. EUnderstanding that a 16-seat van can really fit 20-people. EUnderstands that the opposing lane is really the passing lane at all times, especially when there is oncoming traffic. EHas mastered the art of the triple pass (passing a transport truck that is currently passing a car). ESpecial consideration will be given to those who have mastered the quadrupole passing technique. EManic laugh and appreciation of slow Asian love songs considered an asset. EFully understands the hierarchy of the Asian road: Largest passenger buses Transport trucks Smaller passenger busses Passenger vans Cars Large pieces of debris Dogs Cats Pigs Chickens Small pieces of debris Pot holes Scooters Pedestrians

driving license not needed

3. If you do damage the scooter, be polite about it but never pay

the first price quoted. Remember that waiver you haphazardly signed? The one with a part pricing sheet on the back? That sheet is now the bane of your existence. The prices listed can add up to hundreds of dollars in a blink of an eye. Most shops will claim the lofty prices are justified because they will be replacing the damaged parts rather than repairing them. A good bargaining strategy is to ask for the damaged parts you’ll be paying for. If you can’t agree on a fair price, suggest the involvement of the tourist or local police. Typically, the tourist police will attempt to settle the dispute fairly. Beware though; once the police have decided a solution, you cannot haggle the price any lower.

4. Many small roadside stores sell fuel at very inflated prices. Most

shops sell petrol out of old liquor bottles. The prices may not seem all that expansive because scooters take such little fuel. However, the shops usually charge double what you’d pay at a petrol station. It is common for the mom and pop shops to claim they’re selling you a full litre, when in fact it is much less. Fill at a petrol station where possible.


Wear your helmet! It goes without saying but many people foolishly don’t protect their noggin while scooting around. Contrary to the vision you have in your head of whipping around like a badass on a motorcycle through the jungle, nobody looks cool on a scooter. If you need a more convincing reason (other than avoiding possible brain damage), many countries have stiff fines for foregoing the ‘dome protector’.

6. Traffic in SE Asia is chaotic to say the least. If you’re a scooter


KOH PHI PHI, THAILAND Ibex amazing 3 in 1 tour with Cliff Jumping, Bamboo Island Tour and Shark Watching! Deep water solo and climbing tours for both beginner and advanced! All hotel and transfer booking in Thailand!

rookie, obviously you’ll want to practice in an area with very little traffic. Most travel insurance policies won’t cover injuries sustained on a scooter, so make sure you check before hopping on one.

125/22 Moo. 7, T. Aonang A. Muang, Krabi (Koh Phi Phi), Thailand 81000

By Stephanie Cook

+66(0) 7560 1423



“Your time is limited, so don’t waste

it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by

dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s

Learning to follow your intuition...


ravelling is an amazing opportunity to leave behind the boundaries and routines of everyday life. Whether you’ve taken a sabbatical, are on an extended holiday or have packed up and said goodbye indefinitely; having the opportunity to work on your own time, with only yourself to answer to and your intuition for guidance can be an exciting but daunting task. For the first few weeks everything’s fantastic, the weather’s great, you’re discovering new places, meeting other bright sparks wanting to talk about anything and everything, and the memory of deadlines and constraints is fading rapidly. After a few weeks, however, bigger questions start to arise: why am I here, what am I doing, what’s the purpose of this, am I on the right track? Then comes the realisation that you need to develop your previously under-used intuitive skills to get the best out of your journey. A major step in getting what you really want is learning to connect with and follow your intuition. Making the transition from external directives to freedom of choice - and making the RIGHT choices for YOU - can be a rocky one. As your intuitive cylinders


I’ve been travelling for nearly three months and find I often get pulled along with the crowd. I love the freedom of making spontaneous decisions and going with the flow. However, I’m struggling with knowing how to differentiate between going with the flow and getting pulled along by others. Help!


I’ve met many travellers that get pulled about by different people or energies along the way. A great starting point when making the distinction is to change the language of that well-known phrase from ‘going with the flow’ to ‘going with MY flow’. This simple change shifts the focus back onto the self. Be clear and honest about what YOU really want. It can feel fantastic to make spontaneous decisions that are fun and lead to new experiences. If it’s simply more spontaneity you’d like, then go ahead, but if you have specific intentions then be faithful to yourself. Nobody else can do this for you. You may lose a few people who you thought may be friends, but speaking from experience, there will be others waiting for you who have similar intentions and will support you to go your own way. It takes courage to truly go your own way - the first few times will feel difficult as you step into your own flow. But I can speak from experience and say that it most definitely gets MUCH easier. I often overhear ‘oh, it’s amazing YOU SHOULD GO!’. The underlying message is ‘I had an amazing time, and I want you to go too because this will confirm my good experience’. However, the advice is often not based on knowing you or what your deeper intentions are.


Keep a sense of humor, being able to laugh at yourself is SO important when building personal skills. Check in with friends you trust. Hopefully they’ll give you a loving nudge in the right direction if you’re off looking for ‘signs’.


thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” Steve Jobs

fire up it’s like clearing out rusty old pipes. There are going to be blockages to work through, your full flow won’t be there immediately - it takes practice, persistence and trust in oneself to keep going. It’s SO easy to fall into what I’ll call a ‘mind trap’ at this point. A really common ‘trap’ is to look for and depend on external and unusual circumstances or events as ‘signs’ to do something or go somewhere in particular. Picture it... you’re sitting in your favorite cafe, sipping on a fresh coconut, avidly studying your Lonely Planet and musing about where to go next. You feel an energy in your belly when you think about going on a yoga retreat in the north, the sensation intensifies, the energy continues to move, yes, you’re thinking, this must be a sign! I should go on the retreat! The energy continues to move and hey presto, you feel a huge release and you’re off to book your train! (But in actual fact, this was just the reverberations of the dodgy Thai Green Curry you had last night!) This is a genuine (YES really) example of the way we can trick ourselves. We make ‘the signs’ fit what we think we want. It also paves the way for rather dramatic scenarios and story-telling, making our journey seem more mystical. But it’s not real. The point is that looking for external and exotic ‘signs’ can get us into a tangled mess and then it’s difficult to be true to our hearts.

Exercises to Develop Intuition: Exercise 1 – Create a Vision Board / Mind Map

What’s the main intention for your trip? What would you like to experience, do you want to make any changes? Learn new skills? Meet like-minded people? Write/draw out your thoughts and feelings and stick them up in your guest house room wherever you go. This will act like an anchor for your journey as you can check against it when opportunities come your way.

Exercise 2 – Connecting With Your Intuition

1. Ground yourself – stand and feel your feet on the earth. Breathe from your feet up to the top of your head. On the out-breath allow your breath and energy to flow back down your body, through your feet and into the earth. Do this 3-8 times, slowly. 2. Focus on your breath, breathe slowly and deeply for 5-10 mins. 3. Focus on your heart for 5 minutes. Breathe deeply and relax. 4. Staying focused on your heart, speak your options out-loud. For example; ‘I want to learn how to meditate. Is the best place for me the retreat on Koh Phangan or the Monastery in Chiang Mai?’ 5. See how your body feels when you thing about each option. See which option feels better in your heart and make your decision based on this. Focusing on our heart when we’re making decisions ensures that the answer is coming from within, from our inner teacher (in-tuition) rather than being led by others.

Melanie is based in Chiang Mai offering Healing, Training & Workshops with Energy Work, Shamanic Healing & Body Psychotherapy. She has over 10 years’ experience and has travelled extensively.


By Alana Morgan: You can follow Alana’s anecdotes, tips and discoveries through South East Asia as she tries to figure out where/what/who she wants to be… (and suffers countless bug bites in the process) on her blog:

Scope Out The Street Sculptures PENANG, Malaysia Penang has often been called the food capital of Malaysia (or even Asia, depending on who you’re talking to) because of its unique, rich mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine. The former colonial town has more street stalls and tasty dishes than you know what to do with, but beyond the food, what else is there? Plenty. In 2008, Penang (an island situated near the southern tip of Thailand) was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the island has managed to hold onto its old world charm, traditions and culture. Like most places, the best way to explore Penang, and get a feel for its culture and people, is to walk it. The government has even helped you out with a street art project installing 52 iron rod sculptures in the Georgetown area (on the northeast side of the island) depicting historical facts, explanations and scenes of everyday life that help give Penang its local flavour. In between your stops at the food stalls, spend some time wandering around to try and find these clever sculptures. While some are clearly visible on main roads, others are hidden on little back streets and alleys – you never know when you’ll spot one and get another insight into Penang’s past. Note: You can access a brochure with a map detailing where to find each sculpture, along with several other street art installations, at



TOP 10



ietnamese food is characterised by its use of herbs. Spearmint, Asian basil, perilla, betel leaf, sorrel and many varieties of coriander are used widely. Cooking focuses on the balance of flavours, chilli is usually added according to preference rather than as a compulsory ingredient. French influences are still obvious in cooking; bread is widespread and a key ingredient of the popular Banh Mi. Frogs legs are also common, pork and seafood are abundant. Vietnam is rich in choice and flavour; from fresh herbs and succulent meats to clear broths and thick soups. Finger foods and elaborate dishes rank equally; Vietnamese people are genuinely passionate about food and cooking. The choices are endless and the flavours are delicious. Simply put, you will never go hungry in Vietnam.


Pho Bo


Banh Mi

Pho is served all over Vietnam, but personally, I prefer the taste in Hanoi. It’s a fairly simple meal but well executed. Roasted beef, raw beef cuts, noodles, greens and stock, all mixed together to create the breakfast of champions. Add chilli sauce, lime and sweet vinegar to personal taste. It’s rich, it’s warming, it’s filling and it’s cheap.


Banh Mi and Pho are the go to meals of Vietnam. Banh Mi, influenced by French rule is a crusty baguette filled with meat (usually pork), pate, cucumber, carrot, coriander, chilli sauce and mayo. No two places are the same and it’s readily available either in street side restaurants or takeaway karts. A flavoursome and cheap snack.

Banh Khoai

Banh Khoai is a regional speciality from Hue, in the middle of Vietnam. Banh Khoai is made using rice flour batter and beaten egg to make the outside, which is folded in half to make a casing, similar to a taco shell. Turmeric is added for colour. The filling is a mix of shrimp, pork and beansprouts. As with most Vietnamese food, a plate of green leaves and herbs such as mints and coriander is on the table to be added to taste. Sliced tart star fruit can also be added. In Hue, a dipping sauce made from minced pork and liver with peanuts is added. Banh Xeo is a similar dish, with a differing regional name.



Nem Lui


Cao Lao


White Rose


Bun Bo Nam Bo

Nem Lui is a speciality from the Hue area. Minced pork is moulded onto lemongrass skewers and cooked. They are served with green leaves, starfruit and wrapped up in a rice paper sheet, (a bit like an oversized spring roll). As with the Banh Khoai it is served with a peanut liver dipping sauce.

Cao Lao is regionally specific, like Champagne, or Cornish Pasties. It can only be made in the Hoi An area because the noodles used in it are made using local well water and a specific ash, from Islands off the coast. This may seem unnecessarily elaborate but it’s all part of the charm. Cao Lao is historically a pork dish. Thin slices of roasted meat, green leaves, beansprouts and mint are all added to the special noodles and topped with small flat croutons that look more like crackling than croutons. Unlike a lot of other Asian noodle dishes, it’s neither soup based nor dry. Once all the other ingredients have been assembled a spoon of stock is ladled on to make everything wet, nothing more.

White Rose is a Hoi An street food speciality, minced prawns are wrapped in thin translucent skin. They are wonderfully addictive, single bites of joy. Topped with fried onions, and dipped in sweet chilli sauce.

A southern Vietnamese dish with lean marinated beef and vermicelli noodles. Other ingredients include pickled vegetables and papaya, green leaves and roasted peanuts. A mixture of sweet and sour flavours, with a little hint of spice.


Chao Ga

Chao Ga is a meaty porridge, sometimes called congee made with rice and stock which is cooked out to become thicker. Ga (chicken) is added to the soup as well as green herbs and chilli to taste. It is often eaten in the winter, and served with Dau Chao Qui, a kind of deep fried breadstick, to accompany soups. A hearty and filling meal.


Banh Coun

Banh coun is one of my favourite eats in Hanoi. It’s a really delicate snack, like a semi translucent dumpling filled with pork and mushroom. Topped with crispy fried onions and “meat fluff”; a desiccated meat product with the consistency of candy floss. Not a very hearty meal, but delicious flavours.


Bun Cha

Bun Cha is a Hanoi dish. Cold rice noodles are mixed with griddled pork patties which look like tiny little burgers, doused in Nuoc Cham, a fishy condiment (used for all sorts in cooking), and pickled papaya. This is served with green herbs. Everything is mixed together in a little bowl; the sweet, salty and sour all work together to give you fresh flavours and a tingly, lingering spiciness. One well known Hanoi restaurant in the old quarter serves their bun cha with crab spring rolls, a delightfully heady mix of flavours.

About the writer: Ben Turland has recently been travelling around SE Asia. When he is not drinking tea, or hunting food he likes taking photographs, graphic design and peanut butter M&Ms. He really loves peanut butter M&Ms. He just loves them. Ben writes about more food and travel tales at: and



u l , o S e o S u g t h n i r K o l p orea xE

By Colin Roohan


ou’re feeling proud of yourself; you’re a South East Asia conqueror. Bagan, Angkor Wat and Borobudur have all been checked off of your travel list. Your ability to balance on the back of a motorbike is uncanny, you know Bangkok train timetables by heart, your moleskin diary is full of notes, and your passport smells like ink and sweat. Life is grand, but then the question hits you— where should I travel to now? My solution is simple: Seoul. South Korea has been slowly climbing its way toward becoming a tourism magnet since Korea and Japan co-hosted the World Cup in 2002, but as far as I’m concerned, the magnetic waves aren’t travelling quickly enough. This tiny peninsular continent is affordable, interesting, and has some of the most underrated cuisine on earth. A city that doesn’t sleep; it’s also an exciting place to be. A typical migraine-inducing work week behind one’s desk is balanced out by generous amounts of socialising, drinking, and singing to a tiny room full of your friends (or strangers) until 5am. My two+ years living and teaching in Seoul went by like a flash, and perhaps I should have relaxed a bit more instead of trying to cram in three museums on a Saturday afternoon – but I felt it was my duty to explore it extensively. With a wealth of historical sights, nightlife, parks and markets, Seoul is simply magnificent.

Historic Sights

Seoul is Korea’s epicentre of history, politics, and culture. The restoration and preservation efforts towards architectural sights in Seoul are truly astonishing. They are a source of pride for the Korean people who respect the turbulent past endured by their ancestors. There are varying types of sights to see, but the two I felt gave me a strong sense of Korean culture were Seoul’s palaces and Buddhist temples. Seoul’s royal palaces are a point of pride, and all of them showcase stunning craftsmanship and architecture. The two most impressive palaces in Seoul are located downtown in close proximity to one another and both exhibit immaculate attention to detail. The first, Gyeongbokgung, which dates back to 1394, was the seat of government and inhabited by royalty for roughly two centuries. Sadly, during the Hideyoshi Invasions, the palace was set ablaze, and surprisingly, by Korean palace servants, who wanted to destroy all records of their bondages. Today the well maintained palaces and grounds are open every day, except Tuesday, between 9am and 5pm. The entrance fee is cheap, but if you plan to visit more palaces, ask for an integrated admissions pass that costs 10,000 Won (roughly $10.00 USD), which will gain you access to four other palaces and the Jongmyo Shrine. Changdeokgung is also spectacular, and you’ll see similar structures to those at Gyeongbokgung; however, Changdeokgung is in better cosmetic condition. Meander your way towards the right rear of the complex where you’ll find a heavily wooded ‘garden’ area. The trees in this area provide great shade, and if you keep a watchful eye, you’re guaranteed to see a Korean Magpie (the national bird) hopping around. Another option for sightseeing is to visit one of Seoul’s numerous Buddhist temples. Jogyesa Temple, conveniently located in the heart of Seoul, seems to always have some type of event or festivity going on, and even though it may not be as scenic as some of the secluded temples gracing Seoul’s mountain passes, the patrons are super friendly and don’t mind curious foreigners at all. Touring the temple grounds and having a chat with local monks can also be arranged by stopping at the temple’s office. If you really want to experience Buddhist spirituality, then Bongeunsa Temple, near the Co-Ex mall and south of the Han River, offers overnight temple stays for foreigners. For more information on activities, rates and scheduling simply visit


South Korea nabs the prize for Asia’s most underrated cuisine.

It’s healthy, it’s spicy, it’s nourishing, it’s salty, it’s garlicky… it’s phenomenal! Grilled meats, fresh vegetables, and rich sauces – South Korea has it all. Probably the most important item on a Korean table is kimchi, a spicy fermented cabbage dish (kimchi can be made with a variety of different vegetables, but here I am focusing on cabbage). It is used in soups, stir-fried with rice, and grilled on an open flame, but is more frequently served on a small plate with virtually every meal. At first, the taste can be a little unusual, but after time you begin to enjoy it, and then even start to crave it! You’ll have ample opportunities to develop your kimchi palette, so whilst en route, seek out the nearest Korean BBQ restaurant. Protein picks include beef, pork and chicken accompanied by freshly sliced garlic, red pepper based sauces, and crisp leafy greens to wrap everything up into one tasty package. BBQ restaurants are numerous and affordable. Try asking a pedestrian where you can find Kalbi, or simply look for restaurants with grill grates on in the middle of their tables, and/or cylindrical shaped vents hanging down from the ceiling. Ordering can be tricky but just remember that amounts are usually served in increments of 100gs’and typically ordered in a ‘per head’ quantity. Korean BBQ can be one of the pricier meals in Korea, so if you’re on a budget I recommend finding a little chain called Kim Bap Chun Guk. These quaint little restaurants scattered across Seoul serve enjoyable home-style dishes at prices averaging under $5 USD. Order dolsot bibimbap – a sizzling hot earthenware bowl full of rice, vegetables, red pepper paste, and sesame oil topped off with an egg. This variety trumps all other bibimbaps because the earthenware bowl gives the rice a crispy, chewy texture. Their Yuk Gye Jang – a fiery soup with chunks of beef and rustic chopped vegetables – is a dish that I love, but it will make you sweat from every pore so eating this on a summer afternoon isn’t recommended.

Nightlife Debauchery = fun; and Seoul’s debauchery is top-notch. For me (and I don’t know if it is because I lived there), Seoul and Korea in general, always have felt much safer in comparison to some areas in South East Asia. If you go out to have a few beers, don’t be surprised if Koreans want to drink with you – in fact, you should almost count on it. Open up, share some laughs, and try some new drinking games. Most guidebooks tend to point to Itaewon – an area dominated by expats that houses a US Army Garrison – as the best place to go out. It’s not. It’s overrated, and every time I went out in Itaewon, I did not enjoy myself. For me, the three best places to go have a meal and/or drinks are Hongdae, Hyehwa and Konkuk. All three of these areas are near universities, which make food and libation prices drastically lower than those in Seoul’s ritzier areas. The crowds in these areas range between their early twenties and late thirties, and the main drags are all located within walking distance from the metro. Hongdae, named after Hongik University, is known for its urban art, indie music scene and clubbing culture. On Saturdays, from spring through to fall, there is a flea market held near the University’s main gate that displays all types of goods, from jewellery to photography, and all for reasonable prices. The most popular day in Hongdae has to be the last Friday of each month, which has earned the term ‘Club Day’ (when the price of one cover fee grants access into over a dozen clubs, some including a free drink). If it is your first time to Seoul, then check out Hongdae during the weekend. The streets are packed with young energetic crowds throughout the night, usually ‘til four or five in the morning. If you are looking for something a little more laidback, the Hyehwa and Konkuk areas should be your choice. If you’re in Hyehwa (Hyehwa Station - Line 4), seek out a little bar called Basquiat, which occasionally holds impromptu jazz sessions. The Konkuk (Konkuk University Station - Line 2 or 7) area is the smallest of the three and the least popular with Westerners, thus giving it a distinctive Korean university atmosphere. It is quaint and easy to navigate with copious amounts of dive bars. The main street, whose name literally translates to ‘Street of Taste’ or Food Street has a whole kingdom of street eats ranging from fried vegetables and meats on skewers to blood sausage, buttered squid, and silkworm larvae (one of the worst things ever!). I recommend eating a lighter dinner in order to try some, if not all, of the street food.

Markets The markets in South Korea are as fascinating as any in South East Asia, and Seoul contains two of the country’s more impressive markets—Namdaemun and Noryangjin. Namdaemun, almost 600 years old, is a lot of fun. The tightly packed streets are inaccessible to cars, so stay alert to the sound of motorcycles zipping through as they deliver parcels. In addition to motorcycles, hand-drawn carts and food vendors with metal trays balanced on their heads give this market a truly old-world feel. The goods in Namdaemun are extremely varied, with everything from tourist souvenir shirts and pepper-infused chocolate to high dollar cameras and Korean red ginseng-infused alcohol, teas, and snacks. This place is vast. Sizewise, it can’t compete with Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market, but you should allow at least half a day to explore Namdaemun, as you’ll surely be distracted. Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market, south of the Han river, is Seoul’s largest seafood market. Around 3am every day, fishermen bring in a large variety of seafood for both wholesale and retail selling. Here you can buy a vast array of seafood, and being there is thoroughly engaging. For a small fee, vendors affiliated with nearby restaurants will send your purchase over to the restaurant where it will be cooked. The frighteningly large tiger prawns and succulent king crab are at the top of my list. Wash it all down with a couple of cold beers, but save your partying for elsewhere as tabs can add up quickly around Noryangjin.

Parks and Recreation Koreans enjoy the outdoors as it helps break up the constant ebb and flow of a busy work life. The architects and city planners involved in Seoul’s development have given this metropolis some truly great public spaces. In Namson Park, thickly wooded hills lead up to a 273 meter high panoramic view of the skyline. Stylishly capping the mountain is the N. Seoul Tower, a structure reminiscent of Seattle’s Space Needle, which is 236 meters tall and houses a revolving restaurant at the top. You’ll also find public art displays, an ancient pagoda, and historic smoke stacks once used as warning beacons at the top. To get there, take subway


About The Author & Photographer: Colin is a travel photographer from Tulsa, Oklahoma. This dusty foot philosopher has travelled far and wide searching for inspiration and documenting his experiences with travel, culture, and life. Colin was recently included on Complex Magazine’s Top 25 Travel Photographers Right Now, an honor he is extremely grateful for. His work has been published by AFAR, Travel + Leisure, The Royal Geographical Society’s Hidden Journeys and Groove Magazine. To view more of his works please visit, and you can also become a fan and follow him on Facebook – Colin Roohan Photography.

line 4 to Hoehyeon Station. Use exit #4 then look for a street named Toegye-ro 2 Gil leading to the left; follow this for 152 metres, where you’ll find the park entrance. My second pick, Children’s Grand Park, located on subway line 7, is also a superb choice, and as its name suggests, there is plenty for kids to do here. The grounds include a small zoo, an amusement park, and botanical gardens. Refreshments can be a little pricey here, so eat beforehand. Just outside of Seoul is the Anyang Art Park. It contains a temple, an open-air performance stage, and numerous walking paths – but the real highlights are the quirky, large-scale artworks scattered throughout the complex. It’s truly something out of Alice in Wonderland; one minute you’re making your way through a maze of mirrors and the next you’re dancing with a huge plastic Buddha. The park is stunning in the warmer months when the trees have their foliage and the stream is full of water. To get there, take line 1 to Gwanak Station; outside of the station look find a bus stop where the following buses stop: 1, 51, 5624, 5625, 5626, 5530 or 5713. To be safe, you can always ask your driver if the bus stops there, and in typical Korean fashion, he may even yell at you once you’re there to help you out. Once you get to the Anyang Art Park stop, you’ll have to cross the street where you’ll see signage leading to the park. A modern metropolis; some parts feel suspended in time, gelling together a perfect mix of cutting edge modernism and a heavilyhonoured cultural past. Seoul is a great place to travel, and its neighbours to the north shouldn’t deter you from visiting. I was there during Kim Jung II’s last days, and even though tensions were high, most South Koreans remained calm. The language barrier is a little harder to overcome when compared to Thailand, but if you’re patient and friendly, you’ll have no problems. Koreans are very honest and eager to please visitors to their country, and will often go out of their way to help you.




Researched by Nikki Scott, Karen Farini & Tyler Protano-Goodwin


veryone knows that South East Asia is great value for money. And, if you do decide to treat yourself once in a while and splash out on a little luxury - it’s amazing how far your money goes! We’ve been investigating some of the most stylish, funky and interesting hostels in South East Asia - and it’s incredible what we

found! Offering so much more than just a place to lay your weary backpacker bones, these designer digs are perfect for when you want to treat yourself, someone special you’ve met - or for putting the ‘rents up when they come to visit. We even found one with a slide! Oh yes, we’ve certainly had fun researching this one...


MoRooms - Chiang Mai

Wink Hostel -Singapore

Tagline: “Indulgence on a Budget” Why is it different? Wink Hostels are amongst the first in South East Asia to tout “pod style” beds, cozy, private sleeping sanctums for travellers. The pods are sound resistant, with ambient backlighting, an adjustable LED reading light and a duvet and mattress, so sumptuous, you’re in comfort heaven! Plus they even have ‘queen sized’ pods for couples or for those who like to stretch it out – sexy huh!

Feng Shui:

Tagline: “Art can live.” Why is it different? Each room has been designed by a different artist based on the laws of Feng Shui and their own Chinese astrological sign (Rat/Ox/ Tiger/Dragon etc). The hotel is a collaboration of interior designers, architects, local artisans, alternative therapists, even astrologers! Labelled a true holistic experience ‘integrating ancient concept with contemporary practice’, this artsy abode has all the mod-cons. How much? From 2,000 baht

How much? Single pod = $50 SGD / Double pod = $90 SGD.


Bangkok Tree House

Tagline: “A green destination amid the city’s bustle!” Why is it different? Because it’s a treehouse, in one of the craziest, most congested cities in the world. ‘Nuff said. Located in Phra Pradaeng (the green lung of Bangkok), you’ll sleep in ‘nests’ overlooking the river. There is no access by road - only by boat, bicycle or foot. Outdoor showers and dry toilets available for the most avid tree huggers, plus energy-efficient lighting, organic food and a swimming pond (not pool!). It’s also vegan friendly and a plastic bottle free zone. While it may be a little pricy for the novelty, you do get some great perks: free delicious ice-cream 24/7, bicycle hire and a-la-carte breakfast. Beware - not for those who don’t like creepy crawlies!

Social Vietnam Backpackers Hostel - Downtown Hanoi Tagline: “More than just a bed.” Why is it different? Most happening evenings in Hanoi start and end at this extremely popular hostel. Located smack bang in the heart of Hanoi’s atmospheric Old Quarter, there is plenty to do right outside your door, if you can motivate yourself to leave the hostel! From trivia nights to many a themed party this hostel is non-stop. While the dorm rooms are clearly the more budget friendly option, flashpackers will


How much? Tree top nests start at 3,900 baht.

find themselves right at home in one of the hostel’s private rooms. Each room boasts a sweeping city view, private bathroom, and flat screen with cable TV. So join in for the fun and then retire in the evening for your own private, peaceful slumber! How much? Privates from $25 USD.


The Artel Nimman - Chiang Mai

Tagline: “An upcycled design hotel” Why is it different? The first thing you notice is the slide which whimsically transports visitors from the second floor rooms down to the first. The 13 rooms (available in four styles) are undoubtedly modern, but have been constructed with a clear focus on the past. Each room has turned every day objects into workable art; water tank tubes create the structure for circular window seats (which are found in each room), broken floor tiles form intricate mosaic designs on the doors, and old Thai window grates make excellent headboards. Each room has its own capsule bathroom (some including bathtubs) which are designed to make you feel like a kid again in your own private fort! How much? Mini studios start at 1,700 baht.

Childhood Dreams: Tofu Cafe Beds & Bikes - Penang

Tagline: “By backpackers for backpackers. By cyclists for cycle lovers!” Why is it different? Located in a 150- year old heritage house, the dorm rooms in this hostel feel more like your childhood bedroom than an industrial bunk room. Each bed is enclosed in its own three walled pod, which can easily become secluded simply by shutting the front curtain. In addition to your own space, enjoy control over your own light, fan (if the a/c isn’t keeping you cool enough), storage cupboard, and complimentary toiletry basket. As an added bonus the hostel will also help keep your days going smoothly with free breakfast and free bike rentals (for guests staying more than three nights). How much? Dorm beds from 60 MYR.




Leave More Than Just Footprints

Volunteer at Daauw Home, Hauy Xai, Laos


arly in the year of 2004, Nzoua Vue’s family was beset by tragedy. His beloved sister, Kajsiab, died a preventable death due to a minor infection and inadequate health care. She was thirteen years old. Sadly, this grievous loss is not an unusual story in many parts of Laos today. Indeed, rather than being a stand-alone case, the loss of Kajsiab to a curable case of appendicitis is instead an indication of the myriad problems that continue to afflict many rural villages of Laos in the 21st century: food shortages, no access to clean drinking water or sanitation, limited or no access to healthcare, and no reliable source of income. It was with the intimate knowledge of these problems and the memory of his beloved sister that Nzoua and his Dutch wife, Lara Picavet, formed the non-profit socially minded company, Kajsiab, in memory of their dearly missed sister. Kajsiab means: a flower that blooms, a heart that opens, a love that suddenly springs. The project, in which local people, (with the help of a few foreigners), dedicate their whole lives to reducing poverty and increasing education and opportunities in the area in which she lived. By helping to prevent such deaths in the future, it means that Kajsiab may not have died in vain.


By Alec Connon

Kajsiab, based in Huay Xai near the Thai border in the north-west of Laos, is a unique initiative that combines Hmong and Western perspectives. Tackling matters such as education, healthcare and women’s rights, the organisation seeks to improve the lives and health of some of the poorest people in the country. In the short term, they have already achieved this. At their Daauw Home Guest House and restaurant, the Kajsiab Initiative provides women from the local villages with a place to sell their beautiful handmade products such as bags, skirts, rugs and belts. It is also here at the Guest House that Nzoua and Lara take on interns from the local mountain villages. The interns remain at Daauw Home for periods ranging from anything between a couple of months to several years. During this time they receive training in the hospitality industry, business and administration matters and the English language. They also receive a fair monthly salary for their work. In addition to all of this, an area of Daauw Home is dedicated to providing a place of shelter for the families of patients at the nearby hospital, with cooking and sleeping facilities available free of charge. This, however, is only the beginning for the Kajsiab Initiative. It is the hope of Nzoua, Lara and their extended family that by the year 2020, their project will be entirely self-sustaining. It is their dream that by this time, they will have built a women’s health clinic,

established a clean water system in one of the local villages and built a school for use of seven of the villages. As part of this plan, the profits from Daauw Home will be used to pay the salaries of two full-time doctors who will work at the clinic. Finally, there are plans for a Women’s Workplace, where women from the poorer, more rural villages of Bokeo Province will come to learn new skills, attend training courses (that will further their employment opportunities) and boost their confidence. Here, they will also learn how to sell and get a fair price for their products – thus enabling them to bring a little more money to their families (many of whom subsist on a little over $2 a day). It is a lot of work. A hell of a lot of work. Nzoua and Lara are certainly people who are dreaming big, but after volunteering our time to the project and getting to know the passion and commitment of this wonderful couple, it is something that both my partner and I firmly believe they can achieve. In fact, we only found out about this project on our supposed ‘final’ day in Laos. We only had one month left of our six-month South East Asia trip when we met Lara, by chance, on the street as she was handing out flyers trying to attract travellers to the Guest House. A fortnight later, we were still in Laos, and it was looking more and more like Thailand would have to wait until another trip in another year, because here in Huay Xai we had found something we really believed in. Since Alec was at Daauw Home in Huay Xai late last year, Project Kajsiab have commenced the building of the Women’s Workplace. To find out more about getting involved and/or volunteering your time, check out the Facebook page: Project Kajsiab Laos, or email Lara Picavet: And to follow Alec’s own opinionated blog, go to:



By Karen Farini

More to Koh Phangan than Full Moon!


ou have to admit it’s what you all think of first. Despite the huge number of music events, parties and smaller gatherings that are continuously going on (and off!) all around this crazy island – the Full Moon Party is the oldest, most renowned, and arguably most musically diverse. Every month, top-notch sound-systems and bars render Haad Rin’s Sunrise Beach invisible; carpeted by the myriad of fireperformers and literally thousands of fluoro-daubed raving monsters who are either worshipping the music or deeply ensconced in their latest purchase from the bucket stalls. But what if all this just isn’t enough? What if you’ve got the time (and energy!) to explore even just the smallest handful of the many other options that await you on every corner of this magical isle, a different one tantalizingly open almost every day and every night?

More Festivals First things first: Psychedelic Trance! Aficionados will know that Koh Phangan is the place for all things ‘psy’, with a whole load of gorgeously deckedout arenas in the jungles of Baan Tai. Look out for The Half Moon Party and Black Moon Culture. Less well known but with an equally mindbending psy-trance music policy is the Shiva Moon Party, in a small but beautifully decorated jungle valley hidden just five minutes from the main Baan Tai road.

Jungle Experience

Other jungle parties in Baan Tai include The Jungle Experience (house, deep house, tech house, techno & progressive) in a magical flower garden criss-crossing a river and filled with a blinding load of UV decorations, laser and organic light installations. Finally, don’t miss The Sramanora Waterfall Party that boshes out minimal electro, breaks and progressive in a beautiful bit of jungle just down the road in Baan Khai.

Sramanora Waterfall

Parties While you’re still in Baan Tai, then check out Oasis every Thursday night, less than 1km up the road. A great little bar/club, Thursday nights serve up some juicy deep house ‘til 2am. A great place to be in Baan Tai/Baan Khai on Saturday nights, is, quite simply, ‘The Place’ – damn good fun, good tunes – and smack bang right there on the beach. You’d also do well not to miss out on the brilliant Loi Lay Floating Bar parties on every Sunday night till 6am (just behind The Pier restaurant on the Baan Tai road).

Loi Lay r Floating Ba

Finally, and a little bit further up the island on the west coast near Sri Thanu, on a small beach cove on Haad Chao Phao, is another firm underground favourite - the Pirate Moonset Party, serving up electro, techno, progressive, psy and dark psy from sunset till dawn against a backdrop of sheer rock cliff.

Pirate Moonset

Day Parties

For psy-trance, look no further than signs for the inimitable Baan Sabaii on a secluded piece of beach on Baan Tai. In low season, they kick off at 4pm after all the major jungle parties with a sunset chill out (before getting gradually harder). One of the favourite day parties is The Backyard in Haad Rin. Following every FMP (usually from 11am till late that night), this is, for many, the best part of the FMP full stop – with the most hardcore of the previous night’s party-heads still throwing shapes to some seriously chunky house – and others having just got up to go there nice, fresh, and full of beans! In fact, it’s not unusual on this island to choose forsaking the night before in favour of getting up the next morning to party!







shenanigans is Guy’s Bar on Haad Tien beach (a 10-minute boat ride from Haad Rin). There’s a party on every Friday night in the jungle just behind The Sanctuary – and, perhaps because of its location, has a really underground feel, a music policy that touches on everything from lounge, house, breaks, progressive, tech-house (and sometimes even motown, funk and a bit of hip-hop to keep you on your toes!). Fridays at Guys has been known in some cases to go on till 2pm the following day! At which point – still not had enough? No worries. Climb over the rocky cliff path over to the next beach (Haad Yuan) for the afterparty at Eden that goes on till Sunday afternoon (and also kicks off every Tuesday night). Both venues are absolute corkers if you love electronic music with like-minded people. You do? Then get on that boat!

Guys Bar

Beach Clubs! Want to party with a bit more class (on the surface, at least!)? Then head to the beautiful, and just recently opened Merkaba Beach Resort in Haad Rin on Wednesday evenings for a night called Golden Vibes and catch some of the island’s best DJs spinning the latest in tech house and techno. Boasting a great restaurant, awesome sound system and swimming pool, this is definitely one of our hot picks. Back over in Baan Tai, we highly recommend the Ku Club at the gorgeously decked-out Beach Village. It has a big Ibiza connection for two reasons: A) the mighty Privilege in Ibiza used to be called KU in its early days, and B) its pure white decadence rather resembles San Antonio favourite Es Paradis. Still, unlike either of its Ibiza counterparts, KU is right on the beach. Fridays and Saturdays rock – expect everything from old skool and underground house to breaks, DnB and dubstep. Residents include Graham Gold, Snoopoid & Rob Gritton.

Merkaba Beach Resort

Backpacker Favourites! Amstardam Bar & Stone Hill Resort: Just past the main port of Thong Sala, Amstardam is a real chilled-out favourite: the climb up is worth the view of the sunset (and a panoramic view of Koh Samui in the South, Ang Thong Marine Park to the West, and Koh Tao in the North).

Outback, Haad Rin: Oz-themed, and less noisy than the beach bars; here you can get an ice-cold brew and food from midday onwards. Fubar, Haad Rin: Brilliantly atmospheric deep house parties every Monday night at this popular hostel/lounge bar Reggae House, Haad Rin: Ethnic music, secondhand books, hammocks, Thai cushions on raised wooden platforms, and a free consultation if you’re considering a bamboo tattoo. Hard Road, Baan Tai: Fantastic new backpacker operation in Baan Tai/Thongsala, with warm-up parties before every major festival. Pitstop, Baan Tai: Another great new addition to Baan Tai, Pitstop is a hostel, clothes shop, a bar hosting various pre and post parties, and a restaurant that organises a too-good-to-be-true roast dinner carvery every Sunday (plus Wednesdays in high season). They can also organise taxis to Guys and Eden. To namedrop just one more to finish, then don’t miss out on a great little find at the sea edge in front of Two Rocks Bungalows on the Baan Tai road towards Thongsala (turn left down a dirt track after the petrol station). An amazing place to watch the sunset, drink cocktails and munch on tapas, come here to enjoy a great little atmosphere and some brilliant tunage from residents Leon, Andy Newman and a whole load of others who regularly turn up ad hoc. As for the other hotspots – well, at this point, we think it’s only fair that you get to discover a few your own. Get on a bike, on a songtaew or in a longtail boat and prepare yourselves for the time of your life…

Full Moon Party Did You Know? The alcohol you buy from the buckets stalls is not always what is says on the label – it can be cheap or fake alcohol. To have a safe Full Moon Party, we recommend that: 1. Drink sensibly and do not drink from the buckets of strangers. 2. Stay with a friend at all times. 3. Never buy or attempt to buy any illegal substances – there are many undercover police around, and remember – even possession of any Class B or C drug like weed carries a huge fine and/or imprisonment in Thailand. Your 100 baht Full Moon Party beach entry charge has gone towards the installation of 150 CCTV cameras around Haadrin. It also pays for a massive beach clean-up the following day.

Photos by Visit the website to check out daily parties in Koh Phangan!

Make sure you explore Koh Phangan before sunset too!

Did you know that over 90% of Koh Phangan is national park? With deserted beaches, mountains and fishing villages, also yoga, meditation, trekking, kayaking, snorkeling and diving - the island is a great place to detox too!




nt stuff



Brunei Darussalam: Currency: Brunei Dollar, divided into 100 cents. Exchange rate: $1 USD = $1.25 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, food can be served and eaten without cutlery, but should be eaten with the right hand only. It is regarded as impolite to give and receive gifts, especially food with the left hand. It is also seen as bad manners to refuse drinks and refreshments when offered by a host. Emergency numbers Ambulance: 991 Fire: 995 Police: 993

Cambodia: Currency: Cambodian Riel (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 4,062 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: 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. One random fact: Cambodia is the only country in


the world to feature a building on its national flag. Not just any old building though, but the incredible Angkor Wat, regarded as the largest religious structure in the world and a powerful symbol of national heritage and pride for Cambodia. 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: The Lli Kere Kere Caves are East Timor’s most fascinating archaeological site. Perched high on a cliff top above in Tutuala on the East Coast of the isle, the caves house fascinating cave paintings dating back more than 13,000 years. Emergency numbers Ambulance: 7236662 Police: 112

Indonesia: Currency: Indonesian Rupiah Exchange rate: $1 USD = 9,500 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: Following Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945, Indonesia became the world’s largest Muslim majority nation on earth. Today, there are over 235 million followers of Islam, making up around 88% of the population of Indonesia. Emergency numbers: (Java) Emergency numbers (Java) Fire: 113 Police: 110 Medical assistance: 118, 119

Laos: Currency: Lao KIP (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 8,000 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: Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan) in Laos is an unusual sculpture site located just outside of Vientiane that is home to over 200 concrete, slightly bizarre Buddhist and Hindu statues. The park was built in 1958 by a PriestShaman named Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat. Ambulance: 195 Fire: 190 Police: 191

Malaysia: Currency: Malaysian Ringgit Exchange rate: $1 USD = 3.10 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 can be found in ‘Gunung Mulis National Park in Malaysia.’ The ‘Sarawak Chamber,’ also known as ‘Good Luck Cave’ is so big that it could accomodate a Boeing 747. Fire: 994 Police and Ambulance: 999

Myanmar: Currency: Kyat (US Dollars used) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 873.000 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: Myanmar Thaing is a unique and traditional form of martial arts, similar to kickboxing, which originated more than 2000 years ago during the reign of King Okkalapa. It was a compulsory specialisation of royal princes in ancient times. Ambulance: 192 Police: 199 Fire: 191

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: Formerly a colony of Spain, then relinquished by the United States after the SpanishAmerican War only to be occupied by the Japanese during World War II, the Philippines has a turbulent history and an interesting mix of cultural influences. Today democracy thrives on it’s 7100 islands. Emergency numbers Fire, Ambulance, Police: 117

Singapore: Currency: Singapore Dollar Exchange rate: $1 USD = 1.25 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: ‘Singlish’ is an English-based creole language spoken in Singapore. It consists of a mix of words originating from English, Malay, Cantonese, Punjanbi, Australian and American slang, mainly picked up from TV and many influences. The government discourage the use of ‘Singlish’ in favour of standard English. 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 and passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering.

Currency: Thai Baht Exchange rate: $1 USD = 31.2 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: The Karen Hill Tribe in Northern Thailand are also known as the ‘Long Neck People.’ Girls from a young age wear heavy brass necklaces to elongate their necks. There are many theories as to why women wear the rings; a symbol of beauty, status or perhaps to give the women resemblance to a dragon, an important creature in Kayan folklore. Emergency numbers Ambulance: 1554 Fire: 199 Police: 191

Vietnam: Currency: Vietnamese Dong Exchange rate: $1 USD = 20,830 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: Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, the First Lady of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1963 was considered one of the most elegant women of the 20th Century, compared to likes of Jackie Onassis, Eva Peron and Grace Kelly. Emergency numbers Ambulance: 115 Police: 113 Fire: 114 (At S.E.A Backpacker we try to ensure that all information provided is as accurate and up to date as possible. (Checked 20.04.13) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)









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QUESTIONS: Answers = 1. b (Cambodia) 2. c (Bangkok) 3. b (Vietnam)

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

Celebrating South East Asia with 25 Issues in 4 Years.



48 ngo huyen, hanoi


9 ma may, hanoi


10 pham ngu lao, hue




South East Asia Backpacker Magazine Issue 25  

Inspiration & travel tips for backpacking South East Asia & beyond.

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