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9 C 0 3: E D - E NOV I S S U

The essential magazine for all travellers through South East Asia.


Moments travelling GOING SOLO? Travelling tips for lone backpackers.

The many faces of

Koh Phangan!


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Recording your memories in a travel journal is a feat undertaken by many backpackers today. Reading back and remembering how you felt when you caught that first glimpse of Koh Phi Phi, had that first sip of Beer Lao, first attempted that zip wire in Vang Vieng or first got asked if you wanted a tuk tuk! - the experiences will be brought to life again and again. You’ll see how travelling conjures up the magic of childhood as you once again experience things for the first time. Every day is a new discovery. And there’s inspiration for writing with every turn! S.E.A Backpacker Mag began life as just that. Traveller stories written in diaries, quotes scribbled down from walls of hostels, strange new cultural nuances noted and fellow backpacker gossip became the bare bones of what you are reading right now! With every issue, it is becoming more and more of an assorted mix of tales from every corner of South East Asia as backpackers across the land bring word of their exciting adventures! From drunken


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“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen.”

holiday snaps on missing cameras contacts from a lost mobile phone much loved iPod music collections days wasted replacing a passport critical files on a memory stick

(Benjamin Disraeli)

but with a permanent presence in many major destinations, Backpack Boomerang is uniquely positioned to recover lost, sometimes even stolen items ...and send your stuff, right back at ya’. visit us @

NO L IMITS: Enjoy new experience, learning and practising rock climbing. Located: Beside Anyavee Resort, Railay East, Krabi, Thailand Tel: +6684 6292173 - Email:

Halong Bay escapades to dabblings with the local cuisine, we love nothing more than hearing your unique stories. This issue is jam packed with the latest backpacker buzz on what you’re eating, what you’re reading and most importantly where you’re going! Be it on or off the beaten track. And what’s a story if it’s never told? Stories are lived to be told! (And told again and again, and maybe exaggerated just a little, or a lot!) You just can’t keep them to yourself! Sharing your experiences with others is what travelling is all about. S.E.A Backpacker Mag is the travel journal for all backpackers in South East Asia. Hippies, party animals, soul searchers, intrepid explorers, young, old, big, small, washed, unwashed (mostly unwashed.) Whoever you are; this is your mag. So don’t wait and tell the grandkids, tell us first! The grandkids can read it all here instead. (Share your stories with us at

RAVEL & TOUR T G PRANAN East & West Railay, Krabi, Thailand

Tour bookings, accommodation, local & internation transport. Honest, reliable information for travellers, Internet. Tel: +66 (0)75 819 456 / +66 (0) 89 045 0009 / +66 (0) 85 8003121 E-mail: S.E.A Backpacker


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C ontents :


F eatures : The Art of Barter Word on the street: Going solo Oodles of Noodles Traveller Tattoos

10 18 37 42

D estination spotlight :

The art of barter...



in Vietna


Moments in Vietnam 12 Kanchanaburi 17 The Many Faces of Koh Phangan 28

R egulars : South East Asia map & visa info Backpacker Games Backpacker Photos Event Calendar: What’s on Traveller thoughts, stories, tips Backpacker Essentials: Arts, Fashion, Food, Health Backpacker Info

The many face

s of Koh Phan


8 21 22 24 26


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For advertising enquiries please call: +66(0)81 776 7616 (Thai), +66(0)84 553 8996 (Eng) or email: For writing opportunities please email: S.E.A Backpacker would like to thank: Saksit Jankrajang, Michael Alty, Penelope Atkinson, Lena Zak, Grayson Earle, Prisana Sirisamatha.

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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 or transparencies supplied 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, October 2009.

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M ap : south east asia Myitkyina

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Myanmar Sapa Fansipan Mandalay Bagan Kalaw

Taunggyi Inle Lake


Udomxai Chiang Rai

Luang Prabang

Mae Hong Son

Vang Vieng



Chiang Mai

Nong Khai


Udon Thani

Yangon Pathein

Halong Bay

Tha Khaek




Hoi An

Four Thousand Islands


Angkor Temples


Siem Reap Tonle Sap





Koh Chang

Gulf Of Thailand

Phnom Penh

Mui N


Koh Tao Koh Phangan Koh Samui

Andaman Sea


Ho Chi Minh

Phu Quoc

Surat Thani Phuket


Koh Phi Phi

Pulau Penang

Pulau Weh

Daily Bicycle Tour

Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Medan Berastagi

Ancient Temples Bangkok’s canals Unique magical night tour Night riding through quiet & safe back roads


Lake Toba

Singapore Pulau Nias

Riau Islands


If you are looking for a unique experience in Bangkok, this is the trip for you! For more detail >> or call 089 201 7782



Indian Ocean


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V isa I nformation Brunei Darrussalam: Nationals of most European countries, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand do not need a Visa for visits of up to 30 days. USA citizens can stay for up to 90 days. Cambodia: Most nationalities can obtain a 1 month tourist visa upon arrival which costs around $20. At land border crossings, notably the Thailand/ Cambodia border, the fee can be more expensive as the cost is paid in baht and is sometimes rounded up considerably. East Timor: Nationals from Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA do not need to arrange a visa in advance. They can be granted upon entry into East Timor and cost $30 for 30 days. Portuguese nationals can stay up to 90 days on a tourist visa. Indonesia: Nationals of Australia, Canada, USA, UK and most European countries are eligible for a 30 day visa upon entry, which costs $25 USD. You can also obtain a 7-day visa at $10. Laos: Most nationalities can obtain a 30 day visa for Laos at international airports. You will recieve 15 days at land border crossings. The cost ranges from $20 - $42 depending on nationality. At the Thailand/ Laos border if you pay in Thai baht the fee will be more expensive. Malaysia: Most nationalities are granted a free 30-90 day entry pass upon arrival at international airports and border crossings. Myanmar: Visas should be arranged in advance at a travel agency. Cost can range from $20 - $50 for a 28 day visa, depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting. Philippines: Tourist visas are free of charge for most nationalities for a stay up to 21 days. For longer stays you should apply for a visa before you arrive at a Philippine Embassy. Visas for 3 months, 6 months or 12 months are available. Cost depends on duration of stay. Singapore: Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the UK and most other European countries are granted either a 14 or 30day tourist pass upon entry to Singapore. Thailand: Most nationalities, including Americans, Australians and most Europeans receive a free 30 day tourist visa upon arrival into Thailand by air. However, if arriving by land you will only receive 15 days. Vietnam: Visas must be arranged in advance. You can do this at a Vietnamese embassy in whichever country you are in and some travel agencies also offer the service. Depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting, it can cost anywhere between $35 and $65 for a 30 day visa. • See the information pages at the back for more detailed information, visa extensions and penalties for late departure. (At S.E.A Backpacker we try to ensure that all information provided is as accurate and up to date as possible. (Checked 20.10.09) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)


Pacific Ocean

Laog Vigan



Philippines Donsol


Nha Trang


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South China Sea

Davao Zamboanga Kota Kinabalu


Mt Kinabalu


Bandar Seri Begawan


Sarawak Kuching Pontianak


Berau Putussibau

Kalimantan Balikpapan



Sula Islands

Sulawesi Pangkalanbun


Banjarmasin Buru


Puncak Jaya


Indonesia Java Gili Islands Bali


Nusa Tengarra Flores


East Timor S.E.A Backpacker


T he art of barter

Mr Tuk Tuk: Tuk tuk, Tuk tu k, Tuk tuk, Tu Tuk tuk, Tuk tu k tuk, Tuk tuk, k, Tuk tuk, Tu Tuk tuk. Tuk tu k tuk. Tuk tuk, k, Tuk tuk, Tuk tuk, Tuk tu k, Tuk tuk, Tu Sweaty Fara k tuk. ng: (Grows ho tter, redder an the streets look d sw eatier by the ing for guest minute as he houses) traipses Mr Tuk Tuk: Tuk tuk, Tuk tuk, Tuk tuk, Tuk tuk, Tuk Tuk tuk, Tuk tuk, Tuk tuk, tuk, Tuk tuk. Tuk tuk. Tuk Tuk tuk, Tuk where you go tu k, Tuk tuk, Tu tuk, my friend? k tuk, Tuk tuk, Tuk tuk. Hello Sweaty Fara ng: (As his fli p flop breaks crossing the ro and he nearly ad, he is final gets run over ly won over by a short and br by a motorbike the persistent eezy journey) Mr Tuk tuk an Okay. How m d the promise uch to town ce of ntre? Mr Tuk Tuk: (Eying the fa ra ng up and down, Okay 500, let’s assessing ho go. w much of a rookie he is) Farang: (Feign ing a complet e look of shoc k, shaking his head) No way Mr Tuk Tuk: , 300. Oh cannot, ca nnot. Oooow cheap for you. ee ee ee 450. eeeeeee. Can not. Okay ok ay cheap Farang: (Firm , he’s done th is before) 400. Good for you, good for me. Mr Tuk Tuk: Ah, ooweeee eeeeeeeee, M y petrol very ex pensive cann Farang: Oka ot cannot. y never mind. (Pretending to walk off, one eye over his sh Mr Tuk Tuk: oulder) Okay, okay le t’s go. The two depa rt on a beautif ul journey into three gem sh the sunset an ops and two su d despite stop it shops, the rid Two joyful so ping off at e works out jo uls brought to lly well for all gether by the involved. wonderful conc ept that is barte r.


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BARTER. For many of us in the West, it’s a cultural difference that is hard to get used to when we first arrive in Asia. Not only is it accepted here in the majority of places in South East Asia, it’s expected. It’s the way business is done, deals are struck and livings are made. From moto rides to shopping trips in the market, you’ll need to be armed with your skills pretty much everywhere you go. We’re here to help with a few tips to get you bargaining with the best of ‘em in no time at all!

DO’s ople a bit will show pe guage, even just lan e m th d of an ) le ve litt ha a u 1.yoSpu’veaeknot just stepped off the plane (eveefnfoifrtyoto understand thoset

that aking an onstrate you’re m importantly dem lture. language and cu have a is fun. Smile and ur time. Bartering yo learnt! ke ta ve d ha an u yo lax ill Re joy the new sk en d an te tia go laugh while you ne always be polite. Most importantly that you’re able It’s often the way t. es er int ely dis ign Fe s you had absolut ices for the thing pr t ff, ea lk gr y wa all to re rt t to ge ! You sta g in the first place t jus u yo d an wn no interest in buyin a coming do on s ep ke ice pr but oh that Get too carried away. Bargaini can’t resist! fro m ng for your go 7/ 11 will get you ods They’ll think so 7. me funny look 49 e lik in, ev r be er m yw s. You can’t ba nu he d re od ! t an ec sp re Throw rter e m so you ed pro and give you’re a season Get angry! Rem ember you’re dude! w ho the foreigner ev er you are dealing here; too low for or with is just tryin (h. hig o Th to ey ice ’re pr g to make a liv ur no yo t rt try in at g to ing Don’t sta ing. rip ain rg yo ba u t off. (Most of th ar e time) take the piss!) St to ice pr e th that matter – don’t r fo Give in too ea you plenty of room sily. It’s just a price that gives expect you to a game and play. Don’t thin people creep up. k you’re being not accepting really rude by the first price. ’re ey th if in, The aim is to agreement that to be thrown come to a fair you’re both happ Ask for extras about give me w y with. ‘ho a try , ice pr e th on e t re an th adam t if I buy Bargain at the is price?’ or a ‘wha end of a jour this and this for th e sure you ak m st Ju purchase is all ?’ ney or when ice pr is th e m e w ra you’re on pp ed lls be up and in your will you giv th front. Once you’ lourful hats wi bag. Get a pric co n ve se nt ve wa m e up ad e actually yo ur de cision you’re st the bargaining. umped. before you start Unlike other th ings, don’t atte ld be skills in taxis. It much you shou mpt your barg w ho al loc a is much more co aining Ask ’s at wh of a st efficient to as politely to put th u a rough ide yo e giv ll k your driver wi ey e m Th et er on paying. . . particular area a fair price in that Continue to us e you’re newly found skills whe returned home, n you’ve no matter how exciting and im may be out here pressive they !



DON’T’s 1.










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Moments in Vietnam... By Lena Zak


S.E.A Backpacker

S.E.A Backpacker


ne Vientia : LAOS hou P r Nam ark •Nea p r Wate •At

In Hanoi VIETNAM •D ie Jan 2010 •To n Bien Phu Ngoc Van

Luang Prabang : •Near the Post Of fice

Vietnam is filled with endless moments of laughter, beauty, happiness, intermittent craziness and constant adventure, all thrown in with a touch of the bizarre. These moments are far too many to list in detail, but some jump out and beg to be recorded. Vietnam is arriving at Ho Chi Minh airport, exchanging money and having my very first conversation on Vietnamese soil. “You are sad about Michael Jackson?” asks the money-exchange lady. Unsure that I’ve understood her correctly, I look puzzled. “Michael Jackson. King of Pop. He die. I am very sad,” she explains. “Sorry to hear that” I say and walk out into the unbearable heat of Ho Chi Minh City. Two seconds later Vietnam becomes running and trying to keep up with a guy who’s grabbed my backpack and is rushing off to what he calls his “taxi.” Once I’m inside, my new knight in sweaty armour constantly turns around to face me “where you from?” “how long you stay Vietnam?” so many questions, while driving at full speed through the craziest traffic I’ve ever seen in my life. Vietnam is more motorbikes than I could ever imagine. Carrying more people, wearing more bizarre, colourful helmets, balancing more random items between them, and weaving in and out of more directions than I had ever thought possible. Vietnam is pondering whether or not to buy a special beauty cream, made from milking the queen bee, and assured to make your skin ‘pinky and smooth’.


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It is watching people drink snake wine, and, after swallowing the shot, seeing their disbelieving eyes when the guy pulls out a dead bird – complete with feathers – from the middle of the large bottle that they had just drunk from – “extra flavour!’

Vietnam is the pleasant discovery of Vietnamese coffee – of that mysterious something that made it so delicious, combined with ice and condensed milk ... mmmm ... and cup, after cup, after cup of sweet, sweet caffeine.. Vietnam is smiles. At first puzzling, and seemingly unreal, but eventually too oft repeated to be an act. It is the enthusiasm of children to practice any English they knew – usually just to say “Hello.” To wave and giggle and smile, and smile again. Not to point or hide behind their mother while staring dumbfounded, but just to smile. Sweetly and happily. And then to go back to their games. Vietnam is a woman, in the floating markets in the Mekong Delta, steering a boat full of pineapples with a large paddle, while texting on her mobile and smiling to herself distractedly. Driving and texting. Happens everywhere. Vietnam is desperately trying (and failing) to capture two very important photos – one, a family of four on a motorbike, with the younger child standing up on the seat in between the two parents, two, the road sign of “Child and flying midget child ahead” – so much confusion! Vietnam is lying under a palm-leaf umbrella in Nha Trang, on beach chairs, looking out at the beauty all around, while local boys climbed palm-trees, cut down coconuts and cooled them in the ocean. Swimming in the warm water, drying instantly on the sand, wanting so much to tan just a little, while all around, the Vietnamese women cover every inch of their body so that not even a millimetre may be (god forbid!) exposed to those evil rays! Vietnam is hot. Vietnam is very hot even. Vietnam is rice. Rice fields, rice plants, rice seasons, rice mountains, rice noodles, sticky rice, sweet rice, plain rice, fried rice, rice wine, black rice, coconut rice, rice bowls, rice stocks, rice bags, rice, rice and more rice. Vietnam is hill tribe women laughing and chatting away on the trek from Sapa. 22 year old girls, with two children, husbands, perfect English learned from tourists and plenty of practical advice about life. “Your boyfriend is from your village? No? Better have boyfriend from your village. Good for family. Good for village.” Vietnam is a bizarre Chinese TV show about flying monkeys, a pig that turns into a man, falls in love with a princess, and fights off her

three black-cloak clad brothers. All dubbed in Vietnamese. With just one woman doing voices for every part. Vietnam is hiking in the pouring rain, glad for the relief from the sticky heat. Crossing flooded roads by asking a passing motorbike to hop on the back. Sliding down endless mud tracks. Being giggled at by baffled locals.

Vietnam is feeling like royalty. Swimming in the clear warm waters of Baitalong Bay, with not a soul in sight, surrounded by thousands of limestone islands, having eaten a giant lunch, and with 4 staff at our beck and call. All before getting back on board our private ship and watching fish fly ahead of us while sunbathing on the deck. Tough life.

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Vietnam is smiles. At first puzzling, and seemingly unreal, but eventually too oft repeated to be an act.

Vietnam is staying with a wonderful 74 year old retired fisherman and his wife. Studying his face, admiring her beautiful hair, smiling at each other over and over again, with not a common word between us. And, strangely, not being kissed hello or goodbye, but instead sniffed. Very sweetly. But certainly sniffed. A first. Vietnam is cycling through torrential rain, laughing and pedalling, pedalling and laughing. Passing kids in raincoats, motorbikes, water buffalo, rice paddies, drenched to the bone, but always laughing.


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Vietnam is the fear of getting on the back of that first motorbike. The adrenaline of riding through the fascinating, frantic streets having realised that I’d forgotten my passport, while about to board a 20 hour bus to Laos. And the shaking hands once it was over. But more than that, Vietnam is the confirmation of one of the things I most love about travelling: The first time you do something, it is scary, new, different, unfamiliar, and testing of your very notions of what you are capable of. The next time you do it, it’s just second-nature.

CULTURE INTAKE: KANCHANABURI I often find that places with a particularly memorable past often retain a certain atmosphere in the present day. Whether it’s all down to your own awareness of the events that happened there long ago or whether it’s something far deeper, it’s usually such places that end up making a lasting impression on you. Kanchanaburi is one of those places. From 1942 to 1945, over 275,000 labourers toiled on the construction of the Thailand-Burma railway line that goes straight through the town of Kanchanaburi. During the building 16,000 Allied workers, the majority of which included British, Dutch and Australian prisoners of war and an estimated 100,000 Asian workers, whom are rarely given the remembrance they deserve, died in severe and merciless conditions. Those who did survive, did so in extremely harrowing conditions. It was a project organised by the Japanese Imperial Army who wanted to make a strategic connection between their Base Camp in Burma to Singapore, through Malaya and Thailand. 415 kilometres of track over undulating ground. An ambitious feat for the Japanese engineers and a devastating one for the workers involved. As the guide book to the museum states ‘every kilometer of track cost the lives of 38 workers.’ The town of Kanchanaburi was made famous in the story of ‘the Death Railway’ by the classic World War II film, ‘Bridge on the River Kwai.’ (1957) Such death and torture is in stark contrast with the lovely, peaceful and friendly town of Kanchanaburi today. Names such as ‘Death Railway’ and ‘Hellfire pass,’ just outside of the town, seem somewhat incongruous with the friendly atmosphere created by the welcoming people and the spirit of travel and adventure in the air. It’s certainly a strange feeling riding a hired bicycle around Kanchanaburi in the sun amidst the beautiful Thai countryside, knowing that this place was once hell on earth for thousands of people. One that perhaps makes you appreciate this little town even more. The feeling of ‘boy, we don’t know how lucky we are’ crossed my mind more than once during my trip here! Apart from learning about the history of the ‘Death Railway,’ Kanchanaburi has lots more adventure to offer the backpacker. There’s visiting the renowned Tiger Temple where wild tigers reside under the protection and care of a group of monks, where you can get up close and personal with these amazing animals. There’s an abundance of adventure activities; rafting, trekking, (on foot or with the help of an elephant) swimming in fresh water pools, visiting waterfalls and relaxing in hot springs. And in the evening, you can head to the traveller hub ‘River Kwai Road’ where there are some cute little bars and restaurants. TIP: If you want to get off the beaten track a bit, (without going too far!) From Kanchanaburi, Sangklaburi is a five hour bus trip west, heading towards the Burmese border. The route is one of the most beautiful and scenic in Thailand passing through teak forests and mountains. It’s a less visited, but no less beautiful spot where you can enjoy outdoor adventures and visit some of the local villages of the Mon and Karen people.

Sanklaburi, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

220km from Kanchanaburi, close to Burmese border & Three Pagodas Pass

Kanchanaburi Thailand

Cozy Thai family guesthouse with the friendliest hospitality. Only 5 minutes from the train station.

Waterfalls, Hot Springs, Elephant treks, Rafting, Traditional Mon & Karen villages Tel. +66 (0)81 935 5932 / +66 (0)86 323 1778 /

- All rooms have private bathroom, hot water, cable TV. Start at 350 baht - Relaxing chill out garden - Delicious Thai & Western food - Kayaking & Elephant Trekking 30/6 River Kwai Rd., T. Ban Nue, Muang, Kanchanaburi Tel : +66(0)89 745 3793, +66(0)34 518 157 e-mail: / S.E.A Backpacker


W ord on the street: going solo Loads of people do it. Some say it’s the only way to do it. Going alone along the South East Asian Circuit is a feat undertaken by many an adventure seeking traveller these days. But, with hundreds of thousands of backpackers hitting the road each year, are you really ever alone on such a well trodden trail? We caught up with independent travellers this month, to find out the low-down on going solo.

Grow up Loner! I remember the first time I went out to a restaurant on my own, I thought ‘oh my god I must look really sad!’ Everyone is looking at me thinking why doesn’t she have any friends? I tried to read my Lonely Planet but felt too self conscious. I ordered a beer and thought oh people will think Im sad drinking alone. After spending most of the evening unrelaxed, texting my mum to say I was feeling very nesh, I paid the bill and left. Glad to be away from people. Looking back at this first night, I feel so silly to have felt that way. Now I can go into any bar or restaurant on my own and feel confident and not worry an ounce if I am alone, In fact, travelling on the South East Asian circuit, sometimes I actually wish that I had a little more time to myself. You meet people almost too easily! (Eva, Sweden)

Before I left home, I had lots of friends that were willing to come travelling with me, but I guess it is just something that I wanted to do on my own, without any one that I knew. There is something in travelling on your own, making decisions, facing challenges, being responsible for everything that makes you grow up a lot I think. I know it’s not exactly ‘Into the wild’ we’re talking about, and you meet a lot of people along the way, but it’s much better to meet new people from lots of different cultures rather than sticking with people from your home town. Learn about different places. It opens up your eyes and you learn an awful lot about other people and about yourself and what you like and don’t like. I would recommend travelling alone at least once in your life. I know I’ve grown in confidence a lot since I left home. (Daniel, Germany)

It’s not you, it’s me You almost feel like you are breaking up with someone. You’re like, it’s not you, it’s me.” I’m just not ready for this commitment” – It’s crazy how you can feel attached and responsible for people in such a short space of time. But you gotta do it, you gotta break free! That’s why you came away in the first place. To travel on your own. So just tell them it’s over! (DJ, USA)

Split personalities... Because nobody knows you or your past, travelling on your own means that you can be anyone you want to be! Try it. Next time you meet someone, be a a vet from Sri Lanka, a doctor from Botswana, an artist from Croatia! (Try different ones out, see which fits. Just be careful you don’t meet an expert in your field, that can get tricky. Suss out your component before you divulge! (Tristen, New Zealand)


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Couple-itis I was on a bus the other week from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng, when I spotted one of those awful kissy couples in front of me. Feeling a sickly bout of ‘coupleitis’ coming on, I raised the book I was reading a little higher, to hide my head so I wouldn’t have to look at them. As I sat alone on my uncomfy seat, next to a big sweaty random guy who kept mooching all over me, I don’t mind admitting I felt a little lonely and a little jealous at the two of them snuggled up in front of me. Later that night, I’d forgotten all about the couple, as I was having a whale of a time making new friends in the crazy Bucket Bar, when I noticed the female half of the couple coming over to me. “Do you mind if I share a bucket with you” she said. “Yes of course” I replied, wondering where her boyfriend was. A bit drunk and speaking the truth as you do, I told her how nice they looked on the bus and that I was envious of not having a boyfriend to travel with. “You must be joking” she said “I looked over at you sat alone on the bus. And I thought, God I wish that was me!” Guess it just goes to show you that the grass is always greener hey! (Lou, Ireland)

Say Cheese! The one thing I hate about travelling by yourself is that when you’re in a really beautiful place, you have to do the old leaning back, grinning, trying not to get a bit of your arm on, taking a photo of yourself malarkey. No matter how hard you try, you can never get it to look natural and you’ll always feel a bit of a geek posing on your own! (Jake, USA)

And then there was one... We started off as a group of six lads, that slowly whittled down to three, then one! We lost one mate to an ‘amazing’ girl he met in Cambodia and despite emails and facebook messages, haven’t seen him since! Another mate just couldn’t leave Vang Vieng after seven days already and decided to stay put. Another never came home from a night out and is apparently in India now after a drunken bet with some other lads he’d met. We were meant to be travelling for six months together, but barely made it six days in each other’s company!! It’s tough when you all want to do different things and you’ve got strong personalities in the group willing you this way and that. When it ended up just two of us, me and my mate lasted about 3 weeks after finally agreeing we’d both spent too much time together. I knew it was time to go our separate ways when one morning packing our rucksacks even his breathing was starting to get on my nerves! So now it’s just me and I’m glad to be alone for a while to meet new people and do my own thing. I think we’re all gonna meet up around new year time, which’ll be a right laugh with all the stories I’m sure we’ll all have to tell! (Sam, UK)

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o l o s r o f s p i T 10 . . . s r e l l trave

1. Stay in places with dorms, you’re in such close proximity it’s hard not to start chatting. 2. Use the flimsiest excuse to strike up conversation.

It might be obvious you’re just trying to talk to them but hopefully after a couple of minutes chatting, you’ll both have forgotten what barefaced ruse you used in the first place! It can be anything from asking what day it is, (hey - it’s easy to lose track when travelling) to asking if they like fish sauce! The moment you make one acquaintance, your potential for meeting for new people doubles as they’ll more than likely introduce you - often inadvertently- to new friends. You might be sat on your lonesome pining for company one minute, then before you know it, you’ve created a twosome that’s developed into a trio, then a big rowdy crowd! I’m not suggesting you take up smoking, but asking for a light is always an easy way to start a conversation! Even if you think someone doesn’t look like ‘your cup of tea’, say ‘hello’ anyway. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that they’re not half bad, and even if they’re down right odd, once you’re ‘acquainted’ they may be able to introduce you to some normal people. SMILE! (Appropriately) People who smile are far more likely to attract people, and makes YOU appear more approachable. Just smiling and saying ‘hi’ as you pass someone in the hostel can make it far easier to chat to them later. Remember, backpackers are a friendly sort. 9 times out of 10, any attempt at friendship will not be rebuffed, so don’t let shyness or self-doubt stop you reaching out to people. They’re probably waiting for you to talk to them anyway! Join popular tours or enrol in a few courses. Not only will you have instant companions, you’ll probably make friends with them enough to hang out after.


4. 5. 6.

7. 8.


And finally, when you’ve got friend s coming out your ears and yo ur home and dry, in the words of Ta That “Never forge ke t where you’re co ming from”’ - if yo see someone alo u ne, invite them to join you, the probably really ap y’l l preciate it.

rking cial netwo a load of so ’s re ww. e w th , s d a rganise rs such If you’re o to travelle d te a ic d e d .com. out there, iddentrails websites nd www.h a m o .c g n couchsurfi


By Penny Atkinson

tus Paradise Resort & Siam Scuba Center Lootus At Sairee Beach, Koh Tao

Accom Tel: 077 456 297 / Diving Tel: 077 456 628


S.E.A Backpacker

: GAMES Something to pass the time on those long bus journeys‌ (Answers on page 42)



1. Neckwear (5) 4. Card suit (6) 9. Lingered (7) 10. At no time (5) 11. Spy (4) 12. Person of high rank (7) 13. Female animal (3) 14. Row (4) 16. Rise and fall of sea (4) 18. Distress signal (3) 20. Deadlock (7) 21. Unaccompanied (4) 24. Mass communications (5) 25. Severe (7) 26. Chanced (6) 27. Retake an examination (5)


1. Plot (6) 2. Iron block (5) 3. River crossing (4) 5. Hanging jewels (8) 6. Separated (7) 7. Herb (6) 8. Proverb (5) 13. Type of horse training (8) 15. Obstructs (7) 17. Not as bright (6) 18. Divide by cutting (5) 19. Powerful (6) 22. Cooking devices (5) 23. Rise from sleep (4)

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

1 9 7

9 6

4 5







4 1

1 4

8 1



7 5

1 9


7 6

QUESTION How many national parks are there in Thailand? a) 17 b) 62 c) 102 S.E.A Backpacker


B Ackpacker: Photos Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai… “Last year, I timed my trip to be in Chiang Mai for Loi Krathong, (known as Yi Peng Festival) as I’d heard that the festival’s spectacular there, and it certainly was! During the day the town’s temples were filled with people preparing for the event. Huge floats were being filled with little ‘krathongs,’ in which people had written personal messages; some worries or fears to be floated away. Lots of backpackers were getting involved too. It was a lovely feeling to be part of this important event. On the big night, a few people I’d met at the guesthouse and I headed down to the river. When we arrived the street party was well underway! It was packed with people dancing, playing music, eating and having a great time. You couldn’t help but get caught up in the carnival atmosphere. Fireworks and flares flew from all around and thousands upon thousands of lanterns filled the sky. It was an incredible sight! Setting off my own lantern into the darkness with the help of the new friends I met, was a special moment in my travels I’ll never forget!” (Monika, Poland)

Yi Peng Festival takes place on 1-2 November


Eco-tourism and conservation

Ride your own elephant like a mahout.

Close Close interaction interaction with with elephants elephants in in the the jungle. jungle. Learn Learn Feed Feed Bathe Bathe Play Play in in black black mud mud

Tel. +66 89 434 2047, +66 81 716 3980 E-mail: Chiang Mai Thailand




Gain new experience and have fun! We have various types of guns to choose from and experienced instructors free of charge provide correct and safe methods of shooting. Open daily 8.30am - 6 pm. Tel. 053-112095, 089 435 2940

For taxi : กองพันพัฒนาที่ 3 ก่อนถึงโรงพยาบาลนครพิงค์ อ.แม่ริม


S.E.A Backpacker

Capture the moment:

“We arrive at the waterfall after an amazingly invigorating motorbike ride along infinite rice fields, bungalows and always smiling Thais. A speedy arrival is followed by a morally-imperative dip in the pools below the falls. Of course, there are other tourists here, no anger to be had; let’s all appreciate this incredible natural anomaly that attracts its disciples through word-of-mouth generosity and guidebook publicity worthy of a 7km trek in a vague direction. We slip and slide on the bamboo bridge, (a slight new injury, off to the pharmacy later), down the mud slope; helmet a bucket for wallets and things, flip flops removed, wade into the allegedly deserved pristine water. And, there she is; a 40 foot waterfall with thundering force heard from the base of the trail. Beautiful is only a word, only a feeble attempt at description of natures awesome force. Simply amazing. We trudge through the painfully rocky, shallow water to get nearer to the fall. Delay, a photograph being taken, a moment captured. I think to myself; ‘quite fine, take one picture quickly so that I can dive into the fresh white water’. And then another. And another. Ten minutes I stood, waiting. Watching the poses from conception to death, one by one, dozens each. “We were here!” the photograph says. Am I not? I want to dive in the waterfall, not take pictures of it. What a laugh, post-modern irony, in sprawling capital letters. Fuck it, I walk into the falls, fellow tourist glaring at me through the side of his square world on the back of an expensive camera. LCD displaying for him what he can’t see for himself. Now, is this what we’ve arrived at, a final destination? No plea to be had, my law is simple; enough with your excessive photography, your attempts to prove yourself adventurous and murder brevity with immortal, digital signifiers that say, “We were here.” But you were not. Only verses of future sermons delivered to friends that will say, “We were here.” But you were not.

“Hey, I wrote this in Pai after checking out this waterfall and got really frustrated when all these people were taking pictures and didn’t want anyone to get in the picture/waterfall. I wrote it in about 5 minutes with the rest of my internet time and my last 30 baht, so feel free to edit the shit out of it if you want.” (Grayson Earle, USA) S.E.A Backpacker


W hat’s on: Festivals and Events Full Moon Party

2nd November 2nd December 25th & 31st December (Special parties)

Each month Haad Rin sands plays host to this world renowned beach party. Up to 30,000 people rave it out to an eclectic mix of music until daybreak the next day. And, at Christmas and New Year’s Eve there are special parties planned as people from all over the world gather in Koh Phangan to celebrate on a big scale, painted faces and buckets a plenty!

Black Moon Culture

17th November 16th December Underground trance and progressive beats resound through the air as party goers dance on the beautiful sands of Baan Tai beach. With amazing décor, live visuals and an international DJ line up every month, including special guests, the Black Moon Culture is an intense partying experience.

Half Moon Festival

9th, 24th November 9th, 24th December

Hedonists and party animals delight! Don’t miss this huge professional dance event taking place twice a month amidst the atmospheric setting of Ban Tai Jungle, Koh Phangan. 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 an unparalleled sound system, unique UV illuminations, astounding fire dancers and live visuals, the event promises to be a tantalizing treat for all your senses. halfmoonfestival

festivals traditionally deriving from other cultures; if it’s a jolly good excuse for a party that is! The big question is, where’s the best place for a homesick backpacker to fill their stockings with festive cheer in SE Asia? You can Full Moon it, Khao San Road it or even tube it! Maybe you fancy a quiet one, just a few beers with a few friends on the beach? Guaranteed, the welcoming people of this part of the world and the joyful atmosphere will ensure you have a merry time wherever you are! P.S. We’d love to hear your Yuletide tales from South East Asia! If you have any crackers (oh dear) please email info@ (Parts of the Philippines, East Timor and Indonesia hold traditional Christmas celebrations, (known as Hari Natal) amongst the large Christian populace.)

Bon Om Touk (Water Festival) Cambodia 1st – 3rd November

Christmas All over South East Asia 25th December

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Although snow may be a little light on the ground and there ain’t a mince pie in sight, you’ll be sure to find the twinkle of Christmas Spirit in many places across SE Asia. Glitzy tinsel, plastic reindeer, Santa hats and even fake snowflakes may seem a little strange in the likes of Hanoi and Bangkok, but it seems the fun loving locals don’t mind celebrating


S.E.A Backpacker

Bon Om Touk in Khmer, or the Water Festival to you and me, begins on the night of the full moon in November, marking the end of the rainy season in Cambodia. It is one of the most enjoyable and vivacious festivals in the country that attracts thousands of captivated partakers to the capital Phnom Penh. The event celebrates the amazing natural phenomenon of the reversing flow of the Tonle Sap River. The marvel occurs when the water levels of the lower Mekong become so high during the monsoon season that it forces the water back upon itself. Not only is it an important cultural event, it indicates the beginning of a plentiful fishing season for many

09 r e b m e c e D r Novembe Cambodians who rely on the water as a vital life source. The festival continues for three days as a carnival spirit envelopes the city. There are street parties, market stalls, floats, dancing and firework displays, but the main event is the traditional boat races on the Tonle Sap River which date back as far as the 9th century, Competitors sweat it out in energetic heats as hoards of spectators line the riverside. The exhilarating final is watched by the King of Cambodia himself.

That Luang Festival, Laos 2nd November

The capital’s largest festival centres around That Luang Temple. A deeply religious event, the Thai Luang Festival in Lao’s capital, Vientiane takes place, like most Buddhist Festivals on the day of the full moon in November. On this day, before the break of dawn, thousands of Buddhists surround the beautiful golden temple, That Luang to say prayers and give alms to the monks who have travelled from all across the country for the festival. As the sun rises, the tradition is to circle the stupa three times in an anti-clockwise direction. Flower processions, market stalls, live music and dancing ensue.

Hmong New Year Laos & Thailand December

Early December sees a New Year celebration unique to the culture of the Hmong people, one of the largest ethnic groups residing in Northern Laos and

Thailand. The event takes place at different times each year as the timing depends on the harvesting of the rice. The beliefs of the Hmong people

October, the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, Asia’s largest and most popular Yachting event is held in honour of his Majesty.

River Kwai Bridge Week, Kanchanaburi

24th November - 5th December

mean that the festival must be at least three days long, as it is bad luck for events to last for an even number of days. Celebrations have been known to proceed for a month and a half! Existing as both a religious and social event, it’s a huge festivity for the Hmong people, as it’s one of the only times that they have a break from farming during the year. Traditional performances, games and events are enjoyed by everyone in the community, so it’s also the perfect chance for the singletons of nearby villages to meet prospective spouses!

The King’s Birthday Thailand

5th December

The 5th December marks a national holiday throughout the country as Thailand’s beloved King celebrates his 82nd birthday. Streets and villages across the land will be adorned with decorations and flags and the Grand Palace in Bangkok shall be lit up in his honour. Also, in the capital, there’s to be an alms-giving ceremony, followed by a large festival of music and Thai culture held at Sanam Luang. And, in Phuket, from 28th November – 5th

Cultural performances, folk dances and a carnival atmosphere pervade the town of Kanchanaburi during the remembrance week of the world famous River Kwai Bridge. Historical exhibitions and displays explain more about the history and a light and sound presentation enacts the World War II legacy. (Read more about Kanchanaburi on page 17)

Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai 1st - 2nd November

For those lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai at this time, the Loi Krathong festival, known as ‘Yi Peng Lantern Festival’ in Chiang Mai is a wondrous sight to behold. One of the best places to watch the spectacle unfold is on the banks of the Ping River in Chiang Mai where thousands of people cast their fortunes into the night sky. The paper lanterns, known as ‘khom-fai’ look like big luminous jelly fish hovering up above. Parades, music, markets, street entertainment and of course lots of street food surrounds the festivities by the river.

Loi Krathong Festival of Lights – Thailand 1st - 2nd November One of the most enchanting and magical festivals in the Thai calendar, takes place on the night of the full moon in November, marking the end of the rainy season. Night skies all across the country become illuminated as glowing lanterns are floated into the air and rivers and lakes glisten with candles as tiny boats are set afloat in honour of the Goddess of Water. The roots of the festival lie firmly in Buddhist origins and the beliefs centre upon the concept of ‘letting go’ or ‘being freed’ from your troubles. As the lantern or boat is launched and drifts away, it is believed that people can be released from their worries and may wish for good luck in the future. The name of the festival comes from the small lotus shaped boats, which are called ‘krathong.’ Made of banana leaves and filled with candles, incense and other offerings, the boats can also contain locks of hair, photographs or symbolic remnants of the past.

S.E.A Backpacker


T Raveller thoughts, stories, tips: We were spoilt for choice with great stories to include in the mag this issue! It seems like it’s been an eventful few months on the road for travellers all over South East Asia! But then again, isn’t it always! Some days you just don’t know what will happen next! A big thank you to the backpackers who shared these brilliant travel stories with us! And, if you have an interesting or funny tale that you feel like you’ve told 100 times already, go on, tell it to us for the 101th time and we’ll do the telling for you! You send it, we’ll print it:

OUCH!!! When I was in Koh Samui, a friend, his girlfriend and I decided to do a Thai cooking course. The course lasted all day; we ate a lot of really delicious Thai food and learnt a lot about the ingredients and how to prepare the meals. As everybody knows, Thai’s use a lot of chili peppers in their food and we had to chop some fresh chili pepper to complete our meal. After cutting the pepper we were told to wash our hands because if the pepper gets into your eyes it smarts a lot! Everybody knows that right? After a great day, we went back to our bungalow for a little nap. After about 10 minutes I heard a lot of screaming from my friend’s bungalow. When I walked into his room my friend was sat on his bed next to his hysterical girlfriend with nothing but a wet flannel hiding his modesty! It was clear that they’d started getting a bit frisky when there was still the remains of some chili pepper left on her hands! When I witnessed his white painful face I felt the pain too! Woah that must have stung! Many beers later that night, he was starting to see the funny side and his highly amused girlfriend was just pleased that he didn’t put his hands somewhere else! Lesson learned for the day and one for the diary: BE CAREFUL WITH CHILI! (Jelle, Netherlands)

nt h: Tip of t h e mo ow how I travelled before

I don’t kn gic of tiger balm. it that is!) Dab it Rejoice in the ma ! (Apart from eat ng thi ery e ev for it use hing limbs to sooth without it! I literally g, rub it on your ac hin iff itc sn m s, the he p ac sto ad lp he on your bites to your temples to he on d bike rides or on you’re travel sick en wh y, them after treks an gg gro g lin fee e e u’r u’r yo yo if en wh ngover or even it to wake you up e queasy and hu u’r as yo sp at en ht wh ba or d 80 und the bumpy roa den. Buy it for aro zy and allergy rid at all times! y nd ha it feeling a bit snee ep ke d s in Thailand an and massage place ) nd ala Ze (Simon, New


(Found on the walls of Suk 11 Backpacker Hostel in Bangkok)


S.E.A Backpacker

Where to spend New Year in SEA? Hi, just wondering if your writers or readers could help me decide where to spend New Year in SEA? It’s one of those nights where you feel you have to be in a lively place amongst friends, all set ready for a good time! I’m travelling alone, but have 3 friends coming out, so the pressures on to find somewhere to suit all! I’m assuming they’ll want the beach life and also some crazy night life; however I’m not a fan of the ‘Brits abroad’ scene. I’m sure there must be somewhere that offers a good mix of backpacker party scene with chilled out days. Also I’m sure prices must sky rocket around that time, so somewhere that’s not going to stretch the purse strings. I’ve not been travelling long, so I’ll bet there’s a whole load of SEA I don’t know about. Are my requirements asking too much? Does such a place exist? Thanks a lot, love the mag! (Cassie, UK) (Please email any ideas to and we’ll pass them on!)

Pir at e’s of Ha lon g Bay Since our fir st day in V ietnam, and forward to even before the famous , we were lo cruise of H street was oking along Bay. that all you The word do on the cr thrown into on the uise is get dr the water na unk, party an ked! Got th as soon as d get e anticipatio we got to H n now, right anoi, we bo first travel ag ? So, ok ed ent we walke a dirt cheap d into, excite tour in the attention to d th an e d fa failing to pa ct that it was food and a y much advertised “unique” kind as having “d of party. M on the deck ifferent” mmh. So th of our boat, ere we wer drunk n’ read music or ot e, sitting y to rock, bu her signs of t without an partying. T afar, we sp y lights, hen, like a otted the oh bright cool -so-beautiful in Hanoi! A light from -party-boat fter a serio of the famou us envy atta with a gran ck, by our en s dorms d idea, the tire boat, w kind of idea consumptio e came up s that can on n of alcoho ly be born af l! We decide way to cras ter a large d that nothin h the partyg would stop boat, ‘cause us on our w ha t is a party withou crashes it? t someone !’ First, we who decided to steal the lif but we coul e-boat, dn’t find on e. Plan 1 fa we tried to iled. Then bribe our ca ptain, but w couldn’t wak e e the poor bastard up Plan 2 faile . d. Eventua lly, our brav (read as e hammered) accomplices stole the lif e-vests and leaped off boat on a our courageous swim towar the prized ga ds lleon. After a spirited ef by all, finally fort , our goal w had succes as achieved sfully crashe ! We d the very co cute boys pa ol, crazy, fu rty, with an ll of extremely w our host, who arm welcom was so exci e by that he gave ted by the ar rival of the pi us lashings of free beer - a lifetime rates, memory! and more im portantly So there yo u have it; gr eat trip, ne booze, and w friends, be even a new st party, free sombrero! in life, I ask? What does ! a girl need more (Shiri Ashka r & Karin For an, Israel)

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The Many Faces of Koh Phangan Koh Phangan. Hard core party paradise or peaceful sanctuary? Night-time debauchery or spiritual relaxation? Action packed adventure or laid-back beach bliss? ‘Temptation Island’ or ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here?’ Green tea or black coffee? Okay, okay, enough. You get the picture. What I’m trying to say here, (in far too many words) is that this is an island that has something for everyone! It’s all that a well-adjusted backpacker could dream of and more. However, while many people make Koh Phangan an essential part of their backpacking trip to experience the world famous ‘Full Moon Party’, it seems that many don’t stay long enough to discover all that this stunning island has to offer. If you stick around for a while as the hangover subdues, the shakes from too many buckets have calmed and you’ve managed to rid the aluminous paint from your hair, you’ll discover a very different island. And with something to satisfy almost every need, you may just find this place hard to leave!


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Phangan for the Party Animal For over twenty years, the lure of the ‘Full Moon Party’ has enticed revved up travellers each month, who flock to Koh Phangan to experience what remains one of the best parties on earth. There are various stories about the origin of the party, but so one rumour goes, it all started with a group of backpackers playing guitars on the beach for someone’s birthday party. Whoever’s celebration it was, it must have been one cool kinda guy or gal to have left behind such an impressive legacy! Today, up to 30,000 people congregate on Haad Rin Sands for a frenzied concoction of dance, drink and devilishness from dusk until dawn. And, with the added allure of the ‘Half Moon’ and ‘Black Moon’ Parties the island has become even more of a seductive magnet for pleasure seeking travellers the world over. (See events section for all party dates.)

Phangan for the Spiritual Seeker Koh Phangan is turning into somewhat of a haven for those wanting to take some time out and find deeper meaning amidst travelling. You’ve heard the old cliché that people go travelling to ‘find themselves;’ and whilst that may be a bit extreme for some, many backpackers do in fact use their ‘time-out’ as a chance to discover more about themselves and reflect on life and just what the hell to do with it! Whether you’re just looking to experiment with yoga or reiki for the first time or are wanting to embark upon a 21-day monastic retreat to immerse yourself in silent meditation, there’s plenty opportunity here for spiritual exploration. Retreats, yoga schools and healing centers are located in some beautiful spots on the island where you can get in touch with your spiritual side in a natural setting.


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Dew Shore Bungalows Baan Tai Beach, Koh Phangan Tel/Fax : +66 (0) 77 238 128, +66 (0) 80 538 8914

n n n n

Classic Bungalows on the beach. Air-Con Mediterranean Villas with Hot Water & Cable TV. Free Beachfront Swimming Pool & Jacuzzi. wifi Sunset Views on tranquil Baan Tai Beach. Thai Family Atmosphere

Koh Phangan, Thailand Sandy Bay, Haad Yao  

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Full Mo

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Phangan for the Exhausted Voyager You know how it goes when you’re travelling in South East Asia, when you’re meeting different people all the time; it’s the social thing to do to go for a beer or two with them that night. Before you know it, you’re drinking every night and wandering around in a constant alcohol fuelled daze! Not only that, all those sleepless overnight bus journeys, early morning wake ups and rowdy hostels, have rendered your weary backpacking bones in jolly good need of a rest!

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Than Sadet Beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Bungalows from 350 – 850 Baht per night Tel. 077 445090 / 158 or 081 999 4000 / Regular boat trips out to Angthong National Marine Park.


S.E.A Backpacker

And though you wouldn’t believe you could utter ‘detox’ and ‘recuperation’ in the same breath as ‘Koh Phangan’ this really is a fantastic place to forget about the rest of the world for a while and chill the hell out! Health retreats, spa resorts and detox centres abound on Koh Phangan where you can rejuvenate your body and soul with massages, body treatments, health regimes and stress relief!

Haad Gruad Beach Resort & Spa Enjoying the Beauty of Nature

- Quiet natural setting with private beach - Clean, cheap rooms with fan or air-con, hot or cold shower - Prices range from 250—1,200 Baht per night - Free pick-up from the pier on check in date

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Discount d with this A is on

Backpackers & Groups Welcome Full Moon Half Moon Black Moon

Come and join the fun‌ Dancing Elephant Hostel Haad Rin Village, Koh Phangan Tel: +66 (0)800 52 11 26 / Email: 95/16 Moo 6, Baan Tai, Haad Rin Village, Koh Phangan, Surat Thani, 84280 Thailand S.E.A Backpacker


Phangan for the Active Adventurer Like to cram your trip with adventure, extreme sports, activity and more? From trekking through dense jungle to the highest mountain in Koh Phangan to competing in a football or volley ball tournament on the beach! There are plenty of things to do on Koh Phangan if you get restless lying on your sun towel all day. Plus, not only are there adventures to be had on the land, there’s plenty of opportunity in the seas that surround Koh Phangan for taking to the waves for an aquatic adventure. There’s wakeboarding or kite-surfing if you fancy some of the more energetic of water sports, or perhaps a boat trip, a spot of fishing or maybe just swimming in the clear, turquoise waters of Koh Phangan.

Phangan for the Avid Explorer There’s nothing better than exploring the place you’re in from mountain top to shore; down every track and alley; for me, it’s what travelling’s all about. And in Koh Phangan, hiring a mountain bike or a motorbike is a great way to get to know the place and investigate the further adventure it may have to offer you. Coastal roads, jungle trails, tracks to deserted beaches; Koh Phangan has lots of hidden gems for you to discover. Not only that, there are tonnes of great little restaurants, chill out spots and bars, not too far from the beaten track you’ll want to return to again and again. However, fellow travellers, sorry to sound like a mum here, but it’s gotta be said, when riding a motorbike in Koh Phangan you should drive like one, a mum that is, or even a grandma. The roads can be ‘challenging’ in places, to say the least. So, helmet on, breaks at the ready. You don’t want to spoil the rest of your trip with an impromptu fall.



S.E.A Backpacker

Phangan for the Nature Lover All around Koh Phangan you will find pristine white sparkly beaches surrounded by coconut trees, some of which are untouched and only accessible by boat. The warm, calm seas offer perfect conditions for snorkelling amongst the abundant marine life and there are many dive schools on the island that will open up the awesome underwater world even further. Whilst the shores of Koh Phangan boast unspoiled sands, the interior of the island is mostly covered in jungle and national park. 90% of Koh Phangan is in fact untouched natural rainforest, home to wild monkeys and tropical bird life. Nature lovers can take a footpath off the beaten track, climb the peaks or visit a cascading waterfall, such as Nam Tok Than Sadet. And if all that still doesn’t satisfy you, not so far from Koh Phangan is the natural wonder, Ang Thong Marine Park, made up of 42 separate islands, one of which is home to a beautiful enclosed salt water lake. On some beaches in the Marine Park you can go ‘Castaway’ and camp out underneath the stars.

Getting there from Bangkok: Bus it or Train it: Book an overnight train or bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani, then it’s a 2 hour boat trip to the island.


Fly: For travellers short on time, you can catch a quick 1 hour flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui, then it’s a doddle 1 hour boat trip.

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Where to go from there? Koh Tao: A beautiful gem of an island about a one hour ferry from Koh Phangan. Many backpackers learn diving here. Ang Thong Marine Park: Can be visited in a day from Koh Phangan. Cast your eyes on natural lagoon or camp out. Khao Sok National Park: One of the most ancient natural rainforests in Thailand. From Surat Thani it’s a one hour bus. Chumphon: Rarely given the time it deserves on a backpacker trip. National Parks, deserted golden sandy beaches, even hot springs – and you’ll feel like you’re the first to discover it!


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Oodles and Oooooodles of Noodles Noodle. The shape your face makes when you say the word resembles the face you do when you’re eating them. Noodle. Noodle. Noodle. Am I right? Are you doing the face now? Let’s just hope the friends around you didn’t notice your twitches or you might be eating a bowl by yourself later. That tight pursing of the lips that allows you to suck in the satisfying slippery strip is the essence of noodle nourishment. For us farangs, eating them’s an art form in itself. And then they give you chop sticks. “It’s more delicious to be eaten that way!” The Thai’s will claim. Mmmh, If you like slopping juice all over your face and gulping down nothing but fresh air that is. During my travels in Thailand, I’ve caused hysterical laughter in many a noodle street stall with my persistent efforts. It’s easy, watch. Pinch? Twist? (What!)

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Nowhere on earth is the noodle a more worshipped food than in Thailand. Noodle eating is an institution. It’s tea to the Brits, croissants to the French and hotdogs to the Americans. Men, women and children. Breakfast, lunch or dinner. Every day of the week is noodle-day in Thailand. And, before you even think that eating such a dish so often may become a dull episode, there are enough different types of noodle, ways of preparing it and dressing it, that you could probably eat a different kind every day for the entire year!

Okay, breathe. Still with me? You better be, cos we’ve only just begun! You’ll first encounter with noodleology probably began with the famous dish, Pad Thai, the sweet wafts of which can be inhaled, day or night, during a leisurely stroll down the equally famous Khao San Road.

But, what makes one noodle different from another noodle I hear you ask? Well my friends, in Thailand, it’s a complicated science. There are soy bean noodles, cellophane noodles, also called glass noodles or transparent noodles, Chinese style yellow noodles (sen ba mee) Japanese style noodles (ramen, udon and soba noodles), skinny noodles (sen lek) not to be confused, (as if you were!) with really really skinny noodles (sen mee) flat, thick noodles (sen yai) curly noodles (guaiyjap) Then there’s the noodle that’s began life not really as a noodle at all, but a grain of rice, ‘kanum jean’or sticky rice noodles.


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However, like many things when backpacking in South East Asia, the most accessible of travel experiences aren’t always the richest in terms of getting to grips with the culture. One must delve deeper to find out what real authentic noodling is all about. The most common way to eat noodles is in a soup or broth. These are frequently

eaten at the little street stalls which are a ubiquitous sight throughout the land. Ingredients are endless. You can have vegetables, pork, beef, duck, shrimp, crab, squid, meat ball, fish ball, liver, chicken even grizzly chicken feet if you so desire! 30 baht fetches you a fair sized bowl, and as much of the condiments as you can handle. To eat them real Thai style, you must deal generous lashings of toppings from each metal pot; pourings of potent fish sauce, spoonfuls of sugar, vinegar, ground peanuts and it goes without saying loads and loads of ground chilli pepper! Now you’re ready to eat. Sat on the busy street with locals in the scorching heat of the day hoovering up an authentic bowl of ‘goyteowmoo’ (pork noodle soup) sweating and slurping, slurping and sweating, is a cultural experience that should not be missed in Thailand. You’ll find noodle stalls on most street corners in Bangkok, often erected directly outside Starbucks, McDonalds and fancy Bistros, testament to the staying power of the much loved noodle stand. And the noodling adventures don’t just end there on the street. When you start to get into the real nitty gritty of noodleology, one discovers that the adept little noodle

has even worked its squirmy way into the everyday language of Thailand! Popular phrases that derive from the eating of noodles prove their status as a fundamental ingredient of Thai culture. Take the expression, ‘mai kin sen’, literally meaning to ‘not eat noodles’. If a Thai person utters it about someone they know, it means that they no longer speak, ‘not on good terms with’ kind of thing. My absolute favourite is the Thai phrase ‘sen yai’ which translates exactly to mean big noodle. Colloquially, it is used to refer to someone with a certain amount of power and respect in the area, kind of like the Western version of ‘big cheese.’ Brilliant. So, my fellow noodle enthusiasts! (You must be now for you stuck with me until the very end through thick and thin) After all that, where does all this noodle nonsense get you? Do you now feel ready to go forth into Bangkok and test your noodlehood on the street? Or are you feeling even more bambnoodlezed than when we began? I hope one thing is true, no more shall ye be completely satisfied with your Pad Thai and sprinkling of peanuts ever again! By Nikki Scott

Enjoy Thai & International food in relaxing surroundings, just 5 minutes from the Khao San Road. Authentic Thai house with quality Thai & International cuisine. Extensive menu with a delicious range of meat and seafood dishes, curries, soups and Thai delicacies.

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Police Station Bank of Ayudhya

Wat Chanasongkram

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The Alchemist:

Book revi


‘A fable about following your dream’

Nosying around on Facebook the other day, as you do, I noticed that one of my old work mates had updated his status to a simple one liner that read ‘Jonathon is: living the dream.’ Needless to say, it prompted me click through to his profile to find out what he was doing! It turned out that he’d finally embarked upon his backpacking ‘year out’ through South East Asia and Australia after a long period of anticipation. His profile picture showed him in the countryside trekking in Chiang Mai and with the sun shining and the beautiful countryside all around, the smile on his face seemed to match the words of his status. The phrase ‘living the dream’ gets banded about quite a lot amongst backpackers these days, and it’s not until I read The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho recently that I started to think about it and wonder what exactly it could mean? The Alchemist is the ultimate tale of the young dreamer who leaves home and all that is familiar to travel the world; essentially in search of his own destiny. It’s both an internationally acclaimed novel and a simple story that perhaps many travellers can relate to on one level or another, in terms of their own personal journey. Experiences many of us will encounter when backpacking in a foreign land you’ll find in this traveller’s fable. From falling for a scam when you’ve just arrived as a naïve foreigner to overcoming language barriers; it’s all part of getting used to an unfamiliar culture and surroundings. As the novel takes us through an exotic new land, seeing things for the first


S.E.A Backpacker

By Paolo Coelho

time as the boy sees them, we are told of unusual characters that unlock new ways of thinking for him and for the reader. And, although perhaps not quite as extravagant as ‘clairvoyants,’ philosophers’ and I’m pretty sure not those who can turn metal into gold, we can all recall interesting people we’ve met along the way that have changed the way we feel about things and opened our eyes. Coelho’s vital message is one of inspiration and courage about having the strength to pursue your dreams along the path that you know is right no matter what happens to get in your way. Overcoming obstacles and learning from mistakes is all part of the journey. As the famous quote by Coelho reads, ‘To realise one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation in life.’ I know many people who have used travel at some point in their lives, myself included, as a chance to have some time out and find out what it is they really want to do with their lives. ‘Seeing what else is out there’, ‘broadening the mind’, ‘investigating new opportunities’, however you say it, dress it down, whilst it may sound the stuff of romance, many are in fact in search of their destiny. Aren’t we all? For soul searchers and wistful wanderers, the Alchemist is an inspiring and thought provoking novel and a reminder for us all that dreams are there to be realized, and not just dreamt.

ters: Calling all budding travel wriugh South East Asia

g thro is written by travellers passin S.E.A Backpacker Magazine riences and viewpoints expe new with ers writ fresh new right now. It’s our aim to have contributing every month. ld love to hear from you. a spot of travel writing, we wou So if you fancy your hand at bbling you like to scri dom book reviews or any ran ies, stor , cles arti any d sen se Plea you right away with news you submit. We’ll get back to cles arti with tos pho ude incl to If possible try appearing in the next issue. of whether your words will be Happy Travelling! Thanks for your support and

Tracks on the road. Long bus rides require good playlists. At times there can be nothing more enjoyable than listening to good sounds whilst looking out of the window on a journey to a new destination. Every time we spot a backpacker chilling out listening to their ipod on the bus, we ignore every sign that says they might not want to be disturbed, give them a firm nudge and make them lend us an ear phone to find out just what they’re listening to! This month, we spotted a rather chilled looking chap, earphones in, looking out the window with a smile on his face. We were intrigued. He just had to be interrupted.

What are you listening to? I’m listening to Xavier Rudd, the album Solace.

Who’s he when he’s at home? He’s an Australian folk, roots singer, of the same kind as Jack Johnson, but much better in my opinion. Music’s a lot earthier. He mixes traditional Australian sounds and instruments with cool beats. Think Paul Simon crossed with Bob Marley. Interesting. I’ve seen him live a few times. There’s just him on the stage with all

these instruments and the sound that comes out of this one guy is amazing, he uses everything from the didgeridoo to the banjo to synthesizers. Once he brought this random ceramic pot out on stage and everyone wondered what he was doing...the sounds that he made with that pot, you should have heard it.

Good to listen to when travelling? He’s really into the energy in his songs, so the music always gets me in a good mood. Especially when travelling. Kind of makes you appreciate the natural world as he speaks a lot about the environment in his lyrics, that kind of thing. He also sings a lot about the plight of the aborigine people in Australia.

Where did you hear about him? I picked up the album off a friend when I was travelling with him through Australia and Bali, so it always reminds me of him and the good times I had backpacking there. A certain tune when you listen to it just sends you right back to when you first heard it. That’s why I love picking up new sounds when travelling that you can listen to when you’re back at home, especially good folk music. (Clark, California)

Coffee Melody Alternative Bar & Coffee House

Unique mix of cool music, funky fashion & good drinks! Different playlist every day! (Everything from Electro, drum n’ bass, jazz & oldies)

Dinsor Rd.

Democracy Monument

Radchadamnern Rd.

Coffee Melody

24 Dinsor Road, Phranakon, Bangkok. Tel: +66 (0)86 177 8826 S.E.A Backpacker


Fashion: Tattoos

Traveller Tattoos...

What would you get and where would it be? For many, it’s a decision that requires serious thought. Getting a tattoo is a popular choice for lots of backpackers who visit South East Asia today, and be it carefully planned or completely spur of the moment; it’s certainly one thing you’ll do here that you’ll never forget! Life affirming moments, special memories, symbols of loved ones and significant quotes never to be forgotten, can all be influential factors in creating a design that will mean something unique to you for the rest of your life. As travelling in itself can be a momentous undertaking, we can perhaps appreciate why so many backpackers get a tattoo as an important part of their once in a lifetime trip; a mark of independence, an expression of freedom, of adventure, of grasping life by its very horns! Or maybe, there is no deeper meaning at all, you just like the way it looks and that’s it. Either way, going under the needle (or the bamboo stick in some cases) in this part of the world, is a tradition that dates back thousands of years and one that is steeped in more history and profound meaning than you may at first realise. The art of tattooing in Thailand has its roots in ancient Buddhist culture where special designs were originally engraved on people’s bodies for protection, good luck and blessings from a higher level. Designs were known to be ‘charged’ by Buddhist monks who performed ritual chants and recited prayers as a long sharp stick was tapped into the skin repeatedly creating the sacred impression. Throughout history, Thai soldiers have taken on such protective tattoos with faith in their power to keep them safe from harm, some even believing them to have mystical power, as amulets, to shield them from weapons and even deflect bullets.


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Today, the belief in the strength of religious tattoos remains strong. Designs that resemble Buddhist temples or Deities, holy Thai scripture, symbols and patterns made up of tiny dots are some examples that you’re likely to see on local people in Thailand, mainly on the back area. From warding off bad luck, to attracting wealth and prosperity there’s always an underlying meaning behind such motifs and rarely are they purely aesthetic like many tattoos in the West. Different designs incorporating certain animals are also traditionally used that each signifies a different force of energy. Famously, in 2004 Angelina Jolie was engraved by Thai Tattoo artist Sompong Kanphai (Noo) with a highly revered, traditional tattoo of a tiger on her lower back. The tattoo was formed to protect her and her adopted Cambodian son, Maddox from bad fortune. To give you an idea of just how much resonance Thai people place in this sacred art form, there’s even an annual religious festival to commemorate the tattoo, held at Wat Bang Phra, also known as the Temple of the Flying Tiger, just outside Bangkok. Every year, thousands of people attend the magical event to have their bodies adorned with new tattoos, or have existing tattoos ‘recharged’ by the Buddhist masters who reside there. Some devotees actually enter a trance like state during the festival as they are infused with the spirit of the animals that they have tattooed on their skin, roaring like wild tigers or slithering like snakes.

As I headed for the Khao San Road to chat to tatted backpackers in research for this article, I wondered if I’d hear of tales of intoxication, memory lapse and next day discoveries of Chinese writing spelling out the name of a whirlwind travelling romance (come on you’re never that drunk to get it in a language people will actually be able to read!) However, on the contrary, all of the people I spoke to had seriously thought about what they wanted and for them it was a deeply serious decision. I was very interested to hear that many travellers had them for spiritual reasons in fact. And, whilst not as openly religious as the Thai designs, many travellers had integrated their own spiritual sentiments, family beliefs and personal mantras into symbolic designs. Asking people I’d just stopped on the street about their tattoo very quickly turned into a highly personal conversation which was an insight into their deepest character, and, on a few occasions I felt that I really shouldn’t be probing such intense answers out of people that I’d only just met! What was also very interesting was that in many cases, you naughty naughty backpackers had failed to mention this tiny little detail of your backpacking trip to dear old mum at home and have decided to cross that bridge when you come to it back at the ranch! (Good luck Steve) AND – if you’re a bit nesh, or are a try before you buy kinda guy or gal, you could always try this pain-free option!

Some interesting Tattoo Facts... The most tattooed person A New Zealand born guy, goes by the name of Lucky Diamond Rich, is said to be the most tattooed man alive, his hobbies include chainsaw juggling and sword-swallowing. He has a covering of black ink tattooed all over his body from his eyelids to his nether regions, even his gums! Nothing remains untouched. The word ‘tattoo’ The Western name for ‘tattoo’ is believed to derive from the Tahitian verb ‘tattau’ meaning to mark. Similarly, in Thai, the word ‘sak lai’ for tattoo also means to make a mark or an impression on the skin. Mum’s tattoos Some of the oldest tattoos in the world have been found on the mummified remains of Ancient Egyptians, mainly on the bodies of Egyptian women, some dating as far back as 3000 BC. Experts believe the tattoos were used to denote class. Popular designs Stars, flowers, butterflies – for girls. Barbed wire, tribal designs, dragons – for guys. Farang Tattoo The phrase used in Thailand to describe the mark that many tourists receive in Thailand getting burnt by the exhaust of a motorbike on their visit here. If you want to avoid this mark, get off the left side!


5 Branches in Khaosan Road Area Studios & Supplies

The “finest Tattoo shop” in the Khao San Road, with professionally trained artists who can create many designs or bring life to your own ideas. Friendly staff & welcoming atmosphere. Free hand, bamboo tattoo and cover up available. We also perform body piercings with a large range of body jewellery. All equipments fully sterilized.

Tel: +66 (0) 81 912 3741 +66 (0) 81 252 4589 +66 (0) 2 629 4629 e-mail : / S.E.A Backpacker



mo m e portant Im


Brunei Darussalam:

Currency: Brunei Dollar, divided into 100 cents. Exchange rate: $1 USD = $1.40 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 $30) 72 hour transit visas are also available. Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. Visa extension: Visas can be renewed at embassies in Bandar Seri Bagawan. Climate: Brunei experiences a hot, humid climate all year round. Most rainfall is between September and January, peaking in November and December, but this can vary. 1 random fact: As a strict Muslim country, the sale and public consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden. Foreigners coming into the country are limited on how much alcohol they are allowed to bring in. In an emergency: Ambulance: 991 Fire: 995 Police: 993


Currency: Cambodian Riel (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 4,140 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 Thailand/Cambodia border, the fee can be more expensive as the cost is paid in baht and is sometimes rounded up considerably. You will need 1 or 2 passport photos to apply, or you will be charged extra (usually only $1-2.) Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. E-Visa: You can now apply for 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. 1 random fact: The Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia is one


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of the largest in South East Asia. Every year during rainy season, its waters swell over a period of three months, transforming the lake from 160km long to up to 250km. In an emergency: Ambulance: 119 Fire: 118 Police: 117

East Timor:

Currency: US Dollars Capital city: Dili Main religion: Catholic (90%) Main language: Tetun, Portuguese, Indonesian, English Telephone code: +670 Time: GMT + 9 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: ola (hello) adeus (goodbye) Visa: Nationals from Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA do not need to arrange a visa in advance. They can be granted upon entry into East Timor and cost $30 for 30 days. Portuguese nationals can stay up to 90 days on a tourist visa. Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. It is important to note that there are no currency exchange facilities at the airport or other border posts, so it is best to take need cash before you travel. Visa extension: Visas can be extended for 30 days, costing up to $45. You must have a valid reason for staying. Penalty for late departure: Penalties range from $70 US $150 US Dollar if the period does not exceed 30 days. Climate: The wet season is between December and April and the dry season occurs between May to November, with temperatures reaching very high. The best months to visit are between April and July. 1 random fact: East Timor became a Portuguese colony in the sixteenth century. The control continued, on and off, until late 1975 when the country declared independence. Many Portuguese influences remain today in the food, language and culture. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 7233212 Police: 112


Currency: Indonesian Rupiah Exchange rate: $1 USD = 9,410 IDR Capital city: Jakarta Main religion: Islam (88%) Main language: Bahasa Indonesia (official) There are also many regional dialects. Telephone code: +62 Time: GMT + 7 hours (Sumatra, Java) GMT + 8 hours (Bali, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara) GMT + 9 hours (Maluku and Papua) Hellos and Thank-you’s: Salam (hello) terimah kasih (thank you) Visa: Nationals of Australia, Canada, USA, UK and most European countries are eligible for a 30 day visa upon entry, which costs $25 USD. You can also obtain a 7-day visa at $10. (Cost varies depending on point of entry.) Payments can be made in US Dollars only. You will need 2 passport photographs and your passport must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. Penalty for late departure: Up to $20 / day. For more than 60 days overstay travellers risk deportation or imprisonment. Climate: Indonesia has just 2 seasons, wet season, which falls between April and October and dry season, which falls between May and September. Throughout all of the year the climate is hot and humid, although there are snowcapped peaks in the highlands of Papua. As Indonesia is such a long country, the difference in the seasons varies. In some areas, the distinction between the wet and dry season is great, such as the Nusa Tenggara when the

wet season (December to February) can make transport difficult, with road floods and ferry cancellations. In Sumatra, the rain falls from October to January in the North and from January to February in the South. In Bali there is little difference between the seasons where weather is similar all year round. 1 random fact: The komodo dragon is the largest living lizard in the world and is indigenous to the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores and Gili Motang. It can grow up to three metres long, weighing over 70kg. Emergency numbers: (Java) Fire: 113 Police: 110 Medical assistance: 118, 119


Currency: Lao KIP (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 8,480 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. At land border crossings travelling by bus or boat, you will recieve only 15 days. The cost ranges from $20 - $42, depending on the 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: US$10 /day. Long overstays can lead to arrest and imprisonment. Climate: The wet season in Laos is between May and October and the dry season between November and April. Temperatures during this time are the most comfortable, and can be quite cold in mountainous areas. The hottest time of the year is between March and May, with temperatures reaching 38 degrees. 1 random fact: Luang Prabang in Laos was made a UNESCO World Heritage city in 1995. Home to many old, beautiful temples, it is the ancient capital of the Lan Xang kingdom, which unified the country in the fourteenth century. Emergency numbers: (Vientiane) Ambulance: 195 Fire: 190 Police: 191


Currency: Malaysian Ringgit Exchange rate: $1 USD = 3.40 MYR Capital city: Kuala Lumpur Main religion: Islam (official) Main language: Bahasa Melayu (official) Telephone code: +60 Time: GMT + 8 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Salam (Hello) Terimah kasih (Thank you) Visa: Most nationalities are granted a free 30-90 day entry pass upon arrival at international airports and border crossings. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Please note that Sarawak is a semiautonomous state and upon entry your passport will be stamped and a new pass issued. Visa extension: Visas can be extended at Immigration

offices in Malaysia. Fees depend on intended duration of stay. Climate: Malaysia’s climate is hot and tropical. The West coast of Peninsular Malaysia experiences the monsoon season from May to September, with August being the wettest month. On the other hand, the East coast of the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak experiences heavy rainfall between November and February. 1 random fact: Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia is one of the highest peaks in South East Asia. Many people succeed in scaling its peak. The climb takes up to two days and trekkers usually wake before the break of dawn on the second day to experience the breathtaking sunrise on its rocky pinnacle. Emergency numbers: Fire: 994 Police and Ambulance: 999


Currency: Kyat (US Dollars used) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 6.40 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 just for the day to renew your Thailand Visa for example, usually you must enter and exit on the same day. Fees are around US$10. If you want to stay for a long period, you should arrange a 28 day visa at a travel agency before you go. Like the visa for Vietnam, 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 upon entering. Visa extension: Visas can be extended for up to 14 days in Yangon. Ask at embassy for details of costs. Weather: May to mid-October is the rainy season in Myanmar. February to April is the hottest time. The best time to visit is November to February, although temperatures can drop to freezing during these months in the highland areas. 1 random fact: Myanmar boasts an astounding 1,903 kilometres of coast line, home to many untouched, deserted beaches. Emergency numbers: (Yangon) Ambulance: 192 Police: 199 Fire: 191

The Philippines:

Currency: Peso, divided into 100 centavos. Exchange rate: $1 USD = 47 PHP Capital city: Manila Main religion: Over 80% Catholic Main language: Filipino, English Telephone code: +63 Time: GMT + 8 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: hello, kamusta ka (hello, how are you) salamat (thank you) Visa: Tourist visas are granted free of charge upon entry for most nationalities for a stay up to 21 days. However, you may be required to show valid tickets for an onward destination. For longer stays you should apply for a tourist visa before arrival at a Philippine Embassy. The cost for a three month single entry visa is usually $30, but ask at the embassy for up to date info. Longer visas for up to 12 months are available. Visas take two to three working days to process and passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: When in the Philippines, you are able

extend your 21 day visa for up to 59 days at immigration offices. Costs apply. Climate: The tropical climate of the Philippines can vary depending on region, but generally the best time to visit the Philippines is January to May, when the dry season occurs. May is the hottest month with temperatures reaching 38 degrees. This scorching heat is followed by the downpours of June and October when the rainy season affects most of the country. The rains peak from July to September when typhoons are likely. 1 random fact: The tropical, hot and humid conditions of the Philippines means that a vast diversity of flora and fauna can thrive here. It is home to over 3,500 species of plants and animals. The smallest monkey and the biggest fish in the world reside here. Emergency numbers: Fire, Ambulance, Police: 117


Currency: Singapore Dollar Exchange rate: $1 USD = 1.40 SGD Main religions: Taoist, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim. Main language: English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil Telephone code: +65 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Ni hao ma? (Hi, how are you) Xie xie (thank you) Visa: Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the UK and most other European countries are granted either a 14 or 30-day tourist pass upon entry to Singapore. Duration of pass depends on nationality and point of entry. USA citizens receive 90 days. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: Extensions of up to 90 days can be applied for at the consulate in Singapore. Climate: November to January see the most rain, however there are really no distinct seasons in Singapore. The weather is very similar all year round, hot and humid. 1 random fact: Singapore is one of the the smallest countries in the world. The total land mass is approximately 15,000 times smaller than the United States with an area of only 682 square kilometres. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 995 Police: 999 Fire: 995


Currency: Thai Baht Exchange rate: $1 USD = 33 THB Capital city: Bangkok Main religion: 95% Theravada Buddhism Main language: Thai Telephone code: +66 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sawasdee Ka/Krap (m/f) / Kop Khun Ka/Krap (m/f) Visa: Most nationalities, including Americans, Australians and most Europeans receive a free 30 day tourist visa upon arrival into Thailand by air. However, if arriving by land you will only receive 15 days. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: Visas can be renewed for a fee at immigration points. The cost is 1900 baht for 7 days extra and it can be extended only once. If you leave the country and return, your visa will be renewed for free. You can exit and re-enter the country as many times as you like this way and most travel agents can arrange border runs to neighbouring countries. Penalty for late departure: 500 baht/day. The maximum fine for overstay that you can pay is 20,000 baht after this you

may face deportation at your own cost or imprisonment. Climate: Most of Thailand experiences three seasons; The cool season occurs during November to February, followed by the hot season, March to May, then the rainy season, between June and October. As with many countries in this part of the world, the wet season tends to consist of short, hard downpours. The time of the rainy season however, differs from the East coast to the West. The Andaman Coast (West) experiences monsoon from June to September (Phuket, Phi Phi, Krabi, Railay) whilst in the Gulf of Thailand (East) rains mostly fall during September to November. 1 random fact: The elephant is one of the national symbols of Thailand. Closely connected with Thai people throughout history as an essential means of transport, the elephant is seen as instrumental in the building of the kingdom of Thailand. Particularly, the white elephant is highly revered and associated with royalty. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 1669 Fire: 199 Police: 191


Currency: Vietnamese Dong Exchange rate: $1 USD = 17,805 VND Capital city: Hanoi Main religion: Tam Giao (Triple religion – Confucionism, Taosim, Buddhism) Main language: Vietnamese (official) Telephone code: +84 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sin chao (Hello) Cam on (thank you) Visa: Visas for entering Vietnam must be arranged in advance. You can do this at the Vietnamese embassies in whichever country you are in and some travel agencies also offer the service. Depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting, (on average from 1 day to 4 days), it can cost anywhere between $35 and $65 for a 30 day visa. You will need 1 passport sized photograph and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: 30 day extensions can be obtained from travel agents in Hanoi, HCMC or Danang. The process can take up to 5 days and the fee is usually US$30. Climate: The climate of North and South Vietnam differ greatly, with generally a hot tropical climate in the South and hot summers and cold winters in the North. The monsoon season is between May and October which brings rain to most of the country. The central coast can experience typhoons between August and November. 1 random fact: Vietnam has a flourishing film industry, with a number of films being honoured at festivals around the world, including Venice and the Academy Awards. ‘The scent of the Green Papaya’ was the first highly esteemed Vietnamese film of the twentieth century, nominated for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at the 1993 Academy Awards. 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 20.10.09) 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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S.E.A Backpacker Issue 3!  

The essential magazine for all travellers in South East Asia. Issue #3 out now!

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