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The essential magazine for all travellers through South East Asia.

LIFE OF RAILAY Beach life with a difference


SOUL –SEARCHER? Which type of traveller are you?



Free copy

Introduction: “The

world is a book

and those who do not

travel read only one page.”

Welcome to the very first issue of the brand new S.E.A Backpacker Magazine, the first and only one of its kind in South East Asia. This magazine is dedicated to the art of backpacking through this intoxicating part of the world. From the dusty streets of Cambodia to the pristine white beaches of Thailand, we bring news from travellers far and wide. No stone shall be left unturned as we delve into every nook and cranny of the South East Asian experience. This is a high energy fusion of the thoughts, feelings and stories of messy-haired, bracelet-clad travellers from all over the world, journeying through South East Asia right now. Every article is written by adventure loving, inquisitive travellers just like you. As you know, travelling is as much about meeting people and sharing experiences as it is about visiting the country you’re in and it’s a wonderful thing that no two people have the same opinion of a place they visit. Travellers of all ages, from all different backgrounds choose South East Asia as their classroom and their playground. S.E.A Backpacker Magazine aims to unite independent travellers in celebration of this incredible time of life. [Editor]


S.E.A Backpacker

(St. Augustine)

Front cover photograph: On the Mekong, Luang Prabang, Laos. S.E.A Backpacker


C ontents :

F eatures : Which type of traveller are you? Word on the soi Backpacker photos Th’ times they are a changin’ Journeys

10 12 14 20 41

D estination spotlight :

Sumatra: The forgotten Isle 16 The life of Railay 24 Bangkok: Top 5’s 30

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

8 22 32 34 37 40

S.E.A Backpacker Co., Ltd. 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, Barry Kenyon, Visa Chimdee, Oliver Frois, Karen Shepherd Frances Tate, Jenna Shaw, Amorn Mahittiburin, Celine, Ketsara Rugsasataya, Prisana Sirisamatha. Chiang Mai Best Distribution call: 0810247046,053814207 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. All data is correct at the time of publication. 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, June 2009.

m me


Gone avelling ! Tr x

M ap : south east asia Myitkyina

Burma Sapa Fansipan Mandalay Bagan Kalaw

Taunggyi Inle Lake Chiang Rai

V isa I nformation

Vang Vieng


Udon Thani


Hoi An

Angkor Temples


Siem Reap Tonle Sap





Koh Chang

Gulf Of Thailand

Phnom Penh

Andaman Sea


Mui N


Koh Tao Koh Phangan Koh Samui

Ho Chi Minh

Phu Quoc

Surat Thani Phuket


Koh Phi Phi

Pulau Penang

Pulau Weh

Malaysia Kuala Lumpur

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.

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.


Four Thousand Islands


Laos: Most nationalities can obtain a visa for Laos at international airports and border crossings. The cost is usually US$30 for 30 days. At the Thailand/Laos border if you pay in Thai baht the fee will be more expensive.

Singapore: Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the UK and most other European countries are granted either a 14 or 30-day tourist pass upon entry to Singapore.



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.

Malaysia: Most nationalities are granted a free 30-90 day entry pass upon arrival at international airports and border crossings.

Nong Khai


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.

Indonesia: Nationals of Australia, Canada, USA, UK and most European countries are eligible for a 30 day visa upon entry, which costs $50 USD. You can also obtain a 7-day visa at $25.


Chiang Mai


Halong Bay

Luang Prabang

Mae Hong Son

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.



Medan Berastagi


Lake Toba

Singapore Pulau Nias

Riau Islands

Sumatra Bukittinggi


Vietnam: Visas must be arranged in advance. You can do this at the Vietnamese embassies in whicheverOcean 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 15.6.09) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at info@seabackpackermag. com if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)


S.E.A Backpacker

Bandarlampung Jakarta


Laog Vigan



Philippines Donsol


Nha Trang


h City

South China Sea

Davao Zamboanga

Pacific Ocean

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



h ic h t y pe

u? o y e r a r e l l e v a of t r The Flashpacker Mascara? Check. Hairdryer? Check. Fake tan? Check. (Just for those behind the bikini white bits that the sun can’t get to.) Boy oh Boy. Backpacking just ain’t what it used to be. Gone are the days of travelling with one pair of dirty shorts and a scruffy vest you wash in the stream once a week! The ‘flashpackers’ are a new breed of travellers who don’t like to compromise on home comforts one iota along their journey. From mountain top to shore, they seek luxury wherever they go. Cockroach infested dorm room? Er I don’t think so.

The Soul Searcher “I’m going to travel the world to find myself!” were the parting words on the lips of this bewildered wanderer as they fled the safety of the nest in search of deeper meaning in life. Sporting tie-dye fisherman pants, Henna tattoos, necklaces made out of vegetables, Hindu spots on their foreheads and Buddha bracelet’s round their wrists, you’ll find this traveller lingering at temples, loitering on mountain tops or occasionally trying to converse with a very bemused beer guzzler in a bar. Well, I’m not sure whether any of these types actually do ‘find’ themselves while travelling, but good luck to them in their quest.


Beer Guzzler

Beer Lao, Tiger, Singha, Saigon, Angkor, not to mention the infamous Samsung, yes Siree, if sampling the local liquor’s what travelling’s all about then this disorientated backpacker gets top marks. Pale faced through lack of daylight, the beer guzzler is commonly spotted at the local Irish bar, donning a ‘SAME SAME’ T-shirt or occasionally an ‘In the Tubing’ T-shirt, proof that they did actually make it off the Khao San road. This nocturnal animal is seeing the world from the bottom of a beer glass and is having a blast meeting different people along the way to share a bevvy with. Who needs temples, museums and culture when all you could possibly need is right there in a bucket for 200 baht, I ask ye?


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Culture Vulture

Their itinerary reads like an expertly planned military expedition. Up and out at 6am, two museums before breakfast, followed by a tour of four historical monuments, a temple or three over lunchtime, a route march through a local market in the afternoon, stopping for precisely ten minutes at four ancient houses, two art galleries and a zoo, and finish the day with a botanical garden and a spot of local dancing before retiring. Often spotted with a guide book or map in hand, dragging around a young rookie backpacker they met on the bus who has been naively accosted into the mission. Whatever else you can say about this backpacker, you certainly can’t say that they don’t make the most out of their day. But alas, the joys of just sitting in a café people watching are unknown to this busy bee. What’s the rush dude?



Leeches, cockroaches, six foot Komodo dragons. Give me what you’ve got. Nothing vexes this Bear Grylls wannabee. Constantly striving to get off the beaten track, this explorer’s essential items include a compass, a pair of Lowe Alpine waterproofs that detach above the knee and a roll of toilet paper for those caught short in the wild moments. White water rafting, jungle treks, bungee jumping, hell, even that dreaded slide at the 4th bar tubing, this adventurer is up for anything. Preferring to go it alone rather than in packs, this backpacker is the rarest to spot of all the species.

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W ord on the Soi: Traveller’s Best and Worst Every month, S.E.A Backpacker Magazine hits the streets to talk to travellers from all over the world about a different travelling theme. This month, we uncovered opinions on the best and worst that South East Asia has to offer. From your best night out, to the worst bus journey you’ve taken, to the worst thing you’ve done whilst under the influence of a bucket, backpackers reveal all…

Best encounter You certainly meet some eccentric people travelling. I think the best encounter I had was a crazy hippy in Pai called Halleluliah Baba! Yes that was his name! Dressed from head to toe in multi-coloured tiedye he’s a real throw back to the 60’s as he stands on the street playing an out of tune guitar. All the locals know and love him. Pai wouldn’t be the same without him. (Cooper, USA)

Best thing about travelling Meeting someone on a bus in the day and then ending up sharing a room with them that night. Can you imagine that at home?! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to normal life after this! (Fran, UK) A guy came up to me the other night and asked me to feel his T-shirt. Then when I did he said “Does that feel like boyfriend material?” Classic. (Alison, Ireland)

Best chat up line

Worst drunken error After about a hundred beers and 5 buckets, I decided that I could jump the fire rope on the beach in Koh Phi Phi. Bad idea. All my leg got burnt and I ended up in hospital in Bangkok. Be warned, fire jumping is not for drunk farangs. In Vietnam I took a trip with an ‘Easy-Rider’ from Nha Trang to (Ned, Ireland.) the Airport. It was such a good feeling riding up the Vietnamese coast on a Harley Davidson with the wind in my hair. The driver was really nice and safe too, he stopped the bike whenever I wanted to take photos of the beautiful scenery. If you’re in Vietnam I’d definitely recommend taking a ride. Look out for signs outside travel agents. (Naama, Israel)

Best journey


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Worst thing about travelling There’s not much. But I’d say having to pack and unpack your rucksack. Oh it’s a hard life! (Chris, Holland)

Best feeling

Worst chat up line

When you look at your watch around 2pm on a Monday and realise that everyone at home (in England) is getting up for work in the cold! You can’t beat that. (Holly, UK)

Will you be my facebook friend? (Kaylene, Melbourne)

Worst moment In Koh Phangan the day after the Full Moon, watching everyone making an idiot of themselves on the video taken during the night’s escapades. Then realising that that horrendous dancer who thinks she’s a sexy Diva that everyone is laughing at is you! Hide behind the sunglasses and slowly move away from the screen. (Anna, UK)

Worst bus journey

10 slow hours, from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. One word. Karaoke. Who wants to sing on a bus? (Chad, Canada)

Best beer Beer Lao! Without doubt. (Lee, Wales)

Worst guest house It wasn’t so much as the room, but the thin walls. After a couple of heavy days partying, my friend and I decided to stay in a guest house a little off the Khao San road in Bangkok for a change. Without realising, we booked into a hotel quite popular amongst sex tourists. I won’t go into details but let’s just say someone in the room next door got their 1000 baht’s worth, while we got no sleep! (Laura, Holland)

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B ackpacker: Photos

Peace amidst the traffic: Hanoi, Vietnam

Blaring horns, roaring motorbikes and whizzing cars dominate the narrow streets of Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. The amazing city is buzzing with life everywhere you look. In between touting for tourists to take for a ride, one ‘Hello Motorbike’ driver finds a moment of tranquillity amidst the chaos.


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5 photography tips:

We all want to take better photos when we’re travelling. Without having to plough through the weighty tome that is the instruction manual, here are a few tips to help you take some shots that will make your friends at home even more jealous than they already are. You never know you might discover a hidden talent.

1. The 2/3rds rule: Imagine that your photograph is divided into three, horizontally and vertically. Now position your subject at one of the intersections of the lines. This technique will give your picture more life and make it look more professional. 2. Flash in the day: Using your flash outdoors in the day can surprisingly make your photos better. Use it to brighten up faces and make them stand out from the background on dull days. On sunny days, the flash will lighten dark shadows over people’s faces making your picture a lot brighter with less contrast. 3. Keep those tourists in: Most of the time you hang around waiting for tourists to get out of the shot before you snap. But when taking a photo of a background such as a mountain or large temple or building, people in the foreground can be a great way of demonstrating perspective. If the people are silhouetted that’s even better. 4. Sports mode: Most digital cameras have a sports mode, which means your camera will keep clicking as you hold your finger down. This is an essential tool for capturing activity, especially handy at festivals and in bustling streets . And the beauty of digital photography is that when only one out of ten is good, you just pick the best and delete the rest! 5. Foreground: There’s no trick older in the book than getting a bit of foreground in your pictures. Instantly, pictures are brought to life with a splash of colour that your eye can rest on in the foreground, be it a clump of flowers, a boat, a tree or something of interest.

Mai Pen Rai Bungalows

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


F orgotten Isle : Sumatra

By Frances Tate

Sumatra Fact File: Currency: Indonesian Rupiah Exchange rate: $1 USD = 10,105 IDR (15.6.09) Time: GMT + 7 hours Visa: (Upon entry) 30 day visa - $50 USD. 7 day visa - $25 USD. Language essentials: Salam (hello) terimah kasih (thank you) Must try dishes: Rendang – coconut based curry Soto – Potato curry Gado-Gado – Nutty salad Other places of interest: Bukit Lawang: Orang-utan viewing centre Bukittinggi: Volcano treks and hot springs Pulau Nias: White beaches and giant surf Pulau Weh: Perfect diving, coral reef Ferries from Malaysia: Georgetown, Penang (Malaysia) – Medan (Sumatra): 5 hours Melaka (Malaysia) – Dumai (Sumatra): 2 hours


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With only one week left travelling in South East Asia, before heading to Oz, my friend and I sat in the monsoon rain in Penang, Malaysia pondering where to go next. We’d both been travelling in this part of the world for four months, visiting the most popular countries, having the time of our lives. But now, the next seven days lay before us like the unwritten pages of a journal, just waiting to be filled with more exciting experiences. But where to go? As my friend leafed through guide books her attention stopped on what sounded like a dream isle only a three hour ferry ride from Penang. As she read out the blurb, this place sounded too good to be true. Amazing scenery, volcanoes, surfing beaches, rainforests, enormous lakes, friendly locals and dirt cheap accommodation. “Just one thing” my friend said after she’d finished reading, “It mentions there are quite a lot of earthquakes, erm…and volcano eruptions, and flash floods, oh and the transport’s atrocious. Also, we should be careful of terrorism when we’re there, other than that it really does sounds awesome!” “Okay” I said. “Let’s do it.” I’m of the opinion, when travelling that if you want to go somewhere, you should just do it and don’t let anything you read or what anyone tells you put you off. We’re not talking stupid here like walking into war zones or anything, but from my experience, you scare yourself half to death reading about what dangers could befall you in a foreign land. I mean, if you paid too much attention to government travel warnings, you’d never leave your front garden. And we were here to explore! So, at 8am we caught the ferry from Georgetown

to Indonesia’s 3rd largest city, Medan, arriving about 1pm. My friend slept the whole way, but I was restless after a local had told us that swashbuckling pirates roam the Indonesian seas, so I’d been looking for sightings of the Black Pearl on the horizon all the way there. Having resigned ourselves to each others company for the next seven days, thinking we wouldn’t meet many others coming this way, we were surprised to see quite a few backpackers on the ferry, and before we knew it there were 5 of us travelling together. After a bit of a crazy ride from Medan port on a clapped out, durian smelling bus, filled with betel-nut chewing locals, we arrived at our first destination, Berestagi. Berestagi is a small town surrounded by volcanoes and hot springs that has very little in the way of tourism these days. We booked ourselves in our first night in Hotel Ginsata and then headed to the nearest bar. We ended up in a quirky little place called ‘Raymonds’ chatting with some very interesting locals who all spoke excellent English. They were very eager to talk to us, and soon we got chatting about the decline in tourism in Sumatra over the past 15 years. They attributed the decline to recent terrorist activity, some in Aceh, North of Berestagi a few years ago but in particular, the Bali bombing of 2004, which they say greatly affected the number of visitors to Indonesia as a whole

“People are scared to come here” they said “Just because of the actions of a minority.” It occurred to me the immense power that the media has on influencing tourism. Negative TV and newspaper coverage of a place can seriously damage the livelihood of small, local-run businesses that depend on overseas visitors. It seemed ridiculous to me, sat in this lovely bar, feeling totally at ease with welcoming locals, that an isolated incident thousands of kilometres away could put so many people off visiting this place. The next day, we climbed the volcano “Gunung Sibayak” (2094m) from the town, which took us about three hours through rainforest sheltered paths to reach the top; a

S.E.A Backpacker


steaming, eggy-smelling crater, alive with the sound of gases rushing out of holes in the earth’s surface. Wonderfully atmospheric and even though the last eruption was more than a century ago, you couldn’t help but feel a little nervous that it may spurt again at any moment. The views from the top were fantastic and after a day climbing, soaking in the boiling hot springs at the bottom of the volcano was just heaven. It was hard to drag ourselves out. Next destination was Lake Toba, a one day bumpy bus ride from Berestagi, on various buses with various drivers, all of whom had clearly had dreams of becoming Formula One racing drivers in their youth. With a bit of luck we made it there safe and we knew at once we were in for a treat. Lake Toba is the biggest volcanic Crater Lake in the world, and we’d heard great things about it from everyone we’d met. As the steamy rainforest began to thin, the bus turned the corner and the lake came into view, we began to see why. A beautiful silver sheen sparkled on the horizon, in-between luscious green mountains as monkeys played at the side of the road. We’d heard of an island in the middle of the lake, Pulau Samosir, and decided to settle ourselves there for the next few days. We stayed in the only resort on the island, Tuk Tuk. A spot which apparently once played host to its own Full Moon Party à la Koh Phangan. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine lots of drunken people with illuminous paint on their faces and buckets in their hands disturbing the lovely peaceful


S.E.A Backpacker

streets. Rows and rows of cute little restaurants and bars, book shops and cafes were void of people. We had the place to ourselves and everywhere we went people were excited to see us, going out of their way to make us feel welcome. I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad that this wonderful place that had once enjoyed an abundance of cash-carrying foreign visitors had become a ghost town. We booked into Samosir cottages in Tuk-Tuk, a great hotel with a lovely atmosphere, cheap food, table tennis, pool table, internet and free films. We paid a meagre $5 a night for a brilliant room with hot shower and a bath, (yes a bath!) so close to the lake that you could hear the sound of the water lapping against the shore as you lay in bed. The next couple of days were spent relaxing by the lake, attempting a bit of fishing, exploring the island, having some pretty heated table tennis tournaments, getting drunk and swimming in the lake at sunrise. Oh and eating far too much of the amazing local curry, Chicken Rendang! One day we hired a motorbike and travelled around the island, visiting some ancient tribal sites where gruesome deeds such as cannibalism once took place, some lovely local villages and of course some more hot springs! Above all, we were astounded by the natural beauty of the island. Bright green rice fields, mountains, waterfalls, unusual ancient Batak houses, buffalo roaming the land and gorgeous Lake Toba always in view. It was also extraordinary to see picturesque little churches dotted here and there, a throwback to the Dutch colonisation of the island over 200 years ago. It was an incongruous sight after hearing that Indonesia is 88% Muslim and seemed to give the island a certain quaintness.

After 4 days at the lake, we just didn’t want to leave. So much so that we ended up staying an extra day and having to pay a fine on our visa as we left the country from Duran port back to Melaka in Malaysia. After reading about all the things that could have gone wrong on our trip before we came, upon leaving Sumatra we had experienced nothing but good things. Sumatra really was an awesome destination, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it was one of the highlights of my travels in South East Asia. Visiting only two places in just seven days, we really only scraped the surface of this amazing country and I would love to return some day. I’d encourage everyone to pay this forgotten isle a visit!

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T h’ times they are a changin’ A few weeks ago, one of my backpacking friends, was sat on the steps of a temple in Chiang Mai. Being a bit of a bohemian musical type, he’d recently bought himself a ukulele to play on his travels. As dusk settled on the ancient city, and the crowds began to thin, the moment took him and he began to play. After a minute or so, he noticed that a Buddhist monk had located himself nearby and was peacefully listening to his music. ‘Wow. How cool is this’ he thought. ‘Thailand, sunset, monk, temple, ukulele. Spiritual man.’ And with that he got all carried away and felt the music flow out of his body and into the warm air like never before. When he finally finished his spiritual symphony, the monk came over to sit next to him. Expecting a deep philosophical statement that would impart wisdom on him for years to come, he smiled at the monk. “Yep not bad that” The monk said “but do you know any Linkin’ Park?” “Linkin Park!” He repeated in disbelief. Confused that the silly farang didn’t know who Linkin Park were the monk wacked out his pink sparkly mobile phone and began to play ring tones to him. Soon, the soft sound of the ukulele was replaced with “Shut up when I’m talking to you!” and “Crawling in my skin!.” Monks on motorbikes with mobile phones, cigarettes and bottles of M150 left as gifts to Buddha, hill tribe girls, who ask you if you’ll add them on Facebook; there’s a lot of interesting things that we don’t expect when we first come to South East Asia. Not everything is how the guide books tell it. Everywhere you look here, the old clashes with the new, Eastern culture with Western, religious with secular and rich with poor. The Asian cities are probably the best places to witness these juxtapositions. For example, in Bangkok, a few steps away from an ancient temple, there’s a swish 5-storey shopping mall. In Ho Chi Minh City, a clapped out bicycle rickshaw is parked next to a Porsche. In Luang Prabang, young children play on the banks of the Mekong with Manchester United shirts on. To the onlooker it’s a fascinating scenario that makes the place all the more exciting to explore. Combined with the lovely, smiling people who welcome you into their countries and are as interested in you and where you come from as you are in them, this really is a mesmerising place to travel.


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The Jungle Hideaway Chomprai Chiang Dao Resort

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Special Discount 20%

Tel. +66 89 434 2047, +66 81 716 3980 Chiangmai Thailand

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W hat’s on: Festivals and Events not wander during this time for fear that they may tread on young plants which are starting to grow.

Full Moon Parties: Ko Phangan, Thailand Full Moon: 9th July, 6th August Ultimate beach party on Haad Rin sands that aattracts up to 30,000 people each month. Variety of music genres. Half Moon: 15th, 28th July and 13th, 27th August Massive rave in Baan Tai jungle as DJ’s pump out hard progressive and trance.

Kuala Lumpur Festival 1 July – 31 July Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia An entire month of music, art and performance in Malaysia’s multicultural capital city. Concerts, theatre, dance and more. There’s something for everyone.

Buddhist Lent Early July Myanmar, Laos, Thailand

Black Moon: 22nd July and 20th August Underground trance and progressive beats on Baan Tai beach.


S.E.A Backpacker

At the beginning of the rainy season in Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, Buddhist monks must remain in the monastery for three lunar months to practise meditation and worship. This tradition derives from the belief that monks should

Phi Ta Khon Festival 4-6 July Dan Sai district, Loei province, Thailand In Thailand, spirituality is never far away, but it perhaps comes closest in July with this ghostly festival, unique to the Isaan culture of North Eastern Thailand. (About 450km North of Bangkok) Similar to the Western Halloween, locals don eerie spirit masks and wear phantom costumes, while children play tricks in the street. The festival commemorates an old Buddhist tale, when villagers held a celebration for the return of their Prince

from banishment. It is said that they made so much noise that the dead were awakened from their graves and came out to party! Musical processions pack the streets and rockets fill the sky for three days.

Singapore Food Festival 17 - 26 July Singapore Food connoisseurs delight! Gorge yourself silly at this festival dedicated to the pleasure of eating delicious food from around the globe. (And your parents were worried you’d come back skinny and undernourished from your travels!) This year the festival specialises in Peranakan cuisine, with influences from China, Malaysia and Indonesia, the flavours are naturally aromatic, spicy and tangy. As well as food glorious food, there’s international music and entertainment.

9 0 t s u g u A y Jul

Amazing Thailand Grand Sale Fair July, August Phuket The Amazing Thailand Grand Sale lasts for two months and features huge discounts at hundreds of shops with special discounts on goods made in Thailand. Ideal chance to cram your rucksacks with pressies to get you in the good books if you happen to be on your way home!

Metatah: Tooth Filing Ceremony 1 Jul – 31 Aug Bali The Tooth Filing Ceremony is an interesting ritual carried out by Balinese Hindus, that generally takes place during this time of year. The ceremony marks the passage from childhood to adulthood and filing the teeth is said to cleanse the body and mind of invisible evil spirits. Balinese belief systems view teeth as a symbol of lust, greed, anger and jealousy, among other vices.

The Candle Festival July 31. Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand This is a deeply spiritual festival following Khao Pansa, or Buddhist lent, when a great candle procession parades through the streets of Ubon Ratchatani to honour the everlasting faith of the people in Buddhism. The festival includes floats, special displays, cultural presentations, music and dancing.

Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival 1 Aug – 30 Aug Do Son, Vietnam The small village of Do Son, two hours South East of Hanoi sees it’s fair amount of excitement each year during the month of August. Not for everyone, the Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival involves matches between local buffalos that have been trained for months prior to compete in this important event. Buffalos are embellished with red cloth and a riotous crowd beat drums and cheer as the buffalos sweat it out in knockout heats!

Rainforest World Music Festival 10-12 July Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo What




atmospheric than attending a world music festival in the lush green setting of the mystical Borneo Jungle? With an eclectic mix of world



celtic fusion, socca, folk, baul, fusion and traditional, this has become a must

Bangkok International Film Festival 1-31 July Bangkok, Thailand Film buffs get prepared for this 10 day event taking place throughout July in Thailand’s happening capital. There are a variety of international and local films screened, plus a chance to attend workshops and discussions.

attend event in Malaysia for all music lovers wanting to hear new, interesting sounds. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear new music and even get involved with the odd jamming sesh. This is a music




won’t forget.

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D estination Spotlight: The Life of Railay


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Krabi is beach life with a difference. Sure you can relax on the golden sands of Railay and Ton Sai, but with so many other things to do and so little time, you’ll be itching to get off your beach towel the minute you lay it down‌ By Nikki Scott

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Beach Football: Apart from the limestone rocks, the Thai faces, oh and the fire throwers, you could be in Brazil as dusk settles in Haad Railay, as a giant football match takes place on the beach. Linger around West Railay beach at about 6pm with a football shirt on and a smile on your face and no doubt you’ll get invited to play in the match with the locals. As the sun sets on the beach it’ll be hard to keep focused on the game as the surrounding scenery takes your breath away.

Rock climbing: Rock climbing junkies are in danger of an overdose in Railay and neighbouring Ton Sai. Without doubt, this has got to be one of the most stunning settings to climb in the world, and you don’t have to be Spiderman to scale the karsts, beginners can take to the rock with any number of excellent rock climbing schools in the area. You can do a beginners course for a half a day or a full day where you will learn how to belay a partner, rock climb and abseil. The more hardcore amongst you can try the three day climbing course where you learn to lead climb. This involves learning how to climb as you take the rope up yourself, tying yourself in for safety as you ascend. If you have your own equipment, more experienced climbers will have no problem in finding a climbing buddy, just hang around the bars in Ton Sai for 5 minutes and you’re sure to hook up (no pun intended). Whatever level you’re at or whatever course you decide to do, its great fun and the views at the top of bright turquoise waters and surrounding cliffs are out of this world. For an exhilarating, action packed day, there’s nothing like it. When you feel the pumping in your arms and the adrenalin rush as you stretch to reach the top, you’ll be addicted.

Hiking to the lagoon: There isn’t an abundance of hiking in Railay but don’t miss this classic. From West Railay Beach follow the signs on the left hand side to the viewpoint of Railay and Ton Sai. The climb takes about 25 minutes and is a bit tricky to be tackled in flip flops. Once at the viewpoint you descend into the jungle for another 25 minutes along a bit of a dodgy path that has ropes at the side to help. But the struggle is well worth it as the turquoise lagoon is stunningly beautiful. If you like, from here you can carry on to explore Phra Nang beach on the other side and Phra Nang Cave where you can cast your eyes on some interesting sculptures...nuff said.


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Kayaking: Taking to the sea on a kayak and exploring the coast line of Railay can be a wonderful day out. Some of the limestone karsts have sea caves which you can delve into and have a look around. Just be careful of the low, rocky ceilings. If you’re feeling energetic you can also paddle out to the undeveloped island of Koh Poda, a circular island surrounded almost completely with beautiful white sandy beaches straight out of a travel brochure. It’ll take you about an hour to get there if you give it some effort. (Or half an hour on a long boat if you’re feeling lazy.) Renting a kayak: A kayak for the day can be rented from the resorts in West Railay.

Snorkelling and star gazing: There are lots of snorkelling trips that you can do in Krabi but make sure your trip includes night snorkelling. I agree, snorkelling in the dark sounds ridiculous but that was before I’d heard of the tiny little creatures called phosphorous plankton. You can take a half day trip from Haad Railay which includes time on the boat with snorkelling stops at various inlets in the day. After that you stop for an evening meal, cooked by the guides on Chicken Island as the sun is setting. Once the sun has gone down you take to the sea for the last time to see the beautiful natural phenomenon of phosphorous plankton. In the water you feel like you are swimming amidst the stars. The plankton responds to movement in the water which makes it glow in the dark, so that every time you move your body the water twinkles with tiny dots all around you. It really is a magical experience.

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


Deep water soloing: Rock climbing without the safety of a rope? What are you crazy? I hear you cry. Don’t worry, we’re not suicidal lunatics. This is a new type of sport where you climb the rock face straight from the ocean, so that if you lose your grip when ascending, you will not fall to your death but plunge into the deep water below. You can climb as high as 20 metres this way. If you are unfamiliar with the area and new to climbing it’s best to go out with one of the rock climbing companies who take groups out on a long boat from Railay or Ton Sai to the perfect spots. They know where the best places are to climb in terms of the water being deep enough if you fall in, as you don’t want to be hitting rocks instead of the water. You’ll probably climb to about 7 metres first time. However, experienced deep water soloists, need nothing more than a kayak and a pair of climbing shoes, (some don’t even take these!) and they’re away. This is free climbing like no other.


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Phi Phi Island • World class diving • Spectacular scenery • Daytrips • Dive courses, all levels • DIVEMASTER INTERNSHIPS AVAILABLE NOW • We dive every day of the year

tel: +66 (0)898732205 email:

. .

Enjoy the tranquillity. Take it easy at our seaside Tiki Style Bar. Relax in a beach chair. Chill out under a cool umbrella with a frozen fresh fruit drink.


Eat at our restaurant. Home to one of Thailand’s most talented chefs.


Serves the best Thai and Western food on Phi Phi Island.


Watch in amazement. Our award winning fire show is performed nightly.


Dance until daybreak. The biggest late night party on Phi Phi!

7 M.7 Loh Da Lum Bay, Phi-Phi Island, Ao Nang, Muang Krabi, 81000 THAILAND Tel: +6675601274 Email: S.E.A Backpacker


C ity of angels Top 5’s: Bangkok. It’s an exhilarating, fast-paced city and the travel hub of South East Asia, where you’ll find many a backpacker about to set forth on or leave behind an exciting adventure. If you’re only here a few days, be sure to make the most of them with this Top 5 guide…

TOP 5 Things to do: 1.

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew: The Palace is a must see in Bangkok and the dazzling Wat houses the precious 14th Century Emerald Buddha. 350 baht for entry’s quite steep but worth it. Make sure you cover up when visiting or you won’t be allowed in.

Chao Phraya River Boat Trip: Great way to get around and catch a bit of a breeze in this sweltering capital. From twinkling temples, to scruffy shacks to river-side markets you’ll get to see the diversity of Bangkok without the foot work. Plus it’s only 13 baht one way!


4. Muay Thai Boxing:

The Reclining Buddha: 46 metres long and 15 metres high, the enormous Buddha lies in the oldest and largest Wat in Bangkok, Wat Pho, located in the same grounds as the Palace. The Buddha was designed to illustrate the passing of Buddha into Nirvana. 50 baht entrance fee.


A visit to Ratchadamnoen Stadium is the perfect way to finish off the Bangkok experience. Even if you’re not into boxing it’s a great atmosphere and can get a little heated if you’re sat with the locals. Prices start from 1,000 baht and in one evening you’ll see about 10 fights.

5. Ping Pong:

You just can’t come to Bangkok without seeing one of these, just once. And ping pong balls are only the half of it. We’re talking pencils, bananas, razor blades, even little tweeting birdies. (No joke)


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TOP 5 Alternatives: 1. Aerobics in Lumphini Park:

A great work out for free! Blend in with the fitness fanatic locals around sunset as the park pumps with dance music and bouncing bodies.


Visit a Prisoner: Ban Kwang prison, famous for the film ‘Brokedown Palace’ and book ‘Damage Done’ is home to 7000 inmates from all over the world. Western prisoners are often happy to see a friendly visitor, but always be sensitive to the situation and dress appropriately.

3. Meditation course:

Get spiritual in the city with a 1-day Buddhist meditation course. Visit Wat Mahathat for information.

4. China Town:

Wander down the little back streets, browse the Chinese medicines and herbs, sample some unusual street food and visit an incense filled Temple to get your fortune read.

5. Chatuchak Market:

This weekend market puts any other market you’ve ever seen to shame. With over 15,000 stalls selling everything from puppies to antique jewellery you’ll find it hard to stick to your travelling budget here! From the Khao San Road it should be 100 baht in a taxi.

TOP 5 Things you NEED to buy on the Khao San Road: 1. A frog:

You know you want it and the sellers won’t leave you alone until you buy it. You may as well save yourself torment and get it over with! If you don’t, as the night ends and you go to sleep, your dreams will be haunted by the sound of relentless croaking which translates into ‘Buy me!’

2. A laser pen:

Come on, it shines really far! You’re impressed aren’t you? Just think of the immature fun you could have shining that on certain body parts.

3. A hammock:

The one purchase that guarantees you’ve always got a place to lay your head wherever you go in South East Asia.

4. A coloured hat with bells:

You might end up starting a new trend back home you never know.

5. A degree:

Ever fancied a degree in Physics without all the hard work? As cheap as 600 baht, you may as well get two and perhaps a Media pass while you’re at it.

CHANWIT’s Hideaway Smooth Hand Sleep Well

Academy of Thai Massage By certified, experienced practitioners 1 day to 1 week massage courses: Prices start 1000 baht. Located on Khao San Road. Opposite Wat Chanasongkram Tel: 08 4426 0009

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T raveller’s thought’s, stories, tips: Experience them, exchange them, laugh about them, cry about them. Share your travel tales here… If you have something to say, we want to hear from you. Send your stories, thoughts, opinions or tips to:

Story of the month

WARNING – Don’t rea d

if you are easily off

I heard the most horrendou s story from a friend the oth er day. He said he was out on a snorkelling trip in Koh Phi Phi and took a tourist long boat on a day-trip with some friends to visit other beaches on the Island, suc h as the famous Maya Bay, from The Beach. On the trip the boat stopped in small inlets every so often for the group to snorkel. While he was snorkelling, unfortunat ely he decided he needed a number 2. With no toilet bac k on the boat and no sign of stopping on land any tim e soon, he decided his best bet was to swim away from the snorkelling group and do it right there in the sea, Kev in and Perry style. All would hav e been okay and the rest of the group would have bee n none the wiser if the fish es hadn’t decided that this wa s the best bit of tasty gru b they’d seen all day. Soon the floater was surrounded by fish of all different shapes and sizes and the rest of the snorkelling tourists swam over to see what the kafuffl e was about. “Ah look, how lov ely” a mother said, “The fish are feeding.” The mortified perpetrator could only look on in horror as the group watch ed with snorkels and masks under the water as the fish es devoured the poo unt il there was not a morsel left ! (Nicola, London)


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. a refreshing tip:

We all know you’ve got to keep hydrated here in sweltering Thailand. But, instead of buying new bottles of water every five minutes, look for the refill terminals at the side of the road in towns and cities. For 1 baht per litre you can quench your thirst and feel good that you’re helping the environment too.


(Delcie, Singapore)

. Tubing dawdlers:

Tubing. Go early. Before you know it, you’ve got 5 buckets down your neck, a sunburnt chest and it’s getting dark. You don’t want to be the last straggler coming down the river in the dark, drunk and mosquito bitten. Leave yourself plenty of time at the end, as it’s a bit of a way from the last bar back to Vang Vieng. (Written by a girl who had to be rescued by a canoe in the pitch black! Frances, Dublin)


.Slow Boat:

I got the 2-day slow boat from Chiang Khong, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos. Before we got on the boat we had to listen to a lecture from a guy telling us that the boat journey takes twice as long as you think it does and it’s so unbearably uncomfortable, and when you get to the village where you spent the night, it’s very dangerous and you’ll probably get robbed, either that or catch malaria! Everything possible to put you off basically! Many people were in fact put off by this and chose to take the bus instead, which he was promoting as a much better option. But I’d wanted to take the boat along the Mekong, so I stuck by my decision after all I’d already bought my ticket. After the event, a lot of people were saying that this guy was from the bus tour company and was just trying to get you to buy a ticket. The boat journey was lovely, I met some great people and had a laugh. The views were spectacular especially coming into Luang Prabang and the only thing I got was a numb bum perhaps! I’m so glad I didn’t change my mind and get the bus. So don’t be put off! (Sergej, Stockholm)

mont h: e h t f Q uot e o

piness is p a h n e h w appiness, e.” h k e e s o t hoic “We tend g] actually a c ng Praban [Written in

n Bar, Lua


ao Garde nu of Lao L

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Celebration of the flip flop Flip flops, thongs, jandals, whatever you like to call them, just where would backpackers be without them? They traipse round cities with you in the heat, wait loyally for you on the steps outside temples and hang around patiently as you stagger about drunk at a full moon party trying to remember where the hell you put them. There’s no denying, they’re the perfect travel companion, the pinnacle of South East Asian footwear, and the obvious fashion choice for 90% of backpackers. However, no matter much you love ‘em, here’s a word of warning, whatever you do just don’t get too attached to them. It will only lead to unnecessary anguish when the inevitable happens and they break, snap or you lose them. In 6 months travelling most backpackers must go through about 20 pairs of them. They come and go as fast as the sunsets in South East Asia. Have you ever looked at people’s feet the day after a Full Moon Party? There’s an array of different sights all telling the same story. Some walk around barefoot, some are hiding the dark secret that they went home with someone else and some have lost their partner and walk around with a new mate. Take a glance out from the beach and you’ll see the Andaman Sea has enough flip flops floating in it to provide for a small country. Invented in New Zealand in the 1950’s the modern day flip flop derives from the Japanese Sandal, the woven soled ‘zori’ hence Kiwi’s calling them ‘Jandals.’ Apparently they were first brought to the Western world by post World War 1 servicemen returning from Japan, who began to wear the Japanese sandal at the beach. Now flip flops are a worldwide phenomenon, not only popular with travellers but extremely common in third world countries due to them being the cheapest shoe to manufacture. On the other hand, recently the most expensive pair of flip flops on record were bought by an Indian businessman for $1.8 million. (The pricy flips once belonged to Mahatma Gandhi)

Don’t anger the Ox this year! It’s the Year of the Ox in the Chinese calendar and believers say it’s even down to what you wear that determines how much good luck you’ll have. To keep in the Ox’s good books, for prosperity and happiness you should wear gold, purple and black. Whatever you do, don’t be seen in red. He just can’t bear it and you’ll anger him big time. Grunt.


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The best Street food in S.E.A? Cheap, tasty and diverse, there’s no need to eat in fancy restaurants in Vietnam. There’s nothing better than mixing in at a bustling market as locals show you how to eat their beloved dishes. Just make sure you wash it all down with a Bia Hoi sat on a plastic chair on the road side. Okay, so it’s a bit watery, but at 5000 VND a litre who’s arguing?

Pho Bo

Nem Chua Nuong

Bun Oc

Nuoc Mia Da

What is it? Vietnam’s famous beef noodle soup. Mostly eaten at breakfast time. Where is it best? Hanoi definitely. Cost? 10,000 VND

What is it? Popular thin noodle soup with snails, chilli and a vinegary taste. Where is it best? All over Vietnam. Cost? 15,000 VND

What is it? Grilled spring rolls. Eat with green mango and cucumber. Where is it best? Hanoi Cost? 5,000 VND

What is it? Fresh sugar-cane juice. A cool you down energy drink in the summer heat. Where is it best? All over Vietnam. Cost? 5,000 VND.

Ban Xeo

What is it? Pancakes filled with bean sprouts and prawns. Delicious. Where is it best? HCMC Cost? 10,000.

Cau Lau

What is it? Noodles with pork, cabbage and soya sauce, sprinkled with pork crackling. Where is it best? Hoi An. Cost? 5,000 VND.

Exchange Rate: $1 USD = 17,795 VND (15.6.09) S.E.A Backpacker



w e i v e Book r

First they killed my father, Luong Ung (2001)

By Jenna Shaw

When visiting Cambodia earlier this year, I spotted a lot of travellers on buses and in hostels engrossed in the book ‘First they Killed my Father’ by Loung Ung. When I picked up a copy myself, hoping to learn more about the history of Cambodia and its people, I failed to appreciate just how much of a hard-hitting, disturbing and emotional read this is. Bearing in mind that this is not a work of fiction, at times I found this book difficult to digest, especially when you consider that this is not a unique story, but one that is similar to those shared by millions of Cambodians, just 30 years ago. Told from the perspective of a middle-class 5-year old girl from Pnomh Penh, this is a moving account of every day life between the years of 1975 – 1979, when the Khmer Rouge held gruesome power over the state of Cambodia. Through the child’s eyes, we witness unspeakable atrocities and see unthinkable suffering. Slowly, we observe her innocent, happygo-lucky demeanour completely shattered by the horror she experiences. As the inquisitive child asks her parents’ questions about what is happening and why, the reader is confronted with the same unanswerable questions, which reinforce the senselessness of the genocide in which 2 million people out of a population of 7 million, including women and children were brutally killed. The confusion and bewilderment of the child as she tries to understand that human beings can do such things to other human beings serves to exacerbate the anguish for the reader. In an interview with the author, Luong Ung says that in writing the book she wanted people to realise that although


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not old enough to understand the politics behind what was going on, the pain felt by children was no less than that felt by the adults, and in no way can it be said that she was too young to remember or too young to suffer. It is in fact incredible how much detail is recollected and even more incredible when you consider the strength and courage of this little girl to get through it all and become the successful writer and spokesperson that she is today. Coming from a charmed upbringing in Western Europe, it is so hard for me to even contemplate the experience of the population of Cambodia during this time and impossible to envisage such pain. Visiting the beautiful country and chatting to the lovely people it is inconceivable that the events in this book occurred just thirty years ago and that Cambodia is in fact a nation very much traumatised and still recovering from this period. Seeing the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum after reading this book, the reality of the work really hits home, as thousands of faces stare back at you from prison photographs telling stories of stolen lives. Men, women, children, babies, not yet old enough to talk. If the people in these photographs could speak what similar stories would they tell of this time? All in all, this book is a must read when visiting Cambodia to try to grasp a slight understanding of what this country has been through and appreciate that everyone you see, from a child book seller to an old countryside woman has been touched in some way by the events that happened just a short time ago.




There’s been a lot of uncertainty amongst backpackers recently regarding the new laws for the Thailand Visa. We decided to find out the score once and for all... Thai immigration rules: By Barry Kenyon. Like most countries, Thailand has a fairly complex framework of rules for foreign visitors and expats. However, it’s simple enough for visitors from most of Europe, America and Australia who want to stay a few days, weeks or even months. If you just want to stay a month or less, then you simply obtain a 30 day stamp at the airport when you enter Thailand. However, if you enter by a land route at a border crossing, you’ll receive only 15 days permission in your passport. Both these stamps can be extended for 7 days only at a Thai immigration office, but only once. If you want further time you must leave the country and return. For example, you can take a visa run to neighbouring Cambodia or Laos to obtain a further 15 days. Or take a flight to another country (the cheapest is Singapore at the time of writing) and obtain 30 days when you return at the airport. All these 30 day or 15 day stamps are free at the point of entry by the way, but the 7 day extension will cost you 1,900 baht. It’s important not to overstay your visa whatever type it is. Always look carefully at the stamp in your passport issued by the immigration officer at the airport or border post and remember to leave or renew (If permitted) on or before that date. The penalties for overstay are 500 baht per day and this applies no matter what was the reason you

broke the rules. The maximum overstay fine is 20,000 baht. However, you can be arrested at any time for overstay and it’s a very bad idea to fall into the trap. You could be sent to prison and then deported back to your own country – at your own expense. None the less, if your overstay is just one or even two days you’ll be OK to pay the 500 or 1,000 baht fine at the airport. It’s the longer overstays which cause the real problems. Thailand also issues one year, renewable visas for certain categories of visitors. Men and women over 50 can apply for a retirement visa subject to having 800,000 baht in income or as a bank deposit. Foreigners with a Thai spouse can apply for a one year married person’s visa for which the basic rule is 400,000 baht in a Thai bank in the foreigner’s name. There are also one year visas for holders of authorised work permits issued by the Thai Department of Labour. Holders of the Thai Elite card have special five year visas and there is also a three year business visa available at some overseas embassies and consulates. All these different visas have their own detailed regulations. Further information should be sought at Thai immigration offices or overseas embassies. (All information correct as of 9.6.09)

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ant Import stuff Brunei Darussalam: Currency: Brunei Dollar, divided into 100 cents. Exchange rate: $1 USD = $1.45 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: Brunei Darussalam is a small but extremely rich country, due to its great wealth in oil. The Sultan of Brunei is one of the richest people in the world. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 991 Fire: 995 Police: 993

Cambodia: Currency: Cambodian Riel (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 4,150 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 to avoid extra fees and make your border crossing easier. 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


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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: Khmer food can be far removed from what the Western palate is used to. You’ll find Cambodians eating deep fried spiders, crickets, beetles and other creepy crawlies, pregnant duck eggs, fermented fish paste, barbecued rats, bats and snakes. 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 ATM or credit card facilities at the airport or other border posts, so you will 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 democratic independent state on May 20 2002, making it the world’s first new nation of the 21st Century. The official name is the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 7233212 Police: 112

Indonesia: Currency: Indonesian Rupiah Exchange rate: $1 USD = 10,105 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 $50 USD. You can also obtain a 7-day visa at $25. Payments can be made in

US Dollar only. You will need 2 passport photographs and your passport must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. Penalty for late departure: Up to $20 / day. For more than 60 days overstay travellers risk deportation or imprisonment. Climate: Indonesia has just 2 seasons, wet season, which falls between April and October and dry season, which falls between May and September. Throughout all of the year the climate is hot and humid, although there are snow-capped peaks in the highlands of Papua. As Indonesia is such a long country, the difference in the seasons varies. In some areas, the distinction between the wet and dry season is great, such as the Nusa Tenggara when the wet season (December to February) can make transport difficult, with road floods and ferry cancellations. In Sumatra, the rain falls from October to January in the North and from January to February in the South. In Bali there is little difference between the seasons where weather is similar all year round. 1 random fact: Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world with approximately 18,000 islands, two thirds of which are inhabited by humans. Emergency numbers: (Java) Fire: 113 Police: 110 Medical assistance: 118, 119

Laos: Currency: Lao KIP (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 8,512 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 visa for Laos at international airports and border crossings. The cost is usually US$30 for 30 days. At the Thailand/Laos border if you pay in Thai baht the fee will 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 up to 30 days. Extensions can also be obtained from some travel agents for around US$3. 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: The “Plain of Jars” in Laos is an area where hundreds of stone jars, big enough to hold a person are scattered across the landscape. The largest jar weighs over six tons. Experts predict they are approximately 2,000 years old but the purpose of them, how they got there in the first place and who made them remains a mystery. Some experts believe they were used as burial chambers. Emergency numbers: (Vientiane) Ambulance: 195 Fire: 190 Police: 191



Currency: Malaysian Ringgit Exchange rate: $1 USD = 5.76 MYR Capital city: Kuala Lumpur Main religion: Islam (official) Main language: Bahasa Melayu (official) Telephone code: +60 Time: GMT + 8 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Salam (Hello) Terimah kasih (Thank you) Visa: Most nationalities are granted a free 30-90 day entry pass upon arrival at international airports and border crossings. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Please note that Sarawak is a semi-autonomous state and upon entry your passport will be stamped and a new pass issued. Visa extension: Visas can be extended at Immigration offices in Malaysia for a fee of RM50.00 per month. 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: Malaysia has an incredible array of flora. Sabah is home to the Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world and the Alocasia macrorrhiza, the biggest undivided leaf in the world. Emergency numbers: Fire: 994 Police and Ambulance: 999

Currency: Singapore Dollar Exchange rate: $1 USD = 1.45 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: Next to Monaco, Singapore is the second most densely populated country in the world with over 4.5 million people living in 707.1 sq km. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 995 Police: 999 Fire: 995


Currency: Thai Baht Exchange rate: $1 USD = 34 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) (Hello) Kop Khun Ka/Krap (m/f) (Thank you) 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.

Currency: Kyat (US Dollars used) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 6.44 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 interesting fact: There are over 135 different ethnic groups in Myanmar, many with their own distinct language, culture and beliefs. Emergency numbers: (Yangon) Ambulance: 192 Police: 199 Fire: 191


1 random fact: The year is actually 2552 in Thailand. As well as the Gregorian calendar, Thailand runs by the Thai Solar Calendar, which is 543 years ahead of the West. Dates are often written B.E. in English. (Buddhist Era) Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 1669 Fire: 199 Police: 191

Vietnam Currency: Vietnamese Dong Exchange rate: $1 USD = 17,795 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: Maximum 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 US$30 for extensions up to 30 days. 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: Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam is a UNESCO World Heritage site where more than 3000 limestone karsts rise from the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Halong translates as the ‘bay of descending dragons.’ 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 15.6.09) 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.)

S.E.A Backpacker






1. Hasp (5)

1. Small (6)

4. Oppose (6)

2. Hurl (5)

9. Upheavel (7)

3. Fool (4)

10. Helicopter part (5)

5. Scolding harshly (8)

11. Patch of grass (4)

6. Went in (7)

12. Comes back (7)

7. Bird (6)

13. Female Deer (3)

8. Unsteady flame (5)

14. Jetty (4)

13. Trickled (8)

16. Naked (4)

15. Dishonourable (7)

18. Droop (3)

17. Moves furtively (6)

20. Weapon (7)

18. Perspiration (5)

21. Eye infection (4)

19. Partners a mortar (6)

24. He invented dynamite (5)

22. Ferret out (5)

25. Lure (7)

23. Agitate (4)




7 6

5 3



6 9

2 8




How many 7/11’s are there in Thailand? a) 380 b) 3800 c) 38,000 S.E.A Backpacker














16 18



21 23







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








27. Medieval Steward (5)




26. Stable (6)


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






By Oliver Frois. Some smug bastard, whose name eludes me once said that it’s not the destination that’s important; it’s the journey. I shall leave it to your discretion as to how you perceive this. Most of you I’m sure will already have endured some horrendous jaunt and hopefully it hasn’t resulted in psychological trauma. So yes, in some ways I suppose I’m talking about the journey and in others, if you like, I’m talking about the journey. I have no idea what I’m talking about. Whilst volunteering in Malaysia, I was driven in the pouring rain for 4 hours at breakneck speed in a 1992 Proton Kiara with no seatbelts to World Aids Memorial Day by a recovering heroin addict. As I sat in the back, inhaling second hand nicotine, petrol fumes and sweat, I pondered the complete absurdity of the situation. We got to the convention 2 hours after it had finished. You couldn’t make this shit up. Every country that I have passed through in South East Asia has given me at least one memorable journey. Those of you who have made it to Cambodia

will doubtless have experienced it’s obsession with karaoke. It’s inescapable. For the first 20 minutes, you think ‘ah this is kinda funny; I should get a CD of this to take home.’ Not long after, hacking your ears off with the Mach III in your bag becomes an increasingly enticing option. I took the bus from Phnom Penh to Stung Treng and upon realising that there wasn’t an ATM for me to withdraw any cash to pay for my visa and the nearest ATM (allegedly) being in Phnom Penh, I took the bus back to the capital the next day. I’m a sucker for punishment. For 10 hours, I listened to death metal on my iPod but still it couldn’t drown out the karaoke and of course, I had run out of valium. The front seat did however, provide some level of entertainment. Some fella nonchalantly skimming along the road with all his bedroom furniture tied onto his 100cc scooter. I saw people sat on car roofs, travelling at speed over bumps and potholes and swerving to avoid water buffalo in the road. I saw people sat on the bonnets, obviously to maximise space. I saw motorbikes

S.E.A Backpacker


carrying massive jerry cans of petrol on the side of the bike. Although you are supposed to drive on the right hand side, there seems to be a middle overtaking lane. You know, for a bit of variety. If you want to drive on the left, towards oncoming traffic, then that’s just fine too. Buddha will probably save you. Long journeys do in many ways lend themselves to periods of deep thought and contemplation. This can go one of two ways. On a bus in Australia, surveying a quantum of nothingness, I decided that my first degree had more or less been the wrong decision. On a ferry from Bali, sat on the floor on the first leg of my trip to the Gili Islands, I devised a whole music video for a nautical version of Thriller, using the other passengers as cast members. Sometimes sleep deprivation, a belly full of Beer Hanoi/Lao/Chang/Angkor (delete as appropriate. Or not, if you’re a recklessly indecisive alcoholic) and a tendency to favour adventure (some would call it stupidity) over practicality lead to common sense and rationality being thrown out of the window. Which is probably why I chose to take the bus from Luang Prabang to Hanoi instead of flying. Setting off at 7pm, I was almost laughing at what was about to happen, hunched in my seat waiting for Rickets to set in, chewing nervously on valium and dried mango. At midnight, we stopped for dinner which consisted of some dubious looking fruit being sold by an old lady at the side of the road. Did the old fruit lady do this as

a living? Where does she live? Where does she get her fruit from? I wasn’t hungry. In the first 12 hours of the quite ridiculous 32 hour journey we covered 100 miles, most of it in the dark and by the time we reached the Vietnamese border on the mud track we had been traversing, I really had no idea what was going on. No one on the bus spoke English. For some stupid reason I had assumed that someone would speak French which provided some amusement for the immigration officials. I made friends though. I became quite popular. One guy offered me some cucumber, which I politely declined. He grabbed my crotch with one hand and clenched the fist of the other and said ‘strong!’ with a big grin on his face... I felt obliged to eat it. You don’t even get a bag of nuts on some flights. There are times when I look back and realise that my rash decisions in travel arrangements have done me no favours. It amazes to think that I have held down jobs that required me to know what was going to happen before it happened. I have difficulty in remembering what day it is. Opting for buses over flights, obscure detours and an air of irresponsibility verging on arrogance have cost me time and money and probably increased my blood pressure. But experiences like this are what make the concept of backpacking interesting. You’ll share these stories with your loved ones when you run out of money and are forced to haul ass and it gives me something to write about.





8 6

9 5 4 3 7

2 1


4 7

5 8 2 1 6

9 3


2 3

1 7 6 9 4

8 5

9 8

7 6 1 5 3

4 2

3 5

2 4 8 7 1

6 9

1 4

6 9 3 2 8

5 7

7 1

4 2 9 8 5

3 6

6 2

3 1 5 4 9

7 8

5 9

8 3 7 6 2

1 4






























S.E.A Backpacker



















QUESTION Answer = b



call: +66 84 553 8996 (Eng) +66 81 776 7616 (Thai)



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