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I MAY - S S U E 6: JUNE 2010
The essential magazine for all travellers through South East Asia.
IN THE JUNGLE... Khao Sok National Park
Mount Merapi ISSN 1906-7674
Volcano Trekking in Indonesia
MaD Tuk Tuk Adventures! The 700km race across Cambodia
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â€œStop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journeyâ€?
I couldn’t sleep.
The curled up in a ball, arms wrapped round the legs pose. The head against the window, legs sprawled under the seat posture. The head back, occasional jerk forward catching flies look. No matter what position I tried it was just no good. I couldn’t sleep! So, why was everyone else snoring peacefully around me? I envied their snores. I began to hate them. Especially the rather large fellow stinking of whiskey next to me who had taken to using my shoulder as his pillow. I wanted to wake everyone up. I wanted them too to be aware of the gorgeous aroma of fresh toilet that was floating through the vent right next to my head bringing on wave upon wave of nausea in my stomach. When I finally did fall into some kind of half slumber, I found that minutes later I was abruptly awoken at ridiculous o’ clock with lights so bright they could stun a buffalo and the earsplitting morning call of ’TEN BAHT’ ’TEN BAHT.’ What? Who do I owe ten baht to at this hour? What for? Why? No pleasant ‘Good Morning. We have safely arrived at our destination. Here’s a wet towel and a cup of tea.’ My sleepy brain later discerned that the words were ‘CHANGE BUS’ ‘CHANGE BUS’ as my rough blanket was wrenched from my arms and I was route marched onto another even more uncomfortable, cramped form of transport. It felt like I was a prisoner being transported to another jail. Ahh the joy that is the South East Asian overnight bus… That was last night. Now, sat in a deckchair, Mojito in hand watching a beautiful sunset on the beach with friends, the journey to get here seems like a distant memory. My aching bones were healed by a wonderful massage by the beach a few hours earlier. My tiredness cured by a relaxing nap in a hammock outside our 350 baht a night beach bungalow in paradise. And, my spirit alleviated by sharing my tale with some great new travel buddies I’d just met and was now sharing a pleasant evening with. In just a few hours, backpacking life was wonderful again. ‘Why the hell am I doing this again?‘ had been replaced with ‘I never want to go home‘ in no time at all. I was as happy as a backpacker could be. I didn’t want this moment to end. And you know what, in a strange kind of way, the horrendous journey endured to arrive at this point made the very moment all the more special. It’s true that the life of the backpacker is full of such stark contrasts. Travel isn’t always easy. Highs and lows, hellos and goodbyes, taking the rough with the smooth, that‘s what it’s all about right? The immense ups and downs make this one of the most exciting, intense and exhausting times of your life. I’ve stayed in hell hole rooms with only a pet rat for company, only to find myself the next day waking up in heaven. The best travellers will tell you that the difficult times make the good times feel even better. You almost have to earn your backpacker stripes before the travel Gods will look down upon you and reward you with some truly unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime. (Editor)
Green Park Bungalows
Ao Nang, Krabi Thailand
5 mins walk to the beach Free wifi n n Motorbike rental
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da Kanda Villa Beach Resort
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C ontents : 30
F eatures : 14 Word on the soi - Get lost! TUK TUK MADNESS!
26 700km race across Cambodia FOOD: 38 BACKPACKER SE Asian ‘Super’ fruits FASHION: 40 BACKPACKER A short history of dreadlocks 10
ARTS: 42 BACKPACKER Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’
D estination spotlight : & BEYOND: 10 HANOI Vietnam’s buzzing capital SOK NATIONAL PARK: 16 KHAO The great outoors in Thailand Mount Merapi, 30 INDONESIA: could you reach the summit?
8 South East Asia map & visa info PHOTOS: 22 BACKPACKER Top 5 stereotypical snaps in SE Asia 24 Events & Festivals: What’s on? 34 Traveller Thoughts, Stories & Tips 36 Backpacker Games 26
INFO: 44 BACKPACKER Visas, exchange rates & more S.E.A Backpacker Co., Ltd. www.southeastasiabackpacker.com
For advertising enquiries please call: +66(0)81 776 7616 (Thai), +66(0)84 553 8996 (Eng) or email: email@example.com For writing opportunities please email: firstname.lastname@example.org S.E.A Backpacker would like to thank: Charla Allyn, Penelope Atkinson, Marra Guttenplan, Khun Bond, Cody McKibben, Roseanne Schwab, Christoper Alford, Jessica O’Neill, Jayne Savva, Lara Baker. S.E.A Backpacker Magazine Legal: All material is strictly copyright and all rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Opinions expressed in S.E.A Backpacker Magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher. S.E.A Backpacker Magazine does not accept responsibility for advertising content. Any pictures, transparencies or logos used are at the owner’s risk. Any mention of S.E.A Backpacker Magazine or use of the S.E.A Backpacker Magazine logo by any advertiser in this publication does not imply endorsement of that company, or its products or services by S.E.A Backpacker Magazine. (c) S.E.A Backpacker Magazine, April 2010.
Haad Khuad Haad Khuad Resort
Koh Phangan, Thailand
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mo m e ne Go
M ap : south east asia Myitkyina
Myanmar Sapa Fansipan Mandalay Bagan Kalaw
Taunggyi Inle Lake
Udomxai Chiang Rai
Mae Hong Son
Four Thousand Islands
Siem Reap Tonle Sap
Gulf Of Thailand
Koh Tao Koh Phangan Koh Samui
Ho Chi Minh
Surat Thani Phuket
Koh Phi Phi
Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Medan Berastagi
Singapore Pulau Nias
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. US citizens can stay for up to 90 days. Cambodia: Most nationalities can obtain a one 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 and land border crossings. The cost ranges from $20 - $42 depending on nationality. At the Thailand/Laos border if you pay in Thai baht the fee will be more expensive. Malaysia: Most nationalities are granted a free 30-90 day entry pass upon arrival at international airports and border crossings. Myanmar: Visas should be arranged in advance at a travel agency or Embassy. Costs can range from $20 - $50 for a 28 day visa, depending on where you apply 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. â€˘ 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 23.4.10) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at email@example.com if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)
South China Sea
Davao Zamboanga Kota Kinabalu
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Badminton, Spring Rolls and Bia Hoi: A Motorbike ride through the streets of Hanoi.
On my last day in Hanoi, I decided that I needed to see one more “sight” - The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. After debating taking a local bus to the museum, 30 minutes from the centre of Hanoi, I hopped on a motorbike instead.
By Jessica O’Neill
People talk about the frantic traffic in Hanoi; the reality is that the seething mass of pedestrians, motorbikes, pedaled rickshaws, bicycles and cars, each carrying at least three times the recommended amount of passengers, never comes to a complete stop. The vehicles perform a complicated ballet of gentle swerves and honking horns that at first baffled and frightened me. As a Westerner trained never to step into oncoming traffic, I had to undo years of Pavlovian response to set my foot off the curb and stare directly into the eyes of a motorbike driver one metre away, let them swerve around me effortlessly and then begin crossing the street. Rather than shock or anger drivers, slowly crossing with deliberate movements is the cultural norm here, and stopping or running is a surefire way to an up close meeting with the pavement and the scorn of a passersby. As my driver and I careened through the streets, my knees brushed against many other people, cars and lampposts. Motorcycling in big cities always freaks me out a bit, so I decided to concentrate on what was on either side of me rather than focusing straight ahead into the traffic, as I think that the driver had had enough of me shouting "Oi Zoi Oi!" (Oh My God!) in his ear. Steeped in almost 1,000 years of history, the narrow sidewalks and winding lanes that make up the medieval Old Quarter are Hanoi's beating, bloody heart. A fascinating mish-mash of architectural styles, colours, conditions, genres; there is a photograph to be taken on every street corner. The atmosphere is pulsating and manic, yet in many ways seems like a glimpse into ancient history. Every street is named after the trade that was first established there as early as the 13th Century. There is Shoe Street, Metal Goods street, Gravestone Street, Toy Street, even Counterfeit Street (less fun than its sounds - dozens of shops selling fake
money that is used in Buddhist ceremonies.) This is a traditional Vietnamese way of organising a city and it is not meant just to impress the wideeyed tourists. Sparks flew as I zoomed down Welding Street, sawdust filled my mouth and eyes on Woodworking Street and my ears filled with the cacophonous tweeting of thousands of small sparrows on Birdcage Street. I watched the odd tourist from the seat of the motorbike as they attempted to navigate the crazy streets while avoid getting run over. The traditional stores are not the only places to do your shopping. In fact, it seems to me that most commerce in Vietnam happens right here on the buzzing streets. Sidewalk hawkers set up stalls selling anything you can imagine. On my right side we passed a man in a conical hat holding six dead geese in each hand, gesturing to the traffic to entice people with the notion of a goose stir fry that evening. On my left side minutes later we were swarmed by women running into the road at a rare stop light, trying to sell us plastic raincoats, umbrellas and sunglasses. Blankets were laid out and covered in toiletries, traditional balms, trinkets, books and firewood, and officious looking people sat at small tables, selling lottery tickets and offering services such as letter writing for the illiterate. The streets were alive. Everyone seemed to be outdoors; working, eating, chatting, cooking, playing, creating, feeding babies, laughing, or just sitting. Conversation happened at street level as people crouched impossibly low on the floor in the familiar Asian squat position that would cripple your average Westerner. And food was everywhere. So much food. Mobile restaurants on wheels zipped in and out of traffic with us, and beside the parked ones, small children's chairs were lined up on the sidewalks for people to stop and grab a bowl of noodles. Bia Hoi was being sold at bustling street corners. Local men on their lunch hour quenched their thirst amongst friends with mug after mug of fresh draft beer – why not at 10 cents a mug. Tram Phan Tram! (Bottoms up!) Some streets smelled divine, like ginger and garlic dropped into a sizzling wok, and other streets wreaked of the pungent smell of fermented fish sauce. Stacks of shiny fruit were carried by women with yolks on their shoulder, the heaviness altering their walk into a jaunty
bounce. We passed entire streets that only specialize in one dish - Cha Ca (grilled fish), Nem (Vietnamese springrolls) and Thit Cho (grilled dog - I tried to never glance inside those ones, they are filled with small dogs in cages. No kidding.) The words Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup) are emblazoned on every available surface, and usually a small old women will be perched beside, working on her own signature broth. And then there's the French influence in the food; baguettes, cakes and pastries stacked high. I inhaled deeply as we drove by a cosy little bakery selling fresh bread, a more accustomed aroma to my Western nostrils. Honking our horn loudly as we left the narrow streets of the Old Quarter, the road opened up to reveal Hoan Kiem Lake, a famous sight of Hanoi and an important focal point of public life. Getting up at 6am a few days previously, I'd witnessed the wacky morning exercises taking place around the lake; group massage sessions, ambitious stretching, Tai Chi, volleyball, unusual aerobics. Now in the early afternoon, locals and tourists strolled around the lake, the pedestrianised walkway surrounding the green waters offering a (slightly) calmer area of the city. I glanced at people as they whiled away a pleasant afternoon, reading the newspaper and sipping a cup of deliciously sweet Vietnamese coffee. The lake itself is suffused with history and legend. It is also known as the 'Lake of the Returned Sword' after Emperor 'Le Loi,' was given a golden sword by Kim Qui, the Golden Turtle God, at the lake shore, only to have it snatched back from him whilst out boating on the lake one day. The turtle is said to still inhabit the murky depths of which actual sightings have been reported. Away from the Old Quarter, we passed parks full of children playing badminton, large buildings covered in red and yellow hammers and sickles, chattering old men playing 'mah jong', like Chinese checkers at the road side, garbage in the gutters and everything was kind of coloured by this haze that is common in Vietnam, this smoky, misty cloudiness that makes everything seem muggy and exotic. The heat and adrenalin of the drive engulfed me and made me feel slightly dizzy.
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And though this is cliche - after spending an enjoyable few hours touring the intriguing museum, marveling at the replica hill tribe houses, the handicrafts and the tribal art on display - I can't help but feel that the most truly interesting anthropology of Hanoi is not in its museums, but on its crazy, beautiful, hectic streets - steeped in incredibly rich history and culture, yet oozing with the energy of modern day living. I learned far more about Vietnam there.
A Base for Adventure! As a capital city, Hanoi is perfectly positioned as a base for exciting adventures into the amazing surrounding areas. Not too far away from the busy, hectic city, you’ll find rugged mountain scenery, lush rice paddies, golden sandy beaches and astonishing geological wonders. Northern Vietnam is an great area for backpackers to explore and one that’s hard to beat on diversity. You could be trekking amongst hill tribe villages one week, wake-boarding by the beach the next. Hiking, kayaking, watersports, rock-climbing, even scaling the heights of Vietnam’s highest peak ‘Fansipan,’ for the intrepid traveller, the adventures to be had on land or at sea are never-ending. Here’s a taster of what’s on offer in two of the most popular destinations from Hanoi...
Unmissable Halong Bay
From Hanoi: 3 hours to Halong City You simply can’t visit Vietnam without casting eyes on the awe-inspiring natural wonder that is Halong Bay. We’re not exaggerating here when we say that this trip may just be one of the highlights of your entire backpacking trip! Known to the Vietnamese as ‘Bay of the Descending Dragons,’ this UNESCO World Heritage site is an area made up of almost 3000 limestone islands that jut out of emerald waters everywhere you look, creating a truly magical landscape. As you sail through the waters on your Chinese Sail Boat or ‘Junk’ you’ll glance floating villages, buoyant huts tied to rocks, tiny beaches and local children fishing in the plentiful waters. Trips include the chance to sea kayak and swim amongst the rocks and into breathtaking lagoons. From the water’s surface, you can really feel the vastness of the area, peering in caves and listening to sea birds, it’s a wonderful way to experience the beauty of Halong Bay. Then, as the sun begins to set on this remarkable environment, you’ll position yourself on the boat deck and crack open a cold beer... the life of a backpacker is good eh?! Spending the night on the boat with the backdrop of islands silhouetted all around is an amazing experience. Choose a trip with Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel aboard the suitably named ‘Jolly Roger’ if you’re in the mood for a party! Endless beers, good tunes and an almost guaranteed group of ‘up-for’it’ backpackers will ensure that you have a great night! (Skinny dipping optional) If you’ve chosen a three day trip, (highly recommended!) this will include an overnight stay in Cat Ba National Park. A tropical, mountainous island covered in dense forest and dotted with golden sandy beaches. With Hanoi Backpackers you’ll spend the night on the deserted ‘Lan Ha Bay’ or ‘Castaway Island.’ This is where the adventure really begins as you can try your hand at rock-climbing, wake-boarding, water-ski-ing and even high-speed tubing! Or just a spot of beach volley-ball as you take in the stunning scenery all around you. As night falls, a unique full moon party experience awaits...
From Hanoi: An overnight train to Lao Cai Just a cushy overnight train journey (350km North of Hanoi) towards the Chinese border, lies the mountainous market town of Sapa. Cooler temperatures, extravagantly dressed hill tribe folks and a French colonial flavour make you feel like you’ve stepped into a different world. The little town is charming in it’s own right, with it’s quaint little streets, coffee shops and bustling markets, but it is best used as the starting point for adventures into the surrounding hills and valleys. Trekking amidst misty mountains and steeped rice terraces to visit traditional hill-tribe villages is where the real magic of Sapa can be found. And, although the area is now very accustomed to visits from tourists, you’ll still experience a fascinating way of life and witness a different side to Vietnam. (You’ll even come away with a fetching cushion cover you never knew you needed!) For longer treks, (two or three days) it’s possible to arrange homestays with the Black H’mong, Red Dzao and Dzay ethnic minorities, where you’ll be welcomed into their homes as part of the family – ladle upon ladle of delicious homemade food and lashings of potent local moonshine ‘Xeo’ guaranteed! Waking up to the fresh mountain air and the beautiful scenery all around is an experience that you won’t forget. Further day trips from Sapa include visits to the traditional markets, such as Bac Ha Weekend Market and Muong Hum Market. Mingle with the locals as they trade homemade goods, haggle for some unique souvenirs and try some local delicacies. For a unique cultural experience, don’t miss the Saturday night ‘Love Market’ in Sapa where local hill tribes congregate from villages all around to find their perfect match. Haven’t they heard of www.match.com?
The above trips and many more can be booked with Hanoi Backpackers’ Hostel. For more info visit: www.vietnambackpackershostels.com
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W ord on the soi: get lost!
t.” s o l t o n e r a ein) o wander .R.R Tolk
“All those w
Woke up on a bus after missing your stop and realised you’re in the back of beyond? Ended up drinking local moonshine with strangers when you were looking for a hostel? Wound up in East Timor instead of West Thailand? Getting a bit off course when backpacking is all part of the fun... And sometimes you just may discover a place you had never even dreamed of had you have stayed on the ‘right track.’If you haven’t been completely and utterly, ridiculously lost yet, then we reckon that you’re just not exploring hard enough.
PITCH BLACK IN KA THMANDU
I began my travels in Ne pal. Arriving from London Asia before, was a cul to Kathmandu, having ture shock to say the lea never been in st! Dusty roads, potent the streets next to mo smells, cows wandering torbikes cars, trucks, bic ycle rickshaws, locals of the road, incense fille getting their hair cut at d temples in alcoves, the side touts, beggars, hawker say the least! I spent my s; it was a little overwh first day wandering aro elming to und where I was going, I wa the city open mouthed. s soon completely los Not really paying attentio t. All of a sudden the ent n to I hadn’t realised that the ire city was plunged into re were scheduled ele darkness. ctricity cuts each night power to neighbouring as a result of Nepal sel India! I jumped and loc ling their als laughed as I came in shop fronts and stra face to face with dead y dogs lurking in gloom pigs hanging y corners. Little gas lam doorways as I peered ps flickered in darkened in to ask faceless locals the way to my hostel. made it back safe and Finally, heart beating, sound to my room tha I t wa s now candle-lit like the rest Exhausted and so reli of the city. eved to be back, I fell fast asleep. What a firs t day! (Fiona, Ireland)
TUBING AT YOU
I met a wonderful couple in their 60 ’s in Cambodia wh the world in their retirement. The gu o were travelling y in particular, Bill, apparent from the was up for anything wind surfing lesso as was n I sh up, I sat down with ared with him in Sia his wife, Jeanne, to hnoukville. Unable take a break as we to keep She began to tell watched Bill practic me about their tra e his new skills. vels through Laos She explained ho and of Bill’s ‘esca w Bill had gone ‘Tu pades’ in Vang Vie bing’ for the day alo that nonsense, bu ng. ne. She’d decided t Bill had insisted. they were too old He’d been gone the was getting a bit wo for all entire day and it wa rried when she he s getting late. Jean ard a knock on the in front of her. ‘Di ne hotel door. A youn d your husband go g Swedish couple tubing today? - as being given a susp stood we think we may icious drink by a ba have found him.’ ckpacker, guarante his merry way passe After ed to make him ‘ha d the disembarking ppy,’ Bill had tubed point and had been Vang Vieng unab wandering the str le to find his way eets outside home. The couple and had brought him had picked him up back into town. Wi on a tuk tuk th sick in his hair an face, Jeanne was d a stupid grin on not best pleased. his ‘I’ve just been tel girl about your sto ling this young ry’ She said. ‘Tubin g at your age.’ (Christin, German y)
WILD GOOSE CHASE
if locals haven’t I constantly have trouble asking for directions. It seems that even smile, nod their they ent, bewilderm of look initial an after for, got a clue where I’m asking must admit I find this a bit heads enthusiastically and point in a direction, any direction! I on a wild goose chase yet frustrating when traipsing round in 40 degree heat after being sent other day, I wondered if this the book guide a in face’ ‘saving of concept the about again! Reading or wanting to appear yourself sing embarras Not cing. experien was I could be an example of what ‘saving face.’ Perhaps locals ignorant is an important feature of many Asian cultures, known as Perhaps they don’t want to don’t want to feel embarrassed they don’t know where a place is? differences like this may cultural Knowing know? don’t they me telling by me t disappoin you to understand helps it least at but ing, backpack when easier not make things any lost, but at certain situations you find yourself in. Meanwhile I continue to get least I know why I‘m lost! That’s got to count for something right? (Max, UK)
THE ODD ONE OUT! Getting a taxi in Bangkok last week back to the hostel after a shopping trip turned into a bit of an unexpected drama! Som e of the roads were closed off due to Red Shirt prot ests and the Taxi Driver couldn’t go any further. I reck oned I was only a few blocks away and got out to walk the rest of the way back. After a few minutes I was engulfed in a sea of red as far as I could see. I pushed through the crow d trying to find my way out, but everywhere I looked proteste rs were coming at me in pick-up trucks, on foot, waving clappers , flags, beating drums, cheering. I had no idea which way to turn and felt a little nervous to be right in the thick of it, but the protestors weren’t hostile to me at all - although they did seem to be staring at me with a puzzled look on their faces, some even appeared to be giggling at me. After a while it dawned on me and I realised why everyone was staring. I was only wearing a bright yellow dress! Aah! How I get into these situations I hone stly don’t know! Gingerly progressing through the poss y, I feebly attempted apologetic gestures, shruggin g my shoulders and trying to communicate that my inten tions were definitely not political! ‘It’s completely by accident, I assure you‘ My dress may have been yellow, but at least my face was bright red! (Tilli, Croatia)
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ight bus from wink on an overn I hadn’t slept a the border to get ane. Getting off at Bangkok to Vienti wandering through ie mb zo a ed I felt like my passport stamp n’t find our bus. uld co the other side I On . us cio s ushered ns co lf ha g at me and I wa some arms wavin must have e ‘W r. ve Thankfully, I saw dri the to at of the bus next se my seat’ I nt en fro tak e the to o’v on r wh ople at the borde pe re mo en me a giv me ve so ha picked up d this nice family it’s comfy here, an ularly comfy tac ec Sp ’. ah thought. ‘Oh well aa ad. Aa one rest my weary he urs later as every wonderful pillow to Waking up five ho p. er. lee nd as l blu fel ht tly slig a at last, I instan may have made y have n to sense that I ga ma t be I tha d, es rke clu ba y disem some ke I’d failed to notice ese clues being: In my weary state the wrong bus. Th on t go I’d t tha t l of Thai people ful s wa s bu suggested the fac e Th a microphone b) h wit ide foreigner d) No gu ly r on tou a) The ngkran c) I was the So for irts sh iian d knows where. wearing Hawa the middle of Go So here I was. In h. lf walking up a glis se En e my ok nd sp fou I one os? Nevertheless La or nd aila ing prepared. Th be s in Was I was est where lunch wa for the in ple tem we going to dirt track to visit a otos of me. ’Are fuss and taking ph a g ung guy in kin yo ma a g re din we fin er People ired over lunch. Aft qu en I ’ shed a p? cra sto te xt ga Vientiane ne h, I discovered I’d I learnt oke a little Englis s. sp o ple wh tem up it vis gro to the the day m Ko-Rat out for ay from Vientiane Thai Tour Group fro , though miles aw os La in d ee ind cided to take my de I that we were p. sto xt finitely not the ne de s in road. wa it t tha to d an the track the ma d trekked back up ane via a nti Vie chances alone an to ck ba e ged to hitch hik of Somehow I mana pick up truck full nsport including a tra of ms for few and bubbly ge lar a by n ve y car dri chickens and a tin en. d her smiley childr Laotian woman an e) nc Fra le, (Nico
MIX-UPS & LAOS HITCH-HIKING IN
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Your tropical dream escape Relaxing Re Rel R e ellaxi lax axi axi xing ng atmosphere at a atm tm tmosp os o sp s pher her he re Massage Mas Ma M as assag assag sa s age & spa ag spa sp Sunset terrace Su Sun S un u ns se set et e t te ter rr rra ra r ac ce e Big Big Bi ig Movie Mov Mo vie vi iie e TV TV Motorbike Mo Mot Mo ot torb or o rbike rbik rb ik ik ke e for for rent fo re ent en nt t
Tel: +66(0) 7734 9114-5 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 / www.thansadet.com Regular boat trips out to Angthong National Marine Park.
k o S o a h K . . . e l g n u J e h In t
From the carpeted forest bed to the leafy tips of the trees, the jungle was alive. Monkeys and birds squawked in the trees above us and insects, lizards and snakes scurried in the plants and bushes around. I’ve never been in a real rainforest before and I found myself captivated by the buzz of nature that surrounded me. At times, the sound was deafening. Occasionally in the distance you could hear the snapping and cracking of branches …God only knows what type of creature was making that noise, but it sounded big! As we walked along the jungle trail a little further we came across a rusty old sign hidden behind leaves and vines that said ‘BEWARE WILD ELEPHANTS.’ Just a few hours walk from the Tourist Office, this place felt wild. We trekked further into the jungle along a windy trail, slightly overgrown in places, passing by long, incredibly twisted vines that you expected Tarzan to come swinging in on. Even in the intense light of the day, little light filtered through as the density of the plants and trees was so thick. Our destination was a waterfall and bathing pool that we’d picked out from a little map we’d been given at the Tourist Office. After a few hours we reached the spot, excited at the prospect of a cooling dip after a hot trek and started to strip off to our bikinis ready for a swim. As our toes touched the water, we noticed we were not alone... looking up to witness three huge monitor lizards bathing next to us. As they noticed us, they nonchalantly turned their heads and waddled off into the distance. They looked like dinosaurs left over from the prehistoric age. We swam with caution after that. With not another person in sight, we felt like we had walked into a scene from Land Before Time.
against the blue sky. The area has been compared to Guillin in China. You can take a minivan with a driver for a day trip to get there, but I’m always a fan of doing things and exploring independently. The scenery on the way was truly spectacular and we were glad to be out in the open air to snap photos of the amazing bright green mountains covered in palm trees and dense forest that lined the highway to the dam. One stop for lunch of fried chicken and som-tam and two stops to purchase some glass bottles of interesting yellow petrol at the roadside and we were there. We decided to take the two-hour boat trip on the lake. At 700 baht each for two hours, we felt that this was a little pricy, but we were here now and didn’t want to miss out! As our boatman sped away from the harbour making waves on the tranquil water, the scenery became even more impressive. Before we booked the boat trip, we had been contemplating an overnight stay in some of the floating huts right on the lake. As we approached the huts we were pleased with our decision to opt out. We actually heard the huts before we got there. Tinny karaoke blasted out from a fuzzy speaker completely drowning the serenity of the scene. From misty hill tribe villages in the highlands of Vietnam to out here in the natural beauty of Khao Sok National Park, Asia’s fascination with their beloved karaoke will never cease to amaze me. Despite the best attempts from our guide to join in the sing-song shenanigans, we moved on. As the light began to fade and the limestone karsts formed silhouettes around us, our boatman stopped for us to take an evening dip. Swimming in the warm water with the sun going down was a really magical experience. On the way back it was pretty dark and we watched the stars come out one by one. Struggling to see as we approached the pier, the boatman asked if any of us had a light. I knew that 800 baht mobile phone I’d bought from MBK Shopping Mall in Bangkok would come in handy, as it guided us into shore safely. One of 102 of Thailand’s National Parks, Khao Sok is home to the oldest evergreen forest in the world covering an area of 738 sq km. Incredibly, it consists of rainforest which is older and more diverse than the Amazon Rainforest. The Park boasts an amazing array of flora and fauna, including wild beasts such as the Malayan Tapir, the Asian Elephant, Sambar Deer, Wild Boar, Pig Tailed Macaque, White Handed Gibbon and even bears and tigers! Many nature lovers flock to the park as it is one of the few places on earth where you can catch a glimpse of the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia. We were lucky enough to see this unusual plant while we were here, which blossoms for 5 days each year and when it does it is said to emit a stench akin to rotting flesh. We decided we’d smelt worse in backpacker hostels. Out of the jungle, we trotted back to the bungalows where we’d dropped our rucksacks at earlier. Finishing the day with a Thai massage and some delicious food back in Khao Sok Village was the perfect ending to a great day. The village itself is quite small consisting of a few restaurants and a few little bars that stay open till about midnight. Don’t expect big parties, but the backpacker vibe is alive; though with a much more chilled out feel than the nearby islands. The next day we hired motorbikes (after a lot of enquiring through sister’s auntie’s friend’s who had a bike a little up the road they could lend us) and set off for Ratchaprapa Dam. The Dam is the most famous sight of Khao Sok and a must see while you’re there. It was created in 1982 to ensure a steady supply of water to the South and as a large mountainous area was flooded over 100 tiny islands were formed, stunning limestone rocks jutting out of the emerald green water
As well as treks in the jungle, motorbike trips and boat rides on the lake there are many other outdoor adventures on offer in Khao Sok National Park. Elephant trekking in the jungle, kayaking or canoeing down the river, even tubing, (though not quite the same as Vang Vieng) can all be organised from guest houses in Khao Sok Village. For me, coming direct from the concrete jungle of Bangkok to Khao Sok National Park, it was a wonderful contrast to be out in the fresh air and away from the bustling city. Hot days sight seeing and pavement pounding and heavy nights drinking
Khaosok B.B Khao Sok, Surat thani Thailand
on the Khao San Road had been replaced with quiet evenings underneath the stars and bright days full of activity and heaven forbid - exercise. After just a few days, my body felt healthier and I even feel like I sweated out some of the Chang thatâ€˜s been my daily diet for the past week! All in all, the four day trip was a gentle reminder of the simple joys of life, of being amongst nature and out in the great outdoors. Perched perfectly in-between the two coasts and just one hour bus ride from Surat Thani, I would urge all travellers to visit Khao Sok National Park and take the opportunity to experience the natural environment of this beautiful and diverse country. Take a break from sunbathing and partying once in a while and youâ€™ll discover another side of Thailand that I fear some backpackers these days may miss.
t Home s
Elephant Trekking Canoeing Tubing Trekking
Tel: +66(0)77 395 023, +66 (0) 87 048 7657 E-mail: email@example.com
229 Moo.6 Klongsok, Phanom, Surat thai 84250
Patong Home Stay
Mobile+66 (0) 81 396 8053 / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting there: Is so easy your mum could do it. From Bangkok it’s an overnight train or bus to Surat Thani. Then, it’s a one hour minibus to the National Park. (Although you may end up waiting three hours for the bus to actually arrive!)
Where to go next: From Khao Sok National Park, you’re spoilt for choice with amazing destinations to go next. Wedged perfectly in-between two coast lines, you’ve got the stunning Andaman Coast and Krabi on one side and the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao on the other. Just where will you choose?
The Andaman Coast
Koh Phi Phi:
Backpackers go dewy-eyed at the drop dead gorgeous island gem, Koh Phi Phi, where you can take a long tail boat to explore ‘The Beach’ made famous by Leo in the film of the same name. But that’s not all; there’s rock climbing, cliff jumping, snorkeling, awesome dive sites and many other adventures to be had on this island paradise. And, when the sun goes down it’s party time as the beach fills with revellers enjoying music, fire shows and buckets a-plenty!
Railay & Tonsai: Located on the mainland yet inaccessible by road, awarding a magical atmosphere; these jaw-dropping bays surrounded by limestone cliffs are extremely popular amongst rock climbers. Head to East Railay for cheap accommodation and lively backpacker bars. Koh Lanta: An often underrated island with a wonderful laid-back,
The Gulf Coast Koh Samui:
With it’s abundance of restaurants, bars, activities and nightlife, Koh Samui is a favourite amongst flashpackers and those seeking a fun-filled few days. Head to Lamai Beach for a good mix of beach life and party vibe.
It’s the famous Full Moon Party that lures thousands of backpackers to Koh Phangan each month - to experience what is probably the best beach party on earth! However, Koh Phangan has a lot more to offer than just partying, with national park, waterfalls and palm fringed deserted beaches, it’s a beautiful natural haven. From yoga and meditation to tree top canopy adventures, Koh Phangan has it all. And if you just want to sun yourself silly on a quiet beach with a good book, well that’s fine too.
Koh Tao: Diving is the order of the day on this small yet perfectly formed island as many backpackers take the plunge and get their underwater licence, PADI certification, here. From rock climbing to other watersports, there are many other activities available in Koh Tao. Days cram-packed with adventure followed by seafood barbecues and nights frolicking on the beach. What more could a backpacker ask for?
castaway feel, Koh Lanta is perfect for those looking to chill. The lovely island is fantastic to explore by scooter, making frequent stops at beach after beautiful beach.
At Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand
5% Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach, 22 Moo 5 Baan Tai, Koh Phangan, Suratthani, Thailand 84280 Tel: +66 (0) 77 445 067, +66 (0) 77 238 538 Fax: +66 (0) 77 445 068 E-mail: email@example.com S.E.A Backpacker
TOP 5 Stereotypical photos in SE Asia.
er, Hid Crouching Tig i anabur
e s Tiger Templ to the famou es e go ur ct ho pi w le anyone Facebook profi It seems that mera lled to post a ca pe e m th co to is in ri sly in Kanchabu smiling nervou er. I’m not of themselves erly pet a tig as they ging wondering as w I t bu , opposing this is due to on en enom whether this ph to enter visitors have a clause that ction? tra at e th g rin into when ente y photo m t, will have “I, the touris st it as po d an er tig taken with a ure for ct pi le profi my Facebook igned) (s of 1 week a minimum e if this m ll te ne yo an an .................” C es anyone case? Also, do is indeed the s ever got ha s er tig e th know if one of specting su un bitten an pissed off and off? tourist’s head
It seems that most backpackers these days aren’t very original when it comes to their travel photography. Flicking through traveller’s photos on Facebook, it’s as if there’s a virtual outline of [STAND HERE] set in various places across SE Asia where people position themselves in order to capture that stereotypical snap. Come on guys, think outside the box! Here are some popular trends we’ve spotted…
Sawasde e Macdona Ka Ronald ld! Where:
Look eve ryone! It ’s Ronald And, he ! lo same a oks exactly the s he d o e home! E s back xc that thin ept he’s doing g that th ose eve so friend r ly How very Thai people do. foreign! stand ne Ooh go xt to him , we mu have a st picture. Sa Ka to yo u too Ro wasdee nald! No I wonde w r if the McChick Sandwic en h tastes the same ?
fly I believebeIacch,aSnouth East Asia Where: Any
tching in Ne, Vietnam wa minutes in Mui g of all y yin irt th no r an fo t h os ac m a be pture this, the ca I once sat on leaping to re ed fo tri be le an coup e would repeat sh ei, pain as a Germ Dr e if her se in, ing round to otos. Einz, Ve shion, then runn backpacker ph fa forever s r he lou e icu lis rid ta t or e mos that would imm ot into the air in th sh packing ck ct ba rfe ur pe taken the ut being on yo boyfriend had family by u’re excited bo ur yo yo ow d kn an lf we se , ur on yo ve airborne. Come and embarrass will think you ha really have to go ends at home fri ur yo trip, but do you at th ? Do you think such behaviour Grow up. on your travels? fly to w ho t learn
e sky Reach for th pur : Kuala Lum
g silver wers glowin Petronas To Who is ar e? ul ut ac in ct m The Spe But wait a y. sk anding t st gh on ni rs against the ous giant pe m Oh or en er at th the tow s? in front of fooled ly ar ne u it’s you! Yo om ken best fr me then. Ta ss the road ro ac the steps s in mous tower from the fa tal, you’ll see capi Malaysia‘s y and sing all da po rs le el trav arms r ei th t to ge the night trying ith w symmetry that in precise r fo s er w e to pillars of th t, right a o. Left a bi perfect phot a bit more, now up bit, stretch Gotcha. lean back.
5. You buy from me! Where: Hanoi
‘What on earth is going on?’ Is a frequent when travellin thought g in Vietnam. You’ve just be down the stre en chased et by the swee t old lady sellin and she’s sudd g fruit enly unloaded her goods on shoulder. Wha to your t was she up to? Was she run away an about to d leave you to sell the fruit for he r? Nope. Not now she’s go t you exactly where she wan ts you. It all seems to happ en in a flash as you find yo urself grinning like a Cheshire Cat as she’s stolen your ca mera to take a photo for you that you neve r even knew yo u wanted! Be warned thou gh, profession al art direction an d photograph y like this has it’s price.
UR SEND US YO PHOTOS!s!!our birthday) i (Go on...It
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MR.THAI TRAVEL TAT License - 12/00824
Flights Accommodation Buses, trains, boats Visas Package Tours Sightseeing Trips
Anything you want, we’ve got it covered.
So you can concentrate on
Can you believe it? Next issue (June/July) is our ‘1 YEAR
ANNIVERSARY ISSUE!’ In celebration of this momentous occasion, we’re asking backpackers to send us photos of themselves holding the magazine anywhere in South East Asia. You could be at the summit of a volcano, deep sea diving, (please wrap in cling film if you do) or snogging the face off a ladyboy! We really don’t mind. As long as you’re holding the magazine in a South East Asian country, that’s all we care about. The crazier and weirder, the better! (Just don’t go doing anything we wouldn’t do!) Not only will your photo appear in the next issue of the magazine, you will win a funky item of traveller clothing by Molecule Asia. Winners can choose combat pants, shorts, skirt and accessories from the website: www.molecule.asia So go for it guys, get snapping! We can’t wait to see them! E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: Any form of nudity and what may be deemed inappropriate photography is most certainly permitted, in fact it is encouraged. We can’t promise we’ll print it, but it’ll certainly give us a jolly good larf!
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W hat’s on: Festivals and Events The “Moon” Parties: Koh Phangan, Thailand
Hua Hin Jazz Festival Hua Hin, Thailand 18 – 20 June 2010
Full Moon Party: 29 May, 26 June
festival is also known as ‘Tri Suci Waisak’ or ‘Three Holy Events,’ signifying the three celebrations; the birth of Siddartha Guatama (the Buddha), the acceptance of divine revelation under the Bodhi tree and the journey of the Buddha to heaven.
Koh Samui Regatta Koh Samui, Thailand
distance racing, short sprint racing and cruising displays. Expect a fun filled event, with plenty of partying on dry land too, as those sailing types really know how to enjoy themselves.
Bali Arts Festival, Bali, Indonesia 12 June – 10 July
31 May – 5 Jun 2010
Each month Haad Rin sands host the world’s most famous beach party that attracts up to 30,000 revelers each month. There’s a variety of music genres as people rave it out till the break of dawn!
Black Moon Culture: 13 May, 11 June
Underground trance and progressive beats resound once a month on Baan Tai Beach as the Black Moon Culture gets underway. International DJ’s and live visuals make this event an intense partying experience!
Aaaah...the sweet sounds of the saxophone and the tingling tones of the trumpet; just some of the harmonious chimes you’ll hear resonating across the coastal town of Hua Hin this June. Dating back to the 1950’s, The Hua Hin Jazz Festival is a popular event taking place each year, drawing visitors from all across Thailand. Over one weekend in June, live concerts are held in the tropical open-air with many artists performing right on the beach. And what’s the best thing about the festival? Many shows are free! And everyone knows that all backpackers love a good freebie! So don your best fisherman pants and get your jazz hands at the ready!
Waisak Yogyakarta, Indonesia May
Half Moon Festival: 6 May, 20 May 4 June, 19 June
A huge professional dance event taking place in the atmospheric setting of Baan Tai Jungle. Tech house, progressive beats and psychedelic trance blast from an awesome sound system. An event not to be missed!
Held on the night of the full moon in May, Waisak is a sacred festival which commemorates the birth of Buddha, his enlightenment and his death. It is celebrated by Buddhist communities throughout Java, with the most prominent taking place at the spectacular 9th Century Buddhist monument, Borobodur in Yogykarta. Ceremonial offerings are made such as fruit and flowers and thousands of candles, representing Buddha’s enlightenment are lit in the darkness. Processions are also held throughout the city. The
The annual Koh Samui Regatta is a huge sailing event which attracts over 200 participating teams and thousands of boat lovers from all over the world. Over five days, there are a variety of races taking place around the island including long
Taking place over an entire month from mid June to mid July, the Bali Arts Festival is a unique extravaganza of arts, music, dance and history celebrating passion and pride in Balinese culture. Amongst other performances, famous masked dances originating from tribal villages are showcased and
MAY / JUNE 2010 ancient classic stories retold. There’s a vibrant atmosphere all across the island as celebrations are enjoyed by locals and travellers alike. For first time travellers to Bali, it’s a fantastic introduction to the rich heritage of this spirited destination.
Chanthaburi and Rayong Fruit Festival Thailand 1-9 May
of exotic Thai fruits. Fruit buffets offer ‘all you can eat’ including dragon fruit, papaya, coconut, rambutan, sapodilla and lots more. Held once a year, during the best season for ripeness and flavour, this unique even is a great opportunity to fill up on those vitamins whilst having a great day out.
The World Cup Kick off: 11 June
hundreds of different languages; even in the remotest parts of the world it’s hard to get away from the ‘beautiful game.’ Jumpers for goalposts and all that. From flashy projector screens in Bangkok to fuzzy portable TV’s in hill tribe villages in Northern Laos, you’ll find soccer-mad locals all over SE Asia cheering on their favourite players, despite the lack of their national teams making the short-list.
Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival) Laos, N. East Thailand 5 – 9 May
Succulent, thirst-quenching mangosteen or rich, creamy durian? Tangy langsat or sweet, pulpy jackfruit? Visitors to the Chanthaburi or Rayong Fruit Festival can indulge their taste buds with a delicious assortment
As the South African World Cup kicks off this June expect bars and pubs all across South East Asia to be packed with people enjoying what is probably the most popular sport on this planet. Football shirts, bars named after teams, matches translated into
Taking place over two days, with plenty eating, drinking and dancing thrown in, the Boun Bang Fai Rocket Festival is one of the most enjoyable (and noisiest!) events in Laos and Northern Thailand. Villages all across the country gather to create huge rockets made out of bamboo, decorate and paint them bright colours and stuff
them with large quantities of gunpowder ready for the big launch! As they are fired into the sky, onlookers watch to see which rocket reaches the greatest height. The owner of the highest fired rocket receives prestige and status amongst the group and woe betide those who fire a dud! The festival is held at the beginning of May in conjunction with the beginning of the rainy season. Since ancient times it has been performed by all those working on the land to request rain from the ‘Phaya Thaen’ or the ‘Rain God’ to pray for plentiful rice production.
: event review
MaD Tuk T u ...700km ac ross Camb k Challenge odia arrive in one piece! And in the process raise a great deal of much needed funds for the charity MaD – Making a Difference for Good! Cambodia, which go towards providing impoverished rural communities in Siem Reap with assistance in areas such as clean water, improved sanitation, sustainable agriculture, medical care, health education and child care.
By Christopher Alford Early morning this April Fool’s Day a pirate ship, a dragon, the Flintstones car and a Hawaiian chariot lined up ready to set off on a 700km adventure across the Kingdom of Cambodia. No, this isn’t the beginning to one of those strange Khmer fairytales, but instead the commencement of an equally fantastic tale: the inaugural event of the MaD Tuk Tuk Challenge. The premise: take teams of crazy ‘barangs’, (foreigners) a bunch of traditional Cambodian Tuk Tuks (read: a sofa on wheels towed along by a 110cc moped), ‘pimp’ them up with the most ridiculous designs possible and attempt to drive them down the perilous roads from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville and
And so it was on April Fool’s Day that the first four teams took on the challenge, much to the amazement of all the locals we told, who found it hard to believe that even Khmer people would be capable of driving that far on a Tuk Tuk, let alone a bunch of Westerners, some of whom didn’t even know what a Tuk Tuk was before arriving in Cambodia! Once we hit the roads, their disbelief quickly became understandable. When on the main roads we had to deal with the insanity of Cambodian traffic, where the only thing that amazed us more than the outrageous vehicles that we saw along the way were the (complete lack of) driving skills of the people behind their wheels. It did not take us long to get to grips with the simple rules of the road: the bigger vehicle always gets priority, no matter what the actual circumstances may be. Being in Tuk Tuks and, for the vast majority of the journey the only Tuk Tuks on the road, we came pretty low down in the food chain: every single team was forced off the road by bigger vehicles at some point and some of us even had the fortune of being physically pushed off the road by another vehicle as they tried to dodge the oncoming traffic on the other side of the road, completely oblivious (or apathetic?) to the fact that a little ol’ Tuk Tuk was driving alongside them.
The vehicles themselves also beggared belief, as I’m sure many veteran backpackers of South East Asia can testify to. If you don’t think it’s possible to attach things such as a four poster bed to the back of a motorbike then think again! And let’s not forget the countless animals too: at one point my teammate had the fortune of being peed on by a pig as it overtook us in a cage behind a faster motorbike than our own. The kid sat atop the cage was in hysterics as my partner was forced to spit pig’s pee from his mouth whilst driving along. I was in stitches as well. My teammate: not so much. Once you go off the main roads you have a whole new kettle of fish to deal with. Copious amounts of dust flying off the vehicle in front of you; dogs, cats, cows and just about every other animal in the village ready to dart in front of you at any given time; potholes deep enough to capsize your vehicle; roads bumpy enough to make your bum feel as though it is no longer there and sand deep enough to force you to get out of your Tuk Tuk and push were just some of the obstacles that awaited us when we headed off road during the challenge. However, it was these parts of the journey that also offered us the greatest moments of serenity. Slowly driving through beautiful rural villages surrounded by the stunning Cambodian countryside, with village residents coming out of their houses to either greet us wildly or to stand and gape in amazement at the crazy barangs in their crazy Tuk Tuks are moments that I will never forget.
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The challenge also has a strong humanitarian focus, in keeping with its primary aim of raising funds to help rural communities in Cambodia. After half a day of tough driving, we would find a pagoda somewhere along the route to stay at for the night. The Khmer team who came with us would ask the head monk whether we could set up our hammocks at their pagoda and he was always more than accommodating. In return, we would offer any help that we could to the monks at the pagoda and to the community that they served, whether it was running a medical clinic, helping to teach English to local kids, or fixing a broken water pump. Particular highlights include helping to run a medical clinic with the paramedic on our support team, where we saw a whole host a strange ailments and conditions (including one man who had half the flesh on his chest eaten away by a sand fly, not pleasant!) and helping a monk with his English class by teaching his students ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.’ It was a wonderful feeling to see all the kids singing the song after they left the class and showing us their exercise books with the song written inside with such pride! After a long, hard day we would finally fall fast asleep in our hammocks under the stars and in the safety and tranquillity of the pagoda and it’s people who had been so kind to let us stay there. Out of all the different trips and adventures I’ve partaken in throughout South East Asia, there’s not really much that can compare to that.
For anyone that’s looking for a very different, challenging and thoroughly rewarding experience in South East Asia, I cannot recommend the MaD Tuk Tuk Challenge highly enough. They are now holding the event four times a year, with the next event in July and the following one in November. (which will have the added obstacle of rain, and lots of it!). Check out: www.madtuktukchallenge.com for more details, and be sure to think up a wacky way to pimp your Tuk Tuk! I challenge you to beat our pirate ship!
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Muay Thai Tour
(RED Jacket Team) Bangkok Thailand
Lumpinee Boxing Stadium
Tue, Fri : 6.30 pm - 10.30 pm Saturday 2 programs : 1st 5 .00 pm - 8.00 pm 2nd 8 .30 pm - 12.00 pm
Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium
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MOUNT MERAPI: INDONESIA Could you reach the summit?
By Roseanne Schwab
One of the many tour options offered in Yogyakarta features a glimpse of the sunrise from atop Mount Merapi, a couple of hours from town. Having spent the larger part of my last tour viewing temples, the thought of an outdoor adventure appealed to me. My friend Joko set it up for me, the date to be determined when the minimum number of participants was satisfied. The next day, I got word at 4:00pm that I was confirmed for that evening. This presented a little bit of a problem, in that I would be picked up at 10:00pm for a 1:00am ascent, and although I tried to rest, it was impossible for me to fall asleep on such short notice. There were six of us in the group: a dour-faced Russian and his gorgeous-but-shy girlfriend, two dorky middle-aged German fellows (both bald on top, hairy around the sides, bespectacled, wearing shortsleeved plaid button down collars, one with walking sticks) and a nice Londoner. Because of the late hour and the relative lack of personality within the group, we were virtually silent on the two hour trip to the village of Selo. We arrived at the tiny mountainside hamlet at midnight, where we were served tea and then waited inexplicably for the next hour. I strolled around the village for a while, enjoying the silence and the darkness after a full week in Yogyakarta. At 12:45am we set out, and the first half hour was up the paved road through the village to the beginning of the trailhead. Everyone set out at a furious pace, and I was slightly winded trying to keep up. At the trailhead, we stopped and waited, and soon a second group got dropped off. (Hey, how come we had to walk?) The second group was much larger than ours, probably twelve people, and VERY boisterous, like a travelling cocktail party. Loud, laughing, and jostling each other, they set out slightly ahead of us.
And now we begin... The trail was very steep, and unrelentingly so. Not once did it level off, and fifteen minutes into it I knew I was in trouble. This bewildered me for several reasons - what was my problem? Was it the smoking? I immediately fell behind, determined not to let my ego push me unnecessarily. The earth was pitch-black, with only the light of my headlamp illuminating a modest circle on the path in front of me. Half an hour into this, I was bathed in sweat from head to toe. Some of the hikers were in long-sleeve pants and longsleeve shirts; I was wearing my skirt and a sleeveless Patagonia shirt. It was probably about 55 degrees. The pattern over the next vast chunk of time went something like this: We would hike a stretch, I would fall behind, one of the two guides in our group would silently pause for me until I was in sight, and we would continue. Eventually we would catch up with our group, and the bigger group as well, whose light-hearted laughter in the distance seemed to mock me as I seriously began to struggle. Anyone who’s ever been a slow hiker knows that what really sucks is that everyone else is getting a fine rest waiting for you, and when you straggle in, it’s time to move again, only YOU haven’t rested. The trail went up and up and up and up. Sometimes it was really bad, giant stair-climbing over rocks and tree roots. Often the trail was only a gully, which at least meant I could support my burning thighs by pushing off the dirt walls. Those walking sticks that I had mocked earlier no longer seemed so superfluous. That’s what I get for making fun of balding Germans. Many places were littered with scree, loose gravel that was impossible to gain a foothold on. The guide was slipping as much as I was, I promise this was not my imagination or ineptitude. My muscles started quivering with fatigue, and when I had to take a giant lunge up to the next level of a rock I would start to sway backwards because my quads wouldn’t (or couldn’t) complete the move. My lower back was burning and my mind was reeling with the shocking consideration that I might not be able to do this.
of vertical balance. I couldn’t reason anything out with the guide, who didn’t speak English. He was mute as I cursed out of frustration with myself. But the most unnerving thing was that nobody else seemed to be having similar issues, and as I mentioned, the large group actually seemed to be drunk: too loud, talking all at once. I felt like the only sober one at last call, when things are only hilarious to the intoxicated. The guides, being good Indonesian men, were meanwhile chain-smoking. Flashes of the women’s leadership seminar I attended last summer passed through my mind. How easy it had been for me to take on the physical challenges of zip-lining and rappelling off cliffs, and how monumentally difficult it was for many of the participants. I had taken it all for granted, and now I remembered how each woman had to find value in her experience and relish whatever level of achievement she was able to reach. This helped me, at least a little bit. We set out once again and I decided to ask the guide how much further it was to the top. I figured that if it was less than thirty minutes, I could do it . . . “Two hours” he answered. TWO HOURS????? NO WAY IN HELL COULD I CONTINUE THIS TORTURE FOR TWO MORE HOURS. He suggested that we head for a plateau another half hour above us, and I agreed. Close to there, I took a step and fell backwards and down, my boot still lodged in the crevice above, wrenching both my ankle and my knee (but only slightly, thank God.) I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I must STOP, or risk needless (further) injury. I caught up to the guide and announced loudly “I’m done. Do you understand me? I will wait here.” He responded with a blanket (think light tablecloth) and left me in peace. And it was peace, truly. The thing I crave most from the outdoors is solitude, and there I was, on the side of a mountain, a spectacular canopy of stars overhead.
Never in my life have I not been able to do something physically that I set out to do (unless you want to count the time I tried to julienne carrots at a cooking class with David.) I mean, I ran a marathon for Christ’s sake - but that was four years ago - could it be my age? Maybe I just needed some protein. I got out my trusty peanut butter and stuffed a few crackers in my mouth for good measure. Nothing availed me. I would resort to crawling on my hands and feet (yes, it was that steep) to counteract my dangerous lack S.E.A Backpacker
I located my trusty Big Dipper, the only constellation I can name, far to the north over nearby Mount Merbabu, a volcano of slightly bigger magnitude than Merapi. Then I started getting cold. I mean, real cold. It was 42 degrees, and I was soaking wet, enough to saturate my picnic blanket, and there was a breeze. Soon I was shivering and I backtracked on the trail until I found a gully just wide enough to wedge my body into. My back against one damp dirt wall, knees up to my chest for warmth, calves up against the opposing wall. Despite the cold, I fell asleep. After all, it was now probably 5:00am, and I hadn’t slept for almost 24 hours... I awoke with a start. The sky was light - had I missed the dawn? I got up and walked around to a better vantage point (I guess any vantage point would be better than a gully) and took a few unsatisfying pictures. Even so, it was spectacular. I couldn’t locate the rising sun from my position, but I could see Mount Merbabu in infinite detail in the soft pink light, and looking west, I could see more magnificent volcanoes rising out of a perfectly flat plain. Birds were everywhere, and they were all singing my favorite song “Good morning, good morning, how are you today? Good morning, good morning, did you sleep ok?” Impossibly far below, the village from where I had started, and I figured it must be about 6:00am because in the perfect clarity of the air I could hear the Muslim call to prayer coming from 100 different mosques on the valley floor, all overlapping with their melancholic haunting voices. And then, from above me, I heard the dreaded sound of the hiking hyenas (still chattering away merrily) and I knew it was time to go. I was not going to relinquish my peaceful solitude to anyone. The way down was almost worse than the way up. In the light of the morning, I was aghast at the difficulty of the trail. Over rocks and boulders, down slippery gravel beds, steeper than a funhouse slide. I must have fallen twenty times, skinning both hands, both elbows, but only one knee. I felt like I was passing through the seven stages of grief acceptance, denial, bargaining ,etc but mostly I lingered in anger. I met a huge group of 20 Japanese who were on the ascent. I envied them the light, but pitied them the heat, which was rising just as steadily as the sun. One poor guy had his head down and was being pulled up by the hand of his friend. This was at the 1/3 way point. No way was he going to make it. It took me an eternity to get down to the village, and my group straggled in about 45 minutes later. They were absolutely
Photographs by Michael Alty.
creamed. The veins were popping out of the Germans’ heads, and I felt a tiny bit of vindication as the English guy collapsed next to me saying “I think that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” We were served banana chocolate pancakes - no doubt one of the finest meals of my life - and loaded back into our van for the trip back to Yogya. No one uttered a single word. I don’t think that they could. Everyone fell immediately to sleep except me, since I had had the luxury of a mountainside snooze. However, I did sleep for 18 hours when I finally crawled into my bed. The absolute first thing I did was stumble to my Lonely Planet to reread the following: ‘It is a tough, demanding walk but manageable by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.’ I’ve done some investigating since the climb, and here’s the rundown: If my calculations are correct, the total vertical distance was 5249 feet from Selo to the summit. And you’re right, I’ve never done anything like that before. I have also talked to others who have done it, and they all made it, but they were all men, and they all were amazed at how crazy the whole thing was. I recalled my training for the marathon, and how my monthly cycle could affect my performance drastically, and one guy that I spoke with thought going up in the dark was a real mental and physical obstacle as well. Other than that, I will never know why the night played out like it did. My Indonesian friends assure me that I just need to try it again. We will see... I met a lovely young hippie couple yesterday and they were planning the climb last night. They had no headlamps and they had no shoes whatsoever except flip flops. I absolutely rallied against this idea, and while he was mellow and masculine, she at least took me to heart and began to worry about her abilities. I ran home and got my headlamp for her. Hours later, right before they were about to leave, I saw them again, and they were still sans shoes. It dawned on me that money might have been their issue, and as the universe would have it, she wore the same size as me. I ran all the way back to my room and handed off my boots and a nice pair of wool socks just as they were leaving. I know I didn’t save her life or anything, but I felt good that I was saving her from a world of hurt. I can’t wait to talk to them and find out how they fared.
Haad Yao, Koh Phangan, Thailand
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B T Raveller thoughts, stories, tips: Story of the month
t Lanta Anim
l Welfare My partner an d I have just sp en Animal Welfa t two weeks vo re and wante lunteering at d to share ou Lanta with others. In r rewarding ex our time ther perience e we walked spent time w dogs on the ith them in th beach, e evenings an socialise Joey d even helped , a rescued pe to t monkey. It w fun, satisfying as really good and very muc h appreciated! Lanta Animal Welfare is run by a California woman named n born Norweg Junie who ow ian ns a successf cooking scho ol and restau rant on Khlong ul Thai fusion Lanta. After m Dao Beach, Ko any years livin h g in Koh Lant do something a she decide to help the co d to untless numbe and injured do rs of stray, si gs she saw ru ck nning up and She started a down the beac kennel and st h. erilisation prog funds. ram with her own Junie’s ambitio us plans for the new year new spacious include buildin kennels allow g ing her to take dogs at a tim e, as well as on up to fifty hi ring and boar first vet to look ding the island after them. Ju ’s nie is doing go if you want to od work and help she wou ld love donations hands, or ev en potential and willing adopters (you animals back can take thes to your home e country with re you are intere lative ease – sted be sure if to ask!) Unlike many volunteering opportunities Asia you do in South East n’t have to organise your advance, com stay well in mit to a certa in length of tim any specialis e or have ed knowledg e or skills. Your enthusiasm is time and the most impo rtant thing. So a lover of our if you’re canine friends , get involved, natural beauty enjoy the and laid back attitude of Ko and get your h Lanta hands dirty! Ju nie, the dogs Joey the mon , cats and key would love to see you! Check out: w ww.lantaanim alwelfare.com P.S. Since this letter was sent in, the new clin shelter is now ic and built! Voluntee rs are much ne Plus, accomm eded. odation is co mpletely free volunteer mor if you e than 1 mon th!
Exceptions to the rules at this guest house I stayed at on my travels in SE Asia... (Penny, London)
(Jessica O‘ N
Koh Chang, Thailand
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people are just a bit too laid back to worry it‘s not! In East Railay, I spotted ” flashing reindeer s lighting up the trees. There wa s a Christmas 250 BAHT Tree still up in one of the bars in Koh Lanta an d in many restaurants I spo tted gaudy gold and red de corations saying ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!’ They were even playing 4PM - 6PM Ma & ria 10PM –‘A11PM h Carey’s ll I want for Christmas’ in a ca fé last week in the Khao San Road. The fact tha t it’s Beers 2eve for 1 Cocktails, Spirits April and&Th ais don’t n celebrate Christm as in the first place makes me chuckl really e. Unless they’re just super prepared for next ye ar that is?
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Something to pass the time on those long bus journeysâ€Ś(Answers on page 46)
CROSSWORD Across 1. Animal (5) 4. Decorates (6) 9. Large House (7) 10. Savoury Jelly (5) 11. Ailments (4) 12. Unit of heat (7) 13. Cooking utensil (3) 14. Type of stone structure (4)
16. Weapon 18. Sea-bird 20. Amended 21. Eye inflammation 24. Country bumpkin 25. Permit 26. Holiday place 27. Giant
(4) (3) (7) (4) (5) (7) (6) (5)
13. Famous painter 15. Annuls 17. Entreaty 18. Confuse 19. Lower 22. Principle 23. Short tail
(8) (7) (6) (5) (6) (5) (4)
Down 1. Country 2. Commonplace 3. Among 5. Stalemate 6. Accounts 7. Bag of perfume 8. Door Catch
SUDOKU Each row, column and box must contain each of the numbers 1 - 9.
Question With Vietnam as a close runner-up, Thailand is the largest exporter of rice in South East Asia. In 2009, how many tonnes of rice were exported overseas? a) 3 million tonnes b) 6 million tonnes c) 8.5 million tonnes
(6) (5) (4) (8) (7) (6) (5)
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travel writers! t Asia Calling all buddinbygtrav Eas ellers passing through South
is written eriences and viewpoints S.E.A Backpacker Magazine fresh new writers with new exp e hav to right now. Itâ€™s our aim contributing every month. to hear from you. travel writing, we would love of t spo a at d han r you cy scribbling you like to So if you fan ies, book reviews or any random stor , cles arti any d sen se Plea firstname.lastname@example.org with articles you submit. If possible try to include photos y with news of whether your Weâ€™ll get back to you right awa t issue. nex words will be appearing in the Happy Travelling! Thanks for your support and S.E.A Backpacker
SE Asian Super Fruits! Packed with more vitamins, anti-oxidants and health boosting qualities than you could ever imagine, South East Asia's 'Super' fruits are all you need to keep your body in tip top shape whilst travelling.
Would you believe there are as many as 1,000 different varieties of mango in the world? Each one crammed with powerful anti-oxidants and enzymes that can alleviate anemia, protect against heart disease, fight cancer and relieve clogged pores in your skin. Plus, they’re low in Carbohydrates, rich in iron and high in Vitamin A and C. What a fruit huh!? In South East Asia, Mangoes are are the key ingredient in many famous recipes and snacks. Locals eat them dried, pickled, fresh or raw with a savoury chili dip made with palm sugar and fish sauce. Most backpackers will be familiar with the famous ‘Mango and sticky rice’ with coconut juice poured generously over the top. If you’re in Thailand you haven’t tried this delicious street food dessert, I urge you to stop reading this now and go find it!
DURIAN: Deemed the ‘King of Asian Fruits’ the durian is a treasured delicacy and one that is almost an icon for South East Asia itself. Even Jakarta, Indonesia’s flavoursome capital, is sometimes referred to as the ‘Big Durian.’ It’s got a deserved reputation as a bit of a stinker, which is why you’ll see signs banning durians on many forms of public transport, in cinemas and hotels. The riper the fruit, the more pungent the lingering aroma. But once you get past the smell, it’ll do wonders for your health and would you believe your sex life! Rich in Vitamin B, C and E, the durian has the power to lower cholesterol and with a high level of protein, it’s a great muscle builder. The peak season for the durian is May to August and when the flesh becomes ripe it is slightly soft to touch but without being crunchy. A distinct flavour, with a light creamy texture, the durian is undoubtedly an acquired taste.
POMELO: The pomelo is the Asian equivalent of the grapefruit, but much bigger and juicier! Originating in China and mentioned in Ancient Chinese literature, the fruit is now eaten as a dessert or snack all over South East Asia. Research has shown that it is rich in many essential vitamins and minerals, notably Vitamin C, B, potassium, beta-carotene and folic acid. It’s great for people trying to lose weight as it simultaneously satisfies hunger, whilst accelerating the break down of proteins and fats. Scientists also believe that the pomelo is an effective mood booster, invigorating the senses and improving stamina.
Dragon Fruit: The dragon fruit is actually a type of cactus that flourishes in the in the high temperatures of tropical regions. It is believed to have originated from South America, introduced to South East Asia when they were brought to Vietnam by the French, where they were originally grown for royalty and the wealthy. The flesh is refreshing and sweet and is often served as a juice, in fruit salads or made into a jam. Amongst other health benefits, dragon fruit is said to improve eye-sight and prevent hypertension. They are regarded as particular beneficial to people with diabetes as they are said to help lower blood glucose levels. High in Vitamin C and dietary fibre, they are also believed to have the potential to reduce fat and aid weight loss for those looking to stay trim!
Coconut: The coconut is the consistent superstar fruit of South East Asia. It’s the fruit that says you’re on your travels, that you’ve arrived in a far off, exotic land. Aside from the glamour, the coconut is a truly remarkable health restorer and it is the coconut oil which is the real elixir. The oil has been used in traditional folk medecine amongst Asian and Pacific people for generations to treat a variety ailments such as athsma, baldness, bronchitis, constipation, earache, scurvy, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, upset stomach, dysentery, fevers and more! Today, scientists are discovering amazing new benefits for the use of the oil in modern medecine, ranging from the power to kill the viruses that cause herpes, measles and unbelievably AIDS to the ability to prevent dandruff, wrinkles and sagging skin! For thousands of years coconuts have provided a staple source of nutrition. Nearly one third of the world’s population depend on it for food and as an important part of their economy, leading some cultures to call it ‘The Tree of Life.’ It is also used as a base for many dishes in South East Asia; famously Amok Curry in Cambodia, Tom Yum Gung soup in Thailand and Malaysia’s Laksa Curry.
An exotic delicacy, the lychee is in high demand all over the world. Sweet, succulent and likened to the texture of a grape, Thai lychees are one of Thailand’s major exports, exported in many different forms; fresh, dried, frozen, and canned. Increasingly popular nowadays is lychee juice and even lychee wine. They are usually sweet, however, unlike other fruits, lychees do not ripen after picking so if plucked too early can have a bitter aftertaste. They are extremely high in anti-oxidants, potassium and Vitamin C and jam packed with anti-aging and disease fighting antioxidants. Studies have shown that eating lychee fruit may reduce the risk of cancer. Often considered a little bit glam and a little bit sexy, lychees have even been considered to be a symbol of love and sensuality. In ancient Chinese history, legend has it that the last Emperor of the T’ang Dynasty had his guards travel over 600 miles across China to bring fresh lychees to the palace in an attempt to woo his beloved.
JACKFRUIT: Believed to have been first cultivated in Indian rainforests, the jackfruit is known to be the largest tree borne fruit in the world growing up to 90cm long and weighing up to 50kg! It’s a wonder how these enormous swollen fruits stay on the trees. Hard and prickly on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, the jackfruit is bursting with benefits for your health. Even the seeds are good for you! Rich in potassium, the jackfruit is said to help lower the blood pressure. It is also believed to have anti-aging, antioxidant, anti-ulcer properties and help treat a number of skin problems. For those with a case of the common ‘traveller diarrhea’ you’ll be pleased to know that jackfruit has been found effective in relieving symptoms, as well as curing fever. The jack fruit becomes sweeter as it ripens and it’s delicate taste and fragrance means it is often used as an ingredient in desserts. Deep-fried jackfruit is also a popular snack. From the leaves, to the flowers and the seeds, every part of the jackfruit is edible and are featured in savoury dishes such as curries or eaten with chili dips.
PAPAYA: The papaya is probably the number one fruit in terms of balanced nutrition, containing just about every vitamin and mineral your body needs! Foliate, Vitamin E, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, lipids, amino acids; it wipes the floor with your run of the mill fruits, with 33% more Vitamin C and 50% more potassium than oranges, thirteen times more Vitamin C and twice the potassium of apples. Plus, it has no cholesterol or saturated fat and contains an abundance of calcium, iron and fibre, all good for the digestive system and the heart. The fruit features widely in Asian cooking and cuisine. In Thailand, the green papaya is the key ingredient of one of their most famous dishes. Sliced papaya, chili, lime juice, fish sauce, tomatoes, dried shrimp and crushed peanuts go together to make ‘Papaya salad’ or ‘Som- Tam.’
MANGOSTEEN: If the durian is the “King of Tropical Fruits” the mangosteen is the “Queen.” Hailed as ‘delectable’ and ‘luxurious,’ the exquisite flavour of the fruit has been celebrated and praised by many authors and influential types. Legend has it that Queen Victoria offered a reward of 100 pounds and the promise of a Knighthood to anyone who could deliver her the fresh fruit. Crack open the hard purple outer shell to squeeze out segments of soft white flesh; sweet, tangy and tantalising to the taste buds. As well as being delicious, the mangosteen has many significant health benefits and mangosteen juice has recently become a popular health drink. Regarded as an energy booster, anti-depressant and anti-biotic and helping to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s, fungal infections, diabetes, gum disease, glaucoma and many other illnesses. If a fruit this tasty can be this good for you, no wonder it’s given the royal title!
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. Plus, spirits, wines, and international beers of your choice. International films shown daily. Friendly, charming service.
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Back to your roots:
A very short history of dreadlocks...
miles away from home, yeah! 0 0 , y N t t a 0 tty, Natty 21, tty dreads) Oh, Na arley, na ng way For Natty to m o l a b be from e. (Bo t’s ho m Oh, Natty, Natty And tha
A quick stroll down the Khao San Road and you’ll see backpackers of all sorts, (not just your hard core hippie types), having their hair patiently weaved and twisted into the tangled, matted tresses, known as ‘dreadlocks.’ However, rather than just ‘another backpacking trend,’ like your Chang vests and your fisherman troos, the origin of ‘dreadlocks’ can in fact be traced back thousands of years with their ‘roots’ in ancient religions and cultures from all over the world..
Railay Beach, Reggae & Rastas...
belief. The person wearing them being someone who ‘feared’ or ‘dreaded’ the Lord.
In South East Asia, your dreadlocked dudes can mostly be spotted in chilled out beach areas, South Thailand’s beaches being prime locations. Basically, anywhere there’s a Reggae bar and a Bob Marley CD playing (on repeat)! It’s true that Bob’s got a lot to answer for when it comes to spreading the trend and making dreads famous around the world. When Reggae music became popular in the 1970’s many musicians, artists and authors adopted the hairstyle as a fashion statement, an expression of individuality or personal spirituality.
Dreadlocked Mummies and Ancient tresses...
Originally, in Jamaica, Rastafarians grew their hair into dreadlocks as an important part of their religion; in honour of the Nazarite Vow, present in the bible. “They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard.” A dreadlocked Samson is believed to have fought and killed the lion, which corresponds with the Rasta belief today that their strength is in their hair. And, just like Samson who became weak when his head was shaved, many Rastafarians greatly fear their hair being cut. Threats to arrest and cut hair were made in the past against Rastafarians by colonial rulers which forced them to flee to isolated areas of Jamaica. Some say that the name ‘dreadlocks’ actually derives from postemancipated Jamaica, when ‘ex-slaves’ who wore the hairstyle as a expression of rebellion were called ‘dreadful’ by the European influenced society. Another theory suggests the word ‘dreadlocks’ comes from religious
Representations of dreadlocks can be traced back much further than Bob and much further than the Rastafarians. In fact, the earliest examples of dreadlocks date back to North Africa, with depictions found in artwork of Ancient Egyptians wearing ‘locked hairstyles’ and even dreadlocked mummies have been recovered! There are also references to dreadlocks in the narratives of the Ancient Greeks, the Aztecs, the Nazarites of Judaism, the Dervishes of Islam and early Christians. Throughout history, very often the hairstyle has been associated with religion and spirituality.
Holy hair and Hymns of the Long Haired Sage... There are strong references to the hairstyle present in the Hindu religion, where Shiva and his followers were described as wearing ‘jaTaa’ or ‘twisted locks of hair.’ Saddhus and Savhis, Indian holy men and women preserve their sacred locks to represent their disregard for pointless and profane vanity and their disbelief in asceticism. According to the sacred Hindu scriptures, ‘The Vedas’ and the ‘Hymn of the long-haired sage,’ dreadlocks symbolise that the wearer has a special link to the spirit world. As a consequence, the hairstyle has become a part of many sacred
rituals, with holy men wearing their ‘jata’ (long hair) in a twisted knot on top of their head, only to let it down for special occasions when the strands of hair are rubbed with ashes and cow dung, then scented and adorned with flowers. Some Hindu cultures in Malaysia, Indonesia and across South East Asia adhere to similar rituals.
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In modern times, dreadlocks have been adopted by certain sub-cultures, whose reasons for wearing them can range from political, cultural or spiritual reasons. The hairstyle has often been associated with those seeking a natural, organic approach to life, new-age travellers or hippies for example, which may be the link to why some backpackers wear them today. Some say they are a symbol of freedom, independence, rebellion to regular ways of life (try getting an office job with them), of a closeness to nature and to the earth man! Contrary to what some people believe, dreadlocks are not strctly grown from unwashed hair and they don’t smell. (Although there are bound to be exceptions to the rule.) Many dreaded folks take great care to maintain their locks and don’t avoid shampoo, just detangling conditioners. Just be sure before you commit to the hairstyle as the only way to really get rid of dreadlocks is to cut them off.
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Paradise as nature intended...
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By Alex Garland
A divemaster’s “working lunch”: baguettes on the boat in the famous Maya Bay. It’s 11am, and the place is packed with longtail boats and dozens of tourists eager to see the beach that Leo made famous. I lie back on the boat and breathe in the sweet air so deeply I can feel it in my feet, and that’s when the magic happens. I see the beach without all of the people and the mental boat-drivers, and it is paradise. I see only the crystal water, the sand blazing with the light of the sun, and the jungle that recedes into the rocks. I could stay here forever. The pursuit of such a beachy paradise is the reason a lot of us come to South East Asia and the reason why we stay here so long. Like the protagonist, Richard, in Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’, we come to Thailand thirsty for adventure and dying to do something different. Of course, like characters Etienne and Franciose, we all start out doing the ‘Lonely Planet approved’ backpacker activities; the elephant treks, the nights out on Khao San, the goofy hilltribe hats and the dozens of beach parties. For some, checking off the main attractions is enough, but I can’t help but want something more, and that’s why I love everything about the idea of “The Beach.” Published in 1996 and adapted to a movie in 2000, this novel has influenced the adventure that is backpacking in Thailand for well over a decade. It’s ‘On the Road’ for our generation with a hint of ‘Lord of the Flies,’ a dash of ‘Heart of Darkness’, and a pinch of ‘Apocalypse Now.’ I first met Richard when I picked up ‘The Beach’ on what turned out to be a hellishly long bus ride from Bangkok to Phuket. Thanks to traffic that took me three hours to get across town, I missed my friends and the bus I was meant to be on from Bangkok and instead got on one that dropped me off in Chumphon in the middle of the night. From 3am until 5am I used my backpack as a sofa and didn’t put the book down since I’d started it around dinnertime the day before. I’m sure I’d love the book wherever I had first read it, but under the pale bus station lights I was mesmerized.
After receiving a map in a flea pit hostel in Khao San from the estranged character ‘Daffy Duck,’ the hero Richard, sets off with a French couple (Entienne and Franciose) to find paradise. The three adventurous travellers don’t hesitate to follow a hunch and explore a road less taken regardless of the risks involved. They want to believe in Daffy’s map, and so they just go. In fact, the interesting and somewhat crazy people they meet along the way (Daffy, Sal, and the inhabitants of the beach), the travellers-who-have-stayed-too-long types, that we have all met at some point, make the trip a wild ride and a life-changing experience. I never took a risk quite as ballsy as Richard, Etienne, and Franciose’s, but my own adventures on Thai islands and my love for the places in the novel forge the connection that so vividly brings this book to life in my mind. And, even with all of the madness, sex, drugs, and reggae, I still fall in love with Richard and feel inspired by his daring spirit to push boundaries and throw caution to the wind on my own travels throughout South East Asia. In ‘The Beach’, Garland nails what is true for all backpackers: our free spirits, our love of a good party, and our constant longing to set ourselves apart from the pack. Most importantly, he identifies the love of the journey and the spontaneity that is at the heart of any backpacking trip. He writes, “If I’d learnt one thing from travelling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens.”
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Currency: Brunei Dollar, divided into 100 cents. Exchange rate: $1 USD = $1.37 BN Dollar Capital city: Bandar Seri Bagawan Main religion: Islam (official) 67% Buddhist (13%) Christian (10%) Indigenous beliefs (10%) Main language: Malay (official) English also widely spoken. Telephone code: +673 Time: GMT + 8 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Salam (Hello) Terimah kasih (Thank you) Visa: Nationals of most European countries, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand do not need a Visa for visits of up to 30 days. USA citizens can stay for up to 90 days. Most other nationalities need to apply for a visa in advance which takes 1-3 days to process. (Single entry B$20 or multiple entry B$30) 72 hour transit visas are also available. Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. Visa extension: Visas can be renewed at embassies in Bandar Seri Bagawan. Climate: Brunei experiences a hot, humid climate all year round. Most rainfall is between September and January, peaking in November and December, but this can vary. 1 random fact: World travellers will know that each culture has their own customs and etiquettes. In Brunei, food can be served and eaten without cutlery, but should be eaten with the right hand only. It is regarded as impolite to give and receive gifts, especially food, with the left hand. In an emergency: Ambulance: 991 Fire: 995 Police: 993
Currency: Cambodian Riel (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 4,240 KHR Capital city: Phnom Penh Main religion: Theravada Buddhism (95%) Main Language: Khmer Telephone code: +855 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sua s’dei (Hello) Aw kohn (Thank you) Visa: Most nationalities can obtain a 1 month tourist Visa upon arrival which costs around $20. At land border crossings, notably the Thai/Cambodian border, the fee can be more expensive as the cost is paid in baht and is sometimes rounded up considerably. You will need 1 or 2 passport photos to apply, or you will be charged extra (usually only $1-2.) Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. E-Visa: You can now apply for an E-visa online. Pre-order at: www.mfaic.gov.kh and your visa will cost $25 set price. You will need a digital photo of yourself to upload. Processing takes 3 days and you will get the visa straight to your mailbox. See official website for up to date info on which borders support the E-visa as not all of the crossings take it yet. Visa extension: Obtained at Phnom Penh immigration office, opposite International Airport. Tourist visas can be extended 1 month. (Around US$35) For longer extensions ask at Immigration Office. Penalty for late departure: US$5 / day. Climate: The hottest month is April with temperatures hitting 40 degrees. The wet season starts in May or June and lasts until October. The downpours are heavy and do not last long. The best season to visit is December to February, when there is little rain, low humidity and cool breeze. 1 random fact: Cambodia is the only country in the world to feature a building in its national flag. Not just any
old building though, but the incredible Angkor Wat, regarded as the largest religious structure in the world and a powerful symbol of national heritage and pride for Cambodia. In an emergency: Ambulance: 119 Fire: 118 Police: 117
Currency: US Dollars Capital city: Dili Main religion: Catholic (90%) Main language: Tetun, Portuguese, Indonesian, English Telephone code: +670 Time: GMT + 9 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: ola (hello) adeus (goodbye) Visa: Nationals from Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA do not need to arrange a visa in advance. They can be granted upon entry into East Timor and cost $30 for 30 days. Portuguese nationals can stay up to 90 days on a tourist visa. Passports must be valid for up to 6 months before entering. It is important to note that there are no currency exchange facilities at the airport or other border posts, so you will need to take cash before you travel. Visa extension: Visas can be extended for 30 days, costing up to $45. You must have a valid reason for staying. Penalty for late departure: Penalties range from $70 US - $150 US Dollar if the period does not exceed 30 days. Climate: The wet season is between December and April and the dry season occurs between May to November, with temperatures reaching very high. The best months to visit are between April and July. 1 random fact: The Lli Kere Kere Caves are East Timor’s most fascinating archaeological site. Perched high on a cliff top above on the East Coast of the isle, the caves house fascinating cave paintings dating back more than 13,000 years. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 7233212 Police: 112
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah Exchange rate: $1 USD = 9,010 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 snow-capped peaks in the highlands of Papua. As Indonesia is such a long country, the difference in the seasons varies. In some areas, the distinction between the wet and dry season is great, such
as the Nusa Tenggara when the wet season (December to February) can make transport difficult, with road floods and ferry cancellations. In Sumatra, the rain falls from October to January in the North and from January to February in the South. In Bali there is little difference between the seasons where weather is similar all year round. 1 random fact: Following Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945, Indonesia became the world’s largest Muslim majority nation on earth. Today, there are over 235 million followers of Islam, making up around 88% of the population of Indonesia. Emergency numbers: (Java) Fire: 113 Police: 110 Medical assistance: 118, 119
Currency: Lao KIP (US Dollars accepted) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 8,560 LAK Capital city: Vientiane Main religion: Buddhism Main language: Lao (official) Telephone code: +856 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sabaydee (Hello) Khawp Jai (Thank you) Visa: Most nationalities can obtain a 30 day visa for Laos at international airports and land border crossings. The cost ranges from $20 - $42, depending on your nationality. At the Thailand/Laos border if you pay in Thai baht fees can be more expensive. You will need 2 passport photos and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: Visa extensions can be applied for at the Vientiane Immigration Office, which costs US$2 / day for 30 days. Extensions can also be obtained from some travel agents for around US$3. 90 day extensions are available, ask at the embassy for details. Penalty for late departure: Up to US$10/day. Long overstays can lead to arrest and imprisonment. Climate: The wet season in Laos is between May and October and the dry season between November and April. Temperatures during this time are the most comfortable, and can be quite cold in mountainous areas. The hottest time of the year is between March and May, with temperatures reaching 38 degrees. 1 random fact: Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan) in Laos is an unusual sculpture site located just outside of Vientiane that is home to over 200 concrete, slightly bizarre Buddhist and Hindu statues. The park was built in 1958 by a PriestShaman named Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat and is visited by many tourists today. Emergency numbers: (Vientiane) Ambulance: 195 Fire: 190 Police: 191
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit Exchange rate: $1 USD = 3.20 MYR Capital city: Kuala Lumpur Main religion: Islam (official) Main language: Bahasa Melayu (official) Telephone code: +60 Time: GMT + 8 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Salam (Hello) Terimah kasih (Thank you) Visa: Most nationalities are granted a free 30-90 day entry pass upon arrival at international airports and border crossings. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Please note that Sarawak is a semi-autonomous state and upon entry your passport will be stamped and a new pass issued.
Visa extension: Visas can be extended at Immigration offices in Malaysia. Fees depend on intended duration of stay. Climate: Malaysia’s climate is hot and tropical. The West coast of Peninsular Malaysia experiences the monsoon season from May to September, with August being the wettest month. On the other hand, the East coast of the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak experiences heavy rainfall between November and February. 1 random fact: The largest cave chamber in the world can be found in ‘Gunung Mulis National Park in Malaysia.’ The ‘Sarawak Chamber,’ also known as ‘Good Luck Cave’ is so big that it could accomodate a Boeing 747. Emergency numbers: Fire: 994 Police and Ambulance: 999
Currency: Kyat (US Dollars used) Exchange rate: $1 USD = 6.5 MMK Capital city: Became Naypyidaw in 2005 Main religion: Buddhism Telephone code: +95 Time: GMT + 6 ½ hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Min gala ba (Hello) Che zu Beh (thank you) Visa: Visa free entry is available at some border crossings for a short period. If you are going for the day to renew your Thailand Visa for example, you must enter and exit on the same day. Fees are around US$10. Longer visas should be arranged in advance at a travel agency or Myanmar Embassy. In Bangkok, at the Myanmar Embassy the cost is 810 baht for a 28 day visa, taking three days to process. Like the Vietnam visa, the cost depends on where you are and how long you mind waiting. It can range from $20 - $50. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months. Visa extension: Visas can be extended for up to 14 days in Yangon. Ask at embassy for details of costs. Weather: May to mid-October is the rainy season in Myanmar. February to April is the hottest time. The best time to visit is November to February, although temperatures can drop to freezing during these months in the highland areas. 1 random fact: Myanmar Thaing is a unique and traditional form of martial arts, similar to kick-boxing, which originated more than two thousand years ago during the reign of King Okkalapa. It was a compulsory specialisation of royal princes in ancient times. Emergency numbers: (Yangon) Ambulance: 192 Police: 199 Fire: 191
Currency: Peso, divided into 100 centavos. Exchange rate: $1 USD = 44 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: Formerly a colony of Spain, then relinquished by the United States after the SpanishAmerican War only to be occupied by the Japanese during World War II, the Philippines has a turbulent history and consequently, an interesting mix of cultural influences. Today democracy thrives on it’s 7100 islands. Fire, Ambulance, Police: 117
Currency: Singapore Dollar Exchange rate: $1 USD = 1.37 SGD Main religions: Taoist, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim. Main language: English, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil Telephone code: +65 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Ni hao ma? (Hi, how are you) Xie xie (thank you) Visa: Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the UK and most other European countries are granted either a 14 or 30-day tourist pass upon entry to Singapore. Duration of pass depends on nationality and point of entry. USA citizens receive 90 days. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: Extensions of up to 90 days can be applied for at the consulate in Singapore. Climate: November to January see the most rain, however there are really no distinct seasons in Singapore. The weather is very similar all year round, hot and humid. 1 random fact: ‘Singlish’ is an English-based creole language spoken in Singapore. The vocabulary consists of a mix of words originating from English, Malay, Cantonese, Punjanbi, Australian and American slang, mainly picked up from TV and other influences. The government discourage sthe use of ‘Singlish’ in favour of standard English. It is estimated that around 75% of the population of Singapore are literate in English. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 995 Police: 999 Fire: 995
Currency: Thai Baht Exchange rate: $1 USD = 32 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 Karen Hill Tribe in Northern Thailand are also known as the ‘Long Neck People.’ Girls from a young age wear heavy brass necklaces to elongate their necks. There are many theories as to why women wear the rings, ranging from them being a symbol of beauty, status or perhaps to give the women resemblance to a dragon, an important creature in Kayan folklore. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 1669 Fire: 199 Police: 191
Currency: Vietnamese Dong Exchange rate: $1 USD = 18,885 VND Capital city: Hanoi Main religion: Tam Giao (Triple religion – Confucionism, Taosim, Buddhism) Main language: Vietnamese (official) Telephone code: +84 Time: GMT + 7 hours Hellos and Thank-you’s: Sin chao (Hello) Cam on (thank you) Visa: Visas for entering Vietnam must be arranged in advance. You can do this at the Vietnamese embassies in whichever country you are in and some travel agencies also offer the service. Depending on where you apply for it and how long you mind waiting, (on average from 1 day to 4 days), it can cost anywhere between $35 and $65 for a 30 day visa. You will need 1 passport sized photograph and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months upon entering. Visa extension: 30 day extensions can be obtained from travel agents in Hanoi, HCMC or Danang. The process can take up to 5 days and the fee is usually US$30. Climate: The climate of North and South Vietnam differ greatly, with generally a hot tropical climate in the South and hot summers and cold winters in the North. The monsoon season is between May and October which brings rain to most of the country. The central coast can experience typhoons between August and November. 1 random fact: Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, the First Lady of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1963 was considered one of the most elegant women of the 20th Century, compared to likes of Jackie Onassis, Eva Peron and Grace Kelly. Emergency numbers: Ambulance: 115 Police: 113 Fire: 114 (At S.E.A Backpacker we try to ensure that all information provided is as accurate and up to date as possible. (Checked 23.4.10) The information in this section is vulnerable to change. Please advise us at firstname.lastname@example.org if info is invalid and we will be sure to rectify it.)
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