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If you're looking to buy a guitar in Kuta, Bali there are a few options.
1. Matahari Department Store
Matahari sell acoustic guitars from around IRP500,000.
They are called Sky Lark and are resonable good. Fine for everyday playing. The strings are reasonably good, not rusty, superlight about 10 gauge.
I also bought a immitation leather carry bag for the guitar for IRP 58,000. It offers fair protection, is easy to carry, and has some pockets.
Matahari also sell classical guitars from about IRP300,000. I didn't try one, but they seemed OK.
2. On Poppies I lane
Near the top of Poppies I lane there is a shop with a few guitars in. They are priced from IRP 600,000. I didn't try them, but they looked OK. I think they are Sky Lark guitars, just like the Matahari store above. So take a walk to save a few quid.
Whilst walking back from buying my guitar at the Matahari a western guy stopped me and asked where I bought it from. So, if ever you want to sell a guitar you should be able to do it easily. Just walk around with a for sale sign on it, or sit on the beach with a for sale sign.
The local guys will definitely buy it from you, but you'll get less from them.
I bought an acoustic guitar in Yogjakarta in 2008 for IRP 175,000. It was ok, and slim, but not very well made. When I changed the strings, they were a heavier gauge, and after a little while the weight of the strings pulled the saddle off the body. I left it with a guy in Vietnam to fix and keep.
The Sky Lark guitar I bought in 2009 in Kuta was much better made. The action is maybe a little high for advanced players, but I play slide guitar so it suited me fine.
If you buy a cheap acoustic guitar, keep the strings superlight gauge.
Have you bought a guitar in Kuta? Let us know in the comments below.
Bali has a good selection of reasonably priced 3G providers. If you need regular high-speed access from your laptop it's a great option.
There are a few different providers to choose from. Here are my experience of them.
Click the link below for a translated version of XL 3G's service page. It is worth reading, as it contains important information.
XL 3G Coverage
- Kuta - I got good 3G signal around most of Kuta and it's surroundings. Even with 1 of 5 bars of signal I got reasonable data rates.
- Legian - No 3G signal, just GPRS
- Ubud - 3G across most of the town, even on the edges near the rice paddies
- Sanur - Excellent 3G signal
- Nusa Lembongan - 3G signal on the beach at Pondok Baruna (near Permana boat), but only GPRS further inland.
XL List 2 APN settings
XL list 2 APN's. The accelerator version reduces the resolution of images to make them load quicker. HOWEVER, I found the accelerator APN to be slow and congested. I found it better to use the Without Accelerator APN. Speeds were twice as quick, and much better response times. If you want to keep costs down (bandwith) and don't care about speed then go with the With Accelerator APN.
Modem, Dongle, Phone advice
To use the 3G networks you will need a 3G compatible modem, dongle or phone.
Many modern mobile phones have 3G network capabilities. If so, you can use your phone as a modem.
To make life simpler you can also buy a 3G dongle, which is like a flashdrive, just a bit bigger. They cost around IRP 1,000,000 from phone shops in Denpasar. Or get one from home before you leave. Always make sure it is SIM unlocked, so that you can use it anywhere.
I bought a 3G phone whilst in Bali. I bought a Sony Ericsson G502i phone. It was the cheapest 3G phone available, and is actually quite a good handset (MP3 player, 2MB camera, radio, 3G). I paid IRP 1,200,000 from the Electrical City store in the Discovery Mall in Kuta. I also saw the same phone for IRP 1,450,000 in the Carrefour supermarket on Sunset Road in Kuta.
Ultimately a 3G phone is more useful than just a 3G dongle.
iPhone experience in Bali
I have a 2G iPhone, which has EDGE capabilties only, not 3G. This phone is unlocked, so that I can use it with any SIM card. I have happily used this as my modem (using the PDA Net modem software) in many countries. EGDE only runs at around 25KB/s maximum, but this is OK for me. Faster would be nice, but hey...
In Bali (and probably the rest of Indonesia) the phone operators run only 3G technologies, and not 2G. Therefore my iPhone 2G could not use the EDGE networks. This meant I had to buy another phone to use anything other than GPRS speeds. This was fine in the end.
If you have an unlocked 3G iPhone (or 3GS) you should be fine using the 3G networks in Bali, and probably the rest of Indonesia. However, I don't have first hand experience of this.
Other Internet options in Bali
If you only need occasionally internet access 3G is probably overkill for you.
There are loads of internet cafes around. They vary a bit, but all charge around IRP 150 per minute.
If you have your own laptop I think the best options are the mini-marts that line the main roads. Most have seating areas inside and out, and provide free WiFi, as long as you buy something in the shop. You can always just buy a cheap bottle of water and make it last a few hours. They are not going to move you on.
Cafes and restaurants often also offer Wifi. It often doesn't work well, and can be expensive. But it's a good option if you want to eat and check your emails at the same time.
Let us know about your Bali 3G experiences in the comments below
Thailand, like anywhere warm or troipical, has a lot of ants. If you live in a house in Thailand you will almost certainly have a problem with ants at some point. Here are my top tips for dealing with ants, and keeping them away.
- Ants live in colonies. Some stay in the nest and look after the young, others go looking for food (scout ants).
- Once scout ants have found a food source, they make a scent trail back to the nest, so that the other ants can follow the trail to the food source. These are the lines of ants you see taking the same path. The trail can last for days, even after the food source is gone.
- Ants love food. They will find any crumbs or traces of food you have left in your kitchen. Once they have found them the rest of the colony will turn up to take a share.
- The ant colony lives around the queen ant, the leader of their colony.
How to get rid of ants
- For ants in the kitchen, use a old cloth or tissue paper, spray with surface cleaner, and wipe the ants up. Once you have got all of the ants, thouroughly clean the whole area. You need to remove the traces of food, and any scent trails they have left. Follow the trails up the walls, floors, etc and clean these too.
- If you have big ants elsewhere in the house (e.g. bathroom) you most likely have a queen ant in there somewhere. You MUST find the queen ant and get rid of it. The queen ant is much bigger than the others. The other ants are coming to work for the queen, and they are settling a colony. You do not want it in your house. If you have a wet bathroom, hose all of the ants down the drain. Ensure you get all of the ants, especially the queen.
How to keep ants away
- Keep everything very clean. Ants are only coming for food
- Empty the bin everyday. Keep the waste outside.
- Ants don't like talcum powder. Try sprinkling around areas where ants are coming into the home.
- Ant killer trays are available from shops. These trays contain posined food that the ants take back to their nests. The ants in the nest also die.
- Ant chalk bars are available. Draw chalk anywhere where ants are entering the home. It will turn them back, and kill any who come into contact with it.
Hopefully these tips will help keep ants our of your home. If you know of any other tips, please leave them in the comments below.
In Thailand, and many other Southeast Asian countries, you will find many fake products, particularly major brands and labels that visiting tourists are keen to buy.
Flip-flops, being the national footwear of Thailand, are everywhere. Fake copies are very popular. Havanaias are the most popular and the most copied.
I have been through many pairs of flip-flops during my travels in Asia, so I thought I'd give you some tips, so that you can save some money, and get the most comfortable footwear.
Fakes are not worth it
In my opinion, fake copes of major brand flip-flops are not worth buying. Whilst they look nice, they will not last, and they are not the comfiest option.
On Kh San Road in Bangkok, and many other places, you see endless sellers selling very good looking copies. They generally starts from 150 Baht.
I've been through many pairs of these, generally lasting between 1 and 3 months, before the deck wears out, and the thong pulls through, also known as a 'blow out'. On the island of Ko Samui I did buy a pair for 50 Baht. But within a few weeks the deck was squashed flat and they had become too uncomfortable to wear.
Buy real flip-flops
Whilst real Havanias will cost a lot (US$20), good quality Thai flip-flops will cost from 200 Baht. Head to a Thai shoe shop, or sports shop, and you'll find a great choice of high quality, and ultra comfy flip-flops.
These flip-flops (above) cost me 250 Baht from a sports shop at the Big C near Chaweng in Ko Samui. They had so many to choose from, it was a tough choice. These flip-flops are by far the most comfortable I have ever worn, and they will last so much longer than the cheap copies. And they only cost 100 Baht more.
Spending the little bit more, but on the right product, will save you money in the long run, and keep you feet happy.
It is possible to extend a 60 day tourist visa in Thailand for another 30 days. This is available to almost everyone, unless you have some bad history with Thai immigration. The process is quick and easy, and takes about 1 hour.
The Ko Samui immigration office is an easy place to get this visa extension. The staff are friendly, and the service prompt.
From Ko Phangan or Ko Tao take a ferry to the Nathon ferry terminal on Samui. Make sure it's the Nathon terminal, is it's very close to here. You can walk from the ferry to the immigration office, but it will take 30 minutes, so maybe better to take a pickup.
Types of visa service available
30 day extension to 60 day tourist visa - Costs 1,920 Baht. Takes about 1 hour.
Finding the office
The Ko Samui immigration office is 1 - 2 km south of Nathon, the main town on the Northwest corner of the island. Local pickups and taxis will drop you there, or you can easily find it on a scooter, as it is signposted about 2kms before the office, and again at the actual office.
There is parking for scooters and bigger vehicles.
They sell refreshments at normal shop prices. There is a nice seating area outside the office.
What you need
To extend a visa you will need the following:
- Your passport (with 6 months validity remaining)
- 1,920 Baht fee
- 2 passport sized photos
- 1 x photocopy of your passport photo page
- 1 x photocopy of your visa & entry stamp page (these are almost always on the same page in your passport)
- 1 x photocopy of your TM.6 immigration card (the one they staple into your passport)
- 1 x TM.7 visa extension form (get this at the immigration office. You can download from their website, but better to get it there).
Note: Right outside the immigration office is a small shop that will photocopy your passport. So you can get everything there.
Monday - Friday
08:30 - 16:30
If you are planning on spending more than a few weeks in Thailand, renting a house can save you money.
Houses tend to be bigger and better equipped than hotel rooms, and are generally amongst Thai communities, which gets you closer to the Thai people.
A small, 1 bedroom house in a tourist area such as Phuket or Ko Samui will cost from around THB7,000 per month. The house is likely to be furnished, with at least a bed, some furniture, cable TV and a sofa or some Thai wooden seating.
Kichen facilities are rarely more than plates, bowls and spoons.
Cheap properties right next to the beach generally cost THB10,000.
2 bedroom properties start from around THB10,000.
Spending just a little more can get you quite a lot more.
For THB15,000 to THB20,000 you can find a very well furnished and equipped apartment or villa in any area of Thailand. You can expect AirCon, WiFi and cooking facilities.
If you stay away from tourist areas you can pay as little as TBH4,000 per month.
Most properties will have electricty and water meters. The meter will be read at the end of the month, or your stay, and you will be sent the bill.
A typical house, with AirCon running overnight in 1 bedroom, fridge and TV during the day will cost THB1,500 per month for electricity, and another THB500 per month for water.
You can pay the bills at any 7 Eleven store.
Tip: Always read the meter with the landlord, so there is no confusion over the amount to pay.
How To Find A House
Houses are normally very easy to find. The best option is simply to walk/drive around and look for the 'House For Rent' signs. Best places to find a house
'House For Rent' signs on the property
Supermarket notice boards
Ask around. Just about any Thai person will know someone renting a house
How It Works
Renting a house in Thailand is generally very simple compared to most countries
Theft occurs in every country of the world. In some countries more than others. Thieves often target travelers and tourists as they are likely to have valuables and cash. Thefts from hotel rooms and luggage tend to more common than muggings. Here are some tips to help you avoid such problems
- Always keep your valuables (money and passport) in a hotel safety deposit box, or on your person. When you leave your room put all your valuables inside your backpack and lock it. Thieves are unlikely to steel your backpack, but could take individual items such as money, cameras, etc.
- Take only your towl, sunscreen and some change to the beach. Cameras, phones, MP3 players, etc will only get stolen or broken.
Hotels and guest houses
- Ground floor hotel rooms are the easiest to break into. Stay further up for more security.
- Always close your hotel windows when going out. It is easy to climb between balconies
- Always secury hotel rooms at night when sleeping. Thieves can operatly silently.
- You hotel room key is not the only one, the staff have more. However, taking your key with you, rather than leaving it at reception, can reduce uninvited visitors to your room.
- Before checking out, check you have all of your valuables. Finding something is missing when you are in the next town makes it difficult for to resolve a situation with a guest house should something go missing.
- Padlock the zips of your backpacks when your bag is out of your care and when you leave it in your room.
- Chain you luggage to furniture when going out.
- Use small karibinas to secure zip tabs together on day packs, so thieves cannot quicky unzip your bag.
Tips when viewing beach hut
Before accepting a beach hut and parting with cash check the following:
- Check for rodent droppings or poison on the floor - if there are any decline the room. Rodents can chew through your things as well as prove to be unpopular visitors in the night.
- Check the facilities - if you don't have your own mosquito net check one is provided. Also check there is a ceiling fan, light and power if you need those things.
- What's around? - are their bars either side of the beach hut that play loud music all night long? Is there a well used lane own the side of your hut? Lanes often bring noise and an increased security risk.
- Ask the check out time - don't assume its noon, you don't want to be charged for another night.
Tips for staying in a beach hut
- Use your own padlack on the door - you don't know who might have keys for the provided padlock. So use your own - keyless combination padlocks are particularly good, as there are no keys to loose.
- Secure your poseesions - beach huts are easy to break into. Padlock luggage zips and locks when going out, also secure your lugage to fittings such as bed frames using a chain or similar. Most thieves will grab what they can quiclky and run. The harder you make it the less they are likely to take. Stash valuables in the bottom of secured luggage.
Travel packs have become the preferred luggage for backpackers, and with good reason. They offer many advantages over traditional backpacks . I'll explain the differences, pros and cons.
For years people have been backpacking with the traditional "everything in through the top" style backpacks, originally designed for trekking. Backpacks are strong and are easy to carry, but access through the top means taking things out all of the time.
Over the last few years more and more travel packs are being used, and with good reason, they are generally much better for backpacking. With a zip around the side, opening the front like a suitcase, access to your stuff is much easier and less disruptive . As most backpackers only every carry their packs for short distances, travel packs are the way to go. Let's compare them.
Travel pack vs backpack
|Access to main compartment||Through the top. Good for trekking, as everything is safe inside. Bad for everyday access as things bet buried and squashed.||From the front via an unzipping front. Allows easy access to everyting inside. Some have straps in the bottom for clothes.|
|Size and shape||Thin and long to allow weight to spread out across the back for long treks.||Generally shorter and wider, to allow better packing of items.|
|Carrying straps||Designed for wearing all day.||Generally the same as backpacks, but good travel packs have a cover that neaty zips over the carry straps which is great for airplanes, buses, etc.|
|Day pack||No||Good travel packs have a day pack that clips one, so you only need to carry one bag to and from the bus station.|
|Pockets||Generally on the outside.||Almost always inside, around the main compartment. Good for keeping everything safe. Good travel packs have document sized compartments on the inside of the main flap.|
Travel packs are a great new alternative to the traditional backpack. If you haven't got one already then check our shopping guide or your local store.
If you travel light it can be difficult keeping your clothes fresh, especially in hot climates. Here are some tips to make life easier for you, fresher for your nose and better for your clothes.
Washing your own clothes
When traveling light, washing a few clothes everyday is the best way to stay on top of it.
- When you have a shower, wash the clothes you are wearing. Hang them straight up to dry. In hot climates you get through more clothes, but they dry quicker.
- Soaking clothes for a few minutes in soapy water is better than thrashing clothes hard for 10 seconds. Soaking removes more smells and makes clothes last longer.
- Take the clothes to be washed in to the shower with you. Get them wet, apply the soap all over, then leave to soak in a ball whilst you shower. After a few minutes rub the clothes reasonable well and then rinse.
- Buy a small tube of travel washing gel. Or use soap or shower gel as these freshen clothes well.
- Only wash clothes when you can dry them. Don't was a load the day before a long trip and leave them in your backpack all day. If you have to then keep the wets clothes in plastic bag and dry as soon as you get to your next bed.
- Carry a washing line in your backpack, you'll rarely find one in budget or simple accommodation.
- Once in a while take all of the clothes you are not wearing to a laundry and pay someone to cleans your clothes nicely. Most will get them back to you by the end of the day. In Asia especially, it will be cheap and your clothes will be better for it.
Pay someone else
In somewhere like Asia it doesn't cost much to have someone wash your clothes for you. This is a good option if you have quite a lot of clothes, or a group all chip in. In India laundry is done aggresively, but very clean, so hand wash anything delicate.