Destination Tags: Asia

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Only a week left in Thailand

Our 3 month stay here in Thailand is drawing to and end.

We’ve loved living in our house, exploring the island, working on our websites (mostly www.campervanlife.com and www.travelphotographyschool.com) and learning a bit more about Thailand and the Thai people.

Whilst we are sad to be leaving Samui, and Thailand, we’re looking forward to getting on the road again.

We are heading down to Georgetown in Malaysia.  We will try and get 2 month visas for Indonesia there, whilst exploring this historic city.

From there we will fly down to Bali.

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Plane Crash on Samui

Samui Airport Crash
Photo by soma-samui.com

As you may have heard on the news, a plane crashed on Samui airport yesterday.  The airport is about 20kms from where we are.  Sadly the pilot died.

It’s a terrible thing to happen, especially to such a small community like this.  Many people will be affected.

We were sitting outside when the lunchtime rains started.  Drizzled turned into torrential rain, even harder than normal.

When the rain eased I went to the bakery, and heard an emergency vehicle pass, but thought little of it, as this is a fairly regular sound.

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Dealing with Ants in Your House in Thailand

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.

Facts

  • 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.

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Cheap Flip-flops and the Best Flip-flops in Thailand

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

Fake flip-flops

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.

Good 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.

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Back to Ko Samui

It’s still windy this morning, and we have to catch the ferry home.

Fortunately we are riding on the Loprayah Catamaran ferry, which makes light work of the rough’ish seas.

We pack our few things, and ride back to Thong Sala.

I call the bike guy and he opens up.

We stop at a cafe for some breakfast.  Banana pancakes, the birthday treats continue!

Then up to the ferry pier, check in, wait for the ferry, and jump on.

The rough seas mean care is necessary to get on the boat over the slippery gang way.  Whilst we are on-board it sounds like a girl slips over.  She is shortly carried in by someone.  I hope she is ok.

The ferry pushes off and heads back to Maenam on Samui.

We’re quickly off and passing everyone with big bags head for our pick-up.  Then back home.

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Happy Birthday to me, Ko Phangan, Thailand

It’s my birthday, so it’s birthday cake for breakfast!  You can see all of our other birthday treats on the bed as well.  Bit of a contrast to our healthy living of late.

The weather is not as sunny as normally here in Thailand, so we don’t sunbathe.

Instead we chill out, finish the book we have been sharing, and make a sand gecko

In the evening we try and find somewhere showing the F1 Grand Prix.  Nowhere is, so I ask at the Ibiza bungalows which look shut.

The lady says they are open, and I find the F1 on the satellite TV.

We have great food there and a few beers.

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Riding around Ko Phangan, Thailand

It’s a bit windy and cloudy this morning.  But, the sun is trying to break through.

The wind is onshore here at Sandy Bay, so using my surfers knowledge, we head to the north of the island and stop at a lovely little beach, where the wind is off shore, making the sea smooth.

We relax for a while, watching the local kids mess around, and also catch a truck delivering large quantities of ice onto fishing boats moored up at the pier.

We jump back on the scooter and take one of my favourite roads in Thailand, the main road south through the island.  It’s a wonderful display of tourist and authentic Thai life, all pitched wither side of the jungle road.

We pass schools, small houses, big houses, business, and more.

We get to Thong Sala, the main ferry port and town.  We buy our exit tickets for Monday morning, as it’s always good to be a few days ahead with your planning.

We grab some lunch, and then head over to Tesco.  Even a small island like Ko Phangan has a Tesco.

We stock up on birthday treats, including a small birthday cake.

Back on the bike, and back to the bungalow.

We chill on veranda.

Outside Silver Beach resort, Had Yao, Ko Phangan

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Ferry to Ko Phangan, Thailand

As it’s my birthday weekend, we are off to Ko Phangan for the weekend.

So we are up fairly early and a take short walk to the travel agent.  The Loprayah bus picks us up and we take the drive to Mae Nam.

Loprayah are certainly the most organised, and best ferry operator we have taken in Asia.  Their catamaran ferries are quick and smart.

We board, and sit, but soon get a tannoy message asking everyone to move to the front of the cabin, as the tide is unusually low, and the boat is close to grounding out.

We’re soon on our way.  The boat is certainly the fastest I have taken in Asia.  It only takes 20 minutes before the familiar site of Thong Sala, Ko Phangan appears.

We disembark and head straight to rent a scooter.  Last time I was on Ko Phangan I rented a scooter from a nice guy, who gave me a partial refund because I had the bike for part of a day.  I headed back to him, as that is rare service in Thailand.

The guy isn’t there, so we grad some lunch, and head back after.  He is there, and gives us a discount this time as we will rent the bike for 3 days.  This is a good example of how good customer service builds a good business.  I went back to this guy today (even after having to wait for him to open for the afternoon) because he gave me a discount before.  Today he has given me another discount, so I will definitely rent a bike from him in the future.

In case you are interested it is the Easy Diver bike rental, next to the 7 Eleven store, right opposite the Lomprayah pier (the more southerly pier).

As we are travelling light (a small backpack each) we jump on the bike and head north.

It’s always lovely being back on Ko Phangan.  It’s a beautiful island.

We take the coast road, passing Sunview, where we stayed last year.  They seem to have changed their name to Sun Set Bay.  Seems like a strange thing to do when you have an established business.

We turn off the road at Sandy Bay (or Long Beach, or Had Yao West, to use its real name).  We park up at the Ibiza bungalows and take a look around.

We stop at several places and ask, but most places are full, as last night was the full moon party.

After exhausting the northern end of the beach we are about to head to the other end when I spot a sign.  AC rooms for 500Baht.  Seems like a bargain.  We take a look and find ourselves a lovely, clean, brand new AC room for 500Baht.

We settle in, have a drink, and do some sun bathing on the beach.

It’s great being back here.

We watch the sun go down and relax for the night.

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Renting a house in Thailand – Tips & Advice

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.

Costs

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.

Other Costs

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
Newspaper classifieds
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

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Planning my next trip

I am planning to go away at the end of this month (Jan 2009). The bitting cold of the English winter has got to me, and I’m off. It’s the first winter I have spent at home in three years. I’ve loved spending Christmas with my family, but I don’t like this weather, and this had been a good reminder that I need to live elsewhere. I’m thinking of Australia or Spain for long-term living, but there is still more travelling to do for now…

I want to spend a few months surfing in Bali. I love it there, and have not had enough surfing this year. But, Indonesian visas are short and hassle. But I have read that it’s possible to get a 2 month tourist visa and have it extended whilst in Bali, without leaving.  The embassy here in the UK say the visa they will give me can’t be extended.  So I’m planning to heading to Bangkok, spend a month working my way south, catch up with friends in Malaysia, and then spend some time in Singapore, the one country in the region I haven’t visited yet.

From there I hope to get a 2 month visa to visit Indonesia.  I noticed that it’s possible to fly to Perth in Australia fairly cheaply, so I’m hoping to visit friends there, as I haven’t been there for 10 years!