HOT INFO On The Road

Margaret and Keel's Asian Adventure
Riding Tigers
REPORT #2: September 29, 1999, Bangkok Thailand

$1 = 40 bahts, down a little

Well we've been in Bangkok for almost a week now and so far so good. food unbelievable, beer only ok...before we leave Bangkok I thought I would just provide an assortment of observations and suggestions that may be helpful for anyone coming to the land of smiles

Dress: here the bottom line people, if you want your life to go as smooth as possible in Thailand, you have got to respect the Thai norms for dress! I have spoken with several Thais who eventually get around to telling me how "impolite" most westerners dress. If you were to ask them they would never tell you to your face that you are dressing way out of bounds but behind your back they believe it. One Thai even told me that they will very subtly try to sabotage your efforts, whether to get a visa or bargain down an items, if you flaunt there norms with regard to dress. So here is my suggestion...take it for what it is worth but believe me, it's coming directly from several Thais...

Make yourself a pair of shorts that extend below the knee. Shorts that just cover your butt is considered "impolite"...At the Grand palace and other "royal properties" you will not be permitted in wearing shorts etc.

Forget the spaghetti straps and sleeveless shirts and dresses. get a shirt that at least comes part way down your arms. That's it not difficult, but I am dumbfounded at the number of travelers who want to think of themselves as savvy who disregard these cultural norms. Disregard for this advice will no make life any easier. Basically as one Thai put it...they way you dress and also how clean you are is a reflection of the amount of respect you have for the people (Thais) you interact with. Inappropriate dress is really a way of showing disrespect. I think most of you with a brain will get the picture.

Laos Visa...on Khaosan road and many places there are many offers to secure your visa to Laos and other countries. For Laos, most places want 1000 bahts, about twenty bucks on top of the cost of the visa...this is really an expense you don't have to bear. Get in a metered taxi go directly to the embassy fill out the forms and come back in two days to pick it up. Currently a Laos visa cost 1080 bahts. The embassy of Laos has moved so it is located differently than it shows on the map. I left the new address at the hotel but if you really need it you can find the information somewhere in
this web site or on the lonely planet thorn tree. I just told the taxi driver embassy of Laos and sat back and let him find it. It cost me 70 bahts from the Sukumvit road area. I would guess it would take about 150 bahts to go from Khao san road. i suspect there is a bus that will get you close but I didn't work that one out. Personally, I have never gotten a visa so easily. we were the only people in the whole embassy except for the man behind the counter.

Massage Parlors: now as you know Bangkok can package and sell sex in ways you didn't even now existed. I am not going into that here, you can experience that for your self by going to Patpong area or Soi Cowboy off the Sukhumvit area. However, if you want a legitimate massage I would suggest the following place where an excellent two hour full body massage cost 800 bahts. A little expensive for the budget but definitely worth it at least once. if your are in the Sukhumvit area I suggest the following as a legitimate, clean respectable place:

Marble House: 3rd Floor Ruamchitt Plaza, 199 Sukhumvit Rd. near Soi 15
Bangkok 651-0905

Mosquito nets
If your going to go to Laos, Indonesia, and many other places the risk of malaria and dengue fever is very real. I wonder if the annopholies mosquito were in the U.S. , would we eradicate it or declare it an endangered species when its numbers got low...oh I digress...suffice to say this mosquito is the most dangerous animal or insect in the world and accounts for about 1 million deaths per year...due to malaria...bottom line mosquito bite prevention is the key...to that end.. save your money buy one when you get here...I looked at several on Khaosan road but was not impressed with quality...to get the best value for your money, go directly to the manufacture.

Siam Dutch Mosquito Netting Co.: 15 Sukhumvit Road Soi 33
Bangkok, Thailand 10110, 258-5621, info@siamdutch.com

This place is easy to find and looks more like a nice house than a business. I purchased a "impregnated" net that will cover up to a king size bed for 400 bahts, That's $10 folks, hard to beat the price for the quality. Bottom line, wait to buy your net when you get here.

Snake Farm:
This has been my favorite attraction so far, must be the wildlife biologist coming out...highly recommended...nothing like seeing a 12 ft. king cobra be handled right in front of you...with 86 species of poisonous snakes in Thailand...this is a good way to get a primer in how to keep your self safe when stomping in the bush...highly recommended...

The temples:
None of the temples are closed ever! so don't listen when they tell you that the Wat Pho or Wat Phra Khaw is closed, is just the start of the scam...just smile, keep walking and you will find the entrance soon enough. If you can afford it hire a guide at the grand palace and What Po...it puts money in the local economy and truthfully you will get more out of your visit. if you don't hire a guide you simply won't know what it all means. This is my second time to these attractions, first time I didn't hire a guide, this time i did...no comparison as to what I got out of it...guide at Wat Po 200 bahts, guide at grand palace 300 bahts ...pay no more than this...

Highlight so far for me: I gave 20 bahts at Wat Po for restoration of the Wat. Next thing I know i am being hauled in front of a Buddhist monk who has me kneel before him while he gives me blessing for good luck and safety in travel...the holy water he sprinkled over my head was cool in the mid-day heat...he also tied an amulet on my wrist with instructions to let it just wear off...so cool...he was also pumping me for information on America...he was probably 18.

SCAM ALERT:
At Wat Arun: This wat is currently undergoing some restoration so finding the entrance is a little tricky. As I made my way through the maze of construction i encountered two Thais who were "collecting money" for the reconstruction and restoration. They had a notebook and they would write your name and nationality down and how much you paid. They had a sheet full of names of people who were giving money. I was very suspicious and would not bite, mainly because at all the other wats a monk is there to take donations for restorations and donations go into a big plastic "money bank" where it is watched over by the monk. These guys were putting the money into their pocket...I was amazed at how much money they collected.

Beer Review:
Kloster, another Thai lager, better than Singha, light aromatic and not as sweet. Lightly hopped with a nice crisp finish. Good in this heat...but still not an Ale...

Well enough for now... we soon plan to leave Bangkok and head into Issan, the least tourist area in Thailand. Will keep you posted...thanks for tuning in...

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