Travelers Notes
South-East Asia
Dec 98

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more updated info for SE Asia
Request from ITIS Travelers(itis@itisnet.com)
Are you travelling in SE Asia or planning to travel there soon? If so we would really appreciate it and it would be useful for other travelers if you sent us information from your trip or were willing to join our 'On The Road' team - sending emails while on the road. Please email us if you can help.

? Dec. 98,: John
Thailand - train to Kanchanaburi/ Hua Hin info
 we are a party of five on an eight day tour of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai followed by ten days at Hua Hin. Whilst in Bangkok we will be at the Rembrandt Hotel and wish to visit the River Kwai Bridge by train, do you have any information on such visits. I would also be interested in any information of places of interest around Hua Hin.
Thanking You in anticipation

Answer from Andrea
Regarding your query about the train to Kanchanaburi, well it leaves from Thon Buri Station, it's across the river from the Banglamphu area. There are 2 departures a day from Bangkok at 7:50 (arrives Kanchanaburi 10:55, river Kwai Bridge 11:02) and 13:45 (Kanch. 16:26, bridge16:33). The Price last summer was 123B in first class, 64B in second, slightly more to the bridge. The return journey from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok leaves 7:31 and 15:21.
Regarding Hua Hin, I'm afraid that we don't have any information on this area, perhaps you could ask on the Lonely Planet site in the thorntree section. http://www.lonelyplanet.com

? Dec. 98, Evert
Pelni Schedule, Indoneisa
I would appreciate to receive a PELNI
schedule and fares for S'pore to Manado or Jakarta to Manado
Thanks in advance !

? Dec. 98, dave inward: e-1-maildogs_innards@hotmail.com
Myanmar - FEC's + Medicines to take to donate to Burmese:
Would be very interested to hear the latest evasion policies for the airport, as I have been told that the visa card loophole has been at least partially closed,as they can now do visa transactions. Also,what medicines are best recommende for the benefit of the Burmese?Hello !

? Dec. 98 EMMA,
Travel in Asia - advice wanted.
I am looking to travel to Asia and it is unknown to me. Time of year, costs, safe places to stay, am not old but not young either. Any advice?? Many thanks.
Answer from Andrea:
Asia is a very safe region to travel in, which is often the main concern for women. Though much of it lacks the infrastructure of Europe, etc., which can make for some frustration and be time consuming, it generally adds to the travel experience.
Regarding finance - it is so cheap (Japan apart). Most of the places we cover we generally budget for less than $20/day including local transport costs.
There are many, many accommodation options, whilst those at budget prices don't include facilities such as tv's, refridgerators, etc., they are adequate and generally clean - though you should always ask to see the room before you accept it. In the accommodation section under each city we list quite a few accommodation options, please check through these as they will give you idea of the type of accommodation you will find travelling around Asia.
Regarding when to travel - generally SE Asia is warm to hot year round depending on where you go, the biggest factor is probably the degree of heat or the possibility of monsoons but this would depend on where you chose to go. We have a little information on our site about climates so please check it out.
As for your age, well I am 37 and have been travelling on and off in Asia for the last 12 years. You will meet all kinds of people from all age groups so that is not a problem either.
Check out a couple of Guidebooks and some websites - the Lonely Planet sight is quite good. Also Fodors have a tailor-made 'mini-guide' type site - however they only cover the major cities in Asia.
Good luck with your preparation, I'm sure you'll have a great trip.

? Dec. 98 sinikka jappinen, e-1-mail: sinikkajappinen@netscape.net
Travel in Malaysia & Indonesia
Can you tell me if it is possible to see Penang in Malaysia, take a train to Jerantut and spend a few days in Taman Negara and still have time for a cuple of days swimming in Dayang or Aur, all in two weeks? Could we fly parts of the trip? How much are the flight passes?
My friends are coming to KL in February - any idea how the weather is then?
If using trains/flights, how early one should book? Are a few days before enough?
Am spending my sabbatical in Indonesia and Malaysia - is it safe for a middle-aged blond female to travel solo through Kalimantan and Sarawak?


Answer from Andrea: I think that you can probably manage the itinerary within the two weeks, however, I am not familiar with much of the region you are planning to visit so you should confirm that elsewhere - have you tried the Lonely Planet Thorntree section? - http://www.lonelyplanet.com

The train from Penang doesn't go to Jerantut so you will have to think about that aspect of the trip. Penang to Kota Bharu by flight is roughly about $25+ (please confirm elsewhere), from Kota Bharu you can take the train down - it is supposed to be a pleasant trip.
Yes it is possible to fly, there is a special pass - you should check with Malaysian airways about it as you are usually expected to buy it outside of Malaysia and it gives up to 5 flights. It used to be $99 but you should confirm this and also the conditions. There is also a domestic departure tax
February in KL is usually hot, fine and dry.
With regard booking transport, usually it is okay but during holidays you will probably have to book ahead - Late February, early March is a holiday period.
With regard the issue of safety in Kalimantan and Sarawak - sorry I am unable to answer that question, I have no knowledge on these areas - another question for the Thorn Tree perhaps.
Sorry that I can't be of more help, good luck in your search, hope you have a good trip - we'd love to hear about it.

I Nov26, 98, Bangkok Post
Bangkok transport, Thailand
Skytrain update
Skytrain's projected running date- the Kings birthday next year...25,000+ passengers/hour...fare 25+baht...One line will run between Sukhumvit 77 and Mor Chit, A second line will run between Sathorn Bridge to the National Stadium...intersecting at Siam Square's Central Station...
Asian Games - Bangkok
Organisers reduced certain tickets by half...Four of six South Korean women's artistic gymnasts and a Japanese billiards player tested positive for drug use...

I Nov18, 98, Andrea itis@itisnet.com
Myanmar Visa in Bangkok:
Travel agents on the Khao San Road were not processing Burmese visa applications - late October 1998. Travellers had to go to the embassy in person to get them.

I Nov18, 98, Andrea itis@itisnet.com

Ko Chang/Trat, Thailand
Transport from Bangkok:
Personally, think you are better taking public transport, not the private minivans from the Khao San. The A/C is not adequate - you can't open windows some scary driving.I bought a ticket to Trat (200-250B) and was not taken to Trat.
The driver dropped off and picked up customers to/from Ko Samet en route and he was running late (despite driving as fast as he could - through redlights, overtaking on the inside lane) so he didn't bother to detour to drop me off in Trat, just went straight to the ferry point for Ko Chang. I assumed that he would take me to Trat after dropping everyone else at the pier but no. I was told to take a songthaew, 15B/p if it is full, 100B/car if it isn't. I was the only customer so the crowd of whisky drinking songthaew drivers wanted to charge me 100B. As I had just had a horrible 6hour drive with a maniac, getting into a songthaew driven by a drunk did not appeal. I went to the Tourist police office - no one there,
so popped next door to the Tourist Office, realised very quickly that they were unable to help (at least not the sort I wanted which was to help me convince the minibus driver to take me to Trat) so asked them the direction to Trat and said that I was going to hitch, and could they explain to me the route, they didn't understand so I said I was walking show me the way, 'NO, it's 18km, you can't' they exclaimed. I left, started walking, after a few minutes the tourist officer came up to me on his motorbike, "go back take Songthaew, one will leave in about an hour no problem".
I had no idea where I was, no idea how much traffic there would be (nothing had passed me up to then), thought perhaps I'm being stupid here, if the tourist officer was concerned enough to follow me, maybe this isn't sensible so I went back, but seeing the raucous whisky party still in progress, I instantly regretted it, whilst deciding what to do I put my hand out at a car approaching, the car stopped and a lovely Thai lady asked me in a perfect English accent "where are you going" Trat I replied, "Okay", problem resolved.
Accommodation in Trat: There are 4 traveller style hostels all within 100m of one another.
Foremost 80B/single, double 120B basic rooms, friendly staff, good travel info. Windy 50-100B/single, 100B double only has 5 rooms. Very popular, friendly staff, basic rooms, scenic location on the river, has a boat for the use of guests.
and 2 new ones -
NP, just down the road from Foremost, run by a friendly woman. Room prices seem to be flexible here,cheaper than Foremost and Windy. The 4th option, is a modern, recently built. It wasn't fully set up when I was there but was accepting guests. Room prices were very good value at 100B as the facilities were good and it is very clean, however I think the price will probably rise.

Food:
The night market is by far the best place to eat. An excellent place to try oyster omelet - 20B.

The Department Store in Sukhumvit Rd. sells water at 3B/bottle.
Internet: there is a computer shop offering internet facility but it's very expensive 40B to log on plus 8B/min, should get cheaper in the future.
Exchange: If you are heading to Ko Chang it is better to change money here. Several ATM's in the city.
Transport: The A/C buses to Bangkok East Terminal on Sukhumvit Rd,run from the center (opposite 7-11 store) approximately every hour from 7:00-23:00 169B,take about 6 hours, drinks and a cake served on route.
Boat to Ko Chang seems to cost 50B, on the return journey I took the fast boat and was also charged 50B for that one too.
Ko Chang:
Weather:
Still rainy season when I was there late October but for the last few days, the weather was hot and sunny during the day with heavy rain in the evenings.
Mosquitos are a problem, there is Malaria on the island, take precautions.
Water is expensive - 10B/bottle, not certain that it is legitimate, reports that some places are boiling water and passing it off as treated.
There are 3 main beaches on Ko Chang, the most developed and popular Hat Sai Khao - White Sands Beach.
There are several places offering book rental. The best I found was on Hat Sai beach, run by a Western woman. She has an excellent selection of contemporary fiction. You can find it across the small river, North from the Fisherman's restaurant.
Accommodation: Lots of bungalows, budget options range from 50B for very basic, located away from the sea to comfortable attractive huts for 300B. During the low season you can pay half price for some of the better quality, but high season started the end of October and prices went up.
The beach isn't so long so walk along, checking until you find what you want. At the far end of the beach, where there is no sand are some excellent value 100B bungalows.
!Warning, there were several robberies from huts on Hat Sai beach reported whilst I was there.
Food:
Wasn't impressed with the food options along the beach, the best value food I found was the simple noodle stall on the beach near the Fishermans restaurant.
The White Elephant is an excellent, justifiably popular restaurant on the main road about 10 minutes walk towards Khlong Phrao beach. The food is good, cheaper than most beach restaurants and the family running it are very hospitable - they offer all guests a cigarette on arrival and present them with bottles of water on departure.
Khlong Phrao beach:
Accommodation:
bungalow complexes are spread out so it is difficult to check out several particularly as there are also some non-budget ones. Better to get recommendations from other travellers beforehand.
KP bungalows currently seems to be getting a lot of recommendations from travellers, but I thought the bungalows were overpriced at 100B. They are basic, rundown, no fans, and there is no security - broken windows. The restaurant is mediocre,(though other guests seemed to like it)it has a relaxing atmosphere and is social. One attraction is that the complex has the beach to itself and it is in a lovely scenic setting - a coconut grove. Mosquitos are horrendous though so take precautions.


I Nov, 98, various media
Nov/ Festivals/Events - Thailand:
1- 5th Loi Krathong Festival throughout Thailand, main celebrations at
Sukhothai, Chiang Mai...
2- 4th Yi Peng in Chiang Mai...
13 - 15th Nakhon Ratchasima-Phimai Long Boat Races....
14-15th Elephant Round-Up, Surin...
26 - Dec 7 River Kwai Bridge Week...

I Oct 29,98, Frank
Vietnam
Transport from Airport - Hanoi:
If you are arriving in the Airport of Hanoi you don"t have to use the taxis only. You can ask for a ticket with a minibus to the city for US$4. You have to pay in Dollar Notes.There is a counter in the arriving hall near to where you pick up your luggage. I arrived there in June when I had a domestic flight.
In the city there is a meeting point for collecting people heading to the airport, but I didn't use it.
Accommodation: In the old city of Hanoi you can find a lot of hotels but small hotels.
Please be careful of the motorbike drivers because they get US$2 commission. It is better to go by your
self to the hotel or get of the bike near the near the hotel so you may get a better rate.
The cheapest hotel listed in the Lonely Planet is not open. Sorry I forget the name. But near this hotel in the same street you will find hotels for about US$20 per night.

I Nov. 98, Michele (On The Road friend from Laos currently in Australia)
Update on Indonesia: (More to follow soon)
Itinerary:
Arrived in Belawan from Malaysia (Penang) by hydrofoil boat - to Medan and went further on to Bukit Lawang -
Recommendation: Orang Utan Rehab Centre, then on to Berastagi (climbed Volcano Sibayak - my first volcano, really nice) - on to Lake Toba (basically just very cheaply relaxing) - 15 hrs in a bus to
Bukittingi (good base for some exploring around B.Tingi) - 30 hrs in an
executive deluxe bus to Jakarta (bustling 10 million people metropolis,
dirty but has some interesting stuff) - Bandung (spent just one day) -
Yogyakarta (worth visiting, although it's a bit too touristy for me, excellent base for Borobudur and Prambanan) - Solo (similar to Yogya but way less touristy and the kratons are nicer) - Surabaya (big shopping centres) Recommendation: Cemoro Lawang (Mount Bromo): the best place in Indonesia (where I've been) - breathtaking scenery, don't miss it! - Bali (big disappointment for me, just stayed in "quiet" Ubud though (Ubud has over 300
guesthouses, etc...) - Lombok (Senggigi, nice beach) - 24 hrs of travelling to Labuanbajo on Flores (base for Komodo and Rinca Islands
Recommendation:for the Komodo dragons - a must see: I saw about 6 of these amazing beasts!) - Ruteng (just 1 night) - Moni (for Keli Mutu: 3 different coloured volcanic lakes) - Ende (waiting for 15 hour boat trip to Kupang on WEST-Timor) - in Kupang I waited a couple of days before flying to Oz.

I Henk and Anneke Diekema.
Vietnam: Recommendations
HCMC
is good for 4/5 days. Visit Cholon. Make trip to Mekong Delta 3 days. We booked in KIM CAFE (De ThamStreet) very well organized and cheap; but there are more. Visit CuChi tunnels and Cao Dai temple (1 day). Total 9 days will do.
Try to visit HoiAn (many tourists); fly to Danang; take car to HoiAN 30 km. Try visit Hanoi (old quarter!) ; and tour to Sapa/BacHa; we loved it. It is cheap to fly: HCMC-Danang ca. $50,-- pp. You can take the bus; is cheaper. The drive at night. Is very heavy.
Advice: HCMC+MekongDelta+Hanoi(Sapa/BacHA; in a weekend) fly home from Hanoi.
It is easy to travel in Vietnam. People are open and willing to help; speak good English. We visited Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia (Sulawesi and Kalimantan); Vietnam was easy.
Bargain for the price everywhere; ask for discount in hotels and better rates for money-change.
to email: Ask in big Post office (BUU DIEN) for TELTIC service. Ask them to fax email to your hotel when they receive email for you. Agree price.
Exchange: In small BUU DIEN people behind the counter change money for there own account and give good rates. Transport: Only take taxi with meter. Take airport-cab; do not take free drivers.
We flew from Hanoi to Hue, took car+driver to HoiAn (Danang); flew to NhaTrang and to HCMC. Locally we rented bikes and taxi and cyclo.
Write price on paper and let them see. People are quite honest; but are trying to earn a living; who can blame them. Do not get mad at the many children that CONSTANTLY try to sell you everything.
We loved best the contact with local people. My wife takes little things (toys, soaps) and clothes to give away. We like best to get off the beaten road; contact is very good.
Never say NO to a Vietnamese when they try to sell; they wont accept. Say: 'Maybe later'.
There is so much to tell. My wife has 400 fotos and I made 10 hrs video. The guide (Tranh Sanh; we have his address) was a sociable guy; relaxed and not the type that drags you around to the next stop where he wanted to hear his own story. (We dont like guides!)

I News in Thailand Nov 98
Thailand
According to this week's Bangkok Post....Police claimed they were cracking down on taxi drivers who
jigger their meters to cheat riders....
Events this week in Thailand:Nov 1-3 Loi Krathong, In honour of Goddess of Water Candles & flowers are floated in small model boats on river.Upcoming events in Thailand: Dec 3 Trooping of the Color at Royal Plaza near the Statue of King Chulalongkorn... Dec 5 King's Birthday - Illuminations at the Grand Palace..Dec 6 Asian Games opening ceremony...

I 98.10.30:6-chan(route66@mail.webnik.ne.jp)
Laos New Info
It is possible to enter Laos in the next day when you arrive at BKK in the evening. I arrived at BKK airport 21:15 and took a night train to Nong Khai(Train may be delayed). Go directly to the bridge don't go to the town of Nong Kai. I got a visa at BS tour for $70, but you can get a visa at the bridge for $51. You can enter Laos just after noon.
Exchange
Official rate: $1=4150kip(changed everyday)
market rate $1=4500kip(in Vientiane)
Price of goods(prices in Vientiane higher than in local cities)
pepsi700-1000kip, Pho(noodle in the morning)2000kip
beer Laos 2000kip, postcard 500-700kip
T-shirt 7000kip, drinking water 500kip
Transport
Bus:
Vientiane to Luang Pranbang(13000kip 10hrs)
Luang Prabang to Vientiane(16000kip,10hrs)
Vientiane to Pakxe(15000kip,18hrs)
Muang Khong to Pakxe(5000kip, 4.5hrs)
(buy a ticket on bus)
Boats:
Pakxe to Muang Khong(4000kip,8hrs)
Khone island tour include 2 water falls(35000kip,additional moter bike 10000kip)
Tuk-tuk
in cities 1000kip
From Luang Prabang to Tad Kouang waterfalls(30,000kip)
Muang Sean to Munag Khong(7,000kip)

I Travelers notes:Foremost GH, Trat Oct. 98
Border Crossing Thailand - Cambodia
Transport to Cambodia
Blue Songthaew to Klong Yai - 35B, From Kong Yai to Had Lek 20b, get exit stamp here. Must have a Cambodian visa to continue on to Koh Kong, CANNOT Get it at the border. (Not necessary to have a Thai visa coming the other way)
Boat to Koh Kong 50B (car 40B?) from Koh Kong boat to Kompong Som 500B, 5hrs (Apparently the boat in the opposite direction leaves at 10:30 costs 400B
or boat to Srey Albel 300B, 4hrs, can get to Phnom Penh from either of these places, route via Srey Ambel is cheaper and shorter, but it is a very quiet town.

I Brandon, Sept. 98
Bangkok's "World's Largest Restaurant" Thailand
Heeding the Thailand guide's seemingly positive review of the two huge restaurants in Bangkok, some travel acquaintances and I headed to the Royal Dragon (AKA Mang Gorn Luang.) It is supposedly the largest restaurant in the world (I think) with servers on rollerskates, etc.
Just a warning to fellow readers: we thought it was extremely over-rated in both quality of food and service and spectacle. And we felt the staff were deceitful in charging us.
When we arrived for lunch we saw no more than five other customers as far as we could see in any direction and it was
12:00 noon. There were only a few disgruntled waiters in what really just seemed to be a huge plaza consisting of many different restaurants (perhaps each with the same menu thus the claim as the largest restaurant). As soon as we sat down we were offered wonderful frozen towels to wipe our hands and faces on a sweltering day. Later we would learn that they weren't an extra little touch of service. We were charged for them later.When two of us ordered a cola we were brought a bucket of colas and ice, all of which we were charged for even though we only ordered TWO colas.
Also, before we even had a chance to look at the menu a cart full of dim sum was offered knowing that we were hungry and had traveled a good way to get there we wouldn't be able to resist jacking up our bill a little more. (This is the most forgivable offense of the day)
At one point, when we were quite disppointed with and couldn't eat the Lonely Planet-recommended steamed curry seafood in a bamboo leaf, we decided to order one more side dish. We explicitly said "one" order of spring rolls and I clearly stated and indicated that two of us would share the order. The waitress brought us TWO orders and was very rude when we told her we only ordered and wanted one! She said "NO SHARING IS ALLOWED!"(in perfect English) but we told her that we had wanted to share one. For a while she refused my suggestion to put the second order on the dim sum cart and when she finally did she was quite rude about it. She and the other waiters standing nearby were looking at us and mumbling in disgust.
To top it off, when we received our check, it included the towels, the extra colas, and the second side dish, all of which we hadn't requested. My clever Australian companion quitely adjusted the bill with an ink pen and we paid what we felt we owed. It wasn't that much money we saved but it was the Principle.

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