Himalaya Trekking Team

Himalaya Trekking Team

The last time I did any serious trekking was in 2008 when I went to Vietnam. We spent five days hiking through the lush green rice paddys. It was an amazing experience.

To satisfy my much needed desire to go trekking again I don my walking shoes and walk anywhere I can. And that happens to be the many streets of Bangkok. But this is not real trekking. It’s simply walking. Walking a long way but still simply walking; I just like to say I hiked or trekked somewhere, it sounds more impressive that just walking.

One of these days I will embark on more trekking. It’s something I love to do. To be out in the fresh air, testing your endurance, seeing wonderful sights along the way. It really is a wonderful feeling.

Now, Nepal is a country that I have wanted to go to for a while. I have heard only good things about this place. For one thing, it’s home to the highest mountain on earth; Mount Everest’s peak is 8,848 metres above sea level. It’s also the birthplace of the Lord Buddha and the land of the yeti. Who wouldn’t want to go and experience what Nepal has to offer.

That’s where Himalaya Trekking Team come in.

The company was established in 2010 and is owned and operated by experienced guides with many years of trekking under their belt. The company offers itself as an “authentic and reliable trekking agency,”  and is one of the leading trekking companies in Nepal.

My friend, Uttam Adhikari, co-founder and executive director of Himalaya Trekking Team, tells me:

“All of the team members are very familiar with the nature and culture of Nepal. We strive to instill respect for our country and its sacred mountains. We take pride in doing our part to preserve its natural beauty; the way of life of its people and its rich cultural heritage.

The Himalaya Trekking Team is dedicated to providing excellent and personalized service. Together with you, we carefully plan and supply all the information necessary for your safety, comfort and enjoyment.”

Himalaya Trekking Team offer a number of trekking and tour packages in Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. Trekking is not the only adventure you can embark on. They also have bungee jumping, rafting, mountain biking and jungle safaris on offer.

The website gives lots of information about the different countries and the treks and tours available in each one. You can find out what’s included and what’s not included for individual tours, group size, the difficulty of the trek and trip highlights. There is also information about the types of trekking available and when the best time of year is to go.

But don’t take my word for it check out the website for yourselves. If you have never been trekking before and want to embark on a new adventure, or you are a seasoned trekker but not in this part of the world feel free to contact them for more information before you decide. They will help you plan and get the most out of your trip.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link, which means that I may get commission if you decide to purchase anything from Himalaya Trekking Team. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.

Himalaya Trekking Team

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Thai Culture Guide

thai-culture-guide

I was invited to write about a new website that proposes to “Understand Thailand and Thai people better.” In order to do that the website offers 49 essential lessons to understand Thai culture.

Sam, who was born in Chiang Mai, obviously knows a lot about Thai culture; he is Thai. He also has many western friends and has spent time in the US so he is aware of the many differences there are between both cultures. Thai Culture Guide was launched in the hope that people can understand each other better, whether that is for daily social interactions if you are on vacation or whether you have decided to make Thailand your home and have a Thai partner and/or friends.

Do you know why Thais love to smile? Or the correct way to wai to greet, say thanks or apologise to someone?

Find out how Thais name themselves or why it’s hard for some Thais to understand English.

You can also learn the more intriguing aspects, such as dealing with Kreng Jai and the dos and don’ts of Thai culture.

Superstitions, the Thai family structure, giving and receiving gifts, dating, lady-boys, and losing face are among the lessons. Everything from the basic to the more in-depth has been covered in this online guide to understanding the culture.

Each lesson includes an explanation of the different aspect of Thai culture and, in most lessons, there is a scenario and possible reactions to that situation. Then each reaction is commented on giving the correct or incorrect way of doing things. Check out Lesson 1 : Smile. At the end of the lessons there are further tips and facts to help with your understanding.

As well as lessons there are interviews that support some of the lessons. In the videos, people are giving their own opinions about subjects such as dating in Thailand and having good manners.

Thai Culture Guide is a new concept and one that is a working progress, so expect more and more lessons to be added. In fact, Sam invites visitors to suggest who he should interview and also to come up with more topics to be included.

As I was going through the lessons I learned a few things that I didn’t know before;

  • When it comes to names, certain alphabet characters are never used for children born on a Monday. It’s considered bad luck.
  • Just as the head is regarded as the highest and most sacred part of the body, books are also classed as high objects, so putting your feet on or sitting on a book is considered impolite.
  • There are different laundry lines for different types of clothes. The highest line is for items that are worn above the waist, such as shirts and blouses. A lower line is used for pants, skirts, sarongs, lingerie, and socks.
  • The thumbs up gesture means a person is angry, not, as it means in the west, a good sign.
  • Saying “Na-kliat na chang” (ugly kid) to the kid makes sure that an evil spirit won’t take the baby away for being too cute or beautiful.
  • It’s bad luck to cut hair on Wednesdays, so most barbers and hairdressers are closed.
  • Thais don’t leave home if they hear a gecko call. It’s bad luck.
  • Giving handkerchiefs as a gift is deemed bad luck; the belief is that it will be used to dry away tears.

The website is simple and easy to navigate and there is lots of information on Thai culture. Whether you check out the lessons one by one or just look at the ones that interest you, you will definitely learn some things that you never knew before. For me, it gave me a better understanding on how Thais think and act and made me think about how I behave in certain situations.

The lessons can be viewed on the Thai Culture Guide website or they can be downloaded as an ebook. Membership costs $19 for the Thai Culture Guide Pro package which gives you access to all 49 lessons.

The Thai culture I find myself living in is so very different from my own and it’s a culture that isn’t always easy to understand, for both parties. But this new and different guide to Thailand is a helpful and useful resource for both newcomers and expats alike.

thai-culture-guide

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link, which means that I may get a commission if you decide to purchase the Thai Culture Guide Pro package. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.

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The World’s Gone Mad

The world’s gone mad with technology. Everywhere you go people are glued to their devices like their life depended on it. Nobody is making conversation, everyone is on their phones; checking in, checking out, checking feeds, checking tweets; just in case we’re going to miss something.

The World's Gone Mad, talkingthailand.co.uk

Like we are going to miss anything. Statuses like “just had the most amazing dinner” or “just got back from the gym.” Yes, the second one was me!

The World's Gone Mad, talkingthailand.co.uk

Where we have been; where we are going; where we have checked into; photos; comments; likes- it’s all crazy. It’s like we live our lives through social media.

Everyone has internet on their devices. And, until recently, I didn’t. I was happy to log onto the WiFi connection which most places have these days. I never wanted to be online 24/7.  I have a friend who thought I was crazy. He still does, but he was always telling me to get internet on my phone. “Get with the 21st century” he told me. “No, I don’t think I will!” I used to say. I liked being out of touch for a while. But now, even I have succumbed to it. I have gotten with the 21st century. Do I like it? Mmm, shall we say I am getting used to it.

I must say one thing in its defence, it is handy for finding your way somewhere using Google maps. Although, I still like to have a printed copy of the map in my hand so I can find my way to somewhere new. I don’t know why, I’m just old school. Or maybe just old?

However did we manage when we didn’t have mobile phones? When we had to use the house phone to speak to our friends or meet them at a place previously arranged. There was a time when we had to go and knock on friend’s doors to speak to them. I am far too young to remember doing that, ahem!

When we go out with friends they are half listening to what you’re saying because they are distracted by that device that appears to be attached to them. And God forbid that device beeps or vibrates, you become second best. The conversation is halted and you have to wait until they are finished, and then the conversation is forgotten. I find it very off-putting sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I have been guilty of using my phone in company before now but it’s time to leave it alone for five minutes. Five minutes, that is all. Engage in the conversation around you. Don’t forget your human friends.

 

The World's Gone Mad, talkingthailand.co.uk

What do you think? 😉

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Cheap Charlie’s Bar; probably the smallest bar in Bangkok

This little bar has been going for around 34 years. Located just off Soi 11, it isn’t even a bar, in the normal sense of the word, i.e. with a roof and windows. Rather it’s just an “L” shaped counter with the prices of drinks carved into wood and a toy sky-train making its way around the mish-mash of strange, yet wonderful artefacts.

Cheap Charlie's Bar, Bangkok

There are a few tables and chairs in front of the bar but unless you get there when it opens, at 5.00pm, it’ll likely be standing room only. And watch out if you step outside the chain, which is laid on the floor to mark Charlie’s boundaries. The “bouncer” lady will be on you like a shot.

Cheap Charlie's Bar, Bangkok

Cheap Charlie’s is a haven for expats and tourists wanting to enjoy a drink or two. And why not? The drinks are all 80 baht each. Yes, ALL 80 baht each, with the exception of wine which is 100 baht. You won’t find those prices anywhere else in Bangkok!

Cheap Charlie's Bar, Bangkok

But it’s not just for the drinks that people go there. Most people are happy to strike up a conversation and while away a few pleasant hours. It’s a great place to hang out and meet new friends or have fun with old ones. It’s just, simply charming.

Recently, Cheap Charlie’s received notice that the lease would not be renewed in March 2017. Apparently, the land has been sold to make way for yet another hotel or condominium. Ekkachai Budkajang, son and partner of the original owner, Satit Budkajang is, according to Coconuts, Bangkok, hoping to look for a new home for Cheap Charlie’s but doesn’t know whether the bar will survive a move. It might not be the same in a different location.

In my opinion, I think he should try. Bangkok doesn’t need any more hotels or condominiums. It needs to keep places like Cheap Charlie’s. And even though it is probably Bangkok’s smallest bar, it has more character and charm than ten hotels and condominiums put together.

Open: 5.00 pm to 11.30pm

Address: 7, 2/7 Soi Sukhumvit 11, Khwaeng Khlong Toei Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110

Closest BTS: Nana

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Sukhumvit, Soi 11, Bangkok; Short Observations

There are literally hundreds of places in Bangkok where you can go to have fun; dinner, drinks, clubbing, whatever takes your fancy.
I only discovered Soi 11 five years ago. Until then Bangkok, as I knew it, was confined to Khao San Road. A similar environment but the clientele there are younger and there are more backpackers. These days, Soi 11 is one of the places I go to the most, whether that’s out with friends during the evening or to have lunch on my day off.
Sukhumvit Soi 11, Bangkok
Soi 11 is a small, narrow street off Sukhumvit Road and it is filled with all kinds of bars, restaurants, and hotels. So, like Khao San Road, there is always lots of activity going on. If you choose to sit and watch the world pass by­, a pleasant way to spend time in itself­, this is a good spot for it.
Sukhumvit Soi 11, Bangkok
Soi 11 is also home to many different cuisines. You can eat Thai, Indian, Mexican or have a good old full English breakfast. There are many kinds of bars too. An Irish bar, an Australian bar, a jazz bar and wine bars dotted along the street.  Most bars offer happy hours between 4­-8pm which is fabulous in my book. I love a good happy-hour or four! Also, some of the bars have ladies nights, where the ladies can take advantage of the buy one get one free promotions. Sorry guys! Ladies only. 😉 I think they should have a men’s night too, it’s only fair.
One particular day, I decided I was going to put my observation skills to the test. So I sat with my drink and surreptitiously looked around me. I love that word by the way. It was only about 4.00 o’clock in the afternoon so there weren’t many people in the bar; 5 to be exact, not including me. All passing the time of day with a drink of their choice in hand. To my right, there was a couple­ supping their drinks and waiting for their food to arrive. Another customer was alone, drinking his pint of Guinness, as he watched the world go by.
Two guys sitting near the back; one wearing a purple checked shirt, and the other, my observation skills lacking because I didn’t notice what he was wearing or drinking. But I did notice that he was staring at me because I kept looking over to make my observations, not very surreptitiously! So that was the end of that! The things I do to amuse myself. 😉

Khao San Road

The infamous Khao San Road. For most people, even if they have never been to Thailand, one of the things they have heard of is this tiny street in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok. Whether you have only heard of it or whether you or your friends have visited already, one thing is for sure, when you get to Thailand you may, at some point, spend a few days there. It is smaller than you imagine; all this talk about it, and when you see it, it is basically like any other small street in Bangkok, except it is one crazy place.

Street Life, Bangkok
Khao San Road

It is flanked on both sides by a myriad of bars and restaurants, most opening from early in the morning to very late in the evening, so whatever you want to eat, drink or do, you won’t have to walk very far to get your kicks.

There are jewellery shops, massage parlours and spas, 7-11’s; restaurants from all corners of the globe, Thai, Indian, middle eastern, western. Stalls selling everything from clothes and shoes; music and books; quirky souvenirs; beautiful candles and prints; and electrical goods.

You can have your hair cut or braided; you can get a tattoo, real or fake; you can get a manicure; there are locals and tourists, taxi’s, tuk-tuks, dogs, cats, geckos, and even the odd squirrel, who scampers along the overhead cables of the chaotic electricity system. The place is a constant hive of activity.

Street Life, Bangkok
Khao San Road

As with many places, Khao San Road looks different during the day than at night. During the day it is much more relaxed. Everyone is just going about their business. Taxi and tuk-tuk drivers trying to get their next passenger, tourists getting massages, locals eating lunch, people shopping. Indeed, while the sun is up it has a much calmer feeling. But once the sun starts to go down and the neon lights come to life, the place begins to fill up with the night shift; the merrymakers and the partygoers. The music gets turned up, everywhere! It is an attack on the senses, your eyes are drawn to the many things going on, your nose picks up the wonderful, and not-so wonderful, smells and you feel a sense of excitement, or anxiety, as you take it all in.

Street Life, Bangkok
Khao San Road

As you enter any one of the various drinking and eating establishments, the staff greet you with the customary “wai”- a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion. Thai people are very polite and generous and, as they tend to your requests for whatever you would like to eat or drink, engage them in conversation and you will make a friend for life.

Street Life, Bangkok
Khao San Road

Bangkok is such a huge city but wherever you end up, be sure to visit this small part of this wonderful city; there is something for everyone on this little street.

 

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Getting Over Jet Lag

Going on holiday? Taking a long haul flight? There is no getting away from the dreaded jet lag. The disruption of the body’s normal circadian rhythm, as a result of flying, can make it seem like you haven’t slept in weeks. You feel spaced out, almost delirious in your actions and speech, and it can last anything from one day to several days, depending on whether you travel from east to west or west to east. Here is my (tongue in cheek) guide to getting over it.

Getting Over Jet Lag

1. Don’t fly with a hangover or have little sleep the day before a flight. Instead, do the boring, ahem, I mean sensible thing and invest in a blindfold, a neck cushion, ear plugs or a blow up pillow or all of those things. 😉

2. Night flights can be better because you would naturally be sleeping during the night. Once they have fed and watered you, the window shades are down so it is fairly dark, so you should be able to get some sleep. Unless, that is, your neighbour has decided to read the whole way and has the light on above you. 😉

3. If you are struggling to drift off lay your head on your fellow passenger’s shoulder. I am sure they won’t mind. 😉

4. If you can’t sleep, and said neighbour does mind, take advantage of the free booze. That always helps! 😉

5. Make sure you drink plenty of water before landing, that free booze will make you very dehydrated. 😉

6. Get up several times during the flight to walk around. This helps to reduce the effects of jet lag although will increase your neighbour’s annoyance, even if they don’t show it. 😉

7. Set your clock to your destination’s local time. The confusion, when you are working out how long it is until you land, will make you sleepy. 😉

8. Once at your destination try to stay awake until your normal bedtime. Even if that means showing your parents, friends or relatives 500 + photographs of your trip, to the point of them falling asleep. 😉

9. The day after landing, sleep until you can sleep no more. 😉

10. If all fails, just continuing drinking until you collapse into oblivion. At least you will have had a few hours kip before arriving. Just don’t blame me for the horrendous hangover you will have. Believe me, I have been there!  😉 😉

Getting Over Jet Lag

 

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The Khlongs of the River of Kings

The trip around the khlongs is a must do when you are in Bangkok. I have done this a few times with friends and each time is like the first time. There are many things to see and be amazed at.

You step aboard a long tail boat, covered, to provide some protection from the sun. There is room enough for 8-10 people, although every time I have been on this trip we have basically had the boat more or less to ourselves. The cost of the trip is between 500-700 baht and it lasts a good hour and a half and, after the tour has finished, you even get the choice of getting dropped off at a different pier if you are planning to do more sightseeing.

Once you cross the busy Chao Phraya River, or River of Kings, you enter the much calmer canals and backwaters. If you take the tour from Phra Athit, you will pass the Royal Navy base and the Royal Barge Museum, where the kings’ barges are kept when not in use. The barges are beautifully decorated with some sort of mythical creature at the head. The barges are used normally in religious and royal ceremonies which have taken place just 16 times during the reign of the current king.

Khlongs of Bangkok
Royal Barge Museum. Photograph courtesy of http://www.thaismile.jp/FotoGallary/ThaiPics/e_ThaiPhoto_Bangkok2.html
Khlongs of Bangkok
Royal Barge Museum. Photograph courtesy of http://auswathai.activeboard.com/t41841670/bangkok-klong-bangkok-noi/

At certain points of the trip the driver slows down so you can take pictures of the houses and temples on either side. Before the metropolis of Bangkok sprang up, this is how the Thai people lived, and many still do. It is interesting to see how they have continued their lives amidst the modern city that is all around them. Along the way you see families going about their daily business, whether that’s fishing, doing the laundry, or taking their daily bath. Some of the houses are nothing more than wooden shacks and some are modern villas, with a wooden gangplank to allow access to and from the residences. However authentic this style of living is, modern gadgets have crept in, and a lot of the houses have satellite dishes and post boxes. Something that has caused a little bemusement from two of my visitors in the past.

Further on, the driver slows again and a lady, in a much smaller boat, comes alongside the long tail boat and asks if you want to buy her wares. On her boat there are all manner of things to buy and she will even ask you if you want to buy a can of beer for your driver, at a hugely inflated rate I might add. He never says no! Somewhere in the past these women have learned that the boats bring foreigners who will probably buy something from her, and why not? I wonder if the driver and the lady are in partnership, but in any case it all adds to the experience of your day.

Further up, on a small jetty, you will find people selling loaves of bread. Strange thing, but you buy a loaf anyway wondering why on earth you would need a loaf of bread whilst on a boat trip. All becomes clear when the water starts to churn with hundreds of huge cat fish waiting to be fed. There are loads of them and your loaf of bread disappears in seconds.

Khlongs of Bangkok
Photograph courtesy of Jamie Ruane

Another creature that lives in these water ways is the Asian Water Monitor (Varanus salvator.) The first time you see one in the water you immediately think of a crocodile because it moves the same way in the water and they are as big as one. These things are huge, about 6 feet from head to tip of their tail, and you will see them sunning themselves on the stone banks where they live in close proximity to the people.

Khlongs of Bangkok

Khlongs of Bangkok
Photograph courtesy of Jamie Ruane

You can also choose whether to have a guide or not. The trips that I have been on have been mostly without one, which is fine as the driver slows down or stops when he sees you are taking photographs. But I have also been on a tour in a larger boat with a guide up front telling you what the different sights are. These are a little more expensive; around 1000 baht upwards.  I remember, at one point of the trip the boat was waiting for the sluice gates to open so we could continue up the canal. While we were waiting, the guide felt compelled to tell us all the things that Bangkok had to offer. I chuckled to myself because she went from steamed rice, to tours, to the Rose Garden (a cultural show) and back to steamed rice again. She was like a walking advertisement. Bless her, it was all interesting stuff but she repeated herself loads either out of the uncomfortable silence that had loomed over our boat, or because she was generally proud of what her city had to offer. I like to think it was the latter.

Khlongs of Bangkok
Photograph courtesy of Jamie Ruane

Pick up a canal tour boat at either Phra Athit Pier or SapanTaksin Pier.

 

Khlongs of Bangkok

Khlongs of Bangkok

Another day in Phra Nakhon

I love this neighbourhood. I have been here so many times and it is the one place that I will happily return to. This day my friends and I had a grand old time. What was supposed to be a day of coffee, eating, and ending the day with a bottle of whiskey to share, turned into a “let’s have a glass of red wine or five, and the rest of the plans go out of the window” day. Don’t you just love the spontaneity of things sometimes?!

We had a plan of where we were going but this area is a great place to explore and, as such, it always takes us a bit longer to reach anywhere because I am forever stopping to take photographs of something or someone.

Now what is this guy doing?

Phra Nakhon, Bangkok

Ah, now I see..

Phra Nakhon, Bangkok

So many different things to see

Some art at Chomp! The Comfort Cafe, on Samsen Road. A welcome lunch and culture spot. Before we got to Chomp our plans where somewhat still in place. But one wine in and this is where our plans went out of the window. 🙂

More walking around, more photograph opportunities.

The usual suspects.

Find out more about Phra Nakhon:

A Day Out in Phra Nakhon

Phra Nakhon