Thailand

Bangkok Folk Museum

The Bangkok Folk Museum is tucked down Charoenkrung Road, Soi 43, and it’s a great place to spend an hour or so. It was built in 1937 and was the home of the Suravadee family during World War II. There are three buildings to explore; the first one is where the family lived and you can see the living area, the dining room, library and bedrooms. The beauty is that they have been kept just as they were when the family lived there all those years ago. There is a dressing table and a washing bowl, old photographs and dining sets, all of which give a fabulous understanding of how they lived their lives.

Outside is a gorgeous little garden full of leafy green trees and plants, and a pond with a fountain in the middle.

The second building is just as beautiful. It was intended to be the clinic and living quarters of a Dr Francis Christian, who was the stepfather of the owner, but he died before moving in. His medical equipment is displayed in cabinets and his four poster bed is upstairs.

The third building is full of old artefacts; old brushes, sewing kits, cigar boxes, cooking utensils, magazines, and money. It’s a real treasure trove.

Finally, a fabulous collection of photographs of Bangkok, and some of the notable people who have lived in the city.

For more photographs of Bangkok Folk Museum go to morrisophotography 🙂

 

One of My Best Travel Moments

Best Travel Moment
Family and Friends

One of my best travel moments was when I went travelling in 2008, and my friends had come to visit me in Thailand. What I didn’t know was that my friends had been plotting with my family for my folks to come and visit me for my birthday.

My friends and I had arrived on Koh Phi Phi and little did I know that, on the day of my birthday, my family was en route to the island to surprise me. When we woke up, we had breakfast and one of my friends went off to sort out a hotel for her friend that was arriving later that day, or so she told me, what she was actually doing was meeting my family off the boat.

A little while later, she called me to arrange to meet her at a bar for a few birthday drinks. When we got there, we ordered a drink and a few minutes later my mum, sister, brother and my brothers’ friend arrived. I had my back to them, so when I turned round and saw them, you can imagine my reaction. I was lost for words, in fact I recall saying “What the f…..g hell are you doing here?” My mum allows swear words in times of excitement!

I really had no clue that they were coming, it was such a fabulous birthday surprise, and after rounds of hugs and kisses, we all shared the most wonderful day. We had a fabulous week all together, enjoying boat rides, snorkelling in the blue sea around the islands, sunsets, and evenings of delicious food and drink.

All too soon, they were heading home, but it was one of the best travel moments of my life, and I will always remember it. I’m so thankful for my friends and family for conspiring in, what turned out to be, the best birthday I’ve ever had!

What’s one of your best travel moments? 🙂

Bang Poo Nature Reserve

If you’re in Bangkok and fancy a day out head to Bang Poo Nature Reserve. It’s not that far, and it’s great for bird-watching.

Bang Poo Nature Reserve, Bangkok

I went there with a friend in September and, to be honest, it isn’t the most attractive places and, apart from a jetty with a restaurant at the far end, there isn’t much there. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a few hours tramping around the mangroves and pathways. In parts, there are elevated walkways that take you through the mangroves and end with views of the Gulf of Thailand.

There are a fair few species of birds and, although this area may not be an obvious birding location, over a 100 different species have been spotted there.

 

It’s a great day out. Enjoy the birds and the nature 🙂

 

 

 

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Going it Alone

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/alone

Recently, I mentioned to a male friend of mine that I was going to see a movie and he asked, “Is it a date?”

I replied “Yes, a date with myself.”

His reply, “Oh, man. You’re going alone?”

His reply made me chuckle to myself. I don’t know whether he found it hard to understand that I would even contemplate going out by myself or that he felt sorry for me.

I started doing things alone when I first went travelling 12 years ago. If you choose to travel solo you don’t have much choice. Yes, I met people and it was fantastic, I have some wonderful memories of those people and times. But, equally when you are alone you don’t have anyone to worry about. You can go where you want, when you want and do whatever you please.

The very first time I dined alone was in Kuala Lumpur in one of the hotel’s restaurants. I recall feeling a little self conscious and was thinking that everyone was looking at me because I was alone. They weren’t. I was made even more self-conscious when a group of musicians came over and sang to me. Maybe they felt sorry for me too. But I ended up not caring and left with a huge smile on my face.

Then, when I was travelling around Thailand, I met a woman called Sophia in Bangkok. She was travelling alone and I started chatting to her because my family and friends had just left me and I was feeling a little out of sorts. She really cheered me up and I will always remember what she told me. She said that doing things alone is very empowering.

Now, my home is in Bangkok and I go out everywhere alone. I have friends here but my working schedule means that it is not always possible to meet them. I take to the streets and wander around taking photographs, go to the movies, have lunch or dinner in my favourite bars, go to art galleries, or I just stay home and write, paint or cook, whatever takes my fancy. I have learned to love my own company. What Sophia told me was true; being alone and actually loving it is a surefire way to boost your confidence.

Start small. Next time you agree to meet your mate at a bar. Don’t wait outside. Instead, go and ensconce yourself at the bar and order yourself a large drink. It’s a great feeling!

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/alone
Pegasus Reef Hotel, Sri Lanka

Bus Baby

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/busbaby

I have lived in Thailand for a few years now and there have been a few things that have caused me to raise my eyebrows; motorbikes on pavements, family picnics in Tesco’s car park, five people on one motorbike. You know, things that you don’t normally see in your own country. I think the most recent crazy thing I saw tops all of those things.

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/busbaby

One evening, on my way home from work, I couldn’t believe my eyes and I had to look twice but as I got on the bus I could have sworn the driver was holding a baby! There was, dear God, a one year old baby, laughing merrily in the arms of the driver.

I thought to myself, surely he isn’t going to drive with the baby in his arms. How could he? He needs two hands for driving and the baby, being a baby, was doing the opposite of sitting still.

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/busbaby

Thankfully, before he drove off, he placed the baby next to him on the gear box cover. Not in a pram, oh no, on the gear box cover. Thankfully? Not! Not even strapped to anything, the poor mite could have gone flying if the driver had braked suddenly.

I got off at my stop, shaking my head in disbelief. There is not a lot of health and safety regulations, here in Thailand, and now it seems not a lot of common sense either. I am pretty sure that if this happened in the UK someone would say something but no-one says anything here. In fact, this 100% would not happen in the UK. However, it would have been useless for me to say something as the language barrier gets in the way and I would be deemed a crazy foreigner but even the Thais don’t, it’s not in their nature to confront even though they may feel the same as us.

Regardlessly, the baby seemed to be enjoying the ride and I’m sure he lived to gurgle the tale but COME ON!!

A Day Out in the Green Lung

Just a hop, skip and a jump from my place, actually more of a motorbike, BTS ride, taxi and boat journey to be exact, is Bang Krachao, otherwise known as the green lung of Bangkok. It’s a conservation area located in Phra Pradaeng district, so close to the city but it seems like a world away. There are no commercial businesses so the air is clean, imagine that in Bangkok, and, together with its lung shape, you can see where the name came from.

Bangkok's Green Lung
Source: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=85382

It’s a great way to spend a day away from the pollution, noise and chaos of the city. There are orchards, gardens, and forests to explore and you can do that by hiring a bicycle, which is what my friend and I did.

We got to Bang Na pier and took the regular boat service across the river, all of about 4 baht.

We hired a bicycle, a steal at 80 baht per day, and started exploring. The first place we went to was Bang Nampueng floating market, not so much a floating market, like the more touristy Damnoen Saduak, this one is more like a riverside market, where you can try traditional Thai food, sweets and fruit. There are also stalls selling clothes, DVDs and other things that you would normally find at these sort of places. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the charming atmosphere too. It was nice wandering around, but it wasn’t the market I wanted to see.

We got back on our bikes and cycled all the way to the Bhumibol Bridge, which I had seen from afar, but I wanted to see it up close. The bridge is part of the Industrial Ring Road, 13 km long, connecting Bangkok with Samut Prakan. I love a good bridge and this one didn’t disappoint, even from below, where we were standing, the cable-stayed spans and the diamond-shaped towers loomed above us. The bridge is really quite striking.

Bridge-fetish satisfied, we cycled onwards thinking that if we continued in the direction we were going, we would eventually end up back in the middle of Bang Krachao. Wrong! We cycled another 5 km or so before realising we had no real clue where we were, so we thought it would be best if we turned round and went back in the direction we had come from. It was fun though, we found ourselves cycling down unknown roads and narrow lanes, stopping along the way to have lunch, take photographs and check the map. I think the people we passed thought we were mad, particularly when we passed them again in an attempt to look like we knew where we were going!

Eventually, we made it back and cycled to Sri Nakhon Khuankhan Botanical Gardens. It is really pretty, with tropical trees, flowers, a large pond and several walking and cycling paths. Many people go there to enjoy the nature and relaxed surroundings.

Once we got back to the pier, we clocked up how many kilometres we had cycled, a, not too shabby, 50 or so. We were so tired, what with the heat and the cycling around all day, but it was a fabulous day out and one to be repeated sometime soon.

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone has a fantastic time with your families and friends. Enjoy each other 🙂

 

Koh Kret and Fresh Market; A Day Out With TakeMeTour

A few weeks ago, I went on a tour to Koh Kret with TakeMeTour, a tour company based in Bangkok. I was met by Chantima at Saphan Taksin pier at 8.30am and we travelled by boat to Nonthaburi Pier.

It’s such a lovely journey from Saphan Taksin to Nonthaburi. There are many wonderful sights along the way; plush hotels, people’s homes, churches, temples, bridges and much more. I am easily pleased whenever I take a trip along the river. You can tell when you are leaving Bangkok because the buildings are replaced with open spaces and green vegetation. It takes just under an hour to reach Nonthaburi.

Upon arrival in Nonthaburi, we walked a short way from the pier to the large fresh market where we wandered passed stalls selling everything you could think of; fresh fruit, vegetables and fresh fish and meat. Also for sale are chicken feet, pig’s head and trotters, and entrails from various animals. When you walk through these places in Thailand it is interesting to see that of the animals they sell and, ultimately cook and eat, all the parts are used.

There are also live animals; eels, frogs, turtles and fish which can be bought and used in a variety of Thai dishes. I saw one of the fish try to escape by flipping itself onto the ground. All to no avail though as it was soon caught and returned to its shallow watery grave to await its fate.

Interesting maybe, but, for me, not that desirable and slightly stomach turning. But you have to remember that this particular market, like a lot of local markets in Thailand, are not meant for tourists. They provide cheap, fresh food for Thai people to use themselves.

From there we took a taxi to Wat Sanam Nuea which is located just by the pier for Koh Kret. We took a small ferry over to the island. Once there, the best way to see Koh Kret is on foot. There is a pathway that goes all the way round the island and a leisurely walk, through local villages, will take you around 1 ½ to 2 hours. There is also a market to browse and buy local Mon pottery, or countless restaurants to sit and have lunch while you gaze out over the river.

I had been to Koh Kret before so I wasn’t really interested in walking around the island, much to my companion’s relief; it was so hot. So we found a nice restaurant by the river to have lunch.

After lunch, we made our way through the Otop market, where we got distracted by a stall selling pot pourri; the beautiful little incense stick sets and handmade candles are a great gift for anyone. In fact, there are lots of beautifully handmade products; soaps, clothes, bags and, of course, local Mon pottery which has been created into an array of different products.

Before I went on the trip I had already decided that I wanted to try my hand at making my own pottery work of art. There are some 20 pottery workshops on the island but the one we went to was near the end of the Otop Market.

Pottery Workshop, Koh Kret

We paid the 100 baht fee and put our names on the list and, while we waited, we watched the professional potter create a pot which, to our amazement, took less than ten minutes. He made it look extremely easy but, then, he has been practising for many years. I used to go to pottery lessons in the past but, even with a little experience, I knew I wasn’t going to be that good at it.

When it was my turn I climbed in behind the potter’s wheel and the guy put the clay on to the wheel and started moulding my creation for me. Then he said “Ok, design.” I thought it looked good as it was and I was nervous to do any more moulding because I didn’t want to ruin it. I didn’t want the thing to collapse in on itself, which is exactly what happened. The top of it came away in my hands but, luckily, the guy was on hand to re-mould it for me.

After a few more minutes I had finished and I had my very own pottery from Koh Kret that I had designed, almost, by myself.

Pottery Workshop, Koh Kret
My finished article!

There isn’t just pottery you can try your hand at. TakeMeTour will arrange cycling around the island or if you fancy a refreshing drink, you can sit and catch your breath with a beer tasting session. They are very flexible to whatever you are interested in doing.

Overall, I had a great day out. My guide, Chantima, looked after me very well. She came to meet me at the agreed meeting point, took me to Koh Kret for lunch and pottery making, and saw me on my way home again. She was helpful and flexible to what I wanted to do during the day. I thoroughly recommend this Koh Kret and Fresh Market Trip with TakemeTour. You will get to see how the locals shop and also visit a beautiful part of the country away from the concrete jungle of Bangkok. If you want to do something authentic and different then this trip is definitely for you.

 

take-me-tour

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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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Thai New Year 2016

As the Thai New Year approaches people all over the country are getting ready to celebrate with their family and friends. Otherwise known as Songkran, what started out as a traditional water blessing to bring good luck, it has evolved into a full-on, alcohol-fuelled water fight.  If you happen to be in Thailand during mid-April there is nothing for you to do but get involved.

Songkran is the Sanskrit word for movement or change, and in ancient times there would be celebrations when the Sun moved into the Aries constellation of the Zodiac. The holiday starts on 13th April and lasts for three or four days.  I have experienced this crazy festival three times during my time in Thailand, each time in a different location and each time with a different view.

Songkran on Khao San Road

The first time I enjoyed Songkran was in 2008, when I first travelled around Thailand. My friends had come to visit me, and on the first day of the festival I went to pick up my friend, Hayley, from the airport. Hayley arrived, we took a taxi back to the hotel, and slept for a while before entering the throng of party-goers.

Songkran, Khao San Road, Bangkok

Khao San Road is a small street, filled with bars and restaurants on either side and fairly busy. During Songkran there are stages set up all along the road, and there are thousands of people- all crammed into that little street. Suffice to say I got separated from Hayley within the first 30 minutes.

But, not to worry, after a few minutes Hayley appeared, being carried along by the waves of people. I grabbed her, she was fine, and we carried on partying into the night until we could party no more.

The next day was much the same but in the evening we decided to party elsewhere. So we got dressed up and hailed a tuk-tuk to Silom.  Bearing in mind that there is a massive water fight going on with people soaking you with guns and buckets filled with ice cold water. Even people in trucks hosing you down- there is no mercy for anyone. Why we decided to take a tuk-tuk, God only knows! By the time we arrived in Silom we were soaked to the skin.

By the third day it was getting ridiculous- there was no let up, so we went to Silom again, found an Irish bar and stayed put until 1am, when the water throwing stopped for the evening.

Although we had fun, it is just too crazy. Too many people, and not enough room to move, and to this day I have vowed I would never again celebrate Songkran on Khao San Road. Except, this year I have been persuaded to go again, so I will, reluctantly, be joining the party. Although, I say that. I know once I get there I will enjoy it as much as anyone else.

Songkran, Khao San Road, Bangkok

Songkran in Chiang Mai

The following year, I went to Chiang Mai to celebrate Songkran once more. As if I didn’t get enough water-filled fun the previous year. But, what a difference. I was pleasantly surprised.

In the central Tha Pae gate area of the city there were the resident trucks with ice cold water cannons, music blaring at ridiculous volume levels, and the obligatory alcohol from morning until night, but this time there was room to move, and loads of it.

Songkran, Chiang Mai
Source: http://andrewtaylor.photoshelter.com

Along the canal, the bars had set up tiny little stages so you could dance and watch everyone strutting their stuff to the music, and getting soaked at the same time. There were huge tanks of water where you could re-fill your weapon and get your own back on the barrage of water that was being fired from the trucks and from people passing by.

The atmosphere in Chiang Mai was amazing- everyone was in high spirits and having so much fun. And when the festival ended at 10pm, we all went on to a late bar to continue the party into the early hours.

Songkran, Chiang Mai

When I was there in 2009 the festival lasted for two days. And it was so much more relaxed than Bangkok. I think mainly because there is a lot more room to move and it can be easily escaped. In fact, I had so much fun the first day I didn’t make it out for the second, preferring to rest my weary bones in the hotel room.

Songkran on Koh Tao

In 2010, I visited Koh Tao with my friends, Doyle and Melody, and we happened to be there for Songkran.  Having experienced it the previous two years I eagerly told them what fun we were going to have. A day or so before we went out and purchased our weapons of choice, ready for the water war.

Songkran, Koh Tao

On the morning of the celebrations we went out for breakfast to line our stomachs in preparation for the large amounts of alcohol that would be consumed during the day.

Melody and I, being the little devils that we are, left before everyone else as we were eager to start partying. The others arrived to find us swinging from a large swing on the beach, slightly, well OK, very inebriated. We didn’t last until the end of the day; we were all in bed by 10.30pm! It was just too much excitement, or was it the alcohol?!

Songkran, Koh Tao

In the morning we were up for more excitement but were disappointed to learn that Songkran only lasted one day, due to the island having a water shortage. Quite rightly so.

And while I couldn’t stomach a third day in Bangkok, one day wasn’t enough. I am never happy!

Since then I have managed to avoid any Songkran festivities for one reason or another but this year I will, more than likely, be out and about, somewhere in Bangkok, enjoying the celebrations along with everyone else. Reluctantly of course.