Monthly Archives: November 2007

Dream World

Well, just yesterday, me and wifey went for a complimentary day-trip to Thailand’s one and only supposedly-super groovy Dream World. I guess, it wasn’t exactly 100% free as Miss Su had to go anyway with her schoolkids to keep check of the numbers on ‘our’ bus, just one of like 13, packed out with Junior High Girls.

If you’ve never been or even heard of Dream World, well it’s Thailand’s most well-known funpark, located in Pathumthani near Future Park Rangsit, on the road to Nakhorn Nayok and the Cambodian border. After a two hour journey from Suphanburi, we ended up arriving at the place at 9:30 in the morning and since it was a Sunday, the entrance was virtually flooded with folk waiting to get in. To greet yous at Dream World, there are guys on stilts, uni-cycles and attendants blowing up balloon-dogs for the kids.

I hadn’t been to Dream World for something like 6 years, but the place hasn’t really changed that much, same old amusement rides offering not so scary rides. What has changed though, is the landscape. The gardens are really beautiful, laid out with the nicest array of flowers south of Chiang Mai. For lovers, there is the ‘Sweetheart’ garden with pinky shaped-heart things to have your photo taken under and romantic benches to cuddle yer darling on. If that doesn’t take your fancy, then there is even Dreamworld’s equivalent of Lopburi’s Sunflower fields, where you can have your pic taken surrounded by such flowers and lie to friends and family that you have just been up north.

An added attraction of late, courtesy of Thai Airways, is Dream World’s very own ‘Wonders of the World’ and the ones they have chosen to adopt for they mini town are different from the 7 Winners of late. There is a mini Eiffel Tower, Angkor Wat, Egyptian Pyramid and even a Statue of Liberty. I didn’t think the set-up was that amazing though, ok enough, but not exactly worth writing home about.

In the center of Dream World is a big lake, but for some weird reason known only to the management there, the cost of a ride in one of their paddle boats etc… is excluded from the ‘all-in-one’ tickets. So, what about the rides on offer? Well, by far the most popular are the Viking, Hurricane, Hanging Coaster, Space Coaster and Raptor. But be rest-assured, the waiting queues yesterday were really long, an average of 20+ minutes each. The queues were obviously made even longer as at least 3 other major rides were out of action due to repair. Besides the rides mentioned above, all the other stuff offered as part of the ‘all-in-one’ ticket price were for old-age pensioners or toddlers, nothing thrilling.

Dream World’s favourite and most famous attraction is beyond a doubt its ‘Snow Town’ (another half an hour wait, getting in and out). Snow Town is Thailand’s one and only attraction were the temperature inside is below zero. Unfortunately, there isn’t any snow falling from the roof, but there is plenty of shaved-ice on the ground to chuck in your friend’s face. We all know that Thais just love taking photos at every opportunity and for the background inside is a huge snowman, reindeer, polar bear, and a squad of stuffed penguins. There is also a Slider, where you can get yourself an inflated rubber ring and shoot down the slope. Again, the average ‘one-in-all’ ticket doesn’t allow you to get inside Snow Town without having to fork over another 130baht.

At the end of the day, I wasn’t really that impressed by the service offered at Dream World. Over the past six years, since my last visit, there were even fewer rides on offer due to repair, nothing new had been brought in and the place still lacks decent restaurants. In fact, in regards to food, there is only a KFC, Subway, a handful of stalls selling edibles on rice and rows and rows of stalls knocking off basic hotdogs etc… Nothing really to fill your stomach. Since my last outing, I did notice a lot more game stalls, where for 40-100 baht you could win a teddy bear in some kinda dart game. In fact, at Dreamworld, there is plenty to spend your money on besides the price of the ‘all-in-one’ tickets. I would say that the best thing about Dream World is the gardens.

Personally, I don’t think Dream World is cheap by Thai standards. The basic entrance fee is 120baht which includes nothing extra. An ‘all-in-one’ ticket costs 330 baht which includes most rides but ceratinly not the Go-karts, boats and Snow Town (130 Baht), the latter of which is a must-see if you go to Dreamworld. So really, the basic cost for a day out at Dream World is 460 Baht per person. And don’t forget that if you go on a weekend, then unless you stay from morning til late there is practically no way that you are going to be able to enjoy all the rides and attractions (because of queues).

So if you wanna go to Dream World by car, the place is located just off the Rangsit-Ongkharat Road (Kilometer 7), Pathumthani province. For those without your own transport, your best bet is to get a taxi from Future Park Rangsit (about 30km past Don Muang airport). On leaving Dream World, you will have to take quite a long walk back to the main road to flag down a cab. Otherwise, be patient and wait for a cab at the entrance which has just brought folk to the park.

Kanchanapisek Outer Ring Road

Chang Erawan

Chang Erawan alongside the Outer Ring Road in Samut Prakan

It has been about three years in the making, but the southern stretch of the Kanchanapisek Outer Ring Road was finally opened on Thursday 15th November 2007. We have been waiting for this for years as the rest of the ring road has long been completed. For the people who live in the southern border areas of Bangkok, this new highway is a godsend. It means we can now quickly go to all points of the compass without going through Bangkok first. It is also good news for people arriving at the new Bangkok airport at Suvarnabhumi. Now there is really no need to go into Bangkok first to stay the night before moving onto other locations around Thailand. The airport is alongside the motorway which goes down to Pattaya. Now, the quick access to the Outer Ring Road will whisk people off  North to Ayutthaya and beyond and South to Hua Hin. To celebrate the opening, I decided to set off this morning on a non-stop drive around the outskirts of Bangkok on the Kanchanaphisek Outer Ring Road. I love road trips!

I started my trip at Chang Erawan, which is the giant three-headed elephant in Samut Prakan. This is only ten minutes away from my house. I could also have chosen to start my trip at the entry ramp on Srinakarin Road near Tesco Lotus. Before I started, I filled up with petrol at Jet. The price of petrol has been going up so much recently. A full tank cost me 1,800 baht. It wasn’t that long ago that I would get change from a 1,000 baht note. Not any longer. I am still using Benzin 95 which is the most expensive at 32.49 baht per litre. It was less than 15 baht when I first came to Thailand. Road trips these days are costing me quite a bit. If you are wondering how much today’s outing cost me, then scroll down to the bottom of this article. I suppose I should be lucky I am not doing travel blogs in the UK. The cost of petrol there is double what we have to pay. America is not as expensive and I think we are fast catching them up.

Now that the Outer Ring Road is finished, the bad traffic jams around Chang Erawan on Sukhumwit Road have cleared up. It is actually quite a complicated intersection now as there are numerous exit and entry ramps. Dominating the landscape is of course the three-headed elephant. However, it does somewhat look smaller now than before. The plans for the outer ring went back many years. There was a lot of local opposition including from the owners of the Chang Erawan. The story goes that to stop this ring road, he built the giant elephant on its projected path. But, it didn’t really stop it and, probably out of spite, they went around the elephant and straight through his front living room! You cannot stop progress and ring roads like these are really needed in order to help keep traffic off the local roads.

As the highway has only just opened, I was really hoping to stop my car somewhere on the entry ramp and hop out to take a quick photo. However, there was surprisingly a lot of cars and trucks on the road. Although it was six lanes, there were vehicles in all lanes and I couldn’t travel much faster than 100 kph. Despite that, in less than five minutes I had reached the new Kanchanapisek Bridge and had crossed the mighty Chao Phraya River. At this point the river is 500 metres wide so that will probably make it the longest single span bridge in Bangkok. You know this is such good news for us. Up to now, it would take us an hour to go by car to the other side of the river as we had to head further into Bangkok. But now we can cross the river so much quicker by car. However, it won’t always be free. I didn’t have to pay when I entered the outer ring road today, but I could see markings on the road where they are planning on building toll booths. It will probably be about 30 baht for this section (less than $1).

Once on the other side of the river, we joined the stretch that had already been completed for many years. Up to now it just stopped in the middle of no-where by the river. You then had to catch a car ferry to the other side or go into Bangkok for the Rama IX Bridge. Now of course we also have the Mega Bridge which will take us across to Samut Prakan or to Rama III road in Bangkok. The last time I was on this road it was virtually empty. It is like driving through the jungle as we were at tree tops. But today the road was very busy, but I was still able to keep an average of 120 kph.  Ten minutes after leaving the elephant, I reached Rama II Road which is Highway 35 which takes you down south to Samut Sakhon, Phetchaburi and Hua Hin. Last year I went down that road to the floating market at Amphawa. Before it had taken me 80 minutes to get to this intersection. For sure I am going to be planning some day trips down south soon. Look out for some new travel blogs in the coming months.

From this point the traffic slowed down a lot. In fact we had to stop a few times. This is in despite the fact that it was an eight lane highway and two lanes on the frontage either side. But, this was now a local road as well so there was a lot of people coming and going. The intersection for Nakhon Pathom was only 8 kms further on but it took me 24 minutes to travel that distance.  Maybe I should have done this on a Sunday morning. But, I wasn’t trying to break land speed records. Though I am probably the first person to drive the complete loop. Anyway, 35 minutes after leaving the elephant I was now at the intersection for Nakhon Pathom which also goes to Kanchanaburi. Maybe I will do a day trip down this road soon. Lots of possibilities here. After a short while, the traffic started to speed up. There had been some roadworks that had slowed us down.

I like doing road trips, so going around in a big circle is no problem. About 52 kilometres after leaving the elephant, I had now reached the intersection for Highway 345. This is the exit for destinations towards Suphan Buri. I guess I will have no excuse now to visit our Steve again. I have done some blogs in that area but there is still a lot more to do. As I drove along, my mind kept buzzing with ideas of new road trips. Where should I go first? One hour after leaving I reached intersection for Highway 346. I hadn’t gone as far as I had wanted to as the odometer only registered 65 kms. So, that meant an average speed of 65 kph. A lot slower than I was hoping to do. Actually, I thought I could do 120 kph all the way which is the maximum speed limit. But, I was speeding up now. This whole section in the northwest is out in the country side. It is only four lanes but not much traffic. I came up this road before to see the open billed storks in the temple. You might remember the blog on that. 

After one hour and eight minutes I reached the bridge which crossed back across the Chao Phraya River. I had done 77 kilometres. This wasn’t that bad going compared to the past. Just after the bridge there was a turning for the Bang Sai Arts and Craft Museum. I love that place and often take visitors there. I am sure I did a blog on it if you search. I might go again soon as it is now so near. A short while late I passed the intersection for the expressway from Bangkok. This is the route I normally use to go up north. Around here is also the intersection for Ayutthaya and Bang Pa In. A couple of excellent destinations for day trips from Bangkok. This is also the northernmost section of the outer ring road. I actually almost nearly got a bit lost here but managed to get on the right road to take me back down on the eastern stretch of the Outer Ring Road. I had been driving now for one hour and twenty minutes and had only done 92 kms. I had a lot of time to try and catch up on.

In comparison, the first part of this stretch was excellent. It was only a four lane highway but it was purpose built. No local traffic as there were tall fences on either side. Let’s just say I managed to do a minimum of 120 kph for a while. A sign said that the new airport was only 60 kms away. So, probably wouldn’t take long to get to Ayutthaya from the airport if you wanted to. There isn’t really much down this side. It is literally in the middle of nowhere so not many intersections. However, Highway 305 was signposted for Nakhon Nayok. I haven’t been that way before. I will make a note and maybe see if I can do a day trip that direction. I am sure there must be something.

After a good start on the eastern stretch, we then had to slow down for some road works. Also the first of two toll booths which cost 30 baht each. We had a few more intersections that included Rama Inthra and the motorway for Chonburi and Pattaya. Time was passing quickly now. I was trying my best to get home in two hours. However, one hour and 55 minutes after leaving I was passing the intersection for the new airport. Two hours after leaving I reached the Bang Na Trad Highway. I had now done 154 kms which meant an average of  77 kph. I had made up some time but not a lot. I was now on the new stretch of the Outer Ring Road. This was above the ground and although there was a lot of traffic I made good time. Normally from the airport it would take me 45 minutes to get home. I had just gone from the airport to Bang Na Trad Highway in ten minutes. Then in less than ten more minutes I was passing the exit ramp for Srinakarin Road. My house is 8 minutes from that point. So, less than 30 minutes for me to go to the airport and almost a guarantee of no traffic jams as there would be no local traffic! Five minutes later I had gone from Srinakarin Road to Sukhumwit Road (usually takes 30 minutes) and I was back at the start. As I approached I could see the giant three-headed elephant on the skyline.

I made it back in two hours and eight minutes after leaving. The odometer read 168 kilometres. I went back to the Jet petrol station to fill up the tank again. It was the same bloke I had seen two hours previously and he gave me a funny look when I asked for him to fill up the tank again. Of course, this wouldn’t be an accurate reading of how much petrol I had used as I couldn’t be sure he had really filled the tank up before. They usually try to get round numbers with the price. Anyway, he put in 13.2 litres which cost me 430 baht. So, about 2.5 baht per kilometre. I guess a bit of an expensive two hours if you also add the 60 baht for toll booths. It cost me about $14 in total for this experiment. Once the new toll booths open, then the complete circuit would probably cost 120 baht in tolls. But, it was all good research for me and I am feeling very fortunate I now have plenty of opportunities of new road trips to go on in the coming months. I just ned to decide where I will go first! Maybe I will head north to Saraburi and Lopburi next weekend.

Thai Supermodel 2007

(Eventual Winner, 16 year-old Eurasian, Miss Sammy – in a Traditional Thai dress?)

Most of my evenings here in Suphanburi Town, consist of either staying at home with the wifey surfing the Net, watching videos and even enjoying the odd Thai soap opera or going out to enjoy a bevvie with a buddie or two. If the wifey gets a bit too cheesed off with the frequency of the latter, then I stick to a bit of a mix and get home by 9.

Well, after fooling around on YouTube last night for a while, I joined the wifey on the sofa who was viewing the Finale of Thai Supermodel 2007. Now, it always makes me laugh the way the Ministry of Culture continually come out with their Draconian views of Thai culture and especially women. While they habitually inform Thai females about how to act and dress ‘properly’, TV viewers are bombarded with pics of scantily-dressed women either flirting provocatively or bashing each other in the face (or a bit of both). Last night’s Supermodel contest didn’t quite have the competitors kitted-out live on stage in mini bikinis, but it was still enough to have had the old fuddie-duddies at the Min of Culture, looking on in utter bewilderment.

Thai people like their beauties young and last night was no exception. On checking through the Thai language Thai Supermodel website this morning I found at least four of the 20 contenders aged around the 15-16 years of age mark. In fact, the eventual winner herself, Miss Sammy (Banthita Phuwijan) was a fresh Grade 11, 16 year-old Eurasian. If you are rather surprised at how Thai society can accept such youthful girls parading their chest and legs in front of millions live on TV, then don’t be. Pop along to any school’s sports day event and you will be amazed at the sight of a hundred Lolitas dressed in mini-skirts, high heels and even suspenders. For some incredible reason known to no-one, both the Ministry of Culture and Education turn a complete blind-eye to such events.

For the final round last night, the Thai Supermodel competitors were dressed-up in supposedly Traditional Thai Dress. I couldn’t help laughing though, when the organizers decided that typical dress also meant completely baring your shoulders with some girls having half their breasts poking out. I mean, I am not against such provocative dress but it does say a lot for the double-standards accepted in Thailand. Well, the round before that, had the girls fitted out in outfits from the country’s ‘7 New Wonders of the World’. The one representing Jordan, would have had Bin Laden take a heart-attack. Out she comes with her head-dress, only to flick it back half way down the catwalk and expose a nice revealing swank of skin. Anyway, guess it beats her walking down the isle resembling some woman in Saudi Arabia!

Thailand is known to many foreigners as The Land of Smiles but to most Thais it is known more as The Land of Delightful White Skin. And at least 17 of the girls last night had just that. Personally, my favourite was a much darker-skinned girl who looked like a real Thai-Thai sort who somehow managed to get through to end round.

So, besides just the prestigious Thai Superworld 2007 award (worthy of 300,000 Baht and a new car) last night, there were also a whole stack of others given out by the organizer’s groovy sponsors. These included (and I am not joking)

Miss Pond’s Purest White Skin (worthy of 30,000 baht and a whole year’s supply of Pond’s whitening lotions and creams!)
Miss Sealect Tuna Supermodel (worthy of 30,000 Baht and a whole year’s supply of tinned Sealect Tuna!)
Miss Scotch Sugar Free Body Perfect (worthy of 30,000 Baht and a whole year’s supply of Scotch Sugar drinks!)
Miss Healthy Beautiful Hair (worthy of 30,000 Baht, a solid gold chain, a mobile phone and a year’s supply of Pantene shampoo)

Anyway, since I am no golden-oldie complainer belonging to the Min of Culture, I wish 16 year-old winner Miss Sammy the best of luck and especially when she has to compete in some Miss World Supermodel competition next year in China. As for the crowned Miss Pond’s Purest White Skin, well I hope she doesn’t turn into an milk-stick and that Miss Beautiful Hair doesn’t go on to lose it all after she ends up washing it too much!
Next year, I do hope that the organizers will find some new sponsors, it would be great having awards such as Miss Animoto MSG, Miss Oil of Ulay Armpit Hair Remover and Miss Tiprot Fish Sauce.

Bangkok thoughts from Barcelona

I recently spent sometime in Barcelona,a great city where you could find priceless art and sculptures on the road in La Rambla. The city is so perfect that if you see Barcelona in Google earth, it would look like the drawing board of an architect where a drawing has been finished.

Especially in the Fixample (The Extension), designed by Cerda, each block is open on all the four sides with an octagonal design, so that the intersections are wide and the horse-drawn coaches could turn easily in the expanded corners. Hotel Majestic for example has the Passeig de Gracia on south, Caller de Valencia on the east, Carrer de Pau Claris on north and Carrer de Mallorca on the west. On could circumambulate each block on the wide foot paths.

No electric cables or thick power lines anywhere around. I stayed in Passeig de Gracia which possibly is the most beautiful street I have ever seen. The colourful people however reminded me of Bangkok. Lots of shops, cafes, eateries and incredible architectural monuments.

I would like to see some areas like this in Bangkok.

Thais Go from Pink to Green

(Latest fashion craze – The Nation)

Ever since H.M. The King left the hospital last week sporting a pink outfit, people have gone crazy about this latest fashion. At the weekend, long queues formed at the few shops selling pink shirts with the King’s emblem on them. Customers were limited to only one shirt per person. As many of you know, for over a year now, Thais and expats have been wearing the colour yellow in support of the King. In Thailand, each day has its own special colour. For people born on Mondays, like H.M. The King, yellow is their special colour. Then, over the last few months, pink shirts started to appear. Not too many to start with. But then suddenly, after H.M. The King wore a pink outfit leaving the hospital, people started going crazy about pink. At first not many people understood the significance of this new colour. Pink is the colour for people born on Tuesdays. I asked a Thai person why she was wearing pink. She said it was to show support for the health of His Majesty. Now it transpires that pink is an auspicious colour for people born in the Year of the Rabbit. All good enough. I guess it is time for a change from yellow to pink. However, now comes the news that people are rushing out to buy green shirts with his emblem! From what I can tell so far, it is only because His Majesty wore a green blazer when he went back to visit the hospital on Tuesday. It certainly looks like he is setting the fashion trend these days.

If you want to know your auspicious colour, then visit my blog called What is your Lucky Colour? There is also a link there to find out which day you were born on. I was born on Wednesday, which is green, so I am very happy about these new green shirts. Also visit the Paknam Web Forums where we are discussing the colours and fashion trends.