Monthly Archives: August 2010

My Thai Street Food Challenge

One of the best things about living in Thailand is the food. It is not only delicious, but it is also plentiful and cheap. In fact, you can find it on almost any street corner at any time of day or night. I guess we are spoilt in Thailand in having such easy access to Thai food. After all, one meal in a Thai restaurant in say London, New York or Sydney would probably be the same as our weekly food budget. I know that is not really fair to compare as portion sizes in the West are far greater than what we get here. In addition, if you order say chicken curry in a London restaurant you are actually going to get a fair amount of meat. Here you will probably get a lot of bone and a bit of meat! Basically you get what you pay for.

As you probably know, I love to cook. So, I don’t actually go out and buy street food that much. If I am going to eat green curry, I like to have a good amount of quality meat in it. If I am going to have stir-fried vegetables, I want to make sure that it isn’t sweetened with a lot of sugar or “flavoured” with a tablespoon of MSG. I also like playing around with recipes mixing Thai and Western recipes to create my own innovations. It is fun. Cooking for myself also means that I can have more Western meals. Variety is always good I think. I don’t live in Bangkok and we don’t get much of a choice here in Samut Prakan.

One of the downsides to cooking at home is the cost. If you are buying quality ingredients or cooking Western meals then it is going to cost you more than the average meal bought on the street. Electricity is also expensive and my cooker and oven contribute greatly to my electricity bill. In the West we cook at home in order to save money. If we go out we might prepare sandwiches and a flask of hot soup. In Thailand, in theory, it is the opposite. I think a lot of us would say that it is actually cheaper to eat out every night. Of course, that doesn’t mean dining at five star hotels every evening and drinking wine or beer. You can easily go through a lot of money that way.

Eating out for us is going to a local food shop or buying something from a food cart. Something that I don’t do nearly enough. Which is what gave me the idea for this food challenge. I decided for one month that I would eat nothing but Thai street food. This would be three meals a day, seven days a week. I am not allowed to go to supermarkets, restaurants or even 7-Eleven. At home I cannot cook or even heat things up. I won’t even be allowed to boil some water to make a cup of coffee. Quite a few Thai families don’t have a working kitchen. Or if they do then it is just a single gas hob. What I want to see is if I will really save money by eating out for every meal. I have already made a note of how much I spend weekly at the supermarket and also the monthly average for my electricity bill.

To make it a bit more interesting, and certainly more challenging, I am not allowed to eat the same dish twice. Straight away this means I will be eating at least 90 different dishes in one month! I am not sure if that is even possible. In addition, I cannot return to the same food shop, food cart, stall or food vendor twice in the same week. To be honest, I am not sure how easy it is going to be for me. Breakfast is certainly going to be a challenge. My Soi doesn’t sell much in the morning and I have to be at work by 7.15 a.m. So, I might have to do what many Thai people do and eat leftovers from the night before. Though, of course, for me it has to be something new bought the night before. I was never one for eating spicy food so early in the morning!

My Thai Street Food challenge starts on Wednesday 1st September 2010 and will last until the end of the month. I will be posting pictures of every meal as well as running costs on my new Twitter account I will also be posting daily updates over at As I will be exploring the Thai food scene in Paknam a lot over the next month, I decided I should also take the opportunity to do a survey about Thai food. So, I will be working on a food map and making notes of what kind of food is being sold the most. I will also take notes about the kinds of places that are selling food. I will then write about my findings here at the end of the month. So, what do you reckon? Will it really be cheaper for me to eat out for every meal? Will I be saving money or will I just be putting on a lot of weight? Let’s see!

This Week in Thailand: 20th-26th August 2010

This is a review of what happened in Thailand during the last week based on topics that I tweeted. You can follow me live for latest news about Thailand @RichardBarrow.

Friday 20th August 2010:

  • US Presses Thailand on Extradition Case for Merchant of Death (VOA) #
  • Red Shirt v Yellow Shirt: Thailand’s political struggle (The Independent) #
  • WikiLeaks still available in Thailand & now at dedicated website (Straits Times) #
  • Ayutthaya, Chon Buri & Petchburi are shortlisted as host city for World Expo 2020 (The Nation) #
  • Interior Minister Chavarat suffers food poisoning after going to Banharn’s birthday bash /BkkPost #
  • Obituary for Allen Quicke, Editor-in-Chief of Asia Times Online, who died in Hua Hin on Tuesday night #
  • Appeals Court rules to extradite alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout to US to face terrorism charges /BkkPost #
  • Thailand: 2.3 million pay tax. 60,000 earn more than 4 million/year & 2,400 earn more than 10 million/year (BkkPost) #
  • Newsweek: Thailand rated 58th for World’s Best Countries. Rated for quality of life, political environment, education… #
  • AirAsia now flies Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai (already flies to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi & Phuket) #
  • Puea Thai get permission from their fortune tellers to move Party HQ. New place has better feng shui #
  • Aussie Conor David Purcell, held over Thai protests can now go home #
  • Red Shirt Conor Purcell was sentenced to 45 days but is released as he has already spent 89 days waiting in a Thai jail! #
  • Remote-control aircraft crashes into Phuket temple – #

Saturday 21st August 2010:

Sunday 22nd August 2010:

Monday 23rd August 2010:

Tuesday 24th August 2010:

  • Thailand to resume diplomatic ties with Cambodia after the resignation of Thaksin (BBC) #
  • Piranha 3D Sequel Announced, Might Be Set in Thailand at Full Moon #
  • King’s rainmakers take to skies to ease Thai drought – #
  • ‘Merchant of Death’ in Thailand transferred to isolation cell #
  • Today is the Hungry Ghost Festival (Sart Chin Day) in Thailand for people with Chinese ancestors. #
  • Miss Thailand Fonthip Watcharatrakul wins Miss Photogenic & national costume awards at Miss Universe 2010 /MCOT #
  • Thailand’s Largest Buddhist Temple Goes Wireless #
  • Canadian tourist dies in fall from train in Ratchaburi Province, Thailand #
  • Victor Bout to be extradited on Wednesday to US. Heavy security will escort him from Bang Kwang to the airport /Nation #
  • @Saksith Also, I think someone wants to get rid of a hot potato quickly. They had 3 months to deport Victor Bout in reply to Saksith #
  • This fad may kill you: Korean trends tagged with deadly warnings in Thailand by @bkkapologist #
  • Top 10 favourite iPhone apps for @ladykarla45 #
  • @ladykarla45 I am new to iPhone (smartphones) too so any suggestions are good! In fact I haven’t been doing twitter long! in reply to ladykarla45 #
  • Video of NGV car on fire on Theparak Rd, Samut Prakan today (media there before fire trucks) #
  • Chelsea to play in Thailand for the first time in 14 years during its off-season tour ahead of the 2011-12 season (AP) #
  • What happens if you eat nothing but Thai street food for a month? Save money and put on weight or the other way round? #
  • Soon I will try an experiment to see if I will save money by eating out every day. Follow my quest at @EnjoyThaiFood #
  • RT @thethaireport: If you buy food from a local market & cook it yourself, it’s cheaper than eating out => I disagree! #
  • I usually cook most of my meals and I do a mixture of Western and Thai dishes. Ingredients can be expensive. So can electricity bill. #
  • I reckon if I eat out every day I will ultimately save money on my supermarket and electricity bills. #
  • My experiment will start on 1 Sep and last one month. You can follow the Thai food adventures incl. pics @EnjoyThaiFood #

Wednesday 25th August 2010:

  • After Years of Upheaval, Not All Is Well With Thailand?s Youth – – #
  • News crews have been staking out Bang Kwang Prison all night waiting for Victor Bout to be extradited /via @thaicam #
  • Chelsea promise top squad for friendly in Thailand in July 2011 (Bangkok Post) – #
  • Some sources say there are still charges against Viktor Bout so legally he cannot leave until they’re dropped. #
  • Statement from Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding Viktor Bout’s case #
  • Armed guards outside prison but no sign of convoy taking Victor Bout to military airbase /via @Coalporter #
  • Viktor Bout’s wife on edge, throws water bottle at cameraman in front of Bang Kwang Prison /via @Coalporter #
  • Map showing Bang Kwang Prison, where Viktor Bout is held, in relation to the airport #
  • Viktor Bout won’t be extradited to the US this morning as not all cases have been cleared. No indication of when yet. #
  • Sirichoke Sopha, a Dem MP denies having asked Viktor Bout to implicate Thaksin in arms trade during his visit /BkkPost #
  • Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin has written a book “The Truth” about the Sept 19, 2006 coup. Published soon! /BkkPost #
  • Yellow Shirt protest along Cambodian border foiled by Thai troops (Phnom Penh Post) #

Thursday 26th August 2010:

  • Sondhi led 79 PADs to report themselves to [police] to acknowledge charges on two airport seizures in 2008 /TANN #
  • Viktor Bout’s lawyer stayed overnight at Bang Kwan prison, citing he doesn’t trust the Thai gov’t /via @Juarawee #
  • Live broadcast with multi-cameras on CH.3 showing a 300 kilo Thai woman being forklifted out of her apartment. #
  • They are trying to fit the 300 kilo woman into an ambulance now. Live broadcast continues on CH.3 #
  • Pics of “forklift” & the 300 kilo Thai woman /via @bangkokgovernor #
  • Pic of @bangkokgovernor holding umbrella as 300 kilo Thai woman is extracted from her apartment #
  • Leicester ‘takeover’ yet to be ratified by Football League as “fit & proper” check has not been done #
  • Another foreigner has been arrested for alleged involvement in the anti-government red shirt protests #
  • Keith Bush was arrested when he flew into Suvarnabhumi Airport. An arrest warrant said he tried to burn down a town hall. #
  • A 130 meter long skywalk between Makkasan Station and MRT subway on Phetchaburi Rd will be complete next year /BkkPost #
  • 300-kilogram Thai woman takes crane to hospital #
  • BMA ready to cancel BRT in 4 months if BKK residence not satisfied, admits 60% of car owners not happy /via @Tulip_Oum #
  • Vegetarian Festival starts 7th October 2010. I will “gin jay” for 10 days. Follow my vegetarian adventure @EnjoyThaiFood #
  • This afternoon, HRH Princess Srirasmi, the Princess Consort to the Crown Prince, flew to Laos
  • 274-kilogramme Thai woman has a tumor in her right leg. Leaves home for first time in 3 years #
  • If they decide to cancel the BRT bus service, they should consider China’s straddling bus #
  • “Bangkok blames the international media” by the BBC’s Alastair Leithead (@aleithead) #
  • Alastair Leithead: Social media, especially Twitter, saw a frenzy of anti-media sentiment which verged on a witch hunt #
  • RT @somtow: BACC turned off the air con during our concert!!! RT: @Trisdee: So much for Bangkok’s support for the arts #
  • This evening, Princess Chulabhorn flew to the Republic of Korea. She will return on 1 Sep. #

This Week in Thailand: 13th-19th August 2010

This is a review of what happened in Thailand during the last week based on topics that I tweeted. You can follow me live for latest news about Thailand @RichardBarrow.

Friday 13th August 2010:

Weekend 14th-15 August 2010:

  • Illegal drug shipments flood Thai border by @seacorro (ABC News) in reply to seacorro #
  • While US couple have been sentenced for bribing ex-TAT chief, Thai system plods along at snail’s pace #
  • Miss Universe 2010 Pageant: Miss Thailand Universe 2010 Fonthip Watcharatrakul Aims For The Crown #
  • Northeast Thailand gets flash flood warning (Bangkok Post) #
  • Thailand’s war with the foreign media (New Mandala) #
  • Torrential rains cause floods in parts of the North and the Northeast of Thailand – #
  • Thai-Chinese people will soon celebrate Sart Chin Day or Ghost Festival. #
  • They will also take part in ting krachaat which is giving rice to the poor. I will go to one tomorrow. #
  • British murder suspect Lee Aldhouse is sought by police for fatal stabbing of an American in Phuket #
  • More details emerge about corruption allegations at Thailand Tobacco Monopoly /BkkPost #
  • Late last night, Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, the Crown Prince, flew to Germany #
  • Just arrived at a Chinese temple in Taiban, Samut Prakan for their annual “ting krachaat”. #
  • 1000’s of poor people here already ready to receive rice & food from local Chinese-Thai. #
  • The poor are lining up for tickets & are being herded into tents #
  • People are arriving to donate food which will be handed out in about an hour when the Governor of Samut Prakan arrives. #
  • All the food being offered to the Chinese Gods is making me hungry! #
  • The smoke & smell of burning incense and the cacophony of sound at this “ting krachaat” ceremony is very overwhelming. #
  • They are about to open the gates. Get ready for chaos as 1000’s will stampede for free food. #
  • VIDEO: Complete chaos at the moment as they stampede for free food #
  • Pushing & fighting as they try to get the free food. 1000’s here but still plenty of food. #
  • Video of Chinese opera. I guess it is for the Gods as no-one is watching. #
  • An hour later the crowds are still large & still plenty of food. As I leave more folks coming. #
  • That was my first “ting krachaat” of the season. More will take place all over Thailand this month at Chinese shrines. #
  • Photo Album for the “Ting Krachaat” ceremony this morning at a Chinese Shrine – #
  • Suan Dusit Poll: Many people think Thai politicians like to speak rudely, look down on others and are devious /BkkPost #
  • Thailand’s dengue fever toll jumps 83%: 50,000 cases and 63 deaths this year so far #
  • Thailand will fix prices for bottled water at 7 baht (0.5-0.6 liter) and 14 baht (1.5 liter) #
  • The dark side to Thailand’s Tiger Temple by @Journotopia #
  • The Thai schoolgirl who won 10 million baht in the world cup draw sent in 700 postcards! Her parents will buy a house. #
  • A new building at Burapha university in Chonburi has collapsed, at least 1 killed, 30 trapped inside /via @Tulip_Oum #
  • Photo: The collapsed building was under construction trapping workers /via @Tulip_Oum #
  • Report on CH.9 about Burapha university said collapsed building was the new auditorium & definitely no students inside. #
  • Latest pictures of collapsed building Still many workers trapped inside. #

Monday 16th August 2010:

  • CH.3 now reporting at least 3 workers dead in university building collapse. Rescue efforts continue through the night. #
  • There seems to be confusion among Thai media about number of dead in building collapse. From 1-4 dead so far. #
  • Thailand Tourist Police star in their own music video – 100,000 hits on YouTube –×4d #
  • American Tourist Murdered in Thailand (Fox News) #
  • Chonburi Governor: 1 confirmed dead, 2 missing in Burapa University building collapse /TANN #
  • RT @ThailandVoice: Bangkok Podcast interview with Bangkok Post columnist @voranai now online #
  • 16th July: Thai Peace Day – Historians point to forefathers’ sacrifices #
  • PM signs order to cancel emergency decree in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Ubol Ratchathani /TANN #
  • 19 Red Shirt leaders including Veera Musikhapong in Court for 1st hearing on terrorism cases, all deny charges /MCOT #
  • Yellow-shirt protester gets community service for trying to kill 5 policemen #
  • Manhunt in Thailand for British boxer (BBC) #
  • The cabinet approves Defence Ministry’s proposal for navy to send ships to help fight pirates off Somalia /BkkPost #
  • RT @veen_NT: Government postpones enforcement on bottled water prices to Sep 1 after receiving complaints from businesses #
  • Watch the video & ask yourself, should the driver get more than 48 hours community service? #
  • Some great short videos on places to visit around Thailand. In Thai with English subtitles: #

Tuesday 17th August 2010:

  • Some history on Preah Vihear Temple and the border controversy (The Nation) #
  • Red shirt supporters in Chiang Mai will hold their first gathering on Sunday (Bangkok Post) #
  • I’m on my way to TAT HQ on Phetchaburi Road. Have been stuck in traffic for 90 minutes now. I think I’m going to be late. #
  • I’m at RattanaKosin Exhibition Hall on Ratchadamnoen-Klang Avenue in Bangkok with the TAT. #
  • This is a picture of Loha Prasat, the Metal Castle, in Bangkok. #
  • Model of the Grand Palace at RattanaKosin Exhibition Hall. #
  • Having a great time learning about history of Royal Bangkok at RattanaKosin Exhibition Hall on Ratchadamnoen-Klang Av. #
  • At the moment there is a special promotion price at Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall of only 100B & 30B. No 2 price system! #
  • Excellent panoramic views from RattanaKosin Exhibition Hall. #
  • Rattanakosin Exhibition hall is on the Royal avenue near Golden Mount & Democracy Monument. #
  • Website links & info about my trip today in Bangkok is on I will post more when I get back. #
  • VIDEO: Excellent views of Golden Mount & Loha Prasat from Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall. #
  • We’re having lunch at S&P Maha Rat by the river. Looks delicious. #
  • We’re now at the Arts of the Kingdom V at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. Not allowed to take pics #
  • NO PHOTO: Arts of the Kingdom V at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. #
  • On an audio tour of the throne hall. She told me to “press the numbers & pray”! (Thai for “play”) #
  • The inside of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall is absolutely magnificent. Really worth the visit. Exhibition is great too. #
  • The ticket for Arts of the Kingdom V at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall is 150B or free if you went to Grand Palace first. #
  • Public Health Ministry: Death toll from H1N1 virus in Thailand from April 28, 2009 to Aug 7 this year is 245 /BkkPost #
  • A group of dancing policemen has become the latest pop sensation in Thailand with a YouTube video #
  • Helicopter carrying senior officials of Natural Resources Ministry still missing, search continues amid bad weather /MCOT #
  • Phuket Kickbox Killing: Security camera shows ‘Man in Black’ with knife – #
  • Thailand Patriot Network activists staying overnight outside Parliament; announcing next move at 9am Wednesday /MCOT #
  • RT @Juarawee: +300 volunteers set to search for Permanent Secretary of the Natural Resources team in Naan ’til 2AM #
  • You can now download the latest PDF version of Muang Samut News, a local newspaper from Samut Prakan #

Wednesday 18th August 2010:

  • Search efforts continue at the break of dawn for missing helicopter in Nan province /TANN #
  • Thai Groups Denounce Web Censorship (Wall Street Journal) #
  • 18th August: Today is National Science Day in Thailand. #
  • King Rama IV, Father of Thai Science, successfully predicted a total solar eclipse that took place on 18 August 1868. #
  • The Bangkok-Airport Rail Link will open on Monday. The trip will cost 100 Baht. No baggage check-in yet. #
  • Celebrated Thai pathologist arrives in Malaysia amid heavy security #
  • Missing helicopter has been found in a jungle in Nan Province; 5 passengers presumed dead /via @suthichai #
  • [] Miss Thailand Fonthip in National Costume #
  • Thailand blocks access to WikiLeaks website (someone tell AFP it opens for me #
  • Nothing like a bit of censorship and the ensuing publicity to make you go & take a look at what the fuss is all about! #
  • I had a brief meeting with the Inspector of Samut Prakan Immigration just now about the website we are doing for them. #
  • He is excited about my idea to invite questions on visa & immigration issues. He promises they will be answered. #
  • Our aim is to make the Samut Prakan immigration site the most useful & updated immigration site in Thailand. Let’s see! #
  • One problem he admitted is that he might be lenient with some rules at his immigration but cannot guarantee same elsewhere. #
  • AFP have now updated their story on “blocking” of wikileaks after reading our tweets about it #
  • AFP: “Some users, however, reported that they were still able to access WikiLeaks within the kingdom” #
  • “Censorship versus security: When is freedom of speech not freedom of speech?” by @smartbrain #
  • 78th Province for Thailand called for in Kanchanaburi’s Thong Pha Phum district /BkkPost #
  • Bodies of senior Ministry of Natural Resources officials and airmen who died in helicopter crash reach Bangkok /MCOT #
  • The Tourism Authority of Thailand and Mastercard launch “Bangkok Welcomes You” campaign #
  • AFP changes the title of their story from “Thailand blocks access to WikiLeaks” to “tries to block”. Just pull the story! #
  • ISP’s have been guilty before of putting up fake “This website has been blocked by ICT” notices. It is “self-censorship”. #

Thursday 19th August 2010:

  • King Power to set up Leicester FC academy in Thailand (The Nation) #
  • Five perish in Thai helicopter crash. King & Queen sponsor funeral (Bangkok Post) #
  • When police act selectively: The case of the Bangkok scrap seller fined 133,400 baht (BkkPost) #
  • Expressway Easy Pass has sold 180,000 units. In October you will be able to top up at 7-Eleven /via @thai101 #
  • Leicester football stadium to be renamed King Power Stadium in December after takeover by the Thai group /BkkPost #
  • Government urged to develop big attractions that can compete with Disneyland and Universal Studios #
  • Scouts making “som tum” in their Scout lesson at school this afternoon. #
  • Scouts showing off the “som tum” they just made themselves. #
  • Facebook app on iPhone has been updated. Thai language display problem has been fixed among other things /via @s_narut #
  • You can now see in realtime on your iPhone what seats are available in a SF cinema & then book it! #
  • Culture Ministry to seek amending of film & video copyright laws after garbage collector fined 133K #
  • Viktor Bout has been waiting in a Thai prison since March 2008. See pics of how much weight he lost #
  • RT @Dedatos: How long will trip on Airport link to Bangkok take? => Only 15 minutes! But no baggage check-in yet #
  • RT @philipbkk: Can we go from Makkasan to Ramkhamaeng on Airport Link? => Yes and only 15 Baht #
  • State Railway of Thailand will install GPS devices at railway crossings to warn cars when trains are 1.2 km away /BkkPost #
  • The OTOP Midyear 2010 Fair starts this weekend 21-29 August at Impact Arena. #
  • RT @BangkokDi: Does the airport link stop in Makkasan? => Yes it does Map: #
  • RT @king_of_tonga: I finished reading ‘Escape’ by David McMillan => You might like to read the interview I did with him #
  • This is a map I did showing the route that David took when he escaped from Khlong Prem Prison #
  • This afternoon, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn returned from Germany #
  • Wikileaks now goes on offensive and targets Thailand => RT @wikileaks: ThaiLeaks announced #
  • I wonder how long it will take the government to block the new wikileaks site dedicated to leaking documents from Thailand #
  • Miss Thailand wins the “People’s Choice Award” at Miss Universe 2010 #

Experience the Best of Rattanakosin in a Day

The latest museum to open in Bangkok, called the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall, is probably also one of the best. Located on Ratchadamnoen Road, it is not your traditional kind of museum. It is very much interactive and hands-on and uses modern techniques to teach you about the history of Bangkok in an entertaining way. The name of the exhibition hall comes from the original name of the capital before it was changed to “Krungthep Mahanakorn”. Rattanakosin also refers to the reign of the Chakri Dynasty. It is situated in a renovated four storey building which has some fine views of Wat Ratchanadda’s Loha Prasat building, known as the Metal Castle, and also the Golden Mount beyond.

Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall opens later than most places at 11 a.m. However, this is because it stays open later until 8 p.m. The panoramic views you can see here are in the coffee shop on the fourth floor. I am sure they will be just as beautiful in the evening with all the lights. The full price for the exhibition is 200 baht for adults and 50 baht for children. However, there is a special promotion until 31st December 2010 of 100 baht for adults and 30 baht for children. This is definitely worth the money and encourages you to go again. I am sure you will be happy to hear that there is no double pricing and everyone pays the same admission fees. The majority of the exhibit is bilingual in Thai and English. However, a wireless audio guide is essential for the video presentations. There is a 1,500 baht deposit for this equipment.

The museum was designed by the people behind the Dragon Generation Museum that I visited in Suphanburi Province. It uses the same concept where you go on a guided tour through the exhibition hall. At present you are taken through seven rooms but there will be two more next year. Personally I prefer to wander around museums by myself, but the tour guide gives you plenty of time to study the exhibits and also interact with them. Our entry and exit from each room is timed to perfection as most rooms have a multimedia presentation. The names of the rooms are: Grandeur Rattanakosin, Prestige of the Kingdom, Remarkable Entertainment, Renowned Ceremonies, Graceful Architectures, Impressive Communities and Sight-seeing Highlights. Before I forget, the museum is wheel-chair friendly.

The Prestige of the Kingdom Room contains this impressive model of the Emerald Buddha Temple and the Grand Palace complex. There are exhibits that tell you about palace life and also Royal ceremonies. You can learn about the performing arts such as the masked Khon dance, lakhon plays and puppet shows. There is fruit carving, Thai silk and different Thai architectural styles. At one of the last rooms they take your picture and then you are shown a cartoon presentation of the sight-seeing highlights of the area. Amazingly the faces of our group were placed into this cartoon which made everyone laugh. The tour lasted just under two hours. The time went very quickly as the tour was both informative and entertaining. I definitely want to go again as there was so much to take in and one visit wasn’t enough. I might go in the evening next time.

You can reach the Exhibition hall by public buses such as numbers 2, 3, 9, 15, 31, 33, 39, 42, 47, 59, 60, 64, 68, 70, 79, 82, 86, 157, 201, 503 and 509. It is close to the Golden Mount and Loha Prasart, the Metal Castle, so you could visit these places at the same time. Click here for map location. I was at the museum as a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and they also took us to the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall to see the magnificent Arts of the Kingdom V exhibition. This nicely complimented our morning tour of Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall. If you have already been to the Grand Palace, then you should have a free ticket for the throne hall. If not it doesn’t matter as it is only 150 baht and 50 baht for the audio tour. I wish to thank the TAT for being such kind hosts again and for inviting me to take part in this product testing trip.

Buriram to Nang Rong and Phanom Rung

Darkest Isan (where decent thais fear to tread), Part Three

Thailand’s greatest ancient monument, the 900 year old Khmer temple complex sitting on top of a volcano with a panoramic view stretching to Cambodia’s plains and mountains.

After Buriram where watching paint dry is better than the town’s day life (don’t mention nightlife) tiny Nang Rung with absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever is a step up in the world. If the word ugly could drawn, planned, paid for, a gang of labourers hired to build it and me forced to go there to see it, it would be called Nang Rung, and I’d still be there going thank God I’m here not in Buriram anymore.

Nang Rong will forever have a special place in my heart reserved for it. You may find this hard to believe but it was the place for the very first time (not wearing a crash helmet) I drove my motorcycle the wrong way up an eight lane highway then mounted the pavement zigzagging in and out of pedestrians and parked outside the 7/11 to buy a beer, previously having drunk two, and all this after missing a U-Turn spot. This manoeuvre is of course part of the traffic police’s driving test and, I’m also pretty sure it fulfils section ‘A’ of the Thai citizenship test too.

The only real reason to go to Nang Rong is as a launch pad to the ruins of Phanom Rung, which is bloody difficult to get to, as I’ll explain.

Options for visiting come in several forms, a gruelling day trip from Bangkok, a 5 hour van ride or 6 hour bus ride, each way. Trips from guest houses in Surin, Korat and Buriram sharing the price of car (2700 baht) or van (3,600 baht) hire for the day, 2 hours each way. Independent travel by buses and motocycles taxi from these towns, 3-4 hours each way or the last option which I chose, staying couple of nights in the small town of Nang Rong just 30km from the ruins. Then hiring a motorcycle for the day (250 baht) and driving there myself.

Phanon Rong’s location is either its greatest burden or greatest asset. Outclassing the over touristed Ayudthaya in every respect, it should dwarf it as tourist hotspot but located in the middle of southern Isan far from any tourist route and also far from any convenient large town in that province to use as a launch pad to visit it from, only a dedicated traveller can get there. This has kept Phanom Rung largely unspoilt unlike Ayudthaya which turned it from a pretty 4th rate ruin on a world scale into 1st rate temple to Mammon. On the day I went only a dozen western tourists visited the whole day according to the ticket lady, however there were hundreds of Thais, mostly Isaners, but as it was a Saturday I would guess this would drop off greatly on weekdays.

The temple itself isn’t exactly amazing or too dissimilar to Phimai, I’m not sure what the Ankor complex’s out house looks like, but I’m sure it would not be too different. What makes Panong Rung worth the trek is the location atop a mountain and the ceremonial walkway to the temple. Starting at one end one can pretend one is an ancient barbaric Siamese tribesman on a trip to sack the temple and try and as you walk along the ceremonial parade to imagine how this guy would have felt charging down it 1000 years ago as he gradually drew closer to this beacon of civilisation with its structure looming over him.

Dotted around the mountain top are several view points which are worth visiting as the most direction are obsucred by bushes at Phanom Rung itself. If you came by motorcycle like I did myself, you may wind up thinking Phanom Rung is only the icing on the cake and the 30km journey through small villages and farms was the real sight. If you came from a surrounding town by car or bus (as most do), the visit may seem rather tepid as you are really missing the whole experience.

Sign translates to 20 baht entry fee for Thais. By the way the Thai numbers appear to be stickers hastily stuck on I guess it previously had English numbers printed on it and it was recently decided to cover them up with Thai numbers. I guess the TAT really doesn’t want tourists to know this and feels people reading this may decide not to go to Thailand on their holidays, but China instead where they outlawed double pricing in 1996……… So it would be rather naughty of me to translate it.