Author Archives: KhunChin Tan

A Memorable Homestay in Chiangrai

AK763 touched down Chiangmai Airport with a breeze, we took a tuktuk to interstate bus terminal and took the 10:15 am Green Bus to Chiangrai. The service was good and attendant was very helpful and attentive. Unfortunately, we have to take the last row of seat as it was almost fully booked. Eric met me and my wife in Chiangrai Bus terminal 2 office. This is the first time I arrive at Terminal 2 which serves as intercity terminal. The terminal 1 is next to the night market but it has been converted to intra or local Chiangrai bus terminal.

We went to the old market in Chiangrai Chinatown to buy some fruits before heading to his place. It’s the season for fruits and we are able to buy some good mangoes, pineapples, and durians. Heading for his place in Wiang Chai. Som and Selyne were there to greet us.

Wiang Keaw is a small village, 20 km east of Chiangrai and Eric’s home is on the second row of house from the main road. It is convenient and yet accessible. I was told that the bus to Chiangkhong pass by every hour and songtheow (25 Bahts) also pass by regularly.

Google “a-thai-village-home stay,food,culture experience” for Eric’s village.

The home

Eric’s home in a rice farming village

I must give credit to Som for keeping their home clean, tidy and very comfortable. There are 2 minimum requirements that I will insist for a homestay – (1) clean (2) western toilet – and Eric place meet my requirements. All at home except the cat and dog speak English and there was really no issue in communicating. Eric has installed Truemove Satellite TV (Channel includes BBC, CNN, History, NGO, etc and also a fast Internet service (Upload 2.6MBPS and Download 0.4MBPS – tested at I was able to post this blog from his Desktop PC. The hall also has a good BOSE HIFI system besides the 40″ Sony LCD TV. The guest room is very big and airy due to many windows and even in the March dry season, we had to use the blanket at night as it is very cool at night. They have a western toilet with heater and there is no problem to shower at night.

The neighborhood
We took a walk in the neighborhood, visiting Som’s father house and his rice fields, and met with Som’s Grand mother (92-year old lady). We met up with the chief monk in the neighborhood temple. There was a funeral that day and we witnessed the funeral proceedings. As the village school is having its semester break, we could only see some kids playing basket ball in the fields.

For dinner, Eric drove to another town’s market nearby to buy some live fish for dinner. But we only get 3 live small Soon Hock Fish or Marbled Goby to steam for dinner. Som is a great cook and as she has lived in Kuala Lumpur before she cook the dishes besides the fishes according to our tastes. It was a sumptuous dinner to say the least.

Dinner Time

Soon Hock fish is a priced plate in Chinese Restaurant in Malaysia but it cost only 80 Bahts for 3 live ones

Chiangrai Walking Street

I have to congratulate myself for taking the advice of Eric to arrive early so that I could visit the Chiangrai walking street. I had earlier wanted to rent a car and drive to CR via Thaton and MaeSalong. I had been to Chiangmai walking street and really love to experience one in Chiangrai.. Chiangrai Walking street is held on Saturday evening and Eric is kind enough to take us there with Som and Selyne. We arrive a bit late at 7:30 due to a late dinner. CR walking street was much spacious compared with CM’s. My wife had a lot of success in shopping. I was more interested in the street food than buying anythings. We had street foot massage like the one in CM for 60 bahts for 30 mins before taking the 20KM drive home. We have some beers and chatted till midnight before rest.

Sunday 28 March 2010

The only White Temple in Thailand

Eric suggested we visit the White temple or known as the Wat Rong Khun and volunteer to be our tour guide. The whole temple complex was designed by the national artist named Mr. Chalermchai Kositpipat. To quote him…”It was my strong intention to build a temple in imitation of heaven. I wanted it to be a heaven on earth. I built a main building in the Buddhist monastery. I wanted it to be like a house of the Buddha with white color representing His purity and white glass representing His wisdom shining all over the earth and the universe”.

We have visited the white temple 2 years ago. The temple is almost completed by now and it is really worth a revisit. I also missed the Northern Thai arabica coffee (grown on the hill slopes and harvested by the hill-tribes). There are a lot of new development especially the souvenir shops and the rest rooms. We dropped by the bus station to buy our return ticket to CM. despite buying bus ticket 24 hours earlier, we had to contend with last but one row. We had Wonton noodle in a shop on Sanambin road and did some shopping at the Big C before heading home.

Som has been a good hostess and insisted to stay home to make dinner for us. We had sumptuous dinner of baked fish, stirred friend green bean and herbal chicken soup. My wife had the opportunity to learn cooking tips from Som.

Som and my wife, Amy enjoying their cooking chore

Eric’s traditional Thai house has a large rest area outside the hall where he install a hammock. The rest area is a good place for beer, rest, relax, and leisure talks. We had a good time talking about Thai and Malaysia politics. We chatted till late night.

A nap at home after a short trip to town

CR to CM
The next day, Monday 29 March 2010, was the time to say goodbye to our host. Eric was kind enough to send us to the Terminal 2 to catch a Green bus. We stayed in Star Inn in ChiangMai near night market. Online booking was done on 28 March and we were lucky to secure a standard room with breakfast for two at USD33.

Putting down is difficult
I salute Eric’s resolve to “put things down” and settled down in a quiet small town in CR. It is easier to “take things up” than to “put things down”. My short stay here has given me time to reflect what I really want to do with the rest of my remaining life. I have seen the passing of many friends due to illness and stress. In a recent case, one of my very good friend and associate, CT Chang was diagnosed with end stage cancer. You can read and follow his treatment on He was forced to put things down. I have been taking more and more things up – work on contract as manager and study to prepare for my retirement job in teaching. Just wonder when I will follow Eric’s footstep and put things down. I hope I don’t have to wait until it is too late to quit the rat race.

An unusual Homestay relationship in Chiangrai

I got acquainted with Eric Thitaporn in a very unique and special circumstances. It was way back in June 2008.

In early 2008, I booked 4 AirAsia ticket to Chiangmai. As 4 of us are frequent travelers to this part of the kingdom. we wanted to try something different and planned to stay in Thailand villages for a change. Google “Thai Village Home Stay Food Cultural Experience” landed me the web page of Eric Thitaporm.

I wrote to Eric and stated our requirements and schedule. Eric has only a guest room to offer and it was not convenient for 2 old couples to share the room, we turned down the offer. 4 of us instead booked a package tour for Chiangmai (CM) and Chiangrai (CR).

But Eric and I became friends. We shared news and articles about health, environment, DIY, etc. I found out that Eric is actually a Malaysian married to a Thailand lady named Som and the couple has a daughter named Selyne who was borned in Malaysia. Eric had worked in Kuala Lumpur and lived in the neighbor where I live.

Home-stay host became guest to my home
In June 2009, Eric had to return to Malaysia for some personal matters that involved Government agency. Knowing too well the efficiency of government services, he planned to stay for a month. Eric wanted to rent a place for the period and ask me to help look for him. I offered my home as I have a guest room.Eric took up the offer.

Eric drove from Chiangrai to Saadao. Thai-Malaysia border town and left his car in the hotel parking lot and took a bus to Kuala Lumpur, from where I pick him up. He stayed for a few nights and moved to stay with other friends who live in a more convenient location for public transport.

Strengthen Friendship and return goodwill

MY wife and I booked 2 AirAsia tickets to Chiangmai to celebrate our wedding anniversary in March. This time we did not plan to visit any tourist attractions but indulge in a rest and relaxation trip. Visiting Eric and Som become our top to do list. Eric and Som were excited to learn of our plans and look forward to our visit.

We experienced first hand of home-staying in a Traditional Thai Village. You will find that even those on a moderate budget can afford to indulge in a home stay and enjoyably, will have a more culturally impressive experience, one that you will always remember than a high-class tour.

27 Marc 2010 on board AK763 bound for ChiangMai

Road Trip from Kuala Lumpur to Phuket via Krabi

“Are you sure you could drive all the way from KL to Phuket?” Many friends thought I was insane to ever think of taking such a long overland trip. “It’s the journey and not only the destination that counts. If you take a flight, you will miss out a lot of scenery and the fun. It’s like life, you don’t want to reach your END destination too soon” I retorted.

I have been planning to visit Phuket during the Vegetarian festival for years but the trip never materialize due to work commitment. With another week or 2 to go before I start another 2-year contract with a Bank, I manage to convince my wife and a friend, Kenny’s and his wife to drive to Phuket from KL during the long Idul Fitri holdays. Kenny and I have driven from Phuket to Ranong before and we are comfortable with driving in Thailand.

1 October, Kuala Lumpur – Krabi
We left KL on at an ungodly hour of 2:15 AM hoping to arrive at the Sadao immigration at 9:00 AM before the crowd built up. Our Malaysian-made 1.6 Proton Gen2 sedan did quite well despite of unrelenting rains along the PLUS highway.

Surprisingly, the border was not crowded despite of the holiday season. The Thai Immigration officers in Sadao have the notorious reputation of asking for “overtime charges” of 10 bahts or 1 Malaysian Ringgit from each visitors entering and leaving the Kingdom. My usual response is to use my thumb and point to the back. Not that I don’t believe in Dana, but paying a bribe is a totally different matter. There are runners for Immigration officers to help some impatient tourist to stamp their passport at 100 bahts.

The rain stopped chasing us after crossing the Thai border and with day beak driving became a breeze. Our plan was to stop at Krabi for a night before moving on to Phuket. Although I have been to Krabi, the rest have not. It was no mistake to drive to Krabi. We stopped at Tesco-Lotus just before Krabi town for MK suki lunch. Met a friend from Malaysia with his elder brother who is a Thai national for more than 30 years and he owns and operates a factory.

In my previous trip, the Minivan took me straight to AoNang beach bypassing the town. With a car, I can drive to other beaches and the town and market. My previous impression on Krabi was entirely formed in AoNang beach and I had ill-advised my friends before about Krabi. That reminds me of The Blind Men and the Elephant by American poet John Godfrey Saxe. Kenny could not stop laughing at me for telling him that Krabi is just a small beach town with a few streets before the journey.

Krabi Town & MarketWe stayed in Ao Nang beach Resort The small bill board says that the rate is 700 Bahts. It is just another scam to get tourists in first and the boss will talk you into going for a deluxe and more expensive room. And if you insist, then she will show you a small room. We settled at 800 bahts per night for a deluxe room with breakfast for 2 thrown in.

The hotel is quite convenient as it along the beach. The air conditioner and breakfast were letdowns though. After dinner, we took a stroll before going for a foot reflexology massage. Met a chatty Malaysian by the first name of Michael from the Northern state of Kedah who told me about how Malaysia lost millions of foreign exchange to Thailand as the border states male will head for the border town of Sadao or Haadyai every weekends to spend their hard-earned money. I guess he is speaking the truth based on his own experience.

2 October, Krabi – Phuket
I am an early riser, perhaps due to age. In the morning while sauntering along the main road facing the beach, I found 2 Malaysian tour buses parked in one of the hotel. Chatted with the driver and got some contacts for information.

Back to Hotel and had breakfast with my travel mates. The buffet breakfast is just OK. Chatted with 2 Indonesian tourists who stayed in the same hotel. My Indonesian language is getting bad since my sojourn in Jakarta in 1996. Tanned on all the exposed parts of their body, these 2 gentlemen and heading for island snorkeling after breakfast.

The drive to Phuket was as uneventful as the drive to Krabi. On the way, there are temples having vegetarian festival celebration. I took some photos of the festivity in one of our stops.

As I had been to Phuket about 2 weeks just after the Tsunami devastation, I gave some first-hand account to my mates of devastation and where the bodies are kept near the Wat.

The Chinese restaurant in town that I used to patronize was closed for vegetarian festivals so we headed for Patong beaches for lunch and accommodation. Stayed in Sand Inn at 700 Bahts sans breakfast. The place is convenient but the noise and pollution can be quite bad. Sand Inn is just next to the complex that houses Carrefour and Robinson. The ladies had endless fun looking for bargains. A bar nearby in the opposite soi was serving all brands of small bottle beers at 60 Bahts. With beer bottles in their hands, most customers are sitting and watching endless herd of tourists passing by. There were some VIP visiting with TV coverage and some of us were caught shaking hands with the VIP.

3 October, Phuket – Trang
As breakfast was NOT included in Sand Inn stay, we headed for Karon beach and hope to grab something to eat along the beach. In one of the hotel, we had Buffet breakfast at 200 Bahts per head. The quiet Karon beach was quite an experience and a welcome change.

While we were in Krabi, I was told that Trang has second largest vegetarian festival after Phuket (Those in ChiangMai will dispute), so we took a slight detour to visit Trang. Although I have been to Trang 2 times, I did not visit Rachada Khaw Sim Bee Na Ranong memorial park in Trang. Khaw Sim Bee Na Ranong, the governor of Trang, was the son of Khaw Soo Cheang Na Ranong who was the founder and governor of Ranong. You can read my blog on Ranong and Khaw Soo Cheang in

Khaw Sim Bee Na Ranong was responsible for bringing in rubber from British Penang into Trang. I have a friend in Trang whose family owned many rubber estates. The family were from Perak in Malaya and they were not allowed to own land due to race-based restriction, so they moved to Thailand and made it good in Trang. By the way, there is a small road in Penang known as “Khaw Sim Bee Road”. You can read more about him at

4-5 October, Haadyai – Kuala Lumpur
There were NOT much to see in Haadyai although the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has put in a lot of effort to revive the tourism industry. I was told by my Tour agency friends that TAT has spent 4 Million bahts to spice up the Vegetarian festival for the tourist. The procession is held twice a day when I was there. Once in the morning and one in the evening.

The evidence that this festival has Hindu influenceEat-shop-Massage-eat-drink-sleep is about all you will do in Haadyai.

Expecting a huge crowd at the border crossing, we left immediately after breakfast for the border. The drive back to KL was intermittently slowed down by accidents along the PLUS highway. After stopping at Kenny’s home town for a Chinese dinner, we arrived safely at around 7:00PM in KL.

Overnight trip to Thale Noi in Patalung

I have not been posting since the beginning of 2008 as I was on assignment in Singapore and that really take away a lot of my free time. I was busy then but now I am just too lazy and have been putting off a lot of activities.

I went to Thale Noi (TN) on 28-29 July at the end of my assignment in Singapore. A temple friend who has been there many times is supposed to join me but last minutes commitment prevented him from making the trip.

28 July 2008 Morning
I took a minivan from Haadyai to TN. The minibus station is located quite a distance from Haadyai city center about 2-3 KM after the railway flyover. I made a mistake of telling the ticket office that I was going to TN and was assigned a “staged’ van. A direct Haadyai-Patalung van would have taken a lot less time.

The van took a big loop and and stopping whenever someone flag the van down, or when a passenger want to get. Well, as I am just killing time, I really don’t mind. While I don’t mind the perfume of some well-dressed ladies, the smell of sweat of some passenger can be quite bad. The van stopped at junction of road 41 and road 4182.

I would have expected the van to have stopped at 4048 instead. From there I will take a songtheow to Thale Noi which is about 8KM away. But, mai pen rai!

The Songtheow stopped at the terminal cum car park. The guest house is just 100 meters away. I did not make any reservation and I was surprised to be told that the resort is fully booked on a Monday!

The resort is also a visitor information center and you can see photos and explanations of the species of birds found in this lake. There are 187 species of waterfowls,both the indigenous and migratory one can be spotted. Unfortunately, I can’t read or understand a word to ask question about birds will even tougher.

The bungalow / guest rooms in the complex are constructed on stilt above the lake and judging from the exterior of the bungalow, the facilities must have been built more than 5 years ago and it look run down.

After visiting the visitor information center, I walk along the promenade and found this nice little guest house which was completed hardly 3 months ago. It is a semi-detached house and the owner/operator stay on the right side of the building and also operate a small hair salon. The guest house is on the left hand side with one room on ground floor (level 1) and 3 rooms on level 2. The asking price for a room with attached batch is 600 Bahts with breakfast and I managed to drive it down to 500. A hair wash by the lady owner cost 20 baht cheap.

After checking in and had a hair wash, I head for the promenade which is lined with eating shops / stores. I need to check out the details about the boat ride for tomorrow morning. They are kids/ teenage playing sepak takraw (rattan ball) and adult playing some kind of lawn bowling along the promenade.

Afternoon is for siesta especially eating too much Khao Pad and khai jiao moo sap.

Evening is spent on eating and drinking with some village folks. I think Thai men drink a bit too much of the moonshines brew. The kids have really nothing much to do also. I ended talking to them on what they learn in school. I gave away some Singapore and Malaysian coins and 1-ringgit notes.

29 July 2008, Tuesday 06:30 (the photo’s timestamps are Malaysia/Singapore time)
Woke up by the loud speakers and I don’t have any clue as to what it being broadcast. Head for the beach and took this boat to the lake. The view is spectacular although it is a not a good time to be in thale noi. The best time is October to March, according to the locals. The lotus would have boomed and the bird population peak.

I shall return for a self-drive visit next time with my buddies. As Malaysia-Thai immigration at Sadao open at 6:00AM Malaysian time, we will have time to drive to TN directly in time for the early boat ride.

Mukdahan (TH) – Savanaket (LA) – Hue, Hoi An, SGN (VN), PhnomPenh (KH)

I have been conspicuously missing from office for a week and have to answer office web email during my trip. Many people on learning of my adventure requested for photo, hotel and trip brochures and reports. Instead of answering each and every one of them, I guess the best option is still to go back to Thai-blogs. I have missed many filings of reports on this year’s trip to the Kingdom mainly due to personal reasons – the arrival of my first grandchild (girl)and the departure of my 92-year old dad, planned changing of job, my son planned marriage in November 2007, etc.

The perils of booking AirAsia ticket early is that if you are not be able to make the trip, you most probably loose every cents, even the airport tax. Although, you could claim back airport tax, people rarely do as the process will be quite intimidating. This I have learnt the hard way. Most fare structure will NOT allow you to change passenger name. My travelmate Lai lost his wife 1 month ago in a traffic accident and eventhough he reluctantly follow us, I know he wont enjoy as much. With many things on my back, my trip wasn’t as pleasant as I hope.

AK880 KUL-BKK arrived on time at around 9:00hr but the connecting flight to Ubon RatchaThani UBP only leave at 14:05hr and we will have more than 3 hours to kill. The best options was to take a taxi to BangNa and have a meal of MK Duck and steamboat- yummy.

On arrival in UBP, we took a bus to Mukdahan and arrived just after 20:10hrs, too late to cross the border which closed at 20:00hrs.

It was a blessing staying a night in Mukdahan. We stayed in Hotel Kim Jek Cin #1 for 300 bahts a night. AS it was raining quite heavily, we had 4 bowls of beef noodle nearby at 100 bahts. After a quick shower, we head for a restaurant nearby with live band. The damage for 6 bottles of beer was less than 500 bahts. The sad thing is that the live band stopped playing after mid-night, may be due to the next day being a working Monday.

The next day (15 October Monday), I went to Siam Commercial Bank SCB to bank in 3500 Bahts (my left-over loose change since I won’t be back into the Kingdom) into With the recent demonstration in Rangoon, more refugees have arrived in Sangkhlaburi putting pressure on the orphanage.

To save time looking for SCB, I asked Kasikorn Bank K-Bank near hotel on SCB whereabouts, and K-Bank staff was so helpful and even drew a map to SCB for me. Walking around Mukdahan is really intresting.

My previous trip in 2004 was from Savanaket in Laos – Mukdahan and fly back from UBP using Thai airways. This time, we are taking the other way round of entering Laos via Mukdahan. My impression of Savanaket and Mukdahan changed. There were no bridge between the 2 countries then and we need a VISA in Laos. The bus trip from Vientiane – Savanaket THEN was so that bad that the bus driver left us near the border crossing. We thought THEN “that” was “Savanaket” and quickly left the cowboy town into Mukdahan and back to UBP. In short my experience with Savan and Mukdahan wasn’t pleasant then. But things have changed.

I will upload the photos taken when I am back in Malaysia as I now do not have the photo resize software with me. Please revisit.