Category Archives: Travelling in Thailand

Thai Visa Border Run (Part 1)

(As you can see, Thai immigration excels in its knowledge of the English language)

Scouring the Internet for Thailand related websites, one of the most talked about issues you’ll come across is none other than the legendary or perhaps infamous, (whichever way you wanna look at it) ‘Thai Visa Border Run’.

For these couple of blogs, I’ll stick to the issue of running to the border for a re-entry stamp, whether it be for a multiple-tourist, multiple non-immigrant or that more than dreaded 30 day Visa on Arrival one. Oops forgot…. since the authorities-in-charge have recently deemed such a length of stay rather too long for ‘bedraggled pot smoking’ farang backpackers or ‘more than dodgy’ Pattaya expats, your only gonna get a 15 day Visa on Arrival (overland) these days. So, where to go for that re-entry Visa Run? Let’s have a look at the most popular place of all to start off with, and that is:

Aranya Prathet / Poipet (Cambodia)

There is the Ban Laem border point, but by far the most popular one is at Aranya Prathet in Sra Kaew province. To get there takes about 4 and a half hours by air-conditioned bus from the Northern Bus Terminal in Bangkok and costs about 200 Baht one-way. Better to go in the morning as that’s when the buses leave frequently. Once you get to Aranya Prathet Bus Terminal, jump on a motorbike taxi or tuk-tuk to the border point for about 60-80Baht.
Next, get stamped outta Thailand and apply for a Tourist Visa on the Cambodian side (office on right-hand side just after bridge).
The real cost of a visa is $20US, but since the hard-working Khmer immigration officials are fond of a few Scotch on the Rocks after work, you’ll be left sat for hours unless you donate something to their over-flowing Whiskey Fund Account. A nice 1,000 Baht banknote instead of a 20 dollar note does the tricky very quickly indeed. It’s not unheard of, of foreigners giving a 20 dollar note and a 100 Baht ‘tip’ for their visa on the spot service. Up to you if you wanna try it.

Warning! There is now a expansive Cambodian Visa Scam syndicate operating in Aranya Prathet. It goes like this – you take a tuk-tuk or moto-taxi from the bus terminal to the border or a bus from Khao Sarn and you get dropped off at a travel agency specializing in Cambodian visas. An ‘assistant’, probably some dodgy Khmer geezer with a fake Tourism Authority of Thailand licensed badge hanging from his neck (The TAT does not give such a license to foreigners) explains that Cambodian visas can now only be issued from travel agents like his. If you aren’t so dumb and explain that you know that the border issues them, he’ll next tell you it’s an excruciatingly long hot wait on the Cambodian side. The price for his service is 1,200 – 1,300.

Forget it! The time you wait in his so-called ‘travel agency’ for your passport back with the Cambodian visa inside, you would have been on the Poipet side by then. Ignore what any of these touts tell you – go alone, do it yourself. The queue up for the entry stamp on the Cambodian side can be a bit of a wait, but still better than paying someone off (yes, dodgy geezers on the Khmer side too offering you a ‘speedy under the table stamp service’ into the country too for the likes of 200 Baht).

(Slots, blackjack, roulette? Come join dozens of Thai politicians and even a bunch of Thai fugitives at one of Poipet’s groovy casinos)

Hate to say it, but Poipet simply has to go down as one of the seediest border towns on the planet. Having visited (and once lived) in Cambodia a few times, I’ve had the not so exciting opportunity to enjoy this not so captivating place quite a few times. I’ve read others’ reports on the Net that the place does have a bitta heart but I’ve yet to experience it. Personally, I would not recommend staying over night there, and folk I’ve known who have done it suggest the same thing.

What is worth experiencing in Poipet (actually between the two countries in supposed no-mans land) is one of the casinos. These flashy well-to-do Macau-type gamblers’ havens are in sheer contrast to the 3rd world surroundings one witnesses after coming through Thai immigration. Yours in name here admits to having placed a few bets on the roulette table himself and proudly rejoices at the little winnings that have come his way. With minimum bets at just 5 Baht, 500 baht can go a long way!

In fact, there are casino buses which leave daily in the morning from Lumphini Park in Bangkok and the return trip costs only 200 Baht. Arriving at say 11 o’clock the return bus leaves at 3 or 4 o’clock. So, if you take this cheap visa run transportation, be prepared to hang around a bit. If you ask on the bus in the morning, you should also get a free lunch voucher for the casino. Ask a Thai friend to Google Search “Casino Bus Poipet” for you in Thai language for all the relevant info.

On the Thai side of the border is the one and only Rong Kleau Market which is beyond a doubt the most famous market outside of the capital and very very arguably the cheapest in the land. Yes, this area is a massive source for much of the inexpensive (often low quality though) products sold all over Thailand. Sunglasses, wallets, t-shirts you name it…. Cost-effective, prices can be less than half of what you pay at tourist orientated stalls in Bangkok and Pattaya etc… Definitely worth a good look around and if you take yer Thai wife/girlfriend, you can be rest-assured she’ll love it.

The last bus back from Aranya Prathet to Bangkok is at 7pm but if you wanna stay overnight then there is some real value for money accommodation available in town (lots of Thai-style resorts near the border). Personally, i recommend the Aran Garden 2 Hotel, a bargain at just over 200 a night with fan and TV. Even though the town isn’t exactly the most exhilarating place in Thailand, it’s worth a stay over night – there are a few decent enough places to eat, and of course, to sing…..karaoke.

Kick Back in Style on a Thai Train

“Forget that ear-splitting karaoke on overnight buses and take in the countryside at a leisurely pace on a Thai train.”

Westerners certainly have more of a love for trains than most of the locals in Thailand, the latter of whom consider such mode of transport as almost prehistoric – then again, I guess some of the trains operating actually are!
While tripping around Thailand though, it’s almost a must, at least once, to experience the one-and-only Thai train. Take the Bangkok-Chiang Mai train, for example: even though the train does the journey much slower than the overnight bus, you won’t have to tolerate blaring karaoke or sub-zero air-conditioning.

Instead, you could be having a lot of fun in the train’s funky restaurant meeting locals and fellow travellers while enjoying a friendly game of cards and a chilled beer.
And instead of waking up in the morning to the sight of a six-lane motorway and countless petrol stations, you’ll be relishing a beautiful sunrise from the heart of the Thai countryside.
If the North isn’t your cup of tea, then head to Isaan, which definitely has one of the best routes in Thailand: Nakhon Ratchasima to Ubon Ratchathani.

The train is incredibly slow but you can break your journey up and spend a night in the groovy provincial towns of Surin, Buri Ram and Si Sa Ket. It’s a great ride, on which you can enjoy the company of super-friendly locals, who will, for sure, be inviting you to tuck into a delicious on-board picnic of grilled chicken, papaya salad and sticky rice.
You’ll get the chance to pick up some Isaan dialect or even Khmer.
Then, for those who fancy Thailand’s longest route, book yourselves onto the Bangkok-Penang International Express. It’s a 21-hour journey to remember.

So, wherever you plan to go this year, make sure that at least once you take the one-and-only Thai train!

Soi Ngam Dupli / Soi Sri Bumphen

(The once infamous Malaysia Hotel – now, nothing like it was before)

Soi Ngam Dupli and its adjacent lane, Soi Sri Bumphen, located just off Rama 4 Road near Lumphini Boxing Stadium was the backpacker haven way before the advent of Khao Sarn Road.While Khao Sarn has developed from a cheap 50 baht dorm gaff into a glitzy area packed with trendy clubs, traditional massage parlours and Kebab stalls, Soi Nam Dupli and Soi Sri Bumphen have hardly changed a darned bit.

Just last weekend, after having visited a buddy of mine in Bangkok along Sukhumvit Road I popped into a bar on the corner of Soi Nana to read the paper and have a quick bevvie. On looking at the bill planted in front of me, I was pretty flabbergasted at having to fork out an extravagant 95baht for a mini Singha Beer. Thinking where to go next, (somewhere a bit cheaper like…) it was by chance that I saw some Thai geezer walking past who I remembered from Soi Sri Bumphen a long time back. It was then that I thought that I would pop on a motorbike-taxi and check out this old area of mine which I hadn’t been for a decent year and a half or so.

Just as I presumed, nothing had changed the slightest and I was soon chatting away to old friends in one of the only few open-day bar/restaurants the soi has to offer – ‘Kenny’s Bar’. Whichever way you want to look at, Lonely Planet has had a huge influence on the area and for donkey’s years, the ‘Backpacker’s Bible’ advised travelers that Soi Ngam Dupli/Bumphen had gone way downhill, was over-priced and that Khao Sarn Road offered a much better deal. Times have changed though, Khao Sarn Road’s prices have sky-rocketed over the past decade while Sri Bumphen’s costs have hardly gone up at all. In fact, after having a quick ask around, some of the room rates haven’t changed in the past 10 years.

Soi Ngam Dupli and Soi Sri Bumphen first opened their doors to travelers in the 1960s and one of the first budget gaffs to stay was the Malaysia Hotel. If you are unfamiliar with this place (which is still there today) it became notorious for renting rooms by the hour to randy tourists as its 24-hour restaurant was constantly full off ladies of the night, rent-boys and ladyboys. Again, Lonely Planet, never had a nice word to say about this place. Over the years though, this place has certainly changed and most of the folk you will see hanging around the restaurant and lobby at 2 in the morning these days are just a handful of tame foreigners with their rent-by-the-week girlfriends and boyfriends. No different at all to most 2/3 star hotels you’ll find in any of the land’s tourist destinations. Nowadays, the place isn’t that bad at all.

Once upon a time, Soi Bumphen was infamous for its drugs scene and many a foreigner succumbed to a little too much of the white powder and left the country in a 7 foot box. (Khao Sarn is now much more well-known for such activity) The most notorious hotel in those days just had to have been the Boston Inn, which is still there these days but like the Malaysia it has quietened down enormously. In fact, the place is pretty dead quiet these days and at around 200 a night with a friggin swimming pool you could call it a bargain!

As I wrote above, my fave hang-out used to be Kenny’s Bar which was always full of tourists who had been coming to Thailand for years on end. After returning to the place after an absence of a good 18 months, the prices were still exactly the same and so were the Thai patrons/waitresses who had been living/working around there for the past 10 years or even longer. Til this day, most of them are women with their long-term foreign boyfriends/husbands while most of the friendly Thai guys are gay with foreign partners. (Actually, this area is a quite a big gay hang-out) Kenny’s is a decent place for a bit of a laugh, chat with foreigners (who have been here even longer than myself) and listen to a jukebox which is as old as the area itself.

Soi Sri Bumphen has plenty of budget accommodation and especially in terms of cheap guesthouses in the 150-350 baht range. Most popular over the years have had to be Freddy 2, Lee 3, Lee 4, Madame and Sala Thai, all of them still doing a thriving business with faithful customers who have been coming back and forth for decades (Stay well-clear of Freddie 3, that’s full of junkies). Very seldom, does the area get anymore newbie travelers fresh-off-the-boat who have never been there before.

There are a few great budget restaurants in the area, which is in contrary to what the Lonely Planet states in that you get less value for your baht than the Khao Sarn Road strip. Along with a couple of farang friends I caught up with, I found a lovely restaurant opposite Kenny’s which was dealing out huge cheeseburgers American-style for less than a hundred baht and an Italian gaff dishing out Pizza Hut size pizzas for a couple of hundred. Much better than some of the poxy, over-priced boring food on Khao Sarn Road, where a plate of chicken fried rice can set you back a hundred baht (20 baht on the street like).

One of the sois most famous bars is the nostalgic Wong’s Bar which has been there for around 30 years or so, unfortunately the original owner the super-nice Mr Wong himself died a few back (ironically from lung cancer) but the small cozy bar is still being run fine by a relative of his. Walking in that place is step back in time and I can remember Wong once telling me that he had the biggest collection of music videos in Bangkok. And I believe him, the whole bar is still full of classic concert videos which are super-hard to find anywhere in Thailand. Whatever your taste in old music, just ask the owner to turn it on. As for food in the place, I was always impressed, both Thai and Farang.

The area is really easy to get to, both from Sathorn and Rama 4 roads and if its Silom Road nightlife you are in town for, then the street is a 45 baht taxi ride away. If you fancy checking out the nostalgia of the area just ask any taxi driver (Soi Ngam Dupli) and most of them will know it no problem. Let them drop you off at the Malaysia Hotel and stroll the area on foot. I’d advise the place for a short stay, especially if you are fed-up with the commercialism and ‘full-in-your face’ antics of Khao Sarn Road.

Travelling In Thailand….By Train!

It’s been quite a bit of fun writing up this ‘Travelling in Thailand series and for the forth and final part I just had to write up a whole blog on the unmistakable Thai Train.

During this series I didn’t even mention ‘motorbike-taxis’ – probably cause I am in the habit of writing about them quite a lot anyway! And how about the ‘car’, sorry – but such a boring form of getting from A to B shall have to wait for a new series! Then what about the horse, elephant or even buffalo? Guess I shall have to find some space to fit them into another blog sometime.

I hate to say it, but in the eyes of the Thais, the train is a ‘last resort’ when it comes down to ‘transportation preference’! Just ask any old Thai what they think about the state of Thailand’s trains and you’ll hear a flurry of remarks along the lines of “Darned slow”, “Crummy service” and “Never on time”. Guess they aren’t far off the truth! Since the Thailand’s train system is ‘a government service’ the state officials employed to run the things aren’t in the habit of working their guts off for a pittance wage. Every branch of Thailand’s government is renowned for its civil servants who hate being called ‘servants’ and instead feel that they are doing the public a favour and ought to be respected forthwith.

Thailand’s poor old train service has certainly gone down-hill over the years but it is still the best mode of transport to really see and feel the country! A bus up to Chiang Mai may take 9 hours but the blessed train plods along in no rush whatsoever and does the distance in 12 (if you’re lucky that is!). But what a great way to go! Sat on the upcountry bus you’ll be bored stiff with a TV blaring away in front showing some corny quack-wack Chinese soap opera, then for a view from the window you’ll be seeing nothing but huge billboards erected along the road, just waiting to fall over… (on a motorcyclists head). The train however, offers you some excellent views of the Thai countryside and its paddy fields, farming families and water buffaloes. Then in the morning you’ll be waking up to some gorgeous sunrise. Not having to just plonk yourself in the seat all evening, the upcountry train provides passengers with a groovy restaurant. Though the prices are rather over the top, you’ll have the opportunity to meet a whole variety of characters and especially other Thai state officials (they get a discount on train travel) hoping to practice their English with some foreigner. Thailand’s civil servants are famed for a few things and besides just laziness, they are; playing cards for a few baht (under the table of course!) and drinking whisky like there was no tomorrow.

If you fancy ordering some beers on the Thai night train it is advised to flash a bitta Thai lingo and pretend you know the score as employees on the train are synonymous for ‘over-charging’ beer-swigging Farangs. I remember the last time I took a train up to Chiang Mai and got into conversation with some banana-shake-backpackers and a few Thai army boys returning home. The backpackers had supped up all their beer and when they asked the waitress for the bill, I was surprised at the cost of a large beer – 100 baht! Not expecting to pay that much for a darned beer, I asked for my bill only for the waitress to reply, “that will be 160 baht for two bottles please”. Glad to be paying the Thai price, I sat back down and had one more!

Just ask any of the train officials and they all have a stock of nauseatingly bad stories about ‘Farangs!’ and for some strange reason, ‘drunk ones’ especially. There was the true story of a pack of Farangs from Europe a couple of years back who had been partying it up on Koh Samui over the new year. Getting on the train, the officials in charge ordered them to ‘control their alcohol consumption on the train’ as they were already smelling to the heavens and being loud-mouthed. Failing to heed the advice of the train officials they continued drinking their supply of alcohol which they had brought along with them, stuffed in their bags. They were warned too of standing in the gangways and opening up the door to have a smoke. Anyway, the story goes that around midnight one of the guy’s girlfriends starts running up and down the isles screaming at the top of her voice for the train to stop. Her boyfriend had simply disappeared after the last time he had popped out for a cigarette and…….. fallen off the train. Quite a lot of negative publicity was given to this story and especially about the quality of the Farangs heading to Koh Samui these days! You have been warned!

My favourite train route just has to be the Isarn (north-eastern) one that runs from Korat (Nakhorn Ratchasima) to Ubol Ratchathani on the Thai/Khmer/Laos border. I’ve done the route twice now stopping off every day at a new town like Surin, Buriram and Sisaket. The train is nearly always late but it’s darned cheap, incredibly slow and full of north-eastern locals speaking their local Khmer or Isarn dialects while pigging away on grilled chicken, papaya-bok-bok and sticky rice. For friendless it’s hard to beat the Isarn folk and you’ll soon be asked to help consume their lunch with a few glasses of whiskey. Even for me, the folks are as nice as can be but actually understanding what they are saying is a different kettle of fish! Try the route you won’t be disappointed!

The train is also the place to eat! The upcountry chug-along day-train is a haven for vendors coming on to the train trying to sell you a whole variety of food from the likes of dried squid to grilled meat balls. The for some weird reason, whenever a ‘drinks lady’ spots a male Farang she automatically sticks a can of Beer Chang in his face as if he lived on the stuff! Countryside train stations are quiet places run by some station-master who does virtually nothing the whole day long but watch TV, eat, drink, gossip with some friends and occasionally water the flowers. Fine job – his only responsibility in life is to wave the train past – twice a day!

When I first came to Suphanburi I had to go buy a ticket for the Bangkok-Penang train at the station here. Now, half the locals here don’t even realize the town has a train station! Arriving at the station, it took me 10 minutes of looking around to actually find someone who was working! I finally found the station-master sat under a tree outside, again drinking whiskey with some buddies of is! He seemed pretty perplexed when I explained that I needed to book a ticket to go to Penang, I think his first words were “Are you sure, we have a train that goes to Malaysia!?’ It next takes the guy another 10 minutes to turn on his computer, another 10 to call up a colleague in Nakhorn Pathom province to find out the code for the Penang/Butterworth train and finally another 10 to print out a ticket, I mean the mechanism looked older than him!

Talking about the Bangkok-Penang (Butterworth) train, now that’s the funkiest train Thailand has to offer! Funny to listen to the ‘tanoy’ when the train is approaching the station (I always take the train at the Samsen station instead of Hualumpong) “Passengers pls get ready for boarding, the International Butterworth train is approaching” makes it sound like you were at the airport! That is one heck of a train though and a bargain and a half, at something like…. eleven hundred baht! Very recommended!

If you are a newbie to Thai trains and fancy the idea of taking one, it is advised to book well in advance (if it’s a long distance one). Absolutely no need to go to the main train station you can book a ticket at any old station in Thailand – they are all computerized these days. If you are wanting to take a really long distance one, like to say Hat Yai or Penang I suggest you take along some sandwiches drinks etc….. as the food on the train is pish-poor and darned expensive! It isn’t a crummy slow chug-along day-train neither, so vendors aren’t allowed to pop on the train at every station it stops at!

And finally, if you get a sleeper get a ‘lower’ one! The ‘upper’ ones are right hassle to climb up to, the cabin light glares in your eyes, they are quite tiny and in the morning you will have no where to sit until the person in the ‘lower’ sleeper decides to pack up his/her bedding and give you your seat back. Plus, a ‘lower’ sleeper offers you lovely views of the sunrise, not a bad thing to wake up to!

BTW: It’s been fun writing about the witty side of life in Thailand but I would like to offer the readers another side to my writing. You may have noticed that I have started a new series on ‘Thailand News Stories’ but I will also be starting up a couple of new series on “Thailand’s most influential persons” and “Insights”. See how it goes, will be interesting for me too, to write about topics just that little bit more serious……

Lots More Fun….Travelling In Thailand!

Just when you may have thought that i had given up on my ‘Travelling in Thailand’ series – i decided to… come back and write..yet more. Though perhaps a little delayed due to recent work and family duties, it’s back to blogging again with some more weird and wonderful ways to make that trip of yours to Thailand just that…. little bit more special!

Once upon a time, hitch-hiking was an absolute fad amongst those hippy dreadlocked herb-smoking travellers seeking a bit of mystical enlightment on the overland Asia-Europe trail. These days though, such mode of travel has become virtually defunct in this part of the world and Thailand is no exception.

Bit of a pity really as yours in name can admit to having some wild times hitch-hiking along the unbeaten tracks of Thailand to the bemusement of the local population. Instead of a freebie ride, it didn’t take me long to decipher that most of the drivers thought that you were a willing sponser of their petrol tank! and the only reason you were hitch-hiking was that there was no public transporation around!

I once resorted to hitch-hiking with a few Farang buddies of mine after we had got lost somewhere in the jungles of Kanchanaburi. Since most of the drivers passing-by hadn’t a clue what we were up to sticking our thumbs like a bunch of clowns; just sped on past while giving us a friendly gesture of a wave. Fruitless in our endeavours and almost dark by then, the only Farang girl in the group decided to do the gracious thing and plonk herself on the side of the road and flag over some car…..alone. The next pick-up to come along stopped for her and it was a cop’s. The driving officer, probably thinking it was his lucky day, looked pretty pished-off when he witnessed a bunch of monkey-like Farang males run out from the back of a tree and jump into the back of his pick-up.

Talking about pick-ups.

Now, Thais are famed for a lotta things: covering themselves head to toe in baby powder after having a shower, singing karaoke for ten hours on the trot or falling asleep on a bus within the space of ten seconds. But unquestionably, Thais are applauded most for miraculously managing to fit the entire population of one village into the back of a single pick-up. Just when you think the truck is already completely full to the brim, there is always space for dear-old grannie and a couple of newly-born babies to dangle off the back bumper grasping on for dear-life.

Travelling by pick-up in Thailand, like most other modes of transport in the country, is not the safest way to navigate one’s life. I can remember just a couple of years back. While out celebrating the Water-throwing Songkran Festival on the back of a friend’s pick-up i did the truly unwise thing, and pretending to be a Thai decided to sit on the barrier of the darned vehicle. Great fun it really was until; after getting into a water chucking fight with a bunch a saucy looking girls in another pick-up, i slipped up head over heels, and completely fell out of the thing. I was left bruised and battered flat on my backside in the middle of the road. Whilst fearing for my life at the possible onslaught of incoming traffic heading my way, the locals at the side of the road were in complete hysterics. On returning home and seeking some sympathy from me girlfriend, all i got was “Serves you darned-right for staring out other girls”

Outside of the nation’s capital there isn’t that much in the way of transporatation around little towns besides the ‘Songthaew’. For all you foreigners who may not be so familiar with such vocabulary, a ‘songthaew’ is one of of those funky looking roofed-pick-ups with two benches in the back – ie… the word ‘songthaew’ literaly translates as ‘two rows’. Once upon a time you just had to bang the roof when you wanted off the wretched thing but due to technological development most now have a ‘buzzer’ you can ring – I mean, if it works!. Just like the country’s bus drivers, ‘songthaew’ drivers are another fine species that is reknowned for slowing down to pick up passengers but not actually stopping. It is left to the passengers own devices, yet once again, to hazardously jump into the vehicle, one slip and he’ll be flying head-first onto the main the road.

‘Songthaews’, like buses are usually synonymous with happily charging foreigners the same fare as the local Thais. Go to the east coast and Pattaya however, and you may find their ‘songthaew’ drivers to be the most wretched uncivilized beings to walk the earth. For years now I have avoided Pattaya’s ‘songthaew’ drivers like the plaque because of their two-teiring price system. Of course, there is a lotta ‘over-charging the foreigner’ at every tourist destination in Thailand but if you haggle a bit you’ll often get away with paying the Thai price. As for Pattaya’s ‘songthaew’ drivers, they are in a habit of physically assualting any foreigner who even tries to get away with paying the Thai price!

My last confrontation with a Pattaya ‘songthaew’ driver ended with this fine species being arrested and shifted off to the local cop box to pay a fine. Don’t blame me! I had been in Pattaya for a month or so and had got into the fine tendency of putting 5 baht in the driver’s hand (the correct local fare) and dashing quickly across the road before the monster could even complain. On one occasion however, I wasn’t so quick and the freak comes running out of the ‘songthaew’ bellowing “You pay 10 baht!” (The Farang price). Pretty pished-off with his remarks, I retorted in English that I had lived in Pattaya for years. The driver wanting nothing to do with my feeble explanation, reached for a huge plank of wood concealed under the driver’s seat and started waving it around threatening to smack me over the head with it. Unfortunately for the driver, I spotted a couple of ‘Thailand’s-finest boys-in-browns’ driving past on their bikes and flagged them over. By the time the cops got off their bike the scheming driver had replaced the huge plank of wood under his seat and started defending himself by waffling off to the cops that I had refused to pay the fare.

Just when the driver thought he had won, I started blabbering away in Thai to the cops and explained that the driver had threatened to wallop me round the back of the head with a nasty plank of wood which was …… under his seat. In no time at all, the impressive policemen had the driver on the back of their bike and waltzed him off to the station for carrying …… a lethal weapon. Serves him right I say! There were even a couple of English tourists in the back of the songthaews with their thumbs in the air shouting “Good on ya mate!” I would however, recommend the readers to be a little more cautious than me – and not so darned-cheeky! From that day onwards, I only ever travel Pattaya on a motorbike-taxi and golly-gosh…..they always charge…the Thai price!

Even at Pattaya Bus Station the ‘songthaews’ had up a huge sign (probably still there now!) in English advertising over-inflated prices, rather ironic though when the police down in Pattaya had explained to me that “It is an illegal offense for ‘songthaews’ to over-charge foreigners!”

Now, what other awesome way to get around the islands of Thailand is there besides the ‘Rickety Thai boat’? The ‘long-tail boat’ is real favourite of mine but once again your life is truly in the hands of the driver! Not only are you in fear that the 30 year-old termite-infested vehicle may run out of petrol in the middle of the open sea, but if the thing suddenly does a somersault on a high wave; there is only a single life jacket for a total of seven passengers! Long-tail boat rides are full of risk and not for the faint-hearted but if you are daring enough they are a fun way to zip off to some remote island or beach. Be warned though – the long-tail boat driver will be more interested admiring topless-sunbathing ‘lady Farangs’ than he will be with the direction he is supposed to be taking.

‘Motorized-rickshaws’ in Suphanburi

In Bangkok, ‘Rickshaws’ have been banned for years but in the provinces they are still a popular mode of transport. If you fancy trying one out for yourself just pop up to Nonthaburi or Kanchanburi provinces and you’ll see scores of them. The flimsy vehicles are usually half falling to bits and their riders – well, they are so unbelievably skinny that you’ll be amazed at how they manage to cycle up-and-down hills all day at such a speed!

You may have read from ‘Richard the Webmaster’s’ latest blogs that he ventured up to my home province of Suphanburi over the Chinese New Year Weekend. Well, one of the first things he was quick to notice was the existance of ‘motorized-rickshaws’. Talking about a bit of technological deveopment! The rickshaw drivers here had the sense years ago; instead of having to peddle the darned things, just attached some make-shift engine to them! The motorized-rickshaw may chugg along the road at the grand speed of 10km/hour but at least the drivers aren’t so knackered and energyless that they look like sunburnt-chopsticks.