Along with a couple of dozen westerners on moped I was pulled in a police trap. They know that, almost certainly, you have not brought your driving licence with you. We each had to give the police 300 bahts. About £3.60. You get a piece of paper which means you are safe for the rest of the day.
At the airport you will probably end up in a regular taxi, or a larger shared vehicle. You will probably get irritated by the driver's constant questions about where you are going/staying. This is what he really wants to know.He is trying to find out if you have pre-booked a hotel. If you have there is nothing to be gained for him. But like many others you may be going to arrange this yourself when you get there. After all you will be in a good bargaining position; Phuket tourist traffic is 10% of what it was pre-tsunami. If he finds out that you have no reservation, without your approval a detour will be made and you will end up sitting in a shop somewhere with one of his extended family, or a friend trying to arrange your accommodation for you. It will come over as a marvellous deal. They will want to know about how much per night you are wanting to pay. Let's say it is 1000 Baht. He will be bargaining away for the best offer, which of course is not passed onto you. You will be paying them 1000 bahts over, say, your 21-day holiday ie 21000 Baht. And they will be paying the hotel maybe 700 bahts over the same 21 day period ie 14700 Bahts. That’s a nice little earner. I have been amazed at how gifted Thai’s are at making money from tourists.
These are inexpensive taxis. Once seen never forgotten. They are three wheelers which are completely open.Do say “sha sha” - slow down, or "Ya Kab Doi Pramart" - please take care.For an even more terrifying experience, flag down a guy driving a moped, wearing a green plastic vest. He’s a moped taxi driver, and will cost about 20 baht. You get about 70 of these for a pound.
There is one motorbike taxi driver in Bangkok who rides a Harley, but only charges the going rate for a ride, which works out about £1 to go anywhere in central Bangkok. If you see him, get a ride with him just for the sheer hell of it. You will never know fear like the fear you get on the back of Harley hurtling headlong into Bangkok traffic, with no helmet on. I did this on a hangover and by the time I got to my destination, I was cured.
I found him outside the Asia Hotel, 296 Phayathai Road.
I stayed in the Banyan Tree Hotel in October having previously visited for a drink the year before. The hotel is excellent - they cannot do enough to assist you and the breakfast is top notch.
What makes it great though, is that all this doesn't come with a premium price tag. Not budget accomodation by a long way, but you don't need a second mortgage to stay there.
But the highlight is a visit to the roof top bar (Vertigo) on the 64th floor. Fantastic views, great atmosphere and fab cocktails. Felt very Sex and the City. Certainly the place to take someone you're hoping to impress. Just make sure you wear trousers, not shorts.
Neither of the islands are malarial. But you will still be bitten. I took the stuff to put them off, and I suppose sometimes it worked. Maybe the stuff loses it effectiveness after exposure to the air for so long. Maybe it rubbed off. The best thing to do in hindsight would have been to wear long trousers. It's your legs they go for. But it's so warm, shorts really are items of choice.
In the UK I study people near ATM machines if I wish to use one, as undesirables are sometimes lying in wait. You will be pleasantly surprised to find that physical crimes against people are very infrequent in Thailand. Crimes tend to be non-violent, ie picking pockets or deception.
Thais, like anyone else can take offence. If you see a row of shoes outside a room/office etc, it means people are taking off their shoes before going in. Don’t wait to be asked, if you want to go in, take yours off. If you visit a temple you must remove you shoes. Do as the Thais do. If you must get down on the floor, fold your legs beneath you so that your feet point away from the Buddha. Wear appropriate clothing. Don’t wear shorts mini skirts or short-sleeved shirts. Cover yourself.
Every resort will offer several scuba diving schools. They offer PADI courses leading to world-wide recognised qualifications. A 3-4 day PADI Open Water course leading to qualification in Thailand will cost you about £120. This is probably half the price you'd pay in the UK.
The only link I can lay my hand on is: www.westcoastdivers.com.
It's a little-known fact that Thailand is probably the world's best place to learn to surf. The water is almost as warm as you are. Even better, the surf is perfect to learn on. There are no huge Hawaiian barrels. The biggest waves might make six feet. You are much more likely to be learning on 1- 3 footers.
Visit here for more info: www.saltwater-dreaming.com. These folks are to be found at Surin Beach- Phuket. It’s a town about 5 miles north of Patong. For a modest fee they will teach you to surf. Remember: surf in Phuket May to October; surf in Koh Samui November to April.
Marvellous. In Phuket, you will find no end of venues to enjoy seafood. Fish, crabs, prawns and lobsters the size of cats. You can also enjoy curries. Thai curries should not be confused with those of the Indian sub continent. They are a little bit spicy, but not at all hot. You will also find Indian, European, Japanese and Chinese restaurants.
Splash out on a gold class cinematic experience in the Siam Centre cinema.For around £6-7 you can enjoy the film in a cinema of around 20 people, in a reclining leather arm chair, with blanket and socks provided, table service plus a complimentary drink and nibbles.Definitely worth it to escape the buzz of the city.
Just off the night Bazaar in Chiang Mai, in the same square as O'Mally's Pub. There are strings of open restaurants - they are very cheap and serve excellent food. However be warned, if you attempt to walk through you will be jumped on by a hoard of waitresses that all belong to the first resturant which is not surprisingly, the most expensive with the poorest quality food.
Walk round to the second or any other for excellent customer service and envious looks from everyone that is stuck at the first one.
Aunsarn Market - open-air market of Thai restaurants and small shops. Anusarn Market is at the south end of the famous Night Bazaar on Chang Klan road
This was one of the most devastated resorts on the island, and frequently feature on world wide TV in amateur video footage.It's one of the quietest places, with a long beach between two rocky headlands. There's a few hotels, and restuarants. The Kamala beach hotel is top class right on the beach, with really smart cocktail lounge, mirror pool and pool bar. We used their facilities (free pool if you buy cocktail), and stayed at the Benjamin, just along the beach, no facilities, but £7 per night for two, comfy room with sea view and en-suite. The Rock Fish restuarant, just overlooking the beach on the south cliff is excellent, though with Bangkok prices.
Benjamin, 83 Moo 3, Kamala BeachKamala Beach Hotel, www.phuket.com/kamalabeach/
When in Bangkok airport don't queue for coffee in a throwaway cup at the self-service point on the main concourse. Co to the Thai restaurant where a waiter will bring you coffee in a cup and saucer at the same price. Peaceful surroundings and good food too.
Up stairs from main shopping concourse in airport. Sign at foot of stairs but easy to miss.
Trekking around Chiang Mai can work up a hunger, and here's a place to satisfy it. Not necessarily the best falafels outside Israel, but a pretty good bet for a lazy lunchtime in Chiang Mai. Mains from around 120 Baht
35/3 Moonmuang Road
Tel: +66 53 27 0208
It's near the Victory Monument, but you will have a hard time explaining this to the tuk tuk drivers. Once you find one who knows where it is, go to this bar for the best curry and music in BKK. There is always some sort of blues-country-jazz stuff on offer, sung by locals. A great night out.
It's a motorised bicycle. You should rent one because they're cheap, and the terrain is hellish for bicycles, especially the further afield springs and waterfalls. Be careful though as Thailand's roads are awful, although this far into the hills, you don't have much other traffic to worry about. Lessons are available. Bikes are 150 - 300 baht per day.
MS Motorcycle Rent near Thom Pai Elephant Camp Tours Office
By the river, this old rustic Guesthouse offers basic and comfortable rooms with nice little relaxation areas where you can jump into a hammock and read a book from one of the many shelves or have a chat with the polite and friendly staff. Rooms 150 - 300 baht.
On the river, just off Th. Ratchadamnoen. Phone: 0 5369 81167
The cheapest place I found to stay (and trust me, I looked). It's 80 baht a night for a bed in a very dark and noisy dorm. The staff are friendly and offer the best prices on tours and transport. Just watch out for the low ceiling fans. I'm 6'3'' and almost lost a digit on two occasions.
Th. Chakraphong (near The Connection Travellers and over the road from the Airport Shuttle Bus Stop)
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