9 days to go to Thailand!

Back to Thailand, after about 8 years and two months I am going to return to Thailand, to take another look at this Gem of South-East-Asia. Thailand was my first backpacking adventure made me fall in love with cheap hostels, bonding with stranges and exploring 7 continents on my own (but never alone)! This time I am going to bring a camera that actually works, along with a lot of gadgets that I did not have back in 2001. Thailand was my first experience with “Internet Cafes”, back then with 56 kb cable modem. Everyone was playing “Counter Strike” and terms like “facebook” twitter or even Google Adwords where not heard off.

Bangkok Photo Gallery

Budget for my South East Asia Trip:

Flight from Munich to Bangkok with Thai Airways: 650 Euros (booked 2 months before departure)
Flight from Bangkok to Sieam Reap: 180 Euros (booked 3 weeks before departure)
Flight from Bangkok to Krabi with Air Aisa: 100 Euros (booked 2 days before departure)

Accomondation: Price per night
Nirca Bangkok: 500 Baht for Dormiotry – Highly recommendet
The Siam Reap Hostel: 8 US Dollar – for Dormitory Highly recommendet
Bangkok YHA Internationl: 450 Baht for Private room – Highly recommendet
Ao Nang YHA: 390 Baht for dormitory – Good Quality, for from the beach
Ko Phi Phi: 800 Bahnt for Privat room with AC: Good Quality, bring earplugs!
Ko Lanta: New Coral Resort: Privat Hut: 500 Baht, basic but very nice staff

Public Holidays Thailand

The last day in Thailand…

The last day had come, the last day of being Global Reporter, my last day in Thailand, my last day away from the place I call home.

I had woken up early, it was strange to open my eyes and knowing that it would be the last time in Thailand. This morning, I met Zad, a guy from London. We decided to have breakfast and found a nice bakery in the neighbourhood that served excellent tea and cookies. We started to talk about movies and decided to watch the movie Suriyothai a movie about a Thai woman that fought against the Burmese invasion. Kind of a female Braveheart. I thought it would be a nice way to finish my stay in Thailand. I am a movie buff and if its about Thailand – why not?

I first had to go to Richly because they had called the hostel to tell them that something was wrong with my flight. I was a bit confused because the flight wasn’t even booked with Richly. But about eight weeks ago, after I had been robbed, the travel agency was in contact with Swissair trying to find out how I could get replacement tickets. Somehow Swissair had kept the number of Richly and phoned them that morning. I hadn’t even booked my accommodation with Richly, but they knew where I was staying and phoned me. That’s what I call a excellent service, big compliments to both companies, Swissair and Richly!

I got the news that Swissair had gone bankrupt at a tailor. I chatted with the shop owner and told him that I was flying with Swissair and he answered: “Don’t you know, Swissair went bankrupt yesterday, all planes are grounded!”. I knew right then that he wasn’t lying, but for some reasons I started laughing. I made a few jokes about how I would walk home and promised him to come back if I wouldn’t leave Bangkok that night and buy a suit.

It was impossible to reach Swissair for nearly 1,5 hours, but I finally decided to try it one last time before I would go to their office personal. Before I dialled the number I told my self that everything was going to be fine and that I would fly home that night. And someone answered the phone! I asked what I was supposed to do and the guy on the other end of the line first told me that he didn’t know and that I had to issue a new ticket. Finally he said ‘I’m going to book you on another flight’, you leave at 12:30 am on the 4th of October, go to the Swissair Check-in counter and you will get new airline tickets. He also told me that I couldn’t fly straight from Zurich to Vienna, and that I had to fly via ‘Brkrwrrr’ to Vienna. Unfortunately I don’t know a city in Europe with that name… So all I knew about my flight from Zurich to Vienna was that I couldn’t go straight and I would stop in a city that starts with B. We have plenty of city’s in Europe that start with B, starting with Bruessel, Berlin and on to Belgrad. But I wasn’t worried at all, I knew everything was going to be fine. You definitely can call me an Optimist.

Well, but here is the rest of the day/story! Zad and I went to Siam Square to watch Suriyothai, but unfortunately there was only one screening that day, this one was in Thai and also to late for us. We thought about watching another movie, but finally decided to explore the city instead. We went to the railway station by bus and walk to Chinatown were we found a small Chinese market. I alsmost felt like in a Jackie Chan movie and started looking for some well dressed gangsters in their Mercedes and Jackie, jumping from one roof to the other.

We continued our walk and ended up at the “Tha Ratchawang” pier were we took the ferry up to Phra Sumane Port. The Phra Sumane Port is an old fortress, a huge white building with a nice gardens surrounding it. A great spot to escape from the nosy streets of Bangkok. The big walls of the fortress keep away the sound of the traffic and the trees and grass create a nice smell. We finished our trip at Khao San Road, the Mecca for Thailand-backpackers. We both agreed that it was an excellent idea to skip the cinema, and explore the city instead.

I should have been worrying about my flight, but instead I was discussing religion and politic with Zad the whole day, the idea that I might not would leave Thailand that night didn’t really bothered me at all. Zad was an Moslem and gave me an excellent insight to his religion.

Travelling changed the way I think about people in this world, all major religions or atheistic, I was able to have great conversations and a heck of fun with those people

My day ended at the airport, with no problems at the check-in counter and – for the first time on my trip, they didn’t forget my request for vegetarian food.

Ko Samet or Angor Wat

28th of September, Ko Samet or Angor Wat?
A big question during my three days in Bangkok was, what should I do with the time I had left in Thailand? Going to Cambodia and visit Angkor Wat for some cultural experience or to Ko Samet, for some drinking experience and relaxing on the beach? Nine hour on the bus on bad roads or 4 hour on a bus on highways? A rainy week in Cambodia with the possibility of washed away roads or almost sunny weather on Ko Samet? It was honestly a difficult decision, but I finally made my choice, nice weather and beaches on Ko Samet (and maybe some drinking experiences.). I will come back to Thailand, and for sure go to Cambodia and Angkor Wat the next time. I left Bangkok and a nice girl from Australia behind, went on the bus and after four hours arrived in Rayong, a small town next to Ko Samet. I met three girls a Scottish and a German guy on the bus and we decided to spend the next few days together. Very good idea, I don’t like being alone and had hardly ever been alone on my trip. What can I say about the rest of the day? We got on a ferry which brought us to the little paradise called Ko Samet. Compared to Bangkok the island life was really relaxing, sandy beach, funny people, no traffic, no pollution, no worries! The bungalows we stayed at where very good, they even offered free toilet paper (PURE LUXUR in Thailand). Look forward for the rest of the story!

29th of September, Ko Samet
Ko Samet is an island to relax – for sure. Lot’s of Thai and Japanese people come to this island to have vacation, surprisingly not that much western people. September and October are definitely the off-season, we where nearly on our own. Peter, the Scottish guy bought a “new flying machine” which we used quit often. Wonder what a Thai flying machine is like? It’s pretty much the same then a American Frisbee 😉 !

We stayed at a place called Ploy Tallay on the Hat Sai Kaew beach, , a nice “resort” with friendly stuff (I never found any rude locals in Thailand anyway). Just the music sucked, they kept playing four CDs over and over again, so I decided to borrow the “DJ” some of my CDs, which he highly appreciated.

30th of September to 2nd of October, Beach stories
Johannes lying on the beach for more then 20 minutes? That’s something very rare, usually I spend something like 20 minutes before I get bored. The four days on Ko Samet I nearly spend two hours on the beach every day and cached up a really nice tan. I didn’t want to go back to Austria and look like I spent the last three months in a office. But I also hiked from our beach to the Ao Wai beach, which took me about 1,5 hour (one way), where I found some really secluded bays on the way. Most of the beaches are separated from each other by huge rocks and that makes it quiet hard to get from one beach to the other. But the rocks also saved some beaches from being conquered by tourists. Beaches that are to small for being used as an public beach, and the rocks create and awesome underwater landscape for snorkelling.
At night I always went out with fellow travellers, we had discovered a nice bar at the next beach and partied every day there.

Talking about fellow travellers, I always asked people what they think about Austrian people, and one of the most common answers I got was that they think that we listen to David Haselhoff (the guy from Baywatch and Knight Rider) music all the time .You know what? That’s only particularly true, about ten years he was quiet successful and gave a lot of concerts in Germany and Austria. But his days as an popstar in my home country are long over, maybe some Austrians still have dust-covered CDs of him in their collection, but NO one listens to his music now a days. At least no one I know. And by the way, I’ve met Scottish people that are not stingy, Germans that are funny and not disciplined at all and last but not least Irish people that are poor in drinking games (just joking!).

Back in Bangkok

25th to 27th of September, Bangkok,
Finally back in Bangkok, after “throwing” myself around Australia I returned to were it all started. The prophecy of the old man hadn’t come true. I got to the hostel around 1:00 am in the morning and had a very warm welcome. The guy that opened the door for me got a big grin on his face when he saw me and said “Oh you are back!!” Where have you been? Bangkok very hot now, lots of rain! How true, it had been raining since I got of at the plane in Bangkok. But I liked the atmosphere, the smell and even the dirty streets. I felt like I was coming home. I spend the first day mostly with talking to friends I had met during my first stay. I also visited the office of Richly and went to the Swiss Air Tower to get new flight tickets. At night I went to a very nice Indian restaurant on Khao San Road called “Himalayan Kitchen”. I don’t really like Khao San Road, but this restaurant is definitely a great spot for Indian food.

I got my slides on the 26th and had to face the fact that lot’s of them where rubbish. When I wrote my first report for Worldsurface I promised that I would use my camera till it breaks, I didn’t meant that literary at this time, but my prophecy came true, both, my reflex and my snapshot camera broke down during my trip. Fortunately I was able to fix my 25 year old reflex and continue to take pictures, but the other camera is one of the “hyper modern tiny little” one and I was not able to repair it. As for the rest of the day, I had to buy a suitcase and therefor visited Siam Square like many times before. I have to admit, Siam Square is my favourite shopping area in Bangkok. if you shop at areas such as Pat Phong or the Khao San Road(both very interesting places) the possibility is very high that you never find this shop or seller again, making exchanges or complainments nearly impossible.

Sometimes you travel weeks around and don’t meet anyone from you home country, and sometimes you meet a bunch of them within one day, the 27th was one of those days. Out of the sudden there where four Austrians staying at the hostel. It was quiet strange for me to use my own language, even my own accent again. I also made a picture tour through Bangkok. My favourite bus #53 goes along all major tourist attractions in Bangkok and I stopped at all of them to take at least one picture.

Final days in Bangkok

12th of August, Birthday of Queen Sikirit
The whole town was very quiet and nearly empty on that day, except the Phramane Ground next to the Grand Place. That’s where the celebration for the birthday of the queen took place. I went there in the late afternoon and I have to admit:I’ve never seen such a big birthday party. There was a huge fireworks around 8:00 P.M. and maybe eight stages with different shows and music. I even was able to see the king and the queen.

13th to 14th of August, Relaxing…
Two relaxing days in Bangkok, I spent most of the time at the youth hostel to talk with Promvit and other travellers. Every time somebody arrived at the hostel, Promvit pointed at me and said “He is a volunteer, ask him if you have any questions!” A nice couple from Ireland (Joanne and Shane) had a lot of advises concerning Australia, so I re-planed my Australia-Tour. On the 14th of August I visited the Vinamek Mansion, the biggest golden teak house in the world, really impressive and worth to be seen.

15th of August, Million Miles Away
The final day, they played Offspring’s “Million Miles Away” during take off in Bangkok, which was, for my opinion, a very good sign. Singapore was a five hour stop on the way to Darwin but the time passed by pretty fast since the airport has a lot to offer (city tour, cinema, food-court etc.).

Thai Volunteer Program

11th of August was a very interesting day, I already added an entry about the volunteer program, so you can read the stuff which happened on this day there.

Thai Volunteer program
Imagine, you are a student at a big city somewhere in America or Europe. Someone offers you to talk to foreigners about the culture in your home country and show them the city you are living. To spend your spare time with people you don’t even know. What would be your first thought? Probably “How much do they pay? For students in Thailand the question is probably: Where do I have to sign?

But here is the whole story!

I already wrote about the Thai Volunteer program at the Bangkok International Youth hostel, but after staying here a few times and spending the past week at this place, I got a much closer look on the whole project.

“It’s a program where local Thai youth volunteer their time to connect and familiarise travellers thus creating cross-cultural exchange and enhancing a strong international friendship which result in travellers been guided around and shown the city and put in close contact with Thai culture. Instead of being a lost traveller or anonymous member of a large tour group, travellers are able to spend time interacting on a personal level with Thai youth, all the while learning about Thai culture, visiting local landmark with a new found personal guide and generally being welcome and save in a place which may initially save seemed intimating and foreign.” (That’s the description, written by Promvit, leader of the program)

I was invited to be guest at the opening ceremony of the 8th volunteer program (I was the only foreigner there). The volunteers change every fourth month, so other students get the chance to join the program. Mr. Ong-Ard, Director of the Thai Youth hostel Association took me to the ministry of youth, where the ceremony was set. Volunteers from the 6th and 7th program guided me around and introduced me to the new group of volunteers. A lot of students who join the volunteer program work on other tourism-projects afterwards.

There are more then 300 Thai Students, who want to join the volunteer program, but only twenty of them are finally chosen. My guide asked me to introduce myself to the students and I told them what I’m doing and that I’m travelling around for Worldsurface. The students then asked me questions about what I like in Thailand most, what I think about the program etc. The minister of youth also showed up at the ceremony, which is I think proving that the program already got some attention in Thailand.

First Mr. Ong-Ard talked about the International Youth Hostelling and the Volunteer Program. After that, the minister of youth started to talk. It seems that Thai politicians love long speeches just as western politicians do. They all spoke Thai, but fortunately one of the volunteers translated the important stuff for me. The minister was a very nice guy. He talked about his time as a student and how important the volunteer program is for Thailand.

He finished his speech with little quotes in English, which I also want to post:

Reason only is not enough, but feeling and emotion is equal important. To lead means to serve and to lead means to follow.

Unfortunately I had to leave the ceremony before the official ending, but it was very interesting to talk to the volunteers and meet the people behind the project.

If you come to Thailand and look for something special, (I’m not talking about the Khao San Road stuff.) then come to the Bangkok International Youth Hostel and meet up with the volunteers! It’s a great experience, which I can recommend to everyone!