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Category: Thailand (Page 1 of 3)

From Thailand to Laos and Back in One Day

One day, four of us were sitting around in Khon Kaen (Thailand) when we decided to take a day trip across the border into Laos. I’d never been to Laos before, plus I needed to renew my visa, so I figured “why not”.

Laos (also spelt “Lao”) is officially referred to as the “Lao People’s Democratic Republic”. Laos is located along the side of the Mekong river. The country is bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west.

So we jumped in the car and headed north to Nong Khai. Nong Khai is the nearest Thai town to the Laos capital – Vientiane. It’s about 22 kilometres from Nong Khai to Vientiane. From Nong Khai you can enter Laos via the Thai/Laos Friendship Bridge.

When we arrived at the border (the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge), we were told that we couldn’t take our car across the border. This is because it was a hire car. So we had to take a bus across the Thai/Lao Friendship Bridge (20 baht), then hire another bus/minivan once we arrived in Lao.

To enter Laos, we needed to get a tourist visa on arrival. So it was the usual process of getting stamped out of Thailand by the Thai immigration, then applying (and paying $35 USD) for a visa before entering Laos via Laos immigration. The visa fee is different depending on your nationality. Also, you have the option of paying in Thai baht. However, if you choose to pay in Thai baht, you will pay a lot more due to the Laos immigration’s practice of using a really bad exchange rate (or really good exchange rate, depending on whether you’re Lao immigration or the tourist!).

We hired a van and the guide took us to Vientiane and back to the border at a cost of about 1200 THB. The rain started falling as soon we got in the the bus. The driver was hell-bent on taking us to a bunch of duty-free shops. Obviously he gets a kick-back from any purchases that we make. We told him we weren’t interested and wouldn’t be buying anything. Said he understood but if we could just go in anyway and then he’d show us the temple we wanted to see. So two of us walked in then turned around and walked out again. Our driver was bamboozled as to why we didn’t buy anything. So we continued on our way. We were then informed that the temple that we wanted to check out closes before 12 noon every day. We found out later that the temple is open from 8am to 5pm every day…

Anyway we managed to pick up some dried buffalo skin for cheap so all was not lost. Many Laotians and some Thais find them delicious!

We ended up back in Nong Khai eating dinner alongside the Mekong river.

So in a nutshell, we drove several hours from Khon Kaen to Nong Khai, hopped over the border, viewed Laos from the inside of a minivan, then within a couple of hours, hopped back over Thailand. If you like to waste your money on nothing in particular, you should try this too!

Mind you, I did get another 15 days on my tourist visa when I re-entered Thailand so from that perspective, mission accomplished.

The above trip was in 2011. Fortunately I’ve been back to Vientiane since then  and loved it. Stayed a few nights and I’m looking forward to doing this again for my next border run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Photo of Longtail boat at Tonsai Bay in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Longtail boat at Tonsai Bay in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi is located in the Krabi Province in Southern Thailand. This time we departed from Patong Beach in Phuket. Just bought a ticket from the agency. The ticket included pick up from our hotel in Patong, and the boat trip to Koh Phi Phi.

Koh Phi Phi, also referred to simply as “Phi Phi”, is a beautiful tourist destination which consist of six islands. The largest island is Koh Phi Phi Don, which is the only inhabited island out of the six. “Koh” (sometimes spelt “Ko”) is the thai word for “Island”.

People don’t need cars on Koh Phi Phi. Walking is the main means of transport. There are a few scooters around but they’re not used in the main tourist area. On the island, it’s all about the simple life. They don’t need big condominiums or shopping malls. It’s all low-rise and mini-marts on Koh Phi Phi.

Phi Phi is a very good place to relax after a long journey from the mainland. Many bars, restaurants and Thai massage shops are around, or hire a long tail boat and visit the small islands around. Koh Phi Phi Leh is a popular island for snorkelling and day trips. One of the highlights of Phi Phi Leh is Maya Bay, a beautiful beach which was made famous by the movie “The Beach” featuring Leonardo Dicaprio.

Photo of Tonsai Bay at Koh Phi Phi Don

Tonsai Bay at Koh Phi Phi Don

Phi Phi has many accommodation options, ranging from backpackers to the luxury resorts. We stayed at Phi Phi Banyan Villa, which is one of the hotels on the Tonsai Bay side. This is the side where the boats come in and dock  at Tonsai Pier. At the front of the hotel, there was very big restaurant, and the food was delicious. This was also where we had our complimentary breakfast each morning. I also liked the idea of the hotel gym with its awesome view over Tonsai Bay.

We took a trip to Koh Phi Phi Leh, including Maya bay, on one of the long tail boats. It was shared with other tourists so it cost about 250 THB each. On the way stopped for snorkelling and sightseeing. We swam with the colourful fish. It was amazing!

Kho Phi Phi is a paradise for diving. And many companies offer to take whoever is interested to go around and show the marine life under of the ocean.

One day we walked up to the view point on the hill. It has a really spectacular view as we can see the sandy beaches on both sides of the island.

Photo of the view from the "Viewpoint" on Koh Phi Phi Don

View from the "Viewpoint" on Koh Phi Phi Don

In the afternoon we walked across to the other side of Kho Phi Phi, ordered wine and pizza, and sat on the beach while watching the sunset.

And on another night we went to watch the Thai Boxing at the Reggae Bar. It was funny to see the tourists get up and try to box each other while they were drunk. At least they get a free “bucket” of cocktails for their efforts.

Shopping in Thailand

When it comes to shopping, Thailand is the place to be. Especially if you’re female! Many girls in Thailand can’t stop shopping even through they have no room left in their wardrobe. Some men have the same problem!

So Thailand is the place for fun, relaxation, eating, and shopping! Many people visit Thailand just for the shopping. Especially clothes and gold.

Shopping for Gold

Thailand is famous for its gold shops. Most cities in Thailand have more than one gold shop. And you can buy gold necklaces and bracelets which are man made from pure and beautiful 18k – 24k gold.

The gold business is very expensive and risky. But people still like gold and want to own it. Some people like to collect gold for the future. Some people buy gold for investment purposes.  Some like to buy gold as a gift.

The gold shops in Thailand issue you with a certificate when you buy it, and it needs to be the same price as the other gold shops in Thailand. The price may change every day. The current price is usually shown at the front of the shop.

Markets in Thailand

Thailand has many different types of markets. I will talk about the local markets that they called “Talad Nad”. I’m not sure when this market first began. As far as I know, they’ve been going ever since I was born. Talad Nad doesn’t happen every day. Some places may have Talad Nad 2 or 3 days a week.

Every city has their own markets. Most of them sell the local product. They are very interesting. The markets are usually very busy but the result is good. The prices are usually very cheap as well. Some markets sell food as well as other things. Most markets open in the afternoon. This is because most people have a day time job. After work, they come to the market and sell stuff, it could be any thing.

I like to walk to the market because it helps me to relax from stress after work. Even though I don’t buy anything. Some times I go there to meet friends and we have dinner at the market.

About Bangkok

Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand, located along Chao Phraya River. It is the largest urban area in Thailand and has a population of over 9 million in the urban area (and about 12 million in the metro area).

Bangkok is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon. This translates into “city of angels”. Therefore, you might occasionally hear people referring to Bangkok as the “city of angels”.

Actually, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon is short for the full ceremonial name given by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, and later edited by King Mongkut. The full Thai name for Bangkok is:

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit

I think you’d agree that it’s probably easier just to call it “Bangkok”!

Bangkok by Boat

If you take a trip by boat you will see both sides of Bangkok from the Chao Phraya River. There are many options for getting to the touristy areas, as well as the less-touristy areas.

The taxi boats are a good option but you will need to deal with lots of people.

Another option is to take an organized cruise to wherever you want to visit. You would probably need to book this through a travel agency. Most travel agencies will be able to show you a list of the main tourist attractions, such as temples, the floating market, reptile show, and the boat museum, to name a few.

Temples

There are many great temples in Bangkok. Two that are close to the city are Wat Pha Keaw and Wat Arun.

  • Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the “Temple of the Emerald Buddha”, is in the middle of Bangkok and has amazing Thai architecture with uncountable value.
  • Wat Arun, also known locally as “Wat Chaeng” is located on the side of the Chao Phraya River.

These are just two of the many temples in Bangkok. To see more, see Bangkok Temples at Bangkok.com.

Shopping

If you like shopping there are so many places in Bangkok. These range from extremely low prices up to extremely high prices, and everything in between.

The best places for shopping that I would recommend is MBK shopping centre and Jatujak market.

MBK shopping centre consists of three main shopping centers, offering brand names from around the world, all at a reasonable price.

Jatujak market (known by the locals as “JJ”) covers approximately 35 acres of land, and includes shopping for both bargains and top-range designer items luring the masses as well. Jatujak market is well known for having a large range pet shops.

I wouldn’t recommend wearing high heels when you shop at Jatujak market, as you will almost certainly get sore feet.

Khaosan Road

Khaosan Road is famous among backpackers, and there are many things going on, such as art, boxing, budget accommodation, food, etc.

Here’s more information about Khaosan Road on Wikipedia.

Entertainment

If you’re tired from a big day in Bangkok, you may need to do some thing more relaxing, like sitting down to have a cold drink and a meal. There are many bars and restaurants in the middle of Bangkok.

At night time, entertainment is available in many corners of Bangkok, including places such as Srilom, NANA, Rajchada. Most of these places only open at night, but are some open 24 hours.

Education for Foreigners

There are many international language schools in Bangkok. Many foreigners come to Bangkok to learn the Thai language. Also, many foreigners from other asian countries (such as Korea and Japan), come to Bangkok to learn english.

There are many benefits for foreigners who choose to study in Thailand. First of all, the course is usually much cheaper than a similar course in their home country. Secondly, the cost of living is usually much cheaper than in their home country.

Studying in Thailand is also a very good option for those who want to stay in Thailand for longer time. This is because, foreigners who choose to study can apply for a long term study visa. Study visas can allow the foreigner to stay in Thailand for a year or until their studies are complete.

Bangkok Airports

If you’re flying into Bangkok, be aware that Bangkok has two airports:

  • Suvarnabhumi Airport is the new airport and opened in 2006.
  • Don Mueang International Airport is the old Bangkok airport, but it is still in use today.

These airports are in different parts of Bangkok so it pays to take note of which airport you’re flying into.

Accommodation

Bangkok has many options for accommodation. Prices can range between 300 baht and 10,000 baht or more. The price will depend on things such as condition, location, facilities, etc. For more information, see Accommodation Prices in Thailand.

Stir Fried Chicken and Basil Recipe (Pad Ka Pao Gai)

Photo of stir fried chicken and basil

Some people like to serve a fried egg on top of their stir fried chicken & basil

This recipe is for stir fried chicken and basil, which is a popular dish in Thailand. In Thailand, we call this “Pad Ka Pao Gai”, which translates into english as “stir fried chicken and basil”.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 onion, chopped small
  • 4 chillies, chopped small
  • 1 handful of basil leaves
  • 300g of chicken breast, chopped small
  • 2 tbsp of oil
  • 100g of beans, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tbsp of oyster sauce
  • 3 tbsp of water
  • 1 cup of rice

Cooking Instructions

  1. Steam the rice in a rice cooker or pot, and rest
  2. While the rice is resting, heat the oil in a wok or fry pan until hot
  3. Add garlic and chilli, and stir until garlic begins to turn yellow (about 1 minute or so)
  4. Add chicken and stir until chicken is 90% cooked.
  5. Add oyster sauce and continue to stir until chicken is cooked
  6. Then add the beans, basil, and onion, and stir fry for about 2 minutes

Serve the stir fry with the steamed rice.

Stir Fried Water Spinach Recipe

Photo of stir fried water spinach

Stir fried water spinach is a popular side dish in Asia

This is a recipe for stir fried water spinach. Water spinach is also called kangkong and is an ideal vegetable for stir fries, steaming, soups and salads.

This recipe is ideal as a side-dish. You can serve it along with rice soup, Thai omelet, or deep fried chicken. But you can also have stir fried water spinach on its own if you like, or served with steamed rice.

Serve for 2

Ingredients

  • 1 handful of water spinach, chopped into thirds
  • 3 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 chilli, chopped
  • 2 tbsp of oil
  • 2 tbsp of oyster sauce

Cooking Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a wok or fry pan until hot
  2. Add the garlic and stir until yellow
  3. Throw in the remaining ingredients
  4. Stir fry very quickly until the water spinach is cooked (the leaves will go soft)

Serve with streamed rice, or as a side dish to a main meal.

Deep Fried Chicken Recipe

Photo of deep fried chicken

Deep fried chicken, or " Gai Tod", is a very popular dish in Thailand

This recipe is for deep fried chicken. Sometimes this is referred to as “Buffalo Wings”. In Thailand we call this “Gai Tod”, which simply means “deep fried chicken”.

Ingredients

  • 300ml cooking oil
  • 500g of chicken with bone and skin on. Any part of the chicken is fine – such as leg, drumstick or wings
  • 4 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed

Cooking Instructions

  1. Mix chicken, soy sauce, and crushed garlic together and leave in the fridge for 1/2 hour
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick deep frying pan until hot (you should be able to see little bubbles rising up).
  3. Slowly place all chicken in to the pan
  4. Cook chicken until ready. You should only need to turn the chicken once or twice, when it turns to a dark yellow/brown colour on each side.

This recipe is much easier if you have special electric deep fry pan. Just put the chicken in the hot oil and wait until it floats up. The chicken will turn very yellow and crispy.

Tom Yum Kung Recipe

Here is a recipe for Tom Yum Kung. Tom Yum is the name of a soup, and the “Kung” part means prawns. Therefore, this is a Tom yum soup with prawns. Prawns could also be spelt “Goong”, so you could also spell this soup “Tom Yum Goong”. Tom yum is popular in South East Asia, especially in Laos and Thailand. It is an easy meal to cook. Here’s the recipe.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 300g prawns
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, cut in half
  • 3 chillies, chopped into large pieces
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped into large pieces (about 4 cm long).
  • 2 tbsp of tom yum paste – you can buy this from any Asian shop
  • 5 slices of galangal. Alternatively, you can use ginger instead.
  • 2 stalks of coriander, chopped 3cm long
  • 200 ml of fresh milk
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 tomato, cut into 4 pieces
  • Half a lime or lemon.
  • 1 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of vegetable stock
  • 1 red onion, chopped into large pieces

Cooking Instructions

  1. Boil water in a large pot with the lemongrass and galangal
  2. When the water is boiling, add the remaining ingredients.
  3. Cook for a few minutes or until prawns are cooked.

Serve with streamed rice.

Pad Thai Recipe

Photo of Pad Thai Chicken

Photo of Pad Thai Chicken

Pad Thai, as the name suggests, is a Thai stir fry dish.  Also spelt “Phat Thai”, Pad Thai is a stir fry with eggs and noodles. Compared to most Thai food, Pad Thai is quite a mild dish. So if you want to try Thai food, but you don’t want it to be too spicy, try Pad Thai.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 125 g fresh Pad Thai noodles or sticky rice noodles. Can also use dried noodles, but place into hot boil water for 6 minutes before using.
  • 3 tbsp of cooking oil
  • 3 tbsp of palm sugar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed small
  • 2 tbsp of tamarind water – you can find it in any asian shop or most supermarkets
  • 1 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 4 tbsp of spring onion chopped into 3 inches long
  • 2 eggs
  • 30 g of roasted peanuts crushed
  • A handful of bean sprouts
  •  200g hicken fillet
  • 1 lime cut in half

Cooking Instructions

  1. Heat oil in pan until hot
  2. Add crushed garlic, and stir until it changes colour to yellow
  3. Add eggs and stir until cooked. Remove from the pan and rest on a plate
  4. Add the chicken to the hot pan, and stir until cooked.
  5. Once oil is hot, add the palm sugar and tamarind. Stir until mixed into a sauce.
  6. Add noodles and stir until mixed with sauce.
  7. Add remaining ingredients, except for the lime.
  8. Stir the whole lot until mixed together.

Divide the Pad Thai into two plates, add the lime to the side,and roasted nut. Add some dried chilli if you prefer your Pad Thai more spicy.

Bitter Melon Soup with Chicken

Here’s a recipe for bitter melon soup with chicken.

Also known as bitter gourd, bitter melon is grown in tropical areas such as Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. It is a popular ingredient for dishes throughout South East Asia.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped small
  • 4 peppercorns, crushed
  • 200g of chicken mince
  • 1 teaspoon of corn powder
  • 4 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 3 stalk of coriander, chopped into 2 cm long pieces. Keep the roots – chop into small pieces.
  • 1 bitter melon, chopped into 3cm wide rings, and with the seeds removed.
  • 1/4 of a carrot, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar

Cooking Instructions

  1. In a bowl, mix the chicken, peppercorn, corn powder, 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, and the garlic
  2. Stuff the chicken mix inside the bitter melon rings, until all bitter melon rings have been stuffed with the chicken mix.
  3. Roll any remaining chicken into small chicken balls.
  4. Boil 500ml of water in a large pot.
  5. Add the coriander roots, the stuffed bitter melon rings, and the chicken balls to the boiling water.
  6. After 10 or 15 minutes, add the remaining soy sauce to the pot. Taste the soup, and add more soy sauce if you prefer.
  7. Add the coriander to the the pot and turn the heat off.

Serve the soup with rice or by itself.

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