Tuesday, August 12, 2008


My sister decided not to come to Bangkok (and we weren’t sure if we would even still be here when she booked it) when she and her partner D came to Thailand. So we had to visit her at her holiday destination of choice, Phuket. It luckily coincided with the Queen’s birthday public holiday so Mr A took an extra day or two off work and we headed on down to tourist mecca.

I was pretty jazzed about seeing my sister. We’re not super close but still get on a lot better now than we used to. Hanging out with her and D is always interesting. They are the epitome of opposites attract. You practically have to use a crow bar to get a conversation out of D but you’d swear my sister only breathes so she can keep talking. She never, ever shuts up. I think that’s why she and D work so well. He likes to listen and she likes to talk. All.the.time.

Phuket is somewhat of an Australian institution, especially for Western Australians. It is probably the most popular place to visit, perhaps only behind Bali, because is it cheap, both to get to and once you are actually there. It’s only a 7 hour flight to, which is about as long as it takes to get from one side of Oz to the other so why wouldn’t you go?

Here's why: it's horrible! I have never felt so uncomfortable being somewhere in my whole life. We got to Patong where we were staying and I almost went into shock. Neon signs, go go bars, people hawking things on the street and filth everywhere, hardly the picturesque beach get away I was expecting. It was even smellier than Bangkok (when I got back I was so happy to breathe in the air, which is hilarious because Bangkok air is still disgusting by any ones standard). And there were no Thai people. All the stand were run by Indians who are very aggressive (more on this later).

Our hotel was pretty nice compared to the places we usually stay but was still only just worth it for what we paid. We got it on special because it was the low season and they were renovating tho pool. Luckily my sisters hotel had three huge pools otherwise we would have died. We got free breakfast as well, which was pretty horrible and tasteless, which was sad because I love free breakfast. But ham sitting in a baine marie full of water was just not appealing. The best thing about the place in my mind were the photos they had of the lobby of the damage done by the Tsunami in 2004. The lobby was completely gutted. There were cars and giant logs and so many other bits of crazy junk. It's amazing how well everything has been rebuilt.

You might ask why it was a problem not having a swimming pool when we were surrounded by the beach. Well there are several reasons:

1. It is the off season so the weather is a little cooler and the water is really choppy;

2. You can't go near Patong Beach without being constantly harassed by people to hire jetskiis, cars and motorbikes, to get massages, hair platting and manicures and to go parasaling and on various diving tours and Elephant treks. It is so completely annoying;

3. The water is filthy.

We found one great beach on the other end of the island called Paradise Beach. It was a private beach so you paid 60 baht to stay there but it is worth it. We also found this great waterfall to swim in. We hired a little yellow jeep for a day and drove it around (the only truly nice day me and Mr A had). We went to gibbon reserve as well which was lovely. Gibbons are my favourite primate and this place was lovely. Not at all tacky. They take gibbons off people who have bought them illegally for pets, rehabilitate them and release them. You couldn't hold them or pat them which is unusual here. Then we walked up to the waterfall which was simply breathtaking. The water was so clear and cold and refreshing. There were all these Thai high school kids there wagging and smoking. It was so funny. Most of them were swimming in their uniforms. A couple of the kids were jumping off the rocks into this tiny little bit of water that was deeper than the rest. It was crazy. It was such a lovely way to cool off after a long day driving.

Sadly we had to go back to the real world. We went out that night to the main night life area. There are bars there for every nationality. Swedish, German, Arab and of course, English and Australian. If you like getting shitface drunk every night then I guess Phuket is for you. The drinks are pretty cheap. I didn't really like it. Too many drunk idiots! And people everywhere trying to get you to go to see ping pong shows (I have been in Bangkok, you only really need to see it once). They are really aggressive and wont leave you alone. There was also a guy with a very sick looking iguana who would sneak up behind you, put it on your shoulders, take a picture and then demand money. Gross. The only awesome thing were the Kathoey. They are at a whole new level in Phuket. They get dressed up in all their finest frippery and head out on the town. You can take photos with them for 20 baht. They are AMAZING.

The food is okay in Phuket. Western food is blah as usual*. But if you search around you can find some great Thai. If you like seafood (I don't) you can get it ridiculously cheap here. If you are sick of it there are all the usual fast food outlets around if you really feel the need (like my sister who had Maccas 5 times).

*side note: you are way more likely to get food poisoning for Western food than Thai. Trust me.

Now, to the Indians. When I first walked along Patong I thought "Where are all the Thai people?". All the hawkers almost are Indian and man are they aggressive. They are all smiles and trying to shake your hand. When they have got it they don't let go and try to lead/drag you into their store. You have to physically yank your hand away. The worst thing though is the Australian accents. You walk past and they go "G'day mate! Suit mate?". They know a little of almost every language apparently. There were so many Australians there because it's winter back home and it's also the off season so it's very very cheap. So people just assume you are Australian. The whole place was just jam packed with horrible bogans and their horrible accents. I just wanted to block my ears and run away. Australians behave horribly overseas, especially in a resort location like Phuket. It just sets a bad example for everyone else. I'm a firm believer in behaving the same way on holiday as you would at home. Being on a holiday does not give you the right to be disrespectful and behave like a trollop/jerk. I got so sick of the Indian hawkers that I started telling them I was from Uzbekistan and Lithuania (to which one guy replied "Oh Lithuania! Jiggy Jiggy sexy boobs." Nice). This made it a little more annoying.

My sister love it there but Mr A and I was so relieved to get back to Bangkok. I breathed in the comparatively sweet smelling air, walked down the street unmolested and paid only 10 baht for my roadside fruit instead of 50. It made my realise how wonderful BKK is and how much I'm going to miss it when I leave. It will be a very very sad day.

I would recommend not going to Phuket to anyone who'd listen. There are a million nicer places to go like Hua Hin and Krabbi. Think about it a little before you book a trip, that all I'm saying. Oh and whatever you do, don't go to Fantasea. If you have ever seen a stage show at any stage before in your life, you will not be impressed. And definitely don't get the buffet. It's gross.

Just for giggles, here's a photo of Mr A feeding an elephant :P.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Story Time

I loooovvvveee books. I can spend hours and hours in a bookstore drinking it all in. I'm not specific either. Books of all kinds make me happy weather it a novel a cook book or a nice, fresh, still-in-the-plastic moleskin diary. Heaven. So when I need a fix in Bangkok, I head to Kinokuniya.

Kinokuniya are a Japanese chain of bookstores. Apparently they used to be a coal mining company??? Weird. Anyway, They have the best range of books in Bangkok. They sell books in Thai, English, Japanese and Chinese. Their store are big and airy with shelf upon shelf of tasty delights just waiting for your perusal. I feel so happy and comfortable there. They have an excellent comic book area *squeal*. I have also doubled my cookbook collection thanks to this lovely store. They have a great range of Chronicle cook books, my favorite. Kino's has magazines to, including Frankie!!! Hooray!!!

My favourite is the Siam Paragon Store. It's on the 4th floor of the department store. They have a cafe in there to that make pretty good coffee. Sometimes I buy a couple of books and while away an afternoon there. The one at Emporium is pretty good too. I have found a few things there that I've never seen at Paragon. The Kino's in Central World is the smallest and it also has the smallest range of books in English. It has more of a Japanese focus (as does the whole department store which is why I love it!). If you're into Japanese craft books and magazines this is the place for you!!

There is also B2S in Central World, another book store (they sell cd's too). It has a large range, but not as good as Kinokuniya. They also have a cafe but the atmosphere isn't as nice either. Like the Emporium Kino's though, B2S can have some interesting books you can't find anywhere else.

So if you need a literary fix, head to Kinokuniya. I promise you will not be disappointed!!! Why can't we have a book store like that in Perth (and don't tell me we have Borders, the range there is crappola and the coffee is Gloria Jeans. BLECH!!)

Oh!!!!! and If you are in Singapore you need to go the Kinokuniya in Takashimaya! It will blow.your.mind.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hot and Bothered

For the first time since the beginning of the year, I weighed myself. I've been exercising a lot more as I have a gym and a pool in my building. I try and swim everyday. I've also been walking as much as possible. So it was a bit of a shock horror moment when I looked down and had PUT ON WEIGHT!!! 5kgs no less! WHAT!!?? I couldn't believe it. I mean, I never never ever expected to be teeny tiny. I'm 5"4 with boobs and butt so I'll never Kate Moss waif-esk (thank god!!!). I'm more in the Scarlett Johannsen category (although she is 9kgs lighter than me *gggrrrroooaaan*). Living in Thailand gives you a bit of a weight complex to begin with. I feel like a giant here. The girls are so itty bitty. There is not a drop of fat on them. Their frames are tiny to. I don't usually get too upset about it until I go clothes shopping and the shop assistant holds up something that looks like a moo moo.

So, instead of getting sad and mopey I decided to get off my arse and do something about it. I had heard excellent things about hot yoga. I had been wanting to get back into yoga anyway to try and regain some of my flexibility, strengthen my knees and improve my balance. Hot Yoga is pretty much the same as regular yoga except it's done in a room heated to 37 degrees. It's supposed to help detoxify your system and warm your muscles up so you can push stretches further. You also sweat like woah!!

I shopped around for a studio that had everything I needed and found it in Absolute Yoga at Amarin Plaza. I swear, it's like this place was made for me. The studio space is wonderful! Firstly, the studio is HOT PINK (no-one else finds this as exciting as I do)!!!! Secondly, all the class times are very convenient for me. Thirdly the studio is walking distance from from my house. I could go on and on listing the awesome reasons that I love this studio like how clean the change rooms are, how helpful and friendly the staff are, that they have plastic bags for your gross sweaty clothes, how they supply all the towels for you and so on and so forth. The teachers are wonderful too. Very encouraging and always will to come over and help or give advice after class.

The classes themselves are a hard slog. I both hate and love them at the same time. The teachers are fantastic at describing exactly what you need to be dog and what your body position should be. I always simile when we're doing a position and the teachers say things like "One day your knee will be in your armpit!!". You kind of think "Do I really want that to happen??". I usually do the 90 minute class. At the end of it I'm ridiculously sweaty but pretty blissed out and a little tired. I have this wonderful stretched out limber feeling which I keep for about an hour. It's totally worth doing the few positions that are a bit painful, like the half lotus OUCH!!!!

I would definitely recommend stopping by if you are in Bangkok and feel the need for fitness. The classes are a little pricey individually at 600 baht a pop but if you're here for a while they have different membership packages that might suit you and that will save you some cash.

I love it. I'm totally addicted, which is saying a lot considering how much I hate sweating all the time here and I'm now going somewhere to sweat on purpose. Oh and it turns out I haven't put on any weight. I weighed myself on the (hopefully) more accurate scales at the gym and I've actually lost 2kgs. Which means I never really needed to go to yoga anyway. But I'm glad I did!!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Round Round get Around how I get Around YEAH.

Photo by Stuck in Customs

Bangkok is a pretty huge spread out city. Luckily there are half a dozen or so easy ways to get around in relative comfort and ease. And for cheaps!

1. Taxis

Taxis are generally* the easiest way to get exactly where you want to go in the City. They are everywhere and there is hardly ever a shortage(*cough* Perth *cough*). The flag fall is only 35 baht and goes up in 2 baht increments. It's the only way to get from the airport. It can be a little bit confusing because you'll have a million people INSIDE the airport asking you if you need a taxi. Ignore them. They'll cost you twice as much. Head outside and find the desk that say public taxi and tell them where you are going. They'll set you up wit a driver and you're off. At the most it will cost you 400 baht to the city areas, including 2 tolls and a 50 baht airport fee. You even get a receipt. Make sure you know how far you are going in kms if you can and check fee the chart in the taxi. I have heard a few stories of "broken" meters going up twice as fast as they should. You also want to check that they turn on the meter anytime you get in a taxi. It's unusual that they don't but it pays to be careful.

Remember that you should almost never have to barter for a taxi. If you are in a really touristy area you might have them offer you a (ridiculous) price rather than a meter. Send them on their way and wait for the next one. This might also happen when it's raining. You can't really blame the taxi drivers for trying to make an some extra cash but it can be annoying. If there is no other taxi around you might have just bite the bullet and get in. But barter and bring the price down to something more reasonable. Especially if you know how much it should be.

In the end, taxis are air conditioned, comfortable and the drivers know where they are going. And so so cheap. You could use them all the time, all day every day and not go broke, unlike back home. It makes me feel a little posh being able to swan about with my own chauffeur all day. Tehehe.

*avoid taxis in peak traffic at all costs. Bangkok traffic is insane at peak hour. You will not get to where you're going on time and be sitting there for ever and ever in the bumper to bumper traffic. And it will cost you way more than it should.

2. BTS and MRT

Photo by bangkok_diary

The cheap, no traffic, air conditioned way to get around BKK are the above ground Bangkok Transit System and the below ground Mass Transit System. I use these the most, the BTS more so than the MRT, only because I live right near the Nana BTS station. The King is was one of the main supporters behind getting the train up and running to help Bangkok's chronic traffic problems (it's still awful! I can't even imagine how bad it was before). It will cost between 20-60 baht depending on the stop. Keep in mind the BTS and MRT use different tickets so they are non transferable. If you are here for more than a week, I'd recommend purchasing a Skypass for the BTS (I'm not sure what the equivalent is for the MRT, I don't use it enough). It will set you back 130 baht (approx. $4.60AUD) but that includes money you can use for fares. It makes it much easier and quicker to get into the station and the fares are cheaper too.

The down side to the BTS and MRT is that they don't go everywhere. There are 2 BTS lines and 1 MRT. But the up side of this it they are super easy to navigate. And they go to quite a few of the main tourist and shopping areas, namely Siam, Chitlom, National Stadium and Mo Chit. They also get super crowded during peak hour. But it the train is too crowded and you can't get on, there will be another along in a few minutes or so. You never have to wait long.

Definitely give it a go if you are here. It seriously make live so so so much easier when the traffic is terrible. I know some people are super snobby about public transport but please. Get over it. It's a great way to get around the city and it's better for the environment so suck it up. Oh and one more thing. Thai's will rush onto the train like their lives depend on it. It's just because they want a seat and you'll have to do the same if you want one!

3. Tuk-Tuks

Photo by iceviriya

I have already written a whole post on how much I loathe Tuk-Tuks. Since then I have found out that they get 90 baht for every place they take you to so just keep that in mind. But just to re-iterate, Tuk-Tuks are a lousy, smelly and complete rip off of a way to get around the city. Don't do it.

4. Motorbikes

Photo by reallygoodphoto

You'll see people on motorbike with little orange vests. These guys are motorcycle taxis. Now I am possibly biased because I have never been comfortable on the back of a motorbike and that I had an accident that totalled Sid (my bright yellow Vmoto). But these are Dangerous with a capital D for death. I use them only when I am running late for something and need to get to the BTS ASAP but that is a whopping 1 minute ride up my Soi. Mr A catches them all the time from his work to Mo Chit and a workmate has his own bike that he rides home every day (Mr A catches a lift with him sometimes too because he lives on our Soi). To be fair, they are very cheap and can't be beaten for speed in peak hour because they can zip between the cars. Thais catch them all the time. You'll see girls in skirts riding side saddle, not even holding on, checking their make-up with one hand and clutching a hand bag with the other. But here is why I don't like them.

You don't get a helmet. As a rational person, I like to keep my brains on the inside of my head in the event of a crash, which is the main function of a helmet. If you do get one, it's the equivalent of a bicycle helmet. Woo! I also like to keep all my limbs attached to my body. Most of the beggars you see in the street who are missing limbs are that way because they have been involved in a motorcycle accident. Bangkok traffic is INSANELY dangerous for motorcycles. I've seen three very nasty crashes since I've been here and considering I haven't seen one (aside from my own) the entire time I've been living in Perth, those ain't good odds.

If you want to take them you can. Like I said, they are cheap, great in peak hour and quick in a pinch. But for me, the risks just aren't worth it.

5. Buses

Photo by anormynous

I have only ever caught one bus in BKK ever so I can't tell you an awful lot about them. Like I said, I live right on the BTS so that's the most convenient thing for me. I do know they vary in price from about 7 baht to 35 baht depending on the route and what type of bus. They are great if you live somewhere with no BTS/MRT access. They are much less Farang friendly though with less signs in English so it may be harder to pick the right one. A few of my friends catch them and have never had any problems. They can be unreliable because of the BKK traffic but otherwise I can't see a problem with them aside for working out where you need to get off!!

6. Ferries

Photo by hn

This is my FAVOURITE way to travel in BKK. Cruising down the Chao Praya River. It's so cool and refreshing. The river is a little dirty and smelly but I don't care. It cost between 13 and 22 baht to go as many stops as you like one way. The ticket people are usually really friendly in helping you work out where you need to go and what ticket you need. I catch it from Sathorn (Central) Pier from Saphan Taksin on the BTS, usually to go to Wat Po for a massage and to pick up some flowers. It takes you right to a few of the most well known tourist spots such as Wat Po, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace along with China Town and Kao San Road (god knows why anyone stays there! It's so out of the way!). You need to take a cross river ferry to get to Wat Arun but there are lots of signs to let you know. It will set you back a whopping 3.50 baht. OH NOES!!! I can also recommend trying to get the Chao Praya Tourist Boat. If you get a good guide it can be very informative. You can also see all the shacks and temples along the river. Very interesting.

As with any form of public transport in Bangkok, the ferry can get very crowded. It can also be a little daunting jumping off the boat to the dock, especially if you have a pen chance for impractical foot like moi. When it's jam packed with nervous tourist who aren't sure where to get off and crowd the exits, it can be annoying too. But those are the only down sides to it. Otherwise it's just wonderful! It's like your in some old movie, like the African Queen!

These are just the ways to get around the main areas of Bangkok. It's all you would need if you're staying within the city limits. I shall do a post later about how to escape the daily grin and get out of the city. I hope you find this information helpful in getting around the BKK comfortably, without confusion and without getting ripped off!

Friday, August 1, 2008

My New Baby!!!

Meet Jemima!! She's a Janome Junior (I love Janome. My mum always told me it's the only sewing machine brand I should buy). She's super portable and tiny. She comes with her own carry bag and everything! Super shmick.

I've been pulling my hair out for 2 weeks trying to find a little machine such as this. Mr A said he was sure he had seen them in a department store. The only machine I had ever seen was a pink Hello Kitty (super cute!!!) one in this little San Rio store. But he refused to buy me it because it was waaaaayyy over priced. So I went looking elsewhere. I found one for $30 but it was super dodgy and only straight stitched. I couldn't even adjust the tension!! So I trekked to every department store in the downtown Bangkok area and asked in every fabric store. Nobody had a clue! Finally, we went to the San Rio store and checked out the machine there. It was exactly what I needed. But Mr A was determined that he had seen them somewhere else cheaper. We went into the Central department store near his work and sure enough, there they were! It took me all of 30 seconds to decide Jemima was the one for me. LOVE!!!

I can finally start making a dent on the fabric I have been accumulating at a very scary pace. Stay tuned for many many crafty adventures staring Jemima & Clara! Hooray!

Cheap and Cheerful!

One of my favourite places to go in Bangkok is the flower market. You just take the ferry from Sathorn Pier down to Monument Bridge and walk back towards Tha Tien Pier (I normally walk from Tha Tien though because I get a massage at Wat Po first). It used to be a fish market but it was too smelly and was causing a lot of pollution so the King turned it into what it is today. I forgot to take my camera with me (as per usual) but I am going with Kim in the next few weeks so I will take some then. But here the flowers I got yesterday.

Aren't they stunning!!! You can buy just about every kind of flower you can think of at the markets but my favourites are the orchids. I would never be able to buy them in Australia because they would be around $20 a bunch. But I got the purple ones for 20baht (60 cents) and the red and yellow ones for 70baht ($2.30). CRAZY!! They last for ages if you change the water every day and they make my apartment feel more like a home.

I just love the purple orchids. They almost look like someone has painted them by hand in the most luscious shade of purple they could find.

These are also so so so lovely. They are flower rings for Buddhist offerings. A Thai guy told me they were very lucky. The little white flowers smell wonderful too, which is the main reason I buy them. They make my house smell fresh and sweet. I wish I knew what kind of flower they used. They usually only last a day or two. I get 3 out of them if I put them in the fridge overnight. It seems to keep them fresher. But at only 40baht ($1.30) each I can't really complain. Just look at the exquisite detail! It must take them ages to make.

*le sigh* So pretty.