Thailand – Part 3

Thailand – Part 3

Marble Palace Bangkok

Last week in – Part 2 – you will have read about temples, food and food safety, prostitution and Chang Mai. The week before in – Part 1 – I gave some statistics, spoke on how to get around and about Bangkok.

Beach at resort hotel in Phuket

Getting away from the heady, heavy cities and out to unspoilt beaches is one of the best parts of visiting Thailand. You can book an all inclusive week at one of the resorts and relax, soak up the sun and enjoy buffets of delicious Thai food. The hotels usually have reps from the tour companies at hand. They have catalogues with pictures and descriptions of their tours and day trips. Think glass bottomed boats, fishing, island hopping, snorkeling and diving, learning Thai crafts such as fruit carving and Thai cookery. The resorts also have regular shuttle buses that do round trips so you can pop into town or try out the various local beaches. You may find better prices if you go into the town and chat to other tour operators.

Resort hotel bedroom

I would recommend you have as many Thai massages as you can while in Thailand. They are dead cheap and these ladies manage to take the kinks and knots out of your muscles and joints. Thai massage – is quite different to a Swedish or Sports massage. You are usually clothed and no oils are used. Thai ladies pick up your limbs and twist and rotate them. They roll you about and rearrange you. They press and prod you. It sounds uncomfortable but it’s not. You let yourself go limp and they do all the work and it is heavenly. The other bonus is a Thai massage is around 2 hours long.

Traditional clothing of the hill tribe ladies in Chang Mai

Make sure you keep space in your suitcase for shopping in Thailand. You can have a custom made suit or outfits run up by one of the many tailors. You can also find designer knock offs or over runs. Just be aware that bringing home designer imitations can be illegal in some countries. How about carved wooden items to hand crafted jewelry? You can buy CDs, fabrics and really just about anything from flip flops to pots and pans – dirt cheap. My best was the night market in Chang Mai. Night markets are common in Thailand. But a regular to Chang Mai reckons the Sunday market there is even better. Do try on or at least measure clothes against your body as Asian sizes are smaller.

Wood carving

Every country has some unique saying or custom and Thailand is no exception. Thais positively adore their royal family despite them being fairly remote from their people it’s an offence and deeply insulting to say anything bad about the Royal family. Another custom is to stand to attention when the national anthem called the “Pheng Chat” in Thai and meaning ‘national song’ is played. They play it every morning at 8.00am and every evening at 18.00 pm. Westerners only need keep still.

More Buddhas

Thailand is for the most part safe. They have some crazy festivals. In particular the – Songkran – festival, when they throw water on each other. see here. A friend had his camera ruined when he was caught in the thick of a waterfest. It’s also unwise to carry huge amounts of cash on you. Rather draw cash you need to which is easy to do in Thailand.

Every now and again you get uprisings between the – red shirts and yellow shirts. The uprisings are soon contained but can cause road closures and other inconveniences. A hat and sunblock in such a hot country are mandatory. Especially on walks and excursions.

Best time to visit? Between November and February. It’s cooler then and it’s also less likly to rain. Between March and May temperatures soar above 40’C and it is unbearably hot. July to October is the rainy season.

Here are links to sites that offer accommodation in Thailand – Agoda, Asia rooms, Hotel Thailand and Sawadee. It’s a common gesture to leave a tip on the pillow for the cleaners who serviced your room.

For more ideas on what to do and where to go visit the following Thai-blogs, Go Thailand, Bangkok, and Chang Mai.

Red truck taxi in Chang Mai

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

India – Part 2

India – Part 2

Friendly locals gather around me to chat

This blog is written in 3 parts. Last week in – Part 1 – I talked about north vs south India, the climate and the people.

I want to talk about the things I loved about India. Firstly the food. There are apparently more vegetarians in India alone than the rest of the world combined. Forty percent of the population is vegetarian. You saw the population figures in the last post. That’s a lot of vegetarians. India is heaven for vegetarians.

Raj Ghat for Ghandi

As it happens I love curry and I got to eat curry for breakfast, lunch and supper. As you do in India. Most Indian menus have a tiny section with ‘non-vegetarian’ food. It’s normally the other way round in Western countries. I’ve never had it so good. One word of warning. Do not under any circumstances eat street food. Our tour guide told us exactly where we could and couldn’t eat. After three weeks, I got brave and tried a place he hadn’t suggested and I got – Delhi Belly. I won’t elaborate but you do NOT want this to happen to you.

The face says it all – Greenie about to tuck into a curry

The same applies to bottled water that the locals sell on the streets. We were told it’s not always clean pure water so don’t even think about buying it. Indian curries come with lots of accompaniments and trying out various vegetables and masala (spice) combinations was great fun. Not to missed either is Masala Chai (spiced tea), Lassi (smoothie) and Indian. They have so many sweets to choose from and are unlike anything in the west.

One little piece of advice. Indians eat their curries fire hot. If you get asked how you like your curry, there is a big difference between an English hot curry and an Indian hot curry. Start with a mild curry and work up to your preferred heat from there.

Heritage accommodation

India is a shoppers paradise. Pack light because you are sure to do quite a bit of shopping. You can’t help it. Prices are good and you find things unlike anything anywhere else. I bought embroidered pashminas, Kerela towels (great for traveling), hand-made leather shoes, gorgeous fabrics, jewelery made with silver and semi precious stones, books and cotton bohemian style clothing. There are also table cloths, bed linen, teas, hand carved wooden items, cloth bags and much, much more. If I could have, I would have bought more.

Visiting a local villager to taste chickpea dumplings

The best prices are to be found on the streets at the markets. Locals will try and push their prices up on seeing you are a foreigner so first walk around going from stall to stall. Check prices between vendors. It won’t take long before sellers run after you dropping their prices and hustling, trying to score a sale. If it all gets too much, and it can, it’s easier to shop at the tourist shops. Prices are higher but you still get good deals and you will be safe from over pushy traders. One thing I can promise, if the street traders spot a buyer, they will hound and harass you, even after you have bought bags of goods, they will go on and on trying to sell to you. If you can tough it out you will get excellent bargains.

I visited – The Golden Triangle – which is where most new visitors to India go and India’s most popular destination. The triangle is between Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Our tour took in lots of temples and historical places. Key attractions in the big cities such as the Taj Mahal and Raj Ghat are included but we also got to stay in places like the Venice of the east – Udaipur.

Venice of the East – Udaipur

Our accommodation at night was mostly in old palaces, castles and forts. India has an affirmative action policy whereby people from lower castes are being given opportunities to move up the ladder. Royal and land owning families are exempt from these programmes. As a result many are turning their land, palaces and castles into tourist accommodation to make a living. We took turns to sleep in the royal quarters which are historical rooms decorated in heritage style. Accommodation on the tour was interesting and varied. Our tour guide told us he was a prince. His father was apparently a Maharajah and his mum a Maharani.

Local ladies washing clothes in the lake

Breakfast was included. Sometimes our evening meal plus entertainment by local musicians and dancers was in-house. Or we went out to a restaurant for our evening meal. I like a glass of wine with my supper but in India I took to drinking one of their local beers – Kingfisher with our meals.

Next week in the final – Part 3 – I will be discussing temples, holy animals, castes  

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Exchange rates, currency, shopping

Exchange rates, currency, shopping

Waterfront shopping mall

The South African currency is the Rand. We have pictures of our Big 5 on our notes. Buffalo, Lion, Elephant, Rhino and Leopard. They come in bright colours – red, blue, green, orange and yellow. And they vary in size. It’s not easy to mix up one’s money here.

South Africa has high interest rates by world standards. Our prime rate is 10%. This could be why the Rand is actually strengthening at the moment while other currencies are floundering. It’s hard to owe money here and there is some incentive to save.

For the interest and exchange rates go to our Reserve Bank website. Click here – South African Reserve Bank.

Shopping and eating out are still very affordable for visitors. We have the usual shopping malls with luxury and budget items for sale. I prefer the markets and shops with vintage and old items that are unique. Those type of stalls are found in Long Street, Salt River, Observatory and St James area.

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