Of the many dream islands of...
Of the many dream islands of Thailand's Southern region, Koh Samui ranks among the most seductive, with beaches that are some of the most scenic and unspoilt anywhere in the world. Recognized as a budget traveler's paradise for over 20 years, the island - Thailand's third largest - is now attracting more and more upmarket travelers.
Definitely, a new breed of visitors are arriving - a reason why a number of first-class resort hotels have sprung up on the island - but Koh Samui is still a perfect destination for all kinds of tourists. The aura that backpackers lent the island is unlikely to be erased quickly by upmarket tourists.
Besides, the island, with an area of 20 km? , has quite retained its unspoiled charm even with the growing number of visitors. At the same time, it can certainly please those with a taste for luxury.
Sun and sea are still the foremost lure, but other exciting tourist attractions are now available. Buffalo fights, snake farms, butterfly gardens, traditional Thai massage, herbal saunas & meditation centers are becoming popular. For the sporty types, Samui has good dive shops. Many fine beaches are perfect for windsurfing any time of the year. Cruises to islands such as Koh Tao and the lovely Ang Thong Group provide for fruitful discovery. And yes, there is now sea canoeing.
Thai Baht (THB)
Thailand uses the Bath as it's currency, each Baht is divided into 100 satang but since 1 bath is just 3 cents (dollar and euro) the satang is rarely used, you might receive 25 or 50 satang coins in the supermarket. For the Bath there are three different coins: the 1 bath coin, the 5 bath coin and the 10 bath coin and 5 different bank notes: the 20 Bath note (Green), 50 Bath (Light Blue), 100 Bath (Light Red), 500 Bath (Purple) and 1000 Bath (Gray/Brown).
The most important thing you have to remember in Thailand is that most shops or taxi drivers do not have change for 500 or 1000 Bath notes. Make sure you always have change in the form of 20 and 100 Bath notes, a good place to obtain your change is to buy something at a 7-Eleven or Family Mart, shops that are open 24 hours a day.
Everyday at 8am and 6pm, the street of Bangkok will broadcast the national anthem. I don't know where the music come from, but if all of the sudden if you see everyone on the sidewalk starts to stand still, it's better to follow them. Just to be respectful to Thailand.
Show some respect towards the...
Show some respect towards the Thai people. They are serious about Buddhism and you do dress accordingly when visiting pagodas.
Likewise you take their Royal Family serious or you can get into trouble.
My rule of thumb is to take enough clothes for one week OR for the length of the trip PLUS two days, whichever is shorter.
If you are traveling on business, you can probably pack along two suits and rotate between them. Try to take different colors of shirts/blouses; mixing and matching might fool people into thinking you brought more clothes than you did. That's the whole idea, isn't it? ;-D
If you are going on an extended trip, pick one color and stick with it... like say black. Because black travels very well. You can get ketchup stains all over your black jeans or coffee stains on your black t-shirt... and nobody will ever notice! Just make sure they don't stand too close to you to catch a whiff of the...er... Well, I'm sure you know what I mean! Anyway, for a trip to a country like Thailand - have no fear. Clothes are extremely, extremely cheap here... and with the weather always HOT 365 days a year, you can pack just shorts, tank tops, singlets, sundresses. Or better still, go with a half-empty luggage and plan to do most of your shopping in this bustling capital! :-)) I bring along TWO types of cameras with me and load them with TWO different types of films i.e. ASA200 film (for day) and the high speed Kodak 800 film for museums or places that do not allow flash photography.
So, the cameras that I'd bring are:
1. the Olympus mju Zoom (with wide-angle lens) which comes in a cool silver metallic color. I usually use this camera for day photography.
2. the Pentax 150 Zoom which I use for places that DOES NOT allow flash photography.
These days, I also bring along the ultra-small Canon IXUS Zoom camera - smaller than the size of my palm (and it also comes in a cool metallic silver shade) and my digital camera. You can even hang the smaller camera around your neck and it'd still look cool on you. For INDEPENDENT TRAVELERS: Women traveling alone or with other women.... hear ye! ALWAYS bring a cellular phone along with you. If you don't have time to get a phone before your trip, take something that LOOKS LIKE a cell phone. If you ever feel that you are being tailed by a stranger or if anyone, especially a strange man, on the highway attempts to flag down your vehicle, DO NOT PULL OVER! Instead, whip out your phone and call someone, or even PRETEND to call someone. This is a major deterrent to would-be attackers who think you are probably calling the police. Oh, and it doesn't hurt to learn the phone number of the local police too. :-) Just in case.
NOTE: MOTOROLA has a tri-band cellphone (yes, that's the one I'm currently using) in the market. You can use this cellphone in EVERY country in the world.... be it in the USA, UK, Australia, China or even, Timbaktu. It covers all the major networks in the world. Just ensure that you are subscribed to the 'Auto Roaming' feature and you're all ready to conquer the world! DON'T waste your money renting a cellphone!
Photo Below: My lil' cousin with THE legendary DAVID BOWIE (wearing a hat) and Mr Bowie's Manager (talking to him) at Don Muang Airport.
'A journey of a thousand miles starts under one's feet.' - Lao Tzu (570 B.C. - 490 B.C.), Chinese Philosopher