May 29, 2010

Gone with the wind in Hat yai ,Thailand .


The past glory just gone and the true reality of today bite really hard for this former railway-junction town. Hat Yai (หาดใหญ่) railway station use to be the heart and soul of this town that rise up from a village to the biggest commercial trade post in the southern Thailand due to the perfect point of railway junction that links to both coasts of Malaysia and Thailand . See map here

Today only few of travelers use it as a stepping point to Bangkok or Malaysia.Yes ,There are still full function train runs and overnight trips to Bangkok and also an international train to Butterworth town in Malaysia(across from Penang.) But air-con bus to Bangkok or even a low cost fly trip seem to be a better option than the railroad one .Also the trip to Butterworth or Penang in Malaysia can be reached easily by a shared Taxi or Minivan which will depart instantly with enough people on boards. Then overnight stay in Hat Yai becoming unnesssary.

I never visit this station for several years and the walking trip there last week revealed some shocking sight like the decaying empire rather than the thriving railway junction . There was stair and lift leads to a 3 stars hotel (Rajthani hotel) up stair of the station but the path way just closed and got a haunted house atmosphere.

Yes we can catch trains runs up and down . I still found it’s a nice way to see the world and travels by train will let u pass through the real villages ,communities, not just the commercial parts and gas stations like those big road.

Hat Yai owned it’s existence to the railway-junction . Right now it’s still a big city but the rail is not their main artery any more.

The sign here said Haad Yai .But you will see the other sign in side said Hat Yai . Haad Yai is more like an old archaic usage and now seem like the Thai authority prefer it as just “Hat Yai” .

Also take a noted that they not bother to say : a railway station at all .Because in the old time the place is the one and only station to reach Bangkok . No road or plane in exist.

Brunei and Singaporean Dollar : A twin in an Exchange rate!

On other day ,I run a story on coins in South East Asian usage and explained why you can get a singaporean coins in return when shopping in Brunei. see the story here

Above here is the exchange rate board.I took this pic from a vendor in the Berjaya Times Square shopping center in Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia. We can see clearly that they put the SGD with the Brunei .This can confuse some travellers who neverbee to this part of Asia before.

May 26, 2010

Malay coffins story


The Malaysian Museum runs an interesting exhibition of “Pameran Keranda: Tradisi & Misteri” or in English : Coffin Exhibition- Tradition and Mysteries (many words in Bahasa Malaysia (Also Bahasa Indo) adopted from the English.)

The exhibition will show until June 20 2010.

Malaysian Museum put this ad everywhere...

The Museum is also in the tourist bus route(hop-on hop-off KL) at the bus stop number 12 just the next one after KL central.

click and see the following details on brochure.Or goto Malay Museum web site

Ais-krim potong

Not just some Ice cream here but This is the ais-krim or called the whole name as "ais-krim potong” which means cuts or cut-out ice cream. This traditional ice cream will brings back old memories from many older generation who grown up in a small community or a village.

At that time ,refrigerator is just for the rich, only frozen delight come in the from of an ice cream vendor who brought a big frozen chunk of ice cream in many flavors like Red Bean,Green Bean, Black Glutinous Rice, Yam, even Durian!

“potong” means “cut” so in the old time ,the vendor put the big chunk out of his mobile freezer and chop or cut into smaller piece then put a small wooden stick into it to make a holder.

The style was common in several South East Asian countries. Thailand ,Laos, Indonesia also have this kind of ice cream.

This one is a modern one . a piece already cut out and wrapped and cost you around 80-90 cent .(around one-third of a USD).The sign and wording "Halal" means permissible to use or consume according to Islamic law.

A bite mark will appears after first bite !

May 25, 2010

Shop a lot in Kuala Lumpur

I really love the name of this Shopping mall in Bukit Bintang ,KL,Malaysia.

coins : Get rid all your metal before leaving Singapore and Malaysia

There is an important thing to do before leaveing a coins-country ,which use many coins in daily life,like Singapore Thailand and Malaysia is to used all those metal before go to other country. After that ,It's becomes useless except some limit usage in a border town area.

One Exception in The SouthEast Asian countries (or the world)is Brunei,a small sultan-state but oil riches,which use some Singaporean coins in normal circulation because Brunei pegged their own dollar to Singaporean Dollar(SGD). Always! Then some people start to uses Singaporean coins in daily life .If you have a chance to visit Brunei then dont be surprise that a vendor might give your changes back in some SGD coins!

Several years back.I was standing puzzles at a foreign money exchange booth in KL and look around for the Brunei's rate but not found any until someone kindly enough to tell me about the arrangement between two countries.

May 24, 2010

Arabic invasion of Kuala Lumpur


Arabic invasion of Kuala Lumpur

The June approaching and a vendor on Jalan Bukit Bintang or Bukit Bintang road (Jalan means a road in Malay) told me the Arabs are coming more and more everyday and It’s their time every year,

Bukit Bintang is a shopping and entertainment district in Kuala Lumpur and not far from the cheap hotels of backpacker that reside along Pudu road nearby.

A leaflet dropped on a footpath .I picking it up and see the immediate influence of Arabic tourist on this street and this capital city of Malaysia. The whole page has no other language ,only Arabic one.

,I found another clue in 2 hours later at a plaza in Bukit Bintang area .The Tourism Authority of Malaysia sponsored a newsletter published in Arabic. I can not read Arabic but this one is giveaway for tourist .

This one even got a photo of Wayne Rooney who is an English footballer that plays as a striker for Manchester United football(soccer) club.

May 23, 2010

Trace of Vietnamese roadside security parking

Motobike is not just a vehicle in Vietnam.It's the road itself and is everything everywhere of A vietnamese daily life .

See those chalk lines on this motocycle ? Not made by kids or any bad intention.This is the mark of security parking that can found on any roadside community in Vietnam.

The system run like this: In any comercial area or schools and other gathering areas u will see a place and a couple of guys running a motobike parking lot or velvet park what ever you called. Then u park it with a fee around 1000-3000 VN Dong .Those guy will use chalk mark number or sign on your motobike.

As far as i knew ...You will never lost your bike with this system.But becareful if u park somewhere elese with out the security persons.

My brain on Monday.

Got a new big sticker from Hineken beer in Singapore. Look cool on my HP laptop.

Oh my brain does not work on Monday! We are say we all!

Coca-cola Chicken meal in Hanoi

I found a Vietnamese fast food chain at pho tran tien near Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi.The place is nice with an army of young teens in and out all the time. The most interesting is this menu calls "Ga Coca" or Coca-cola fried chicken. See the poster then you will get the general idea of this latest inovation .The fried chuck (rather small in real thing)put on top a cup of real cola!

The price is 30000: around 1 and a half USD. This can get u a bowl of pho,vietnamese style noodle,but the fun element should not high like this one for sure!

Taxi Surcharge in Singapore


Taxi Surcharge in Singapore

It’s true that all taxis fare in Singapore are based on meter reading which starts from $2.80 . But apart from those number that keeps on moving on the meter screen , we need to paid a complicated scheme of surcharges that will add up and up on to the final fare at the end of a trip.Sometime much much more...

For budget traveller,find one or two who shares the cost is a good idea becoz many of us will end up around a same area like dunlop street near Little India.Otherwise take go to Changi terminal two then get a bus or MRT train to downtown.

Note: above picture is the taxi stand just infront of the Changi budget terminal.

Airport surcharge
This is the most common surcharge .

We have to paid 3.00 SGD for any trip from the Changi airport (Monday to Thursday, 1700hrs – midnight)

But if u travel on Friday to Sunday, 1700hrs – 2359hours .Then u have to paid 5.00 SGD (Friday to Sunday, 1700hrs – midnight)

So don’t fly to Singapore on Weekend !

Midnight surcharge

Well …The rule said 50% midnight surcharge will be imposed on meter fares. It’s means we have to paid more 50% of the fare .
Don’t fly any late flight to Singapore! If the midnight approaching then rush to the taxi stand ASAP.

Peak hour surcharge

Peak means high here and our final metered fare will be higher.
Monday - Friday (7.00 am to 9.30 am) means we paid 35% more
Monday - Saturday (5.00 pm to 8.00 pm) means we paid 35% more

Public holiday surcharge

We can enjoy all those Asian traditional holidays package as a surcharge worth 1 SGD impose on us every time travels by a taxi from 6pm on the day before any of those major public holidays in Singapore like New Year's Day, Lunar New Year, Hari Raya Islamic holiday, Deepavali for Hindu holiday and Christmas to 12am of the holidays.

Area surcharge

Central Business District (CBD) surcharge which is around 3SGD and an
Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) surcharges.

Every time your taxi pass a big sign “ERP” across the road means you have to paid more …ranging from 1-3 SGD .

May 22, 2010

Bye Bye Prince 57 budget hotel in Hanoi

Bye Bye Prince 57 budget hotel in Hanoi

Before the last week of March I was in Hanoi and stayed at my usual cheap option, the Prince 57 hotel in Hanoi . The location is right just not far to the market in the old quarter and so close to the lake Hoan Kiem Lake .

Then I went to Sapa in the North (Lao Cai province) . Back again and stay at another hotel deeper at Datban street around Hang Bac street .

Three days later, I walk pass by and suddenly feel something a bit wrong .Look around and found that the place just gone! A group of people beginning tearing it down leave out a big hole in between row of vietnamese stlye shop-house.

After that,I visited Ha Noi again on the first week of May .

“when will this hotel reopen again?” I asked a ticket vendor nearby .
“more than 20 months” She saidand a souvenier vendor who set up her shop in front of the old guesthouse said the same thing.

So long! Gone with an old memory of the past .Many travelers been here and like the cheap dirt price of old time.

The New Prince 57 might not used the old name and even worse with a hike up in price like other hotel around

May 18, 2010

Shuttle bus at Budget terminal Changi airport

Nothing to see out side the terminal except some taxi . This information will help u find your way out. The bus runs day and night every 10 mins but less frequently around the period between 0200-0500 (every 30 mins)

Dont be alarm when the bus drive to a highway .The driver will u-turn to come back for the terminal 2.

Ordinary Taxi:

Just walk out and look to the left u will see a Taxi Q about 40 m. away.

Bus or City train (MRT)

From the Changi budget terminal , U need to catch a 24hrs shuttle bus from there to the terminal 2 . Then catch bus or train to town.

Walk out of the terminal and look to the right .

To Terminal 1 or 3

Catch the shuttle bus from the terminal budget to the Terminal 2 and then take sky train to terminal 1 or 3

Here what It's look likes : more space for our big backpack both in side and underbelly of the bus.

basic bamboo structure block

Bamboo can be anything and everything u need.This temporary structure made of bamboo can show how a functional furniture can be prepared in just a few mins with a sharp and strong knife at hand .

I took this picture in Laos from a food vendor who roams around Laos countryside with his pick-up car... but this kind of usage can be found uses all over the Southeast Asia.

Singapore visitors centre

Singapore is the land of brochures and free shopping maps! Millions of them distributes locally and overseas .

After passed the immigration row ,then just look around …. A row after row of maps and brochures will be found stacked up somewhere nearby. If that not enough for your appetite ,then go ahead to the Singapore visitors centre in terminal 1,2 and 3 at the Changi Airport .

Sorry for all visitors to the Changi budget terminal .There is no such places there and the maps and brochure at this terminal are quite fewer than those other terminal .

A poster at the Singapore visitors center

May 17, 2010

lunch at Changi airport

A lunch at Changi airport can get u a free face spa service! Also 1 hr parking . But this offer will last till 27 May 2010 lah .

Tiger Airways in flight menu


Budget Airline means we have to buy rather expensive food on board in case you are really hungry in flight .

I was hungry and got nothing since woke up in Hanoi and rush to get the plane to Singapore. …then I ask for “Tiger Bites” …not the one with claws in the jungle that gonna rip you apart….but similarly result …I’m afraid…

The menu said simply as “hot meal” . So it’s can be anything and you have to ask the air hostess about the menu of the day or what ever they have at hand.

But It’s ok with the ticket price I bought compare to other airline on Hanoi –Singapore route . I still happy with this 10 SGD hot meal food instead the rip-off price tag of other airline!

SG Taxi Basic fare

Just arrived in Singapore from Hanoi , Vietnam .

Singaporean public signs and their brochure are always informational and helpful with foreign visitor . Here is the rate of public taxi in Singapore . The sign just post outside the way to the airport taxi stop at the Changi airport – terminal 2

Actually ….the taxi cost to the center of Singapore should be around 15-20 SGD .More if u go father to the east and also another factor is time and area which might cost u more too.

SG Taxi Basic fare :

Flagdown (inclusive 1st km) 2.80-3.20 SGD

Every 385 metres(up to 10km) 0.20 SGD

Every 330 metres(after 10km) 0.20 SGD

Every 45 secs of waiting time 0.20 SGD

the above rate is for the standard taxi if it were Chrysler u have to pay a bit more

May 15, 2010

Bus food in Lao: sticky rice and fried beef

My favorite food for a long bus trip in Laos .Some sticky rice and dried beef put into a plastic bag .This package is easily portable with u everywhere even in your cloth 's pocket .Beware that the fried meat here will taste a bit salty from salt and a heavy dose of MSG - Monosodium glutamate, the flavor enhancer.

with this arrangement and a bottle of water... u can survive a day trip anywhere in Laos!

May 13, 2010

Upgrade project for Cau Treo and Nam Pao border crossing point

There is a new movement on upgrading a crossing link between Laos and Vietnam.This is a main crossing point for many travellers who journey overland on the Hanoi-Vinh-Vientien route.

the news:

On May 11 2010 , Vietnam News reported that the Ha Tinh province on Vietnamese side and Bolikhamsay province on Lao side agreed to invest in upgrading infrastructure at the Cau Treo and Nam Pao border crossing point.

The project includes: construction of the border gate administrative zone, trade, service and cultural centre and a road system between the two border gates covers 23.5ha. The construction project in Laos will be done with non-refundable aid from the Vietnamese Government.

From Huay xai to Luang Nam Tha, Laos

By Eastcode team

At Huay xai (sometimes called Houei Sai),all travelers got two choices : Go north to Luang Nam Tha and may be China or go south on a slow boat trip to Luang Prabang. The word "huay xai" means a sandy creek .

The road trip from Huay xai to Luang Namtha used to be an 8 or 10 hours ordeal on a small bad road up steep hills and endless curves.

But no more… since Yunnan province of China badly wanna link up with Thailand by road via Northern Laos. The ambitious Chinese project will connected Kunming,the capital of Yunnan, to Bangkok, Thailand. Down to the South and Sea means a lot to the landlocked Yunnan.

The so called “R3” road which linked Huay xai on Thai-Laos boder to Luang Nam Tha in the middle and Boten on Lao-Chinese border is mostly finished now as a paved and widen road. Some parts are under construction. But comparing to a few years ago this is a miracle in making.A new “friendship” bridge will crossing the Mekong river between Huay xai and Chiang Khong in a few years next.

On April 2010 , a bus from huay xai to Luang Namtha will cost around 55000 kip per person and reach destination in 4 hours . Also by a minivan taxi around 70000 kip per person(find near the main pier- but runs with enough people concept)

If u travels in a big group and want to reach the Chinese border directly then u can charters a minivan around the crossing pier .This option will leads you to Boten and Chinese border at Mohan in just under 5hrs.

At Huay xai bus station ,There is a bus runs to Jinghong(or calls Xieng Hung in Laos) but the schedule is not quite functional .The bus to China from Luang Nam Tha and Muang xai (udom xai) are more reliable if u want to go to Jinghong (景洪 - Jǐnghóng)

See the latest bus timetable in the pic above . Bokeo in the picture is the name of the province while huay xai is the town's name.

the travel time between Huay xai to Boten which shortened to 5 hrs will make a planning and booking plane home much more easier to reach 3 main cities in this region : Chiang Rai in Thailand , Luang Prabang in Laos and Jinghong in China. All three cities each has an international airport and linkage to both land and air travel in each country.

May 12, 2010

First ATM in Sam Neua

Good news for all travellers to Sam Neua ,the former base of Lao socialist government in time civil war,the remote town got a new and the first ATM machine! This one is just setting up a few days ago near the big mounument and close to the Tuk tuk station near the main road.All in all: Not hard to find in this small and out-of-the-way town.You simply can't miss it!

At the time when i took this picture (May/10/2010), the machine still in the process of setting up but the bank guys said will be operational soon.This will be one of two ATM in Sam Neua.

The new ATM in Sam Nuea at night.This red ATM booth in other Laotian town already proved operational even after a black out .

something wrong with my window in Phonsavan

Me and my friend just arrived in Phonesavanh, a highland town of Laos,and promptly rent a room at Phoukham Guesthouse at the opposite side of an old bus station)that look quite typical by Phonesavanh's standard which is a big shell of a bomb or two at the entrance.Those are old American bombs from the secret war of Indochina long time ago.But scars never gone.

It's rain and darkness soon cover the whole town.We got into the room and tried to open a window that open to the balcony.

"struck something..." my friend told me. I told him just leave it like that because we still got another window,also the temperature there a bit chiil....

The morning reveal an amazing sight .Late last night , our window struck the muzzle part of an old machine gun and at the balcony .....u will see a load of broken guns and ammunition...It's turn out that are collection of the owner.

Every restaurants and guesthouses or even the provincial tourism have their own mini "bomb exhibition" to impress the visitors .