Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year on Soi Bangla

New Year 2008 on Phuket was a blast; I have never seen better fireworks or more people cluttering up Patong Beach and Soi Bangla. This is truly proof that this season must have been the best on Phuket ever, with hotels being booked already a long time in advance.



Absolute monstrous amounts of people moving through Soi Bangla to the beach:

The fireworks, unluckily a mobile is (still) no real replacement for a camera...:

I spent for sure more than an hour on the beach of Patong, together with other party-goers and watched the show and the people. A pure happy moment and lots of good intentions for the coming year (this blog being one of them)...

The next big event on my personal party calendar will be Thai New Year (Songkran), when Soi Bangla will be transformed in a big waterfighting arena. I actually relish to be as crazy as the next tourist innocent of knowing about the deeper meaning of Songkran and just join in the mayhem...

Links of Interest:


Glimplses of Royal Land – Journey Begins

I love the architecture of forts, places and temples. I always wanted to visit in my lifetime and see the gigantic forts and beautiful palaces. To do this in India, I could not have chosen a better place than Rajasthan. To fulfill this dream along with my other 2 friends, we booked hotels, vehicle for a total period of 13 days in December 2004.

Totally 7 (3 families) of us started on this journey from Bangalore. We reached Delhi by flight as late as 1:00 p.m. We would have reached Delhi by 9:00 a.m if not for the fog. When we landed in Delhi the pre-booked Qualis was waiting for us. We got into the vehicle and stared moving towards Shekawati region in Rajasthan. On the way we had lunch at the road side Dhaba and reached Mandwa by 8:00 p.m. We could not see any place on the way, as it was getting late and dark. We checked-in to the Mandwa Haweli, and after refreshing we had good dinner. This is our first taste of Rajasthani food, and it was really good. After dinner we strode through the village and it was full moon day. There was no electric power in the village at that point, but from what little we could see that night, we knew next day morning will be exciting.

The Haveli had the electricity and we had good sleep to finish our first day on the trip. Next we will explore the Shekawati region.

Distance: Delhi ---> Mandwa is 257 kms

P.S: December is the month when lot of tourists land in Rajasthan. So if you really want all the arrangements to be done properly this has to be done before October end.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) in Chiang Rai

Just south of Chiang Rai, off Highway 1, there is one of the most amazing and stunning temples I have ever seen in Thailand. Called officially the "Chapel of Wat Rong Khun" it has become to be known simply as "The White Temple". This is another one of those places that hasn't been discovered by the Lonely Planet people yet and very much worth a visit.

This is a modern form of architecture which you don’t often see in temple grounds. It was designed and built by Thailand’s premier artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat.The attention to detail is remarkable and you do need to spend some time here studying the beautiful artwork. To reach the temple you have to cross a bridge over a pit of hell. Down below there are sculptures of people who are presumably trying to escape from hell. Inside the temple is a beautiful colored mural of the Buddha.












Chiang Rai White Temple Artwork At The Chiang Rai White Temple Chiang Rai White Temple Chiang Rai White Temple
White Temple Chiang Rai Artwork At The Chiang Rai White Temple Artwork At The Chiang Rai White Temple White Temple Chiang Rai Entrance
Links of Interest:

Friday, December 28, 2007

Expats in Thailand

Not all farangs who live in Thailand are derelicts, wastrels, running from the law, lunatics, parole violators, running from the IRS, dope fiends or alcoholics, political refugees, psychos, or frustrated novelists. Just most of them.
If you'd like to know more about foreigners living in Thailand, you can read the Expats in Thailand page, but it seems that few of the more twisted farangs have agreed to an interview here. Pity.

From Frisko Dude:
"Here you'll find the interviews we've done with expats who are living in Thailand. You will find out how they did it and you will learn the reasons why they love living in Thailand. It's the land of the smiles is what people say about Thailand. The people are very friendly and the living standard is very good if you compare it to other Asian countries."
Links of Interest:

Russian bar girls and strippers in Pattaya

Pattaya is famous for it's bars and streets filled with Thai girls and ladyboys who seek to entertain foreign tourists. Why would you come here to look for Russian girls?

Believe it or not, but there is a stripclub on Pattaya's infamous Walking Street that is filled with Russian strippers: Galaxy. Officially they are just strippers, but according to a report by Pattaya Daily News Galaxy got raided by the Police and the Russians were doing much more than just dancing in bikinis.If you are into Russian ladies check out this joint. When you walk along Walking Street you will see a big sign for galaxy with a glass booth where the dancers perform for public viewing.

Links of Interest:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Phi Phi Map

Phi Phi Island is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Southern Thailand and a good Phi Phi map is essential for your travels. As Phi Phi is only reachable by boat, it is important to know before arrival, where everything is loacted; eg some hotels and resorts will need extra boat trips from the main pier in Phi Phi Don Village (good examples are the Zeavola Phi Phi Resort, Phi Phi Natural Resort and the Phi Phi Island Village).

For the very best map of Phi Phi Islands and the surrounding area, plus detailed maps of the beaches and islands showing accommodation, services and points of interest, it is worth investing in 'The Tourist Map' which can be bought in any travel agency or bookshop for a cost of only 70 Baht.
Links of Interest:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Amanpuri: perfect privacy on Phuket

The first backpackers of the 60's and early 70's deserve credit for discovering the beauties of Phuket, in the Andaman Sea off Thailand's southern coast. The best beaches were isolated at the time by formidable limestone mountains and required determination as well as stamina to reach; once there, the only accommodations on most were a few ramshackle bungalows of bamboo and thatch with primitive sanitary facilities. The water, though, was crystal clear, the sand was pure white, the costs were minimal, and, best of all, the privacy was practically absolute.

As any present-day visitor quickly finds, things have changed. Every arriving jet is met by a uniformed horde representing a dozen or so large hotels that have gone up in the past few years, and the road leading from the airport is lined with billboards proclaiming the charms of others. Phuket, it is abundantly plain, has arrived on the international tourist scene with a vengeance and the day of the backpacker and the cheap bungalow is over.

Near-total privacy, however, is still available for a select few, nowhere in a more secluded and seductive atmosphere than at Amanpuri, a one-of-a-kind establishment that aims to provide a maximum of romantic glamour and a minimum of typical resort distractions. Conspicuously missing at the Amanpuri, aside from an attentive staff of around 200, is any overt suggestion that it happens to be a hotel. There is no reception desk, no counter at which to rent cars or book tours, no souvenir shops, no nightclub or disco, no elevators.

Amanpuri

Amanpuri, a Sanskrit word meaning place of peace, is the brainchild of an Indonesian-born entrepreneur named Adrian Zecha. Mr. Zecha was looking for somewhere to build a winter home and about six years ago came across what seemed an ideal site on Phuket's Pansea Beach. It was a coconut plantation at the time and covered some 100 acres on a steep hill rising 130 feet above the sandy beach, one of the island's prettiest, with spectacular views from almost every point and a rare sense of serenity.
Amanpuri

Mr. Zecha's friend Ed Tuttle agreed. A Paris-based American architect, Mr. Tuttle had previously designed residences for Mr. Zecha in Bali, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, as well as a winter palace for the Shah of Iran and a new interior for the Athens City Museum. He was excited at the prospect of working in Thailand, where the architecture had long fascinated him. Eventually the two agreed that the property was large enough for not just a few houses but a small hotel as well, one that would be dramatically different from the others then beginning to rise all over Phuket.

Mr. Tuttle had never been in charge of a complete hotel design before, but he was already determined on two key issues. "I wanted it to be as free as possible from conventional resort gimmicks," he said recently, "and I wanted it to be as Thai as possible in design and feeling."To achieve the latter, he traveled extensively over Thailand, studying its Buddhist temples and, especially, its traditional domestic architecture. He finally settled on what is known as the central style, characterized by steep, elegantly proportioned roofs and plain paneled wooden walls, elevated from the ground on stout pillars. Such houses in a Thai village are always separate or grouped around a central platform, which led Mr. Tuttle to decide on erecting a number of individual structures up the hillside, widely spaced for both privacy and esthetic appeal.

Forty of these graceful "pavilion suites," as the Amanpuri prefers to call them (bungalow would certainly be an inadequate term), have been erected on the steep hillside for maximum privacy. The reception area is another, much larger pavilion with 40-foot ceilings and open sides to allow views of a 100-foot black-tiled swimming pool, two restaurants (one serving Thai food, the other Italian) and, through the trunks of lofty coconut palms, the turquoise water of the sea, reached by an impressive flight of steps.

Mr. Tuttle also supervised the interiors, selecting a large number of handsome antique woodcarvings, theatrically illuminated at night, as well as handwoven Thai silk and cotton in muted colors and custom-made furniture that suited the essential simplicity of the paneled walls.

The guests in each pavilion are assigned their own "manager" who greets them on arrival and takes care of such mundane matters as registration while showing them around their L-shaped platform. A complete traditional Thai house occupies one part and contains the air-conditioned bedroom, with dark paneled walls, comfortable furniture, antiques, a semi-sunken bath and a general atmosphere of discreet luxury. Outside is a spacious sun deck and an elegant little open-sided pavilion - a "sala" in Thai - which shelters a low table and triangular cushions for lounging over breakfast or cocktails.

During my visit I found it tempting to spend most of my time in this beguiling atmosphere, admiring the Thai antiques in the bedroom - among them the chofa, or temple roof finial, which when mounted was transformed into a dramatic piece of modern sculpture - sunbathing on my private deck and generally savouring the pleasure of doing nothing but listen to the lanquid rustle of palm fronds and the soothing sound of distant surf. It is possible to dine undisturbed too in the elegant restaurant, where 700-year-old Thai jars form part of the decor, or at candlelighted tables on the terrace overlooking the sea. An Italian chef is on hand to recommend home-made pastas and fresh seafood, or one can have a Thai meal with assorted curries and peppery green-mango salads. A small library offers a selection of unusually well-chosen books on Asian topics to while away the hours of rare privacy.

Other guests, too, apparently succumb to this temptation. "I stayed there five days and hardly spoke to a soul," says a well-traveled woman. "It was bliss."

For those who want a more active vacation, however, there are two floodlighted tennis courts, a sauna and equipment for wind-surfing, water-skiing and scuba diving. The Amanpuri also has a 50-foot yacht that can be hired for excursions to such nearby attractions as Phang Nga Bay, where hundreds of limestone cliffs jut dramatically up from the sea.

A few may even want to explore some of Phuket's other beaches - Patong, for instance, where the nightlife approximates that of Bangkok's bawdy Patpong Road; or Kata, where the Club Med offers exactly the sort of organized gaiety Mr. Zecha and Mr. Tuttle sought so assiduously to avoid; or Nai Harn, overlooked by the Phuket Yacht Club, the Amanpuri's main competition when it comes to luxurious accommodations.

The lack of elevators has probably been the biggest source of complaints from those who have stayed at the Amanpuri since it opened in 1988 (and from some who have only come to look). From the reception area to the highest pavilion is a climb of more than 200 steps, and reaching the beach involves another 80; getting all the way down for a swim and finding you have left your suntan lotion back in the room can thus be an unsettling experience for anyone not in the best of physical shape. For a while the management tried to solve the problem by using a fleet of tuk-tuks, motorized tricycles popular in Bangkok, but the noise proved disruptive to serenity; now they have a couple of electric golf carts for emergencies.

Others, however, have responded enthusiastically to the novel concept and been willing to pay the stiff prices being asked for peace and privacy on Phuket - from USD 275 to USD 700 for two people in the high season, from November through April, and from USD 200 to USD 500 the rest of the year. Dinner for two with wine in the Italian restaurant will add about USD 105 to that figure; in the Thai restaurant, about USD 75. Hotel guests have included celebrities like Michael J. Fox, Sean Penn and Brian DePalma, who occupied suites while filming "Casualties of War" in a Phuket jungle, along with a fair sampling of fashionable jet-setters from around the world.

Links of Interest:

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Tongsai Bay on Koh Samui

As fantasies go, it is one of my favorites - the sort of thing I conjure up in the dentist's chair, or flat out in the operating room, when the anesthesia starts dripping and they tell you to imagine the most pleasurable place on the planet. I am somewhere warm, in the water, swimming long and languorous laps. Sometimes I'm riding the currents across a secluded ocean cove; sometimes I'm making waves in an immense Hockney-blue pool. Occasionally, the water is smooth as a lake, and my arms and legs barely cause a ripple. And every once in a while I'm not moving at all, just floating in a giant bathtub.
The image is hypnotic. And now I have found it for real - in Thailand, on Koh Samui, an island in the Gulf of Thailand just 90 minutes by air from Bangkok and across the southern peninsula from the better-known, more commercialized Phuket. Based on a Thai colleague's recommendation, I went to The Tongsai Bay, an eco-friendly colony of cottages and low buildings barely displacing the lush greenery on the hills of the island's northeast corner.

Koh Samui (Koh means island in Thai) is roughly the size of Martha's Vineyard, with a thick ridge of mountains marching across its core and dozens of miles of beaches orbiting the coast. Above it all, a crown of coconut palms. Once a backpacker's secret with cheap beachfront digs, Samui now draws nearly a million tourists a year, mostly Europeans, to scores of hotels, resorts and restaurants. If nonstop seashore and hot, sunny days are not enough, you can disco till dawn, go snorkeling or kayaking, ride an elephant to a waterfall, get a custom-fit silk dress or climb the steps to a four-story-high statue of Buddha. Or so I heard. I saw almost none of this except Big Buddha - impossible to miss during the 15-minute drive from the airport - because from the moment I arrived inside the gate of the secluded, botanically blessed resort, I never left Tongsai Bay's grounds.In a nation whose entire culture seems to tease the senses, this 25-acre haven has tamed the best of nature. In the open-air lobby, shaped like a giant tent, I felt the brush of a warm breeze and inhaled the fragrance of sweet flowers. A chirping chorus of yellow-breasted birds flitted about. The welcome drink was a tangy surprise: a rosy concoction of dried chrysanthemum, roselle (a kind of hibiscus) and pandanus leaves, with lime juice and other exotic ingredients. I felt soothed and energized all at once. And instantly headed for the water.

The main pool, the social heart of the resort, is filled with seawater, half a football field long and shaped like a figure eight with a teak bridge bisecting its center and crushed blue rocks lining its floor. The sides of the pool slope down gradually, so entering the water was a slow glide into serenity. Buoyed by the salt and lured by the unusual distance, I churned through the water, immersed in azure.

A few hundred yards away, hidden behind a hill and dug into a cliff, is the second pool, a freshwater rectangle with a vanishing edge that makes it seem suspended above the sea. The illusion is enhanced by the way the rim slices objects in the distance: I saw sails but not boats in the gulf; tops but not trunks of palms; heads but not bodies of people walking by.

This pool is smaller (25 meters) and the mood decidedly more serious. Signs request "quietness" and no diving, please. The surface looked like glass and the water felt like liquid silk.

And then there was the ocean: a 650-foot crescent beyond a gently curving beach, billed as the only such private hotel coastline on all of Samui. The water was choppy on my first day but perfectly swimmable the rest, especially once I realized that the coarse sand floor drops off quickly and plunges you directly into the brine.

Each day I got lost in the aquamarine worlds, spending nearly an hour per swim beneath radiant blue skies. Although the hotel had plenty of guests and I was traveling with a friend, I nearly always swam alone. Once I shared the freshwater pool with a Japanese family and their two enchanting children; once a young couple from England hung out beneath the bridge of the saltwater pool, drifting aside as I passed by. A few swimmers joined me in the surf. But most of the guests seemed to prefer the lounge chairs, cushioned chaises beneath canvas umbrellas with a little holder for the flag. Wave it, and a waiter comes by to bring you drinks, food, or towels. Nature may rule the senses at Tongsai Bay, but the superb staff takes care of everything else.

Meals were equally impressive. At the elaborate breakfast buffet in the main dining room, attached to the lobby and overlooking the ocean, I bypassed the trays of mango, papaya and pineapple to feast on pomelo, a giant ancestor of our grapefruit that tastes sweeter and has more texture. Lunch was at the beach, in the pavilion called Floyd's Beach Bistro, where salads and burgers were heated up with Thai spices. And after drinks at the alfresco bar (the piña coladas and other tropical potions were blissfully free of paper umbrellas) dinner was available at three locations.

The indulgence never stopped. Tucked among the bungalows in a huddle of cottages is the independently operated Prana Spa, with a sumptuous assortment of rubs, treatments and herbal potions. I got hooked on the entryway, a "walk on water" atop carved concrete stepping stones that makes you believe you are crossing into a fairy tale. Then I signed up for a Thai massage and a head and neck version, both delivered in a masterly way by small, silent women. So complete was the comfort, I never turned on the TV in my room and even rarely took advantage of the Internet connection at the beachside computers!

Links of Interest:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thailand bar closing times: Alcohol ban slapped on next two weekends

I’m in a state of disbelief about this. The next two weekends will see a nationwide alcohol ban enforced. Whether you’re a local, an expat or a tourist, you won’t be able to buy booze at bars, clubs, stores or anywhere else (expect, apparently, large hotels).

There was talk of this on a few forums recently, but until today – the day before the ban will take effect – there was no official source. Thai Visa was the first to confirm the rumours:
"The first dry days will be 14, 15 and 16 December, pre-election days for a few million Thais who registered to vote early. Thaivisa has been informed that no alcohol is allowed to be served nationwide between Friday 14th at 6pm until Sunday 16th at midnight. Elections on the 23rd will mean no alcohol will be sold from 6pm on the 22nd till midnight on the 23rd of December. Practically this means two or three dry days in the two weekends ahead, although some tourist areas tend to be lenient once it’s past 7pm on election day."
Absolute madness. The fact that it’s been so poorly publicized makes it even worse. It kicks in tomorrow and until today, there’s been mass confusion as to what is going on. I understand the importance of the election, but in a country where campaigners give out Viagra to sway votes, would alcohol really make things any worse?

This disastrous regulation has meant that club owners and promoters in Bangkok have been forced to reschedule high-profile events and change the dates that international acts were set to fly into Thailand.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

India Travel

In India, when we have good amount of money to spend on vacation, we usually think about various travel destinations like UK, Switzerland, France, Italy, Singapore, Malaysia, etc., One item that is common in these destinations is none of them are in our country.

We very coolly forget the rich heritage and architecture that our own nation has in store for us. We all know only one tourist location in India that is Taj Mahal. Apart from this we also have rich heritage of forts, palaces, place of worship (temples, churches, mosques), wild life, waterfalls and museums.

In earlier days it was considered very difficult to travel across the country on your own. This is not true any more. One can arrange the accommodations, vehicle for travel on their own and visit any place that he wishes to see. I agree we all desire to see the outside world and one should not miss this. But also spend some time on enjoying rich heritage of our country and give at least equal importance if not more.

Happy traveling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Park Hyatt Koh Samui to Open in 2009

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts has signed an agreement to manage a new luxury resort that is being developed by Proud Resorts Koh Samui Co. Ltd., a joint venture between real estate and hospitality investment specialists, First Oriental, and the Liptapanlop Family.

Scheduled to open in 2009, Park Hyatt Koh Samui will feature 90 luxurious hotel villas with an additional 24 villa residences, all set on a spectacular hilltop location overlooking Thong Krut Bay on Koh Samui's southern shoreline.

Links of Interest:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

24th Southeast Asian Games open in Khorat

The 24th Southeast Asian Games, commonly known as the SEA Games, opened officially Thursday in Thailand's northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima (also known as Khorat).

The colourful opening ceremony was presided over by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn representing His Majesty the King who turned 80 on Wednesday.

All 10 members of Asean -- Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei -- as well as Timor Leste, which joined the SEA Games family in 2003, are participating in the region’s high-profile biannual sporting event.

The Games are being hosted in three main venues in Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), Bangkok and Chonburi (Pattaya).

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sexy Thai karaoke girls

Karaoke is a serious business in Thailand; this is true from the business side, as it is (like all things related to nightlife and prostitution) a big earner for everybody who can stick their finger in the pie. In many cases, karaoke bars have their room right upstairs and upcountry fees payable can be minimal compared to tourist destinations like Phuket.
Then there is the entertainment side; having 'sanook' is a central concept of the Thai lifestyle. This means in most cases, that a whole group of Thai men will go to a karaoke bar, drink as long as they can, sing quite horrible and get entertained by the girls serving in the karaoke. They might be invited to sing for you, but my experiences show that most of them cannot sing that well either.
Typical for the Thai-only nightlife, just a few meters from where I live here on Phuket there are a whole row of such karaoke bars, with a lot of the girls much younger than you would ever expect them to meet in the Farang-oriented bars of Patong. So there is definitely a dark side to this, but as the police cannot demand much payout in those places they will do not much about it (the police station is actually 50 meters down the road)...

And not so long ago, the Thai Culture Minister warned against too much sexy Tghai girl action around local karaoke bars (as if anybody would listen!):

"Action will soon be taken against karaoke bars that seat scantily clad hostesses by the street to attract customers, Culture Watch Centre director Ladda Tangsuphachai said yesterday.
She said women in provocative dresses should remain inside bars. Police in Bangkok and elsewhere would be asked to keep karaoke bars and other entertainment venues in check.
A large number of karaoke bars and similar venues have opened in major Bangkok areas, including Lat Phrao, Pracha Chuen and Charan Sanitwong Road. They employ female staff in provocative attire to hail passing cars.
Ladda said she sympathised with women working in the nightlife industry but added that revealing dresses should not be worn and openly seen in the streets, even though such venues operated late at night.
She said she was following up an instruction given to her by Culture Minister Khaisri Sriaroon and Deputy Education Minister Varakorn Samkoses. She said the Interior Ministry, which gives permits to entertainment venues, may not renew the permits of uncooperative venues.
Ladda said the actions to be taken were similar to those imposed on prostitutes loitering on Bangkok streets and were not meant to affect the venues in terms of profits."

A video from YouTube showing sexy Thai karaoke girls "in action"; have a look quickly, as those materials vanish fast from YouTube:

And a few Thai karaoke girl photos from Asiansweetheart: Somebody had a big night at the karaoke bar. And they were nice enough to snap some photos of the fun and post the shots on one of the forums. There are five shots in the series, including that one above of two of the karaoke girls wrestling on the sofa:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Crazy parties at Phi Phi Reggae Bar

Of all the Phi Phi Island bars, Phi Phi Reggae Bar is the perfect hang-out for people who want to unwind after a long day combing the beach, sunbathing, kayaking or shopping.
At Phi Phi Reggae Bar, you can grab a drink, listen to music and dance the night away. Enjoy recalling the day's adventures and share your experiences with other tourists and friends. Phi Phi Island bars are the perfect end to a day on the Phi Phi beach.

The Reggae Bar, something of a Phi Phi institution, is a large drinking spot with a cast of hundreds. There's a heavy beat laid down, pool tables, and because the place is open-sided, no cigarette fumes. The centerpiece of this bar is its muay Thai (Thai boxing) ring. It's a fairly unique experience to watch two foreigners dressed up as Thai boxers complete with leather headgear go at each other refereed by a tubby Thai official.

One distinctive feature of Phi Phi's nightlife is the many displays of 'buckets' lined up for sale. The ingredients of this one-way ticket to oblivion are: Ice, Red Bull (energy drink), mixer, straws and a half-bottle of spirits. Revelers simply add the Red Bull, mixer and spirits, dig in with their straws and the rest is a rather hazy experience. Prices range from 200 baht for Sang Som (local sugar cane rum) to 500 baht for Jack Daniel's.
Drinking from a bucket on Phi Phi Island

When other Phi Phi Island bars close their doors, Phi Phi Reggae Bar remains open and jumping with action. If what you yearn for is an evening of fun and animated activity, look no further than the Phi Phi Reggae Bar. After all, what would a holiday be without Phi Phi Island bars to melt away the stress and anxieties of everyday life?
Phi Phi Reggae Bar dance floor

Links of Interest:

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Layana Resort and Spa in Koh Lanta

Layana Resort and Spa is an exclusive boutique resort with 50 rooms and suites nestled on Koh Lanta Island, facing a white sandy beach and set against a picturesque backdrop of forested hills. Laid out amid tropical gardens and designed to harmonize perfectly with its natural surroundings, the resort comprises low-rise, contemporary Thai-style buildings that combine spaciousness with an open, cool and natural ambience.

Layana is a Sanskrit name meaning an interlude or rest and you will find at Layana Resort and Spa that you will enjoy a period of perfect relaxation away from your everyday routine. The Resort has an exclusive atmosphere enhanced by exquisite decor and hospitality that ensures no detail is overlooked in making your holiday as perfect as possible.

Layana Resort and Spa enjoys a beachfront location, on a 3 kilometre-long white-sand beach. Environmentally-conscious design throughout the property minimises environmental impact, and a modern and eco-friendly infrastructure ensures efficient operation of facilities.

Imagine a place where your very desire is fulfilled; where magical sunsets mark the end of luxurious days and the beginning of dream-filled evenings; where the world revolves around you alone.As prettywoman remarked on Tripadvisor:
"Layana Resort and Spa is the best place to stay in Koh lanta. Iam not going to repeat what has been said on previous reviews. Just an advice, book your transfer through the hotel, you will save a lot of time. I visited the island and came to the conclusion that Layana is best resort in every single way, food, service, accomodation and location. Worth every penny. Don't look any further, just pack your bags and go, you won't regret it."
Links of Interest:

Kayaking around Phi Phi Ley Island

The best way to see Phi Phi Ley is by sea kayak. The trip can range from Beginner to Intermediate, depending on how you do it. The only intermediate level kayaking is done when kayaking across the channel from Phi Phi Don to Phi Phi Ley. Especially in the low season with higher waves, this can be quite adventuruous: I was treated to an unforgettable experience when I was trapped in the cave during an unexpected storm and spent several hours "talking" with the nest gatherers and sharing dinner with them (talking consisted of drawing pictures in the dirt since we didn't have any shared language); however you will be really fine in high season when the weather is good and seas are nearly always very calm.

For beginners, rent sea kayaks from Phi Phi Paradise resort (about $10 a day for a double) and then hire a longtail boatman to ferry you and your kayak to Maya Bay around 7am (another $10, though you can bargain him down to $5 if you're good). If you're a strong kayaker, you can kayak back. Otherwise, tell him to pick you up at Viking Cave around 4pm.

Spend an hour or so enjoying Maya Bay, as you'll likely have it to yourself at this hour. If the seas were calm on your way in, paddle out the bay, turn left, and head around the tip of the island and up the other side. If the seas were rough, drag your kayak on the trail heading inland from the beach and you'll eventually come to a "hole-in-the-wall" where you can push your kayak through to the leeward side of the island where the seas will be calm.

Turn left and kayak up the island, enjoying views down to the coral reefs under you. Eventually you'll come to a bay opening to your left. Enter this bay. Here in the entrance is some of the finest and most colorful snorkelling I've ever experienced. In fact, the fish were so prolific that when I dropped a cracker in the water it literally boiled and fish jumped INTO my kayak!

You can paddle all the way into the deep heart of Phi Phi Ley in this bay, called Ao Lo Dalam, but the snorkelling gets worse the farther in you go. A deep blue pool for swimming awaits you within.

Back to the open sea and hang a left and you'll eventually see the large dock at Viking Cave. Pull up here and the nest gatherers will help you tether your kayaks and scoop you up onto the large dock. You may be asked for a small admission fee (maybe 5-10B) and explore the cave (don't forget the flashlight!), keeping in mind that this is their religion and if you are asked to keep out of any area, please do.

From here it's a line-of-sight kayak back to Long Beach (it will take you an hour unless you're very strong). If the seas are very rough, it's probably a good idea to bargain with the nest gatherers to ferry you back to the beach, or just wait for your boatman if you arranged to have him pick you up.

Links of Interest:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

New Google Maps mashups from Thailand

Chiangdao's English language Bangkok Map is a mashup between Google Maps and Moffle.com that brings you with a user friendly and useful tourist map for anyone visiting this great world city. Descriptive map pins will show you the locations for tourist attractions, metro stations, shopping, hotels, restaurants and much more. Give it a try.

Chiangdao's Bangkok Map has it going on!
With recently added street maps for Bangkok, Google Maps is becoming a vital travel tool to use while visiting this city!

Bangkok Google Maps Mashup from BangkokRecorder
BangkokRecorder.com has created a fantastic mashup of Shopping, Hotels, Attractions and other must-see spots around BKK. It also maps the transit lines and locations for airport, train and bus stations. Combine this mashup with Moffle perhaps to add some context to these satellite-mapped locations. [Via Gridskipper]

JaideeGolf lets you interact with Thai golf courses:
Jaideegolf is a new golf mashup for Thailand (and other world locations) that lets you map the course, the holes and also measure distance from the pin to the hole! Give it a try on the Amata Spring Country Club and try the tools on the directly on the map.

STOP! your car when you hear the anthem!

Traffic would come to a halt every time the national anthem is played under a new proposal to promote patriotism in Thailand.

The minute-long national anthem is played twice a day in Bangkok, during the raising and lowering of the flag. Opponents of the Flag Bill, put forward by a group of retired and current generals, said it would cause chaos on the roads.
But retired General Pricha Rochanasena, 70, said: "The national anthem lasts only one minute and eight seconds. So why can't motorists stop their cars for the sake of the country? They already spend more time in traffic jams anyway."
A vote on the Bill in the capital Bangkok has been deferred to allow a committee to see whether it would work in practice.
Politician Wallop Tangkananurak, who is opposed to the proposal, said: "It would be chaotic if the Bill had passed as it is now."

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