Baan Hom Thian @ Suan Pheng

Ratchaburi is a province that provides a nice easy weekend drive from Bangkok. A major attraction in the area is Baan Home Thian (the ‘House of Scented Candles’) which is located near the kilometer 33 marker on highway No. 3087.

Baan Home Thian is a quaint photographic destination. The decorations are very retro with old items, toys, furniture and vehicles on display among the shops and gardens. The main merchandise for sale here is a large range of colorful scented candles, available in various designs and sizes. The owner makes this uniquely designed candle for local and international markets. The prices range from small (25 baht), medium (50 baht), large (120 baht) and X-large (160 baht). Don’t miss the opportunity to make your own candles at the candle making workshop.

Photobucket baan hom thian 2

Directions:  You can drive only 2 hours by using Highway 4 (Phetkasem Road), which will take you through Nakhon Pathom province on to Ratchaburi province. When you reach Ratchaburi’s Muang district, you’ll see a sign directing you to turn right for the local road (No 3087).

19th Discovery Thailand 2010

The 19th Discovery Thailand & Discovery World

Covering Queen Sirikit National Convention Center’s exhibition areas, the events will bring together over 750 leading local and international tour operators as well as fully-integrated tourism services, including hotels, resorts, airlines, domestic and outbound travel agents, national and overseas tourism promotion organizations, car rental companies, boat cruises, travel equipment providers, restaurants and many more. As such, this event is an excellent place to do some holiday planning and get good value for your money. It is expected that over 300,000 visitors will attend this event looking for travel packages and discounts over the weekend.

Dates: September 2-5, 2010

Time: 10 am – 9 pm

5 Free Thai iPhone Apps

1. BKK Transit

Bangkok’s BTS Skytrain and MRT Subway systems are not very extensive compared to London’s Tube or the Paris Metro, but this handy app can make it easier to find out where you want to go. BKK Transit lists the attractions at each stop, such as local markets. Even more useful is its Chao Praya Express boat route info.

2. iTraffic

The most useful app for battling Bangkok’s daily gridlock, this graphic-based program lets you see what the traffice situation looks like using a simple coloring code: green means “go” and red means “stop”. iTraffic is only available in Thai, but it’s still handy for showing to taxi drivers.

Free

3. Major Movie

The helpful app makes it possible to get correct movie programs and showtimes for movies showing in any Major Cineplex movie theater. It has Thai/Eng languages and provides information about movies as well as where they are being shown. This app makes planning a night at the movies possible on the go.

Free

4. Bangkok Post News

Even the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s largest English newspaper, has a dedicated iPhone app. To keep up with current events in Bangkok and the region, this app is worth the download.

Free

5. Nation News

This new app from the Nation newspaper is packed with real-time news about Thailand. Keep up with the local news easily with this iphone app.

Free

Thailand’s National Museums

Bangkok Museum
Image via Wikipedia

Thailand has many national museums located in different regions of the country where you can learn about Thai history, traditions and cultures. The main museum is located in Bangkok next to Sanam Luang, not far from Wat Pra Kaew.

National Museums of Thailand in Bangkok and Central Thailand

* Bangkok National Museum ( Bangkok )
* Kanchanaphisek National Museum ( Pathum Thani )
* Royal Barges National Museum ( Bangkok )
* Royal Elephant Museum ( Bangkok )
* Changton National Museum ( Bangkok )
* Benchamabopit National Museum ( Bangkok )
* The National Gallery ( Bangkok )
* Silpa Bhirasri ( Bangkok )
* Chaosampraya National Museum ( Ayutthaya )
* Chantharakasem National Museum ( Ayutthaya )
* Narai National Museum ( Lopburi )
* Inburi National Museum ( Singburi )
* Chainatmuni National Museum ( Chainat )
* Uthong National Museum ( Suphanburi )
* Suphanburi National Museum ( Suphanburi )
* Phra Pathom Chedi National Museum ( Nakhon Pathom )
* Phra Nakhon Khiri National Museum ( Phetchaburi )
* Bankao National Museum ( Kanchanaburi )
* Ratburi National Museum ( Ratchaburi )
* Chownathai National Museum ( Suphanburi )
* Prachinburi National Museum ( Prachinburi )
* The National Maritime Museum ( Chanthaburi )

National Museums of Thailand in North Thailand

* Ramkhamhaeng National Museum ( Sukhothai )
* Sawanworanayok National Museum ( Sukhothai )
* Kamphaeng Phet National Museum ( Kamphaeng Phet )
* Phraputthachinnarat National Museum ( Phitsanulok )
* Chiang Mai National Museum ( Chiang Mai )
* Chiang Saen National Museum ( Chiang Rai )
* Hariphunchai National Museum ( Lamphun )
* Nan National Museum ( Nan )

National Museums of Thailand in Northeast Thailand

* Phimai National Museum ( Nakhon Ratchasima )
* Mahaviravong National Museum ( Nakhon Ratchasima )
* Roi Et National Museum ( Roi Et )
* Surin National Mmuseum ( Surin )
* Ubon Ratchathani National Museum ( Ubon Ratchathani )
* Khon Kaen National Museum ( Khon Kaen )
* Ban Chiang National Museum ( Udon Thani )

National Museums of Thailand in South Thailand

* Nakhon Si Thammarat National Museum ( Nakhon Si Thammarat )
* Chaiya National Museum ( Chaiya, Surat Thani Province )
* Thalang National Museum ( Phuket )
* Songkhla National Museum ( Songkhla )
* Muchimavas National Museum ( Songkhla )
* Chumphon National Museum ( Chumphon )
* Satun National Museum ( Satun )

Thai Perception of Neighboring Countries

Thais idealize Japanese, Korean and Chinese countries. Just look around your local shopping center and you’ll see all sorts of Japanese eateries. Japanese cartoons and anime are staples in every young Thai person’s childhood. Korean pop culture, TV shows and celebrities have infiltrated into Thailand and are very popular amongst young and old alike. Finally, Chinese culture is the grandfather culture to which many Thais are strongly connected to. Large parts of the Thai population still celebrate Chinese holidays and practice Chinese rituals and traditions. Many foods in Thailand are Chinese or influenced by Chinese cooking, such as dim sum and rice noodles.

In contrast to the Korean, Chinese and Japanese cultures which are highly respected by the majority of Thais, many Thais have negative viewpoints of countries closely neighboring them. Poorer countries which have struggling economies like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar are looked down on. The culture of these countries is seen as inferior to Thai culture and not held in high regard like Korean, Chinese or Japanese cultures. Malaysia is the only country which borders Thailand that escapes these inconceived notions and is seen more as an equal to Thailand.

It’s hard to believe that in all the years that I have visited Thailand and been living here, I’ve rarely stepped foot in Thailand’s neighboring countries. My family is originally from the south of Thailand, so I have been to Malaysia’s interior and some border towns a few times. I once went to Cambodia to help a friend do a visa run and the experience was not very pleasant. I also ventured into a Myanmar border town near Three Pagoda’s Pass once for an eye opening experience.

Aside from Malaysia, I have not ventured far into any of Thailand’s neighboring countries. I think that the reason is mostly because none of my family wanted to travel in Laos, Cambodia or Myanmar. It is common for Thais to travel all over Thailand before considering travelling in any of those countries. Many people prefer to visit Hong Kong or Singapore for a short holiday and spend their time spending lots of money in modernized settings. For those with more time and more money, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US are more desirable destinations. 

I’ve met many foreigners who have travelled to Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia more than I have even though they’ve been in Thailand for only a few years. Perhaps farangs are more adventurous and ready to “rough it” than Thais are or perhaps they are not held back by their negative impressions of these developing countries. I hope that in the future I find a travel partner who wished to visit one of Thailand’s neighboring countries with me, but somehow I don’t think it will be one of my relatives.

Eco-activities in Thailand

To be in touch with nature and to help conserve it for future generations, eco-resorts and eco-tours are being designed for responsible nature lovers. The goal of ecotourism to increase the appreciation of Thailand natural beauty and to help keep it intact for others to enjoy in the future. Here are some suggested activities that eco-minded tourists might consider when coming to Thailand on holiday.

Elephant Safaris

Experience riding through the forests on the back of a king of the jungle, and learn to appreciate their mighty strength and agility. Most elephant camps that offer treks are based in Chiang Mai, but elephant rides which last a few minutes are also offered at tourist destinations in most resort towns. Elephant safaris can range from a few hours to a few days through the jungle so you can select a safari to suit your time frame or level of adventure.
These elephants are forbidden to work in the logging industry and elephant safari keep them and their owners gainfully employed. Another benefit is that the elephants are kept out of the cities where conditions are tougher for them

Sea Cruises & Beaches

Take a cruise and view the impressive scenery the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea has to offer. Travel in style and leisure in a luxury liner or travel intimately in a converted rice barge up the Chao Phraya river. Wherever you choose to go, visiting Thailand’s coast and gorgeous beaches are not to be missed, especially the islands. Accommodation and travel conditions range from luxurious to rugged so choose your resorts and travel methods to suit your style, desired comfort level and budget.

Trekking

Thailand offers ideal terrain for hiking, from the limestone forests of Krabi to the undulating mountains in the North, where many hill tribe people live. Head over to any national parks for nature-based trekking, teeming with wildlife, waterfalls, and other natural attractions. Some treks incorporate elephant safaris and other modes of transportation, such as rafts and pickup trucks. Treks vary in length and difficulty so check with tour operators when booking to make sure you know what you are getting yourself into and select a trek based on your interests.

Walking Tour

Sometimes getting intentionally lost in a city or town is the best way to find out how the locals live instead of sticking only to the high traffic, tourist areas. You’ll learn a lot about Thai culture by observing the lifestyle, trying Thai food and interacting with Thai people. You can use a guide book and do your own walking tour or join an organized walking tour.  Most walking tours involve temples and in Bangkok, sometimes walking is much faster than driving! Do keep a map handy though as you’ll want to be able to get unlost eventually.

Wildlife Viewing

Some of the rarest tropical animals and birds can only be found in the nation’s national parks. The most common trips are bird watching, but even a simple walk in any mountainous area will guarantee a sighting of gibbons and monkeys. National parks are located all over Thailand so you can select a park which is known for particular animals or birds or geographic features. While viewing wildlife might be your primary goal, there will be plenty of opportunity to see the amazing plant life as well. Reccommended parks are Khao Yai, Doi Inthanon, and Sam Roi Yod, although there are many others.

6 Principles of Ecotourism

The term “ecotourism” was coined in 1987 and is used to describe a wide range of activities. The word itself is a blend of “ecology” and “tourism.” In 1991, The Ecotourism Society (TES) developed the following definition of ecotourism: “Ecotourism is a responsible travel to natural areas that covers the environment and sustains the well being of local people.”

TES has expanded the definition with these 6 basic principles of ecotourism:

  1. It avoids negative impacts that can damage or destroy the character of the natural or cultural environments being visited.
  2. It educates the traveller on the importance of conservation.
  3. It directs revenues to the conservation of natural areas and the management of protected areas.
  4. It brings economic benefits to local communities and directs revenues to local people living near the protected areas.
  5. It emphasizes the need for planning and sustainable growth of the tourism industry and seeks to ensure that tourism development does not exceed the social and environmental “capacity.”
  6. It retains a high percentage of revenues in the host country by stressing the use of locally-owned facilities and services.

The term ecotourism covers aspects of tourism that draws upon natural, human-made and cultural environments. It is often used to describe any type of travel which focuses on natural environments or settings. Additionally, ecotourism adds social responsibilities to make travel to natural areas purposeful and attempts to increase understanding of cultural and natural history of the environment. The local people benefit economically from conservation and the overall goal is to preserve the natural environment despite the human pressures of tourism.

Ecotourism – Is it harmful or helpful?

In the last decade, ecotourism has exploded and everyone wants to cash in on this trend from eco-resorts to eco-adventures. Ecotourism attempts to maintain the natural aspects of the tourist destination while compromising with the need for income from tourists and the resources that these tourists require. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local area.”

Tourism brings lots of money to an area which might not have much income otherwise and ecotourism has become the solution to preserving the natural assets of these areas. In most cases, tourism does benefit the local economy and better the locals’ livelihoods with income from tourism. Traditionally, the locals’ and tourists express little concern over the changes in the local area, natural beauty, waste disposal issues and so on which arise as the number of tourists increases. These problems are especially difficult in newly opened areas or developing countries, such as Thailand.

The trend in the past decade to help alleviate the problems caused by tourism, especially in natural areas, is ecotourism. However, the term ecotourism itself is often misused or overused. There are no set rules or accepted way to verify whether something classifies as ecotourism or not. This means that many tour operators can make claims about their tours being eco-tours without any clear criteria. The operators might not know any better or they are simply following what everyone else is doing without understanding the purpose of ecotourism.

There are many problems with ecotourism that eco-destinations must deal with. These problems include poor waste management, shortage of knowledgeable guides, and excessive development. These destinations often undergo a drastic change when “big operators” come into an area and develop larger resorts and complexes. I recently visited Thong Nai Pan on Koh Phangan and saw a drastic difference between two beaches in the bay. One beach was changing quickly as investors from Bangkok were pumping money into renovating resorts from the original wooden bungalows to concrete rows of rooms. As the resorts provide nicer amenities, they can charge more for the rooms and attract customers with more money to spend. But, this type of resort and the tourist they attract tend to have greater impact on the environment because there are bigger buildings and facilities, such as pools, and thus produce more waste.

An unfortunate byproduct of tourism is that the very visitors who are coming to see the beauty of the landscape inadvertently cause damage to the place that they have travelled so far to see. A good example are snorkelers which crowd on boats to view coral reefs and damage the corals by stepping on them. Plastic bags and drink containers floating in the water is another byproduct of these visitors. Day after day, the visitors come and little by little the coral will become less beautiful and the ocean water will become more polluted. The result is that the natural assets which brought the visitors to the area in the first place will be destroyed.

The million dollar question is “How can we ensure destinations are sustainable?” It is a matter of figuring out ways to control the negative impacts of tourism (e.g., loss of habitat, loss of water quality due to poor sewage/pollution control, etc) so that they don’t lessen the areas’ value as a quality tourism destination. This responsibility cannot fall upon the local authorities alone as the nature which is lost belongs to us all. We all are responsible for the affects of our travel and need to consider ways to ensure our destinations prosper with the fewest negative effects on the environment.

Appreciating Being At Home

There are a lot of things you don’t fully appreciate until they are gone. For example, you don’t think about your health until it’s failing. You might take a friend for granted until they’re not in your life anymore. You might expect certain comforts in life, like dishwashers, but find them missing if you move to another country. Even being able to communicate with a person, something that you could easily do in your home country, becomes a challenge in another country.

Human beings are good at taking things for granted but occasionally one will have an insight or revelation that bring a bit of appreciation for the good things in life. It seems to be a very human tendency to appreciate “good” things a little more after they have experienced “bad” things. Similarly, one might not miss having an object or ability until one goes to use that object or ability and it is found missing or lacking. 

I firmly believe that a bit of struggle and grief will make me appreciate the times when things are good. In fact, even the times that are okay seem great in comparison to times of turmoil or sadness. It’s the contrast between the “salty” and “sweet” parts in life that makes living a more colorful experience. As with food, I wouldn’t want every meal to taste exactly the same, even if it was a declicious dish. I think that variety is the spice of life and it helps to keep things interesting.

Often when I travel, I get a glimpse into other cultures and ways of life that I wouldn’t be abe to see otherwise. The more interactions I have with people from other countries, the more open-minded I have become.  I haved learned to open my eyes to new possibilities and accept ways of doing things that might be different from my own. 

Being away from home, I often find a greater appreciate for the comforts that being home provide that I rarely consider while I’m at home. I miss the friends and family that I’ve left behind.  I miss eating familiar foods. I miss knowing where the stores are and where to find the things that I need. But, the thing I miss most is my bed and the ability to relax in my room.

Sure, I love traveling and I love all the experiences that I have when I’m away from home, but coming home after being away is an experience in itself. Although the feeling might wear off in a few weeks, I am perfectly happy being a homebody at the moment.

Going Back to Work Blues

Being a teacher, I get a lot of holidays. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of the job and it makes dealing with a tough day or getting through the end of the term a bit easier knowing that I’ll get weeks to recuperate.

The beginning of the term is upon me and while I’m excited to start a new year and hopefully do exciting things in the classroom with my students, I can’t help but feel sad that my summer holidays are coming to an end.

I’m sure every person has experienced the “going back to work blues” after coming back after a holiday, even if it’s only a weekend away. It’s simply the adjustment that everyone has to make from the “having fun” attitude to the “lets get back to work” attitude. When compared to visiting new places and eating new cuisines, cooking dinner at home and getting back to a normal routine just isn’t much fun.

I’ve dealt with the going back to work blues so many times. For me it’s been an extension of the going back to school blues that every student experiences because I’ve always been tied to the school year schedule, either as a student or as a teacher. It has become part of the rhythm of my life and it makes me appreciate the opportunities that I get to travel and see that world even more.

There is no quick remedy to the melancholy you’ll feel in the first few days, weeks or months-depending on how long you were away-as you get used to being back in the real world. However, there are a few things you can do to try an lessen the going back to world blues.

1. Give your self a few day back at home before you go back to  work. A little down time will give you time to deal with all the minutia of life before dealing with the office.

2. Catch up with your friends and family. If you were away, there are probably plenty of people who want to hear what you were up to. Just don’t complain too much about going back to work!

3. Keep busy. The more things you are doing outside of work, the less boring and routine your life will be. Also, you’ll have less time to think about how much you dislike going back to work.

4. Remember the good times you had during your time away. Hopefully you don’t have to look at your photo album everyday, but perhaps reminiscing about your recent journey will brighten your day.

5. Plan your next big vacation! Having a new destination and adventure to look forward to will keep you from dwelling on the monotony of being at work. If you need a short term solution, get a change of scenery by going out of town for the weekend.