Vespas are Useful Delivery Vehicles

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Old Vespas are commonly used in the Yaowarat (China Town) and Pahurat (Little India) areas of Bangkok. They are useful as delivery vehicles because they can carry large, bulky and heavy loads while zig-zagging through traffic. Unlike modern motorbikes that are more commonly used for transportation these days, Vespas have a low center of gravity which makes them ideal for hauling these heavy loads without losing balance. The space in front of the ride provides additional space for placing items between the rider’s legs. If you are in Yaowarat or Pahurat, keep your eyes out for Vespas as they are zooming around. You’ll be surprised the size of the loads that they carry around!

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

Strategic Car Ditching to Avoid Bangkok Traffic

As a Bangkok commuter living in the suburban areas of the city, I find travelling by private car a necessity. Most days travelling to and from work is the main priority, but things get more complicated on the occasions I need to go into the Sukhumvit or Sathorn area of Bangkok.
Whenever possible, I’d suggest using the BTS skytrain or MRT subway lines if it is convient. There are designated parking lots situated at the certain stations like Mochit, Thailand Cultural Center, and Queen Sirikit Center for BTS and MRT passengers. When using these parking lots, remember to stamp your parking cars at your destination station to get the lower parking rate. One word of caution, check the times of operation for these parking lots since most close at 1:00 am. If you have not collected your car, you will have to pay a rediculous overnight fee.

Parking Cars the Thai Way

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Take a look around most parking lots in Thailand, you’ll notice that most people park by backing their cars in. This took a little for me to get used to as the skills required for backing a car into a parking spot in a crowded parking garage is not something your typical American knows how to do. After much practice, I think I’ve grasped the basic idea, but I do struggle when I’m in a hard to maneuver situation.

Why do Thais back into their parking spots? Most people I’ve talked to say that it’s easier to drive out of the parking spot when you are parked with the front of your car facing the way you need to go. In this case, all you need to do is put your car in gear, take a look in front of you and drive away. But, if you parked with your head in first, it is difficult for you to see the cars behind you when you are pulling out to leave. This can be especially frustrating in parking garages or when other cars don’t want to stop to let you back out.

The other thing that Thais say is the benefit of backing into a parking spot is that when you find your parking spot and start backing in, you have a very clear view of the cars around you. Other drivers are aware of what you are doing and those behind you have to wait for you to finish backing in. They think that backing out of a spot is more likely to cause accidents since the driver has a much more restricted view of the cars behind him.

The Thai viewpoint on parking by backing into a parking spot is well taken and in the case of parking in Bangkok, where drivers tend to be a bit impatient, makes a lot of sense. Generally, I try to follow what other people who are parked are doing in order to keep in line with the parking norms. Parking in Thailand has definitely improved my ability to maneuver in tight places and drive in reverse. Now, if only I could fine tune my ability to parallel park.

Bird Tourism in Thailand

 Thailand is a perfect vacation spot for the avid birder looking to do some serious birding while enjoying the landscape and culture of an exotic country. Located in the northwest of Southeast Asia which bordered by Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia its 513,115 square kilometers, Thailand boasts 995 bird species. Most of the bird species found here are also found in the plains of Myanmar to the west, Indochina to the east and Malaysia in the south. The treasures that one can find in Thailand range from delicate handicrafts to spicy food and even vast mountain ranges and friendly people. It has been attracting tourists in large numbers for decades, but before the human tourists there have been tourists of the avian kind.

The country of Thailand is physically diverse. The landscape varies from tropical lowland to mountains of evergreen and deciduous forests. There are also pine, scrub and freshwater swamp forests. The variety of habitats means that Thailand offers numerous niches for birds to occupy.  As a result, Thailand is bird rich compared to many other countries around the world. There are a number of resident species and many more migrants that come to breed or on feed in Thailand on their migration routes. It is therefore possible to see many species of bird throughout Thailand all year round, although there are peak periods and variability depending on the region.

Generally, the weather in Thailand is hot and humid which is good for birding. Frequent rain storms and floods can be a bother during the rainy season. In most cases, rain poncho and water resistant boots should keep the rain off you while you are in the field. The best weather for birding though is normally in the winter months when the rainy season ends and the weather is cooler.

As for bird tourism, Thailand offers diversity of bird species as well as easy access to birding sites. Many good birding sites are protected by the national park system. Within the parks you’ll find tree dependent species such as woodpeckers and hornbills. Smaller birds like jungle babblers, sunbirds, flycatcher and flower-peckers can be found. Aside from national parks, there are areas of seconday growth forests, grasslands, lowland water swamp, wetland and coastal areas which also support a great variety of open country and water birds worth investigating.

Transportation is easy to arrange to get to and from these parks, either via van or bus. Thailand’s public bus system is an economical and easy way to travel around the country. For those wanting private transportation, there are many package tours to choose from or vans can be hired by the day. The infrastructure within the parks, and in Thailand as a whole, allows visitors access via road and hiking trails.

Accommodations are easy to come by and relatively inexpensive. Most national parks have park run accommodation in the form of camp sites, lodges and even resorts. Often, there are privately run resorts and guesthouses for visitors that opt to stay outside of the park. Accommodations vary by price and location, but with a little research you should be able to find clean accommodations in your price range that meets your needs.

Depending on your comfort with independent travel and price range, you should be able to make the necessary travel arrangements to reach your chosen destination, a place to sleep and shower, good Thai food and a return trip. The birds are the only aspect of the trip which cannot be arranged in advance, but while birding for a few days in Thailand you are sure to spy many of the bird species that draws so many birders from around the world.