Archive for July 2009

Tropical Islands in Thailand

tropical islandsMainland Thailand is a popular tourist destination that’s home to historic sites, modern cities and cultural variety. But a trip to Thailand doesn’t have to stop at the mainland. Thailand is also a nation rich in tropical islands that add variety to any vacation in one of the most popular Southeast Asian countries.

The second most popular island in Thailand is a tropical island called Ko Samui. Known simply as Samui to the island’s inhabitants, it’s defined by the white sands and coral reefs we most often associate with the Caribbean. Most importantly, the rainy season in Samui lasts for only one month (November) and the rest of the year is relatively dry. If you’re looking for a secluded island getaway, this isn’t the destination for you. The island has a population of 50,000 but while this may be a problem for some travelers, the population can be an asset to any vacation.

Vacationers can enjoy the many festivals hosted by the island including a regatta, a tennis open and a five-day Fisherman’s Village Festival. Many of the festivals involve Samui’s unique cuisine based on a fusion of Malaysian, Indian and Indonesian influences.This food is renowned for being extremely spicy and should be an important part of anyone’s trip to the island. Located in Surat Thani Province, Samui has an international airport that makes going to and from the island fairly easy.

The Phi Phi Islands are slightly closer to the mainland and much of their ecology is protected by National Park Status. This protection has preserved the beauty of their beaches as well as the availability of wildlife that has made the two islands perfect destinations for bird watching.

The Phi Phi Islands have a slightly longer rainy season than does Samui but the fact that they’re far less populated is an attraction for many tourists. Like Samui, the Phi Phi Islands host a number of festivals of interest to tourists including the Krabi Boek Fa Andaman Festival that features water games at the beginning of the tourist season. Tourists should know that the islands haven’t totally recovered from the 2004 Tsunami but most public services are functioning again and the ecology that was such a draw to tourists before the Tsunami is still thriving in the islands’ national park.

Tourists interested in Thailand’s tropical islands should also consider Ko Samet and Ko Phangan which are both less popular than Samui and offer resort style accommodations. Being less populated, they’re also ideal sites for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Thailand’s tropical islands offer the same amenities and activities that can be found in the Caribbean but do so as part of a Thai vacation package. Some of the Thai tropical islands are even connected to the mainland by bridges so that there is really no excuse to avoid visiting them. You can visit them for typical tropical activities but at the end of the day it’s their unique Thai culture and cuisine that sets them apart from tropical islands the world over.



I traveled to Singapore last November for a small vacation. It was pretty muggy and the temperature was a little high for my liking but regardless of the climate, Singapore was worth every dollar I spent getting there. The diversity and uniqueness of the food is really what made my trip and while normally my vacations focus on landmarks and World Heritage Sites, this vacation was mostly about eating.

Every year, Singapore puts on a massive Food Festival. It’s filled with carnivals, workshops and promotions. Of course, I missed the Festival by a few months (it’s held in July) and I only know about it because of the tourism site I looked at while in the city. But it’s probably for the best that I missed the Festival because without carnivals and promotions, I was able to enjoy the diverse foods of Singapore in relative quiet and solitude.

My first stop was Singapore’s Little India. In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I’m a raving fan of Indian food. I love all of it but my favorite is North Indian and my tastes are fairly traditional. Singapore’s Little India had some of the dishes I was used to but the channa masala and dal makhani that I normally seek out were in short supply. Instead, Indian food in Singapore is heavily influenced by Tamil cuisine and most of the dishes I encountered were South Indian.

I hade some really great dosai while I was in Little India and one of the more curious places I stepped into was Komala’s. Komala’s is an Indian fast food restaurant where the menu is exclusively vegetarian, I had a masala dosai there and was surprised by the quality. In fact, I even looked them up to see if they had any international locations where I lived and although they have one restaurant in Ontario, there is no Komala’s in the United States.

Upset by the absence of Indian fast food franchises in my homeland, I decided to visit an historical site (something I’d been too distracted by food to do on the first three days of my visit). So with history in mind, I traveled over to the island of Sentosa to visit Fort Siloso.

Fort Siloso was a coastal battery constructed by the British in the late 19th century. It was destroyed during the Japanese invasion but was reconstructed as a museum during the 1970s. Today, it’s the only British-era battery open to the public. The tour took me about an hour and change and while it was an enjoyable site to see, it certainly wasn’t better than the food. That being said, it was fascinating to see a restored WWII battery complete with the guns.

Visiting the fort wasn’t the highlight of my trip but it was important to me to tour some of the historical sites while I was there. However, I did a lot less historical sightseeing than I usually do because I’ve never been to a place with such a diverse selection of fantastic food.

Touring Bangkok’s Temples

reclining buddha

I travel to Thailand and visited Bangkok back in February and although most of what I’d heard about Thai tourism before dealt with its seedy underbelly, I found Bangkok to be a beautiful city. Part of the purpose of my trip was to visit the city’s temple complexes of Wat Pho and Wat Arun the architecture of which I had admired for years.

Similar in architecture to the Cambodian Angkor Wat, these temple complexes were some of the highlights of my trip. I visited Wat Pho on the second day of my trip. It’s located in the central district (Phra Nakhon district) of Bangkok where I planned a fully day of sight seeing. The complex is divided into two walled compounds. One of these holds the Reclining Buddha and the other is a working Buddhist monastery.

The Reclining Buddha that I just mentioned is one of the largest Buddha images in the world and I can honestly say that I’d never seen anything like it. The body is covered in gold plate and the soles of its feet are covered in mother of pearl on which is etched 108 Buddhist scenes. The rest of the temple is home to more than a thousand smaller images of Buddha.

Overall, it was fairly overwhelming to my Western sensibilities but I really enjoyed seeing it in person. If you’re going to visit the temple you should be aware that there is a dress code (no shorts for example) and a small admission fee. Strangely, the temple complex is also home to a school of massage and traditional medicine. The school’s hours are similar to the temple’s and it’s possible to purchase massages while there.

I spent a good 90 minutes at Wat Pho and the rest of my day was spent touring adjacent sites in the Phra Nakhon district. The next day, I toured Wat Arun on the bank of the Chao Phraya. It’s located one district over from Wat Pho in Bangkok Yai and if there hadn’t been so much to do and see around Wat Pho I could have seen both in the same day.

Of the two temples, Wat Arun was far more impressive. It’s dominated by an ornate central tower and incorporates a lot of Hindu and Chinese figures in its design. It was very different from Wat Pho (except in the fact that it too charged a small admissions fee) and while I found the Buddha at Wat Pho to be interesting, the architecture at Wat Arun was visually stunning.

I toured it by myself but there were clearly organized tours of Bangkok that stopped there. Of course, there’s more to see than just the tower because, like Wat Pho, Wat Arun is a functional monastery with a collection of ponds and small buildings scattered throughout the complex.

I enjoyed Bangkok but the trip wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable without the temples. I’d recommend them to anyone visiting Thailand.

Travel Tales From Asia!

Maya Bay, Phi Phi Island

Welcome!  This is my new site about traveling in Asia. I’ve been living and traveling around Asia for many years. I spend most of my time in Thailand and Cambodia. This is site will be a how to guide to traveling in Asia, tips and tricks for traveling around, stories, photos, and whatever other Asian travel stuff I can think off!

I don’t have a lot of experience blogging so this is quite a new adventure for me.  But it’s the rainy season here in Asia and I find myself with time on my hands. I figured there is always room for another Asia guide. I’ll probably never be as big as a site like TravelFish but one can dream.

That’s about all I want to write for this first post. I’m still trying to figure out this blog and for my first post, I just wanted to say hello to the people out there.

Be prepared for the next post to be Asia related!