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Bangkok – THAILAND

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Bangkok – THAILAND

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Bangkok is the capital, largest urban area and primary city of Thailand. Known in Thai as Krung Thep Mahanakhon ), meaning “City of the Deity”) for short, it was a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Kingdom. It came to the forefront of Siam when it was given the status as the capital city in 1768 after the burning of Ayutthaya. However, the current Rattanakosin Kingdom did not begin until 1782 when the capital was moved across the river by Rama I after the death of King Taksin. The Rattanakosin capital is now more formally called “Phra Nakhon” (Thai: พระนคร), pertaining to the ancient boundaries in the metropolis’ core and the name Bangkok now incorporates the urban build-up since the 18th century which has its own public administration and governor.

Since its inception as the capital of Siam, it was at the center of European Colonial plans, but due to its strategic location in Indochina, it acted as a buffer-zone and brokered power between the European forces. Through this, it gained notoriety in the world as an independent, dynamic, and influential city. And in the span of over two hundred years, Bangkok has grown to become the political, social and economic center of Thailand, Indochina and one of Southeast Asia.

As a direct result of the 1980s and 1990s Asian investment boom, numerous multinational corporations base their regional headquarters in Bangkok and the city has become a regional force in finance and business. Its increasing influence on global politics, culture, fashion, and entertainment underlines its status as a global city. In 2009, it was the second most expensive city in South-East Asia behind Singapore.

The city’s wealth of cultural landmarks and attractions in addition to its notorious entertainment venues has made it synonymous with exoticism. Its historic wealth coincides with its rapid modernization, reflected in the cityscape and the urban society. The Grand Palace, Vimanmek Palace Complex, its thousands of temples, and the city’s notorious red-light districts combine draw in 11 million international visitors each year, trailing just Paris and London.

Bangkok has a population of approximately 6,355,144 residents while the greater Bangkok area has a population of 11,971,000 (January 2008). The capital is part of the heavily urbanized triangle of central and eastern Thailand which stretches from Nakhon Ratchasima along Bangkok to the heavily Industrialized Eastern Seaboard. Bangkok borders six other provinces: Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon and Nakhon Pathom, and all five provinces are joined in the conurbation of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area. It is served by two international airports, Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Muang, four rapid transit lines operated by the BTS, MRT, and the SRT, with plans to add eight more by 2020.

What to Do at Night in Sukhumvit

Sukhumvit’s nightlife is exciting, ever-evolving, cosmopolitan and can be reduced to three main hedonistic pursuits: drinking, dancing and debauchery.

Along it, and its many adjoining sois, are countless pubs and bars, many of them very popular with expats and tourists. Most are either American-style bars or European watering holes, with the selection of draught beers and foods on sale usually reflecting the adopted theme (and more often than not the nationality of the owner).

They usually close between midnight and 01:00, and many have live music and pool tables. See our Bangkok pubs and bars section for details.  The perfect prelude to a big night out, many hotels here have flash upscale bars perfect for warm-up cocktails. These include the Westin Grande, Dream and Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit.

Bangkok Go-Go Bars

Bangkok Hot Spots :

Bikini-clad dancing girls, over-the-top ladyboys and lewd, eye-popping shows… Yes, the Go-Go bars that earned Bangkok its worldwide notoriety are still alive and letting it all hang out. For better or worse, Bangkok’s illustrious ‘After Dark’ reputation owes much to these spots.

The first area that springs to mind is Patpong – Nowadays, having become part of a wider entertainment scene that includes the popular Patpong Night Market, bars, nightclubs and a gay area, it isn’t the aggressive red-light district it once was.

Open-minded visitors, lured in by hard-selling touts and their curiosity, treat the infamous upstairs shows like a circus show, coming in for a quick look at the inventive performances, a giggle and a couple of overpriced drinks before heading off to continue their shopping or hit a nearby club (these performances are also dubbed ‘ping-pong shows’, and a lot of imagination isn’t needed to guess the origins of this phrase.)

These are found predominantly at Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, red light districts both situated on lower Sukhumvit Road. Depending on the current level of police interference, both offer explicit shows featuring girls in various stages of undress; usually uniforms, bikinis or pretty much nothing bar a coy smile and a dash of Burberry Weekend. Nana even has its own on-site ‘guesthouse’ for clients.

Nana Entertainment Plaza

Greeting you when you pass beneath the monstrous ‘Nana Entertainment Plaza’ entrance sign is a mass of glowing neon signs, yelling at you from all directions. Shouting even louder than the neon is the intriguing cast of upfront characters – ladyboys, midgets and, of course, girls – who will try and accost you. They can be in your face, but it’s all light-hearted and unthreatening.

On the ground floor there are mostly open-air beer bars to choose from. With salacious names like Lollipop and Red Lips, girls here will try and tempt you in for a drink, a game of Jenga and, probably, more. Some will step into your path or give you a gentle jab in the kidneys to encourage you. Others will resort to trying to drag you in – a shrug and a quick side-step is usually enough to shake them off. A few go-go bars line the right side. Playschool, Rainbow 1 and Rainbow 2 all pack them in – both the bikini-clad girls and the punters.

Nights in White Satin

Ascend up the escalator to the first floor and it’s mostly go-go bars. These include Spankys, Fantasia and Rainbow 3. Rainbow 4 is one of the biggest, with hordes of Japanese-looking girls attracting a busy mix of Westerners and Japanese spectators.

G-Spot, Cassanova and Temptations are among the most popular, and it’s no surprise – they’re ladyboy bars and put on dazzling shows. Angel Witch, on the left, with its lesbian and dominatrix shows is also a big hit. A lot of thought and energy clearly goes into the costumes and performances here – girls in elegant but provocative strips of white satin were strutting gracefully to ‘Nights in White Satin’ on our visit.

For relative calm, head for Big Dogs bar on the left corner of the entrance. This is a humble watering-hole, with beers and a raised terrace view onto the street and alleyway.
How to get there: walking distance from Nana BTS Skytrain station.

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Fraser Hill – Pahang

Fraser Hill – Pahang

Bukit Fraser is on the Selangor / Pahang border approximately 103km north, or two hours drive, from Kuala Lumpur, but almost all visitors come through Selangor, and the state border actually cuts through the station at Fraser’s Hill. This hill resort was named after an English adventurer, Louis James Fraser, an ore-trader and mule train operator. However, he disappeared during the first decade of the 20th century and was never seen again. In 1910, Bishop Ferguson-Davie from Singapore came looking for Fraser, and recognized the area’s potential as a hill station. Today, Fraser’s Hill is home to modern resorts, satellite television and the cellular phone.

Of all the hill stations, Fraser’s Hill retains the most colonial charm, and is a quiet and relatively undeveloped place. The station, set up at a cool 1524m altitude is not the easiest place to get to without your own transport. One of the main delights of a visit to Fraser’s Hill is to be able to explore the splendors of nature with a trek through the many well-marked nature trails or tracks, and indulge in bird-watching activity. There are a great variety of birds residing in the area and because Fraser’s has been gazette a protected area for a while now, the birds have become more approachable. A trip to Fraser’s Hill would not be complete without having a picnic at the Jeriau Waterfalls which is about 5km from the town centre.

Bukit Fraser can be done as a day trip from Kuala Lumpur, if you travelling by car to Bukit Fraser, but it’s best to take it easy and book into one of the charming-state-run stone bungalows for an overnight stay. An overnight stay is almost a definite must for those who wish to reach Bukit Fraser by bus, alternatively take a taxi from Kuala Lumpur Puduraya bus station.

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Bako National Park – Sarawak, Borneo

Bako National Park – Sarawak, Borneo

It’s been a while since the last visit and butterflies were beginning to flutter in my tummy. 7 years can be a long time in the tropics. lifecycles seem to be shorter and longer at the same time.

It was a 5.30 morning call, we had to get to Bako village for an early check in at the park. Having arrived in Kuching the day before, we had not been able to get to the Visitor’s Information Centre in time to make bookings for a place to stay at the park. Had our quick toast, jam and coffee at Singgahsana Lodge (breakfast included) where we stayed the night before and carrying with us only our overnighters, rushed off to catch the 7.00am bus.

There are a number of ways of getting to Bako. One is to take a tour Or by taxi (RM30 per way) or by mini van. We decided on the bus. This public bus, Petrajaya Transport Co leaves from Bus Stop no. 1 at Jln Market, opposite Elektra House for Bako Village (Kampung Bako) every hour from 7am till 6pm and costs a nominal fee of only RM2.50. Be prepared to wait though. It’s not always on time.

The white mini vans take travellers into the outskirts of Kuching, charge at least double the price of public buses and waits to be filled before leaving. If need be, you can also catch one of these at the car park area opposite Electra House.

About 30 minutes later, we arrived at the bus stop at Kampung Bako. The Bako National Park office (more like a booth really) is by the jetty and manned by very helpful officers. Before entering the park, all visitors are to acquire permits which means just filling up a form and submitting to the officer there. Upon finding out that we hadn’t booked a room at the park he promptly called the park to enquire on availability. The park is now a must see for anyone visiting Kuching and surroundings. Looking at the visitor chart, numbers have certainly jumped from several thousand in the early 90’s to about several 10s of thousands in 2000s. Busy periods are especially on weekends. But on taking a closer look at the visitor chart, the peak seems to coincide with summer and winter holidays in Europe. However, the dormitories are difficult to book some days as tour agents bring in large tour groups. Unfortunate for us, we happened to visit on one of these booked out days.

Rooms at the Park

The officer at the jetty finally got a reply from the park and. there were no dorm bed left but there was a room available for RM105 per room per night. Ouch! Just to give you an idea of the type of accommodation at the park and pricing, have a look at the accommodation page.

Okay, not to scare anyone away from staying overnight. Bako National Park has so much to offer nature wise. The only grouse we had was the housing condition. We had no choice but to stay at a RM105 per night room, with shared bathroom facilities but we had expected a little more of the cleanliness and upkeep of the place …

Boat ride to Bako

Having been to Bako 3 times in my life, one of the highlights is the boat ride. The first two trips, we were totally drenched. The winds were strong, the rain was pelting on us and there was absolutely no cover from the direct bombardment; the boats were open-tops. Lesson no 1. make sure you bring along waterproof luggage. The recent trip in September was of fine weather, the water was still, the winds down and no rain. I’m not sure if the weather has anything to do with boat schedules but when the tide is low, boats have some difficulty getting to the jetty at the park and visitors may have to wade out to sea to the moored boat or enter and leave the park at tide related times ie earlier than expected sometimes.

The officer stationed at the Kampung Bako jetty usually arranges the boats for visitors. The local boatmen are licensed with the park and standard rate is RM40 per person per way and these boats can seat 4 – 6 persons comfortably. The ride takes some 45min, hugging the coastline, passing kelongs and fishermen out on their sampans pulling in their nets left out the night before. Finally, we arrived at the Bako National Park jetty.

Let the boatman know when to expect you for your return trip and don’t forget to ask for his name, just in case you have a change of plans and may need to get in touch with him. Normally, these boatmen will wait for visitors at the canteen so if you do have to change your plans, meet him there or pass on your message to the ranger or any of the other boatmen sitting around and they will be able to help you locate your boatman.

From the jetty, it’s a bit of a walk to the ranger station. At the ranger station, visitors are required to pay RM10 for the entrance fee. For any room bookings, either pay there or present the voucher for the prepaid room. If you’re early and roomkeeping has not completed their cleaning yet, then visitors can leave their baggage in the baggage room at the ranger station – hang around at the canteen or go on the treks.

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