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Date: Fri, 28 Jan 1994 08:59:01 -0800 (PST) From: Putnam Barber <firstname.lastname@example.org> > What's the local currency converted to US dollars? Thai baht are stable at a little over 25 to the US$. [Editor's Note: In mid-1997, the Bank of Thailand floats exchange rates for the Baht currency. The "mid" rates for forex can be found at the URL http://www.bot.or.th/financial/fer.html ] > What's the normal price to pay for a room? In Thailand, rooms can range from 60 baht to several thousand. The key variables are (1) air-con or not, (2) bathroom (and style thereof) or not. We have had the best luck staying in 20+ year-old poured concrete hotels near the centers of towns and taking the non-air-con room with a private bath. These usually cost 150 to 250 baht per night (outside of Bangkok) with one bottle of water, two towels (thin) and a roll of toilet paper, maybe the tiniest bar of soap you ever saw. You sometimes need to ask for one or another of these 'amenities'. The "Lonely Planet Travel Survival Guide - Thailand" lists one or more of this style hotel in nearly every city. > How's the food? Good/bad, expensive/cheap? There's every imaginable choice. Sold from carts. Sold from open-air storefronts. Sold in outdoor garden restaurants. Sold in air-con restaurants with menus in English, Chinese and Thai. When you feel brave, go to the open-storefront restaurant where police, military or bank people are eating. When you feel cautious, look for a food court in a department store -- they serve basically the same food, but in a place with much more visible surface sanitation and (usually) air conditioning. The food courts I saw worked with coupons. You buy them at the door and pay the food vendor (there are usually several). Any unused coupons can be redeemed where you bought them (I think). Air-con restaurants are cold, and usually quite expensive, and a nice break from the hustle of the street. The street vendors specialize. Noodles _or_ rice, seldom both. One kind of meat or fish, sometimes two. You make your selection by choosing which cart to go to depending on the food you prefer. I recommend chicken with noodles in a thin soup and banana fritters. Most things to eat in Thailand are quite inexpensive. A signal exception is beer, which costs 45 baht a (large) bottle in small stores and can be up to 100 baht ($4) in restaurants. I'm amused to say that in my notes from our recent trip there are many days where beer is nearly half of our total day's expenses -- :-) . > Any nice places to stop by on the way? Lots. There are too many wonderful places to have much fun trying to cover 'all' the territory in a short time. It depends what you like. I suggest the "Lonely Planet" (or another detailed) guide as a good pre-trip read. And best is choosing one or two places to stay for 2-3 nights and days before moving on if you have to. I love wandering the streets and markets of Thai cities -- each has a different character which takes a while to see under the bustle, the 'coke' signs, and the crowds of minibikes and pickups. The countryside is harder, there aren't very many places to stay, transport takes flexibility and creativity (sometimes something close to courage, too). The distances can be quite surprisingly long. There are though lots and lots of buses and wonderful helpful people. Plus taxis are surprisingly cheap and people sometimes use them for very long trips (I saw one from Bangkok with a couple in the back a few kilos outside Buriram, nearly 500 K from 'home'!). Of course, some people go to Thailand to spend time on beautiful beaches at relatively low prices. That's a very sensible thing to to do. The beaches are beautiful. The prices are relatively low. After some time there, though, I've come to enjoy the communities more and more. I guess I'd encourage everyone to save a little time for exploring one of the cities outside of Bangkok. From: Alan Cooper (email@example.com) Date: Unknown South: I recommend avoiding resort/tourist areas during holidays. We visited Phuket, Phi Phi, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan last month during the New Year holiday. It was *very* crowded and difficult to find lodging, transportation (plane, train, bus or boat). Prices (especially in Phuket) were inflated 2-3X. At the dock in Surat tourists were being warned not to go to the islands (Koh Samui & Phangan) if they didn't have prearranged lodging. On the other hand, holidays are a good time to tour Bangkok. Fewer people and less traffic. Something I've seen no mention of on SCT is drug use in resort areas. I realize that this is part of the attraction for some but others are looking for places to take families. They should be advised that this sort of thing goes on. At the resort where we stayed on Koh Phangan an employee was openly selling marijuana to mostly young foreign guests. These guests would then smoke it every chance they got including in the restaurant during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other Thai and foreign families staying there agreed that this made it a not very desirable place for a family holiday and would not come back. The owner was aware that there was more profit to be had from vacationing families vs. young foreigners, but apparently did not see the connection between their promotion of marijuana use and discouraging family vacations. I wish they would have at least advised discretion and not allowed marijiuana smoking in the restaurant. Only once did I see someone suggest to a tourist that they put out their joint. A waiter at a dockside restaurant on Koh Phangan pointed out to a table of tourists that a policeman was nearby and smoking marijuana was inadvisable. The tourists got the message. Isan: Towns along he Mekong river between Ubon and Nong Khai have always been favorites of mine. Mukdahan has a thriving riverfront tourist market with lots of goods from from Laos, China and Vietnam. The (rebuilt) temple at That Phanom has a well organized museum with many signs in English as well as Thai. I don't remember there being any museum when I first visited That in 1973. Nakhon Phanom remains relatively untouched by tourism. There is a new tourist-class hotel, the Mae Nam Kong Grand View which may mark the beginning of change, but Nakhon Phanom remains a great place to sit and watch the river.