Songkran was slightly more subdued this year in Ubon. I don’t know if it’s the economy, political environment or the overcast skies, but there was a noticeable drop in water throwing. I do mean slightly though and much fun was had by our family and friends.
If you use a foreign credit card at Lotus like I do, here’s a pro tip to save a little money. They have started asking if you want to pay in Thai Baht or your home currency. This is a recent change I think. I’ve never been asked in the last decade nor have I ever seen one of these signs pictured below in Lotus. I’ve checked the difference between paying THB vs USD at the point of sale at other businesses in the past and paying in THB has been cheaper 100% of the time. I would assume it would be the same for other currencies. I think it has to do with the difference between an offshore and onshore exchange rate.
Have you noticed bright green bottles popping up all over the road in Thailand recently? A few months ago Mt. Dew officially came to Thailand; a guilty pleasure for this expat who grew up sneaking a bottle whenever possible. I don’t know if Thais enjoy the taste but they sure enjoy using the bright green bottles as reflectors. Go ahead and stand out on your street. I bet at least 1 out of the next 5 trucks you see has the green bottles hanging off the back. I’ve even seen food stalls start using them to draw attention to their business and our nearby junk yard is making a separate pile of them for resale. So is it accidental or clever marketing? Whatever it is, it’s working.
In 2011 I declared that the ink well side containers on printers were the greatest thing since sliced bread. Sure I saved a little money by not buying ink cartridges but these containers have been nothing but trouble and required frequent maintenance. I can admit it when I’m wrong and I definitely was. The other day I reverted back to ink cartridges and now have wonderful colored pages.
Ubon has two zoos now. The newest is Ubon Jungle Park but there is another zoo that has been around much longer; the Trakan Tiger Zoo. It’s on the road to Khemmarat (see map below) and only costs 20b if I remember correctly. No double pricing either! It’s not the most well kept zoo you’ll ever see but seeing the tigers is worth the visit and if you’re lucky they might let you hold the baby tigers. All you have to do is ask.
View Trakan Tiger Zoo in a larger map
I have arachnophobia so this is a tough post for me… When my family was visiting, my niece screamed when she found this spider below. It was up against our perimeter wall in the evening while we were kicking a ball around. Her scream quickly turned to delight as she had just finished studying tarantulas. We think it’s a Thai Zebra Tarantula. I asked around our neighbors and my wife’s village and nobody had ever seen one. A bunch of people who have spent their lives in rice fields have never seen one, but my little niece from rural America finds one. Go figure.
We’ve been to most major tourist areas in Krabi but on our recent trip South we decided to check out a new place, “The Emerald Pool.” I’ve seen signs for it but never took time to check it out. It started off bad at the front gate. I’m used to being able to talk park rangers down from 200b to 100b or the Thai price of 30b to enter a park in the NE. There was absolutely no way they were going to budge here. Too many tourists.
You have the option of taking a 1,400m hike or an 800m hike to get to the Emerald Pool. I highly recommend the longer route on the way and the shorter route coming back. We saw quite a few insects, birds and a snake on the long hike. You can safely swim in the Emerald Pool. Not much further is the blue pool which was underwhelming but another nice hike. I don’t think I’d ever come here again unless in the area with nothing to do but it’s a nice one-time experience.
View Emerald Pool in a larger map
My wife and I met and married in Phang-Nga so we go back there about every year. How can we not when it’s so ridiculously cheap to travel in this country? This time we also had visiting family from America to entertain so it was a blast. There are a couple places in this region that I’ll never blog about to keep it secret. One is a hidden lake but I’ll never disclose that one till I’m on my death bed.
We started off with just a relaxing week in the Khao Lak to Takuapa beach area. It’s like Phuket minus the tourists and crime. It’s growing quick but it’s still far behind Phuket and it’s a great family vacation spot.
We spent most days just eating and swimming but we did take one day trip out to the Similan Islands to snorkel. I actually proposed to my wife on this spot back in 2006 and this was our first time back. Unfortunately she refused to let me kiss her because of the hundreds of other tourists gawking around us. Yuck. The tourists. In 2005 and 2006 I made quite a few trips out here and it felt like you had the place to yourself. Now it’s overcrowded with tourists. Such is the nature of tourism in Thailand… It doesn’t look so bad below but that was early on.
The next day we headed over to Krabi for a couple days on Ao Nang Beach. While it sees quite a few tourists, it still feels small. There are 150b massages on the beach and Railay Beach is just around the corner. It’s another one of our favorite stops in Southern Thailand.
The “Bangkok shutdown” was today and a large number of people came out for it.
CNN estimated 50,000. Others say less. Protest leader Suthep suggested 180,000.
Michael Yon estimated hundreds of thousands…
World and national media focused most of their coverage on Bangkok. Afterall it is the capital. But what was happening outside of Bangkok? I got tired of searching last night but came up with at least 37 provinces with pro-election rallies countering the Bangkok shutdown. That includes all but 3 provinces in the North/NE and they probably had events that I couldn’t find. How many people showed up to these rallies? Take a look below and see what you think. By the way, this is not an endorsement of any political group. My blog is mostly about Isan and I wanted to put in pictures what is scattered around the news and social media. Any additions or corrections?
Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat)
Nong Bua Lamphu
Songkhla (Hat Yai)
Mae Hong Son
Bueng Kan – I couldn’t find a picture but over 1,000 people were reported.