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since 02/07/2000


Ko Samui (Thailand) 03/01/2004

Paradise Found

Ko Samui (Thailand) If you want to get away from 21st Century living for a while, then this is the place to go. Still Less developed than Phuket (READ UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS OP); Samui still retains its natural beauty. Within the island lays coconut plantations, mini rainforests and exotic waterfalls. The sea/beaches are very clean and ideal for Scuba Diving etc. With all this it’s like being in a TV advert for a Bounty chocolate bar. Samui is quite distinctively different from other islands in Thailand. Samui’s scenery is made up from granite formations while Phuket, Phi, Phi etc are made from lime stone. You might be thinking “yeah well, so what”, but it really makes a difference. If you travel between the two islands its like they are 10,000 miles apart and not part of the same country. The two main areas to stay on the Island are Lamai and Chaweng. Lamai has loads of bars and a few clubs that stay open until around 4am. Chaweng is about the same, only offering a few more clubs. Accommodation varies from 4UKP / night for a Tarzan style tree hut to 40UKP / night for a Palace. If you’re backpacking I would recommend one of the many Beach Bungalows. They are usually situated right on the beach. They’re great for leaping out of bed anytime and going for a swim. You will also meet other like-minded travellers and will pick up many tips this way. My only criticism of Samui is that the Taxis tend to try and rip you off if you don’t know the price to pay. So ask the place you are ...

Bangkok Dangerous (DVD) 05/08/2002

Excellent Film

Bangkok Dangerous (DVD) This is one of the best films I've seen in 1999. The story is about a professional hit-man (kong) who became deaf and dumb when he was bullied as a child. He then grows up to believe that no one cares about him, so why should he care about anyone else. For me his deaf and dumbness adds tension to the story because his emotions are portrayed with actions rather than words. As a teenager he meets Jo and Aom and gets involved as a hit man in Bangkok. Assassinating his victims with no remorse or feeling. Then one day he meets a girl from the local pharmacy. This is when he starts to realise that there are people who care. There are other subplots to this film, but if I say anymore I'd give the plot away. Along with a fantastic Hardhouse soundtrack during the action scenes mixing in very well with a more classical theme during the moral parts of the story. The action can be very realistic and very cold at times. There is a rather disturbing gang rape scene. It's not graphic in detail, but will make you really think about the horror of it all. It's also an important turning point in the film. If you have ever lived or worked in Thailand you will like this film even more as it touches upon certain moral values placed upon modern day Thai society. For those who have never been to Thailand, just sit back and enjoy a well directed, well written film. The direction (by the Pang Brothers) is superb. I'm sure we will all hear about these guys in the future. The film was ...

Pattaya (Bangkok) 25/11/2001

Sex, lies AND Buddha

Pattaya (Bangkok) You will either love it or hate it. Here's how to handle both situations. Don't go there until you have read this! Two hours drive from Bangkok; Pattaya is situated on the Eastern Seaboard facing the Gulf Of Thailand. WHAT TO DO THERE It’s the only place I know that has entertainment and facilities to suit all tastes. You can really do what ever you want. This freedom can not be found anywhere else that I know. Unfortunately though, some people use this freedom for all the wrong reasons. There are a host of outdoor activities including some of the best golf courses in SE. Asia. Pattaya also has a strong reputation for having some of the best Formula One Go-carting circuits in the world, which are available to anyone brave enough to experience racing at a professional level. You can also hire a Honda Fireblade 400, Honda RVF400 or Jeep for about 8 pounds a day. In true Thai style, don’t expect much in the way of safety. JOMTIEN BEACH Here you can find all the things that you would expect including fishing trips to nearby islands, water parks, windsurfing, parasailing, yachting, scuba diving, jet skis etc. You will get pestered here to buy watches, clothes, handicrafts etc. If you don't want just reply "Mi ow kap". Which believe me you will soon learn! I would recommend Jomtien if you are staying with a family. It’s cleaner quieter and has better facilities for children. Personally I would not take a family to Pattaya. The roads are unsafe and the night life is ...

EVA Air 21/10/2001

CHEAP AND DIRECT flights to Bangkok from Heathrow

EVA Air I've used EVA Airways twice now and on both occasions have found them to be very good. The main reason for using them is that they are the cheapest direct flight from Heathrow to Bangkok that I know of. Not many people have heard of EVA Airways. They are a Taiwanese based company who I believe are part of the Evergreen group. I think they are also part of AMD Processors. Food was OK (Chinese Noodles, rice etc), although I was starving and probably would have eaten anything. Vegetarian meals can be requested. The films (4 in total are shown) were fairly recent and are in English with Chinese subtitles. The only thing I would say are that the seats feel a little smaller than most airlines I have used. I'm 6ft 2in tall and 12 hour non-stop journeys are never fun for me. In saying that, I have had some mammoth journeys before which have included 4.5hr plus stop-overs. So as a preference I would rather be in the plane than the Airport. With the price being so cheap (£458 inc tax), I suppose that many people could afford to go first class for the same price that you would pay in economy with other airlines. Although again a little robotic. The staff were friendly, efficient and spoke perfect English. I'm sure there's a factory in Taiwan somewhere that makes them. I was waiting for one of them to malfunction and go berserk, but to my major disappointment it never happened. I guess these long flights play with your mind! As Bangkok is the stopover for this ...

Phuket (Thailand) 21/10/2001


Phuket (Thailand) Probably the best all round holiday destination. Better and far cheaper than Hawaii, Phuket has everything for the perfect holiday experience. PHUKET (pronounced Poo-ket) If you ever go to Thailand you have to go to Phuket at least once during your stay. Although a little more expensive than anywhere else in Thailand, it’s well worth it just for the scenery. I would recommend going for more that just a few days, as there is so much to see and do. Phuket is the largest of the Thai islands and takes at least two weeks to see everything and go to all the best surrounding islands. Phuket has a large (ish) international airport, so you can fly to other islands like Samui for around 50UKP return. If you have time it's better to travel by land and sea to Samui via Koh Phi Phi. Phuket has some of the best sea in the world which makes it a “must place” to go if your into scuba diving or fishing. The beaches are clean and the food is fantastic. My favourite beaches were Kata Yai (big) and Kata Noi (small). Both are resort beaches that still retain the beauty of Phuket. Both are ideal for families. People may be suprised that there is a Tesco superstore on the island under the brand name of "Lotus". Here they sell a whole range of goods. So don't pack your case in the UK with cosmetic goods, camera film, sun tan lotion, shampoo, toothpaste, mosquito creams, deodorants etc. As they can be brought for around half the UK price. This is the best place to buy whiskey, vodka, gin ...

Driven (DVD) 14/10/2001

What is Sylvester Stallone doing

Driven (DVD) This film sucks! This has got to be the corniest, cheesiest and most predictable film ever made. How can films like this ever get made. Whoever read the script and agreed to spend millions of dollars making this film must be barking mad. There is a scene when one of the drivers crashes and flips upside down into a swamp. The rescue team are too far away (why?), so in order to save his buddy, but lose the race he turns his car around and drives along the grass to go back and save him. I just laughed so much. This is the sort of thing that was done in racing pre 1970 and would never happen now. There really are too many scenes like this that make you think “duh”! This is all such a shame as it could have been a really great film if only they had taken out the Hollywood cliche้s. The film would have been better if it was set in the late sixties/early seventies (see: Robbie Williams/Supreme video). It would have added more passion, character and substance to the plot. The scene mentioned in the previous paragraph would have been plausible. I had to ask myself what type of racing is it supposed to be. I’m not a racing expert, but these cars were neither F1 or Indy series. Although some of the crash scenes are spectacular and some of the best I’ve seen, there is still room for improvement. Some of the scenes are obviously computer generated (OK - a little better than Mummy 2) and look like something created for a Sony Playstation. There is one scene where Stallone ...

The Fast And The Furious (DVD) 14/10/2001

The slow and the calm

The Fast And The Furious (DVD) This film really sucked! What is it with some American car films. The car appears to be going fast. Bits are flying off, the car computers going bonkers WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! Then the camera pans down to the speedo and they are doing 140mph. Oh come on please. My standard Peugeot 205 1.9 Gti was capable of doing that. It kind of reminded me of the TV show “Knightrider” when Hasselhoff was doing an incredible speed of 60mph. Since when do bits fly off a car. The only thing that can happen is the engine just going. Why do they keep going on about NOS. It’s not such a big deal. Toyota Supras are more likely to have an adjustable gauge for the turbo. NOS would destroy the engine after a few blasts. I really thought that the cars looked rather sad too. I mean, what’s with the stickers and go faster stripes on the sides of these cars. All they needed was some furry dice, nodding dog and the KEV + TRACY sun blind. The plot was stupid also. How could stealing a lorry load of DVD players and digital cameras really be able to fund all the expensive supped-up cars. They would be lucky to get a few quid down the pub for them. As a lot of people have mentioned, it’s almost the same storyline as Point Break (which was a better film). I would agree. This is also another American film that has Triad Chinese Americans on motorcycles toting machine guns. Not very original is it. As well as Point Break. This film has copied it self from many Hong Kong films such as ...

Ko Pha Ngan (Thailand) 23/09/2001

Dancing in the Moonlight

Ko Pha Ngan (Thailand) Austrailia's Ibiza - only better. Those of you who think Ibiza is the Techno/Dance/Hardhouse capital of the world, you’re in for a shock. Ibiza is the COMMERCIAL Techno/Dance/Hardhouse capital of the world. Pha Ngan for me holds the true spirit of what the music is all about. This island is known for its full moon parties, which are held on the first full moon of every month. Although slightly commercialised and not as wild as they used to be (10 years ago), they are still wild (slight understatement). You will meet some of the world’s strangest people here. I suppose as the place becomes too commercialised, the Full Moon Parties will be banned from Thailand. My guess is that the party will move to one of the islands off Cambodia or Vietnam eventually. I wouldn't do drugs and certainly wouldn't buy them. The place is full of undercover Police. Also the nearsest hospital is miles away. So if you fall out a tree (or similar) and break a leg you're gonna be in big trouble. You don’t need drugs anyway to have a good time at the party. You will meet loads of great people and you will find that the alcohol will be enough. Some people were really freaking out. Like so many other people there, I dyed my hair orange. I could have chosen green, pink, blue or purple. I suppose it doesn’t matter what colour you decide as long as you don’t have to return home for a job interview! Pha Ngan/Tao are also the islands that inspired the Book/Film “The Beach”. The story is set in this ...

Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within (DVD) 23/08/2001

A new reality unleashed

Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within (DVD) Ignore all the bad publicity surrounding this new film. It has really set a new benchmark as to how future movies are going to be made. This is really just the start of something much better. I believe that in years to come this film will be shown as the first of its genre. I saw this film and to be honest it was a lot better than I had anticipated. The story is well written (by Hironobu Sakaguchi) and the atmospheric soundtrack was conducted by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Basic plot: A female scientist makes a last stand on Earth with the help of a ragtag team of soldiers against an invasion of alien phantoms. (source Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that these people don’t exist and that they are merely the creation of some rather talented artists. OK. It has its quirks. The “cyberstars” (have I just created a new word?) of this film don’t show enough emotion at times. They are always left to be under exaggerating human responses like fear, love, laughter, anticipation, anxiety, depression, cynicism, anger etc. Having said that. You have to remember that you are watching something that is drawn and original. It’s not real, but realistic. If that makes any sense. The story’s a lot better than what most people have been saying. Don’t expect anything too much though. After-all it’s only rated as PG. Young children (11 and under) would be bored by this film and would enjoy a film like Shrek ...

Phnom Penh (Cambodia) 19/08/2001

Guns, Girls AND Ganja

Phnom Penh (Cambodia) Having travelled around S.E. Asia for 12 months I have to say that Phnom Penh was the trickiest place I went to. Not the place to go for anyone who is inexperienced in travel. Flying into Phnom Penh from Thailand (U-Tapou Airport) was straight forward and only takes about an hour. Anything can be brought or sold here and I mean anything. There are simply no rules or regulations. If you come from England where gun laws are strict you will be amazed at how many people carry guns. The biggest market is the Russian Market or known locally as “Tool Tom Poong Market”. Apart from the usual everyday items you would expect to find at any market, you will also find a whole lot more. Everything from Army uniforms, badges, knifes, grenades, AK-47’s, M-16’s, handguns. Buying drugs by the kilo (yes I did say kilo) is an every day practice for the ex-pats who live out there. While I was there I hired a motorbike with a driver for the day for around 10USD. It's important that you get your hotel to recommend a driver, as some can be rather dodgy. Places I would recommend to go to are S21 Prison (former school which was converted into a torture camp during the Pol Pot regime), Killing fields, one of the Army Camp shooting ranges and a quick visit to the Buddhist temples around the city. Don't worry about finding places to go, as your Hotel/Guesthouse will have many free Tourism and information magazines which include maps etc. I stayed for two nights at the ...

Bangkok in general 16/08/2001

HEY SEX SHOW no cover charge - Patpong

Bangkok in general One night in Bangkok makes a hard man stumble (or is it crumble). A couple of years ago I spent about three days in an area of Bangkok called Patpong. Ouch! What a scary place. Was like the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, (see op) without the guns and bomb craters. Really, really sleazy and the place was a mess. Was like living in some sort of post-nuclear alien community. At best like a scene from Bladerunner. Got constantly bombarded with “hey sex show – no cover charge” and offerings of all kinds of crazy stuff. Yes, eventually I lost my will power and not being the prudish type I went inside to see one of these “shows”. Surprisingly you don’t see the sad single old men in there, but sad married couples who clap at the end of each performance like they were watching an Opera or Ballet. Personally I thought the show was ridiculously funny. How anyone can get turned on by what they do is just beyond me. I would like to explain what goes on, but feel that Ciao is not the right place to discuss it. Just use your imagination. When I asked to pay my bill and leave (which was after one drink) I was told that I had to pay a cover charge (around £60). Oh I wish you could have seen their faces when I said no. The bar staff went and about six Bruce Lee look-a-likes popped out of the darkness. Luckily after threatening to cause a scene I managed to get out and paid about £5 for my beer. Later, a guy that I met said that I was very lucky to get ...

Samsung Vega 77i Compact Camera 11/08/2001

RAZOR SHARP- looks good

Samsung Vega 77i Compact Camera WOW - WHAT A FANTASTIC PICTURE. I’ve had this camera for just over a year now and taken about 250+ photos. For the price (around 100 UK pounds) I think its one of the best you can buy for the money. What impresses me most about this camera is the sharpness of the photos produced. The lens provided by a German company called Schneider, which apparently have produced high quality lenses for decades on much more expensive equipment. The focusing system requires you to press the button halfway down to focus on the subject, then all the way down to take the picture. This is easy for you and I, but if your abroad and ask a local to take a picture for you its impossible to explain and they will just press the button all the way down and not give the camera chance to focus correctly. Colours are great and with practise, a little photography experience you will take some very professional looking photos with this camera. Have used different makes of film such as FUJU, KODAK, AGFA, KONICA etc and all produce the same results. The best film all round is 200ISO. I have used this in strong sunlight and at night with good results. The Zoom is a respectable 2x zoom (35mm to 70mm). For most tasks this is fine. If a longer zoom is needed then Samsung produce a higher specification camera for a little more. Results are better than my previous Camera (Konica Z-up 110). It’s also a lot sharper than my friends Cannon IXUS APS Camera. Also for a 35mm camera it is quite ...

Finnair 11/08/2001

GRUMPY STAFF- but efficient

Finnair Came back from a years trip around SE Asia last December 2000. Having got used to the excellent service in the region I was very disappointed by Finnair. The staff on board were very grumpy and treated the passengers like sheep. I know that "airfood" is usually not that good, but with this airline I was not given any choice, but to eat a cold chicken type thing at 3am then later on an "icelandic cod" was on offer (yum yum). With other airlines you are usually given atleast two choices. Also after bringing cups of water or orange juice around every hour or so they would never come back to collect the empties. As I'm never the sort of guy who chucks things on the floor I had to get up and give my empty cup back to one of the cabin crew on a trip to the toilet. Yes I know I could have pressed the small button on the seat to alert my presence, but could you imagine everyone on the plane doing that. The two films they showed were out of date and hardly blockbuster movies that you get with other airlines. Also the TV shows they had were hardly entertaining. The only smiles I got was when I left. This was the usual (we say 100 times a day) robotic "hello" - "thankyou" or "goodbye". Oh and my headphone socket kept on switching between mono and stereo and off. The only good point was well there wasn't any (sorry) apart from seeing my family and friends again for Christmas. ...

The Beach (DVD) 17/07/2001

Innocence never lasts forever

The Beach (DVD) If you’re a big fan of the film, then this DVD is a must have for your collection. Extra features include cast and crew biographies, storyboard and the video “Pure Shores” by All Saints. Other good reasons for buying the DVD version is the director's commentary by Danny Boyle and the nine deleted scenes. These include an alternative opening and ending. I personally like the different start as it shows some of the humour that Thai people have. A couple more scenes with Sal (Tilda Swinton) were added that give her character a stronger role in the film. The alternate ending was thought to be too strong and depressing. So the rather tame ending was used instead. The directors commentary does explain rather well though, why certain scenes were taken out. I only wished that they had left some of them in. The overall production, picture quality and sound of the DVD is 1st class. After spending over a year in and around Thailand myself, it really brought back a lot of good and bad memories. As the movie tagline says "Innocence never lasts forever". Personally I would say this was true. Basic plot: Not quite ready to surrender himself to responsibility or mainstream society, a young American travels to Asia and discovers he is not alone in his feelings. One of the things that makes me laugh with this DVD’s is the scrolling “Pop-up Birthday Card” style title menu. Just seemed have that cheap and rushed look about it. I’ve ...

Udon Thani (Thailand) 09/07/2001

Nothing much has changed for centuries

Udon Thani (Thailand) Udon Thani is situated just one hours flight from Bangkok and about one hours drive from the capital of Laos. If you want to see the real Thailand then you really have to come here. If you’re like me, taller than six foot and have blonde hair you will get noticed very quickly. Most Thais who have lived and worked in Udon have only ever seen a “farang” on TV or at the local cinema. Facilities here are of a modern standard with a new shopping mall, fast-food restaurants, cinema (in Thai only), swimming pool and fine hotels. The people here are the just about the friendliest people I’ve come across in Thailand. Udon itself does not really cater for the tourist, which in itself is not a bad thing. Here prices are much cheaper than in Bangkok with many bargains too be found. Nightlife and entertainment usually centres at a purpose built complex called “HI-TEC”. This comprises of clubs and restaurants to suit all tastes. Although a little expensive even by Western standards, this was the place to be seen. Cheaper entertainment could be found at and around the centre of Udon, but be prepared to look and use those Tuktuks. Surrounding areas are worth seeing with many temples dotted around the area. I would recommend a guide or go with a Thai friend to show you around some of the more remote villages, as it is very easy to lose your way and miss the best places. Annually on the 16th June at the village of Kumphavapi (pronounced ...
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