Thailand Dentist Experience

We are off to London tomorrow so we thought we should pay a visit to the dentist while we were here.

 

Sea Smile/ Patong Smile looked the goods and we were both able to have consecutive appointments with the same dentist, a great guy by the name of Dr Borisorn Udomthanaporn.

 

He cleaned our teeth and removed all the plaque and then gave them a thorough polishing with the help of two dental hygienists.  The whole process took the best part of an hour each and the cost was only $40 each.  They were very thorough, professional and gentle.  Brilliant.

 

Having not visited the dentist for some time, I was also up for 2 fillings.  Luckily I was able to book in yesterday.

The same dentist gave me the option of doing it with or without anaesthetic!!  He explained that without anaesthetic I could expect ‘moderate pain,’ and if the pain got too much I could raise my hand and he would administer the anaesthetic anyway.

The two fillings took more than an hour in the chair.  The team did an outstanding job.  It didn’t feel any different to the last time I had a filling done WITH the anaesthetic.

The dentist was a perfectionist and kept tinkering and adjusting until he was totally satisfied.  He also said I could come back for free adjustment if necessary.  Total cost, $80.

I would recommend these guys to anyone, and others we spoke to said the same, for the whole range of dental treatments.

 

So if you are in Phuket Thailand, you will find them on Rat-u-Thit Rd.  www.patongdentalsmile.com

 

 

James Bond Island Trip

I felt like Roger Moore, aka James Bond, 007,  from ‘Man with the Golden Gun’ (1974.)  But there were no Scaramongas (Bond’s nemesis) in sight when we arrived.  We had saved this trip for Carly’s arrival.  The day was  perfect: sunny, clear, and 29 degrees for our trip to James Bond Island.

We thought the tour packages were cheap on our last visit to Thailand, but now, with low season upon us, they are even cheaper.  Don’t believe the prices on the glossy brochures.  We received the best deal from Anni, at S. Armani Tailor International, a friendly Bangladeshi guy who also has a travel desk, at 144 Thaweewong Rd (along the beach) in Patong – Phone 087-4624904.  He was happy to do the tours for half price, so we recommend you go straight to him and save the hassle of bartering. He will often drive to your hotel to do business with you.

The James Bond Island package was fantastic!  Perfect weather always adds to your experience but all three of us thought you couldn’t hope for a much better day of group touring: great experiences, competent guides and lots of variety.

Our first stop was at Suwankuha Temple or Monkey Cave.  This is another famous site that has been visited by many kings and queens over the years.  Heaps of monkeys of all sizes were scurrying all over the place.  The little baby ones were soooo cute, almost alien-like.  The cave was great too.  The ubiquitous Buddha images, stalactites and stalagmites and lots of bats.

 

Then we were heading for the Phang Nga Bay National Park by giant long-tail boat.  Once we escaped the mangroves onto open water, the sea was calm and a stunning blue.

We called into Koh Pan Yee, a famous floating village inhabited by about 200 Muslim families.  They have done such an amazing job developing the village that it seemed more permanent than floating.  We had a nice lunch and then had free time to explore the village.  Lots of souvenir stalls were dotted through the complex.  School was in session and we were able to wander through freely, gawk through the windows and take as many photos and videos as we liked.  Not a permission slip or any red tape in sight.  The school also had its own floating soccer pitch, but with no protective netting around it we wondered about stray balls at play time.

A couple of women also carried around beautiful gibbons, perhaps a bit out of place, but very popular with the tourists.  They charged for photo opportunities and probably had a higher profit margin than the postcards, T-shirts, mini Buddhas and assorted crap.  It won’t be long and they will have an elephant.

Next stop was James Bond Island, aka Ta Phu, which looked stunning.  Very similar to Halong Bay in Vietnam with the massive cliffs rising from the sea with a stunning blend of watery blues and forest greens.  Had a refreshing swim as well.

Our final stop was Tam Talu Island which would have to rate as one of the most beautiful places we have been.  Two at a time we boarded kayaks with our own personal paddlers.  They took us around (and through!!!) the cliffs to take in some unbelievable views.  At some points the clearance was only centimetres above the kayak, so we had to lie down to pass through.  We would then arrive inside a lagoon, surrounded by vertical rock faces.

 

 

 

At high tide you can’t get in or out so the timing has to be just right.Then it was back on the long-tail for the return trip.  Into our mini-van and back to our hotels in Patong.If you are going to do one tour during your stay in Thailand, do this one.  On a calm, sunny day it would be extremely hard to beat!

Simon Cabaret Lady Boy Show, Patong

For another evening of entertainment, Carly, Jenny and I went along to see the Simon Cabaret Lady Boy Show.  The girls perform three shows nightly and the show has been running for over twenty years since its debut in 1991.

 

The show wasn’t quite what I expected.  They seem to think they are true professional performers in their own right.  A few of the performers did come close, but quite a few  came up just a touch short.  I think I, like some others in the audience, were expecting it to be a little more sexy and a little less lame!

 

 

 

But there were some positives.  They had a few great songs – only a few.  Excellent sound and lighting.  The lipsynching was quite a high standard for lipsynching.  I think one woman may have even been singing.  The sets and costumes were really outstanding.  No expense had been spared in that department.  One of the performers did a great job doing two solo performances: ‘I’m a Barbie Girl’ and ‘I Will Survive.‘  Dressed outrageously with massive fake boobs, she had the audience in fits as she planted kisses on the cheeks of a mixture of male audience members.

The Japanese in the audience really seemed to enjoy a couple of cultural numbers.  They did quite a few Thai and Asian performances and there was even an Egyptian number with a particularly elaborate set, given it only went for a few minutes.

After the show the lady boys all gathered outside the theatre where you could photograph them.  Personal photos required a tip.

You have to admire the effort the lady boys, the choreographers, the male support dancers and the whole team put into the show, even though it wasn’t really my cup of tea.  It’s probably a better employment option than others they may be faced with if the show didn’t exist.

Probably worth a visit if only for the post-show photo opportunities.  Good clean family entertainment in the cabaret tradition.

Ping Pong Show, Phuket, Thailand

You can’t go to Thailand without watching a ping pong show.  All the way down Bangla Rd in Patong, once it’s night time, you are accosted by touts trying to get you to see one.  Ping pong show? Ping pong show?  Ping pong show?  Apparently they get commission for every customer they deliver.

Now I’ve always been a fan of table tennis.  Anyone who can control the movement of those small light balls should be highly regarded.  So finally the three of us decided we should go and take a look for ourselves and see just how skillful these women really are!

Entry is free, but then you are required to pay outrageous prices for the drinks.  We met one young couple at our hotel who went along to a free show without negotiating.  Then when they ordered their compulsory drink from the menu, the cheapest beer, it cost them $30 for each drink.  So we negotiated half price drinks before agreeing to attend, figuring that was a fair deal for a one hour show.

We followed our female tout along Bangla Rd for a bit and then down a mall full of bars with similar offerings.  Inside the Ping Pong establishment, named ‘Playschool‘ we saw four women doing pole-dancing.  Various scantily clad girls did this intermittently throughout the show, swapping over every few minutes, and then mingled with customers.  They were clearly ‘available‘ for the right price.  After several minutes of shaking, writhing, squatting and arse-wiggling, the two key performers set up only a couple of metres in front of us.

I’ll assume that our readers have some knowledge of these matters and I won’t go into full descriptions.  You will need to join the dots so to speak.  Anyway the two women ‘produced’ the following items from their nether regions at various stages: a ping pong ball, an egg, a series of ping pong balls, a very lengthy trail of streamers, a fish, a few fish (one ‘missed’ the fish bowl and had to be rescued from the floor!), an eel, a turtle (or was it a tortoise, my glasses may have been fogging up!) and a small bird.  How the poor thing didn’t suffocate (or drown?) is anyone’s guess.  Finally, through a bamboo tube, one of the women fired a series of darts several metres to burst a bunch of balloons.

Each ‘delivery’ was met by a round of applause from the spectators, who were arriving and leaving in a steady stream.

I am not sure what London has in mind for their demonstration events at this year’s Olympics, but these two ladies would be a highlight.  Even a Royal Command Performance for the Diamond Jubilee perhaps?  I know the royals have always been fans of alternative entertainment.

We nursed our drinks, gave a small tip (“Have you considered bowling balls?”) and left early, because, as I said to the others, I had seen enough!

Zip Lining

If you want to have an amazing experience where you get to feel like a bird or a monkey, flying through the canopy of a rainforest, try ziplining.  We did and we loved it.

2150 baht (about $70) buys you this amazing adventure and it is well worth the money.  They provide two accompanying experts, all the safety equipment, free pick-up and return to your hotel, training, fruit and drinks.

There are a couple of ziplining options on Phuket Island.  We chose ‘Cable Jungle Adventure’ and were very happy with the whole package.

Heading out to the venue I didn’t fully understand how it all worked, but I knew it was something I really wanted to do.  They provided a set of gloves, one of which had hardened grooves in the fingers area, which slip along the cable.  We were strapped into a harness which in turn was linked to a pulley arrangement that ran along the cables.  If you needed to brake you simply forced weight from your gloved hands onto the cable.

There were 15 stations on the zipline course.  To get the true feel of the rainforest  we endured a huge downpour as we climbed to the first station.  This turned out to be quite refreshing because it left us damp in the steamy heat of the jungle, which had a nice cooling effect once the rain stopped and we started ‘flying’.

We slid through 1.2 kilometres of zipline.  Five other Aussies shared the experience with us and we all loved it.  At times we were 30 or 40 metres above the forest floor as we flew from station to station.  Generally we zipped from platform to platform but on one occasion we climbed up steps on a massive tree to reach the starting platform.

The safety standards were pretty good although we were left to our own devices on a couple of occasions when our attendant experts needed to be elsewhere.

It gives you a great feeling flying from tree to tree.  Based in a National Park, the scenery is awesome as well.  It’s hard to compare it with anything else I have ever done, maybe a  cross between para-gliding, rope-swinging and being on a roller coaster.

If you get the chance, do it!  It’s better than visiting an island or riding an elephant.  Maybe we did descend from apes.

Muay Thai Boxing, Patong Thailand

Carly and I enjoyed a night at the Patong Muay Thai Boxing Stadium on Thursday night.  There were 8 bouts in all and it was a great cultural experience as well as a chance to see 16 guys grapple, punch, elbow, kick and knee each other into submission.

Our ticket price of 1500 baht ($50) included hotel pick-up and return, ring-side seats and free T-shirts.  That’s if you call a one size only, luminescent yellow singlet, covered in advertising for their stadium, a T-shirt.  I’m gonna need to bulk up!  Half a dozen others were in our mini-van for the ride and we arrived at the stadium well before the 9 o’clock start.

All 8 bouts were entertaining.  It was an international fight card featuring mainly Thais but an Aussie and a couple of French guys thrown in for good measure.

They do a good job hyping up the Muay Thai.  A truck travels around town blaring out announcements over the loud speakers and featuring a bunch of fighters on top of the truck.  At the stadium they give a good English introduction and show the action as well as feature videos on the big screen.  Snacks and drinks are available and bookies take bets on ‘Blue’ corner or ‘Red’ corner.

To my untrained eye, Blue corner won most of the fights, but Red was given most fights by the judges. With money riding on the fights this led to booing on one occasion and almost a fight between the Red corner assistants and the referee on another.  A second referee had to intervene to prevent a real fight.  Although unlike the wrestling, these fights were real too, featuring real blood and real pain.

The pre-match rituals were entertaining.  They did bows, special exercises and various grovels in each corner of the ring.  Throughout the fights there was Thai musical accompaniment featuring drumming, bell-ringing and a mystery whiney sounding instrument.  I am not sure if this added much but we became oblivious after a while.

The Thai fighters were enthusiastic and respectful in their fighting.  The foreigners seemed a bit more gung-ho.  One of the Frenchmen was punished by his Thai opponent for 2 rounds before conceding.  He eventually hobbled off sheepishly with his ‘Fight Factory’ entourage in tow. He was kicked mercilessly in the thighs and the calves, was toppled on to his back and was begging for mercy after only 6 minutes of action.

The other Frenchman, in his first professional fight, was brutal against the Aussie, just about knocking him senseless in the first round before knocking him out late in the 2nd.  All of the all-Thai fights went the full distance of 5 rounds, with lots of kneeing to the stomach region.

It was funny seeing the referees intervening, grabbing the fighters in the crotch to check their protective equipment and wiping down both fighters with the same towel: plenty of blood and sweat and perhaps a few tears!  One referee even pulled up a fighter’s pants at one stage during a fight.  It’s OK to beat the crap out of someone but you can’t have a bit of bum crack showing!

We were treated to two and a half hours of entertainment before we piled back into our mini-van for the drop-off back at our hotels.  Everybody on board agreed it had been a fun night.

 

An audience with the King of Thailand – VIDEO & blog

Yesterday we were lucky enough to have an audience with the King of Thailand.  We were particularly fortunate because the 84 year old King has been in a Bangkok hospital for the last couple of years.  This was his first visit out of Bangkok in three years.

The occasion was a special ceremony a couple of hours from Bangkok at a place called Ayuttaya.  There the Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, presented the King with a gift of land from her family.  It was the land where the king had harvested some rice back in 1996.

Now when I say audience, it was  a rather large audience.  We were part of a crowd of maybe 50 000 (my estimate… looked like a full house at the football.)  I saw an article in the newspaper the day before and we only decided to go, on a whim, on the morning of the event.

We managed to make a very favourable deal with the travel agency across the road from our guest house.  We negotiated for a taxi driver to take us there, stay with us for the ceremony and then bring us back.

Once we had scored the taxi, we went hunting for a couple of random strangers to share the taxi with us.  At our 3rd attempt we found Louise and Jen, two younger travellers from England and Canada, who were great company for the day.

Everyone was issued with various flags on arrival: a Thai flag, one for the king and one for the queen.  Security had cordoned off particular areas and people had already chosen their spots almost 3 hours before the king’s arrival.

We walked along the roadway to catch a closer look at the 11 stunning decorated elephants being used as part of the procession.  Within moments the elephants were led off by their mahouts.  We bobbed down on the roadway so we wouldn’t block the spectators’ views.  The massive, majestic animals, some with tusks about half a metre long, passed only centimetres in front of us.  It was awesome.

With the temperature in the high 30′s we headed for shade near a lake and I was interviewed by Radio Thailand.  We saw only two other foreigners all day!  Within minutes we saw the elephants being led down to the lake only metres from where we were sitting.  They drank, spurted water at each other and then sprayed some of the crowd.  Great moments!

As the king’s approach drew nearer, we shifted camp again.  Luckily we were warned about not taking photos of the king and not wearing hats.  We already knew about the law banning negative comments about the king.

Finally he arrived, fashionably late.  Flags were waved enthusiastically and cries of ‘long live the King’ were shouted across the park.  The official dignatories were now stationed across the lake, but we had a fair view and there was also a large screen to watch proceedings.  More elephants, boats, the land presentation and a sound and light show followed.  The taxi driver stayed with us the whole time and he was clearly having a great day!

There were some great moments mixing in with the locals during the day and also as we walked back to the taxi.  Everyone was very excited to be there  and pleasde that we were there to share it with them.  They all love the king, who has reigned for 60 years.  We arrived back at our hotel 8 hours after we had set out.

All in all a fantastic experience!

 

Tam Ting (Pak Ou Cave)

25 kms upstream from Luang Prabang, is the Tam Ting or Pak Ou Cave.  It’s at the confluence of the Mekong and Ou Rivers.  You can go there by boat or car.  We chose the boat. Travelling with about 5 others, it’s a great option and included a visit to a local village where they make the infamous lao-lao whiskey.

It was a stinking hot day when we made the trip.  The three day weather forecast was 38, 38, 37, with high humidity.  It was quite comfortable in the boat because it had a cover and there was a cool breeze coming off the water.

We had about a twenty minute stop at the village to check out the primitive lao lao whiskey making facilities, check out the village and all its little souvenir shops.  It was a bit early in the day for trying out the whiskey.  I’ve tried it before and it’s pretty powerful stuff!  I was tempted by the bottles with the snakes inside but I think I’ll be sticking to the Beerlao, the locally produced beer.

At Pak Ou there is an upper and a lower cave.  They are both packed with Buddha images donated by visitors over many years.  You can walk right up to them.  No screens, glass or barriers and no security in sight.  Some Australian aid money has helped with the restoration and maintenance of the cave and surroundings.  It has had royal visitors on many occasions over time and there is evidence of people going there more than 1200 years ago.

It was hot work climbing the many stairs to the upper cave but it was worth the effort.  Although one woman from New Zealand gave up halfway there.  It’s quite large, cool and musty with lots more images of Buddha, in varying sizes, materials and poses.

A relaxing trip back along the Mekong River takes you past fishermen, people washing, buffalo, some interesting houses of varying standards, other boats and some nice scenery.  The river level is low at the moment but I couldn’t believe how many exposed rocks there were in the Mekong.  We arrived back at the dock about 5 hours after heading off!

 

Kuang Si Waterfall and Bear Rescue Centre, Laos

About 30 kms out of Luang Prabang, is the Kuang Si Waterfall.  It is mentioned hundreds of times daily, because the tuk-tuk drivers in town are always suggesting it as a place you should go!

“Tuk-tuk?  Waterfall?” is the daily greeting from the tuk-tuk drivers.  And most people eventually take them up on it.

Green Discovery Tours in the main street has a daily mini-van service.  For 50 000 kip (approximately $7), they will pick you up from your guest house or hotel and return you there afterwards.

So we went.  And we loved it.

Only a couple of minutes along the trail to the falls you come to the bear rescue centre.  In a large enclosure in a beautiful setting, there are heaps of brown bears that have been rescued from captive situations.  Here they are kept in a nice environment and fed well.  Only one step from being in the wild, they were happily frolicking about on the day we visited.

A fifteen minute walk takes you to three beautiful waterfalls.  The final one is the highest and most stunning.  Surrounded by mountain scenery, it looks like something off a postcard.  The colour of the water is a stunning blue.

 

 

At the lower falls there is a great water-hole where you can swim right up to the falls.  The water is refreshingly cool and there’s a rope swing attached to a nearby tree for the more adventurous.

Well worth a visit.

Ethnic Fashion Parade and Hip Hop Show, Luang Prabang

Hip Hop Boys Laos - Blog & VIDEO

Five nights a week at 7 pm the Hive Bar and Restaurant puts on a live ethnic fashion show for its customers.  It features about 18 local girls and a couple of local guys showing off ethnic fashions from around Laos.

There are 49 ethnic groups living in Laos today.  Many continue to live and dress in clothes that are hand woven and use embroidery and traditional weaving styles.

On three nights a week, straight after the fashion show at around 8pm, the local lads put on a show of hip hop dancing.

The fashion show was excellent.  Backed by boppy contemporary music, it was very entertaining.  The models do a great job parading around on the stage and clearly enjoy their work.  They even feature wedding outfits.

The Laos hip hop boys were sensational.  They have obviously seen the dance moves coming out of the US and with their young athletic bodies they have devoted themselves to hours of practice and come up with the goods.

Jenny got some great video and watching back over it is just as entertaining as seeing it live.  Some of the older boys must be around 20 but they have a cast of varying ages and actively encourage the younger kids to have a go.  They do some unbelievable moves and aren’t afraid to feel pain with some of their landings.

The hostess, Celine, a French Canadian, tells me that the boys have been at it for 2 years now.  They competed at an all-Asian hip hop contest featuring 10 countries and won 3rd prize.  Performing in front of an appreciative Western audience a few times a week has been good motivation and they are constantly improving.

So, if you are looking for a fun night out in Luang Prabang, before you hit the 10 Pin Bowling Centre (the place to go for all the backpackers!) head for The Hive at 7 pm.  It’s buzzing!

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