Suanphung

Suan Phueng (Thai: สวนผึ้ง) is a district in the western part of Ratchaburi Province, western Thailand. It is about 200km west of Bangkok at the border with Myanmar.

It is a popular destination for Thai people living in Bangkok due to its cooler climate. Due to the cooler weather (depending on the season) it is a popular region for recreational bicycling. The climate is also suitable for holding farm animals that are more likely to be seen in Europe, New Zealand or in the hills of South America.

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Alpaca Hill is a popular destination to see unusual farm animals. Source: www.facebook.com/AlpacaHillThailand/photos

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Rice terraces in Thailand

Rice terraces are known from countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. Thailand is lesser known for growing rice in terraces on the slopes of hills.

The most famous place with rice terraces in Thailand is Ban Pa Pong Pian บ้านป่าบงเปียง (sometimes spelt as Pa Pong Pieng or Ban Pabongpiang ), Mae Chaem district in Chiang Mai province. It is located in the mountains on the western side of Doi Inthanon national park in the proximity of Chiang Mai city. Rice fields are very beautiful (green) during the rain season. Please be warned that the unpaved roads on the county side may turn in a big muddy and slippery affair. Bringing a vehicle that can handle these though conditions is recommended. Due to it’s remote location it is a great option to experience off-the-beaten path Chiang Mai, and its full natural beauty away from the tourist crowds.

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A guide to Dutch army Backpacks (Bergans)

The Dutch Army used and uses modern backpacks that all have in common that they have detachable side pouches  These pouches (aka rocket pouches) can be zipped together into a improvised small backpack. After years of using the Berghaus Vulcan backpack the the Dutch army switched to several models and sizes of Lowe Alpine backpacks. The sizes are 40 liter, 55 liter and 130 liter. They all come with 10 liter side pouches.  The 40 liter backpack has a minimalistic hip belt and static shoulder straps. The bigger models have a padded hip-belt and shoulder straps that can be adjusted according to the user length.

Initially they were made by renowned backpack manufacturer Lowe Alpine. Later the Dutch army ordered copies of these backpacks at the Belgian company ARWY. Also the Army ordered copies of the backpacks without a brand in countries like Vietnam. A real Lowe Alpine version of these backpacks can be recognized through the label under the cover lid and the Lowe Alpine logo on the metal button clasps that keep the aluminum frame inside its sleeves.

The fast majority of the produced backpacks has Dutch DPM camouflage. Smaller quantities are made in US Woodland camouflage for the Marine Corps and in black for the Military Police. Lowe Alpine itself produced the backpacks also in Olive Green for the civilian market.

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Austrian army backpack system

During the 80’s the Austrian army had a load carrying system that consisted of a large backpack that looked like a US army Alice Pack and a smaller bag that could be carried as a front pack or as a butt pack. Alternately the small bag could also be worn as a shoulder bag or a small backpack on it’s own. The bags are made from Nylon (Polyamide) and usually carried in combination with a pistol belt.

The idea from a front pack was copied in later years by the Dutch army. They had a small duffel generally known as the Rotota bag or soldiers handbag. This was also attached to the shoulder straps of a backpack. However the Dutch used plastic fast release buckles while the Austrian pack system uses metal hooks. Another difference is that the Dutch front-pack is carried on the chest while the Austrian front-pack is carried a little lower, on your belly. Perhaps this was done so the soldier has more space to handle a rifle.

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The Austrian backpack and front-pack. Source: www.swisslink.com

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Quechua Arpenaz backpack series

Travel equipment doesn’t have to be expensive and complex. Quechua, the home brand of Decathlon sports and outdoor shop, makes very simple and therefore lightweight and cheap backpacks. The Arpenaz backpacks don’t have side pockets. They consist of just one large main compartment with a additional 2nd compartment. The bags are padded with a small layer of foam on the back and made out of water repelling fabrics. On top is a small loop for hanging your bag on a hook in a public toilet or so. Unfortunately there is no large grip handle on top to pick up your bag easily. The Arpenaz backpack series has a 10, 20, 30 and 40 liter variants and is available in all kind of colors.

Arpenaz series

For the 10 and 20 liter the 2nd compartment is a front pocket. For the 30 and 40 liter variants the 2nd compartment is located in the cover lid. Al the variants except the 10 liter have mesh pockets on both sides. All backpacks except the 10 liter variant have a minimalistic hip belt. Since the volume of all these backpacks are not that big and there is no option for adjusting the shoulder straps at a different hight you might not using it at all.

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US Army style duffel bag for traveling

Soldiers in the army have usually something like a kit-bag, see sack, weekend bag or duffel bag. This not to use in the combat field but to take all their clothing and gear from army base to army base or from their barracks to home during weekends. These bags are usually very simple. In case of a duffel bag it is usually a one compartment bag with rings and a clip to close it instead of zippers. Most duffel bags have just one strap to throw over your shoulders. The US army duffel bag however is one of the few designs with two straps so that it can be worn as a (improvised) backpack. To improve the possibility of carrying the duffel bag as a backpack the bag has a rectangular shape instead of a cylindrical shape. A round shape will flip sidewards all the time when you have it on your back. A flat shape will be much more stable.

US army (style) duffle bag

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The floating raft resorts of Kanchanaburi

Staying in a hotel that floats on the water can be done at several places in Thailand. The two most popular places to go are Khao Sok National Park and Kanchanaburi Province. Kanchanaburi province is only a few hours from Bangkok and therefore very popular. The floating hotels at the banks of the river Kwai are very well known among tourists. Most likely due to the 1957’s classic war movie ”Bridge over the river Kwai”. In Bangkok you can find many companies offering short trips to Kanchanaburi that include one ore more nights at a floating hotel. Far lesser known is the Srinakarin Lake. This lake was formed after the building Thailands third largest dam;  the Srinagarind Dam (also known as the Srinakarin Dam) on the Kwai Yai River. The dam was built in order to avoid floods and to ensure water and electricity supply to the area’s residents. On this lake you”ll also find a lot of floating hotels. These are mostly visited by Thai people. Some even have only a name in Thai alphabet. Probably due to the larger distance to Bangkok and usually the need of private transport this lake is often overlooked by foreign tourists.

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One of the floating hotels (Saiyok View Resort) at the river Kwai in Kanchanaburi. Source: Facebook

The following list contains only the hotels, guesthouses and resorts that have a website, Facebook page or other online presence. Many resorts are 100% floating accommodations and hotel facilities. Others have both floating raft houses and bungalows on the river banks. The websites, YouTube movies and Facebook pages behind the links in this article are very often in Thai language only.

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Electrical plugs and sockets in Thailand.

What kind of electricity sockets do they use in Thailand ? Answer: A hybrid system of European standard and American standard. That means that a plug from continental Europe (2 pins without grounding) and a standard American plug (2 pins without grounding) will work fine.

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Due to the combination of the American standard and the European standard the holes have one flat side and one round side. This makes both types of plugs fit in the socket. This same system is used in other Asian countries like Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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Both European standard plugs (left) and American standard plugs (right) will work fine in Thailand and many other countries in South East Asia.

In most western countries sockets with a ground connection are required by law for safety reasons. In Thailand however the ideas about safety are different. Also for electronic installations. Therefore it is completely normal to have ungrounded sockets (2 holes only). Sometimes you’ll find grounded sockets (3 holes) and ungrounded (2 holes) in one hotel room. Since chargers for mobile phones, tablets and photo cameras usually don’t use grounding (2 pins) it will always fit in Thai sockets.

As seen in the previous pictures; European plugs with a ground connection will fit in a Thai socket. However there is no way that the ground pin is connected. Your electronic devices will work fine but off course it is less safe.

Stealing from your luggage and what you can do about it.

Theft from your luggage is unfortunately a thing that can happen. Just like in daily life there are criminals that want to steal what belongs to you. This can surely happen by fellow travelers but also by people who work as luggage handlers in airports, buses or ferry boats. Thailand has seen both arrests of foreign travelers being caught for stealing as well as local employees who work as a luggage handler.

Coconuts Bangkok writes often about this problem. Its like fighting rats; no matter how much you catch of them they will come back.
Phuket airport employee caught stealing Adidas shoes from luggage.
Busted! Baggage handlers at Suvarnabhumi Airport caught stealing from passengers.
Phuket airport staff arrested for stealing from passengers’ luggage.

 

How people steal from your luggage and how to ovoid theft.

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Dutch army daypack

The Dutch army daypack aka KL daypack or KLu daypack is a small backpack but equipped with foam-padded shoulder straps like it is a full size backpack. The bag has a main compartment with an internal divider and two side pockets. The weigh is about 1,35 kg and measurements are 45 x 28 x 18cm for the main compartment and 7 x 15 x 25 cm for each of the side pockets. This gives the backpack a total volume of 28 liters. However, on online army shops and second hand trading websites the volume is very often stated as 35 liters. The outside contains two attaching belts for extra equipment like a water bottle or first aid pouch. These items can be attached with alice-clips, but also the old Dutch/British webbing system hooks.  This backpack was made during the 90’s in 3 colours; Woodland (Dutch DPM), Dessert (Dutch CDU) and olive green. The olive green one was only issued to the Dutch Airforce (KLu) and therefore harder to find nowadays. Big advantage of this last one is that the camouflage pattern will not fade out after years of usage. Also the color is more neutral and suitable for urban traveling.

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The 3 different camouflage versions of the Dutch army daypack

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