Peace and Quiet in South Thailand

April 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Culture, Exotic South East, Feature Highlights, Nature

The south of Thailand is home to hundreds of miles of shoreline, some of the most pristine in the world. Many say that many of the most popular Thai locations, such as Phuket – Thailand’s largest island – are just overrun and no longer have their original appeal and charm. But still, that hasn’t stopped the masses of tourists from descending on these beach-side towns year upon year.

Interest in the region skyrocketed after the area was featured in Hollywood films. First was Ko Tapu, now known as James Bond Island, which was featured in the 1974 Bond Film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. Then Leonardo DiCaprio’s deadly adventures on The Beach – filmed near the Phi Phi Islands in 2000 –reaffirmed the world’s fascination with the ultimate Thai beach holiday.

While it is true that many places in southern Thailand are overcrowded and well spoilt, it is still possible to find that secluded hideaway and enjoy some rest & relaxation. Here are a few suggestions to avoid the crowds and enjoy yourself.

Turquoise blue water at Ko Rok. Photo credit - adrian_wright.

Turquoise blue water at Ko Rok. Photo credit - adrian_wright.

Ko Rok

Ko Rok is a pair of twin islands that are frequented by visitors for the amazing coral reefs, in a perfect setting for snorkeling and diving. There are miles of near-blinding white beaches that are relatively quiet. A great choice here is camping; you can find most supplies you need on the island and you’ll take pleasure in peaceful, quiet nights adorned by both stunning sunsets and sunrises.

West dock of Ko Tarutao. Photo credit - Argenberg.

West dock of Ko Tarutao. Photo credit - Argenberg.

The setting sun at Ko Tarutao. Photo credit - VannagoCaraRupa.

Ko Tarutao

Ko Tarutao is a part of the Tarutao National Marine Park. Originally developed to build a prison, Ko Tarutao made its claim to on American TV as the backdrop for an episode of ‘Survivor’. Most tourists opt for the hustle and bustle of nearby Ko Lipe, but the national park operates bungalows and camp grounds for those who want peace and quiet.

Ko Kut. Photo credit - wimbledonian.

Ko Kut. Photo credit - wimbledonian.

The beachside view at Ko Kut. Photo credit - shinjung_69.

The beachside view at Ko Kut. Photo credit - shinjung_69.

Ko Kut (also known as Ko Kood)

Ko Kut is on the southeastern tip Thailand and is the closest island to neighboring Cambodia. Many of the tourists visiting here are Indochinese, especially those seeking out weekend getaways. The island is relatively underdeveloped and much overgrown lush forest remains, making it a great destination for the hard core nature lover. Many of the resorts on the island cater only to packaged tour guests so be sure to make your travel arrangements in advance.

When To Go

The high season in all of Thailand is October through February, when prices go up and the shores get more crowded. This is all for good reason, though, as this maximizes the weather. Recently the rainy season has started late and ended late, so a good tip is to head over in late February or early March as things quiet down but the rains haven’t come flooding in yet. Regardless of your timing, be sure to be prepared for ill weather and try to book key reservations in advance, as if something is sold out you might find yourself quite disappointed.

Photo credit on main page – Rene Ehrhardt

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Experiences.

It doesn't matter whether you book one month or one week before you travel, you can find the very best lastminute sun holidays online and at the very best prices too.

Riyadh – Three Side Trips Not to be Missed

February 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Crossroad of Asia, Feature Highlights, Nature

The land of a thousand and one fables and fantasies, impenetrable Saudi Arabia has long intrigued the world. As the country begins to relax its visa rules to welcome visitors, Unearthing Asia shares with you here three tastings of the middle east. Each of these side trip journeys are easily reachable from Riyadh, its capital city, and are a definite travel destinations for adventurous traveler.

The Asir Mountains. Photo credit - rassam.abha

The Asir Mountains. Photo credit - rassam.abha

The Asir Mountains
This hilly region is near the country’s border with Yemen. The local capital, Abha, a small town ringed by misty mountains, felt chilly as I strolled through its souk and chatted with stall holders selling incense of frankincense and myrrh, beads, gowns and brightly colored baskets.

The key attraction here is the restored village of Rijal Alma. Its tall, tower-like houses were built nearly 300 years ago, acting as watchtowers. One house is now a museum with rooms and displaying jewellery, farm tools and even a bridal carriage designed to go on a camel’s back.

Madain Saleh
Madain Saleh is the country’s key tourist attraction. Located in the north-west, the 2,000-year-old Nabataean tombs, set in the stark desert, are a stunning sight. Imagine visiting the rock-cut architecture of Petra, in Jordan, but without the crowds. This was the second city of the Nabataeans, who created their 131 rock-cut tombs soon after they had finished work on Petra.

The Nabataeans, whose empire lasted from around 600 BC to AD 300, sited both cities on the same trade route and Madain Saleh would once have been a bustling city, though as in Dir’aiyah, the houses have long disappeared. The tombs are astonishing – many are cut so high in the rock that you have to climb a rickety ladder to enter them to see the burial niches cut into the sandstone. Many tombs have inscriptions in the Aramaic language over their doors and these are translated into English, explaining who owned the tomb.

Madain Saleh. Photo credit - der_boese_basti

Madain Saleh. Photo credit - der_boese_basti

One of the most striking is the beautiful row of tombs called Qasr Al-Bint. You can also head across the dunes to the tomb of Qasr Farid, when it turns a glowing pink at sunset.

Souq Al-Alawi is the star attraction here, a warren of narrow streets in the old town where I spent a happy morning shopping for leather slippers and beautiful wool shawls. The prices are fixed, so haggling is not welcome, but generally, the atmosphere in Jeddah is far more relaxed than in conservative Riyadh.

Jeddah. Photo credit - Perez 183A

Jeddah. Photo credit - Perez 183A

Here, I spotted women going out without men accompanying them, and sometimes without wearing their headscarves.

We finished our trip with a superb supper of prawn and hamour, a fish caught locally, at the Al-Nakhil restaurant on the Corniche. After supper, we all enjoyed smoking the apple-flavored shisha water pipes and soaking up the atmosphere of this buzzy restaurant, where families dine and chat until 3am in the morning.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. Freelance graphic artist and travel fanatic. Twiter-addict and social media novice. Adventure budget traveler and stay home weekend worker. Before working on Unearthing Asia, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now that he’s settled down for the time being (till 2010) in Jakarta, he’s focusing his efforts on social media and his location-independent-service-provider career.

Bargains to Unearth at Seminyak Fashion Street

February 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Exotic South East

Los Angeles has the Rodeo Drive, New York has Madison Avenue and Milan has Via Montenopoleone. When it comes to shopping in Bali however, there is only one place for fashionable trendsetting locals who knows not to judge a book by its cover – Seminyak.

If you can get past the gaping holes in the sidewalk, and there really is no alternative, you can unearth some fashionable treasures along this street.

Many of the designers sell their wares for much higher prices in fashionable cities around the world. In between, along the disabled footpaths, you may also find some rough diamonds that may just be the perfect gift you’ve been looking for that special someone. All part of the fun and games here in Seminyak.

Here are but a taste of the few highlights you can find along Seminyak:

Across is Biasa, a chapel of cool in floaty Indian cottons, the emporium sells classics for grown ups and a few flirty styles for the younger crowd too. A beautiful collection of sarongs and carefully chosen accessories complete the picture.

Switching from Indian to Italian styling, this little retailer has some of the best Italian shoes on the island – Bruno Magli, Bally, Marc Jacobs and more. Limited sizes but if you can find something you like, expect to pay a fraction of the recommended retail price.

Keep going and you will find Innuendo, their beautifully crafted designs are among the best you will find in Bali. The locally-based French designer uses the best fabrics and impeccable tailoring to create designs that are wearable and hang perfectly.

The Best of the Rest
Papillion – this designer has been making shoes in Bali for over ten years and has some great styles. In this strip you will also find Kerry Grima and Funky Princess who stock their own labels as well as some of the leading Australian designers like Bettina Liano and lots more. Beware not to overspend on those plastics!

Flamingo in this strip is very popular with the young and hip things who shop here. Expect to find designer t-shirts, flirty dresses and pants and shirts for the boys. It’s a little bit surf mixed with a little rock and roll. They have another shop further up the strip just past Dhyanna Pura.

Body and Soul Boutique
One of the biggest retailers on this strip,, fashionable with girls and women, from three months old to whatever, provided you don’t need more than about size ten. The skinny jeans here are a must have and the girl’s fashion from tots to teens is fashionable and fun. Body and Soul outlet, across the street, is a good place to search for bargains.

Paul Ropp
A little further after Bintang Supermarket you will come across the Paul Ropp shop beside the Biasa 50% store. Paul is one of Bali’s most flamboyant designers, and boys, don’t let the loud colours put you off. Plenty of fashionable men are wearing Paul.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. Nikolas Tjhin is the editor for Unearthing Asia, a travel zine focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. Check out our latest offering, a travel magazine that visitors can browse online and even download.