27 Nov - 29 Nov 2011 Hat Yai

Kingdom of Thailand aka The Land of Conditional Smiles
Songkhla Province
Thanon Niphat Uthit 1
Hok Chin Hin Hotel +6674243258
Adequate double room with private bathroom for THB 200.- or US$ 6.40 per night.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Hok Chin Hin Hotel in Hat Yai and for directions:

Enjoying our mandatory visa run from Malaysia to Thailand, exploring the vibrant and bustling city centre of Hat Yai which tries to please almost all the needs of its mostly male aka ah beng Malaysian Chinese and Singaporean Chinese clientele (“sexy shark fins and bird nests”, “sexy girls and boys”, “sexy underpants and sock suspenders”), tucking into fresh green papaya salad aka som tam and spicy Thai fishcakes aka tod mun pla at the daily night market, located in the northern part of Thanon Niphat Uthit 3, and relaxing thereafter (i) with the help of one of the best ever foot-reflexology treatments (THB 200.- or US$ 6.40 for 1 ½ hours) from May’s Buddy Massage +66807041663, for Matt only, and (ii) the best ever facial (THB 250.- or US$ 8.- for 1 hour), for Konni only.

“You have to taste a culture to understand it.”

Paying tribute to both (i) the gigantic 35-m long, reclining in-door Buddha at Wat Hat Yai Nai (but being much more impressed by the very worldly fresh-produce market with its friendly hawkers in the Buddha’s neighbourhood) and (ii) the monstrous 20-m high, sitting out-door Buddha in the Mahapanya Vidayalai College (where overweight young know-it-all monks read fluffy Buddhist motherhood statements [“… to cultivate mankind’s wisdom and to lead into the realm of peace and bliss …”] and practise batik but play neither rugby nor cricket and can't speak any English, agh shame).
“How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask - half of our great theological and metaphysical problems - are like that.”

“Knowledge is the food of the soul."

Taking the regional bus (“Can, lah?” … “Can, lah!”) from Hat Yai’s decentralised central bus terminal to the Thai side of Padang Besar (45 km, 1 ½ hours, THB 42.- or c. US$ 1.35 per person), crossing the border on foot and being issued with a 90-day-visit pass for another “social visit” to Malaysia on arrival, free of charge and with the unique Malay smile as a bonus, forgetting to change our watches from Thailand’s Indochina Time (GMT + 7:00 hours) back to Malaysia Standard Time (GMT + 8:00 hours), taking the local Maraliner bus +60326979797 from the Malaysian part of Padang Besar to Kangar (35 km, 1 hour, MYR 4.20 per person), the state capital of Perlis, and thereafter another Maraliner bus +60326979797 from Kangar to Kuala Perlis (15 km, ½ hour, MYR 2.- per person), where we savoured the famous laksa perlis (a spicy fish gravy which is generously ladled over rice noodles and topped with boiled egg, cucumber, onion, garlic and herbs), and embarking eventually on the Ferry Line’s a/c “My Ferry 2” for the short ride to Kuah on Langkawi Island (15 nm, 1 hour, MYR 18.- per person) thus completing this pointless but nevertheless entertaining and interesting visa run.

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from the United States:
For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here
For Amazon bargains from Canada, please click here
For Amazon bargains from the United Kingdom, please click here

26 Nov - 27 Nov 2011 Satun

Kingdom of Thailand aka The Land of Conditional Smiles
Satun Province
Thanon Samanta Prasit
Rain Tong Hotel +6674711036
Adequate double room with private bathroom for THB 200.- or US$ 6.40 per night.
Friendly staff; zero English.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Rain Tong Hotel in Satun and for directions:

Exploring the friendly and low-key country town Satun, one of the gateways to Thailand's southern-most islands in the Andaman Sea and a place where mixed marriages between Thai people and Malay Muslims have been common for centuries, with many of Satun's townsfolk being samsam (meaning: "mixed person"), and discovering the town’s humble architectural highlights: (i) the modern, parachute-domed Bambang Mosque, (ii) the Satun Wat in the northern part of town with a giant Buddha statue still under construction, and (iii) the few old, dilapidated Sino-Portuguese shophouses along Thanon Buriwanit.

Enjoying life’s simple pleasures in Thailand, thus (i) sipping crisp Thai Chang Classic beer (c. 6.4 % alc./vol.) in On’s up-market bar and terrace +6674724133 for THB 50.- or US$ 1.60 per small bottle, (ii) devouring colourful and delicately shaped Thai sushi, all of them masterpieces of art, for only THB 5.- each, on the lively Saturday night market on Thanon Buriwanit, and (iii) frolicking with the experienced, freeboobing Thai masseuses in their no-name massage parlour on Thanon Bureevanich during what they call a full-body massage (THB 300.- or US$ 9.60 for 1 ½ hours).
“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

Taking the local bus from Satun to Hat Yai (95 km, 2 ¼ hours, THB 63.- or US$ 2.- per person), southern Thailand’s commercial centre, the kingdom’s fourth-largest city and very much a Chinese town at it’s centre, with tons of gold shops, loads of noodle restaurants (for you and mee) and Cantonese/Mandarin/Singlish-speckled conversations, lah!

Click below for more blog posts about low-key towns in southern Thailand
 26 Apr - 29 Apr 2013 Prachuap Khiri Khan
18 Apr - 22 Apr 2013 Phetchaburi
29 Jan - 01 Feb 2013 Songkhla 
25 Jan - 29 Jan 2013 Phatthalung 
22 Jan - 25 Jan 2013 Nakhon Si Thammarat 

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
2011 Map Konni & Matt 

Visit the Konni & Matt Online Albums and order high-res travel photos
Konni & Matt Travel Photos

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from Germany:

For Amazon deals from the United States, please click here
For Amazon deals from Canada, please click here
For Amazon deals from the United Kingdom, please click here

24 Oct - 26 Nov 2011 Kuah

Kedah Darul Aman
Pulau Langkawi
Sri Lagenda Tower +60125914359 jaliza.sri.lagenda@gmail.com
Furnished apartment no. 9-14 on 9th floor for MYR 1,000.- or US$ 320.- per month, incl. swimming pool and stunning bay views over the Malacca Strait and the off-lying islands Pulau Tuba, Pulau Dayang Bunting and Pulau Singa Besar.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Sri Lagenda Tower in Kuah and for directions:

Making camp in one of the furnished bay-view apartments of the high-rise Sri Lagenda Apartment Tower, exploring our new neighborhood with its many excellent and cheap Malay, Indian and Chinese eateries, meeting up and socialising with old and new international friends/yotties whose sailing yachts are either at anchor right in front of our apartment building and/or who live in one of the apartments at Sri Lagenda (many thanks for being such relaxed buddies: Deena & Jacob from SY “Crimson Tide”, Cathy & Jeff from SY “Mirage” and Beth & Al from SY “Sunflower”), and getting eventually used (i) to the early morning wake-up calls from the nearby mosque with this muezzin’s particularly odd bleating, howling and coughing and (ii) to the regular equatorial rain squalls in the afternoon; home sweet home for a time, aiyah.

Getting our fill of culinary Kuah Town and examining (i) its umpteen non-halal duty-free shops where 320-ml cans of Carlsberg beer set you back the chicken feed of merely MYR 1.50 or US$ 0.50 per can (as opposed to the minimum price of MYR 5.45 or US$ 1.75 per 320-ml can on the heavily taxed Malaysian mainland), where 1-litre bottles of genuine Johnny Walker’s Red Label are available for a reasonable MYR 42.- or US$ 13.40 per bottle and where 1-litre bottles of original Gordon’s London Dry Gin cost only MYR 28.- or US$ 8.95 per bottle, (ii) its mock-Thai Wednesday-and-Saturday night market with mostly over-oiled, over-cooked and over-sugared Malay junk food (our vegetarian alternatives or compromises: (a) laksa kuala kedah, made from rice vermicelli noodles and aromatic fish gravy, garnished with cucumber, onion and herbs and with additional ingredients like eels, spicy shredded coconut and boiled eggs, (b) nasi ulam, a vegetarian’s delight and a healthy combination of cooked rice, fresh herbs and spices, and (c) the ubiquitous som tam, spicy Thai salad which is made from shredded unripened papayas) and (iii), last but not least, the superb Chinese-Buddhist Langkawi Vegetarian Restaurant +6049666405, supported by the Vegetarian Society of Malaysia, where we become regulars (no charges here, only a donation box).

Listening to (i) the fluting whistles of black-naped orioles (Oriolus chinensis), (ii) the  loud, far-reaching calls of a pair of great hornbills (Buceros bicornis) which cruises slowly above the treetops and (iii) the soft chatter of the common hill mynas (Gracula religiosa) below us and enjoying our own bird’s-eye views from the dizzy height of our 9th-floor balcony down onto their distinctive flight silhouettes.

Teaming up with a bunch of young Penangite holiday makers, hiring a speedboat from Bagus Travel & Tours +60124820250 (MYR 30.- per person for the half-day trip), enjoying together some extensive island hopping and taking in the breathtaking scenery of Pulau Langkawi thus (i) chillaxing on and exploring the one-time unspoilt and idyllic but now crowded beaches of Pulau Beras Basah, (ii) experiencing an almost apocalyptical scenario off Pulau Singa Besar and feeding white-bellied sea eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster) and brahminy kites (Haliastur induswith chicken offal from the island’s fast-food chains and (iii) visiting the disneyfied and very touristy Lake of the Pregnant Maiden aka Tasik Dayang Bunting, Langkawi’s largest freshwater lake, situated on Pulau Dayang Bunting, surrounded by craggy limestone cliffs and dense, verdant jungle which teems with insular flora and fauna.

Ticking off the official tourist sites of Kuah: (i) the rather monstrous concrete-eagle statue (which actually is depicting a brahminy kite) on Eagle Square near the Kuah jetty, (ii) the uninspiring Legends Park aka Taman Lagenda, a “folklore” theme park with grotesque examples of (badly maintained) Islamic kitsch offering a rather sanitised view of the world in which "… all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions …" (according to Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being), and (iii) the bizarre Galeria Perdana, located c. 12 km north of Kuah proper, where so-called “political gifts” were on display, presented by friendly and not-so-friendly politicians (“… to Malaysia, with love …”), given to Dr M when he was already a grown-up and served as prime minister for Malaysia, e.g. the sweetest dolls (but not for playing), the most archaic vintage cars (but not for driving) and the most awkward weapons (but not for peacemaking).
“I think that anti-Jewish prejudice is an unfailing sign of a sick and disordered person ... It's a horrible, conspiratorial, pseudo-intellectual, mean spirited, eventually lethal piece of bigotry.”

Purchasing a DiGi hi-speed USB modem with removable SIM card (MYR 169.- or US$ 55.-) plus unlimited but not-so-broad broad-band access for 100 days (MYR 100.- or US$ 32.70), catching up on long overdue on-line admin work (travel blog and photos), enjoying tremendously many long Skype video conferences with our breezy Canadian grandsons and being interviewed by Backpacking Asia, one of the leading internet portals for independent travellers, and sharing our experience of ten plus years of perpetual travelling. 

Laundering our dirty linen for an economical MYR 3.- per kg, washed and dried, at the clean and efficient Kuah Laundry +6049667932. 

Being hired as German extras for a German/Malaysian TV drama (“Reunited in Malaysia”, co-produced by FFP New Media and the Malaysian production company Double Vision for ARD/Degeto), having a funny and interesting day in the posh Four Seasons Resort +6049508888 together with our yottie friends Beth & Al and Deena & Jacob and playing successfully the roles of innocent European holiday makers on Langkawi - for the generous fee of MYR 100.- per day for each one of the American, Kiwi and Seffrican mutes.

DM Konni: Scubadiving with ProDive Langkawi +60194499977 the murky waters of the Straits of Malacca off Pulau Payar, spotting beautiful soft corals but noticing at the same time the very low visibility of only 2 - 3 m in this busy international shipping lane and having loads of fun together with two nice Muslim ladies from Pakistan (burqa-and-hijab clad, with mask, regulator and buoyancy compensator worn over their modest "swimwear") who took their first plunge in an introductory dive and enjoyed tremendously their first dive ever.

Lengthening our lives and celebrating World Meatless Day on 25th of November 2011 CE with a high dose of Malay ulam, a raw salad of fresh herbs and vegetables, accompanied by undisclosed quantities of chilled red wine (excellent and perfectly vegetarian Californian Cabernet Sauvignon for only MYR 5.- or US$ 1.60 per litre) from our favourite Chinese supplier of tax-free wines and booze, the friendly and reliable Soon Huat “Tasty & Healthy” wine shop in Kuah Town.
HappyCow's Compassionate Healthy Eating Guide

Doing a visa run into neighbouring Thailand and leaving temporarily “1Malaysia”, a bilingual (Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Inggris) land of plenty, taking the thrice-daily Andaman Ferry Ventures' +6049661125 a/c ferry “Fortune Express 2” (20 nm, 1 ½ hour, MYR 30.- per person, one way) from Langkawi’s Kuah jetty to Tha Tammalang, the jetty for Satun in Thailand, being issued there with a 2-week-visa for Thailand on arrival, free of charge, joining a shared sawngthaew, a covered pick-up truck with two lengthwise rows of seats in the back, to Satun proper (THB 30.- or US$ 1.- per farang for the 7-km long ride) and changing our watches from Malaysian Standard Time (GMT + 7:00 hours) to Thailand's Indochina Time (GMT + 8:00 hours).

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
2011 Map Konni & Matt

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from Germany:

For Amazon schnaeppchens from the United States, please click here
For Amazon deals from Canada, please click here
For Amazon deals from the United Kingdom, please click here