Friday 24 June 2011

Friday Funny: the longest city name in the world (clue: not Bangkok Thailand))

When I was growing up the Guinness Book of World Records always featured the longest place name in the world as some endless unpronounceable town in Wales, where the name ran so long they had to extend the railway station platform just so they could fit the full name on it.

Ok, so I made that last bit up.

But ... BUT ...

The longest city name in the world is actually the full name for Bangkok (aka known as Bangers, BKK,  even Bankok in social media circles), the bustling, mad-cap, edgy, fun, crazy, stylish capital city of Amazing Thailand.

Are you ready for this? Take a deep breath and repeat after me:


Thais actually learn this almost like a sing-a-long nursery rhyme at school to help them remember it, jing jing.

So what does it all mean? Well, roughly “The land of angels, the great city of immortality, various of devine gems, the great angelic land unconquerable, land of nine noble gems, the royal city, the pleasant capital, place of the grand royal palace, forever land of angels and reincarnated spirits, predestined and created by the highest Deva(s).”

This name has been in place since 1782, so shame on Guinness World Records for not knowing this and attributing it earlier.

But before you rish down to your travel agent to book your flight to KRUNGTHEP MAHANAKHON BOVORN RATANAKOSIN MAHINTHARAYUTTHAYA MAHADILOKPOP NOPARATRATCHATHANI BURIROM UDOMRATCHANIVETMAHASATHAN AMORNPIMAN AVATARNS ATHIT SAKKATHATTIYAVISNUKARMPRASIT, you'll be relieved to know, Thais just call their capital by one word, Krungthep, which means City of Angels.

Of course, you can also simply request a flight to Bangkok. That works too.

The happiness index in Amazing Thailand, the Land of Smiles.

Although it literally translates as 'Land of the Free', Amazing Thailand has long been known as 'The Land of Smiles' for the very good reason that it seems a smile is naturally not very far away from the lips of most Thais.

As any traveller will tell you, you usually receive excellent return on investment every time you offer a smile and a polite greeting to a Thai. (Compare this with trying to get a smile and a hello out of someone passing in the street on a grey winters day in, say, Frankfurt.)

But are Thais really happy people or is this just some sort of cultural defense mechanism?

I've done some rummaging about for you, and there are several answers ...

The Bangkok Post recently published an article that indicated that Thais have grown happier each year since 2008 according to the National Statistical Office who publish a 'Happiness Indicator' each year. The Happiness Index scores have risen nearly 6% since then.

Further, they found the happiest residents on average -- and presumably the largest Thailand smiles -- in Phang Nga (that's south near Phuket, not to be confused with Phangan where the smiles are more to do with mushrooms), followed by Trang (south, near Krabi), Maha Sarakham (no idea, look it up yourself), Narathiwat (deep south) and Tak (halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and deemed to be the starting point of Northern Thailand).

Now get this ...

In the Happy Planet Index 2009, Thailand ranked 41st of all countries. Hmmm, not very high satisfaction you might think. But look at some other results: UK - 74th! Australia 102nd! USA 114th!

Now any Americans reading this and questioning the methodology, etc, had better listen and listen good. Because here's a second opinion. And not just any opinion, but one from a North Korean Happiness Index report on the internet, so you know it's objective, reliable, impartial and accurate, jing jing.

North Korea ranks China as the happiest country in the world, followed by North Korea 2nd. Last place? The USA. So there you have it.

So look around you ... are people largely smiling or frowning? Now go for a walk down the street and smile at someone ... did you get a big sunny grin in return that threatened to split their cheeks -- or did they threaten to call the cops on you?

If it was the latter, perhaps it's time to travel to Thailand, the land of smiles.

Thursday 23 June 2011

If you enjoy reading Thailand Jing Jing then ...

Dear readers

Thanks to your support, we have now had over 20,000 pages of my Amazing Thailand travel blog stories downloaded ...

So, I thought you might also like to know I have another blog called THAILAND FACES AND PLACES.

In it, I set out to get locals (and long-term farangs living in Thailand) to invite you into their life story, and then take you to their top 5 places.

We go way waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond touristic Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, and Chiang Mai. Instead you'll find yourself in known-only-to-locals back streets, coffee shops, stores, noodle houses, Thai restaurants, and so on in places like Pai, Nan, Chonburi, Koh Turatao, etc.

Check it out, and tell your friends about it too. It's the best travel blog since Thailand Jing Jing. Jing jing!

Aleenta Phuket Thailand scoops the pool in Asia Pacific Hotel Awards 2011

The Aleenta Phuket-Phang Nga in Amazing Thailand walked away from the Asia Pacific Hotel Awards 2011 with no less than four awards:

- Best Small Hotel, Thailand
- Best Small Hotel, Asia Pacific.
- Best Sustainable Hotel, Thailand
- Best sustainable Hotel, Asia Pacific

 The luxury resort will now go into the final round and compete against winners from other regions including Africa, the Americas, Arabia and Europe for the World's Best Small Hotel and Sustainable Hotel in January 2012 in London. 

In line with the 'Thailand Go Green' drive, I hope to check out this responsible tourism option personally sometime soon. Purely in the interests of professional research, jing jing.

Stay tuned for details. Better still, go check in there soon before it becomes too famous and popular for you to get into.

A 360-degree panoramic views of Thailand

Check this out ... a website dedicated to 180 and 360-degree panoramic photos of Amazing Thailand.

Better still, if you need these images to enrich your website, project or sales kit, you are apparently free to embed them as you please, for FREE.

Free? That suits my budget perfectly, jing jing.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Update on Sukhumhvit Soi 11, Sukhumvit Bangkok Thailand

Faithful readers of this Amazing Thailand travel blog – I know there’s one out there somewhere! – will know that one of my favourite sois (side street) in Bangkok is Sukhumvit Soi 11 which I blogged about a little while ago.

I just revisited the area, while staying at Le Fenix boutique hotel, and there’s a few places you really should know about …

The first is Bawarchi Restaurant, which is an Indian place about 100m on the right into the soi from the Sukhumvit Road Asok BTS station end. Neither the service nor surroundings are particularly flash but it’s all about the food. You know I always bang on about the Indian food in Bangkok in places such as Himali Cha Cha and Rang Mahal, well this is almost up there … but without the character, charm and ambience the others offer as part of the experience.

But if you want a damn good paneer, or chicken ticcas in gravy served to the accompaniment of lively and sultry Bollywood videos, this is the place, jing jing. Dinner for 2, with no alcohol, was 888 baht. (I know what you’re thinking – no alchohol, why not???) That's not even $30 to you for a great restaurant meal out.

If you’ve overdone the Thai curries and the Indian curries, your innards are threatening mutiny, and you just want something your poorly travelled stomach might recognize as real food, then just keep going on up the soi for a couple of hundreds metres or so till you find the Aussie Pub. Burgers and beers done just right, with football (any shape of ball you can think of) on the big screen.

That should keep you going. And then there’s still so much more to move on to in Soi 11 any time of day and night …

Read my previous Soi 11 blog here for some of the other nocturnal attractions of one of Bkk's hottest (or is that coolest?) streets.

Monday 20 June 2011

Forget CNN: get Twitter updates on Bangkok and Thailand breaking news here

A few readers have asked for more frequent updates from Thailand Jing Jing in terms of the political situation in Thailand, especially breaking news in Bangkok.

First of all, it was news to me that I had more than two readers so thank you!

May I just say I have absolutely ZERO interest in politics, what colour shirt someone's wearing (unless it's a really cool paisley design or something), or anything to do with the government of any country (especially if the leader looks like Germany's Herr Angela Merkel). Did I say zero interest? I meant an active avoidance ... something on the minus scale. I'm just a humble travel writer.

However ...

I am interested in giving people who travel to Thailand a clear picture on what the situation here is. With no bias, no agenda. Just passing on observations and impressions from one traveller to another. You just want to know is Thailand travel safe, right? Forget those drama queens at CNN and BBC.

As I write this, with just under 2 weeks to go to the July 3 election, I couldn't imagine a more peaceful scene. I am sitting on the veranda of my bungalow at Phi Phi Island Village ... wind rustling gently through the coconut trees, doves cooing in the background and the morning sun kissing my face gently. And this is supposed to be the LOW season.

Within a few days I will be back to Chiang Mai, the so-called Red Shirt Headquarters, where I live. And may I say I've never seen a moment's disruption there either. Sure the flags are waving outside peoples homes but how's that different from the lead up to any other country's election.(oh yeah, in Singapore citizens are  not allowed to display the national flag unless it's August when they celebrate national day, jing jing. Then you probably get busted for NOT displaying the national flag.)

Anyway ...

I will be blogging any news that materially affects your Thailand holidays or enjoyment of major tourist destinations in Thailand in the next few weeks, principally Bangkok (or Bankok as so many people seem to spell it) Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai, and any other place you'll likely stumble across on the Thailand map.

PLUS -- and this is a bonus so don't say I never give you anything! -- I will be tweeting Thailand breaking news regularly by retweeting local news and blog sources on the ground here so do follow me on Twitter at Worldsmith360

Meantime, come on in - the water's fine.

Friday 17 June 2011

Le Fenix: more a beach party than just a Bangkok hotel

I thought I was seeing things. This, in itself, is not unusual in Bangkok, but let me explain …

Entering the lobby of Le Fenix Sukhumvit Hotel with its playful splashes of orange and red, I felt I’d walked into scene from Alice in Wonderland. You see, there was a gent standing there whose head looked like it was actually poking up through the ceiling, jing jing. I did a double take.

Sure enough, I wasn’t far wrong. It turned out to be a syncronous moment in which the world’s tallest man happened to be standing under the world’s lowest ceiling. And as though that wasn’t funny enough, he turned out to be a Dutchman dressed for whatever reason like Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter.

As I said: unusual sights are in themselves not really unusual in Bangkok.

Le Fenix is full of such quirkiness …

The place itself is comfortable enough, designery enough, to carry off its mid-range value boutique hotel positioning. A see-through swimming pool  on an upper floor that gives revelers on soi 11 below a bottom-dwellers’ eye view of you doing your laps (or lap dance) in the pool for instance.

This hotel is slap-bang in the middle of some great BKK party venues, such as Bed Supper Club (50 metres down the road) and Q Bar (longstanding Bangkok favourite) you will literally fall into if you trip on the stairs coming out of Le Fenix.

And clearly not a few guests had been sipping liberally from the cup of Bangkok's notorious nightlife. A couple of Japanese or Korean girls spent a good 15 minutes trying to get the key in the door of the room next door to mine, giggling all the while, until they realized they were either on the wrong floor or had been using their ATM card instead of their key card. Another Western couple stumbled in around 6am full of good cheer and bon homie, just as I was grumpily heading down for breakfast and an early red-eye flight.

But now, with The Nest, there’s no need to even leave the hotel for one of Bangkok’s coolest nights out. This rooftop bar serves 200 baht cocktails (that’s about $6 to you) and after a few you really feel like you are on the beach in Phuket or even in Ibiza or the Carribean. The beach sand floor creates a let's-get-ready-to-party chilling mindset while the DJ spins loungey sort of stuff.

It’s open from 5pm if you want to catch the sunset and twilight glow over the burgeoning Bangkok skyline, and open till 2am,  to add an extra leg to the Bed and Q Bar routine. 

And popular too … I had to wait for at least 3 full elevator loads to pass my floor before I could get in at midnight.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Three hot dates for your Thailand calendar 2011 ...

Hurry, hurry, hurry!!! Amazing Thailand Grand Sale is NOW on till August 15. It’s a nationwide shopping extravaganza, and when it’s in the world’s best-value destination, you know the deals are sensational.

15,000 shops, departments stores, spas, airlines,  hotels, hospitals, duty free, jewllery, even golf courses are dropping their shorts for you with discounts of up to 80%.

More important events in the Thailand calendar 2011:

5 December 2011: to commemorate the auspisicous  occasion of His Majesty the King’s 7th cycle birthday anniversary a whole raft of celebrations are planned. If you’ve never witnessed a Royal Barge Procession on the Chao Phraya River, make sure you attend this timeless spectacle. Is there a grander pageant on this planet? None that I've seen so far.

9 November 2011 – 15 February 2012: Royal Flora Ratchaphruek 2011. Also part of His Majesty’s celebrations, this annual flower show is held in the Chiang Mai winter, a beautiful time to visit the north. 30 countries set up colourful and charming displays over 80 hectares … so make sure you take time to stop and smell the roses -- after all, orchids have no smell, jing jing.

Of course there are hundreds of other Amazing Thailand festivals and events you can catch year round, too.

Amazing Thailand is Going Green ... who's responsible?

Thailand is going green. Don’t worry it’s got nothing to do with radioactive fallout from Japan or some mysterious tropical ailment. Rather, it’s the concerted sustainable tourism direction the industry is now taking throughout Amazing Thailand ...

At the recent Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2011 forum, the theme was ‘Caring for the Earth’ and eco travel was pushed to the top of the agenda.

In his keynote address, Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Suraphon Svetasreni addressed the topic:
“The need to reconcile the economic and ecological impact of travel and tourism is critical to the Balanced Strategy that we are pursuing as part of of our tourism development policies. There is no doubt that so many millions of foreign and domestic tourists lead to high emissions of greenhouse gases and other forms of environmental impact. Hence it is the responsibility of the entire industry to help mitigate this impact.”

TAT has long been championing this direction, by introducing the 7 Greens Concept in 2008, with an aim of promoting environmentally friendly tourism, plus introducing the Green Leaf Certification system, something along the lines of a hotel star-rating system for green travel.

Northern Thailand in particular offers an abundance of ecologically pristine areas, especially Mae Hong Son province, arguably one of the most beautiful parts of Thailand. Its major centre, Pai, (which I’ve blogged about before here) celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. If you love mountain trekking, river rafting, etc, this is the place the head for.

For more information on Thailand Goes Green, see

Amazing Thailand's value compared to Singapore

I just returned from Singapore where I paid SGD$100 per night for a shoebox cleverly disguised as a boutique hotel. Forget about room to swing the cat -- I would've bludgeoned the poor thing to death on the walls accidentally on the first revolution.

It was pleasant enough, with an OK location in an interesting Chinatown neighbourhood, but it was a shoebox all the same – complete with rooms without windows. And breakfast was sachets of 3-in-1 coffee and a do-it-yourself peanut butter toasted sandwich, burned while the grinning Chinese duty manager stood there burping in the corner, jing jing.

Now, dear readers, SGD$100 is equal to about 2600 baht per night.  I know places in Chiang Mai where you get an airy room with views of the mountains, a bath tub, and a full American breakfast, all for 650 baht (that's a ridiculous $30 or so). And 2000-2500 baht a night boutique hotels in Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, which include designer chic inclusions, near-BTS locations, a wonderful cooked breakfast selection, and all the smiles you can possibly handle.

If you want to see what you can get for around 2500 baht per night in Thailand (around 80 or 90 real dollars), go to any of the popular hotel booking sites like agoda,, and put in that price range for the destination of your choice, then stand back as the avalanche of choice floods out of your screen.

Just think: what do you get for $80-90 a night in your country? See, travel to Thailand is cheaper than staying home.

That, dear readers, is Amazing Thailand’s amazing value …

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Stopover Bangkok, Thailand campaign

If you’d watched Hangover 2 you’d think Bangkok was full of standover men with underhand tactics. Rubbish! Bangkok is not a standover place, but rather a stopover place …

You see, Tourism Authority of Thailand and Mastercard have just launched the ‘Stopover Bangkok’ project which runs from now (hurry, you’re already late!) till 31 October 2011.

You can take advantage of 122 renowned Bangkok tour operators and attractions who are offering a stopover sampling of the City of Angels in 11 different themed categories:

Adventure and excursion
Art and culture
Beauty and spa
Ethics and local tours
Fine dining
Golf day and night (does that mean you need to use special, er, night clubs?)
Health and medical
Shows and entertainment.

Well, that’s roughly 11 categories.

Plus there are 7 suggested tour routes including gourmet pursuits and nightcrawler pursuits among others …

Anyway, check out to see which travel agents and airlines are participating, and how you can score 5-20% off prices, plus special top-ups, just by using MasterCard.

Hear the Sunshine of Amazing Thailand here ...

Take a couple of minutes to watch the video Hearing the Sunshine at

Go on, do it. Amazing Thailand jing jing.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Hangover 2: Mission Impossible - Travel in Thailand

Oh, and another thing about that movie ...

I notice the lads borrow someone's speedboat and go belting down the much-fabled Chao Phraya River in Bangkok and in about one minute of screen time are suddenly surrounded by the beautiful emerald waters of Krabi with its signature limestone upthrusts.

Attention Hollywood: that is NOT possible!

You see, the Chao Phraya feeds out below BKK into the Gulf of Thailand. A quick glance at a map tells me that is on the opposite side of Thailand's land mass from Phuket, Krabi, etc.

They would then have to go down the length of Thailand, past Hua Hin on the right, Pattaya on the left, past Koh Samui, reach Malaysia's east coast, keep going, chuck a right at the Singapore straits, cut through to Malacca and up the western side of the Malaysian peninsula.

Eventually they would go past Langkawi in north-western Malaysia before reaching again the waters of Thailand around Phuket after around 3,000km of sea travel.

By my SWAG method of estimation (Scientific Wild-Assed Guess) that would take more like 4 or 5 days at quickest, and several petrol stops, meaning the lads would have missed the wedding, jing jing.

Sorry to be so hard on an American B-movie (which I actually enjoyed a lot), but I haven't forgiven Hollywood for it's far-fetched fictional treatment of The Bridge on the River Kwai yet.

There are much quicker ways of getting to beautiful Krabi, of course. You can always fly, or take a car or bus.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Hangover 2 filmed in Bangkok and Krabi, Amazing Thailand.

This is the worst hangover yet ... the sort of drunken night out that's not even blurry, it's completely deleted from your hard drive, until you wake up and start piecing the story together piece-by-achingly--painful piece.

At which point it becomes a living (or re-lived) nightmare ...

The action (and I do mean action) mainly takes place in Amazing Thailand with Bangkok as the leading lady, and a beautiful cameo supporting role by the limestone islands and emerald waters of Krabi.

Sadly, Bkk itself is depicted all grey and squalid, whereas in real life it's only like that at day time. Just kidding. in fact the general march of marbling Bangkok over the past 5-10 years has been staggering.

Congrats to the location scout for finding a place with cockroaches that big. These things could be mistaken for elephants if they had trunks, jing jing.

Bangkok's Chinatown, Yaowarat (or "F***ing Asiatown" as they call it), gets a good working over, to the point it often feels more like an early Jackie Chan flick set in Hong Kong than Bangkok, so stylized were the street scenes. Of course, Thai girls, Bangkok bar girls, go go bars, ping pong balls and hair-trigger machine guns all get the expected role in this lad's pre-wedding night out gone massively, irretrievably wrong.

The cultural tone of the movie is probably best summed up by Alan's observation as they roar along in a song taew van towards the Chiang Mai monastery: "When a monkey nibbles on a penis, that's funny in every language!"And the well-endowed katoey lady boy scene does its bit to keep things firmly rooted in the gutter. (I won't spoil the movie for you, but the photo in the end credits of the groom-to-be on the receiving end of the ladyboy is priceless!)

That the main actor is named Stu just made all of this just a little close to the, um, bone for me.

At the upper end of the scale, the Lebua Hotel (arguably the finest hotel in Bangkok) and its 63rd floor rooftop restaurant Sirocco enjoy a starring role, replete with CIA, mafia and helicopters.

Throw in some quirky touches like, oddly, a hilariously reworked version of Billy Joel's Allentown, dripping in pathos and bodily fluids, and an inexplicable song-and-dance routine by professional thug Mike Tyson, and the Hangover 2 has got something for everyone.

Just like Bangkok, I guess.

Quick quiz: Do you think Hangover 2 will attract tourists to Thailand or put them off from coming? Love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Thai elephants, elephant shows and elephant camps in Thailand

Amazing Thailand in synonymous with elephants. So when you travel to Thailand make sure to catch one of the many excellent elephant shows around the country.

An elephant whispers sweet muddy things in my ear ...
Asian elephants are different to African elephants in that they are far more obedient and can be trained, hence their endearing ability to pick up the amazing skills with which they thrill and delight audiences. And anyone who has ever watched Dumbo loves baby elephants, too, right?

Many of these camps also offer elephant trekking (a 5 minute tootle around the track or for several hours), mahout courses (in which you can learn to ride and control an elephant, learn mounting and dismounting techniques, key commands (they have four main gears - front, back, left and right), and even how to take an elephant's temperature.) The latter involves rubber gloves.

So here is a list of the best shows, camps and trekking with Thai elephants: 

Chiang Rai: 
Anantara Golden Triangle Hotel
Four Seasons Tented Camp

Chiang Mai:
Mae Sa elephant camp
Mae Taeng elephant camp
Chiang Dao

Thai Elephant Conservation Centre

Siam Safari

Koh Samui:
Namuang Safari Park

Elephant Village Pattaya

Ayutthaya (only one hour from Bangkok):
Royal Elephant Kraal and Village

This list is just a start. Especially in northern Thailand, there are dozens of smaller ones doing great work in conservation. Please let me know and I can update this list.

You might want to check TripAdvisor for the most popular rated show in the area you're going to.

Oh, one final thing. It's easier to remember the Thai word for elephant: Chang. That's because these animals are named after Thailand's most famous beer, jing jing.

Question: where was the most fun Thai elephant show you've been to?