Off-The-Beaten-Path in Southeast Asia >
By Peta Bassett, GoNOMAD DESTINATIONS CORRESPONDENT
KLONG KIAN, PHANG NGA BAY, SOUTHERN THAILAND
Sleep in a bamboo tree house, wake to a view of the many islands that dot
the bay and laze the day away in a hammock.
High season is in the cooler months of the year from November through to the beginning of February. December and January are the best months to visit.
Fly to Phuket and arrange for a pickup. Round trip is BT600/ person.
- Khun Num of Divine Business LTD (dodgy name but extremely reliable) Tel: +662 01 893 9125
A daylong boat trip exploring the spectacular islands and rock formations around Phang Nga Bay is well worth it. Lunch on an isolated beach, go sea kayaking, explore the many caves or just simply relax. Hoards of tourists from Phuket visit James Bond Island in the bay, but it is possible to avoid them. Pick your very own island. All day boat trips are BT1200/ person.
PYIN U LWIN, MYANMAR Why Go?
India meets the Wild West. Colorful horse drawn carriages trot around the small town. Large colonial mansions, a mosque down on the main street, large churches, a bustling daily market, a Nepalese run dairy, picturesque avenues and a cool climate make Pyin U Lwin a perfect retreat for a few days.
All year round. This was a hill station–a retreat for the British in colonial times. It has a much cooler climate than the surrounding plains.
Fly to Mandalay and hire a car. Expect to pay approx. US$15 or K3000 to hire a vehicle.In Mandalay stay in a private guesthouse to ensure that your money goes directly to the people. They are extremely hospitable and will be able to arrange a car for you.Alice, the owner of the Peacock Lodge on 61 Street between 25th and 26th Street, Mandalay, will be able to point you in the right direction.
The well-maintained Botanical Gardens, built by Turkish prisoners of war under the British command during WW1, are a must see, as much for the beauty as for the contrast to other towns in Myanmar. Entry is K10 per person. Open from 7am — 5:30pm. Explore the central market early in the morning. The high altitude of Pyin U Lwin gives it a perfect climate for growing flowers and vegetables.
Hire a bicycle and take a leisurely ride around the town exploring the back streets and peering through the gates of once majestic mansions. Approx. K5O/ hour or K300/ day. Bikes available from:
- The Grace Hotel: +95 085 21230
The Dahlia Motel: +95 085 22255
April Inn: +95 085 21001
- Golden Dream Hotel: +95 085 22142
Candacraig is a rambling old mansion that was once the bachelor’s dormitories (chummery) for the Bombay Burmah Trading Company. Today, it is open to guests. Stay in quaint old rooms and have a late afternoon gin and tonic on the verandah. There are only 7 rooms and rates range from US$18-36.
Officially known as Thiri Myaing Hotel, Anawrahta Lane.
Tel: +95 085 22047
On your way to or from the Botanical Gardens, stop off at the Tea Line Milkshake Shop. Set in the middle of the strawberry fields near the Gandamar Myaing Hotel, this pit stop offers the best strawberry lassi you will ever.
Exploring this cultural intersection gives a refreshing and revealing look at modern Myanmar. Oh, the military are also here, but you won’t have much of a chance to have a look at them.
Visit the Shan Palace–albeit, rather dilapidated–and soak up the atmosphere of mystery and intrigue surrounding the family that still lives there today. Mr. Donald’s uncle was the Prince of Hsipaw. He was arrested and disappeared in 1962. His wife, Austrian Inge Sargent, retells the ordeal in “Twilight over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess.” Well worth a read prior to your visit.
Go in the cooler months of the year from November to February.
The train journey is extremely slow, so it’s best to hire a car from Mandalay or Pyin U Lwin. Expect to pay approx. US$15 or K3000 to hire a vehicle. Ensure that you make the necessary arrangements for the return journey as this is a small town and there will be few private vehicles for hire.
The Shan Palace. No need for addresses. The locals will point you in the right direction.
Mr. Donald, Mr. Charles, Mr. Knowledge, Mr. TV, Mr. Bamboo. The characters of this town will make themselves known to you. Their English is excellent, and it is well worth taking the time to sit and chat.
Take a morning hike with Mr. Charles. This guided tour is approximately 3 hours long and will take you to you to a surrounding villages or scenic spots.
Mr. Charles’s Myat Yatana Rest House is a small and clean family run guesthouse. Rooms are approx. K250/ person. Have a read of the guestbook while you’re there for travelers’ tales and warnings.
- Myat Yatana Rest House
Tel: Hsipaw 105 (Ask the national operator to put you through to the Hsipaw operator and then state the number).
Taste the local cuisine at the Shan noodle shop on the corner of the main road and Lan Madaw. It is only open for breakfast and lunch. Stroll along the main street and peer into the restaurants to see what appeals for dinner.
While this is not on the mainstream tourist map, independent travelers do make the journey to visit the Mr. Donald and hear his story. Talking to other locals you may detect a little resentment of the income that this can generate. Try to spend more than a brief stop here and explore other aspects of this Shan town.
ORCHID ISLAND, OFF THE EAST COAST OF TAIWAN
An impressive landing descends along the volcanic coastline of this tiny island where spear fishermen visible in the azure waters below. Explore the natural beauty and the small Yami aboriginal villages.
October and November
Fly from Taitung
- Formosa Airlines
Tel: (02) 514 9636
- Taiwan Airlines
Tel: (02) 717 6277
Without a doubt, Yenyin Village, on the northeast side of the island, is the most interesting to visit. The traditional underground abodes are built to withstand the many typhoons that batter the area. Some elders still wear the traditional loincloths.
Hike to Lanyu Pond, a tiny lake in mountains on the south of the island. It is quite a strenuous hike.Hire a scooter and circumnavigate the island. Approx. NT$500/ day. Rentals are available from
- Orchid Island Leisure Hotel
Tel: +886 89 732 032
- Lanyu Villa Hotel
Tel: +886 89 732 111
There is a limited selection of hotels but staying with in a family run guesthouse is a great alternative. Stay at the only inn in Yenyin Village. Tel: +886 (0)89 732175.Camping on the beach is allowed.
Both hotels have restaurants but eating a wholesome bowl of noodles from a village restaurant is a fantastic alternative. For drinks try the Jiu Bar in Yujen Village. The Taiwanese surfer dude owner has spent some time in Bali.
This isn’t a large island. Don’t plan to stay too long.
KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK, THAILAND
Nature, wild animals, and a great, uncrowded retreat only a short drive from Bangkok.
The cooler months from November through to February are best for hiking but the rainy season from June to October is the best time to see a lot of animals.
Hire a car from Bangkok.
Any number of rental car agencies can help.
Wildlife! Elephants, gibbons, macaques, hornbills, pigs, birds and more…a tropical, wild zoo!
Hike on the many trails throughout the park. Go it alone or with a tour.
- Wildlife Safari
Tel: +662 44 312922
Stay in a Thai style wooden house at the Jungle Guesthouse. Approx. Bt200/ night including breakfast.
- Jungle Guesthouse
- Tel: +662 44 31 3836
Head to the night market in Pak Chong for a wide range of Thai and Chinese food.
Don’t feed wild animals. It is ultimately cruel.
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