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On The Road

ITIS researcher Taka
Taiwan, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Myanmar Now back to Japan

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Mar 27 1998 from Taipei
Currency Exchange
Cash is more usuful to carry than T/C in Taiwan.
The T/C rate is higher than cash, but the difference is only 0.5%. T/C exchange commission is very high, NT100-200, but most banks don't charge any to exchange cash.
Best place to exchange is the Bank of Taiwan at the International airport which charges only NT10 for each T/C.
It is hard do believe that it is reported that the Bank of Taiwan in town charge NT200 for T/C exchange. I asked at the Bank of Taiwan at the airport, they said all Bank of Taiwan charge only NT10 for each T/C.
I did not confirmed by myself. Sorry.

Mar 17 1998 Postcard no 7 from Bangkok

Baht rate: The Baht is improving $1=41B, 100Yen=31B. 15 March 1998.
Swimming pool in the Khao San Rd. Buddy Beer Bar/Restaurant now has an outdoor swimming pool. Entrance fee: 100B/session.
Several Guest Houses have internet services.
Aircon Micro buses have reduced their fares from 30B down to 20B.
Last Airport bus from the AIRPORT leaves at 24:00. Taxi from airport is 250B.
Reports of student demonstrations in Universities in Jakarta following Suharto's recent appointment of a new cabinet which included Suharto's daughter and one of his golfing buddies.

Security in Laos. Report from a longterm foreign resident in Laos. There was a rape of a tourist N from Vietiane and at the beginning of March 1998 there was a shooting incident in the area between Kashi and Luang Prabang. No further details known at this time.

Mar 3 1998 Postcard no 6 from Pagan, Myanmar
Admission Fee for Bagan historic area is now collected at the entrance of Bagan.(Before, you paid at hotel/hostel).
I heard that ISIC card sometime gives you free entry to sites in Myanmar, but it totally depends on the fee collecters.

Feb 26 1998 Postcard no 5 from Mandalay Myanmar
Golden God Pagoda/Temple in Bago is under repair/covered. It requires a day to get there, $6 and another day to come back from Yangon. Many are disappointed.
Festivals list 1998

Jan 4: Independence Day
Feb 12: Union day
Mar 2: Peasant's day; Mar 12: Tabaung Full Moon
Apr 13-17: Myanmmar new year
May 1: May day; May 10: Kasan full moon
Jun 8: Waso Full Moon
Jul 19: Martyrs' day
Oct 5: Thadingyut full moon
Nov 3: Tazaungmone full moon; Nov 13: National Day
Dec 25: Christmas
Kayinny day is not known.
Official establishments such as embassies, close on these days.

Feb 25 1998 Postcard no 4 from Yangon, Myanmar
Limitations of FEC's
You cannot use FEC at embassies of China, Laos, Vietnam(possible if you ask), etc, to pay for Visas and sometimes you CANNOT pay for international flight tickets with FEC's.
International Flight Prices from Yangon (agency) Bangkok $92 (Biman), $100-$105 (Myanmar Airways), Kunmin $200. Caution: You may not be able to use FEC for international flights.

Feb 24 1998 Postcard no 3 from Yangon, Myanmar
Compulsory Exchange for Biamn passengers: Still not known whether Biman passengers can reduce the amount. I spoke to many other travelers and most managed to reduce the amount they changed by $50-100.
Bus fares: Prices listed in yellow letters: you can buy ticket at USA Cafe behind (west from)MTT.for the same price.
Yangon-Mandalay: Leo Exp. 1800k inc. 3 meals; Kyaw Exp. 1600k no meals
Yangon-Inle lake: Shwe Kanbawza 1600;Eastern Exp. 1500
Yangon-Pagan; Pagan Exp. 1500k
You can buy tickets for all destinations at MTT for $10.

Feb 23 1998 Postcard no 2 from Yangon, Myanmar
Shwedagon Pagoda $5 entrance fee. A morning buses are runnning to Shwedagon Pagoda from N of Anawrahta Rd on Shwedagon Pagoda Rd. (10K). The pagoda is open before sun rise. You can enter for free because the fee collectors come at 7:00.
Mail from Myanmar
mail prices have increased by about 6x since last year. It's now possible to send parcels abroad by air. Very cheap but with certain restrictions. Each person can send up to 10kg, one parcel/month. Each country has fixed 'sending days'
Japan: M-F,USA,UK, Australia:Tu,Th.
Many Israelis are sending a lot of stuff home by mail so I think that it is reliable.
Rates: Postcards 26k same to every country.
Airmail- 1kilo Japan: 535k, (+35k per extra kilo)
USA: 560k +75k/kilo, UK 555k +50k/kilo,
Australia: 530k+ 45k/kilo

Feb 18 1998 snail mail no 1 from Yangon, Myanmar

A Lot of change since last year. -
Compulsory exchange of foreign currency to FEC's
Because of a fence & a gate behind the immigration, you cannot go through without changing money anymore. However you may be able to negotiate over the amount which is supposed to be $300. In my case it was easy to reduce to $100, by saying that I was only staying 1 week in Myanmar. However there is a report that no Biman passangers could negotiate at all for 3 weeks. I do not know the reason why.
You can use FEC's for accommodation, transport, etc, cash and FEC is same value in these cases. For food you will mainly need kyat, local currency.
The market rate of exchange 1 FEC/US$=245k, but in black market US$1=270k 1 FEC=240k

Q: Can you change FEC to $ cash
In Yangon you can do it with 10-15% commission If you have too much FEC,try to ask travelers who are paying for room by US$ cash. Not difficult to find. Just ask around.
Q: Can You change Kyat to FEC or US$ cash
it is possible at only one of the certificated public exchanges in Yangon.
To US$cash: can only change on the black market. Maybe lose more than 15% in value.

Compared to ones at 97 research, accommodation in Yangon is 25% cheaper. Bargaining is also possible but then breakfast not included. There are a few GHs with dormitory which cost $3/p.

Feb 17th 1997 email No 14 from Bangkok
Currency rates: Thai US$1=47B, Myanmar 250kyat, Laos 2500kip, After observing the exchange issue in Khaosan for a week, I finally came to the conclusion that although exchange rates vary between counters, it's because at the moment the rate is changing several times daily. Just walk around and compare, commission is standard. The banks seem to be the best option.

Feb 15th email No 13 from Bangkok
Flight price changes Today All airlines changed airfares Between Bangkok and Nepal. The return flight increased by $80 1year open: 14225B. The exact fare for Thai Airways is not known yet. It will come out this evening. But the travel agent said the fare will be similar to Royal Nepal
Internet Cafe with Japanese service I found one internet cafe we can access to Japanese sites. No name or address at the moment but directions are: Go the E end of Khaosan Rd, and walk N towards Post office. The internet cafe is on the right side(E side of the street) Open 12:00-24:00 Internet Access 3 B/min(10 min minimum)
Virus Warning Be careful of mail announcing 'win a holiday' or 'returned mail'.

Feb 15 1997 Questions for Taka from Bruce
Feb 16 1997 Answers from Taka to Bruce
Hope you got my earlier note on Korea. Enjoyed looking at your website. Will you be having a page on Korea? I see that Taka is in Bangkok. As I mentioned, I am heading to the Philippines, Bangkok, Cambodia, Vietnam
and Laos for two months, starting Feb 26th.
? Question No 1: I am scheduled to fly from Bangkok to Siem Reap (Angkok Wat)on March 9th (monday) on Bangkok Air's new direct Bangkok to Siem Reap flight #PG930. Someone said that the flight is no longer daily and
doesn't go on Mondays.
Is this true?
? Question No 2: I know that you can get a Cambodian visa on arrival at Phenom Penh, can you also get one upon arrival at Siem Reap? With the new direct flight, I hope I can, since I will be in Bangkok only one day, a Sunday!
Question No 3: I plan to fly from Hanoi to Vientiane, Laos. They say they are issuing visas at the airport on arrival in Vientiane, but do they still require hotel booking confirmation? I hope Taka can find out for me, I'm sure there are other travellers who want to know also. I will try to send you some Info while I'm there if you want!
Thanks, Bruce
Reply from Taka
Hi Bruce
About Bangkok Air's flight Bangkok-Siem Reap: They still fly daily to Siem Reap. You can get visa on arrival(confirmed by Bangkok air & Cambodia authority)
About Laos Visa: You can get visa on arrival. You don't need any pre-arrangement for hotels or tours.
But you can get Laos 30 day visa in BKK, about 1200B or through an agent 1600B overnight. The Visa issued at the airport is valid for 15 days. Good luck and have a nice trip. Taka

Feb 13 1998 e-1-mail no 12 from Bangkok
Happy Valentine's Day
Overland between Thai/Cambodia possible
Thai/Cambodia border crossing on S Coast Route Khlong Yai-Koh Kong Island, will be open officially to foreigners from March 4th.(We are very soory. This infomation is not correct. It is confirmed that the border via Ko Kong is closed, but the Poi pot route near Ankor Wat is open. Apr 2, 98)
Visa Information Cambodia 1 month visa, $20, 3 photos, issued following working day. Laos visitors visa (1 month)1800, Japanese-1200B, British/Australian/New Zealanders-1050, USA-1180,issued following working day. The Lao Embassy is quite far and not on a bus route - we recommend you use an agent. Myanmar 4 week visa 300B, 3 photos, issued same day. India 6 month multi-visa 1950B, US citizens 3100B, 2 photos, issued in 5 days,
Vietnam 30 day visa, 800B, 2 photos, letter of invitation required so Agents are the normal option.
Travel Agency Visa prices at Charlie Connection, Khao San Rd: Cambodia 1600B, Laos 15days 1150B, VV 1month-1600-2050B depending on nationality, Myanmar 4-500B,following day India 2200B (US citizens 3350B) Vietnam 2199B,
Buffet lunch near the Khao San Rd. Viengtai Hotel 42 Tanee Rd, Banglampu, Breakfast buffet 130B 6:30-9:30, Lunch buffet 150B M-Th 11:30-14:00. Wide selection.Highly Rec. Comfortable A/C environment, live Thai music. Can enjoy the environment and just order coffee 25B.
Architecturally interesting Guest House With brick/wooden interior the hall has 3 floor high ceiling: Gypsy 55-55/1 Phra Sumen Rd, Banglamphu T281 1809 100m West from New World dept. Store (Closed) Shared bath single room 110B, double 180B, Very Clean, restaurant overlooks the river. and laundry service.

Feb 12 1998 email no 11 from Bangkok
Currency rates Thai Baht is rising rapidly in value $1=44B, In the Khao San area rates vary between banks. I think there are 2 reasons for this 1) The Baht value is changing very much within a day, 2) Some places are trying to make extra commission. Anyway travelers should shop around.
National Theater is closed for renovation.
Tourist Office has moved to 4 Ratchadamnoen Nok, just S from the Ratchadamnoen boxing stadium. Tel. 281-0422, Has another branch in Le Concorde Bldg. 10F 202 Ratchadaphisek Rd Tel. 694-1222 Both are open 8:30-16:30
Wat Suthat is now open. It is a beautful temple. The outer corridor houses about 160 Buddha statues. Inside the main temple there is a 15m high Golden Buddha. The walls and columns are covered with old paintings.

Feb 10 1998 e-1-mail no 10 from Bangkok
Weather: hot
currency rate: $1=47.45B
Korean Restaurant & Hostel
(40B/p/night) Backpackers Meeting Place, in the alley S from the Khao San Rd, is planning to set up an Internet Cafe for Koreans & Japanese.
Mail charges Small postcards to abroad now cost 12B.
Crime Report A European woman was attacked (for money) and injured in Koh Phi Phi. A Thai was arrested.

Feb 9th 1998 e-1-mail no 9 from Bangkok
e-1-mail service There are now 3 internet access points in the Khao San area. Hello on the Khao San Rd is the cheapest. It is now offering a free e-1-mail checking service. To use internet and send mail costs 2.5B/min. Minimum 15B.
Good Places for breakfast in the Khao san Road area.
Sawasdi GH. Khao San Rd, Opens 10:00 Breakfast 90B, only instant coffee but the pleasant morning breeze in the village style, courtyard restaurant is very comfortable, you can forget you're in the Kaosan.
Airfares from Bangkok (info from: Charlie Connection Khaosan Rd,e-1-mail: charliekaosan@hotmail.com) All prices in Baht unless specified.
Rangoon: 2135x2 Biman,
Calcutta via Rangoon-Dhaka OW4515/Rt8925 stopover$50 each Biman,
Kathmandu: OW4935/Rt9765 (30 days only)Royal Nepal, 5585/10745 Biman,
Saigon overland Hanoi-BKK 7455,
Phnom Penh Rt5500 Royal Cambodge,
Jakarta overland Denpassar-BKK 10705,
Tokyo: OW5550/RT10950 AI; via Singapore OW5145Rt9135, Stopover plus $50 Biman; via Hong Kong & Taipei OW8400 CI,
LA: via Tokyo and/or Seoul OW14750Rt27450 Korean,
London: OW9135/Rt18060 PI or Biman,
Vienna OW12075 Olympic,
Europe OW via Dhaka, Calcutta overland Mumbai 12240, stopovers $50 Biman,
!Warning flight prices are changing every 15 days or so.
Transport from the airport: There is a wonderful bus route from the airport. I took it this time - No 10 A/c (16B) to just N from Banlamphu, then change to No 30 or 64 RED bus (3B). Looks like the same route as the airport bus.

Feb 8th 1998 e-1-mail no 8 from Bangkok
Transport from the airport An old man controlling traffic in front of Bangkok airport bus stop is telling all Japanese that only blue bus #59 goes to the Kaosan Rd area. He won't let us get on the red #59. I think it's because he wants us to take the much more expensive Airport bus.
Internet at Hello on the Khaosan Road - 3 Baht/minute.

Feb 7th 1998 e-1-mail no 7 from Hong Kong
watch out for "you are lucky" Many Indians around TST come up to you saying "You are lucky" they then press a flower or seal on you and ask for a donation.
Hardly any travelers in HK. I think it's because of concern about the Chicken virus. GH's are really suffering. However travelers can get really good deals at hotels. Single room cost from HK$100, doubles from HK$150.

Feb 5th 1998 e-1-mail no 6 from Hong Kong
Weather: Hong Kong is cold and rainy, not much different to last year. Hostel Prices: All hostels are charging the same price for dorms as last year but the room price is dropping due to the lack of tourists. I can feel that there are less than last year. I'm paying $65 for a double, decent-sized room, no bathroom but it has a TV. It's possible to bargain, they may drop the price a lot. Internet cafes Now there are 2 + a Free service at ABCnet internet promotors at Golden Computer Center,MTR Sham Shui Po, however it costs US$3 for transport.

Feb 3 1998 e-1-mail no 5 - Tai Pei
Last report from Taiwan
Transport Good bus and train services run between major cities. Train: There are several different types ranging through express to slow and local trains. The express service is more expensive than bus. It's not possible to break journey, you must give up your ticket when you leave the station.
Buses: are cheap and fast unless caught in traffic. There are government and private buses. Private buses are cheaper and have a video.
Prices: from Tai Pei to Kaohsiung (Takao),
Train NT350-370, Bus NT450-500 The train is scenic, bus is faster.

Feb 2 1998 e-1-mail no 4 - Genshun, Taiwan
The weather in the south is completely different from the north, much warmer. I like it here. There are many cafes here. I found one where the waitresses are trainee models, at least they told me so. I took a video of them. Internet seems to be available in most cities.

Feb 2 1998 e-1-mail no 3 - Taipei, Taiwan
Cheap accommodation in Taipei
There are a few budget options in Taiwan. One of the best is Happy Family II Guest House. They have two GHs But Happy Family I is small and is mainly full of long-term guests so HF II is the best one to try.
Prices in NT. dorm. 250/p. single 400+, double 550+, Facilities: kitchen, S-TV, washing machine, fridge, relaxing lounges & hot water. Basic cleanliness.tel: 5633341 Address: Chungshan N rd. 1-12-5 but don't try to find it from the address, instead from the North gate of the train station, walk North and cross the busy road, then walk E about 150m this will bring you to Chungshan N Rd, but don't go that far, stop 30m before,and it's 2 buildings before Chungshan N road.
It is very difficult to find at night, phone and ask for directions.
Another good option is Taipei Hostel.Western youth hostel style. Prices: dorm 200, single 400, double 450 Facilities: S-TV, Lounge, kitchen fridge, washing mashine(NT30). Very clean. Address: Off No 11 lane, 5 Lin Shen N Rd. T3952950 10-15 min walk E from station. From the tower walk to E, at 3rd street turn left and turn right down the 1st small alley. the hostel is at the end, on the left side.
Good luck and enjoy your stay
PS during Jan Feb, Taiwan gets very cold. Bring some warm clothes. Pack some mosquito repellant as well.

Feb 1 1998, email no 2 - Taipei, Taiwan
Internet in Taipei
Internet is booming in Taipei. Currently a fair is going on at Taipei train station.There are about 30 terminals, NO CHARGE. Can use from 10-17:00, maybe later from the 2nd Feb. Don't know when the fair finishes.
Another place is TT. Station computer center, South from the train station in the basement. This is more comfortable - you get to sit on a chair.Also free.
The problem is that since it is free,people use the terminals for a long time. You have to wait. It's best to go there at 9:50 and wait at one of the terminals. Make sure the terminal has a mouse and no notice on the screen (it means that something is wrong)
For those who like to pay there is an internet cafe that charges NT100/h + NT100/drink. I don't know the address in English, tel. 314-3535. From TT Station walk West, turn left after the tallest tower and then immediately right, continue 2 blocks and the cafe is on the right.

Jan 30 1998 e-1-mail no 1 - Taipei,Taiwan

New Years holiday in Taiwan lasts until Sunday 1st Feb. Taipei doesn't seem to be in a holiday mood - every where is very quiet, all shops and businesses are closed. The only travel information open is the one at the airport, get all your info when you arrive.

Taiwan's biggest festival is happening soon - Feb 11 is the start of the Lantern festival - 3 days of events including lantern processions. In Taipei a huge paper tiger lantern parades on the street. Lantern displays crowd the streets.
Taiwan gets colder than you think
Taiwan is really cold during Jan & Feb. Temperatures sink to about 5 degrees centigrade during the night. Take a thick warm jacket or coat.
I will report more later.

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