Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Tour From Bangkok

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

One of the most iconic images of tourism in Thailand is that of the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market near Bangkok. There, the boat vendors sell fresh farm produce and serve delectable Thai food cooked fresh in a boat right in front of you. A visitor to the market gets a glimpse in to the lives of ordinary people of a bygone era. Despite being touristy, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is still one of the major attractions of Bangkok. Yet, my guess is that many of the visitors who come to Thailand on their own (i.e. without taking any package from a travel agent) do not visit this attraction. There is a reason. Though this floating market is said to be near Bangkok, it is not easy go there on your own. Let us read the directions to get there: "Take Rama 2 Road (Highway No. 35 until reaching 63km and take an overpass to the right reaching to Highway No.325. Go further for 12 kilometers, the market entrance will be on the left before reaching Thanarat Bridge". These directions are given by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and if they were trying to scare tourists away from this attraction, they could not have done a better job. A "private sector" tourist website says that the best way to visit Damnoen Saduak is by joining a tour. They are right. Keep reading...

Official Information on Bangkok Skytrain & MRT Routes, Stations, and Area Maps

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bangkok's BTS Skytrain system is a boon for tourists. Many of Bangkok's best tourist attractions, shopping malls, and the best areas where tourists like to stay are connected by BTS Skytrains. Another supplemental system is the underground MRT or Metro system. MRT is not so commonly used by tourists but this system does have direct connectivity to Chinatown via Hua Lamphong MRT Station which the Skytrain system does not have. BTS on the other hand is connected to Bangkok's riverside attractions via its Saphan Taksin station. There are places where points of inter-change between the two systems are available. For example, the Asoke Station of Skytrain and the Sukhumwit Station of MRT are adjacent to each other. This makes the Nana / Asoke area of Sukhumwit one of the best places to stay for a tourist in Bangkok. Chatuchak Park MRT Station is very close to Mochit BTS Station, and similarly, one can easily walk from Sala Daeng BTS Station to Silom MRT Station. Keep reading for more...

Thailand ATM Dynamic Currency Conversion Scam

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tourists hate getting scammed. I used to think that paying a fee of 200 THB each time for making an ATM withdrawal in Thailand was a scam. Of course, this fee was over and above the currency conversion charge and ATM withdrawal fee charged by my own bank. If I withdrew 10,000 THB from an ATM in Thailand, I paid 200 THB fee to the Thai Bank. The Thai bank would not report this extra 200 THB charge as a fee but as a withdrawal. So, to my bank in India, my ATM withdrawal was reported as 10,200 THB. My bank then charged its own "international ATM withdrawal fee", that was like 2.50 USD or something, roughly equal to 85 THB. On top of that there was a currency conversion charge of 3.50%, so another 357 THB. To sum it up, out of the 10,000 THB I withdrew, I actually got 9358 THB (10,000 - 642) in my hand. In percentage terms, 642 of 9358 is 6.46%. And this was the fee component alone. The actual amount of money that got debited to my account in India would be calculated in terms of a so-called "retail exchange rate" that was my bank's way of saying, "Yes, I am robbing you and you can't do anything about it". As if that was not enough, I recently learned of a new ATM scam going on in Thailand and its called "Dynamic Currency Conversion". Keep reading...

'Rabbit Card' For Easy Travel on Bangkok BTS Skytrain

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Many tourists in Singapore or Hong Kong, when they have to travel by a train or bus, use stored value cards - EZ-Link in Singapore and Octopus in Hong Kong. In Bangkok too, a similar stored value card - called 'Rabbit' is available that can be used for travel on BTS Skytrain system. But for some reason I do not see many tourists in Bangkok buying this card when in fact more than half the tourists who visit Thailand are likely to return to the country within the next few years. A Rabbit Card is valid for a period of five years from the date of purchase and the value stored on it is valid for two years from the date of the last top-up transaction. If another top-up is done within the validity of the card, the earlier stored value also continues to be available. Even better, the card is not issued by name*, that means it is valid in the hands of the person carrying it (*Standard Rabbit - without deposit fee). So, you may give the card to another member of your family or a friend who is visiting Thailand after you. Standard Rabbit is all that a tourist needs to buy. The initial price is 200 THB that includes a stored value of 100 THB while the other 100 THB is the card issuance fee (80 THB up to March 31, 2017). Just know that each individual will need to have a separate Rabbit Card for travel on BTS Skytrain. Keep reading for more...

Also read: Bangkok BTS Skytrain & MRT Route Maps, Stations, Area Maps

Uzbekistan Visa Requirements For Tourists, Visa Fee, Application Form, and Procedure

Monday, March 6, 2017

Tourists from most (not all) countries require a prior visa to visit Uzbekistan. Simply put, the countries of the world are segregated in three categories - (i) countries with whom Uzbekistan has a bilateral non-visa arrangement, (ii) countries for whom a simplified visa process is established, and (iii) all other countries. The bilateral non-visa arrangement is the easiest and applies to the citizens of Kyrgyzstan (up to 60 days), Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. The countries eligible for simplified procedure are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, Thailand, Spain, Switzerland, and United Kingdom. According to the official government website of Uzbekistan, "Tourists of these countries can get multiple entry visas up to 1 month and businessmen — up to 1 year (Malaysia — up to 6 months). Moreover, tourist voucher or invitation of physical or juridical person in Uzbekistan is not required to submit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Visas shall be issued within 2 working days, excluding the day of document’s acceptance". The key language in the above statement is: "tourist voucher or invitation of physical or juridical person in Uzbekistan is not required". So what about the "all other countries"? Read on...

Passenger's Customs Declaration Form While Arriving Into Uzbekistan, Duty Free Allowance, Currency Limits, Prohibited Goods, etc. - Details And Helpful Tips

Friday, March 3, 2017

Passenger's Customs Declaration is an important document that all tourists visiting Uzbekistan must know about. You will get two copies of this declaration in your flight to Uzbekistan. Fill up both copies. The Customs officer at Tashkent International Airport will keep one copy and returned the other copy to you after signing it. Do keep the signed copy with you carefully because at the time of leaving Uzbekistan, you will be asked to produce the signed copy. All passengers arriving in to or leaving Uzbekistan have to go through a Customs officer. Customs check including x-ray of the bags is done 100% without any exception. While leaving the country, again two copies of the same declaration have to be filled up. In the flight going to Tashkent, I got the forms in English but while leaving, the only forms available at Tashkent International Airport were printed in Russian. I filled that Russian form in English and that was accepted by the Customs officer. There is more to know...

'Afrosiyob' High Speed Trains From Tashkent To Samarkand To Bukhara, Fares, e-Tickets, and Schedule

Friday, February 24, 2017

The trains are called "Afrosiyob" which is also the name of "the ruined site of the ancient and medieval city of Samarkand". The words 'Afrasiyob' and 'Afrosiyob' have the same meaning. According to Wikipedia, this site was occupied between 500 BC and 1220 AD and currently it is a "hilly grass mound near the Bibi Khanum Mosque" in the city of Samarkand. Let's come back to the train. I visited Uzbekistan in January 2017 and at that time there were two high speed train services between Tashkent and Samarkand and one of the two trains continued the journey past Samarkand to Bukhara. Just know that these are not "Bullet" trains as falsely claimed by some travel agents but just high speed trains (supplied by Talgo, Spain) that can go up to a maximum speed of 220 km/h. In this page I will give information relating to the schedule (timetable), fares, and where to book etickets for these trains. Keep reading...

Over-pricing and Over-charging Scam In a Bar at Tashkent International Airport

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My first trip to Uzbekistan was not so good. For one, the country is not so much fun. Second, my travel agent - McTrip Holidays Delhi, turned out to be a fraud and the trip that otherwise could have been a lot better, turned out to be a bad experience. I have written a separate article on this 'Tashkent Tour From Delhi Fraud'. Anyway, another experience during this trip managed to register in my memory. While leaving Uzbekistan, our group somehow completed the flight check-in at Tashkent International Airport, then survived the departure Customs formality, and landed in the transit area where the wait time was over an hour. There was a lone airport lounge in the transit area but when I went inside that, I did not find any staff there and there was no sign that my Priority Pass card would be accepted. I came out and joined some of the other members of our tour group at perhaps the only bar/restaurant available. There I saw this scam in progress...

Cheapest Shopping For Nuts and Dried Fruits in Tashkent and Samarkand

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mamra Almonds (soft shell) with or without shell, and shelled walnuts are perhaps the two types of nuts that most tourist purchase during their holiday in Uzbekistan. The shops stock dried apricots, raisins, and flavoured almonds too and some tourists buy those. Almonds and walnuts in Uzbekistan are not only cheap but of top quality too. I am not an expert on the quality of nuts but here is what I know. The better quality and more expensive almonds in Uzbekistan have darker colour shells and there are no tiny holes in the shells. There will be a gap in the shell on one side and you will easily be able to crack open the shell just with your thumbnail of one hand while holding the almond in the other hand. The bigger sized almonds will cost more but that will not make any difference to the quality. The nuts will have a good sweet taste and no unpleasant smell. I have given below a picture of the almonds that I bought in Tashkent. Keep reading for tips on the best prices...


 

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I left my day job in October 2013 and became a full time blogger. I love travel and hence a travel blog was the obvious place to start from. The result is desiyatri.com. I currently live in Bengaluru, India. - Narinder Singh.

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