BRUNEI

“The penalty for possession or trafficking in drugs in Brunei is death, welcome to Brunei.”

That announcement from our pilot as we landed in Brunei was also enforced by the same message on our Immigration forms.  

Brunei is a small country, tucked into the edge of Borneo.  For many years it had the highest per capita income in the world due to its oil and gas production. 

A bus runs from the airport to downtown.  We stayed in a small local guesthouse that was clean and a great location.  The young gal at reception was so pleasant and always willing to answer our endless questions. 

Coming from Bali, our first impression was how calm and quiet this place was.  No traffic, no horns, very few motorbikes.  Locals were so proud of the calm and quiet and often make a point of pointing it out to us.  

This is a place where things close early.  Cafes were not open after 8 pm.  I was travelling with someone who is a smoker.  She went to buy cigarettes and was told they did not sell them. She asked where she could buy some – and was told “Malaysia”.  I was pretty sure being with a smoker who was forced to quit would not be a ton of fun.  We took a water taxi to a stilt village just to see what it was like.  I saw some young men fishing – and smoking – so had the boat driver go and ask them where they got the cigarettes – and they were able to direct us to a black market supplier on the island.  We later heard that island was the centre for “unavailable” items (liquor).  There is no liquor, no tobacco, and no dogs.  Our reception gal told us the form of Islam practised there forbids touching dogs.  

There was a huge mosque and decide to go and see it lit up.  It was not open to visitors in the evening, but we were able to don abayas the next morning to see the inside.  There was a sign saying “no photos” but as we were leaving one of the men told us we were welcome to go back in to take some photos.  

People were pleasant, polite and helpful.  On our flight in there were a number of men with very Indian features but black skin.  We later learned they were from Bangladesh.  We were also told there was a motion in Parliament to ban workers from India.  The gal at our guest house said they “ lacked moral standards” and were often involved in crime.  We met endless workers from the Philippines who all were so happy working living and working there. 

We decided to do a half day tour offered from our guesthouse.  First stop was the home of the Shah – very large and fancy.  The guards were more than willing to pose for photos.  More impressive than his home was the equestrian area he owned.  There were 3 polo fields and we spoke to the young vet who was watching some of the polo ponies being exercised.  He pointed to a large stable are and told us it was for retired horses.  

We also got to tour a very large and classy hotel complex.  It was outstanding for the number of guests it did not have.    We asked our driver to drop us off at the night market as they are usually great places to eat and people watch.  He was reluctant to leave us, but we convinced him we would be fine.  After eating our way from one end of the market to the other we decided to take a local bus home.  A bus stop was easily found, but no bus came.  Finally someone told us there were no busses after 5 pm.  We walked to a nearby mall and had someone call an Uber for us – not a problem. 

I wanted to see the Billion Barrel Monument – needless to say it was erected to celebrate the billionth barrel of oil pumped in the country.  I was erected in 1991 on the site of the first well, a couple of hours down the coast.  Most locals do not know it exists.  We paid $2 for the local bus and had a great ride.  A woman at the bus terminal convinced another bus driver to drop us off at the road leading to the monument.  It was lovely and right on the sea.  We decided we would walk the beach back to town.  Lovely soft sand but the water appeared to be dirty.  As everywhere the beach was littered with plastic. 

Our plan was to take the bus from Brunei to Kota Kinabalu.  It was a memorable trip – for a very unique reason.  It was the only time in my travels I have got 8 stamps in my passport in one day.  First stamp, Brunei exit, then entry to Malaysia, exit Malaysia, enter Brunei, exit Brunei, enter Malaysia  and an exit stamp for one province and an entry to another province – both within Malaysia. It was a long day of endless palm oil plantations.

We were stopping in Kota to break up the trip to Sandakan.  While in Kota we found we could fly to Sandakan for less money than the bus would cost – so we made a very easy change in our plans.  

BALI – ISLAND OF THE GODS

BALI  –  ISLAND OF THE GODS

In 1984 we lived in Jakarta, Indonesia for a year.  We never got to Bali and that has always been a regret of mine.  Last year I had planned to visit there after Myanmar.  My flight from Myanmar went via Bangkok, and when I landed in Bangkok, I had a message from my daughter to say she needed me to come home.  Third time is the charm! This year I finally got to do my trip to Bali.

I arrived Dec. 11th via Shanghai.  I had read the best procedure for getting a SIM card and having them put the number in my Grab application.  A $15 card gave me more than enough data etc for a month. Grab is the Indonesian version of Uber.  They also have Gojek and both have the option of a motorbike ride. 

A young man was waiting for me as I arrived at a little local guesthouse I had chosen in Jimbaran.  

Jimbaran is a very local area, not many tourists, but a great beach, that has tables and chairs set up right up almost to the water line – my kind of place.  

This trip was going to be different for me as I usually travel solo, and this time various people from our travel meet up group in Vancouver would be joining me for parts of the trip.  My friend from Switzerland arrived and we spent a few days exploring some of the sights.  When we went to Uluwatu Temple as we were buying our tickets I was told to take my glasses off as the monkeys would steal them.  I need them to see!!!  The monkeys  were so aggressive.  We saw them steal endless cell phone, sunglasses, hats, and we saw one girl wearing big gold hoop earrings have one ripped out of her ear.  Not fun.

We decided to go to Nusa Penida.  I wanted to see it, and I was so happy I went with Jaime.  The only way to see the island is on a scooter.  Roads are terrible so it was nice to just have to sit on the back and hold on.  We stayed in a very cute thatch hut resort with only 3 units.  The island is all very rutted winding roads going straight up and straight down.  Beautiful beaches are all at the bottom of steep cliffs – not easy to get to, and even more difficult to get back from. 

Back to Jimbaran for a few days with my first guest from Vancouver.  We then met my Swiss friend at the airport as we picked up another person from Vancouver as we shared a vehicle to Ubud.   Transport in Bali was a challenge.  I had read about the Hop On Hop Off bus service called Kura Kura.  I was expecting to use that – but it was almost impossible to find a bus, and everyone said they were totally unreliable.  There is little public transport so tourists must rely on Uber, taxis or shared rides.  This is fine unless you are a solo travel – then travel would be difficult and expensive.  Uber can drop people in Ubud, but not pick up there.  Ubud has a local taxi mafia that is a total rip off.  

Accommodation is reasonably priced and places we stayed were clean and affordable, usually including breakfast.  I found meals quite expensive.  Any meal with water or juice would cost at least $10.  There was not a great variety in the menus. Beer was affordable, but I do not drink beer.  Wine was terrible and far beyond my budget. 

In Ubud you could rent a car and driver for a day for $40 and plan your own tour.  Joining an organized tour for a day was usually $20 plus entrance fees for 10 hours. 

We did go to some dance performances that were inexpensive and very well done. 

Back to Kuta for people to leave and arrive.  I had booked a place on booking.com but their entire description as to location etc was not correct.  I was fortunate booking.com gave me a credit after the owner refused a refund.  It worked out well as we found a great budget hotel called Grandmas.  Outstanding in every way – and $22 a night – who could ask for anything more. 

Once again we went back to Ubud as the new arrivals wanted to see it.  New Years Eve was fun, but there was no countdown.  Fireworks stared at 11 and went non stop until 2 am.  

There were not a lot of “attractions” in Ubud, but walking was always interesting.  We did do a one day snorkelling tour.  

My return ticket was cancelled due to the Corvid 19 outbreak.  It was a bit of a challenge to buy another one, but for lots of money I was able to get one via Taipei. 

I enjoyed Bali.  I had expected it to be more like Thailand than it was. I always felt very safe.  I finally got to my dream destination, but, like most places, for me, it would be a once in a lifetime visit. 

EXPLORING BAGAN ALONE

Before going on a tour I wanted to do some exploring on my own.  I asked at my hotel where I could catch a local bus – they really thought I should call a taxi.  

The first pic is the type of “bus” I caught – but the one I was in was much older and had a bigger load, and more people. I started off in the back, but as the load increased the driver moved me to the front.  He had to get some betel leaf/nut to chew before we left.  I was going 6 km and it took almost 2 hours as we often loaded and unloaded. I wanted to see the river so I got off and walked around that area.  When I went to come home I caught the red motorbike/bus.  Once again I got special treatment – I got to sit on that seat up front by the driver.

Everywhere we drove I saw Pagodas – I can not wait for my tour tomorrow. 

At lunch time I saw a local cafe that was busy. Guys were playing a game outside.  They would shake some small shells into a bowl, then move bottle caps along  a board.  

The cafe sold individual cigarettes and they were in little stands to go on the tables. The tables had lighters, and the napkins were a roll.   A young gal was in charge of the cig $$$ and no one else could touch her basket of cash.  Obviously, not may tourists eat there.  She spoke good English and rushed right over to get me a menu that had nothing in English. I asked for fried rice.  She served it, and I got free pink jello??? for dessert.  It was a good day in Bagan!

WHEN IS A WAT A WAT – OR WHAT?

When I moved into my little bungalow in Chiang Mai I noticed there was a Wat at the end of the block. This is not unusual. I walked past it every day and after a couple of weeks I decided to stop one day and check it out.

It was unlike any Wat I have ever been to – no Buddhas, no monks… There was an older building at the back of the complex, and two new, elaborate buildings that certainly looked like temples. There were also a number of spacious empty open-air buildings. Closer examination made me realize the old building at the back was a crematorium, as were both of the buildings at the front.

One day as I was walking home it was obvious there were going to be a couple of funerals. Both front buildings were decorated with wide ribbon. The empty buildings were full of covered chairs all lined up. Both buildings had countless fresh flower wreaths.

I went home to get my camera in hopes of getting a few photos. There were not a lot of people around and I tried to be as discrete as possible. An older man saw me and told me it was fine for me to come and take photos. He even took me up to see the cremation ovens.

As he was explaining to me some of the traditions, several truck loads of flower wreaths arrived. Several songtaews of monks also arrived. Guests also were arriving. Women all dressed in black, men in black suits with white shirts, and ties.

The man explained to me that even having ashes stored at a Wat now is outrageously expensive. I have seen Wats in Bangkok with hundreds of containers of ashes, with a photo of the deceased. Now ashes of the deceased are thrown in the river, unless you are wealthy and can afford to have yours stored at a Wat.

The coffins both arrived, covered in flowers, in the back of trucks with loudspeaker systems. The man explained the family would consider it an honor that I wanted to take photos. I certainly knew I did not have to leave, but I did not want to invade their privacy at such a sad time.

CHIANG RAI IN 2 DAYS

Chiang Rai is a smaller city just 3 hours from Chiang Mai by bus. It has some amazing sights so Troy and I did some strategic planning in order to see what we wanted in two days.

We caught a morning bus from here and arrived before noon. We dropped our luggage at the guesthouse and went straight back to the bus terminal to catch a local bus to the White Temple. This temple is right out of a fairy tale. It is blinding white with mirror inlays and lots of strange symbolism. As you go to enter the main temple there is a pond with hands sticking up out of it – and one fingernail, on one hand, is painted red. When I visited 3 years ago it was free, now it costs $1 to enter the main temple. People buy small metal discs, sign their name, and hang them in designated places – there are thousands upon thousands of them.

I could not believe the expansion in three years. During my first visit there was only one building that was gold. It was very ornate – it was the toilets. Certainly the fanciest I had seen anywhere in the world. Now there is another gold building. It is the new gallery that displays lots of the artist’s work.

That evening we walked to the big roundabout in the centre of town. In the middle of it is a very large, very ornate, gold clock. Three times every evening there is a light show during which they project different coloured lights onto the clock. We had some dinner and an early night as the next day would be action packed.

Up early and back to the bus terminal for a local bus to the Black House – often referred to as the Black Temple, but there is no temple. It is a large, well-maintained complex. Most buildings are full of ornate tables and chairs. Table covers are made from animal and reptile skins and pelts. There are penis carvings everywhere throughout the complex – no idea what that was all about.


Due to our time restraints, we called a Grab car (Thailand’s version of Uber) to take us to the aptly named Blue Temple. I loved this place. As usual, it was over the top ornate. Such a great place to take photos.

A quick tuktuk ride took us back into Chiang Rai so we could go on the free trolley city tour. I had also done this during my last visit, but they had made many changes since I was here. The first stop was a display of the former royal carriages. I would have loved to ride in any one of them! Of course, we stopped at several Wats. One had an exact replica of the famous Emerald Buddha from the Royal Palace in Bangkok. Photos are not allowed there. We were thrilled to be able to take some photos and we were proud to be told it was made of jade from Canada.

Our day ended with our bus trip back to Chiang Mai. It had been a busy couple of days, full of wonderous sights.

THAI VILLAGE WEDDING

The organizer of a travel meet up that I have attended for several years was getting married to a Thai gal in her small village.  We were invited. I had not planned to return to Thailand this year, but that was an opportunity I did not want to miss.

I flew to Bangkok directly from Vancouver for the first (and last time).  It was a 13-hour flight to Shanghai, then a race to be fingerprinted, clear immigration and security (even for a connecting flight) and get back on a plane for another 5 hours. 

Once we arrived at the bride’s house the groom was required to pay for us to enter each of the three doors.  We were then in the room where the ceremony would take place.  The bride was ushered in.  She was wearing a beautiful sari.  The wedding party (including our group) had rented attire from a shop in Bangkok.  There were many cute little traditions.  At one point a circle of string was placed on each of their heads, and the strings were joined.  That is also a tradition in Greek weddings, and the groom is of Greek heritage.  They exchanged rings and then each wedding guest tied a piece of string on the bride’s wrist, then the groom’s.  Local people had tied money into the strings.  They will wear the strings for a week. 

There was a break so everyone could rest before the reception.  Gals appeared to redo the hair and makeup of the Thai girls in the wedding party.  They certainly made us Canadians look pretty scruffy!

The reception that evening was held in the school, and once again the entire village was invited.  Tables were set and endless trays of delicious food kept coming, as did the Thai whiskey.  Entertainment started with a female Thai dancer doing a traditional dance.  Singers followed and then the parents and the bride and groom were ushered onto the stage.  The family dog thought he should be included – so he just walked up onto the stage and into the middle of everything.  The bride was wearing a traditional Western wedding dress for the reception.  

After the speeches, the bride and groom went to each table to greet their guests and have photos taken.  Music played and some people danced.   We had a good looking young man with us and it was so much fun to watch the Thai girls try to get up the courage to ask to have photos with him.  There was a lot of giggling involved.  I can only imagine how proud he will be to show his friends at university those pics.

Bt 10:30  everyone was tired.  The village does not have any hotels so the girls slept on the floor at the bride’s home, and the guys were next door at the neighbours.  It was another early morning as we had to be up to catch our flight back to Bangkok.  

It was an incredible, amazing experience and we are all so grateful for Jim and Nootzara (now Mr. & Mrs. Michelis) for inviting us. 


Tangerine Bank

I had read and heard about this bank from lots of people.  I seldom use an ATM when I travel so it was not of much interest to me.  A good travel friend of mine convinced me I should open an account with them as they have no transaction fees and no foreign ATM fees.  He told me if I open an account with $100 they will deposit $50 within 2 days. I was sceptical, to say the least.  They do not have bricks and mortar banks, you can do everything online.  I went to one of their kiosks as I had a lot of questions.  They opened the account for me and gave me a card.  I took the card to a Scotiabank ATM to activate and make my $100 deposit.  Within 2 days they did deposit $50 into my account.  Auto deposit for payroll will also get you $150 after 3 months.   If you are interested please use this Orange Key 55050676S1  you will get $50 – and so will I.  I do know a number of travellers who use this bank – and they all have rave reviews – ex: 24/7 telephone support.

Tourradar

I learned about this one at a travel presentation I went to.  It allows you to enter your daily budget and many custom options.  I have not used it, but know several people who have – with great results

TRAVEL IMMUNIZATIONS

Before going to Africa in 2009 I was required to get numerous vaccinations.  Fortunately, I was in Austria, staying with my friends who are both doctors.   I am now getting ready to leave for another adventure.  I will be going to Thailand to attend a wedding in a small village – no hotels – villagers will take in wedding guests.  After the wedding I will spend a month in Thailand, then go to Myanmar to meet my Irish friend for a couple of weeks exploring that country.  I will end this trip with a month in Bali.  Some of the other wedding guests from here were checking out getting needed vaccinations.  I recommended getting a rabies shot – I did not know about this preventative shot until I got mine in Austria.  Since then I have met too many travellers who have not had the shot prior to going, and been bitten, scratched etc by a dog, cat, or monkey.  Someone here just checked and told me the cost for that shot in Canada is $400.  I have heard from many travellers it is worth the trip to Bangkok just to get shorts required for any trip.  I thought I would post this – I found it very interesting to say the least.

 

Thai Travel Clinic

Hospital for Tropical Diseases
Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University

Available vaccines in our clinic and Price list

 

 

Vaccine Cost in Baht
Cost in USD 
Cholera vaccine (Dukoral®) 
759 $23
Dengue vaccine (Dengvaxia®) (Read this first) 2,930 $87
 New JE vaccine SA14-14-2 (CD JEvax®, Imojev®) 498 $16
Inactivated JE vaccine 438 $15
Hepatitis A+B (Twinrix®) 1,065 $32
Hepatitis A vaccine (Avaxim®) 
1,473 $43
Hepatitis A vaccine (for children) 800 $25
Hepatitis A vaccine (Live attenuated MevacA®)
704 $22
Hepatitis B vaccine(Euvax B®) 376 $11
HPV vaccine (Gardasil®)  
2,464 $72
Influenza vaccine (Quadrivalent)  
369 $11
Meningococcal conjugate (Menactra®) 
2,435 $71
MMR (Mump-Measles-Rubella) vaccine 
192 $6
Pneumococcal vaccine (Prevnar®) 2,360 $69
Pneumococcal vaccine (Pneumovax®) 1,114 $33
injectable Polio vaccine (IPV)  420 $13
Rabies vaccine (Verorab®) 347 $11
Tdap (Bootagen®, tetanus+diptheria+pertussis) 
1008 $30
Tetanus + Diphtheria (dT) 62 $3
Typhoid vaccine (Typbar®)  319 $10
Varicella vaccine(Varicella vaccine-GCC®) 893 $27
Yellow Fever vaccine (Stamaril®)
1,200 $36
Zoster vaccine (Zostavax®) (Contact us first) 4,942 $145
Rabies immunoglobulin (ERIG) depend on body weight

Update 3 December 2018

Note:
–  Doctor fee (100 Baht) (Will be 200 Baht on 2 Jan 2019), Hospital fee (70Baht) are not included in price list
–  Price is per one dose of vaccine

–  Some vaccines need >1 shot to complete

–  More info on: Schedule and duration of protection of travel vaccine

–  Prices are subject to change without notices and price in US dollar are calculated as 1 USD=34 Baht
–  If you visit us in our Extended service hour, the doctor fee and vaccine cost will be higher (more info)

 

Vaccination Process:

  1. Our client should bring his/her vaccination certificate (if any)
  2. You can make an appointment for your convenience. Please specify your name, age, sex
    and type of vaccines requested, and your prefered date and time.
  3. Counseling with qualified doctor, discuss risk and benefit of vaccine.
  4. Sign the informed consent.
  5. Vaccination is given by qualified nurse. Doctor will complete your vaccination record.
  6. All clients must be observed in our clinic at least 30 min after being vaccinated.

You may want to read this useful article “FAQ about cost of vaccine in Thailand”

If you want to make an appointment or contact us. Click here

 

Thai Travel Clinic, Hospital for Tropical Diseases,
Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.
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