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Travels - Andy Saiden



I guess it goes without saying that Thailand will always hold a special place among travellers to South East Asia, ask any European who has travelled to The Far East and they will almost certainly tell you that Thailand is a beautiful and special place to visit. It is often described as the gateway to Asia for westerners and for Asians it is the home of Tom Yam.

Now Thailand has a lot to offer, however I will keep it short this time around and focus on Railay Beach located in Krabi one of the Southern provinces of Thailand which is much closer to the boarders of Malaysia than it is to the capital city of Bangkok.  Krabi is famous for being the gateway to a handful of famous tourist destinations such Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Maya Bay.

Krabi Airport is probably as close as you will get to Krabi Town itself as most tourist will either head straight to the closest jetty to be sped off to a more remote location . For the most including myself we end up in the small town of Ao Nang, a beach town filled with hotels, restaurants, bars and markets. Giving massive smiles to tourists, and a starting point to most backpackers. Lodging and food is relatively cheaper here compared to that on the islands or Railay Beach.

The water taxi making it’s first stop at Tonsai Beach before heading to Railay

Depending on the time you reach Ao Nang, some tourists would opt to stay a night here before taking the Long Tail Boat (water taxi) over to Railay Beach. There are some that just prefers to stay in Ao Nang and take island hopping packages or day trips to Railay Beach.

It is perhaps a bit confusing to some, however Railay is not an actual island. Technically it is part of the mainland however getting here is not possible by land as it surrounded by these large limestone cliffs, walls, hills or whichever you wish to call it. So the only way in and out is with a long tail boat.

The View from Railay West
A short 10 min hike rewards a spectacular view

It’s unique that you get an island vibe on Railay, everyone is relaxed and take life a little bit less serious. Probably due to the fact that there are no cars or roads on Railay. That reminds me if you’re taking a day trip, the last long tail leaves right after sunset.

The iconic spire of Railay
A long tail boat taking shelter in shades

Over the years I learnt that there are two types of travellers who come here, the sun seeker and the adventurer. The latter referring mostly to rock climbers.

For years this place has been a popular destination for rock climbers across the world. Climbing tall limestone spires that rewards breathtaking views of the bays and across the sea. Various walls with grades ranging from easy to extremely hard, we get a good mix of climbers here. You can even find shops offering guided climbs so if you’re just starting out there is something for everyone.

My brother just finishing a climbing route

When the sun sets and the hunger sets in, no matter what your purpose was to be in Railay, everyone ends up at the restaurants and bars by nightfall. Enjoying a variety of cuisines from local Thai delights such Tom Yam, Green Curry, Phad Thai and Fried Rice. For the less adventures there are always the options of pizzas, pastas and other western dishes.

Ko Rang Nok
Sun setting behind Ko Rang Nok
A beach boy showing his fire dancing skills

At around 8pm, right after sunset the bars spring to life with music and fire shows giving everyone some entertrainment while sipping down cold beers and cheap cocktails. I would strongly advise against the cocktails, Stanly Morgan Rum ( Captain Morgan is what you normally drink) might give you a bad hangover the next day.

Friday nights are little special with young kick boxers putting on an intense fight for the crowd. I cannot be certain if they were really going all in or where just bloody good actors. But anyway we were all entertained, and getting buzzed on cheap booze.

knocked out cold

Just like Railay West, Phra Nang beach is not much to brag about in terms of the water clarity. However it is the views that draws in the crowd here, the limestone islands and cliffs paint a very picturesque scenery. To get here it takes about 10 minutes to walk from the busy hotel areas of Railway East, and you will pass through a narrow passage that leads you through the side of the cliff and between the walls that is the perhaps of the most expensive hotels in Krabi, called the Rayavadee.

A floating boat that offers food and drinks
A mobile restaurant that comes to you on Phra Nang Beach.

The mobile restaurants or convenient stores are indeed unique, offering cold beers and even hot plate of stir fried Phad Thai. These boats will certainly keep you satisfied through the daily sun bathing and crowd watching by the beach.

Before I end my small write up on Railay, I cannot recommend enough how fantastic it was to take the evening on board the Krabi Sunset Cruise, on a wooden Siamese Junk sailing out to the five islands – Poda, Tup, Si, Ta Ming, Wasam & Gai where we spent the afternoon swimming, snorkelling, taking in the breath-taking scenery of the surrounding islands. At sunset we had a mouth watering Thai Buffet and end the day swimming in the bio-luminescent waters next to Pranang Beach.


Perhaps one of my favourite islands to visit is Weh Island or in Bahasa Indonesia “Pulau Weh” it is located at the northernmost tip of Sumatra and is the northernmost point  of the Indonesian archipelago. This islands has not failed to amaze me with it’s coral reefs that houses a large variety of fish species and offer some of the most spectacular experiences underwater. As of recent years, Weh Islands has become very accessible to tourist with daily flights by AirAsia flying  in from Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. Getting from the airport to the jetty will only take you around 30 minutes and the fast ferry over to Weh Island is only 45 minutes. Diving in Pulau Weh is also considered very cheap if compared to places such Bali ,Komodo or Raja Ampat.


Weh 1

The main reason that people come to Weh Island (Pulau Weh) is to enjoy the wonders and beauty that lies beneath the ocean. However it is still considered a secret destination among the diving community as the coral reefs are untouched and it is less known to people. The swaying sea fans are a spectacular scenery that will take your breath away, mix that with the abundance of fishes, every dives seem to be nothing but short of spectacular.  There is even a dive site called the underwater volcano where a natural hot spring spurs out hot water and gives this shallow dive a very unique experience. The dive sites here ranges from easy to moderate and even advanced. It is best enjoyed if you are “Advanced” certified diver in my opinion as most of the dives will take you beyond 18 meters and it would be a waste if you were restricted to just 18 meters.

One of the main attraction for advanced divers would be go down well below 55 meters to visit the remains of a world war II German vessel “Sophie Ricmers”. The ship lies well intact as the crew had sabotaged it in order to prevent it from being confiscated by the Dutch in 1940. It now home to countless fishes and corals, divers have reports that schools of batfish will surround you as you descent and ascent from this wreck. Bare in mind that this is a decompression dive and you are required to have a certain numbers of dives under your belt before you are allowed to venture to this wreck. It will also cost a bit extra as you will need additional tanks for decompression during this dive.

Weh Island
Ramon asking me to check the deco stop time


Weh Island Turtle
This turtle was not phased by our presence

Aside from diving another attraction which was only highlighted during my second visit to the island was the coves of Gua Sarang. It has rocky cliff which is surround by crystal clear waters. There is a small entree fee in order to enter the area, however we found it worth the small price. The small easy hike down the cliffs will take around 5 minutes and you will soon be greeted by a rocky beach. The trail will then lead towards the left as you walk along the shore, tiptoeing on rocks as you reach a beautiful lagoon, with beautiful rock formations that are covered with small plants. I cannot stress enough how clear the water was were even able to spot a pufferfish from the shore swimming along amongst the rocks.  A dip in the crystal clear waters was inevitable, the water was warm and calm, just floating around the lagoon was a relaxing experience with scenery so breathtaking. Be sure to come early as I was told that there can be quite crowd towards mid-day, however most tourist are not adventures enough to venture down the rocky path and chooses to stay on the hilltop enjoying the views from above.

Gua Sarang, Weh

Pantai Iboih (Iboih Beach) is the centre point from where you will find  various accommodation, restaurants, gift shops and most of the dive shops are located around this area the reason being that most of the dive sites are never too far from Iboih. There are even ATMs located here so you are never too far from the essentials. Bare in mind that Pulau Weh is located in the Acheh province, you will not be able to find any bars or pubs in the area. However if you keep sharp eye open you will come across hotels and restaurants which will serve a cold beer for tourists. Another important note for travellers coming to Weh Island is to avoid Fridays. As it seem as the holy day of the week, most business will be shut down from morning till around 2pm. I was told that some shops were unable to sell food to tourists as they feared getting penalised by the religious authorities who are known to roam the streets on Friday.  Also dive shop and boats are not allowed to operate during these hours so I would strongly suggest against planning any activities on a Friday. Sabang is the main city located on the island, personally I have never ventured into it as it does not offer any sights that would interest me, also taking into consideration that the ferry does not stop in Sabang, divers and tourists pretty much bypass the city all together unless they are looking for something specific. If you are history buff then it is worth noting that the island was once ruled by the Japanese military during World War II and there were numerous bunkers and fortifications built around the island. If you have any questions regarding Weh Island please drop me a comment below and hope you enjoy the video as well.

Weh Island Video



One of the most famous monuments located in South East Asia, Angkor Wat is also considered to be the largest religious monuments in the world. Originally it was constructed as a Hindu temple for the Khmer empire, however it gradually shifted towards a Buddhist monuments in the end of the 12th century. For many years I had planned to travel to this world renowned destination however only recently was I able to make the journey. The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap only takes only 2 hours, and AirAsia flies daily, which is very convenient however do take note on their flight times. As there are only one flight a day and their timing is not the same for each day.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
AirAsia Flies direct from Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap

Siem Reap is a booming city and is growing rapidly from the tourist influx. Situated 15 min from the airport and only 5KM  from the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park, the city is the centre for where all tourists will converge. Accommodation here ranges from the lavish 5 star hotels to backpackers hostels. In terms of food, you will not be short of choices, as most restaurants and hawker stall serves both traditional Cambodia (Khemer) dishes along with western dishes for the less adventures tourists.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Traditional Khmer Spring Rolls

It’s pretty much goes without saying, if you are traveling to a foreign land be sure to experience the most of it. Taste the food and observe their cultures and traditions. Khmer dishes are very similar to that of  Thai cooking however are not as spice filled as the former. Also you get far less spiciness from Khemer dishes.

Sadly due to the large influx of foreign tourist the local currency is not as common as the favoured US dollar. This means that everything you pay for will be charged the US dollars. In my experience of travelling throughout South East Asia, I found that Siem Reap is perhaps the most expensive place to be in. A plate of fried rice or noodles will cos you around USD 3.50 to USD 5.00. A bottle of water will cost you at the very least USD 1.00. Surprisingly it would still be cheaper to have a meal in Singapore in comparison to the food prices here in Siem Reap. And just to mess with you budget a glass of draft beer will only cost you USD 0.50, so yeah beer lovers are safe.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Little Aiden not happy about the prices

The entrance fee for the Angkor Archaeological Park is not cheap, however I do consider it to be worth it as the funds from ticket sales go directly to the conservation and restoration of these old monuments. Per person it is USD20.00/day and for a three day-pass it will cost USD 40.00 per person. For children under the age of 12 its FREE. ( Aiden was very happy about that)

Exploring the entire park will take many hours and it is advisable that you plan the journey before venturing into the park. There are a few different means of getting around the area and bare in mind that you will cover many kilometres getting from one temple to the other. A very relaxing and eco friendly way of getting around is by hiring a bicycle which starts from USD3.00/ day, prices will vary depending on the type of bicycle that you wish to rent. A more comfortable MTB will cost around USD5 to USD8.00

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Perhaps the most popular way of getting around is hiring Tuk-tuk which is basically a motorbike that has a carriage attached to it. Prices will start around US12.00 to US15.00, also you will need to add an additional USD 3.00 for early sunrise tours. This was the most practical options for us traveling with a young toddler, and also the cost was per Tuk-tuk and not per person. Each Tuk-tuk will accommodate up to 4 adults.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Just a quick tip for those who are travelling with babies, toddlers or young children, using a stroller is not recommended as the surface area will vary from sand, uneven cobbles and stairs. Therefore a baby carrier is perfect for traveling around Angkor Wat. It also helps keep your little one secure during the tuk-tuk ride.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
One of the 5 towers of Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
A baby carrier is your best choice when exploring Angkor Wat

The be honest about Angkor Wat is also bursting the bubble of expectation, as the initial thought of exploring an old temple ruin which was only discovered in the late 1890s sounded something out of an Indiana Jones movie. However the reality is that the main temple of Angkor Wat is swarming with tourists, there are just so many people trying to get a glimpse of the famous temple. Perhaps due its popularity or the fact that it was one of the youngest monuments, made me not choose it as the favourite.  Instead it was the older crumbling temples that romanced me with its beauty. The giant trees growing out of the large temple was a sight of splendour, which is probably why “Ta Phrom” was the set of the famous movie Tomb Raider.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Ruins of Ta Phrohm

Essentially both the movie and Angelina Jolie who stared in it help make this south east Asian country famous. Ever since the movie was released a storm of tourists has swarmed to see beauty of the ruin temples.

Due to the heavy traffic of tourists some parts of the temples have been made off limits, as you can see here the famous doorway which was featured in the movie has now been blocked so you will now have to stand behind a small fence to capture your photo or selfie.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
The famous doorway of Ta Phrom

One of my favorite temples was the Bayon temple located within Angkor Thom. The area itself is around 9 square kilometers and houses several temples which were built in different times.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Victory Gate

Bayon temple’s most distinctive feature would be the multitude of serene and smiling faces carved in stone.


The temple style is very different from that of Angkor Wat and walking around the compound you will quickly realize that there are faces smiling down on you, with 54 towers and 4 faces per tower, it is hard not to be be mesmerised  by the serenity of the smiling faces.

Angkor Wat, Sieam Reap
The many faces of Bayon temple

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Day 2, heading back into Angkor Thom ( South Gate)

It may not be covered very well in some guides in regards to the the strict rules that apply to some temples around the Angkor Archaeological Park, however in our 2 day of exploring the temple ruins. These applied only to highest point of Angkor Wat and Baphuan Temple where children below the age of 12 are not permitted to enter and neither are those who are dressed in shorts, skirts and sleeveless  attire. The guards are very friendly but yet strict about the rules, so I would strongly advise to bring along a sarong or a pair of pants to enter these places.

I should also point out that you should not make loud noises when visiting these temples as it will ruin the experience for others and there also some who come to mediate.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Aiden was denied entry into Baphuan temple
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Rules to follow while vising Angkor Archaeological Park
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Zen moment by a large window
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Another beautiful doorway in Ta Som Temple

As we made the journey to the less prominent temples the masses of tourists started to thin out, it was evident that the majority of the crowed are not too keen on visiting the temples on the “large circuit”. This was no doubt refreshing and made the experience perhaps more memorable.

Perhaps of one of the more under rated temple on the list would be Preah Khan, which is by no means small. The compound extends to about 138 acres and it is largely un-restored with numerous trees and vegetation growing out of the ruins. The temple is surrounded by a moat similar to that of the entrance to Angkor Thom. I found this particular temple to be very enjoyable and more relaxed.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Preah Khan
Angkor Wat
Tetrameles nudiflora


I realized that if you are going on the grand tour or “large circuit” try to go in reverse and start with the older temples leading up to the young and grander temples such as Angkor Wat and Bayon. This will surely make the journey more enjoyable and slowly build the excitement.

On our trip we saw the much older temples towards the end of the tour and it did take away some of the excitement as seeing all the grander and larger temples at the start of our journey. By no means where they boring, however they were simply overshadowed.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Prae Roup Temple

To round up our the trip I would highly stress on getting the 3-Day pass, as trying to squeeze in everything in one day is going to be stressful and impossible to appreciate all the splendors that these old ruins has to offer.

Here are a few tips that you should keep in mind when traveling to Angkor Archaeological Park:

  • Plan the visit ahead depending on your means of transport.
  • Bring food and water along as the prices will double at restaurants and stalls in the Angkor area.
  • Be sure to pack long pants or a sarong if you are wish to wear shorts to gain access to more strict temples.
  • It can be cheaper and more convenient to hire a  tuk-tuk as it seats up to  4 people and will only cost around USD 15 per day. You will have to add USD 5 -10 for the early sunrise trip.
  • Take your time and enjoy the small details, rushing through could mean you would miss something.
  • Skip the museum as it’s expensive costing USD12 per person and most of the information can be found online or through books.