Tuesday, July 24, 2007

ABOUT THIS TRAVEL SITE

WHY DID I START THIS SITE?
On travel forums, I try to answer as many questions as possible, particularly the repetitive “boring” ones which tire many regulars. And when I answer I try to give as much info as I can. But I found I was spending huge amounts of time rewriting the same answers day after day. What I needed was a site where I could put heaps of info - allowing me to give shorter forum answers with reference to the site for additional stuff.
Thorntree was no good at the time because threads dropped off the forum after about 3 months. The new version since the Brit takeover is much better in this respect, but too late for me - and displaying photos is difficult.
After a few other failed experiments I figured I could take a blog format and use it as a host for my travel information and advice.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
Why do any of you answer questions on travel sites? Because you want to help other travellers and share what you know.
Vanity and pride come into it. I can’t believe how good Blogger makes my stuff look and I do like the many thanks I get. I get a real kick when I see how many people have clicked on my pages.
I am not paid by TAT, I don’t get freebies from bungalow owners - no-one knows who the hell I am. I am not a professional journalist hoping a publisher will pick up my stuff - AS IF. See below for the farcical amount of money earned from Google advertisements and where it goes.

MY STUFF ISN’T REALLY A TRAVEL BLOG - I DON’T TELL YOU WHAT I DID.
Nope, that aint the idea. I figure potential travellers are not interested in reading a boring account of my day to day experiences. They want info about what is there, not what I did. So I leave that part fairly limited.

WHAT ABOUT THE ADVERTISING?
3 reasons why I have the adverts:
- As a thank you to Google for hosting the site. They do it for free, other than the money they make when people click their ads. I don't believe in a free lunch - if Google doesn’t make money, it won’t offer the service.
- Google Adsense gives me a very good page counter way superior to third parties if I display their ads. This is the way I see how many people are reading my stuff. Like any author, I’m real curious about this.
- To make heaps of money so I can upgrade the '57 Eldo to a 911 GT2. Kidding - Adsense Reports tell me that over the past week I have had 3321 pages read, 19 ads clicked and got $4 dollars 71c total for them That’s 67cents per day (wow!) and 14/100 of a cent per page read (forget about the GT2 - I‘ll go for the Veyron).
(update March 2012: now averaging abt 11oo hits per day - earning a bit under $1).
If you don’t like this, it’s real simple. Read the page but don’t click any advertisements.

Note that every dollar (less than one per day) goes to the SurfAid charity. This was set up by a NZ big-wave surfing doctor visiting the Mentawi and Nias islands off west Sumatra (one of the poorest areas in Asia) who realised when he jumped off his live-on boat to visit one of those idyllic villages behind the beach just how far a few dollars on anti-malarials, water-purification etc would go to help the locals. SurfAid had a boat in the area and was thus a first responder when the 2004 tsunami hit and again when a less publicised 2010 one slammed the islands. I think most of you have a tame charity, but if not this is a good one to support.

UPDATE JAN 2010 - the new READERS' TRIP REPORTS section is advertisement free because I figure some potential contributors don't want their stuff associated with commercialism.

WHAT ARE THE MOST READ PAGES?
In the past week:
Some Tips on Not Drowning 133
Tioman 121
Which Island or Beach 115
Phi Phi 104
Bali 77
Krabi 69
Stones From the Joker in the Glass House 68
This is June 09 - Thailand islands will pick up in high season. In high season Phi Phi and Which Beach or Island? rate highest.

UPDATE JAN 2010 - Phi Phi is indeed #1 island page. But "Stones From the Joker" is outrating them all since I added some silly pictures.

WHICH IS MY FAVOURITE PAGE?
Some Tips on Not Drowning - if it helps save just one life or avoid a big scare, it has been worth while.

HOW COME THERE ARE 2 INDEXES?
When I first started, Blogger was much less user friendly unless you had a working knowledge of html. So when I decided to get a page counter by pasting some Google Advertising code in, the ads came up on the INDEX PAGE as a long vertical column at the top - when people clicked on to it all they saw was the ads - no Index contents.
I thought this was a turn-off - a lot of readers would not bother about scrolling down past the ads to find the Index itself. So I did a second index page with no ads. The only way to do this was to start a second blog - there are actually 2 blogs - THAILAND, BALI AND OTHER BEACHES and TEZZA’S BEACHES AND ISLANDS - the indexes are crosslinked and will find a page on either blog. You can see the other index by clicking BACK TO INDEX at the top right of this page - notice it has different pictures top and side.
Blogger is much more user-friendly now. Arranging ads just where I want them is a doddle, so both blogs now have them - because I want to keep checking readership of both. And to make $millions.

UPDATE JAN 2010 - there are now 3 separate blogs. In order to keep the new READERS' TRIP REPORTS advertisement free I had to start a new blog. Well maybe not HAD TO - but I don' t konw enough about Blogger to make individual pages ad-free.

HOW COME OTHER PEOPLE HAVE COPIED MY STUFF?
Several people have asked to display some of my pages, like Brent’s BACKPACKING THAILAND
Marizamelia’s KenapaEndonesah Project
And some lady runs a travel site for Turkey wanted my Paragliding and Cruising Threads. I have lost the link.
TALES OF ASIA has also got a lot of my early Thailand Island pages in a special section, but none of these has been updated as on my site.
My stalker, the miserable Singapore Slim (all names changed to protect the guilty) has also copied and pasted quite a lot of my pages to make his ISLANDS AND BEACHES blog (over 90% is my stuff) http://kanangasthaiinfo.blogspot.com/2007/07/koh-bulon-leh.html claiming it was his own writing, but when he got ridiculed by other readers he changed some wording to try to differentiate it and in some parts to make it satirical. The loser couldn’t do satire if his life depended on it.

WHY ARE THE INDEXES FUTURE-DATED?
Blogs automatically post the last input at the top of the page. So to keep the indexes at the top of the page I have to date them as if posted some time in the future - I think Dec09. Blogger allows this.
Similarly, I can put a new page anywhere by juggling its posting-date. For instance this page will be posted in June 09, but I don’t regard it as a key page so it will be given a date which places it somewhere down the blog, not near the top. I just decided July07 which should put it 2nd from bottom.

WHY ARE SO MANY PHOTOS TAKEN BY OTHER PEOPLE?
I used to be a camera fanatic - had a top range SLR with all the accessories. But I got sick of carting all this stuff everywhere - so for a long time I travelled with NO camera. I had lots of info but no shots, so I looked at Google Images and similar and used shots from there. I always acknowledge the source and give a link to the photographer when possible.
On more recent trips I’ve taken an elcheapo digital which is compact enough to not be a hassle, and cheap enough to not worry about theft. Any unacknowledged pix have been taken by me.
But even after I started lugging a camera again I see fabulous shots from a website or traveller and just have to include them. Several examples are on my Ko Kut page - the fact that my camera's backup batteries were on their last legs there is another factor for borrowing pix on that particular page. Got worse a few days later on Whai were they failed completely and there were none for sale.

ARE THERE ANY PIX OF ME?
Plenty, but all but 2 (on the Laoliang page) don’t identify me. This site is not about me**, it’s about the locations. Ignore the obviously dummy shots I claim are me, like the babe on the bowsprit of the WhitSunday Cruise yacht.
**although this page IS about me. Sorry, but people are always asking about why I do the blog.

SOME PEOPLE SAY THE STUFF LOOKS LIKE A TAT WHITEWASH - THERE ARE NO CRITICISMS.
They don‘t read the pages, just knock my efforts. Some criticisms I can think of off the top of my head:
THAILAND
PHI PHI IS OVERPRICED, AS IS RAILAY AND LIPE.
RAILAY AND MOST OF PHI PHI ARE OVERCROWDED IN SEASON.
MUCH OF PHRA NANG IS OVERCROWDED IN SEASON.
AO NANG IS A HOT DUSTY PLACE IN DAYTIME, FULL OF TOUTS AND HASSLE MERCHANTS. AND MUCH OF THE BEACH IS UNATTRACTIVE.
PATTAYA BEACH ON LIPE HAS JUMPED THE SHARK (since improved) AND THE FISHING VILLAGE IS A DISGRACE (since improved).
THE SEA GYPSY VILLAGE AT BAN CHAO MAI AT HAT YAO IS A BIGGER DISGRACE.
SO IS THE FIRST 500M PAST THE ENTRANCE TO THE NATIONAL PARK ON SAMET - DOES N.P. DO ANYTHING FOR OUR 200B?
THAI SNORKELLING LOCATIONS CAN’T COMPARE TO WORLD’S BEST (the best in Thailand is 3rd rate).
RAILAY BUNGALOW PEOPLE DON’T PULL THEIR WEIGHT ON GENERAL INFRASTRUCTURE.
EAST RAILAY IS A MESS AT HIGH TIDE.
BEACHES AT YAO NOI ARE MOSTLY 2ND RATE (by Thai standards).
BEACHES AT SUKORN ARE 3RD RATE.
BEACHES AT SIBOYA ARE 4TH RATE.
WATER CLARITY ON ISLANDS CLOSE TO THE COAST AND BIG RIVER MOUTHS OFTEN LEAVES YOU LESS THAN GRUNTLED.
THAI LONGTAIL BOATS ARE A JOKE - POOR IN ANY SORT OF SWELL OR CHOP AND NEEDLESSLY NOISY. AND BECAUSE THEY ARE SO EXPENSIVE TO BUILD/BUY, TRIPS ARE OVERPRICED (well, that's one reason).
THAI ATTITUDES TO RUBBISH ARE A JOKE.
SOME BUNGALOW OWNERS’ APPROACH TO ELECTICAL SAFETY IS NEGLIGENT.
SPEEDBOATS TO LIPE AND SURROUNDS ARE OVERCROWDED - YOU CAN GET VERY WET AND POSSIBLY INJURED IF THE SEA IS CHOPPY OR ROUGH.
THE SLOW BOAT TO PHAYAM IS AN UNCOMFORTABLE AND SLOW CRATE AND OVERPRICED (there is now a second faster boat, but the original still runs).
THE AO NANG LONGTAIL MAFIA AND KRABI AIRPORT TAXI CARTEL ARE A PACK OF RIP-OFF MERCHANTS. SO TOO IS THE PHUKET BEACHES TUK-TUK ASSOCIATION.
THE SAMET AND big CHANG SONGTHAEW MAFIAS OVERCHARGE BETWEEN BEACHES.
THE NATIONAL PARK ENTRANCE FEE IS STILL A RIP-OFF AT 200B.
NATIONAL PARK EMPLOYEES SPEND MOST OF THEIR TIME SITTING ON THEIR BUMS DOING ZILCH.
SOME BUNGALOWS IN SOUTHERN SAMET HAVE BLOCKED THE COASTAL WALKING TRACK WITH FENCES.
THAI HIRE BICYCLES ARE NEARLY ALWAYS WRECKS WHICH REQUIRE MINI-REBUILDS AT START OF RENTAL.
THE DOG SITUATION IN THAILAND IS OUT OF CONTROL AND REQUIRES A BALI STYLE MASS EXTERMINATION (Muslim areas have puddy-cats, no problems).
LONE WOMEN TRAVELLERS SHOULD MAYBE AVOID SINCHAI'S AT HAT YAO.
SOME PEOPLE RECKON NATURE RESORT ON LIBONG IS WAY OVERPRICED.
MANY PEOPLE ARE LESS THAN WHELMED ABOUT THE RUBBISH ON LIPE.
IF YOU GET UPSET ABOUT PILES OF BUILDING MATERIALS/ACTIVITIES AND BEACHES NOT YET CLEANED DON'T VISIT ISLANDS DURING LATE WET SEASON/EARLY DRY SEASON.
CORAL BLEACHING IN 2011 MAKE THE SURINS A MUST MISS.
SURINS BUNGALOWS ARE GROSSLY OVERPRICED
FOOD IN THE NP CANTEEENS AT THE SURINS IS OVERPRICED TASTELESS CRAP. YOU CAN'T BUY A BEER - ALL N.Ps STARTING 2011 ARE DRY
STRUTTING SELF-RIGHTEOUS ARROGANT FRENCH SELF PROCALIMED ISLAND GUARDIANS AT THE SURINS CAMPING AREAS WILL TRY TO PUSH THEIR SELF-MADE RULES DOWN YOUR THROAT.
THE "TRADITIONAL" MOKEN VILLAGE AT THE SURINS (PAY TO VISIT) FEATURES TRADITIONAL GIANT PLASMA SCREENS IN THE HOUSES.
MY MOKEN SNORKEL TRIP LONGTAIL GUY IN THE SURINS DIDN'T SEEM TO SPEAK ENGLISH OR KNOW EXACTLY WHERE THE "GOOD STUFF" WAS AT SNORKEL LOCATIONS. I DON'T THINK HE COULD SWIM - CERTAINLY HIS OFFSIDER THRASHED AROUND ON THE SURFACE IN AN INNER TUBE AND MASK.
PEOPLE HAVE COMPLAINED ABOUT THEFTS FROM UNDERBUS LUGGAGE COMPARTMENTS ON KSR TO CHUMPON/SURATHANI BUSES (exception seems to be Lomprayah) AND ON KRABI TO SURATHANI BUSES RUN BY PP FAMILY COMPANY.
THE LATTER COMPANY SEEMS TO ATTRACT COMPLAINTS ABOUT WASTING LOTS OF TIME SITTING AROUND IN OUT OF TOWN DEPOTS, SWITCHING BUSES TO CRATES ETC
TRAVELLERS' MINIBUSES ARE OFTEN OVERCROWDED, UNCOMFORTABLE AND DRIVE TOO FAST - AND SOME DO SIMILAR TIME WASTING THINGS AS PP FAMILY CO

INDO:
THE BEACH AT BINGIN AINT GOOD.
THE BEACH AT CANDI DASA IS NON EXISTENT AND NEARBY WHITE SAND BEACH IS PRETTY ORDINARY.
DREAMLAND ON BALI HAS BEEN SPOILED BY DEVELOPMENT.
THE SURF AT DREAM BEACH ON LEMBONGAN IS DANGEROUS.
KUTA BALI IS CROWDED, TOUTS IN YOUR FACE, NOISY, TRAFFIC JAMMED AND THE BEACH IS NOT GREAT.
WATCH YOUR PROPERTY AT KUTA LOMBOK.
GILI TRAWANGAN IS CLOSE TO JUMPING THE SHARK.
LABUANBAJO IN FLORES IS NOISY, DUSTY, DIRTY, WITH RUBBISH EVERYWHERE, JAMMED WITH TRAFFIC AT TIMES.
THE LOMBOK - FLORES OVERLAND TRIP IS FULL OF DELAYS AND HASSLE.
AUSTRALIA
ACCOMMODATION AT BYRON BAY IS OVERPRICED.
STRUTTING SELF-RIGHTEOUS PC GAY PEAKOCK LITTLE HITLERS AT KING'S BEACH NEAR BYRON WILL TRY TO PUSH THEIR SELF-MADE RULES DOWN YOUR THROAT.
HOOK ISLAND BUDGET RESORT AINT EXACTLY BUDGET THESE DAYS.
IF YOU DON'T LIKE PRETENTIOUS TRENDSETTERS BUNGING ON SIDE, YOU WILL HATE BYRON BAY. IF YOU ENJOY THEIR ACT LIKE ME, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER REASON TO LOVE THE PLACE.

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY CRITICS OF THE SITE?
For a start we have the remnants of the CHAT GROUP MAFIA - a bunch of deadbeats thought they owned Thorntree Thailand branch some time back. They engaged in huge amounts of puerile chat about non-travel things, abused posters about "boring" questions re travel basics, attacked backpackers and other budget travellers mercilessly, harassed posters about typos and grammar, picked arguments with everyone they could - and if posters complained, gang attacked them with ferocity including stalking them all around Thorntree Thailand and onto other branches . Lots of posters with good info were scared away - who needs aggro like that?
A bunch of regulars including me took them on in what was called THE GIMP WARS at the time. Eventually a new moderator with some backbone, Wazza, banned most of their arses from Thorntree. Unfortunately Wazza was let go when LP got into a financial crisis at the time of the SARS scare - and wimp Roman reinstated some of the key players. Since that time they have gone back to their harassing habits, including stalking me all around the Thorntree and onto other travel forums like Travelfish. They hate my travel site - as I have already said, one of these losers has even pasted and copied a lot of my pages onto his own pathetic site with no acknowledgement.

Then we have people who don’t get why I created the site. They think I am an agent of TAT or that I do it for the money. They get annoyed by my constant: “There is a lot more info in the first link below”. They don’t understand that I created this site to give people access to as much travel info as I can - and the above phrase informs them where to find it.

We might even have some jealous types. No need to - I reckon there are plenty of people who have as much or more knowledge than me, but most don’t have the time to create their own site.

WHY DO I HAVE SO MUCH TIME?
Simple - I grew up poor but my parents made sure I got a good education. I worked real hard when out of school, often at concurrent jobs. I saved like crazy instead of spending my dough on bling. I studied investment carefully and put my savings to work. Today, Lady Tezza (who comes from a similar background) and I have property and financial-assets worth many truck-loads of cash. We have been able to give up work at an age most people are still hard at it.
But one of our principles of investment is to target capital gain, not yield - so we are assets rich and income modest. Which is why I am a budget traveller.

I’ll bore you with TEZZA’S INVESTMENT 101:
Yield won’t do it - as above.
Neither will having lots of your wealth in cash - particularly right now when those idiots at The Fed and Bank of England are printing money to finance the government deficits. Inflation will murder you.
If an investment sounds too good to be true it is.
If you don’t fully understand it don’t go near it. How many of those overpaid Masters of the Universe buying CDOs and similar for their banks, investment funds etc understood them. None - resulting in the present World Financial Crisis.
Invest for the long term. Realise you will go backwards at times and don’t jump at shadows. Don’t try to time the market - only 2% get it right, and 100% of them are lucky.
Dollar cost averaging is a no-brainer.
So is diversity.
If you are dealing with a broker, financial agent etc negotiate 50% off their commission or fee. If they won’t play, one of their competitors will. Study the concept of CHURN and don’t let these shonky coupon-clippers do it to you.
Similarly, never pay full list price for any substantial retail purchase. Sales staff hate hard bargainersw but they regard punters who pay list with contempt.
Make sure your partner is not a spender. If she/he is - take a course in bankruptcy accounting so you can administer your own insolvency. Lady Tezza came from an even poorer family than me, but had bulk money in the bank at 16 when I met her, on account of part time jobs. This one was a keeper. It don’t hurt that she is gorgeous. She is better educated, way smarter than me and has a complete disdain for any wasteful spending.

WHAT’S WITH THE COMEDY STUFF?
When most of the Chat Group Mafia got banned, the remnants posted in and said it wasn’t fair, these guys were SO FUNNY. Sure they were, if you think repetitive schoolboy obsession with lady-boys, Thai prostitutes and what they called fudge-packers is funny. Not to mention original lines like TOOT TOOT and EAT MY SHORTS. Oh yeah, and one dude would copy and paste the JOKE OF THE DAY from some web gag-site, to cries of BRILLIANT! Such talent.
Anyway these sycophants said the Forum was now boring - so I thought, what the hell, I’ll try some comedy writing - I reckon you can do just about anything if you work at it. So I wrote LATEST NEWS FROM THE LAND OF SMILES, which seemed to go down okay, seeing it’s been on the permanent sticky at the end of the Thailand forum for about 6 years.
And every now and then I churn out something else and fire it in. Best received is STONES FROM THE JOKER IN THE GLASS HOUSE which satirises the behaviour of some of the CHAT GROUP MAFIA and other pains that at times pop up on the forum. On my site, THE JOKER often gets 30+ hits per day for a week or so - it’s almost as if some English Lit teacher has said - “Okay class, this is how you DON’T write satire”.

WHAT ARE MY FAVOURITE BEACH AND ISLAND?
I don’t have a favourite island, but if I could be on any island right now it would be Naxos in the Greek Islands. It is not on this site on account I haven’t visited for 5 years.
Australia’s Whitsunday Islands kill anywhere in Thailand.
My favourite beach is White Beach in Broken Head Nature Reserve in northern NSW. You can see a pix about 55% down the Byron Bay page.
That aint the best beach I’ve seen - that’s Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands (2 pix 70% down page).
In Thailand the best beach I’ve seen is probably the blinding white sand job at Donald Duck Bay in the Similans - abt 65% down this page.
Although good old Phra Nang is pretty spectacular if you can get it below full tide and uncrowded. Good luck with the latter.

But if you ask me when I'm away from the country to pick one LOS place I'd like to be right now, I always picture Viewpoint's southern beach on Lipe. A rock at the side of the beach meets the sand at a perfect backrest angle, a real nice spot to sit with a cold Chang from Viewpoint's rustic restaurant and check the scene. Beach is popular with people from around the island but never super-crowded.

IS MY STUFF LEADING TO THE OVERCROWDING OF POPULAR DESTINATIONS?
A lot of us tend to kid ourselves about our impact. Every second traveller you see has a LP or competitors’ guide book, but few people I speak to have even heard of Thorn Tree or Travelfish, let alone used them.
If that is so, how many people have seen my inconsequential site? Maybe the following will give some idea of my influence:
Last month I went to a top value guesthouse on Gili Trawangan I have used before and praised on my page. It had SHUT DOWN.
SO TOO had the restaurant with the best views in Pandangbai on Bali.
One of the best value and most scenic bungalows on Lipe is Viewpoint on one of the nicest sections of beach. I have a review and multiple pix on my page. When I returned in early Dec of last year it had NO CUSTOMERS.
So much for my influence on overcrowding.
UPDATE NOV 09 - I just got info from Khao Lak local Similan Diver that Nature Resort, another place I've stayed at and praised, has been shut down for some time. Jeez, the kiss of death!

HOW UP TO DATE IS MY STUFF?
I try to get back to all places at least once every 3 years. That makes my stuff on average as up to date as most guidebooks and it gets published more quickly.
For popular locations I try to revisit more often - even once or twice per year.
This is kinda frustrating in that I spend too much time revisiting places rather than going to new locations I want to see. The fact that family commitments (driving, shopping etc for an elderly infirm relative) tie me to Australia for longer than I would like also limits things.
The page most needing updating is Kuta Lombok in Indonesia. I haven’t been there for 4 years and ran out of time for a revisit last month (May09)
Ko Tao and little Ko Chang Andaman side have not been visited for 3 years - I aim to get back to them and do some first timers like Ko Racha, Ko Bu Bu and the Surins early next year. I’m going to update Phangan and Phuket plus do a page on Samui (I haven’t been there for a long time) in August and update Lipe and Bulon Lae in late Nov-Dec. I’ll also revisit Langkawi in Malaysia on that trip and do a page.
I also want to get back to Sumatra, eastern Indo, the Philippines, Pacific Islands and Europe. And Australia out-beaches and out-islands them all.
So many places, so little time!

UPDATE JAN 2010 - in order to get real up-to-date stuff I've started the new READERS' TRIP REPORTS section. If you want to contribute some stuff, send any text and a few pix if you have them to lajolla22@hotmail.com - the pix + few lines of caption is a time-effective way of doing the report.

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