Monday, March 31, 2014

LIFE: How to behave in South East Asia

1. Dress up decent! It can get really hot here but why should you walk around in your bikini or in hot pants and in belly top? If it looks cheap back home it will aswell in Asia.

2. Beerlao, Chang Beer, Tiger Beer... yes, a cold beer can be refreshing. But there's no need to get drunk and then behave disrespectful towards tourists and especially locals.

3. Take off your shoes before you enter somebody's home. This might also be a rule in private guest houses, shops or super markets.

4. Learn patience! There is no need to rush in Asia and don't ever put others under pressure. Just add min. 4 hours time on top of whatever you plan and you've got the right time.

5. Don't touch a monk if you're female. 

6. If you want to take a picture of monks or other locals always ask for their permission.

7. Try to bargain on street markets when you go shopping. It can get hard sometimes bur try to get down to the half price.

8. But don't bargain on food, in shops, travel agencies, hotels etc. !

9. Illegal drugs are cheap and you get them anywhere in the bigger cities without any problems. But keep your HANDS OFF drugs! Why should you eat a "Bob Marley Pizza" or drink a "Mushroom shake"? - It's expensive, it's unreliable, it makes you crazy, IT'S STUPID!

10. Be aware that you're a foreigner. You're a guest in a foreign country so try to integrate yourself and show your interest in the local culture.

11. If you don't want to adjust to living standards in developing countries and you are not interested in their culture or you are only here to party and get drunk then why the hell do you travel?  Better stay at home in your spoiled, rich country!

12. Greet people in your hostel, in the shops, at a restaurant. There's nothing worse than making other peopel you meet think you're a narrow-minded arrogant traveler.


- AJ -

Sunday, March 30, 2014

PLACES: Things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos

- Visit the night market and get some beautiful local handicrafts for your beloved ones back home or yourself. It's reall easy and fun to bargain here.

- Eat delicious freshly prepared French baguettes for only 10000 kip (0,90€).

- Hang out a "Utopia", an amazing chill out area with an amazing river view where you can do yoga, eat, surf on the internet or play volley ball.

- Take a tuk-tuk for 30000 kip (2,70€) for both ways to the Kuang Si Waterfall. Leave town early in the morning and bring your swimming trunks and a towel and enjoy the clear cool water when there aren't too many tourists. 

- Have dinner at one of the big buffets by the night market. Get a plate and fill it up once as much as you can for only 10000 kip (0,90€).

LIFE: Slow Boat - Laos

If you want to take the Slow Boat in Laos between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang then you shouldn't have that high expectations of an incredible and unforgetable experience. It's defenitely not what it used to be before the masstourism in Laos conquered all the beauty of traveling through the Mekong river. But no matter what other people say it's important that you make your own experience.
The first day on the slow boat can be a real nerve breaking experience where you might regret that you didn't spend your money on the bus trip instead and you wonder why you ran yourself into this situation. - The boat is a true on-the-water-floating party location under imature young (mostly English speaking) backpackers who behave disrespectful to the Lao culture, drinking beer all day and turning the boat into a drunk party area with music tuning out of their fake Made-In-Thailand portable speakers which sound quality is awefull. Don't expect this party to end during the boat ride. No, it will first end after 8 hours when the boat arrives at the first stop which is Pakbeng. This is a small village full of guest houses for all the slow boat travelers who continue the next day to Luang Prabang which economy is only based on tourism. So everything here is adjusted to typical slow boat travelers: there are restaurants, guest houses and bars everywhere!
The next morning it's time to get on the boat again. But be wise and choose the one that comes first. On the second day the travelers are divided onto two boats. People who are hung over from partying on the boat would take the later one. It's defenitly worth it to get up a bit earlier and to hop on the more quiet slow boat. Sit in front where the engine at the back can't be heard that much and where all the friendly locals get on during the boat trip. The second day was defenitely more like what I was expecting and the view is amazing! Don't forget to bring your own lunch because the boat only offers crackers or instant soup within the 8 hours. You can also buy drinks (water, beer, tea, coffee, soft drinks) on the boat and there's also a small rest room which always runs out of toilet paper so bring your own toilet paper with you. 

Have a nice boat trip!

- AJ -

PLACES: Border Crossing - Thailand to Laos

 The most common way to cross the border from Thailand to Laos is either by bus or by slow boat from Chiang Khong, Thailand to Huay Xai, Laos. Most travelers then take the Slow Boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang via Pakbeng. This trip requires two days for traveling with one night in Pakbeng. I'm pretty sure this is the mostly liked way of traveling from Thailand to Laos among backpackers. I recommend to stay in Chiang Khong for 2 nights to have enough spare time discovering this border village before leaving Thailand. Even though you're a foreigner most of the locals don't stare at you like in other Asian villages because this place is known under travelers who come here to just cross the border over land and the  foreigners have become a part of the normal day life of the locals.
When you get through the immigration at the Thai border make sure you've got enough US$ to pay your visa on arrival before you want to cross the Lao border. For EU-citizen the visa-on-arrival for 30 days will cost you 35 US$. Once you've got your departure stamp from Thailand you take a bus to the Lao border where you can fill out your visa-application (it's a really weird application form so don't take all the questions that seriously just fill out the important information that is required). Make sure to bring a pen and a photo. Try not to get annoyed by the crowd of all the other 100 travelers beside you and keep calm while waiting for your visa because this might take up to minimum 1 hour until they call you up to pick up your passport. Be aware that your name might be called up anytime and pick up your passport immediately or else you will make yourself and the other impatient travelers who are already annoyed wait longer. Now you're done with the legal border crossing and you just have to figure out where you want to go. 

- AJ -

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

ART: Sunday Night Market - Chiang Mai, Thailand

If in case you are planning to stay in Chiang Mai, Thailand on a Sunday you shouldn't miss out the Sunday Night Market. Check out all the arts stands of young Thai artists selling their amazing paintings. Some of the artists are students just trying to earn some money. I really wish I would have the possibilty to bring one of those giant elephant paintings to Berlin!

Stay arty,

- AJ -


FOOD: Night market and food again! - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Oooh I know this is ridiculous but it's just a really weird habit of mine. I love taking pictures of food. That's probably also a reason why I really liked the cooking course as you might have noticed on the tons of close-up food pictures. But I like to share all these tempting pictures with you to make you want to come to Asia just to experience the variety of tastes and dishes which sometimes can blow your mind away! But if you plan to come here and stuff yourself with all of these yummy dishes you should also think of doing some sport activities like rock climbing, trekking or cycling. You don't want to look like a fat ugly tourist haha.

- AJ -

tom kha kai
pork sausage

fruit salad

turkish pizza, isn't that weird
rice cake

FASHION: Vintage shops - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is not how you expect Thailand would be. This town is something special and has a certain urban athmosphere due to it's high percentage of young citizens and students who make you feel like in a Thai urban artistic university town. There are stylish bars and cafés everywhere but still you can find typical Thai markets and local food stands.
If you're looking for vintage and style then you should come here and go fashion hunting. I discovered two amazing vintage shops. There are both similar: a lot of colors and differebt patterns of 60s to 80s-looking pieces which are all very unique. Mix up your own outfit, take your time to look for the perfect dress or some real vintage New Balance sneakers or an old faded leather bag from the 60s. There is so much beauty to discover in these fashion stores and even the background hipster-music and the vintage interior will make you think you're shopping in Berlin's Neukölln or in Brooklyn, New York. It's amazing that all youngsters, no matter if we are European or Asian have the same kind of taste of Fashion.

Visit these vintage shops if you're up for fashion hunting in Chiang Mai, Thailand:

Love 70s
Near Horpra School,
Sri Phum
, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Inthawarorot Road
Chian Mai, Thailand
Phone: +66 85 037 9824+66 85 037 9824

Keep cool,

- AJ -

LIFE: Back from blogging pause - Lack of privacy while traveling

Le Book d'Art is back from the blogging pause.
I didn't mean to neglect blogging but traveling alone can be more exhausting than I expected. I don't want to use Le Book d'Art as a self presentation. This is a blogazine for those who need personal information about traveling rather than information from commercial travel magazines. But 10 days have now passed by since my last entry and these 10 days have been the most intensive period in SEA so far. I thought Myanmar would be mentally tough. But since I arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand I haven't had a single hour of privacy except for the minutes I spent in the rest room, under the shower or in bed sleeping. And now I've already crossed the border to Laos and the privacy-problem didn't change due to spending two days on a boat full of travelers and sharing rooms with minimum 5 others. As soon as I wake up there has always been someone beside you who want to talk, explore or eat with you. Of course the best of traveling alone is that you get to meet so many different people and you gain many good friendships and experiences. You even get to know yourself better. But once in a while it's normal to crave for a bit privacy. It can be difficult though while budget-traveling because you want to get the cheapest bed which is mostly in a dorm of minimum 6 other beds where you automatically start chatting with your room mates. You want to discover as much as possible and meet as many travelers as possible but when neglecting your privacy for a long time you notice your mood turns negative and that's the time when your mind quits but your body want to go on having action. So once in a while you should spend some time on your own. Because even back home you're not always surrounded by people 24/7. Everyday I had to adjust to new personalities and once I got used to be surrounded by nice travelers it's already time to say good bye. It's a mix of emotions and impressions everyday and that can really exhaust your mind.
But Le Book d'Art is now back again, reloaded with privacy and ready to explore again!!

Keep cool.

- AJ -

Sunday, March 16, 2014

BEAUTY: Must-have travel essentials

Arun Thai - 100 % repellent spray with anti-malarial need oil
This insect repellent helpes you keeping away the mosquitos which are all over in South East Asia. Using insect repellent is definitely a MUST!! when you travel through South East asia. It doesn't only prevent you from getting itchy mosquito bites which turn into ugly scratches but it also prevents you from getting malaria and dengue fever!
This one is produced out of 100 % organic ingredients and you can be sure that is doesn't contain any cancer causing chemicals which are often found in insect repellents. It contains phlai, sweet basil, citronella, clove and lemongrass essential oils which all have a long duration of protection against mosquitos.
It's also recommendable to wear long sleeve clothes and avoid staying close to water such as ponds or lakes. You should also avoid drinking alcohol because this tends to increase your blood sugar content which can attract the mosquitos.

This Works - Perfect Skin Miracle
This face cream acts as a serum and moisturizer in one. It contains vitamin C, blackcurrant seed oil, walnut, prim rose and shea butter and has an antioxidant effect. It protect your skin from getting too dry especially after your skin has been exposed to smog, sun or salt water which can dry out the skin. Just apply in the evening and in the morning after washing your face.

Kiehl's Travel Test Solutions - 24/7 Activated Moisturizer and In-Flight Refreshing Facial Mist
These formulas were created by dermatologists who were consulted by stewardesses with experience in long distance traveling. These two products are always with me when I travel long distances to treat my skin. They are good for moisturizing in air-conditioned areas with low humidity such as in hotels, on long flights or long air-conditioned bus rides where it can get really cold and the air gets very dry. And they work anti-bacterial aswell due to the combination of ethereal oils which is important especially in public places such as air ports, train stations or shopping malls.

- AJ -

FOOD: Cooking course - Chiang Mai, Thailand

If ever you"ve wanted to do a cooking course then it's your chance if you come to South East Asia. There are a lot of cooking courses here which offer half or whole day cooking courses in town or on the farm. I recommend doing a whole day cooking course on the farm because you get to cook about 5 dishes you can chose from their programm and you get to learn where the main ingredients actually come from. So if you love Thai food you should definitely visit one of Chiang Mai's cooking schools. The whole day cooking course on the farm cost 1000 THB and you get a cooking book written by the school at the end of your lessen. I did the one of Smart Cooking in Chiang Mai. I was picked up by mini van (this is so typical in Thailand) at my hostel in the morning at around 8am and then we picked up the other cooking students. When we were complete we were a group of 11 which was just right. We met our cooking teacher at a local food market where she explained us the main Thai ingredients they use cooking. Afterwards we took the train to the cooking school which was about 15 minutes from the Old City where she showed us where they actual grom the vegetables. Then she introduced us to the dishes we were going to cook. We had to choose one dish each from the 5 categotries - main dish, soup, curry paste, appetizer and desert. Don't worry of not finishing eating your food you cook because you cook small portions. It wasn't as difficult as I was expecting and you learn that cooking is actually easy. You just have to know what goes well together and which spices you use.
So at the end I was very surprised how tasty the food was I cooked and could hardly imagine that it was made by me.
These are the dishes I chose:

- vegetable coconut soup with chicken
- stir fried chicken with cashew and rice
- green curry paste in coconut chicken soup
- papaya salad
- boiled banana in coconut milk

Enjoy cooking!

- AJ -

vegetable coconut soup with chicken
stir fried chicken with cashew and rice
green curry paste
green curry paste in coconut chicken soup