Bangkok Taxi Drivers Will Be Nice Now, Promise

bangkok taxi driversBangkok’s taxi drivers are a picky bunch. In the past, tell a Bangkok taxi driver that you want to go someplace they don’t like and they simply refused to go there. Giving taxi drivers, in general, a bad name, passengers often were over charged when it came time to pay the fare too. Now, thousands of Bangkok taxi drivers have pledged not to refuse service to passengers in a campaign aimed to reduce complaints.

Aptly called Taxi Jai Dee (means kind, good hearted in Thai) the program was initiated by the Royal Thai Police this week and runs through the 2014 New Year holiday week. More than 2,000 volunteer cab drivers have promised not to refuse service to passengers and to charge fares based on the taxicab’s meter for both local and foreign passengers alike.

Under Thailand’s 1979 Land Traffic Act violators face a maximum fine of 1,000 baht (U.S. $39), 15-day seizure of their driving license and deduction of 20 driving points.

That said, Bangkok taxi drivers want passengers to be fined for violent acts committed and want video cameras installed in every taxi cab.
Last year, three taxi drivers were murdered by their passengers in Bangkok. This week, three passengers attacked 53-year-old taxi driver Boonchuay Thongtae in Thawi Watthana, one of the 50 districts of Bangkok.

Taking a taxi in Bangkok any time soon? Check these tips:

[Photo Credit – Flickr user dominiqueb]

Photo Of The Day: Bangkok Motorcycles

If there’s one sound I remember from my travels in Southeast Asia, it’s the motorcycles. The insistent motorized whine of these two-wheeled bikes is audible everywhere you turn, from Hanoi to Bangkok. Today’s photo, taken by Flickr user halvora, is a great visual reminder of one of the most iconic images of Southeast Asia. Taken in Bangkok, the black and white image, dashed road lanes and cluster of helmeted bikers form an interesting pattern and a great reminder of this most familiar of symbols.

Taken any great photos from your trip to Bangkok? Or maybe just from your trip to Boston? Add them to our Gadling group on Flickr. We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Stunning Aerial Shots Of Cities From Around The World

bangkok Experiencing an unknown city is always exciting. That’s the great thing about travel – it allows you to try new things and explore new places. While wandering through a city on the ground is interesting, it’s also worthwhile to see a destination from a unique perspective you normally wouldn’t get to view.

Below, you’ll find beautiful aerial shots taken above some of your favorite cities. The lit up Las Vegas skyline twinkling various colors against a nighttime backdrop, the grey and intimidating buildings of the Big Apple as seen from above and the glossy and luxurious architecture of Dubai from a bird’s-eye view, are some of the stunning shots captured by photographers.

To see some of the best aerial views of cities from around the world, check out the gallery below.

[photos via Big Stock]


Museum Month: JEATH War Museum, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

bridge on river kwaiHistory has never been my favorite subject, but once I began traveling in earnest, I discovered something. If I visited a destination, I usually became obsessed with its history or indigenous peoples. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this in time to save the downward trajectory of my GPA when I was a student, but it’s made me sound infinitely more worldly in daily life.

I found the JEATH War Museum in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, purely by accident. Anything historical pertaining to war is a subject I normally avoid – I’m a girl like that – with the exception of the “Platoon” soundtrack. Thus, the most I knew about “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” which is located in Kanchanaburi, is how to whistle the tune. The town and bridge are actually located at the confluence of the Rivers Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai, at the headwaters of the Maeklong (Mekong).

I ended up there because I had a few days to kill prior to flying home, and it’s less than a two-hour bus ride west of Bangkok. Kanchanaburi sounded peaceful, and is a popular getaway for backpackers and Thai urbanites. The main activities are dining in the many “floating restaurants” on the river, taking cooking classes, hiking in beautiful Erawan National Park and sightseeing (more on that after the jump).

I ended up meeting two fun Australian girls at my riverfront guesthouse, and we proceeded to spend the next three days together. On our first afternoon, I asked them how they’d ended up in Kanchanaburi, and they told me they were there to visit the JEATH War Museum and pay tribute. I looked at them blankly.

“The what?” I asked. They looked at me with pity, thinking, like millions of Aussies before them, that the American educational system is an abysmal failure (no argument there).

“The Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand, Holland War Museum,” one of the girls said patiently. “Y’know, it’s dedicated to the thousands of Allied POWs who died while constructing the Bridge and Death Railway from 1942 to 1943.”

Cue crickets chirping.JEATH war museumThe girls, to their credit, didn’t make fun of me, but instead explained that the JEATH Museum details a tragic episode in Australian (and, to a lesser degree, Kiwi) military history, and it’s something that schoolchildren learn about at a young age. Within the hour, we’d rented bikes and were pedaling through stultifying heat and humidity to the museum.

The JEATH Museum is located at Wat Chai Chumphon temple, and is housed in an exact bamboo replica of a POW sleeping hut. Inside is a horror house of relics, photos, letters, and descriptions of events and forms of torture carried out by the Imperial Japanese Army, as well as depictions of daily life for the POWs. We spent hours there, alternately sickened and fascinated by how 60,000 Allied prisoners and 180,000 Asian laborers were tortured and forced to labor under unspeakable conditions. Sixteen thousand men were worked to death or perished from starvation, dysentery, or other disease.

According to the museum’s website, the photographs on display were taken of “real situations by either Thai’s or POWs. There are also many real accounts written by former POWs, their relatives, friends, and authors that interviewed the many prisoners that suffered at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army.”

Like the Holocaust and other genocide museums and concentration camp memorial museums, the JEATH museum is testimony to man’s ability to perpetrate atrocities against his fellow man. I suppose it’s also a tribute to man’s ingenuity when it comes to inventing new and exciting ways to torture other humans, as well as a nod to the resilience of the human body and man’s will to live. Ultimately, I believe museums such as this are also about man’s capacity to forgive: we saw visitors of all nationalities at JEATH, including many veterans.
death railway
In the days that followed, I grew obsessed by the story of the POWs. I took a ride on the famed Death (also known as the Thai-Burma or Burma) Railway, and visited Hellfire Pass, a cutting through sheer rock that earned its name due to the fatalities its labor incurred. It’s said that by night, the flashlights of toiling POWs resembled a scene from hell.

I’ve since told dozens of people about the museum and the events that occurred in the region during the Second World War. While I’ve obviously met Americans who know about the Bridge and Railway, none have been aware of the POWs and loss of life that occurred. My assumption is that because only 356 Americans died – as compared to over 2,800 Australians – it’s not considered one for our history or schoolbooks. It’s a shame, because despite the tragedy, it’s a part of human history that should be remembered, both in tribute and as a warning.

The JEATH War Museum is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Click here for more information on visiting Kanchanaburi; you can purchase inexpensive bus or mini-van tickets at many guesthouses, backpackers and travel agencies in Bangkok. On a more pleasant note, Kanchanaburi is a lovely town, and the region is definitely worth a visit for its more bucolic charms.

Click here to watch an episode of Gadling’s “Travel Talk” on Kanchanaburi.

[Photo credits: bridge, Flickr user David McKelvey; sign, Wikipedia Commons; train, Flickr user nova031]

7 Great Hotels Where You Can Cook Like a Local

cooking classes cabo san lucas capella pedregalOne of the best parts about a vacation? The food. We love trying local delicacies and adding to our recipe books with tips and techniques learned from our travels. Immerse yourself in native cuisine with these seven great cooking experiences that combine luxury travel with fun, hands-on cooking classes.

Time to Thai in Bangkok
Learn traditional Thai cooking in Bangkok at Lebua. You’ll cook a five-course meal with a Thai chef in this three-hour class taught in both English and Thai for the exceptionally affordable rate of $160 per person. Combine it with an overnight at this all-suite luxury property for a true one-of-a-kind experience.

Game & Guinness in Ireland
Fish for wild trout and learn to make homemade chowder at the Guinness family’s 18th C estate-turned-hotel in Cong, Ireland.

Green Gardening in Jordan
Garden alongside locals at the bio-garden at Radisson Blu Tala Bay Resort in Aqaba Jordan, then learn to cook traditional Jordan dishes like Mansaff (roast lamb in a saffron yogurt sauce) using the fruits of your labor.

Shopping and Tapas in Barcelona
Shop Barcelona’s legendary Boqueria with Spanish Chef Roberto Holz, then prepare a Mediterranean lunch at Hotel Arts Barcelona.

Surf n’ Seafood in Nevis
Dive and dine” for your own spiny lobster at Four Seasons Nevis, then prepare it at a traditional Caribbean barbecue.

Food Safari in Australia
Discovery the bounty of Australia’s Kangaroo Island at Southern Ocean Lodge. The hotel hosts an annual KI Food Safari. Activities during the six-day journey will include hands-on classes with the island’s purveyors, who operate on a mostly small scale, sustainable and personal basis while tasting the unique products straight from the source.

Say Olé in Mexico
Learn the secrets behind perfect salsa, ceviche and more at one or three-day cooking classes (shown in the photo, above) at the luxurious Capella Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We’d suggest the three-day class – it includes a trip to a local farmers market.