An American tourist in the Krabi province of Thailand was stabbed to death outside a bar after an altercation with a local karaoke band. Bobby Ray Carter Jr. and his son were allegedly intoxicated while a live band performed requests for tips, and Carter was unwilling to give up the stage for other karaoke singers. “Witnesses said Carter got angry when the band played ‘Hotel California’ instead of the song he requested, and he refused to step down,” said local police chief Col. Taksin Pochakorn. Carter demanded his tip back and wouldn’t stop singing even when the band was on break. The argument continued outside between the three Thai band members, Carter, and his son, ending in multiple injuries including Carter’s death from an iron rod.
The U.S. State Department notes that violent crime against foreigners in Thailand are relatively rare, but happen most often at night to victims who have been drinking.
Get ready for the spotlight cruisers. Carnival Cruise Lines has introduced Superstar Live Karaoke, where Carnival cruisers can live out their rock-star fantasies on stage.
This isn’t a one-time cruise but rather a new program on board Carnival ships. Combining live music with vocal accompaniment by backup singers, Superstar Live Karaoke encourages cruise passengers to channel their inner rock stars, pop idols, Motown legends and country crooners.
While nearly all cruise ships offer karaoke of some sort – or at least, the opportunity to perform in front of your audience – Carnival has amped up its version of Superstar karaoke by including the band and the backup singers.
Choose from more than 100 song tiles, ranging from ABBA to the Zac Brown Band. The program, which recently debuted aboard Carnival Conquest and Carnival Valor, premieres on the Carnival Pride this week.
By year’s end, Superstar Live Karaoke will be rolled out to Carnival’s 12 “Fun Ships” that operate itineraries of seven days or longer.
The neon pink taxi screeches to a halt. “You must be the best taxi driver in Bangkok.” I declare to the driver, and I mean it.
Moments ago we were at a complete standstill for nearly twenty minutes, in the center of a jammed four-lane road. An everyday occurrence in Bangkok. I had already started considering alternate travel plans, since I was sure that I’d be missing the southbound train.
Could I still make it to Ko Pha Ngan for the full moon party? Were there night buses? How could I have been so foolish as to not account for traffic on the way to the station? And of course, how much would the miscalculation end up costing me? Luckily, the taxi driver was capable of maneuvers that I didn’t know were possible in a moving vehicle. And apparently, he was used to performing them in these situations. The two previous drivers that I had hailed took one look at the departure time on my train ticket and laughed, telling me it wasn’t likely and then quoting an equally unlikely fare. But this courageous driver gave a grin and said “Don’t know, but think it’s possible. We try.”
He nods at me in the mirror and I hand him the amount on the meter plus a few extra baht. I exit the car and rush towards the departures board in the large open-air station. I find the correct platform and at the end of it, the one sleeper car of the train. The sleeper car is easy to spot – a few gargantuan North Face® backpacks are clumsily making an effort to squeeze through the train’s doors. Bingo.
The train is basic. There are no compartments, but rather fold out bunks – two to a berth, with curtains to shut out the light that would remain on all night. In the berths adjacent to me: a girl from Prague, a couple from England, a DJ from Italy, and a Thai family. The train starts rolling, and the sun sets over small packets of wooden shacks that weren’t visible from the lively streets of the city. As we get further outside of Bangkok, the sharp smell of bonfires becomes more frequent and the landscape gradually transitions into dense palm trees.
With every station stop, vendors come on board carrying tea, small cakes, and snacks down the aisles. Instead, I opt to make a trip to the restaurant car where a few tourists are seated playing card games and staring out the window. A young British man that’s had a few too many Changs is asleep at one of the tables, oblivious to the chatter and laughter around him. I ask some of the others for the best strategy to find lodging on Ko Phan Ngan the day before the full moon party – I’ve not booked anything in advance.
Halfway through the night, the spirited head waiter of the restaurant car begins to hook up a television and an amplifier. I’m unable to figure out what’s happening until it’s too late. Thai karaoke.
I would’ve paid more for my ticket if I’d known the train included karaoke, but I guess some gifts in life are free. I try to keep a straight face along with the rest of the tourists in the car, as the slightly tipsy waiter sings his heart out to the songs and the equally humorous music videos that accompany the audio.
(Listen to a quick sample of the karaoke by clicking play)
There’s an inaudible sigh of relief when the Italian DJ offers to hook his computer up to the amplifier and spin some electronic music. Conversation resumes, and it’s a memorable scene: warm summer air drifting through the open train windows. The unhurried repetition of the train’s wheels on the tracks. Scattered palm trees floating by, reflecting light from a nearly-full moon perched high in the night sky. And a little techno music to help prepare us backpackers for the scene that awaits in Ko Pha Ngan.
At four in the morning, those of us departing the train at Surat Thani are prompted awake by the conductors and shuffle out into the bitter morning air. There is a large coach waiting at the train station for those that bought combination tickets – which conveniently whisks us to another bus stop that is packed with other frazzled, sleep-deprived full-moon pilgrims.
One more hour-long coach ride takes us to a ferry pier, where about 150 people sprawl out in under the early morning sun to catch a few moments of sleep. I’ve never traveled with so many other tourists at one time, and I realize that it’s probably the closest I’ve ever come to being on a guided tour. It’s a nice feeling. I don’t have to worry about where I’m going…just follow the crowd.
Eventually the fatigued mass is corralled onto a narrow boat. As the ferry begins to cut through the choppy sea, passengers take turns basking in the sun on the outdoor deck and retreating to the indoor seating area to buy a freshly made ham sandwich.
There’s not much conversation among the passengers at this point, so I silently take a seat next to a few people dangling their legs off the side of the upper deck. The seawater sprays our bare feet and we stare out across the Gulf of Thailand, searching for a glimpse of our destination.
For the previous articles in this series, be sure to check out the entire Dim Sum Dialogues column. If you’re looking to do a similar trip and would like details on the specifics of the transport, feel free to leave a comment below.
Music has a way of taking you on a journey. Like any great trip, the songs that inspire us are filled with joyous highs and sobering lows, unexpected revelations and exotic uncertainties. It’s only natural then that each of us seeks out music during our travels. Whether it’s a CD stand in a bustling market in Morocco or a classically-trained violinist playing on a street corner in Paris, music offers travelers a visceral way to cut through the confusion of language and custom, revealing the true essence of a destination.
Wherever we go, melodies both familiar and exotic burst out of speakers, vibrate in concert halls, groove around city streets and drip off the walls in sweaty dance clubs. Yet it’s only in a few select spots around the world that the culture of music becomes a truly tangible attraction. These are the special places where a unique confluence of cultural cross-pollination, inherent creativity and a critical mass of kick-ass musicianship coalesces to create something truly special.
In the course of our journeys here at Gadling, we’ve uncovered some of the world’s most unique and memorable destinations for music. The following list is by no means the end-all-be-all of musical places to visit, but each of the ten spots we’ve chosen is without a doubt one-of-a-kind and a true musical hotspot. Did we choose any of your favorites? Click below for our picks… Number 10 – Mali’s Festival in the Desert
At first glance, it would be easy to mistake Mali’s Festival in the Desert as a cruel mirage. Yet every year this wind-swept country in Northwestern Africa puts on one of the continent’s best musical events, featuring traditional Tuareg tunes as well as music from around the globe.
Number 9 – Pitch-perfect karaoke in Manila
Love it or hate it, Karaoke has spread its melodies around the world, from the drinking dens of Tokyo to the back streets of New York. But to truly experience Karaoke talent, head to Manila. Filipino cover bands are legendary for their pitch-perfect renditions of Western pop songs. In fact, if you closed your eyes, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference from the originals.
Number 8 – Concert hopping in Austin, TX
They like to say everything is bigger in Texas, and Austin’s annual South by Southwest music festival certainly doesn’t disappoint. Each March, over a thousand bands from around the world descend on the state’s capital for four days of drinking, dancing and music industry schmoozing. If you’re hoping to catch rock’s next great thing or simply looking for a good time, South by Southwest is definitely one of the USA’s best music events.
Number 7 – Tokyo Record Collecting
Tokyo, Japan is one of the world’s great cultural epicenters, consuming and re-creating pop culture trends at a furious pace. This intense consumption is particularly true of music, where the Japanese excel as the world’s consummate music collectors. If you need proof of Tokyo’s status as the crown jewel for record shopping, one need only stroll the back alleyways of Tokyo’s bustling Shinjuku district. Along the narrow side streets you’ll stumble upon hidden second floor record shops packed floor to ceiling with obscure vinyl and out-of-print rarities.
Number 6 – New Orleans gets Jazzed
New Orleans is known as the birthplace of Jazz music. It was the city’s unique mixture of French, Spanish and African traditions that allowed the city to develop this particularly unique musical heritage, one that is evident even today. One of the best ways to experience the Big Easy’s Jazz culture is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, perhaps the world’s best showcase of this distinctly southern-tinged style.
Number 5 – The London Remix
London has a reputation as a musical chameleon, a city that takes on the world’s constantly evolving musical styles, remixing and reinterpreting in a uniquely British way. Whether it’s Punk or Techno, Indie Rock or Dubstep, London has something to suit the tastes of about every music lover. Check out this list of London music venues, this rundown of record stores, or top-notch dance clubs like Fabric if you’re looking to jump along to the beat.
Number 4 – Kingston sound system parties
Jamaica holds an outsize reputation in the world’s musical lore, having birthed world-famous artists like Bob Marley along with hundreds of other equally talented Jamaican singers, producers and musicians. Though the laid-back vibe of Tuff Gong has long-since morphed into the raw sounds of Dancehall and Ragga, you can still experience Jamaican music at its finest at some of Kingston’s weekly sound system parties like Passa Passa and Weddy Weddy Wednesday. These rough and tumble affairs take over Kingston’s parks and streets with huge speakers, raucous dancing and plenty of fun.
Number 3 – All night techno in Berlin
Something happened when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. As a divided city was slowly mended together, music fans began to take over the city’s abandoned buildings and spaces for semi-legal dance parties. It was the beginning of Techno, a music scene that would soon sweep the capital and most of Europe. Berlin today is ground zero for electronic music fans, with some of the world’s best DJ’s playing parties that can last all night and into the next day and beyond. Check out the events list at Resident Advisor for a good listing of what’s happening.
Number 2 – Shake to the rhythm of Brazilian Carnival
Much like New Orleans and Jamaica, Brazil is the product of a unique confluence of cultures, bringing together Portuguese, African and indigenous influences. Nowhere does this unique cultural history make itself better felt than during Brazil’s annual Carnival festivities, when cities across the country like Rio de Janeiro and Salvador erupt in wild displays of samba dancing and furious drumming. Check out this Rio Carnival guide to get started.
With the million dollars becoming more attainable as the playing field narrows, some teams are becoming more cagey and mistake prone. One team member is tossing aside manners while another temporarily tossed aside shoes. The Amazing Race 14 continues to be a lesson in how to travel wisely and what mistakes not to make.
Thailand continued to be a lovely backdrop for this week’s episode. The teams left Phuket for Bangkok where the first stop was a boat yard where the colorful painted wooden long boats are parked. Who got there first depended upon which taxi driver knew the directions and Bangkok traffic. Bangkok traffic can be the absolute pits. Even going a mile can take more than an hour. I know because I’ve sat in traffic not knowing that I could have walked faster.
At the boat yard, one member from each team were to put together a propeller correctly so the team could then travel to the next destination, Peninsula Pier via one of the long-tail boats. This was one of the times I felt compelled to shout out at the TV, “No, no, no, don’t leave your stuff!” when sisters Kisha & Jen and brothers Mark & Michael headed off without their bags. This is not just a lesson for The Amazing Race, but for any travel experience. Leaving baggage behind in taxis or on docks is not a good idea. Not only did it give them problems later, instead of enjoying the process of traveling, they were worried and distracted wondering how to get their belongings back.
Having the teams use the canal system and rivers to get around was a wonderful way to highlight the life along the water. There were shots of houses and temples as the teams glided by. Only Jaime and Cara commented on the color of the water. Not the stuff you’d want to swim in, but people do. When I was in Bangkok on a long-tail boat ride, there were smiling kids waving and bobbing as we passed. Ferries and long-tail boats are one way people move about the city.
Once the teams arrived at Peninsula Pier there was a choice between two tasks. Margie & Luke, in the lead, chose the one where they had to become dentists at “The Street of Happy Smiles” to outfit five Thai people with dentures. This was a hoot to watch but I hoped that the participants were handsomely compensated for their efforts–not Margie & Luke, but the ones who were fitted with dentures. After watching Margie breeze through this task, I’d say she could get a job in a dentist’s office for sure. She fit dentures like a pro. The shots of this task were fast to follow, but I’m hoping that each person who needed dentures had their own sets of dentures in their own stash so that teeth sets that were put in one person’s mouth didn’t end up in another’s.
All the other teams joined up with a party taxi where they sang a Thai pop culture karaoke song with women who may or may not have been transvestites. Everyone had a blast with this task, although Jen & Kisha didn’t have their stuff, including their passports and money, and Mark & Michael who were way behind because they had their taxi take them back to the dock to retrieve their bags before they continued with the race. Still, all sang away in a manner reminiscent of William Hung. Remember him from American Idol? She Bang. She Bang!
I’ve been to Bangkok several times and have never seen one of these party taxis. I’m curious. Here is a link to one driver who does have passengers sing karaoke to pass the time.
Because of Margie’s ability to kick it through tasks, she and Luke arrived at the Pit Stop at Phya Thai Palace first. For her quick thinking ways, they won a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Jaime & Cara, who I don’t like much, at least I don’t care for Jaime because she’s so rude and catty, came in 2nd. Michael & Mark’s fondness for rule breaking got them in trouble again. Because they paid off taxi drivers with their belongings since they didn’t have any money left after their taxi ride back to the dock, gave them a four hour penalty. Thus, Kisha & Jen who had to go back from the Pit Stop to get their passports before they could check in, were able to beat them.
My respect for Thai taxi drivers went way up. The drivers were seen waiting for long periods of time, giving rides for free and bartering for fare. Bangkok is such a wonderful city and this episode highlighted some of the reasons why.
This was a non-elimination round which gives Mark & Michael a chance to catch up. Kind of. They’re going to be starting three hours behind everyone else and have their own Speed Bump to boot and Margie & Luke, as nice as they are, are devious and can’t be trusted. I’m waiting for Jaime to get hers. Seriously. She’s the type of person you don’t want to travel with if you want to treat people with kindness and patience and be a good guest.