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Updated Information for the Bangkok floods and how you can help

This is a Hipmunk post from Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads

As the floods that have been moving southward in Thailand for weeks move their way toward Bangkok, I’ve received quite a few emails and tweets asking about travel info and the latest news. As of today, all airports in Thailand with the exception of Don Muang (the domestic airport in Bangkok) were operating as usual, including Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. However, the US Embassy has issued a warning advising against travel to parts of Thailand because of the flooding. The at-risk areas include metropolitan Bangkok (however flying into Suvarnabhumi and connecting elsewhere remains a viable alternative) and 20 additional provinces listed in full on their advisory.

Travel Info

Travelfish has a very helpful page on how to plan around the floods, including which airports to fly into if your flights bring you to Bangkok.

Richard Barrow also posts updated information daily on his Thai Travel Blogs site, including with video and photos and links to updated news.

Updated News

-An English Crisis Map for the Bangkok floods has been created and is available here.

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-For those of you on Twitter, the hashtag #ThaiFloodEng has been used for updates, and I have curated a Thailand list of journalists and people on the ground who tweet updates as they happen.

-The Bangkok Governor updates the flood situation on his Facebook page. October 28th’s Flood Update is here.

-Latest from BBC News “Thailand floods: Bangkok residents leave as river rises” here.

-Latest from Reuters “Tens of thousands flee Bangkok fearing breach of river banks” here.

-Latest from Al-Jazeera “Flooded Bangkok braces for rising tide” here.

-Latest from CNN “Bangkok braces for flooding from high tides” here.

-Bangkok journalist and blogger Newley Purnell has rounded up the rest of the news on his blog and will post continuous updates under the Thailand flood tag.

Donations

The Bangkok Post has posted a list of organizations that accept donations for the floods, and the Thailand Red Cross has more info on its homepage. In addition, donations to Ayutthaya can be made via this flood relief Google page.

For those looking to volunteer time or help, some info here 

Photos

Photo essays of the flood have been curated by Alan Taylor on the In Focus blog (as usual, an incredible set of photos) and on Reuters’ Daylife blog.

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Top 10 Awesome Thai Foods To Make Your Mouth Water

 

This is a Hipmunk guest post from Jodi Ettenberg

After (hopefully) making you all hungry with delicious foodstuffs from my recent trip to Laos, I wanted to share foods from its neighbor, Thailand. Though the countries share a common religion and border, their foods differ prominantly, especially considering the huge differences between foods from the North and South of Thailand itself. Here are some of my favorite eats from Thailand, a short set of photos from what is actually a ridiculously long list of “things that taste awesome and are cheap” in this country. 

I know the list is not vegetarian-friendly, but when I post about foods from Jordan I promise I’ll make up for it!

1. Somtam

Made from unripe, green papaya, long green beans, tomatos and much more, dressed with a sweet, fishy dressing and topped with peanuts, this is one of the best salads to eat with sticky rice and grilled pork. It’s spicy and sweet all at once and I’ve found that no somtam tastes the same – which just means you need to try it all.

Img_6312 2. Pad Pongali

This is a tough dish to find but when you do, it’s well worth it. Made from a succulent combination of chicken, celery root, onions and green or red peppers and seasoned with a dry yellow curry, it is topped with eggs and served over rice. When I do find this dish (mostly in the central or southern part of Thailand), I am one happy lady.

Img_6898 3. Tom Yum Goong

This spicy Thai soup with shrimp is a very different taste than what we’re used to in North America, combining sweet and sour and salty so well that it will ruin your tastebuds forever (in the best way possible). With coconut milk as its base, this creamy soup includes shrimp and vegetables and is flavored with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal root, among other things. Delicious.

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4. Gai Yang

Grilled chicken, juicy and marinated to perfection made on everything from huge grills to tiny mobile BBQ stations throughout Thailand. The same carts will usually have grilled pork on offer and in the north, Northern Thai sausage too. Don’t forget to pick up some sticky rice to go with it!

Img_6340 5. Khao Soi

A northern Thai soup made with egg noodles, a creamy, spicy coconut broth with chicken, crispy egg noodles on top and served with fun garnish like pickled vegetables, lime and chili. It’s everywhere in Northern Thailand, and as with somtam each vendor makes their own version of the soup. Excellent to try at markets, crammed into tiny plastic food tables and slurping away for $1 a piece.

Img_6243 6. Pad Thai

The classic. If you go to Thailand, you ought to try it at least once, since it’s what has been most thoroughly imported to the Western world. However, it’s best tried at tiny street stalls or marketside restaurants, made in a wok on the spot and served piping hot. With its sweet pasted and salty tofu and dried shrimp, these thicker rice noodles are topped with dried shrimp and green onions and served with lime on the side. Don’t forget to add some chilis – this is a dish best served spicy!

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7. Khao Ka Moo

This pork dish is braised all day in a constantly steaming sweet soy broth and when finally served it melts in your mouth (and is ridiculously good). Served over white rice with a cured egg on the side, it’s one of the more satisfying meals Thailand has to offer, and is available throughout the country.

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8. Khao pad naem

A Northern Thai dish made with fermented sausage and vermicelli noodles, red and green peppers galore and onions, served over rice this is one of those things that sounds odd but tastes delicious. Found in the night markets of Chiang Mai, it’s a nice change from the heavier pork dishes and soups on offer.

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And some desserts!

9. Khao Niew Ma Muang

Sticky rice and mango, one of the more popular things to try dessertwise and rarely disappoints. It’s a ripe mango over sticky rice, topped with a sticky, sweet coconut cream sauce. Available everywhere, from restaurants to street stalls to mobile carts and best during mango season (late winter – early summer months).

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10. Itim Kati

Coconut ice cream, filled with smaller bits of coconuts and served in a half-coconut shell. Grand total for the ice cream in this photo? 80 cents. They also serve this ice cream in a sandwich, with 2 pieces of white bread and – ingeniously- some sticky rice at the bottom to try and keep the ice cream drippings from falling out of the sandwich.

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It was hard to narrow things down for this short list, and though I’d love to include green and red curries and some other great noodles, these are the foods that I enjoyed the most in my months here. (All photos are from my time in Thailand – you can tell I do like the foods here, just a little!)

-Jodi

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Awesome Animals of the World and Where to See Them

This is a Hipmunk guest post from Jodi Ettenberg. Her views and opinions are hers alone and do not represent Hipmunk. 

1. Land Iguana.  Endemic to the Galapagos Islands, Charles Darwin described these yellow and orange reptiles as “ugly animals . .  from their low facial angle they have a singularly stupid appearance.” Stupid or not, they’re incredible to see in person and at a length of up to 5 ft (and 25 pounds), a sea of land iguanas is a wondrous thing to behold. 

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Land iguana on Fernandina Island, the Galapagos

Where? The Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador. Fly into Quito, and onward to San Cristobal on the Galapagos. Boat trips must be booked to see most of the islands; many are off limits because of the fragile ecosystem and can only be visited with accredited tour guides. Boat trips can be booked with a wide variety of agencies, but I’ve used Sangay Touring with great success.

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View from Bartholome Island, the Galapagos

2. Blue Poison Arrow Frog. The dendrobates azureus is a type of poison dart frog, iridescent and shimmering blue and found in the forests of Suriname and Brazil. Also known as the blue poison dart frog, it’s one of the more beautiful – and dangerous – frog species out there.

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Where? Probably best to view these extremely poisonous frogs at New York’s Museum of Natural History, where their “A chorus of colors” exhibit of the world’s most bright, poisonous and enormous frogs has been lauded as a big success.

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New York sunset from the Brooklyn Promenade.

3. Goats. I’m a big believer that goats are underrated animals, falling to the wayside while shiner ones take center stage. In my travels, I’ve had many great sunsets and quiet moments made even better by the presence of an adorable goat like this one, taken at Burma’s Bagan.

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Where? Bagan, the site of thousands of ancient Theravada temples strewn on plains the size of Manhattan. Located in Myanmar, Bagan is a lesser known but beautiful place to see temple ruins if the crowds of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat are too claustrophobic. To get there, you’ll need a visa ahead of time and a flight to Yangon (most easily accomplished via Bangkok). No tour agency is needed – independent travel is the best way to see Myanmar.

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Buledi temple at dawn, Bagan.

4. Elephants. Certainly tough to see these beautiful animals in the wild, regardless of where you are in the world. The unfortunate prevalence of trekking trips that include elephant rides or elephant shows don’t afford a responsible way to appreciate these big grey beasts.

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Elephant at Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park. [Photo credit]

Where? The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is a perfect solution for those who love elephants but don’t want to take tours that might be damaging to them. The Nature Park serves as a sanctuary for abused and mistreated Asian elephants, rescued from a wide variety of situations. Some were worked to the bone while logging or trekking, others were street elephants, begging with their mahouts for change. See Justin’s one-week volunteer wrap up for a personal account of a week at the park.

5. Camels. Like goats, there are many places to get up close and personal with camels on a your travels, from Jordan desert trips to Wadi Rum to the Sinai in Isreal to Morocco. But my favourite was a trip to Mongolia, staying with nomads in the Gobi Desert. Nothing like hugging a camel before you go to bed in a yurt

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Camels!

Where? You’ll have to fly into Ulaanbaatar and drive 8 hours into the Gobi desert, but it will be worth it. Alternatively fly into Beijing and take the Trans-Mongolian train into Ulaanbaatar, a slow but fascinating way to see beautiful scenery and experience local culture. Trips into the Gobi can be booked with Shuren Travel.

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Erdene Zuu monastery in the Gobi Desert.

(Note: any tour companies I recommended in this post are ones that I’ve used and are recommended on that basis. Unless otherwise noted, photos were ones I took from each of the destinations mentioned here.)

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