Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Rot Fai (Train) Night Markets I and II in Bangkok

Flea market collectibles make two evening "train markets" unlike any other Bangkok night bazaars. How to reach them, what you can buy.

Rot Fai II Night Market near Ratchada & Thai Cultural Centre

This will sound confusing at first but ... you will probably decide the Rot Fai II Night Bazaar is the most convenient night market to visit. It's right at the Thai Cultural Centre MRT (subway) stop-- much closer to it than the Cultural Centre--so that's the location link at the bottom of this post.

The Rot Fai (Train) Market II is on Ratchada, or Ratchadapisek, Road, so it could logically be called the Ratchada Night Bazaar. It's not near the original (now defunct) Rot Fai Night Market, which was near Chatuchak Market. Nor is it near the new Rot Fai Market (more below) way out east of the city, on the way to the airport, near the Seacon Square shopping center. (BTW, neither of these train markets should be confused with the Youtube famous Maeklong market that a train drives through!)

But the old (now defunct) Ratchada Night Market was between two other MRT (subway) stops farther north, so that would be even more confusing, right? Besides, another major feature of the old Ratchada night market was machinery, vehicles, and motors and parts thereof. You won't find find much of that at the Rod Fai II.

Rot Fai II has more of a flea market vibe--just like the Rot Fai Market I, yet with lots more food and clothing than the original Rot Fai Market had. By flea market, I mean new and vintage furniture, tableware, lamps, fans and other household products. If you want to furnish a house or apartment on the cheap, this is a good place to start. Some of these articles might even be genuine antiques. You have to wonder whether some of this stuff was ever owned by Thais: items like old vinyl records and record players, signs, posters, typewriters, cameras.

Unlike the Sukhumvit street stalls or Kao San Road or the impromptu night market at Ratchaprasong, the new and secondhand clothing here isn't aimed at foreign customers. The new stuff tends to be cheesy but cheap. Some of the secondhand clothing is real cotton or of other good quality. On the other hand, there is plenty of street food and things to drink (including beer), so it's fun to wander around in the evening cool. On weekends, though, it gets really packed so Thursday night is the best time to visit.

Locations and Directions of Rot Fai II Night Market

The Esplanade shopping mall is right next to Thai Cultural Centre MRT station. I think it's Exit 4 but it will be on the station's map after you exit the turnstiles. The well marked Talaat Rot Fai II ("Train Night Market II) is behind the mall. The Cultural Centre is a good ten-minute walk from the station. 

Rot Fai II Night Market Hours: Thursday through Sunday, 5 pm to 1 am
Location: Behind Esplanade mall, MRT Thai Cultural Centre
Phone: 081-897-4184

Nearest hotels: Bangkok Cha-Da, Emerald, Swissotel Le Concorde, Ban Kaew Mansion

Rot Fai Night Market I - Train Flea Market Returns

The old Train Market was near Chatuchak Weekend Market, so it was easy to drop by in the evening. The area had served as a storage and maintenance center for the railroad--thus the name (rot fai or rod fai being "train" or "trains"). The new location east of Bangkok is nowhere near a railroad station and quite far from the nearest BTS stations. The new market does have in common that many of the vendors at the old market--who stored there wares in the old Train Market's buildings--have moved lock, stock and barrels of ancient bric-a-brac to the new locale.

Run by the same couple, Talaat Rod Fair I, or Train Market I, is a bigger version of the aforementioned Train Market II: furniture, dishes, housewares, LP records (Thai, English and Chinese--some of quite old), radios, stereos, posters, toys and cameras. You won't find much super-old collectible furniture, like teak tables and the like. A lot of it seems to date from the 1970s or so. There might even be a few old cars and motorbikes for sale. 

The new Train Market has a few redeeming features that the old one didn't. The old one did have a few eating and drinking beer places. The new one has more. I've also been told that there are a few shops selling new clothes, some by the kind of young designers that used to have shops in the defunct Suan Lum market at Lumpini Park.

Location of Rod Fai I - Bangkok Train Market I

Srinakarin Road, also spelled Srinagarindra Road (as on Google maps) and Sri Nakarin, is a big highway type road, bounding the Seacon Square mall to the west. Soi 51 is one of the branches of Srinakarin Road: it shoots off to the east, along the southern boundary of the mall. It's the black blob on this map.

If you are already in the mall and want to visit the night market in the evening, asking for the talaat rot fai should get you there easily enough. Heading out on your own by taxi ... I would get the driver to being me to Seacon Square first. All the Skytrain and subway stations are distant, but you can catch a taxi from those mentioned below. If you speak a bit of Thai, there are buses and songtao running out to Seacon from Udom Suk Skytrain station.

Address: 55 Srinakarin (Sri Nakarin) Road, Seacon Square, Prawet
Hours: Thursday - Sunday, 5 pm to midnight.
Phone (in Thai): 081-827-5885
Nearest BTS station: Onnut or Udom Suk Skytrain or Hua Mark MRT (subway) 
Nearest hotels:  Dusit Princess Srinakarin

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

All Airlines Flying to/from Myanmar (Burma) - International Routes

Here are the 25 airlines that fly to Myanmar (Burma) and their air routes. These airlines fly directly on regularly scheduled flights to the Burmese cities of Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon from Hong Kong and 12 countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Korea, India, Japan, Qatar, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

Don't be fooled by airlines, flight booking sites and aggregators that promise "flights" between Penang and Mandalay, or Chennai and Yangon. When you see what should be a three-hour hop taking 10 hours, you'll eventually figure out Thai Airways "connects" in Bangkok for eight hours between Chennai and Yangon. Similarly, don't be fooled by the ads: A Bangkok Airways flight from Mandalay or Yangon must stop in Bangkok before flying to Samui.

Updated! 6 September 2018.

These directly flying airlines don't all fly daily to Myanmar. The routes with numerous daily flights are, in order, between Yangon-Bangkok; Yangon-Singapore; and Yangon-Kuala Lumpur

Remember: depending on the airline, flights from Myanmar to Bangkok can land at one of two Bangkok airports*. Thai AirAsia/AirAsiaGo, Thai Lion Air and Nok Air all use the old airport, Don Mueang (Airport code: DMK), which now is using two terminals; Terminal 1 is the international one.

Newish budget carrier and Thai Airways' subsidiary Thai Smile (with perhaps the dumbest ground personnel ever) is using Suvarnabhumi for its flights between Bangkok and Mandalay but has switched several of its domestic flights to Don Mueang. Bangkok Airways, Myanmar Airways International (MAI), state carrier Myanmar National Airlines (MNA), and Thai Airways always use newer Suvarnabhumi Airport (airport code: BKK). Budget carrier Golden Myanmar Airways has used Suvarnabhumi in the past, so I'm guessing that if it starts direct flights between Yangon and Bangkok again, it will do so as well. Despite chatter, as of 2018 it's sticking to domestic routes.

Regarding daily flights, there is at least one daily flight, at different times, between the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Kunming, Yunnan, by either MAI or China Southern Airlines. There is at least one daily flight between Seoul and Yangon as well. 

For the other cities listed below, you need to plan ahead.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Myanmar Money - Use Kyat or US Dollars?

Image of Myanmr note Courtesy of Wikia images

100-kyat note

When to use kyat and US dollars. Exchanging money, ATMs and credit cards in Myanmar (Burma). US dollars $ and kyat (MMK) are both legal currency but dollars cannot be used as widely as in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. 

Updated 20 July

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Myanmar money for tourists new to the country formerly known as Burma.

Should I exchange money at a bank?

Yes, if a bank is open. Or a legal exchange shop.

Once upon a time, maybe four years ago, I had never exchanged dollars or baht for kyat at a Burmese bank because the official exchange rate was many, many times less than the (easily obtained) street rate. Something momentous happened with little fanfare.

The bank rate now is considered good enough--and certainly better than you will get in your hotel. 

So when do I use dollars?

Hotels and guesthouses everywhere state their room rates in dollars. The more upscale hotels prefer dollars, but just about all now will take kyat (at about 1,370 kyat to the dollar as of 2017) or a combination of dollars and kyat. Staff will calculate the kyt amount based on the day's rate, now easily accessible with the proliferation of the internet and smartphones. If the dollars are less than pristine, Myanmar staff will probably prefer kyat. To pay for a flight in cash at a travel agency or airline office, though, you'll need dollars. 

The recipient will give you change in dollars or part dollars/part kyat. Some museums and temples require foreigners to pay in dollars, so keep singles on hand. Supposedly, some sites state the fee in dollars or euros, but I have only encountered it at one place: entering the Inle Lake area by road, foreigners could pay either $10 or 10 euros. Keep that receipt, which is valid for your entire stay there.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Agnes Monica or Agnez Mo - Youtube Star Indonesia

That got 6.7 million Youtube views and counting? you may ask. Yep, the song is "Matahariku" , which means "my sun." The Indonesian singer is Agnes Monica, also known as Agnez Mo and Nez. Born in 1986 as Agnes Monica Muljoto, she was a child singing star and presenter on children's programs. She has released eight albums and acted in TV dramas. She is also a songwriter and producer and has been a judge on Indonesia's Idol TV singing contest.

Her popularity extends beyond Indonesia to Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Netherlands, Singapore, Korea, China, and Taiwan. She even appeared in two Taiwanese soap operas after she gained fans when appearing in an Asian song contest in Korea.

Thai Words and Phrases for Vegetarians

Asparagus by Jason Webber Morguefile
It's not easy being green in Thailand. A few words in Thai will oil the way for vegetarians.

Outside of popular tourist destinations, restaurants in Thailand rarely cater to vegetarians. And the number of specializing in Thai vegetarian cuisine is tiny compared to Indian, Chinese or Western variations.  More veggie venues are cropping up, however, particularly in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. 

Wherever you are, there are plenty of fresh vegetables and vegetable dishes in Thailand. And cooks are willing to do their best. The following words and phrases will help oil the way:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Arnel Pineda of Journey - Youtube Star Philippines

Filipino singer stars in Don't Stop Believin' movie

Don't Stop Believin': Arnel Pineda's journey to global rock star  

Arnel Pineda wasn't a breakout Youtube star to the extent that Zee Avi was. But Youtube did play a part in the Filipino singer's discovery by the vintage US rock band Journey in 2007. Now the heartwarming tale of Arnel's unlikely, well, journey is the stuff of a documentary, "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey", made by a Filipina director, Ramona Diaz.

The documentary was released in 2013 and has since been reviewed all over the place with a wide spectrum of reactions. The New York Times reviewer found it a "flabby and repetitive showcase." Other reviewers frequently cite the little guy with a big voice as the redeeming virtue of the film, noting his "enthusiasm" and "ebullience"  "clear-eyed pragmatism",  "Ingratiating personality" and "a dynamic stage presence."

Scott Tobias of NPR suggests what a better movie could have been: "the richer, more complicated story of a dreamer who learns to become the durable
Image courtesy of
professional his bandmates expect." Or as another reviewer put it, how does Arnel reconcile his desire to express his own personalty with the band's desire for a clone of the original lead singer, Steve Perry? At least now he's getting a chance to write songs for the band.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Market Where a Train Runs Through - Youtube Star Thailand

How to visit the market near Bangkok where the train drives 
straight through.

Mae Klong train drives through "folding umbrella market." 

Updated 13 May 2017. After I saw one of the startling Youtube videos of a Thai market ebbing and  flowing over the tracks of a train, I had many questions. Where was the market? Could I visit it? What is the history of this line? The first leg of what is actually two lines began running around 1905 as a freight line, hauling coal from the coast to Bangkok. Operated by Danes for decades, it was nationalized during the Japanese occupation of World War II and still runs most of the original century-old steam trains today.

As for the rest of the answer:  No, you can't reach it from Hualampong, Bangkok's central train station. Nor from Bangkok Noi, the small station on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, where the train to Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai departs.

All Airlines Flying to/from Myanmar (Burma) - International Routes

All Airlines Flying to/from Myanmar (Burma) - International Routes

Here are the 25 airlines that fly to Myanmar (Burma) and their air routes. These airlines fly directly on  regularly scheduled flig...